Train leaving south from Bambalapitiya 1920
Train leaving south from Bambalapitiya 2003
Galle Road, Bambalapitiya (Colombo-4)
View Larger Map of Bambalapitiya
Bambalapitiya, affectionately known to all its residents, and even those living within the other zones of Colombo, as "Bamba" is a small town located on both sides of the Galle Road between Colpetty (Colombo 3) on the North and Wellawatte (Colombo 6) on the South, spanning about one and a half kilometers of the Galle Road.
The West is ringed by the big beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean while the East borders Havelock Town on the North and Kirulaponne on the South, connected by Havelock Road. Bambalapitiya is also classified as Colombo 00400 on the zonal map of Colombo and lies within the Municipality of Colombo.
Bambalapitiya in the early 19th century was a thick jungle infested with venomous snakes. Kadju Pulang trees were common to this area and it was the belief that outlaws hiding in this dense jungle would hijack and plunder bullock carts carrying produce between Galle and Colombo, It appears that these bandits would murder these traders and hang the bodies on the Kadju Pulung trees. The song sung at school matches, "we will hang all the Thomians on the Kadju Pulang trees … " is said to have had derived from this legend.
Vast tracts of Bambalapitiya were owned by the Senanayake family, relicts of our first PM, D.S. Senanayake. The descendants of this family, Haig, Brian and Shelah still live in their ancestral home down Mary's Road.
Herbert Bartholomeusz J.P and retired Engineer PWD bought 10 acres of land for Rs 6 per acre in 1896. Today land in Bambalapitiya is worth about Rs One million per perch (one acre = 160 perches).
Galle Road begins at Galle Face, somewhere at the roundabout, in front of the old Parliament building at the entrance to the Fort, and stretches its tired asphalt tracks all the way to the town of Galle, almost 100 km down south hugging the coastline like a leech all the way through. It takes two lanes of traffic, one up and one down, driving anyone standing in the middle to cross into madness and jitters until the person gets safely across to the other side.
Since of late the section within the District of Colombo has been divided in the middle by an island, thereby, preventing those crazy over-takers from displaying their antics on the middle of the highway.
At Bambalapitiya, similar to many of the other towns along Galle Road in Colombo, parallel streets, commonly referred to as lanes interspaced by a few blocks of land and residential houses, ran down to the beach from the Galle Road. Here they met the southern railway tracks and beyond it a myriad spread of coconut trees that ringed the white sands of the beautiful beach that curved all the way south like a mermaids bottom. On the sea front, right at the end of Station Road, located at the northern end of Bambalapitiya, was the Bambalapitiya Railway Station constructed in identical fashion to the several other stations that ringed the southern tracks from Colombo Fort all the way down to Matara. Two sets of tracks, parallel to each other took the perspiring rail commuters to the big bustling bazaar city of Fort, the Pettah and back home to roost on a daily basis.
The southern coastline railway was a way of life for many office workers and commuters.On the land side similar parallel lanes took of from the Galle Road, some running all the way to Havelock Road while others ending up in dead ends or curving across to meet the network of inland roadways at some point along the way. From a birds eye view the roads would have looked more like the upper skeleton of a human body with the spine representing Galle Road and the ribs reflecting the parallel lanes on either side.
Galle road is the main link between Colombo and the South and is always heavily loaded with trucks, petrol tanks, cars, buses, motor bikes, scooters, bicycles, carts, three-wheeler taxis and in the old days the manually driven rickshaws. On some festive and religious occasions one can also see elephants joining in a parade or traditional festive arts, decked in all their finery, being dragged from temple to temple, celebrating some ritualistic occasion.
Rush hour on Galle Road, mainly during the mornings and evenings, and nowadays during the afternoons too when the many schools plying the main road close for the day, can be traumatic. Traffic slows down to a crawl and horns and abuse blow out in chorus intermingling with engine noises and fumes that turns the towns into melting pots of absolute pollution.
Three-wheeler taxis work their way in between the snarling vehicles causing enough mayhem to an already chaotic tangled web of men, machines, and noise. Traffic police men and women, nattily dressed in their khaki uniforms, wave arms and legs to try and bring some order and sanity to such a mess of a normal working day.
In recent times even the halcyon atmosphere of the by lanes have become a hive of activity with many commercial businesses sprouting up in the heavenly old homes of before and traffic screaming up and down in order to use the newly opened Marine Drive along the beachfront. Tourist Guest Houses, posh Restaurants, high-rise condominium apartment blocks, Telephone communication Services & Internet Café's have all emerged out of a sleepy old town of middle class men and women just a few decades ago.
The sprawling foliage of old is slowly disappearing with the clearing, blocking, and decentralizing of the huge mansions that once stood in the name of development, overcrowding and the demand for more housing and business premises in a fast developing city that is bursting its seams.
The town of Bambalapitiya begins, in the North, a little before the intersection of Bullers Road (now known as Bauddhaloka Mawatha) and Galle Road. Here, stands the massive FOAMTREADS advertising banner (now converted to ELASTO) with its shiny flickering pieces of aluminum clicking away in the sunshine and the lights of the night in its own swishy washy way, a landmark that was unmistakable to all and sundry.
Bambalapitiya beach side, facing north towards Colombo Fort seen in the distance
On the seaside, facing Galle Road and facing the entrance to Bullers Road, stands the respected IC Drug Stores patronized by the residents from time immemorial, serving its customers in all its glory and splendor. This was no ordinary down-the-street pharmacy as it had its aura of professionalism, respect, and honor by way of its design and interior and also its white coated salespersons, who looked more like the members of a hospital staff rather than a store.
The town extends, all the way along Galle Road, to end at the Wellawatte Canal which separates it from the next town of Wellawatte on the South. To the East it is bordered by Havelock Road, which begins at the roundabout located at Thunmulla (three cornered junction) and extends all the way down southwards to the Wellawatte Spinning & Weaving Mills located at the bridge that crosses the same Canal which winds it way across a large extent of Colombo. The Textile Mill, once a bustling industry, managed by Soley Captain, that employed hundreds of workers, is now closed and dysfunctional. A massive housing complex project with international participation is currently being planned on its site in order to cater to the massive demand for residency within the big city.
The Streets of Bambalapitiya
This establishment was originally started by that erstwhile gem merchant from the south, Ahamed Salih where he carried on his lucrative gem business catering to both tourists and locals up to the early seventies.
The store has since changed ownership and has been transformed into a general tourist store offering a variety of Sri Lankan produce and also a wonderful collection of valuable books and publications by Barbara Sansoni, who is an artist, writer and designer who has exhibited her drawings and woven panels across Asia, Europe and North America. She founded Barefoot in the mid Seventies and has been the designer of rural fabrics and handwoven products of Sri Lanka. Her work is characterized by its colors and simple rectilinear forms.
The Gallery, within Barefoot, is an extension of the company that is popularly patronized for its music, drama, poetry and visual art.
Some may claim that Barefoot resides in Kollupitiya since it stands smack bang on the border between the two towns. However, it is included here for all what its worth as an insrinsic part of the Bambalapitiya heritage. www.barefoot.lk
Helen Menezes & Ron Lucas
Everyone in Bambalapitiya will remember the quaint little Menezes music shop located on the seaside on the border between Colpetty and Bambalapitiya. One may still debate which of the two towns it really belonged to. It was located on the basement floor, where the instruments were displayed for sale, visible to the Galle Road, and the rear section of the basement was used for the maintenance and tinkering of musical instruments, which was carried out by the famous musical Menezes family in Colombo.
The family is said to have originated from Goa in India and claim Portuguese descent from the old colonial era. The shop was first famous for its 78 rpm gramophone records, later 45 rpm's, and then even later EP's and LP's of the latest music in the industry. They also specialized in the import and distribution of acoustic pianos, guitars, wind and percussion instruments and music notes. In addition they also taught music.
The family members, comprising, old man "Papa" Menezes, and sons, Mickey, Tom and Ralph, and daughter, Helen, were all very talented musicians, each specializing in his own instrument yet having the ability to play any instrument he or she was called upon to. Helen was a famous crooner.
They also formed a band called "The Papa Menezes Combo" and played jazz, blues and oldies at parties, dances, weddings, concerts and other musical galas in town. With the passing away of Papa and Tom the rest migrated abroad to Australia and the business was closed, much to the sadness of many faithful patrons and musicians who used to visit the shop like a prayer almost every day.
Ralph Menezes, was the only son of Papa Menezes who sought academic excelence and qualified himself professionally at Medical school in Colombo, and passed out as a doctor. The rest of the family were all professional musicians right to the end. Dr. Ralph now lives in Chicago as informed by his sister Helen by e-mail after having seen the Bambalapitiya story online on the internet
It was, indeed, interesting to read in the Sunday Observer of Dec 11 2005 that Helen and hubby, Ron Lucas, are in Colombo for the festive season to play and entertain all their fans at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Here is the news item:
Back in the land of her roots and overjoyed to perform here is pianist keyboardist, Helen Lucas who with her husband Ron vocalist / percussionist will be featured at the Mount Lavinia Hotel for the entire festive season.
Ron and Helen
They will commence their gigs on Tuesday December 20 and will be a star attraction for New Year's Eve as well.
Helen Lucas a famous band leader in Sri Lanka in the early years headlined her highly successful dance band the Helen Lucas Combo and held centre- stage for many years before she and Ron decided to move over to Australia.
Daughter of the famous Papa Menezes whose name was synonymous with music in Sri Lanka, she was and still is deeply invovlved in teaching music and a constant friend to other musicians-young and old. What is her major plus in her music artistry is her elegance and sophistication in expression be it Pop, Latin or Jazz and that is hard to beat.
Ron an exciting vocalist and percussionist sings a wide repetoire of Michael Buble the current rage, Frank Sinatra's songs as well as songs by the time honoured greats like Elvis Presley and Nat King Cole. Now performing at some of the leading hotels in Sydney, Ron and Helen's music has taken them overseas for performances in Germany, England, Malaysia, Goa and recently a successful tour of Los Angeles, Chicago and Vancouver.
Catch their gig at Mount Lavinia Hotel, you are bound to make returns. - (MP)
The Gift Boutique, a glamorous gift shop was located right next to Menezes and run by that erstwhile and lovely young Malay lady, Shinir Amit, from Barnes Place in Colombo 7, who married Emran. Shineer, sadly, passed away a few years back. The shop catered to both middle and upper class hoi polloi who flocked in to buy their trinkets and gifts for all occasions. Shineer kept the business running in great spirit and success during her tenure at the shop. Gift Boutique was previously called Alice in wonderland.
Another wonderful gift store that has now ceased to exist stood on the Galle Road and served its many customers in all its splendor and glamor. The place catered, mainly for women, offering gifts, cosmetics, perfumes and many other necessities for the feminine pallet.
Lindsay Girls' School
Lindsay Girls School is the next of the many buildings that blot the seaside of the town. A tall and stone bell tower stands in front of the school facing Galle Road threatening to ring out the ears of anyone who passes by. Many a young lady who grew up in Bambalapitiya attended this school which was managed by the members of the Dutch Reformed Church which also stood within the school premises. Most families descendent from Dutch Burgher ancestry sent their daughters here to learn of books and a resplendent life.
Adamaly Place is the first lane, adjoining the drug store, that runs down towards the beach. The name is reflective of its inhabitants who belonged mainly to the Borah community, a small clan of people from Gujarat and Punjab in India who had migrated to Ceylon in the early days and were involved lucratively in trade, industry, and business, in a very successful manner.
Glen Aber Place
The Borah community has now built their own Mosque down this street where they congregate for their prayers and other religious-social events. On weekend evenings one can see the many ladies of the community, clad in their purdah overcoats, walking along Galle Road towards this place of worship.The Fowzie's and his brothers and family, owned a joint property down this street and Fowzi ‘s wife and son moved to Wellawate and his brother, wife, son and grandchildren are still resident here.
On the opposite face of the Galle Road is Temple Lane which is a narrow street that moves down to meet Duplication Road. The FazleAli's live down this road and Mansoor & Mazher attended Royal in the early forties/fifties. Mansoor, who is no more, holds the record for the highest number of wickets taken at cricket against Trinity College, Kandy, to date. Their father, Dr. FazleAli served the community with honor and respect and was much loved by one and all. The FazleAli's also owned and ran a printing business in Colombo called "Captain House".
The next street on this side is School Lane which is also a narrow cul de sac that winds its way down to meet Duplication Road. Theva of old Royal lived here with his folks. Theva married Olwyn and moved to Australia sometime in the eighties. Olwyn was formerly married to Sriyan de Silva, ex Production Manager at Usha and Singer factories at Ratmalana.
The Pandita-Gunewardane's lived at 36 Edward Lane, Bambalapitiya, The Sirimanna's lived further down and Donovan Andre's sister's family lived across the street from them.
Mohini Gunasekera and her brother Harsha, a Civil Servant who passed away in 1967, also lived there. Mohini qualified as a Barrister at law Lincoln's Inn UK and is now retired from practice as a lawyer in Australia. Her sister, Indra, is a Paediatrician in Baton Rouge USA, and another sister, Praneetha is in private practice as a medical practitioner in Australia.
Bullers Road, now renamed to Bauddhaloka Mawatha, is a very broad street that runs all the way from Galle Road to meet the roundabout at Thunmulla, which spans Havelock Road on its right and Reid Avenue on its left, and goes further down staright towards Jawatte where Radio Ceylon, now the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, is located.
At the top of the road where the Great Wall Hotel stands now, was previously occupied by the Sherrif Hadijar family, who have since moved to Davidson Road, having rented it out to a Hotelier.
The Mosque attended by Muslims of Bambalapitiya stands on this street on the left. Since of late the buildings of this place of worship have been renovated and built up into a three floored structure meeting the many demands of the increasing number of Muslims in the area. Eliyas master and his sister Ms Ahadiya, who tutored children and her mother lived close to the Mosque.
The Bambalapitiya central bus station is also housed at the beginning of Bullers Road. Many a bus that comes from the south along Galle Road take the Bullers Road turn to the right in order to take their many passengers to various locations inland, viz; Korteboam (105), Layards Broadway (106), & Wattala (104). Since recent times the destinations have been changed to Mattakkuliya (155), Grandpass (156), & Wattala (134).
Other modes of transport at Bambalapitiya were, the Bullock Carts, Buggy Carts, Hackeries, and the old London Transport Red Double deck Buses run by the Southern Western Bus Company. Traffic Police on Motor Bikes, the Tar barrel's lining the road, effectively dividing the road into two traffic lanes, ugly yet very practical.
Many large residential bungalows stood tall down Bullers Road in the old days. They have now been converted into office complexes fetching very attractive rents and the whole complexion of the street has changed from a very cosy, quiet and calm residential location to a bustling business environment."Kos" Dias a teacher at Royal used to live down Bullers Road and every student who passed by in the school bus never failed to miss his home while the bus passed this way. Mr Dias used to stand in front of his gate to board the school bus in the mornings. And then there was "Rupperty", Mr Rupesinghe, who lived down Adams Avenue who also used to stand on the sidewalk waiting for the Royal School Bus every morning.
Bullers Road intersects the newly constructed Duplication Road, renamed to RA de Mel Mawatha, at right angles and now houses branches of many international banks and corporations.
HongKong & Shanghai Banking Corporation has a notable presence, while Precision Tech, the local representatives of HP, also has its premises alongside.
The Kariapper family, originally from the Eastern Province town of Batticaloa, lived on one of the side streets on the right of Bullers Road. Daughter, Dr. Nazli married Dr. Shahnaz Ozeer, a reputed dental surgeon, and moved to Australia since recent times. Shahnaz is the son of Khaneema Saleem and MSM Ozeer, formerly of Mary's Road, Bambalapitiya.
