Wesley College - 140 years
When the Dutch dominated the low country of "Ceylon" the more
residential areas were around the Fort and the Pettah. These areas
however went into decline with the transfer of colonial power to the
English and those areas underwent a steady decline. In 1874 when
Reverend D.H. Pereira built a school it was to educate the working class
Dutch people's children. This was the Dam Street area not far from
Hulftsdorp. An Englishman Rev. Samuel Wilkin was the chosen principal
educator of the Dam Street school where 150 boys from the Pettah area
In 1907 the campus was then moved to its present location on land
belonging to the Methodist Church. It stood with the front gates facing
Baseline Road and the rear entrance was on Karlshrue Gardens. This came
around the time that Wesley's most famous benefactor Rev Henry Highfield
took charge. The man was a legend to everyone who knew him and the
statute of the great man is seen when one enters the gates of this
From 1895 to 1925 under Rev. Highfield the campus grew in size and
pupils of different denominations were accepted at Wesley who maintained
that tradition throughout. Highfield was known to have ridden a bicycle
around England collecting funds for his favourite dream: Wesley College.
He continued collecting funds and even today the high impressive wooden
ceilings, the works of art and design the endearing stain-glass windows
shed light on the boys and men who would bring great repute to the
institution. They were works of Victorian and Edwardian art in every
sense of the word. The school hall is still the most astonishing piece
of Wesley College and over the staff entrance today hangs a photograph
of a man whose praises could be sung each year on founder's day, the
first week in March.
Many famous old pupils of Wesley graced this school before they
became the beacons of Ceylonese Society. One of the most noteworthy was
Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, later the Governor General of Independent
Ceylon. Appreciated by members of both sides of the house for being
impartial, Sir Oliver was one Wesley will always be proud of. Mayors and
politicians, businessmen and physicians, lawmen and lawyers they all had
sung the school song with gusto every-time it was sung since it was
composed and written by H.J.V.I. Ekanayake in 1898. This song was
paradoxically based on a war song meant to rally Scots warriors against
the rule of Edward king of England. It is a war song while the words of
the school song mean to gather all Wesleyites old and young around "the
bands of double blue". It advocated fraternity and some should listen
more closely to the words and what it really means.
Most recent is the name synonymous with Wesley - Mohamed, who rose
from Municipal Councilor to being Mayor of Colombo then rose from the
back benches to being part of the engine room of the conservative UNP
governments. Mr. Mohamed has had five sons and many nephews, grandsons
and nephews all loyal old Wesleyites.
Other men were Sir D. S. Jayatillake who with composer lyricist
H.J.V.I. Ekanayake founded the now world famous Sinhalese Sports Club in
1898. Wesley was honoured by the presence of another icon in Rev James
Cartman (1945 - 1949) to whom the senior school library is dedicated to.
Rev Cartman has the reputation of being the man who encouraged Wesley to
being a bigger player at school cricket after the war years and the
decline. His encouragement was taken up by two stalwarts Edmund
Dissanayake and Shelton Pieris. The revival was stupendous and soon
Wesley was treated as the school to beat.
Rev Cartman was followed by Cedric J. Orloof a civil servant who gave
up a lucrative practice at law to lead the school into the glorious
1950s and beyond. His stay created a bond between two schools - Wesley
and Trinity and that friendly rivalry is still carried on with a
fraternity beyond par. During this time Wesley shone in all sports and
as an academy. He was assisted by vice Principal Kenneth de S.
Lannerolle himself an ardent sports fan.
The school in these years produced the famous Claasen brothers,
Radley, Brian and Herman, the Adhihettys, Lou and Vincent, the Fuards,
Abu and Ansar and M. N. Samsudeen. Orloof went on to take over Trinity
College in 1957 and Wesley had their first of many old boys principals
in P.H.Nonis. Wesley had to turn a corner when the dilapidated
historical buildings were crumbling with neglect until Dr. Shanti Mc
Lelland sacrificed a career in Canada to right the wrongs and return the
school to its pristine glory. The school now boasts a magnificent
swimming pool and a campus that has many loyal old Wesleyites proud.
The school also has three new primary school buildings and will soon
have a spanking new five storeyed building to house the Colombo Primary
School where the Boys' Industrial Home, Wellawatte once stood.
Dr. McLelland was preceded by principals Dr. Lou Adihetty, and
Chemistry scholar world renowned. Dr. Adihetty was in his time Senior
Prefect, and captain of the cricket, football, hockey and tennis teams.
N.A. Benito affectionately known as "Nabbie" Fernando was a leading
hockey player before he moved to England to teach there.
He was followed by M.A.P. Fernando also known as "Mappa" who served
from 1985 - 2008.
The saying is that a great institution will always rise out of
That is exactly what Wesley has done over the past five years.
ORA ET LABORA