The Dutch Burgher Union is also located on the left, further down, opposite to the roundabout. In recent times the CBA Copy Center and bookshop has also started a successful business adjoining the DBU.
Lion House & Mayfair Hotel
On the landside of Galle Road, starting from where Bullers Road begins, are a row of restaurants, shops and business enterprises, some having been in business for more than five decades. The most famous of these used to be Lion House and Mayfair Hotel, two restaurants located next to each other, where schoolboys, referred to as the "bambalawatte boys", meaning the boys from the gardens of Bambalapitiya, playing truant gathered together to light up a quick ciggy before hitting the matinee movie at the Majestic Cinema across the street.
Lion House, the "Sinhala Kade" which dished out the most savory dishes of Sinhalese tradition from the spicy and lovely "katta sambol" "lunumiris", and steaming hoppers, just off the pan, not to forget the mouth watering kavun and kokis especially during the Sinhala-Tamil New Year and festive season. The "bithara appa" (egg hoppers) laced the red hot chillie "katta sambol" soaked with a good cuppa, steaming hot, plain (black) tea, accompanied by a Three Roses cigarette (Four Aces for the guys who wanted it cheap) was the "diet" of the hundreds who patronized the "Lion" in all its glory and splendor.
The Lion House cuppa tea was something truly special to all young smokers. Every schoolboy in Bambalapitiya knew Lion House almost as second home.
Lion House was patronized by a cross-section of guys. Royalists, of the Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte breed, Peterites from the "bamba" homeland, Thomians too, from far off down south as Mt.Lavinia. The Mount boys "jumped" a South-Western bus to be at Bambalapitiya in a short span of time as traffic was sparse on the Galle Road in those times, unlike at present where a run from Mount to Bambalapitiya junction would take about an hour. This was also the hide-out for the schoolboys (it did not serve much as the showcase at Lion was there for all and sundry to see) for a "punt"(a cigarette) as the next one will have to be in the toilet at home where chances of being detected by "pater" (father) are sixty to one in the possibility. "Lion" apart from the schoolboys also had their lion share of press reporters, hangers on, Majestic theatre patrons, (a somewhat downtown branch of the YMCA of Fort patronized by such breed) and of course the "Bambalawatte boys".
The Bambalawatte boys being many drop-outs from who live in the Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte area, jobless, and strumming a guitar and sporting an "Elvis Presley" hair bump and sideburns to adorn their pimply face,and whoe past time was passing remarks at the gals who walk by. Once the "Lion" patrons glue themselves to their seats around the rectangular tables it was "finitos" for the waiters and management. The ones who come in first wouldn't leave in a hurry, but spend hours chatting in groups, while only totting up a bill for a few rupees to the dismay of the "Lion" management and the poor waiters who longed for a five cent tip to keep their hoke fires burning. Sadly the "Lion" exists today at its original site, the showcase outside the restaurant remains but the floor space has been halved and rented out and the other half is no longer an eating house.
From the "Lion", just next door, stood another famous eating place ofthe 50/60 era, the "Mayfair Hotel" a renowned place run by Indian Muslims. A place synonymous with Moghul dishes and Watalappam. The aroma and mouth-watering taste that came out from Mayfair's delicious buriyanis is still etched in the memories of the 'gluttonous" of that by-gone era. The roast chicken could not be matched by any other eating "joint" in town except, maybe, by the original "Pilawoos" restaurant in the Pettah run by the Palandis of South Indian roots. Mayfair too had their fair share of Hoppers, which, soaked in mutton kurma (meat curry) with all the masala (spices) added gave a good run to their competitors next door although patrons still favored hoppers with chillie hot sambol served by the Lion.
If its "Buriyani" its Mayfair, and they did a splendid job with it and their take-away specials of chicken and mutton is something still spoken of by the old timers, a taste that has never been matched even to this day. "Mayfair" was also a boozers favorite.
Although the place did not serve liquor many a patron came there soaked and swinging, to wind up their long and thirsty day with a good buriyani feed as their "old ladies" (wives) would not be awake when they would eventually get back home in the wee hours of the morning.
Mayfair sales used to sky rocket during the end of the month when pay-day came around as a good buriyani was sold for around Rs 3/50, a fairly expensive commodity in the days when a bus ride from Fort to Bambalapitiya costed only 15 cts. The name "Mayfair" exists even now at the same location with "new" added to it but it is a far cry from the good old "Mayfair" of old.It was here, within these two premises, that many of the ideas that emanated from the youth of Bambalapitiya were discussed and plans hatched to carry out whatever mischief they had in mind, whether it was scaling the walls of St. Pauls' Milagiriya or raiding the echelons of Holy family Convent girl schools.
These two restaurants along with many more that have now sprouted up along the Galle Road, extending all the way to the Bambalapitiya Market and even beyond, also served as eating joints for those driving past after midnight.
Some significant characters of Lion House/Mayfair fame were, the Guneratne's, local toughs, Douglas Roberts, Tough Kum, & Rutman. The one & only Gerd Von Dinclage of Kinross fame, and his Harley Davidson, Tissa Ariyarate " Saigon "Hilmi Khalid, and Turab Jafferjee,. This area became known as the domain of the Bambalawatte Boys, of whom much was written by internationally renowned journalist Tarzie Vittachi and newspaper cartoonist Colette.
"Once again to those days", written by Geoff Wijesinghe – in the Daily News paper of Sat, Mar 2, 2002, gives a very interesting and illustrative account of some of the happenings in Bambalapitiya around Lion House in those times as follows:-quote George Siegertsz, who passed away in London last week at the age of 82, was one of the last of a generation of post-World War Two musicians.
George was a regular at Lion House at the Bambalapitiya Junction. He was one of the motley group of young men who visited the popular eatery, which served more as a "cup tea punt" (a cup of tea and a fag) club where these youth chatted for long hours of this, that and the other.
Although the group comprised many toughs who walked around like pocket editions of Humphrey Bogart, George Raft and Spencer Tracy, the tough guys at the time of the silver screen, George Siergertsz was more interested in chatting and in music. He was the country's number one whistler, a fine art and often his friends at Lion House, would gather round a table and listen to him whistling the popular tunes at the time.
About one in two months or so, George Siergertsz had a 15-minute program over Radio Ceylon and would whistle the popular tunes of the day, haunting melodies, many of them World War Two favourites such as "Time Goes By", "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square", "A Long Way to Tipperary" and "The White Cliffs of Dover".
Many of us younger one who kept in touch with the Lion House crowd knew well in advance when George Siergertsz, a lean, tall, gangling figure was going to whistle over Radio Ceylon.
Incidentally, although some of his pals operated in grey areas, George never blew the whistle on them to the cops. He was only interested in whistling fine musical tunes. The Lion House group, I would not like to describe them as a mob, although some of them were men of violence looking out for a fight.
One morning we read the sensational news in the "Daily News" of two of the Lion House boys having stowed away successfully on board a ship from Colombo to Southampton. If my memory serves me right they were Hula Mortier and Kingsley Rodrigo who, according to their buddies, have gone to the UK to become coal miners.
When I last heard of them many years ago they had in fact made their way to London and were domiciled there. The years following World War Two produced musicians of fine vintage in this country. Foremost of them was Erin de Selfa who was discovered by the doyen of Sri Lankan showmen Donovan Andre, a former racing correspondent attached to the Times of Ceylon, which was published in the evenings and on Sundays.
She was recruited to sing in the group which was known as Red Tail Minstrels and grew up to be dark and dusky, and her voice was very much like the posh Shirley Bassey. Once she grew up, Erin was a regular over a Radio Ceylon. She then left for London under contract to the famous "Talk of the Town" nightclub in London, which was patronized by celebrities.
I had the privilege of listening to Erin over the BBC one night. This was the first time that a Sri Lankan musician had been honoured by BBC, at the time the premier broadcasting station in the world, a highly prestigious achievement.
Her renditions of "Blue Moon", "As Time Goes By", "I can't help Falling in Love with You" and several other sentimental songs, were of the highest international standards.
Several years later, another Sri Lankan Yolande Wolfe, an old girl of Holy Family Convent of Bambalapitiya and whose father owned a building at the top of Retreat Road, followed in Erin's footsteps and became popular in the US.
That was in the early 1950s, the George and Gerry Crake brother were the seniors in the local music scene and they too were regulars over Radio Ceylon. They had a band known as the Crake Brothers, Gerry had a rich, deep tenor. There was also the Millionaires' dance band who practised in a house at Edward Lane.
They had the big band sound and their rendition of the Glenn Miller favourite "Take the A-train", which is a perennial, was superb.
The biggest end-of-the-year dance in the late 1940s was at the Town Hall where several bands played and there was one hectic rush for tickets.
Some of the Lion House "boys" got involved in a brawl at one of those New Year's Eve dances, which ended tragically in the death of a young man, who fell out of an upstair window when taking a punch.
The pint-sized Carl Cooke, the former Thomian wicket-keeper, had a ballroom dancing school opposite Lion House directly behind the petrol shed at the Bambalapitiya Junction. In this sprawling old house he also established the 20th Century Club, no doubt getting the inspiration from the name 20th Century Fox, the international film producer.
One night, some of the boys who had the habit of dropping in for drinks at the 20th Century Club, imbibed more than they should have had and inspired by Bacchus, took all the club's flower pots and placed them on Carl Cooke's billiard table. Being a mild mannered man, all Carl could say was "what have you fellows done? You have damaged my billiard table. And I will have to replace it with new clothes."
Carl, of course, being a peace-loving man, paid for the repairs. But the neighbourhood was very angry with the Lion House crowd for having abused Carl Cooke's hospitality, for he was very popular. Carl's brother Percy who has played for S. Thomas' was my headmaster for long years
Lauries Road & Majestic Avenue
In between these shops are the lanes of Lauries Road and Majestic Avenue, and, at the end of this row the Bambalapitiya Market stands like a monument from the past, for several decades.
A notable corner store, that was gutted to cinders during the '83 Sinhala-Tamil riots that erupted, is the banana shop displaying its variety of fruit in all shapes and colors and sizes. Navavi, a textile shop run by a member of the Tamil community and Samarasinghe Brothers a utility store were also located along this row.
The Bambalapitiya Municipal Market
The Market square at Bambalapitiya is, to this day, managed by the Colombo Municipal Council and provides stalls and booths for the sale of fresh vegetable, fruits, fish, poultry, and meat. Built many moons ago the building used to be in such a dilapidated state that one used to wonder when it would come tumbling down. One could even see small Bo plants growing on its roof. In recent times, however, some renovations have been carried out and a fresh coat of gray paint has given the market some semblance of sanity that didn't exist for decades.
Once inside the market one sees an arrogant display of groceries, meats, vegetables and fruits ready for the picking.The many Bambalapitiya ladies who haunt this environ with their hefty baskets, some more affluent ones with their housemaids tagging along behind them, do use this place as a meeting venue to discuss the daily dose of town gossip and exchange tidbits before trucking back home with their goodies. In modern times the crowds are most during the evenings what with many of the modern day middle class ladies choosing to work in order to keep the home fires burning.Dogs, cats and crows outnumber the number of humanity that haunts this place, picking up the bits and pieces of meats and fish that are disposed of by the vendors.
Streams of water run down along the side streets originating from the many stalls where the washing of the meats, fish, vege's and fruits take place. The place reeks with a mixed smell of uncooked food, fishy smelling and sometimes a bit difficult to stomach to those with weak dispositions.
A Municipal Inspector has his own room within the premises and is expected to ensure that all produce sold within are in conformity to local government food sales and hygiene laws. To live in Bambalapitiya and not have visited the market would be equivalent to blasphemy.
Adjoining the market, to the south, is a private road wherein the Aziz family lived. The head of the household, MHA Aziz was an Advocate belonging to the Poothan Haji Family from Galle, who founded the Ahadiyya Movement in Sri Lanka which trained young Muslim children to read Qur'an and study Islam.
His children are Shibly (married to Fathima Waffarn, daughter of the late Dr Waffarn), who is now a Presidents Counsel, Imthiaz, who spent long years in Saudi Arabia working with the Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Ifthikhar, who is involved in business in Colombo, all of whom were fervent Royalists. The daughters, Minna married Proctor Iliyas of Galle, and Ryhan, married Mazhar Ghouse, so of Matheen Ghouse of Lever Brothers Ceylon Ltd., who was also an ex Royalist from the same batch as her brothers.
Shibly is married to Fathima Waffarn, daughter of Dr ARM Waffarn, from Wellawatte, while Imthiaz married Yasmin Mahamoor the late ASP's daughter of Pieris Road Kalubowila, and Ifthikhar married Fathima Rezani Marikkar, daughter of Zain & Rifka Marikkar.
The Aziz family tree is available at www.rootsweb.com/lkawgw/gen069.html
Then came Joseph Lane, Pepin Lane, Daisy Villa Avenue and De Vos Avenue. On the land side facing the old Stadium location ringed a row of business enterprises all the way up to the massive Hindu Kovil that still stands, and ends at Vajira Road, and is venerated by many of the Hindu's from all parts of Colombo.
The Bambalapitiya Hindu Kovil (Temple)
An annual processing marking the Hindu Vel Festival was carried out at this premises with the arrival of the traditional Vel Cart all the way from the Gintupitiya Hindu Temple, driven by white bulls and carrying symbols of the Hindu religion. This cart also proceeded to the next temple in Bambalapitiya usually referred to as the Wellawatte Kovil, about a Kilometer away to the south.
The occasion was a massive gala that provided sweet meats, traditional goods, clothes, toys and trinkets with lots of amusements for the children in an event that lasted almost a week during August of every year.
Sugarcane was the most abundant delicacy at this event and one would see the cane trees piled up against every wall and pillar waiting to be cut, cleaned and sold to mouth watering passers by.
The Bambalapitiya Garland Makers
The Bambalapitiya Petrol Station & Bill Forbes
On the seaside bordering Adamaly place, along Galle Road, is a gas station that dispenses, petrol, diesel, cooking gas, vehicle servicing and washing, very popular with local residents.
It was here where the famous Sri Lankan crooner Bill Forbes once worked as an attendant. The pump still stands and serves its citizens valiantly until today.
Bill Forbes was born on 17th December 1938 in Sri Lanka. He came to Britain in 1955 at the age of 17 doing menial clerical work by day and renting a flat in Victoria, Central London. During 1958 Bill lived out his dreams of being a famous singer by appearing regularly at the "Bread Basket" coffee bar in Tottenham Court Road.
It was while he was performing one night in September 1958 that two talent scouts representing Jack Good approached him and asked if he wanted to audition for the "Oh Boy!" show. The series had just blasted onto the nation's television screens a few weeks earlier and Bill was already a big fan of the show.
The show was a groundbreaking British pop music event from 1958-1959, in London with Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde, Bill Fury and others. He released 12 hits for EMI Columbia among them 'Too Young/It's Not the End of the World,' Sri Lankans still sing his baila hit: 'Aacha England,' recorded under the name of Kal Khan. 'Oh to be in England!' is still a favorite of many vintage Sri Lankans. Bill Forbes also appeared on Donovan Andree's musical shows in Colombo in the early 1960s and he was interviewed over Radio Ceylon by the late Vernon Corea.
"I was one of 30 artists who were invited to perform before Jack Good," recalls Bill. "I turned up for the audition which was held at the actual venue for the live show itself - the Empire Theatre in Hackney- and I was absolutely petrified."
On entering the theatre he saw for the first time many of the series regular stars, such as the Lord Rockingham XI, the Dallas Boys, Don Lang and the Vernons Girls.
From the 30 artists who auditioned that autumn morning Jack Good personally picked just two to appear in his "Oh Boy!" series - Emile Ford (who appeared just once on the 29th November 1958 edition) and Bill himself.
"I was over the moon," Bill said, "but the audition didn't exactly get off to a great start!" Bill chose to sing Marty Wilde's current hit "Endless Sleep" as his audition piece. But at the end of the song Jack Good told him his performance was "OK" but he sounded a bit too much like Marty.
"We don't want two Marty's in the show do we?" said Jack, and he got Bill to sing another song. Bill's second audition piece was the Johnny Ray classic "Just Walking In The Rain" which was enough to convince Jack to put him in the series.
"In those days Jack told YOU what songs you will sing, and nobody answered back. None of the artistes dared argue and being young and a novice I did as I was told."
Bill continues "Jack gave me an American record of the upbeat spiritual song `God's Little Acre' (from the film of the same name) which he wanted me to learn and perform on the show. To be honest I wasn't too pleased with the choice because I was a BIG rock `n' roll fan and to me it just wasn't right for the time...and it definitely wasn't rock `n' roll! Oh well I thought, I'll just have to put up with it and sing it."
Bill attended the painstaking rehearsals both at the Empire Theatre and the Four Provinces of Ireland Club in Islington during the latter part of October in preparation for his "Oh Boy!" television debut, which was due to be on Saturday 1st November 1958. (Show Number 8)
However a few days prior to the live broadcast Jack called Bill with some crushing news. Tommy Steele had agreed to come on the show at short notice and so Bill's spot was cancelled.
"I was devastated by the news. I didn't hear anything from Jack for several weeks after that. I was in limbo at that time. I began to think he didn't want me at all and the call was just a polite way of letting me down."
Then at the beginning of December Bill was finally given his big chance- and a date for his debut show… Saturday 13th December 1958 (Show Number 14)
Bill sang the spiritual number backed by the Lord Rockingham XI with the Dallas Boys and the Vernons Girls providing the vocal backing and choreography.
Shortly after the show Bill signed a recording contract with Columbia Records and between 1959 and 1962 released eight singles, the biggest of which "Too Young" reached the number 29 position in UK Charts during December 1959.
His biggest success however was in his homeland of Sri Lanka, where his 3rd Columbia release "Too Young" backed with "Its Not The End of the World" became a double-sided number one hit at the beginning of 1960.
Bill was regarded as something of a hero in Sri Lanka, because although they had never seen the "Oh Boy" show over there, its reputation had spread worldwide and it was big news that one of its homegrown talents was starring in it.
Today, Bill is still regarded as the first Sri Lankan solo artist ever to secure a recording contract and a hit recording outside his native country.
When he returned there for a 10-day whistle stop tour in early 1960 - topping the charts with his version of the evergreen ballad "Too Young"- he was mobbed in the streets and even invited to lunch with the Prime Minister at his official residence.
"The biggest kick for me was that "Too Young" knocked Cliff Richard's "Living Doll" off the top of the Sri Lanka charts. I really felt I'd made it! It all happened so fast it's just a blur when I think about it now. All the detail gets lost when so many good things happen at once," Bill said.
On 17th January 1959 Bill Forbes made his 2nd of 11 appearances on the series. He sang another song chosen for him by Jack called "Woman From Liberia" which would prove a big hit with the viewers. "She gave me water but it was not from the well" are the songs most memorable if not politically correct lyrics, which warns against accepting suspect liquid refreshment from dodgy African women! Despite its popularity here in Britain the song was never released as a single.
Bill sang the song again the following week 24th January (as well as "God's Little Acre") and for the very final show on 30th May - at Jack's request. Fortunately this final show has survived so at least one Bill Forbes performance has been preserved on film for posterity.
Bill's unscheduled 4th appearance on the 7th February 1959 show came out of the blue and proved to be a highlight in his career.
Bill recalls; "On the Friday - the day before the live broadcast- Jack called me suddenly to say that Cliff was sick with laryngitis and was unable to appear. And he wanted me to stand in as Cliff's replacement."
Cliff was due to sing 3 solo songs as well as a duet with Marty, and I had to learn all five numbers with just 24 hours notice.
"I sang "Hot Dog", and "Love Me Tender". Fortunately I was an Elvis fan so most of the lyrics were no real obstacle. "For the finale Marty Wilde and I closed with a duet singing "Rip It Up", "Keep On Knockin' (But You Cant Come In)" and "Bird Dog".
"That was my biggest moment! Normally I would only get to sing just one song but because Cliff was such a big star by this time he would always get about four or five numbers to sing. The show went very well and was my chance to shine as the big star for the week."
Bill's 5th appearance on "Oh Boy!" was on 28th February singing "Bim-Bom-Bey"- a country hit in 1959 for Jimmy Rodgers in the USA.
A modern casino, catering to foreigners only, now stands right next to the gas station where in days of yore a very popular wine and grocery store, owned and managed by the famous food people, the Corera family, used to stand.
Then comes Arthur's place, a narrow lane that winds its way down to the beach.The next block was previously occupied by the old Majestic Theatre and car park which was famous for showing MGM movies from Hollywood, three times daily on weekdays and four on weekends.
Today, the block has been converted, by the same management of Ceylon Theatres Ltd., into a sprawling metropolis called Majestic City which houses a massive department store, famous fast food restaurants, KFC, and also multi cinema facilities showing the latest movies from Hollywood to the Sinhala screen. Near the Majestic City behind the Gas Station resides Hameed Ariff and family and SithyMa married to Mohideen Textiles son. A daughter of theirs is married to Minister Fouzie's son.
The block ends with Station Road which is located right opposite to where the market begins. Station Road is so named, in several towns in Colombo, representing the fact that the railway station is located at its sea-front end. Bambalapitiya is no different.
The family of MHM Muhseen, married to Khadeeja Ghouse, live down Station Road. Their son Imtiaz worked for Ceylon Tobacco Company Ltd and then moved to Uzebekistan and is presently employed and living in the UK. Imthiaz is married to Tirmizi Naina-Marikar. The daughter is married to Nawaz Vilcassimfrom Galle and lives in Singhapore where Nawaz is employed and they have now migrated to Australia. The youngest, son Fazal, is married to Naizar Cader's daughter, also from Galle is also now is Australia.
At the end of Station Road a perpendicular right turn would take one to meet the bottom of Arthurs Place thus making it an easier way to move round in a rectangle back to Galle Road from either street. Station Road and Majestic Avenue stand face to face and in recent times a very necessary set of traffic lights have been set up at this junction in order to bring some sanity to the chaotic flow of men and machines on this busy highway.
"El Patio Yveony"
The beautiful home and mansion,"El Patio Yveony", owned and lived in by Onally Gulamhussein and his celebrity wife Yvonne Toussaint starts off the next block of land adjoining Station Road. Onally, nicknamed "Jutehessian" and his wife the socialite Yvonne Gulamhussian, nee Toussaint, was refereed to as Mrs. Ooh La Jute Hessian.
The area facing the Galle Road which used to be the front yard of the villa has now been blocked, sold and built up into another mall where many lucrative and flourishing businesses have sprung up alongside including Perera & Sons bakers, Vijitha Yapa Book Store and several other new and old enterprises. Along this same row was located the famous Stadium that hosted many scintillating entertainment performances organized by the famous Donovan Andree during his hey days of the entertainment business.
The stadium which belonged to Donavan Andree and Mubarak Thaha where there was a lot of water circus and many overseas performance that took place and was later managed by Donavan's son Malcolm Andree who was famous for various broadcating and musical shows along with Chris Greet as his compere.Along a row of businesses, which included Silk Paradise owned and managed by a Sindhi family, was a two storeyed building which was used for residential purposes one of which was occupied by the Jansz family. Linda Jansz attended St. Paul's Milagiriya at Bambalapitiya.
The Police Station
St Alban's Place comes next, followed by Emilda Lane (now renamed to Ransivi Lane) and Buchanan Street, which is located opposite Daisy Villa Avenue on the landside, between which stands the Bambalapitiya Police Station that occupies almost all the land up to the beach front.
The Police quarters are located at the rear of the station.Ransivi Lane follows next and Haig Road, rather broad in contrast to many of the other streets on either side of Galle Road, comes after, located right opposite to De Vos Avenue on the landside.
St Albans Place
A unique establishment called "Colombo Hatcheries" was owned by Durham & Yvonne Saldin. It was situated at no: 7 St. Alban's PLace and was in existence from 1958 - 1973. They had one Incubator to do the custom hatching of eggs brought by customers. As business was booming, they moved to the Studio Lekha premises which housed three Incubators. They also delivered their own poultry food called Mitsui Poultry Foods to homes in Colombo.
Emilda Lane (Ransivi Lane)
The Issadeen family moved from Melbourne Avenue to Haig Road, and have been residents there for decades. SS Issadeen, ex Government Agent at Matara moved in to Colombo on completion of his assignment in the south. His sons, Ismeth, Kabeer, Fazal, Imthiaz schooled at St Thomas' and were noted citizens of Bambalapitiya during the sixties-seventies. Issadeen's daughter is Yasmin who went to Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya and later married, "Birdie", the son of Sharker Mohideen of Dawson Road.
Then, on the seaside again, came Beltona Lane, Janaki Lane and Indra Lane, followed by Asoka Gardens, where the Dias Abeygunawardena's occupied the first house on the left whose gate was slanted at a 45 degree angle to the Galle Road.
The famous Abdeen and Ahamed families lived down this street. Of them Adil Abdeen was most noted for his antics with Tony Sitlani and his mini Mafiosi at Bambalapitiya. Shums, Noor Thaha, were the Ahamed boys who were no second to Adil in their mischief making and antics in town.Kotelawala Gardens, Uptaissa Road, where the Nilams lived, Firoz Nilam who attended Royal College and went on to becoming a national Table Tennis Champion, and Ramya Road came next. The Dhahaln family lived here with MHM Dhahlan being s senior citizen of the Muslim community and who was a very active social worker involved with the Moors' Islamic Cultural Home in the Fort.
Shrubbery Gardens was next, where the most famous vegetarian restaurant in Colombo, Greenlands Hotel, was located. A very wide street, it ran straight down to the rail tracks enveloped by big villas on each side.
Retreat Road followed adjacent to which the Holy Family Convent Girls School stood tall with its Church facing the Galle Road in all its splendor and grey. Harris and Damayanthi Wijesinghe lived here. They subsequently moved to Kawdana and then to Peterson Lane at Wellawatte where Harris now runs his lucrative hair dressing salon and beauty culture shop, assisted by his active sister. Damayanthi has since moved to Mount Lavinia with her family.
HOLY FAMILY CONVENT (HFC)
In the year 1903, the parish of Bambalapitiya felt that it needed an English school for girls. Archbishop Melizan invited the Sisters of the Holy Family, who had worked strenuously for many years in different parts of the Island, to start an English School for Girls in the Parish of Bambalapitiya.
The Directress of Provincial Superior, Mother Celeste Marchall responded with great enthusiasm, and at her bidding came Sister Agnes Stouter to start a small school at " Clock House ", Lauries Road, Bambalapitiya. The number on the role was 28. Sr. Agnes was joined shortly after by the Superior of the House – Mother St. Paul. Thus was laid the Foundation for this beautiful mission-oriented edifice of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya 100 years ago, on February 3rd 1903.
After 5 years of its humble beginnings, they were able to purchase a permanent residence " Retreat Bungalow" extended over the years to situate the present building of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya.
These first years from Feb. 3rd. 1903 to 1st. February 1908 serve as the most important period in the history of H.F.C Bambalapitiya …. It was the period when the seed was sown- to grow, bloom and bear fruit in the years to come-rooted firmly in the Spirit of God Alone following closely in the foot steps traced out by our Founder the Ven. P. B. Noailles
The date chosen for the foundation was not a mere coincidence. Rev. Mother Celeste Marchall spent her life laboriously to establish Holy Family Convent from Anuradhapura to Puttalam in the North, right down to Galkissa in the South. She thus founded more than 40 Convents specifically for the poor, the neglected among the lower strata of society. Starting at Bambalapitiya made a difference…. It was an urban area – more developed than the other Convents she founded.
The memory of the Miraculous Benediction given to the Holy Family Sisters in Bordeaux – France 3rd February 1822, almost at the birth of our Religious Family, is a tremendous source of vitality and missionary dynamism. Let us recall the experience of the first Holy Family Community who witnessed the Miraculous Apparition of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This Venerable ecclesiastic went there at 4.30p.m., and scarcely had he exposed that Blessed Sacrament on the alter when the Sacred Species moved slightly and the bust and head of Our Lord, surrounded by a brilliant halo clearly seen.
Amongst the people present, some were absorbed in deep contemplation, others wept tears of joy, love and gratitude: several could not contain their sentiments of fervour.
It was Rev. Mother Leonide – "who having spent 27 years as a Missionary in South Africa came to Ceylon full of enthusiasm to cultivate this portion of the Lord's vineyard." It was she who designed and planned the chapel – the centrepiece of the whole edifice – with such artistic taste. It was completed in 1933, and the round stained glass right at the centre top, bears the image of Jesus as he appeared on that glorious day on Feb. 3rd. 1822.
Milestones at HFC
- 1903. Clock House first School House in Lauries Road.Mother St.Paul arrives to take over the work.
- 1905. Rest at last!The House Called"The Retreat" was rented for the community who taught in the Park House School.
- 1906. Mother St.Suzanne appointed Superior.
- 1907. Retreat House was bought and school conducted there in three stables!
- 1908. Mother Mary of Jesus arrived from England to be the Headmistress.
- 1909. The first building-four classrooms built for the school and blessed by Archbishop Coudert,O.M.I.
- 1912. Mother Gonzaga arrived to take charge of Music lessons,Singing and Kindergarten School.Rev.Mother Sebastian appointed Superior.
- 1913. First pupils passed the Senior Cambridge Examination.
- 1918. Science now forms a regular part of the school Curriculum.A special Science Room built.
- 1920. Building of a new wing for Kindergarten School.Anew Dormitory for Boarders added.
- 1924. "Refreshing Breezes" our first school Magazine .
- 1925. Opening of the new Refectory for the Boarders and purchase of a house popularly known as Moorman's House, for classes.Tennis court opened and a club formed for play.Rev.Mother Rose De Lima appointed superior.
- 1927. The first public Prize Distribution.Lady Clifford wife of the then Governor presided and gave away the prizes.She was an old pupil of Holy Family Convent in south Africa.Pat pupils' association meets June 1st to discuss the ways and means of celebrating the Silver Jubilee of Foundation.
- 1928. Silver Jubilee Celebrations February 15th ,16th and 17th.A block of classrooms built over the first school building to house 5 classes.
- 1934.The Past Pupils' Association formally reorganised-a Constitution formulated.Mother Mary of Jesus,retires as Principal.
- 1939. Approval for school to start Intermediate classes and prepare for Entrance to the University.
- 1942. War conditions.School taken for use as a Militiary Hospital.Children evacuated to Burulapitiya. ‘Homesdale" and "Cherrydale" house the Lower School in Bambalapitiya.
- 1946. School returns to the old buildings.The Military Hospital closed.Urgent demand for Higher Science Facilities.Rev.Mother Gonzaga appointed superior.
- 1948. ‘City of Laughter'Carnival in Aid of Science Laboratories.
- 1953. The Golden Jubilee.Grand Fair and Fete.
- 1955. School changes to three language groups up to 9th Grade.First visit of the Superioress General to Ceylon,Very Reverend Mother Claire de Jesus.
- 1958. A Lourdes Centenary Festival presented by the school in the Lionel Wendt Theatre.
- 1960. Our first Sinhalese full length Drama "Ramayana'.
The Huzair family livedat the far end of Nimal Road where a Mosque and a Muslim teaching center was run for the benefit of the Muslims in the locality. Zuhair, an active social worker involbved with the MICH in Colombo, and his sister, Shaharaza Huzair, now migrated to the UK, lived there.Jaya RoadJaya Road, a very narrow and winding street that went all the way down to the rail tracks, came next.
A Memon family named Eliyas owners of a property and were also residents of the massive house facing the Galle Road between these two lanes.
The Le Mottes lived down Nimal Road and migrated to the UK in 1964. Rosemary stayed back in Sri Lanka while Sybil moved to the USA
The famous Chinese restaurant on Galle Road, Chinese Dragon Café, managed and run by the late Roger Solomons, is housed here, facing Galle Road. The place was and is still being run very successfully and attracted a large clientele, especially for evening dining. During the war a rumor was spread that crow and cat meat were served instead of meat and chicken. Papa Chou, the owner vehemently denied these allegations. Rumor has it that Papa Chou had a reputation for being a bit of a ladies man.
Another well-known Doctor G R Muttumani, who practiced down Station Road at Wellawatte hailed from Milagriya Avenue. Patrick and David Muttumani, who both played cricket for St Peter's, were his sons. Andrew worked for Air Lanka as a Flight Engineer for some period. At the bottom of Milagiriya Ave lived the Thiagalingam family, Sons Parathalingam & Jothi Lingam played for Royal, Jayalingam played for St Thomas.
Chinese Dragon Cafe has since moved to Milagiriya Avenue from its original Galle Road location.
Civil Servant AI Mohideen lived, with his family, down Melbourne Avenue. His children are Mohammed Jesmy and Sithy Shireen, married to Shahul Hameed Aslam of Pendennis Avenue (Abdul Caffoor Mawatha), in Colpetty.
The Maldivian Embassy was also located down Melbourne Avenue. Since recently a splashy Thai restaurant has sprung up catering to the rich and famous and also tourists in town.
A massive condominium apartment complex, a new icon commonly seen in Colombo in recent times, is also raising its head right next door to the Mohideen residence.
Ms Selvarajah lived at the far left end of Melbourne Avenue and subsequently established the reputed Tiny Tots Nursery school where many a young lad and lady of Bambalapitiya attended.
District Judge Ameen and his family, comprising son Isfahan and two daughters, lived there. One of the daughters Azmiya has since moved to USA with her family. The son Isfahan moved to Skeleton Road, at Colombo 5, with his family. Isfahan spent several years working as an expatriate Accountant in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia in the mid seventies, before moving back home to Colombo.
The Cooray Mansion
The stretch of land between Melbourne Avenue and Frankfort Place housed the massive mansion that belonged to the Cooray Family now converted to Belvoir International School. Many a story is told about this abode which has been even claimed to be haunted in many a folk tale that has been woven around its magnificent history.
The Canagasabeys live down Frankfort Place of whom Nihal attended Royal College and then went on to work with the Hemas Group of Companies in the Fort. Nihal is also a very active member of the Royal College '59 Group Alumni who meet in gay camaraderie and celebration, during the cricket and rugby seasons each year.The Le-af family lived in a massive house down the street and they have transformed it into a massive condominium apartment complex.
The Bambalapitiya Flats
And then came the famous, or should I say more infamous, Bambalapitiya Flats, a vast acreage of land containing several three storeyed apartment blocks spanning from the Galle Road all the way down to the beach. The Bambalapitiya Flats land was the Seminarywatte (Seminary Garden), in which novice priests were trained to the order of SJ. The Seminarywatte was also a favorite cricket ground of the Bambalapitiya lads - mainly Peterites, who started nurturing their cricketing talents here - names H.I.K. Fernando, Pat Kelly, Dion Walles, Jayantha Fernano, Bin Mohammed, The de Silva Brothers, Conrad Ephraims, Tony Fernando. M.S.M.Ghouse are some of the names that come to mind of great cricketers of that era who distinguished themselves at Cricket at various levels.
The Abhayasinghes, of whom the father was the Editor of a Sinhala Daily published by the Lake House Group, and his son Kumar, who attended Royal and daughter Kumudini, who attended Visakha Vidyalaya, lived in the first block on the left viewed from the Galle Road. Old man Abhayasinghe used to drive around in his white DKW which was usually seen parked outside the flat. He passed away in 1999. His son, Sunil Kumar, and daughter, Kumudini, have both migrated to LA in the USA.
The Amarasinghams comprising "papa" who was Director at Lever Brother Ceylon Ltd and sons Anton, Mano who went on to become a lawyer before migrating to Australia, and Gnanakumar, and daughters Evelyn & Edna, both migrating to and settling in the UK after the 83 havoc.The Miskin family headed by Papa Miskin of the "Latiff Miskin Combo" fame and sons Farook who played drums and Ahmed a great crooner who died early in life. A row of shops sprouted up on the ground floor of the building parallel to and facing the Galle Road.
They comprised, from left to right, The Milk Board, Koffee House, a coffee shop where the Latiff Miskin Combo played nights, Woolworth, a department store, Anoma's Hair Dressing Saloon, Femina, another department store, and a Cooperative Store managed and run by the people of the area.
Then there were the de Kretsers, on the third block on the left viewed from the Galle Road, of whom Nigel attended Royal and Rozanne & Rochelle attended St. Pauls Milagiriya. All of them have migrated to Australia.
In the same block lived the famous piano teacher, Ms Mignonne Kelaart, who used to shuttle between Rajasinghe Road at Wellawatte and the Bambalapitiya flats She too migrated to Australia where she died of old age. Many a young lady at Bambalapitiya were her students who excelled in music in their latter years.
Further down towards the beach lived Loranjan Dias Abeygunawardena, who attended Royal, and his sister, Shiromi, who attended Visakha Vidyalaya. They both migrated to LA in the USA. Shiromi married Rifky Mackeen, also an ex Royalist, who excelled in the banking profession at Citibank in Colombo and later on in the USA.
Lakshman Kiriella, who also attended Royal and then went on to politics to become the Minister of Plantation Industries in the UNP Government, was boarded at the flat occupied by Ms Jayatilleke.
Raja Rajapakse, uncle of Prasanna Mendis of Melbourne, Australia, ran the tyre dept of Rowlands, and his wife, aunty Violet, was a well-liked matron at the General Hospital, in Colombo, were prominent dwellers at the flats. Their boys -Lalith a medical representative, passed away early in life; Sriyantha Rajapakse played cricket for St. Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia and also for the Sri Lanka national team and was employed at The Maharajah Organization in Colombo. The other son is Ranil.
Shireen Deen, who married Furqan, of Royal also lived at the flats. Her sister, Dilhara has since migrated to New Zealand with her family.
Khazeena Cassim and her Mum also lived at the Flats.
Thahir Fuard, who married Mueeza Sheriff of Davidson Road, also lived with his parents and siblings in "M" Block. Ms Coomaraswamy, nee Sinnathurai, ex teacher at St. Pauls Milagiriya and Muslim Ladies College, also lived at the flats. In her latter years, after retirement, she spent most of her giving private tuition, sometimes to children of her own past pupils.
The Solomon's family of whom Pamela, Joan, & Kathy were very popular amongst the young lads of the area also lived at the flats. Their brother is David Solomans who married Zohara Uduman, who also lived in the Flats.
The very popular Ms Misso, whose sons attended St. Peters College also lived in the same block as the Solomons' family, right behind the front block facing and parallel to the Galle Road. Aunty Misso's hubby was Donny. They have a son and a daughter both migrated to Australia now. The daughter married Ralph D'Silva, a Thomian (cousin of Lorensz and Roger D'Silva, Thomian cricketers) and presently a leading car dealer in Melbourne.
The fun part of living within the flats or nearby was the daily morning meeting at the bus stop, waiting for the various school buses to take the young lads and lassies to their destinies. Life was a bustle at the flats where everything that could ever happen, happened, and life still moved on harmlessly.
The intrigues, relationships, events and other sinister going-on's are voluminous in number and would make delicious reading if they could only be collected and compiled into a dossier.And then there was the Bambalapitiya Flats Welfare Society, housed in the far block by the seaside, which catered to the entertainment, amusement and general welfare of all its residents on special occasions, festivals, and holidays.
Another glamorous inhabitant of the Bambalapitiys flats was Gillian Thorne. She attended Vivil Ludowyk's Academy for the Backward down 8th Lane, with the other students lounging around at the head of the lane, cigarettes dangling from their lips trying to make her acquaintance. Carl Fernando, last heard of in Switzerland, is another name that pops up at the Bambalapitiya Flats.
Penny White, who married Ravi Jayawardena, son of President JR Jayawardena, and her sister Melanie White, also lived at the flats. Elmo, Herman & Frank Gunasekera and their sister Helen who married the famous Rugby player Gamini Fernando also were flatters of great fame. Mr Samad, Rugby coach of Zahira who won the Schools Rugby Champiosnhip under his guidance was another resident known and loved by all who lived at the flats.
Jan Vanden Driesen (the famous swimmer and Accountant) and his family also lived at the flats. His dad was in the Police. The Patternots were also another famous family in the Flats.
Roy Clogstoun and his family also lived at Block M. Roy migrated to Australia in 1969 and has taken up residence in Melbourbe. He joined the Australian Government Service. He has, recently, in June 2007, taken up an assignment as First Secretary at he Austraian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is married to Joan and has two lovely daughters, Isobella & Sophie.
Upali Obeysekera, reading the Bambalapitiya blog in Toronto, in Canada, states that many names came back to his mind as people from the 59 & 60s era. He states, "I lived at the Bambalapitiya Flats from 1956 - 1962, E Block. There are many other names of people worth mentioning. Starting with Maurice Wanigaratne who lived in the same E Block, ground floor. Maurice was a prolific opening batsman for St. Joseph's College and later played for SSC. He became a diplomat and passed away a couple of years back. Maurice's nephew Nihal Kodituwakka also stayed with him. Dimunitive Nihal 'Kodda' played for Royal in the 60s and also won his national cap in Cricket playing against a strong West Indies XI. Then there was the Ranchigoda family from I Block - Winston (now in LA), Nihal (Australia), Lucky (still at Bambalapitiya Flats), Maurice (Toronto) and a whole bunch of others. I believe Nimal Ranchigoda played Cricket for St. Joseph's and NCC.
A Family colored with Tie & Dye
The Sunday Leader July 22 2007 - By Ranee Mohamed
She discovered the art as if by accident and it became the craze of the '60s. The fashion world put a name to it, they called it `tie and dye.' And it raged on splashing colour all over the country. So bright was this riot of colour that the whole world stopped to gaze.
But what the reality that the vibrant colours of 'tie and dye' overshadowed was the fact that this art was discovered by a frail young mother of three in a warm corner in her home at the Bambalapitiya Flats, Colombo 4.
"At that time the Bambalapitiya flats were painted in pretty colours. The blue seas and the orange sunset gave me so much inspiration," said Swanee Jayawardene, the pioneer of tie and dye in Sri Lanka. Initially inspired by a famous designer of that era - Ena de Silva's creation of pebbles tied in fabric and coloured, Swanee's creative mind was immediately set off into a differently hued journey.
"I tied the fabric and put in the colour and had no idea what it would become. Then I discovered that there was 'no end to it.' With batik you know what to expect; with my new creation, I had no idea what to expect," recalled Swanee Jayawardene.
Jayawardene's new creation did not come as a surprise to those who knew her. Her artistic touch came from her heart and mind, and came in the form of not only tie and dye, but paintings and the way her rose garden at home bloomed.
The colours of her creation spilled on to her entire family. "My son was just five years old and he would help me with my tie and dye. He would abandon his friends who played various games with him on the staircase of the Bambalapitiya flats and join me to hold a saree or a piece of fabric for me," said Jayawardene fondly of her son Rohan who is now the 'man behind this colourful show.'
Jayawardene's tie and dye enraptured the world of fashion of that era so much so that several ladies involved their domestic aides in the tie and dye experiments they were doing at home on their not-so-new clothes.
It was a time when pioneers as Soma Udabage and Lena De Silva reigned supreme with their own unique creations. The tie and dye discovered by this celebrated art teacher of Bishop's College, also began to rage on. The high society ladies, the professionals and the politicians too were drawn to the colours as they were to the comfortable silks and cottons on which the colour seemed to have had their own way.
All over the world
Swanee Jayawardene's tie and dye crossed the blue seas and reached different parts of the world. It became particularly popular with the 'Hippies' of that era who basked in the comfort and simplicity that the art offered.
Jayawardene who taught art at the Bishop's College for 19 years soon found that she had to leave her job because she could not cope with the demand for her tie and dye. Swanee's Boutique then situated at Haig Road became the Odel of the 1960s.
As the years went by her son who held the edges of Swanee's fabric, shouldered the whole business. He became her representative, manager and the man who stood by her.
"We went to over 10 international trade fairs. My mother's creations took us to Italy, Germany, France, Japan, Egypt and several other countries. Her fashion show held in the early 1960s called Vilasitha, was the most talked about event in that era," recalled Rohan Jayawardene.
"Once we received an order for tie and dye from the Mitsui Company in Japan. When they received the fabric, they decided to pay more than double the sum quoted by us because they insisted that the creation was worth much more," recalled the Jayawardenes.
The things that Swanee could do with her hands were limitless - from tie and dye outfits of exquisite colour to appliqu‚ dresses, sarees, sarongs and carry bags; she created with her hands, mind and heart. As if all that were not enough she later discovered another technique called 'explosion' in which she combined her tie and dye colour splashes with batik designs, thereby creating a wholly new and striking look in Sri Lankan women.
Tie and dye, discovered by Swanee Jayewardene is still sought after in India and Thailand.
And her three children Rohan, Manel and Menik who lived amidst all the colour, happiness and creativity grew up to be just that. Swanee Jayewardene's daughters recall their happy days in the Bambalapitiya flats. They speak of the their happy life with their mother and father. Their father Harry Jayawardene had been the sports editor of the then Daily Mirror and had also been a medal winner in sports and a great singer.
Happily going back in time, they speak not only of the happy family life but went on to give vivid details of the delectable, home-cooked shorteats that they relished as children at the Milk Bar situated on the ground floor of the Bambalapitiya flats in the 1960s.
"Everything I have done in my life, I have done well. I have known only success. I have no regrets and look back on life very happily. I still remember my students at Bishop's College. Though hundreds of children have learnt art from me I remember a few students for their talent, ability and creativity. "I remember Shiranthani Gunasekera and Vinu Hemachandra and Einlal. There were several more whom I cannot remember now," said the 77 year old Swanee Jayewardene, going back in time.
Students still in touch
"I particularly remember Sicille Kotelawala, a very beautiful child. Not only was she beautiful, she was very talented too. She could do a multitude of things remarkably well," recalled Jayawardene. Sicille Kotelawala too has not forgotten. She is still in touch with her old teacher. Though several decades have passed, she finds the time to telephone this teacher and take her down memory lane. The passing years have switched the roles - Kotelawala now guides the teacher, with love, care and gentleness, through her senior years now.
It is amazing how a mother's creativity can extend to her children. Swanee Jayawardene is undoubtedly proud of her children. Her son Rohan brings her great happiness and confidence for Swanee's Boutique, an approximately 40-year old concern is still in existence. The business involves a special line of batik t-shirts and batik infused fibre glass tables, exotic umbrellas made of tie and dye and waterproof fabric attached to wooden framework.
Their products are sought after by not only the tourists but also the tourist industry in Sri Lanka.
Her creativity reached top hotels as the Tangerine Hotel in the south and The Citadel in Kandy. "We have been the creative link to several hotels and in these instances we work with the architects and decide on how best we can blend the colour with our own creations," explained Rohan.
Daughters to the fore
Swanee's daughters Menik and Manel are described as 'fine designers.' While Menik takes the art form from her family a step ahead by making a name as a teacher of jazz ballet; her other daughter Manel creates exquisite tapestries and paints on porcelain. "I also work with young people in theatre," said Manel and went on to say that her work gives her great job satisfaction while giving her the freedom to improve her artistic talent.
The way a mother lives her life can touch the lives of her children in the most unexpected ways. Swanee Jayewardene is the happy person who can look back to her youth and see only colour. "I am old and tired now. The past seems to have disappeared. I can only look back and admire the beautiful things around me," says Jayawardene. There is a tinge of sadness as she looks back at her happy life.
Decades ago, she was the designer, the creator and the celebrity whose name instilled awe. Her's was a name that was linked with the great artistes of our times as Harry Peiris, Ivan Peiris, Richard Gabriel, Lionel Wendt, Collete, Beiling and Manjusri. Today, she lives in solitude at her beachside residence in Dehiwala. There are no coloured roses in her garden now, only the coloured memories, and the fragrance remains.
The Lekha Studio, facing Galle Road was a sprawling and massive old cottage style structure that offered high quality photography and development for the public. Equipped with modern technology it was manned by a very professional photography expert who also lived, with his family, at the back of the studio. The well moved lawn and foliage in the front yard was the envy of all who passed by.
Clifford Place followed where the Zacky & Kuthdoos family lived. Rizvi and Ifthikhar Kuthdoos were the sons, who were part of the great cricket team down the street, while Fakhriya, Azhara, Mumtaz & Farahana Kuthdoos were the girls. Rizvi migrated to Vancouver BC in Canada with his family where he passed away in 2000. Ifthikar too passed away some years back.At the top of the street was the de Pinto family of which Claude used to be one of the lads who played cricket with the rest of the gang. Claude was a Peterite. Tony, who lived opposite Claudes place was also a Peterite and later went on to become a missionary preaching Christianity.
The Jesuit Missionary office is located down Clifford Place and extends backwards to Sagara Road.
The Lalvani Brothers famous for their import and distribution of "GOYA" beauty products, owned the last property down that road which stretched onto Sagara Road. It had a massive garden and house that accommodated Thaku Lalvani, wife and daughter, Dina, and his siblings. When the family was expanded and the children were growing up Thaku purchased a house at Thimbirigasaya in Colombo 5 and moved over.
The Lalvani Family was a large one, comprising four boys & seven girls). Of the boys, Thaku Lalvani passed away in 1979, Vishin Lalvani passed away in 1982. Mohan Lalvani who married Mohini Sitlani still lives in Colombo with his family. Of the girls, Ganga, who married Susil Moonesinghe, lives in Colombo as well. Of the remaining six sisters, three, Devi, Sundri, & Sheila have passed away. The others, Kala, Chandri & Mohini, one lives in India and the other two live in the U.S.
Ram Lalvani, husband of Sheila, passed away in Colombo on Mar 8 2006. His remains were cremated on Friday Mar 10 2006 at the General Cemetery Kanatte in Colombo 8. He leaves behind his children, Vinod (TVS Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.), Dhinesh (USA) and Vinitha (Australia), daughter in law, Veena (St. Thomas' Preparatory School) son in law Rufus (Australia), and his grandchildren Heeran and Nithin.
Tony Sitlani, Mohan Lalvani's Brother-in-law, of the Sitlani fame passed away in 2003. Tony's Mum, Brenda, also passed away in 2006.
The Hebtulabhoy family lived down Clifford Place, sons Abbas, Abid and Inayet. Abbas is the Chairman of M. A. Akbar & Co Ltd. (Akbar Brothers), one of the largest tea exporters in Sri Lanka today. Inayat is the Managing Director.
Abbas is a great sportsman. He swam the two miles swim from Bambalapitiya to Mount Lavinia on several occasions, He encourages all types of sport. Abbas Akbarally is now semi-retired but still interested in sport and maintains contact with his friends throughout the world.
A post received from Taju Akbarally reads as follows:
Hi fazli and everyone else. This has indeed been one of the most nostaligic reads I have ever had. Wonderful recollection of the old times and many congratulations on an excellent job done.
Many may remember me as "Taju" from Clifford Place, where the Akbarally family lived and my uncle Inayet lives there till today. My father Abid and Uncle Abbas live now on Layards Rd. My grandfather Mr Akbarally and grandmother Shireen passed away some years back.
The Fernando's lived at No 32 of whom Tilak and Angelo are the sons. Angelo is currently living and working in Arizona in the USA while Tilak presently lives in Negombo in Sri Lanka. Daughter Marinez has also migrated to the USA and lives in Arizona. Mr Joe Fernando passed away on Oct 16, 2005. He was a an old Peterite and served as a government school teacher, who taught at St. Aloysius College, Galle and Thurstan College, Colombo. He also served as the Vice Principal of St. Aloysius. Pics of the fernando family may be viewed at http://www.angelofernando.com/album/joe.htm
Manivannan is another name that comes to mind, yet whose whereabouts are unknown.
Jan Vanden Driesen (the famous swimmer and Accountant) and his family also lived at the flats. His dad was in the Police. Guy Thiedeman, who actually was the only Swimming coach for St. Joseph's College and coached all the swimmers such as Tony Williams, Randy Gray, to name a few, and who also coached Mark Spitz who later won an Olympic Medal, lived here too. He was the only person in the whole of Sri Lanka to have gone to the UK and trained and studied to become the only Athletic and Swimming coach from Sri Lanka. He was also a founder member of the Kinross Swimming & Aquatic Club, Most of his children now live in the U.K. and one in the U.S.A He and his family of 10 lived at Clifford place near the Kuthdoos's. He passed away in 1973.
Sagara Road followed, where the famous Gomez family and the Maliban Mudalali, AG Hinniappuhamy had their homes. Christie, Blaine & Minzie Gomez were the three sons of Mr Gomez who owned and managed MP Gomez & Company in Colombo. The Gomez's had entrances on both Sagara Road and Clifford Place although the Sagara Road entrance became the main gateway to the Nirmala Jesuit Chapel when it was established by them within their premises.
The Weeratunge's also lived down Sagara Road. Asoka Weeratunge's wife worked for UNICEF in Colombo.
Following further down lived the Noor Mohideens, whose sons were Noor Hameem, Ramiz, Rizwi, & Reza, and the daughters, Kurrath Nissa (married to Azeez) and Aynul Rifaya (married to Ahmed).
The Farouks, whose wife, Sirreeya was the sister of Noor Mohideens wife, Azhara, who belionged to the family of Ahmed Lebbe Marikar, referred to as the "Shothian" family amongst the Ceylon Moors, lived next door. Their sons are Fazal, Shiraz, Feiroze, Rumu, Ifthikhar, & Thabriz, and the daughter, Fazneena who was married to Muhammad Badurdeen and divorced. M M Farouk was the son of Avoo Lebbe Marikkar Mahmoud & Zumrath Umma and served with M/S E B Creasy & Company Limited in the Colombo Fort for many long years before retirement. He passed away in 2003. His sons are all employed and living with their families as expatriate workers in the Middle East, mainly in Saudi Arabia, except for the youngest, Thabriz who is located in Bahrain.Two brothers of Azhara and Sireeya, Hussain Ramiz and Zuhair Ramiz also lived at the same location, since their family owned several houses down Sagara Road. They were the children of Ummu Zofi Shamsi Lebbe Marikar and Muhammad Ismail Ramiz who belonged to the "Jemmi" family amongst the Ceylon Moors.
Another famous and popular young man of the street was Nimal Jayatilleke, whose mother was a Burgher, who also was a keen member of the cricket team. Nimal took up employment on a ship and was away from the island for a considerable period of time sailing the seven seas. He has since migrated to Australia and lives in Melbourne now.
Mr George M Barrow was notable resident of Sagara Road. A significant feature of his large house was that it had a bell connected to the gate which the boys down the street loved to ring and run away much to his annoyance and yelling.
The Casiechitty's lived at No 39.
All the young lads down the street were part of the cricket team which usually played on the lawn of the last house on the right that belonged to the Lalvani family after they moved out.
The Casiechitty's lived at No 39 and owned the last four houses on Sagara Road as well as on Castle Lane, south of it. All the cricketing gear used by the boys down the street were stored at No 39, their residence.
Oswin and Romello Anandappa lived on the last house on the left by the railtracks at No 43. Their family lived there since 1940.
298 Galle Road
At the top of Sagara Road, facing Galle Road, smack bang in front of Lorenz Road, stood the famous Number 298, occupied by Muhammad Sameer, formerly of the CMC and also ex Managing Trustee of the Maradana Mosque. He was the son of Haji Ismail Effendi, a respected religious teacher and senior citizen within the Muslim community in Colombo.
His mother hailed from the famous Cappodear family of Colombo, who trace their genealogy back to a place called Konya in Central Turkey in Europe. His maternal ancestors are reported to have arrived in Ceylon as physicians to the Sinhalese King way back in 800 AD.Sameer and his wife Raliya Noordeen, lived at 298 with some of their ten children who were yet to be married. Raliya was the oldest daughter of AC Noordeen and OLMALM Ummu Habeeba.
Sameer was employed as a Chief Clerk at the CMC under one Mr Orr of British descent where he served the institution with diligence , respect and honor until his retirement. He was also a very active social worker involved with the Moors' Islamic Cultural Home in the Fort. His research into the origins and heritage of the Ceylon Moors has been deeply appreciated by the community and his many writings on these cultural issues and topics are widely read and valued. He also contributed magnanimously to the first book on Sri Lanka Muslim Genealogy published by the MICH in 1968. He passed away peacefully at 298 in 1972. His beloved wife, Raliya, passed away a few years earlier and since her demise Sameer was a broken man. They had enjoyed more than five decades of happy married life and produced eleven children of whom one, Honey, had died in infancy.
An interesting episode in the life of Sameer, after his retirement, is the monthly trek he made by bus, accompanied by one or two of his many grandchildren, to the Colombo Municipality to collect his pension. The trip was gladly looked forward to by those who accompanied him as it was a delightful event filled with the many goodies of sweetmeats and delicacies he would purchase on the way back home. Almost all of his male grandchildren have made the trip at least once in their lives. The most frequent of them were Fazli & Firoze Sameer, sons of his oldest son, Thahir, who lived next door at No. 300.
Two of Sameer's married daughters, Rameela, (married to AWM Ghouse), and Saleema, (married to MM Sheriff), had already moved out from 298, after their marriages, to Slave Island and Wellawatte, respectively, while the rest, together with three of the unmarried boys remained with them.Subsequently Noor Jazeela married Ibrahim Naina Marikar, Ameena married Ibrahims younger brother, Zain Naina Marikar, Sithy Rahma married Fareed Zaheed, son of Proctor NM Zaheed of Kotahena, and Farooq married Mazeena Junaid of Wellawatte, and continued to live at 298 until Farooq decided to move to a separate home of his own at Elibank Road in Colombo 5.
Later, the youngest daughter, Khalisa married Faleel Sherriffdeen, of Mary's Road two blocks away, and lived at 298 with her family until Faleel passed away. Sadiq, the youngest of the boys attended St. Peters' College at Bambalapitiya and set off to the UK seeking greener pastures in 1958. He remained a bachelor and returned to Sri Lanka more than 40 years later to reside at Lily Avenue with his sister Noor Jazeela where he passed away after a brief illness.
Eventually the families moved out of the grand old mansion at 298 to Colombo 6 leaving the old couple with Sithy Rahma and Khalisa's family behind. Sithy Rahma has two boys, Rizvi Zaheed, presently an Exective Directorat Hayleys & Riaz Zaheed, who manages his own travel and IT training businesses in Colombo. Both Rizvi and Riaz attended Royal College, Colombo. Khalisa & Faleel have a daughter, Azra (married to Rizwan of American Express in Colombo) and a son, Falih, who works for a bank in Colombo. Faleel Sheriffdeen, a fun loving and much loved in law to the Sameer's passed away some years back.
The family atmosphere that prevailed at 298, in those halcyon days, is unparalleled today. All the children, together with their individual families, converged at 298 on weekends and what a grand time they enjoyed. A cricket match was the order of the day, played on the side garden bordering Sagara Road. A sumptuous and steaming lunch, prepared by the womenfolk, served on long green banana leaves spread out on the floor was relished by all after a tiring outing on the playing field. Elephant House Ice Cream served in Family Blocks was the favorite for dessert.
Muhammad Sameer's oldest son, Muhammad Thahir, moved into the adjacent twin house to the south of 298, at No. 300, soon after he married Ryhan Rasheed in 1943. Ryhan's parents, Muhammad Rasheed & Ummu Thahira, and siblings, Zubair, Faiz & Ummu Naseeha, also lived with them at Number 300. Ummu Thahira's mother, Zulaiha Umma Ahmed Lebbe Marikar used to visit and also stay over at 300 on many occasions, cycling her stay with her four lovely daughters.
Zubair Rasheed married Zuhry Razeen, daughter of MCM Razeen, step brother of Muhammad Rasheed, and moved to Canal Lane in Wellawatte. They have three children, Roazna (married Naleer and now resident in the Seychelles), Zulaiha (married Munzeer, and Ejaz (married Hamziya and now employed and resident in Madinah, Saudi Arabia). Zubair worked for M/S EBCreasy & Company Ltd. In the Fort.
Ummu Naseeha married MIM Sahill from Matara and also moved to Canal Lane in Wellawatte, next door to Zubairs, and then later on to their own home at the Kiribathgoda housing scheme. Sahill worked as a shroff at the CTB after having served the Ceylon Government railway for many successful years. He hailed from the famous Ibrahim family of Kotuwegoda, in Matara. They have four children, Rhusdia (married AMM Suhail of Station Road Wellawatte and now resident in the UK), Yasmin (married Faizal of Colombo), Azlaff & Zinnoon (married to Ajmal Muhammad), both currently resident in LA in the USA.
Faiz married Huzaima Hathy, daughter of ARM Hathy, and moved to his wife's residence at Rosmead Place in Colombo 7. They have three children, Mirzeth (married Rizmi Saleem of Wellawatte), Madeeha (married RezaIdroos of Davidson Road at Bamba) and Hathy Shukry Rasheed (currently resident in LA, USA). Muhammad Rasheed passed away at 300 in 1972 and Ummu Thahira was deceased in 1979.
Thahir & Ryhan had a daughter, Mumtaz, born in 1945 and attended St. Pauls' Milagiriya, and two sons Fazli, born in 1948, and Firoze, born in 1950, who both attended Royal.Mumtaz married Zuhair Mohamed butwas divorced subsequently and sired a son, Nisthar Ali. She was subsequently divorced and remains single to this day.
Fazli, proceeded to University in Colombo and embarked on a career of Computingbefore moving out to Colombo 6 in 1974 after his marriage to Shirani Ibrahim, daughter of the late Customs Appraiser, Husain Ibrahim & Hibshi Mazaya Saleem, formerly of No 15, Mary's Road in Bambalapitiya. They have two daughters, Melina and Nadia. The family left for greener pastures to the Middle East and have been living and working there as expatriate workers since 1979.
He also was employed at The Chartered Bank in Colombo Fort from 1969 to 1979, Metro;politan Agencies Computer Division from Feb 1979 to Nov 1979 and then later on at Citibank, Colombo 3 from 1990 to 1991. The couple lived at Vihara Lane, Wellawatte, after their marriage in 1974, and since recent times have moved to Pieris Mawatha at Kalubowila, in Dehiwela, with their two grown up married daughters Melina a 2nd year external University Student in Sociology and Nadia a 1st year student external University of London in English Language. Melina & Nadia are also the pioneers of one of the fast growing schools namely, Horzion International school in Saudi Arabia, which has almost 800 students and are catering to the IGCSE and SAT.
Fazli & Shirani have two grand children, Maria who writes poems found her poetry in the first page of the World of Poetry .com and Abdullah is a great sportsmen having won trophies in his horse riding. They both attend a prominent school in Riyadh Manarat Al Riyadh. Nadia is married to the the son of Mr and Mrs Ashroff Husain of Rosmead Place (Batcha &Co. ) and nephew of M H Mohamed. Melina married the son of Aamir Sheriff and Zehra Dastakeer, former City Coroner and MMC at Mutuwal.
Firoze pursued a career in Accounting and Finance and married Quraisha, daughter of MYM Nizar, Attorney at Law, of Wattala. He too spent two years in Saudi Arabia, in 1980-81, prior to his marriage. Since then he has been attached to the State Trading Corporation (General), at Nawam Mawatha in Wekande, and is currently a Deputy General Manager and also Secretary to the Board of Directors. They have a daughter, Nabila, and a son, Yazdhan, and presently have moved to Wellawatte to their own home.
298 & 300, which was named "Sukhasthan", on Galle Road, were sprawling old houses that had gardens that stretched back down to almost half way towards the sea. They were twin and identical houses side to side like a mirror image to one another, in an L shaped design.
The two massive gardens were filled with lanky coconut trees and various other fruit trees comprising mango, guava, custard apple, lemon, banana, papaya, jam, jumbo, passion fruit, beli, tamarind, and almond (kottang). Each house occupied almost 65 to 70 perches of land in extent.
The two backyards were always filled with chickens, geese, muscovy ducks, goats and even a cow, that lived there.
It is said that both houses were built by the notable Muslim philanthropist, Wapchi Marikar Baas, grandfather of Sir Razik Fareed. He used the rubble from the existing old building at the Colombo Fort GPO premises, when he was commissioned and awarded the building contract to construct the GPO, which stands immaculate to this day, to build both 298 & 300 Galle Road. He also built the Colombo Museum at Colombo 7.
The houses were built in the early twentieth century and still stand tall and proud as significant monuments of the past. 300, has since been sold, sometime in the nineties, and now runs a car dealership within its premises.
An interesting memory of the fifties was when Thahir Sameer used to drive his sons Fazli & Firoze to school in his black Hillman Minx car, registration plate EL 1468, and picked up Philip Stork from De Fonseka Place and sometimes the Aziz boys from the Bambalapitiya Market area where they lived. Thahir owned a green Skoda, number CN 7522, prior to buying the Hillman. Before that he owned a maroon Ford which was the pride of his possessions.Thahir passed away at #300 in 1989 after suffering a stroke.
The "Rook" at No 17 Castle Lane & Mrs Spillers Garden at Castle Lane seen over the wall of No 12
Castle Lane came next where the famous Ms Spillers (nee Ebert) and her ladies tailoring establishment thrived. Her business was a very famous and elite one patronized by all walks of society. She specialized in tailoring wedding dresses, mainly for ostentatious Muslim Weddings in Colombo. Her sister, Clementine, who was a spinster throughout her life, lived with her in the house. Mrs. Sipllers did not have children and left a major share of her property to the Church after her death. Her husband was an Englishman who worked at Millers Ltd, and they had a/c room for their numerous Scottish Terrier dogs.
The vast coterie of young Sinhalese girls who worked for her were managed by a male supervisor and master cutter named Siriwardene. Siriwardene eventually married one of the girls called Hema and lived at the back of the house where they were provided with living quarters. He was killed in a tragic train-bus crash at an unprotected railway crossing on his way back home from an excursion. They have a daughter who inherited part of the Spillers home by way of a will that was left behind by the lady. The house was a large one with lots of garden space at the rear bordering a large section of No. 300. The white and red jambu trees that bore fruit abundantly in the garden were relished by all the neighbors around.
The portion at the top adjoining Galle Road on the right side of the street was originally occupied by Mrs Spillers' brother, Ebert, who had a son, Roger, and a daughter, Carol, who married a gentleman from Caterpillar Co. and migrated to Pocatello, Idaho USA. Roger followed in 1962, completed his national service in USAF, served in the UK in the Medical unit. They had a dog named Jock whom the family loved very much. Roger is, currently, a leading Movie Critic in the US.
The property was later blocked off and sold to Dr Peter Fernando whose family lived in the house for several years before selling it to Chandra Senanayake Holdings, an automotive business enterprise managing the Volvo agency.
Dr. Peter Fernando conducted his private medical clinic at the top of Frankfort Place for a long period of time before he passed away. His widow and children migrated to the UK.
Abdul Hameed, who was a leading building contractor by profession, came to live down Castle Lane with his family in latter years. Haseeb, his son followed in his fathers footsteps and continued the building contracts that his late father established successfully.
Stanley Lumanauw lived at #12 Castle Lane right next to Ms Spillers residence. His backyard fence bordered the back garden of No 300 Galle Road. The house was owned by Mrs. Mignnone Jansen nee Ebert (her husband was Harbour Pilot then) who is also the sister of Mrs. Spillers nee Ebert. Stanley's mother's was a Ms Walles connected to the race horse people who lived at Thimbirigasaya road, while his father Willem is an Indonesian national. After 1963, Stanley and family lived at #29 Charlemont (named after Charlemont Gauder) road Wellawatte till 1971, which was the one before the last house by Marikar Bawa's # 5 Station Road. At #12 lived Stanley's mum's relative Mona Walles relict of Denzil, founder director of Rowlands Ltd. The Gauder family owned land from Frances road to Charlemont, at Wellawatte, in the early 19 hundreds.
Opposite #12 lived Dr. Nalliah
The neighbours towards the seaside viz # 14 & #16, twin houses, were the quarters of the US. Marine Corp. At #18 lived the Balasubramaniam's.
At #20 was "The Castle" occupied by the Shaideen family whose father was a medical practitioner at Wattala (Wattala Dispensary) and who moved in from Forbes road Maradana. The sons are Mohideen, Faizal, Zuhair, Shibly, Shualy. The daughters were, Noor Suhuda (married Faiz), Noor Muwaffika (married Khalid and moved to Canada), Fauzul Haniya (married Mackeen Sherriffdeen of Mary's Road, Bambalapitiya), Riyaaya (married Rizwi Hafeel), & Mumtaz (married Mubarak).
On the opposite side lived the Shums family. Further down on the left in the one before last house lived Senator Nadesan (brother in law of the Maharajas) and the last house was occupied by a bachelor, Mr. Rankine, a writer.
At the last house on the right live the Muthubalasuriyam (Tamil family), of whom Rajan and Nirmalendran (now ascetic in Himalayas) were brothers.
An interesting house down Castle Lane was named "The Rook" where the Vilcassims from Galle used to live. An open garden area provided a small cricket ground for the boys to wield the willow. Faizal Quassim, brother in law of the Shums lived here.
At #22 lived the Amunugama's and at #24 the Somasunderams whose sons Sathikumar, Sivakumar and Skandakumar, presently Managing Director of George Steuarts & Co Ltd, were all Royalists. Sathi becoming very famous as a pace bowler for the Royal College Cricket XI. Sivakumar passed away early in life. Skanda also played cricket for Royal and has since moved to his own home at Frankfort Place in Bambalapitiya.
Right at the end of the street bordering the rail tracks was a very popular dancing school patronized by many who wanted to learn the rudiments of swinging their feet on the floor. The school was run by a Burgher family of Dutch origins.
Jiffry Careem and his family also lived down on the left side of this street in a mansion that he built since he moved in from Galle. One of his daughters is married to Faiz Mustapha, PC, and currently Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in London and one of the sons married Farahana Mohideen from Pennedins Avenue. He died on his eldest daughters wedding night soon after the Nikah ceremony.
A summary list of the families who lived down Castle Lane is as follows:
Right Side of the street:
- 2 Dr. Peter Fernando
- 4 & 6 The Spillers Family
- 8 & 10 Mrs. Jansen (later the Lumanauw's and even later Mr Chanaka Amarasinghe, Leader of the Liberal Party)
- 12 & 14 The Nallasekeram's
- 16 Mr. Theivendran
- 18 & 20 Dr. Shaideen
- 22 Mr. Dunbar de Zylva
- 24 Mr. Latiff / Mr. Weerasinghe
- 26 Mr. Somasundaram (Sathi, Sivaku & Skanda)
- 28 Mr. Thambyrajah
- 30 Mr. Mervyn Casiechetty
- 32 Mrs. Perera
- 34 Mr. Muthubalasuriyar
- 36 Mr. Bandaranayake
Left Side of the street:
- 3 Perinpanayagam
- 5 & 7 Hamid
- 9 Nallainathan
- 17 Wickremanayake / Nair
- 25 Thiagarajah
- 27 Nadarajah
- 29 Shanmugarajah
- 31 Ms. Perumal
- 33 Menon
- 35 Nadesan
- 37 Rodriguez
Facing the Galle Road on the seaside, immediately after, was a sprawling old mansion with a large grass filled garden in front, owned and occupied by a Bohra family. The son popular known as Bata was killed by his own worker late one night over some financial dispute I believe. They have their shop called "AMSONS" dealers of sanitary ware etc.
Right next to it was a small illegally constructed shack that served as a convenience store that offered small knick-knacks to its passer by customers. Here also lived the Wickremanayke family. of Law fame. Sons Elanga and Rakita were good cricketers. Rakita was Chairman of Air Ceylon,and recently one of the sons, Nimal, was appointed as Crown Counsel in Australia. The first Sri Lankan to achieve this honor,The Wickremanayakes had a large property where cricket matches were played on Saturdays & Sundays.
The other family was the Caders. Mr Cader was a strict disciplinarian. He had two extremely beautiful daughters, who had many admirers who were kept in check by son Latiff and another well known toughie.
Next door, and on the corner at the top of Mary's Road, was an Auction Room run by the Coomaravel family, which later was converted to a fast food restaurant started by Shiraz Thaha, who was married to a Sellamuttu and later divorced. Currently the establishment is successfully managed by her ex husband, Sellamuttu.
Pics of Shelah Karunaratne's house down Mary's Road and a Birthday Bash at the Ibrahim's residence at No 15 and Hana Saleems wedding to Zackie Salih
Mary's Road is a narrow street that starts at the Galle Road, almost opposite to Kensigtopn Gardens , and ends at the railway tracks.
The Senanayake family, descended from Canon Senanayake of St Paul's Milagiriya, and Christ Church Dehiwela and Thimbirigasyaya, owned all the real estate from the Galle Road end of Castle Lane to the beach front at Kinross Avenue. The Canon was married to a lady from the Obeysekera family and his children comprised a daughter who inherited all the property on Kinross Avenue, Brook, a son, who inherited the Mary's Road homes, another son who inherited all the property down Castle Lane, and the youngest, a daughter, who was married to Lady Molamure's (D R Wijewardene's wife, Ruby's sisters) son.
Brook was first married to a Ms Gooneratne and had two daughters from this union, the older of whom was Dora who inherited two acres of the Mary's Road property at the beach front end. The second daughter was killed in a fire.
On the death of his first wife, Brook married Laura Senanayake of Botale, who hailed from the Don Stephen Senanayake (first PM of independent Ceylon in 1948) family. The second union brought forth Griselda, who passed away early in life at the age of 29 and was married to Roland Seneviratne. Griselda and Roland had seven children of whom two passed away early at birth. They have two children, Lucien and Rowena. Rowena has a son Christopher and a daughter Sriyani.
Brook's second child was a son who also passed away early in life at the age of 19. He also had another son and his youngest daughter was named Phoebe who married a Karunaratne. Phoebe had three children of whom Shelah was the oldest and remains unmarried to date (2006). The second child is a son Haig who is also unmarried. The last child is Brian married to Thilaka and who have one daughter and four sons.
All of Brook's children and grandchildren live down Marys Road at No 8, 10 & 12 on the right side of the street when entering from the Galle Road. Brook was a Government Servant and passed away when his daughter Shelah was only 14 years of age.
Brian Coomerawel passes away in Colombo in July 2007:
COOMERAWEL - BRIAN CEDRIC COOMERAWEL Son of the late Kingsley Frank Coomerawel and Lorna Coomerawel (Australia), brother of late Zoe, Maureen (SL), Frankie, Caryel, Kevin, Christine and Jeromy (All in Australia), brother-in-law of Kumar, Zorena, Mohan and Tish, father of Natasha (Aust.), passed away on Saturday 6th July. Remains lie at Barney Raymond's Funeral Parlour from 9.00 a.m. on 09.07.2007 and thereafter cortege leaves the Parlour same day (9/7.2007) at 3.30 p.m. for Burial at the General Cemetery, Borella (Anglican Section) at 4.00 p.m. Daily News July 9 2007
Right behind to Coomerawels Auction Room on the right was a plot of land with a large Kottang (Almond) tree and opposite to it stood the large building facing the Galle Road which was occupied by a few families. One of the families had a daughter named Sriyani and a son, Christopher and they were, both, students at St Pauls Milagiriya. Christopher and Shirani Ibrahim, who lived at No 15, were in the same class at SPM. Their Mum was dumb. The Claessan family also lived in this building. Adrian Jansz, sister of Linda, also lived here with her husband until they left for Australia.
Behind their house was a small place where a Tamil family lived and the lady was referred to as 'Sinnamma'. They used to prepare Pittu and Stringhoppers together with Babath (tripe) curry and their daughter used to deliver the food to the homes down Mary's road.
Here, on the left, lived the Bartholomeusz family at No 9, "St Bee's", the head of whom were Francis Carlisle Bartholomeusz & Esmee Bertha Susannah Maynert Herft. Francis used to be the Santa Claus at the annual XMas parties that were held at the Motha residence in Wellawatte.
Their children are Carol (married Frederic Renshaw Clarke), and moved over to a small flat down St. Peters Place. Allister (who was born on April 30, 1934, married Christobel Ebert), Myrna, Ioni (married Jerry Carroll )and Heidy (married Laurie Munding).
Allister was a keen supporter and member of the Kinross Swimming and Aquatic Club on the beach at Wellawatte. He was also a champion swimmer at the Kinross Club and tied for third place in the two Mile sea swim from Mount Lavinia to Wellawatte held in 1954. he held the posts of Club Captain, and was a Bronze Medal Holder of the Sri Lanka Swimming Association (SLSA) in and around 1959. He was the youngest ever Hony. Secretary of the CASA & Kinross Club, and a delegate. to the CO &CGA. He Capped for Ceylon in 1956.
The family migrated to Australia and live there now with their respective families.
At No 15, "Trevine", 17 & 19, Mary's Road lived WM Saleem and three of his sisters, Safiya Umma Wapu Marikar, (wife of Uduma Lebbe Marikar A.L.M), Ummu Saeeda Wapu Marikar, (wife of Shahul Hameed Abu Bakr), and Zainambu Wapu Marikar, (wife of ACA Hamid) and their respective families. All three properties were owned by Safiya Umma, who had no children, and who, thereby, bequeathed No 15 to her brother WM Saleem, and Nos 17 & 19, jointly to Ummu Saeeda and Zainambu as undivided co-owners.The Wapu Marikar (WM) siblings were the children of the late Wapu Marikar Sheikh Marikar & Mariam alias Puwachi Umma (sister of Shekadi Marikar Cassim Lebbe Marikar's wife).
The rest of the siblings who were not resident at the Mary's Road were, WM Abdul Jabbar, (father of AJM Jameel, AJM Anver and AJM Sadiq), Habeebathuz Zohra, (wife of Sahib Thamby, and mother of STA Wahid, STM Samsudeen, & Noor Nasiya Kurhdoos), WM Thaha, (father of Saleema, Sithy Rahma, Mubarak, Noor Musafer, Mymoon Ghouzul Ameer, Noordeen, Mahmood, Zafrullah, Moomin Zubair, Ni'amathullah, Fathima Honeya Sherrif Nizar, Abdul Jabbar, and Usman), WM Hassim, born 26-Jan-1880, died, 6-Jul-1960, (married to ALM Ummu Nafeesa - daughter of OLMALM Alim - and father of Thaifoor, Kamil, Ahamed Jameel, Sithy Latheefa Jameel, Mohideen, Noor Na'eema Sadiq, Ameen &Sulaiman), Mahmooda Umma, (wife of Ahmed Lebbe Marikar O.L.M. and mother of Shahabdeen, Razeen, Na'eem, Nazim, & Zubaida Umma Hassan), and Zavahira, (wife of OLM Zainudeen and mother of Noor Saneena & Moinudeen).
WM Saleem had three wives. His children by his first wife, Noor Naleefa, were Ahamed Shaharan (married Iynul Huzaima Abdul Basheer of Kandy), Hibshi Mazaya (married Husain Jiffry Ibrahim of HM Customs, Colombo) and Hibshul Hana (married to Zacky Salih of Flower Road, Colombo 3).
His second marriage to Sithy Lareefa from Galle had no offspring. His third to Sithy Shareefa Ahmed Lebbe Marikar, produced Khaneema (married to MSM Ozeer of Dematagoda), Zackiya (married to M Mansoor Hassan), Fareeda (married to M Nuhman Noordeen, son of Sithy Saleema Thaha, brother of Mubarak Thaha) and Hamza (married to Ummu Saliha Ansari of Bandaranaike Mawatha Colombo 12). The children moved to different locations within Colombo subsequent to their marriages and Fareeda and her daughter, Dina & family, still live at No. 15 having inherited part of the estate of her father after it was sold and disbursed subsequent to the heirs after his death.
Shaharan Saleem and Iynul Huzaima Abdul Basheer had three children, Thasneen, Ummu Zuhard and Imran Fekhrishta. Thasneen married Rafi Ismail bin-Hassan from Negombo, and have now moved to Vajira Road at Bambalapitiya, while Ummu married Nawaz Saleem of Bagatalle Road in Colpetty and has moved in there. Imran married Dina Bari of High Street (WASilva Mawatha) in Wellawatte and divorced her subsequently. He then married Sharmila Farook of Pennycuick Road at Wellawatte and is also divorced from her. His third wife Zeeniya Mujahid is also from Nelson Place in Wellawatte. Imran lives and runs his own tourist guest house, called Maple Inn, down WA Silva Mawatha at Wellawatte.
Husain Jiffry Ibrahim & Hibshi Mazaya Saleem had four children, Firoze, Shirani, Jasminah & Fairuf.
Firoze married Bisreeya Ahamed, formerly of Asoka Gardens in Bambalapitiya, and embarked on a career of Draftsmanship and Architecture, venturing into building construction. Subsequently he moved to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia and then to Hafar Al Batin in the north where he spent many years with the Ministry of Defence project there. He, subsequently returned to Colombo and spent a few years with his family before embarking to Dhahran once again to work with the Royal Saudi Air Force where he is attached to now. He now specializes in fresh water treatment.
Shirani married Fazli Sameer of No. 300 and Jasminah married Faizer Zahir of Castle Lane. Fairuf married Zaheena Subair from Mount Lavinia and was killed under tragic circumstances in a car crash in Riyadh on Dec 31, 1996. He worked, initially, at Jafferjee Brothers in Colombo and then moved to Dhahran and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia where he was employed by GAMA, a hospital management project attached to the Sports Medicine Hospital, and served them until his demise. The Ibrahims moved to St. Peter's Place at Bambalapitiya, and, on the early death of Husain moved, once, again to Vihara Lane at Wellawatte. Hussain died suddenly of heart attack in 1963 at the age of 44 while delivering a speech as the Presdient of the Customs Officers' Union at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. Hibshi passed away at Vihare Lane in 1996.
Zacky Salih & Hinshul Hana Saleem had seven children. The last one died at child birth. Fidha, Shiraz, Moreena, Faris, Fahmy, and Shahul Hameed were the others. Fidha married Razana and passed away after a sudden illness after the pilgrimage of Hajj in Makkah. Shiraz married Faizeen Haniffa from Kandy. Faizeen used to work with Sifani Jewellers in Kandy and Colombo and then moved to Jeddah, where he served with the Intercontinental Hotel for several years before returning home to Colombo to roost. Moreena married Faizeen Hassim of Alexandra Road in Wellawatte and has eben working with UNICEF for the ast three decades. She and her family moved to Kazakhastan and served the UNICEF there for several years and have since recently moved to Bangkon on a new assignment. Faris married Fazna Mowjood Nafi of Habib Bank and Shahul married Fazmina Alavi Muhammad. Fazmina passed away after an illness in 2003 after having lived in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where her husband, Shahul Hameed, is employed. The Salih's moved to Swarna Road at Havelock Town and then again to Kalyani Road in Kirulaponne where Hana passed away in 2002.
Khanima Saleem married MSM Ozeer, who passed away in 2003, and now lives with her children at Model Town Road, Ratmalana. Her children are Mafooza Samsudeem Dr. Shahnaz Ozeer (married to Dr. Nazli Zainab and migrated to Australia), & Shanooz Ozeer (married to his first cousin Minna Saleem, daughter of Hamza Saleem. During a recent visit, in August 2006 to Khanima's place in her quiet home at Ratmalana, she narrated an interesting story of how a burglar was caught down Mary's Road during the old times a few days after her fathers demise.
The crook had been stealing from many homes down the street and the people and Police were vigilant and making every attempt to catch him. On one occasion the thief was hiding under a table at the Saleem's residence and Khanima and her step sister Hana spotted him. Hana got cold feet and ran away but Khanima was bold enough to start the screaming and shouting to alert the neighbors and the Police who came rushing to her aid. The rogue jumped across to the Bartholomeusz's at No 13 but was finally apprehended and marched away to the police station. The next morning newspaper carried the story relating the brave attempt of a 14 year old conservative Muslim girl who helped to catch the elusive thief down Mary's Road.
Zackiya Saleem, who married Muhammad Mansoor Hassan passed away in 1981 now lives down Fredericka Road at Wellawatte. Her children are Imthiaz (married to Mueeza also of Fredericka Road), and Rizvi (married to Aynfa Haleem of Nawalapitiya). Both sons were bankers in Colombo and subsequently moved to take up employment with banks in Saudi Arabia where they are resident now. Imthiaz has moved out of the banking sector to take up employment with a large private sector corporation in Jeddah, while Rizvi and his family live in Riyadh.
Fareeda Saleem & Nuhuman Noordeen (son of Saleema Thaha and grandson of WM Thaha) lived at 15 Mary's Road where Nuhuman passed away suddenly in 1979. Her daughter Dinazad, son in law Malik Ashraf Ali and their son Nuhuman now live on the upper floor of the same residence at No 15. Her other children are Yousoof (married to Farah Salih), Asgar Ali (married to Amana Sufi Ismail ) & Mohammed Ali (married to Farwin Muhammad) and now in USA.
Hamza Saleem and his wife Ummu Saliha Ansari, of Bandaranaike Mawatha, Colombo 12, now live at Ratmalana. Their children are Muhammad Shezmin (USA), Fathima Minna (married to her first cousin Shahnaz Ozeer), and Muhammad Shazleen.
The Sherriffdeens lived next of whom Faleel married Sithy Khalisa Sameer of No 298, Galle Road, mentioned above, and Mackeen married one of the daughters of Dr Shaideen, Fauzul Haniya, of Castle Lane, at Bambalapitiya. Mackeen passed away in May 2005.
Alavi Sherriffdeen married and moved to Dickmans Road at Bambalapitiya. Sulaiman married Khairi and the youngest Yehiya was attached to the Air Force.
Of the daughters, Sithy Fathima married Ajward, Saliha married a doctor and moved out of Colombo, Noor married Mubarak and moved to Wellawatte while Badri married Zachraff Azeez and moved to Mount Lavinia.A Japanese fishing crew moved into No 19 after the Sherrifdeens moved out. They were there for a short time and when their business didn't succeed they moved out.
The Lye family, members of whom were Xirach, Okley, Sydney, Patricia, & Amy, lived next door at No 19. Okley passed away in Canada in 2005. Amy is married to Asad Amath (old Pete) and left Sri Lanka for Montreal, Canada where Sydney and Okley were already established. She has two daughters, Anika, born in 1981 and Amara, born in 1986. Anika graduated with a BA in Criminology. Amara is a second-year student at McGill University majoring in Political Science. Amy worked as an Executive Assistant in an insurance brokerage company until she took early retirement in 2005 and is now into handicrafts and sells her work to clients and friends, a hobby which she is very happy with.
Then came the Bilimorias, Sattars and the Pieris families in succession.Fricky Khan, the notorious racing driver belonged to the Sattar family with his brother Azeez Iqbal and Yousoof and sister Abida. Indrani and Chitra Pieris, who attended Holy family Convent at Bambalapitiya, are members of the Pieris family. The Wimalaratne's and also the Billimorias, together with their twin daughters, Shereen and Sonia, also lived here.
The right side of Mary's Road began with the Coomaravel Auction House whose entrance was titlted at a 45 degree angle to the Galle Road. Right behind it lived Sriyani and Chrsitopher followed by a large open and spacious garden which was famous for its Kottang (Almond) tree where all the youth of the neighborhood used to haunt.
A family lived in a small house within this garden and used to eke out a living by preparing String Hoppers and Pittu which were quickly snapped up by the rest of the residents for their evening meals.Brian Karunaratne and his family lived next door, followed by the Goonerwardena', Navaratnams who sold thehouse to a Muslim shipping owner and at 18 was the Saverimuttu namely Dharman, Patricia and Sushila.
The Serasinghes, Ebels Pereira (Dutch Burgher), Livy Wijemanne Radio Ceylon announcer and Walcart show organizer and Noor (Borah) familes followed.
Mrs Serasinghe was a widow and worked at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital. Her son, Preman, is now a Priest. The Vallipurams, a Tamil family, lived in the last house.
Mrs. Serasinghe was Dr.Saerasinghe's widow as I (Tubby) recall. Her late husband was an Anglican Priest. Preman became a lay preacher.
Opposite the Vallipurams lived Fr.Christian Thambimuttu and his family. Fr Thambimuttu was associated with St.Paul's Milagiriya. His son Cuthbert (Tubby) Thambimuttu is an Entomologist / rare book collector in America. Both homes have now been torn down to make way for the Marine Drive.
Mr Nicolle, a notable auctioneer and broker in Colombo, also lived down the street during its latter years and spent his last days there, living alone, in an annexe of the Saverimuttu residence.
In the 1950-1960 years, Marys Road residents considered themselves as one large happy and united family where everything was done collectively by the neighborhood with unity and strength.
The Goonewardene family also lived here prior to moving to Vajira Road, Bambalapitiya.
Another significant family down Mary's Road at No 24 were the Pereira's who comprised of Dolart, Deloraine, Macky, Roger, Yvette and "Small Boy" who was tragically killed in a bicycle accident. Jerry Pieris and "Small Boy" were rushing home to beat the curfew when they met with an accident which killed "Small Boy" Jerry broke his leg in the incident. Jerry has since passed away and his brother Frank is now married to his widow.
The Fernando's lived at No 17. Mr & Mrs Fernando were referred to as Aiya and Amma and were the head of the family. The children were Matilda, currently resident in South Africa, Rani, Jerry (UK), Rose (last heard of as a Nun), Guy, Jean, Antoinette (South Africa), and Sherine. They, subsequently, moved to Charlemont Road at Wellawatte.
Mr & Mrs Carwallio also lived down the street. Their family comprised Jennifer, Stanley Benny & Wife. They moved to Kensington Gardens, in Bambalapitiya, in 1962 and then on to Arethusa Lane at Wellawatte.
Mrs Serasinghe was a widow and worked at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital. Her son, Preman, is now a Priest. The Vallipurams, a Tamil family, lived in the last house.
Many residents still reminisce of the old days they spent there in excellent peace, tranquility and harmony.
The Free Town Boys
Francis lived in a big house down a narrow road, between Kinross Ave and Castle Lane in Bambalapitiya. He was always my favourite cousin, friend, mentor, and guiding light during those early days of my childhood. I always looked up to him for guidance and knowledge. He taught me both the good and bad things in life, and still earned my respect, as he would radiate a great feeling of love and kindness whenever I was around him, that made him more like a brother to me than a cousin.
Francis had many skills, one of which was being Secretary of the Free Town Boys Cricket and Athletics Club of that narrow road he lived in. He was a third generation member of a well known family, and so enjoyed the privilege of this office. As the club name suggested membership was free and the only qualification was that you had to be a resident of this road.In my case, the requirements were ignored, for after all, I was the cousin-brother of the Secretary. He ran this club successfully with no financial backing, and the Club did not even seek a donation from anyone. May be this was a good thing in a way, as the only beneficiary could have been " Saraswathie Lodge".
Some one had to only come up with a cricket ball, and out when a host of written letters inviting other clubs to participate in a game of cricket. Some of the names of these clubs that come to mind are "Dead End Kids C.C.", "The Golden Eagles C.C.", " Silver Arrow Sports Club" and " Royden Cricket Club".
I remember very well the opening paragraph of this letter ……Quote " We the members of the above mentioned C.C. challenge you to a game of cricket on this day the…….in month of…….. in the year of our Lord 19……., notwithstanding, the terms and conditions herein stated." Unquote.
This document sounded more like something coming out of the Attorney Generals Department than from a club of meagre means.On the morning of the match, Francis would be up with the birds for there was work to be done, firstly the venue had to be booked, by this I mean stumps put in place and someone of authority (in other words a toughie) left at the grounds to ensure all went well when we arrived ,by then other clubs too would have arrived and there were more stumps planted, more than even crosses found in Kanatte.
At times you really did not know whether you were batting against or bowling to the right opponents. ".
Some of the grounds we played at were St. Peters, the Golf Links down Greenlands Rd., the park next to the BRC, Kotalawella Gardens, Shruberry Gardens and the Seminary grounds with all but five hundred coconut trees.
Francis had still more work to do…... like visiting the homes of all the players confirming availability, as at times some would be grounded for domestic reasons, then there was cricket gear to look for, this was easly solved by picking a rich kid with plenty of gear and no cricketing skills.
Makeen S was captain, and our opening bowler was a demon called Johnny R., he had a slinging action, and every ball he bowled was a thunder bolt, but sadly accuracy was not part of his repertoire. The first ball could be aimed at the batsman's throat, the next would sail over the wicket keepers head, and the next would have third slip running for cover, but whenever he got it right, he either broke the stumps or the batsman leg, for we wore only one pad. It was regimental, that after every over J.R. would reach for his comb and rearrange the " Yankee Puff " that fell half way down his forehead.
John M. was wicket keeper, and got the job as he owned one and a half wicket keeping gloves. We shared equipment with the other teams and vice-versa,and in days gone by "Helmets " were not even worn in Toobruk.
Raju was our umpire , and the very sight of him was enough for the opposition to summon the ICC. However with a promise of fair play he was allowed to take his place.
If in anyone today thinks Darrell Hair is biased and controversial, then Raju set the bench mark.
Faleel, was a important player in the side and whenever we could not get a batsman out he was sent to the position of short leg to taunt and frustrate the batsman into loosing his wicket. The plan always worked.Some of the other members of this honourable side were, Allister B. (Francis), Hamza S., Haig K., Guy M., Farooze, and Ian H.
At the end of the day the game of cricket was played as only gentleman will , and maybe the time has come for of our international sides to learn how the game should be played from our humble beginnings.Finally, it is with great sadness that I have learnt that some are no longer with us, and although some of us have moved to alien climes, I hope that when the time comes for us to abide, our souls will return home to rest in better places in better times.
Kinross Avenue boasted a very wide and short street with many luxurious mansions. The Affans, brother of ARM Mukthar, and his family lived there in a large house whose tiles were all painted green.After Kinross Avenue, a row of shops faced the Galle Road and also St. Peters' College on the land side. Sun Dial, a watchmaker owned and managed by a very illustrious personality in Mr. Fernando offered watch making and maintenance services. Fernando was also a great philosopher and wrote many interesting books on his thoughts and discourses. Several other shops lined the rest of the Galle Road to Ridgeway Place. The famous Rupee store
Kinross Ave was noted for its large homes. Down this road lived the family of Sir Chittamplan Gardiner, The Williams family, son Rajah of Trinity/CR&FC and Ceylon fame, Irene Williams champion female athelete of that era.
The Garnier family – son Geoff of Rugby fame – St Peters/Havelocks/Ceylon and later a planter.
The Samuel Family – owners of Samuel Bros, who helped by donating material to the Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club.
Another name that comes to mind down the street is Jit Pereira.
The last home was occupied by Mr Jansz, Municipal Magistrate who supported the KS&LSC with encouragement and assistance in the Clubs activities, knowing the contribution made by this Club to the public.
Between Kinross Avenue and Ridgeway Place was situated the Rupee Stores where you could buy every type of merchandise under the sun. This store served the need of the local community adequately.
The Kinross Swimming & Life Saving Club
The Kinross Swimming & Life Saving Club was originally locatd on the beach at the end of Kinross Avenue and was subsequently moved furher away to Wellawatte at the end of Alexandra Road, where it still stands. An interesting account of the club sent in by Allister Bartholomeusz from Australia is given below.
On the beach stood the original KS&LSC – established in 1940 . This great Club produced several Champions in Swimming & Aquatics. The Club produced several outstanding spear fishermen and introduced the sport of spear fishing to Ceylon. To name a few, the legendary Gerd Von Dincklage, Ralph Forbes, Tissa "Saigon " Ariyaratne, Rodney Jonklaas, Hilmi Khalid, Turab Jafferjee, Langston Pereira, Ron Bartholomeusz, Hildon Bevan were all world class spear fishermen. Rodney Jonklaas was an authority on marine life. Rodney invited Sir Arthur C Clarke and his companions Mike Wilson and Tony Buxton to explore the wrecks off the coast of Ceylon and film the magic of the sea and glorious reefs of this magic Isle. Rodney Jonklass was the Assistant Superintendent of the Colombo Zoo in the days when the Dehiwela Zoo was one of the best in the world, the Superintendent of the Zoo, the legendary Aubrey Weinman also had a close Bambalapitiya connection.
The Kinross bathing enclosure was situated opposite the site of the original KS&LSC. The enclosure was located in the sea. It consisted of two rafts and several orange barrels placed in a semi circle, a relatively safe bathing area for both bathers and swimmers. This was the idea of Mr. Guy Thiedeman, a champion athlete – Municipal Playground instructor and Lifesaver who resided in the area. However, several incidents of drowning did occur which prompted Mike Sirimanne, who was a regular swimmer, to decide that it was necessary for the presence of Life Guards.
Mike with the help of his close friends, Herbert Pathiwela, Elmo and Lou Spittel, Anton Selvam, Ron Kellar, Basil Misso, Hugh Stewart were the first life savers, who received their training from Guy Thiedeman and later on Harry Nightingale, an Australian who introduced the Australian method of Surf Life Saving. This gave birth to the Kinross Life Saving Club in 1941. The club sought and obtained affiliation to the Royal Life Saving Society of U.K. and the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. In the course of time the club ventured into competitive swimming and other aquatic sports and was named the Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club with Guy Thiedeman the first President and Mike Sirimanne, the Legend of Kinross Club, General Secretary.
The original HQ of the Club was a shack build by the founders on the beach opposite Kinross Avenue. The K.S & LSC soon became a byword in swimming and dominated the Two-Mile Sea Swims. Swim Champions Gerd Von Dincklage, Ralph Forbes, Hugh Stewart. Hilmi Khalid.Carlislie Chalon, Allister Bartholomeusz, Ian Kelly, Tony Williams (1960 Olympics ) Desmond Templar, Rattan Mangharam, Randy Gray, Henry Perera, are names that come to mind. Other names who made significant contribution to the Club, were Tissa Ariyaratne, Gunaseelam Kanakratnam. Aubrey Van Cuylenberg (Water Polo, Ceylon Soccer goalkeeper), Langston and Fred Pereira.
In 1955, the an improved clubhouse was built on the beach just opposite the Station. The club was built on the proceeds from the carnival, sponsored by Mr Thaha, which ran for about two months on vacant property owned by the William Pedris Family, free of Lease.. The Club was moderately damaged by the recent Tsunami and the present committee of management is hoping to restore the Club and improve the facilities for members. Unfortunately due to changing situations the Club is not in the forefront of aquatics any more. The fierce competition and the "Spirit of Kinross" for which the Club was renowned in the period 1941 – 75, no longer exists, sadly.
Ridgeway Place started off with the popular departrment "Rupee Store", run by the Paiva family, at the helm with one side of the store facing the Galle Road and its entrance at a 45 degree angle from it.
The Hashim family, comprising Azeem, Zeeniya and siblings lived on the far right.
The Maharoof family, comprising Jaufer Sadiq, Nowfel, Ashroff, Ismail, Ramziya (married to Hamid Ariff) and Firodusi (married to Fairoze Hassan, son of Dr. Mohideen Hassan of 5th Lane, Colombo 3), lived down the street.
The old ramshackle home on the Galle Road between St Peters Place and Ridgeway Place was the abode of the Vantwest family. Old Man Vantwest was a cricket umpire. His eldest son, Ivor Vantwest retired as DIG Police. The other son, Robin Vantwest, was Wesley College Colombo opening batsmen in the 1950s.
St. Peters' Place
Finally St Peters' Place, followed by The Canal View Stores, a grocery store that provided the customer with everything under one roof, and then the Dutch Canal at Wellawatte, spewing itself into the sea culminated the boundary of Bambalapitiya on the seaside.
At the top left was a laundry that served well for the residents living in that area.
The twin flats down St. Peters' Place were built by the Wimalaratna brothers. They were also the owners of Alerics a famous ice cream joint in Wellawate Galle Road.
No 13 was occupied by a British Family called Mr. Bell and they had a daughter.
No 15 was occupied by Husain Ibrahim and family, formerly of No 15 Mary's Road, and No 17 was occupied by the Gnanpanditha family.
At the end of the street was the Abdeen flats where Naufal Jabir and his sister Jasmine, children of SM Jabir of Beruwela lived. Yasmin marred Hassan Mohamed, son of MH Mohamed, MP for Borella, ex Speaker and Minister in the UNP Government for several decades.
The Nizar Sherrif's, whose wife Fathima Khani Thaha, sister of Mubarak Thaha, and hailing frm the WM family, lived in a house facing the sea. They had two sons Jizvy, who married Ramona and presently (2006) living and working in Saudi Arabia with their children studying in Australia, and Azmi who married Amira who used to be employed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and have since migrated to Toronto, in Canada.
Canal View Stores & Restaurant
The Canal View Store and Restaurant was owned by the Ratnapala Family. Danny Ratnapala hailed from deep down South of Ceylon and was an extremely good businessman, and noted for his generosity. He knew the area very well and was famous for his Sugar Buns and Seeni Sambol Sandwiches and regularly kept the impossible appetites of the boys and girls in the locality very much in trim, with these delicacies, He was very proud of the Bambalapitiya scene and encouraged sports and other activities for the Bambalapitiya youth.
Back to the landside
The Bambalapitiya Hindu Temple
Moving back to the landside to trace the motley of streets that crisscrossed from the Galle Road towards the innards of Colombo, we return to the Bambalapitiya market and the Hindu Kovil, once again where we left off in an earlier chapter. Mohans, a large textile retail outlet, was one of the big businesses that occupied the long row of shops, traders and businesses that ran along the front of the Hindu temple. The nature of these trading stores are innumerable from temple flowers, camphor, joss sticks for the devoted to heavily decked Gold and Jewellery for the rich and famous.
Like other streets and by lanes in Bambalapitiya, Joseph Lane produced its share of prominent citizens.
The Fonseka family was perhaps preeminent of all its residents. The street was named for Joseph Fonseka and several pockets were known as "Fonsekawatte"
Ben Fonseka was an outstanding student at the University and joined the Foreign service ending up as Sri Lanka's Ambassador to several first world capitols and to the United Nations. His brother Michael was well known for his social work and the owner of a prominent Construction Company, M/S DD Fonseka and Sons. Francis another brother was also in construction and was among the kindest people I knew. There were many branches of the Fonseka family dispersed throughout the Lane.
The Paiva family was also from and of Joseph Lane. Mr J N Paiva, the Patriach had a feel for small business and real estate and made money in both.
During the war years he catered to the British soldiers in town with the "Paivas Corner Houses" two small fast food stops at intersections at Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte mimicking the 'Lyons corner houses" of London.
One of his sons was Augo Paiva who captained CR&FC rugby team in the 50's.
One of the most distinct Landmarks on Joseph lane was the "Dhoby House" a local Laundry for the area and beyond. You could pickup your clothes neatly pressed and starched on the due date provided it did not rain- as all drying was in the outdoors- we were using solar energy ahead of the curve. Also on this street were Norshir and Homi Rustomjee both Parsis and well known Attorneys.The Redlichs and the da Silva's too lived here prior to their departure to Australia. The Vaz family, The Lovells, The Abeysinghes, were all long time residents who may have also cracked the 50 year barrier.
When you add it up you will find that the ethnic diversity that was so typical of Colombo was celebrated down Joseph Lane.
The Pep Inn Bar
The Pep Inn Bar a local watering hole was situated between St Joseph's Lane and Vajira road, It was pleasant place to visit for a tot of arrack and some devilled beef/prawn etc, Pep inn was the meeting place of journalist and others who thought they were a special breed of intellectuals, Close to Pep Inn was the surgery of Dr E.M.V. Naganathan who gave up a lucrative practice to represent the Tamils in parliament.
Vajira Road begins at the end of this Hindu Temple at Bambalapitiya on the landside. The famous Buddhist Girls School, Visakha Vidyalaya, is located down this street and borders a Buddhist Temple that is patronized by the many devour Buddhists in the area and beyond.
Vajira Road extends all the way down to meet Havelock Road where the Police Station and Police Grounds are located. A short distance before the intersection, on the right side extends the continuation of De Fonseka Place which begins at the Galle Road and veers at right angles to meet Vajira Road.
The Stork Family, of whom Philip attended Royal, used to live there in a massive house with a large garden in front. Current owners have converted it into a residence cum Aquarium where tropical fish are exported and sold.The Goonewardena, of whom the head was BRP, lived in a large mansion opposite Visakha Vidyalaya.
The Mack School of dancing (British) was also located on the same side as Visakha but towards the end of the street closer to Havelock Road.
The Goodacre's, all of them from the UK also lived there but in separate buildings.
The school began under the name of "Buddhist Girls' College" in a house called "The Firs" at Turret Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was moved to its present premises at Vajira Road on the 21st of November 1927 and named "Visakha Vidyalaya" by Lady Herbert Stanley, the wife of the then Governor of Ceylon. From humble beginnings, Visakha Vidyalaya has risen to the position of the most sought after school for girls in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it is the only girls' school identified amongst the first National Schools in the Island. Events since 1917 to date are as follows:
- 1917 Jan 16th Buddhist Girls' College opened at Turret Road, Colombo. 20 students enrolled with Dr. Banning as Principal and Mr. W. A. De Silva as Trustee.
- 1921 - First head girl - Ida Gunawardena , First Prize Giving, First Sports Meet
- 1923 - Enrollment of Girl Guides
- 1927 - Renaming of the school to Visakha Vidyalaya at new premises at Vajira Road
- 1929 - Old Girls' Day Celebration
- 1933 - Passing away of Mrs. Jeremias Dias
- 1934 - Founding of the Old Girls' Association
- 1946 - Science introduced into the curriculum
- 1947 - The First Visakha Jayanthi celebrations at the school premises, Conferred Grade 1 status, Naming of the Houses - Dias, Dawes, Jayatilleka & Motwani
- 1952 - Becomes a non fee levying School
- 1952 - The 2nd Visakha Jayanthi at the school premises , Staging of the "Visakha Geetha Natakaya" , Gifting of the Geethanjali Amarasuriya Memorial Library
- 1961- Management taken over by the State.
- 1967 - Visakha Swarna Jayanthi celebrations at the Race Course, Colombo
- 1971 - Obtains new sports grounds, Pulimood House is begun
- 1982 - Visakha Jayanthi Carnival
- 1983 - Opening of the Jeremias Dias Memorial Hall by the President of Sri Lanka, The "Bo maluwa" & its surrounding hall completed & gifted by Mr. U.N.G. Gunasekera
- 1987 - Sports pavilion gifted by the OGA, "Avurudu Pola" organised by the OGA
- 1992 - 75th anniversary celebrations - School Exhibition, Re-staging of "Visakha Geetha Natakaya", Trade & Fun fair at The Sathutu Uyana, Colombo.
Sitlani's laundry, owned and managed by the Sitlani family came next. Tony Sitlani, the son, was a well known figure at Bambalapitiya, being a famous character who got himself involved in almost every single brawl or incident that took place within the town. He is now married to an Indain lady and has a daughter Christina. Tony has three sisters, Rani who married and moved abroad, Mohini who married Mohan Lalvani, and Sonia, who attended St. Pauls' Milagiriya and now lives in Kuwait with her Kuwaiti husband Fuard and family. Tony and his Mujmn, Brenda, both passed away in 2006.
Saraswathi Lodge, affectionately known as "Saras", another Saiva Restaurant serving vegetarian food followed Sitlani's. This was the haunt of many a young schoolboy playing truant or wanting to smoke a fag and enjoy a cuppa tea before proceeding to the Majestic or Savoy Cinema for a matinee movie at 3:30 pm.Saras was the in "Thosai joint" in Bambalapitiya for more than half a century and the quality of the South Indian styled Thosais, Vadai, Idli, accompanied by a spicy hot gravy, referred to as the "Sambhar", was relished by many young and old. A Thosai cost only 5 cents and a vadai, 3 cents in the fifties, served with spicy hot sambols.
Schoolboys used to revel going into "Saras" for a Thosai feed, as it is well within their measly pocket monies to wash it down with a steaming hot cup of plain (black) tea and a "punt".
The "Saras" meal also helps them to save some their pocket money for a mealsy 50 cents gallery ticket to the movies at the Majestic or Savoy.Saras is a small eating area littered with rectangular tables side by side that one has to knock over others to seat himself. It is mainly patronized by men and one rarely sees a female face inside the place.
Food used to be served on banana leaves before but now they use stainless steel dishes and mugs."Saras" has an added attraction when the school big matches like the Royal-Thomian and the Joe-Pete are on, as this is the place where many a schhol boy heads for during the lunch break at the cricket encounters. Its an absolutely chaotic mess on these occasions with hundreds of flag waving and sabre rattling boys standing outside on the sidealk waiting for their turn at the tables inside.
The waiters have to play it cool and so do the management, in view of the match fervor and hyper nature of the boys during this event, as any provocation of even a minor nature could easily spark a massive brawl. Such events usually end up with fisticuffs, blood, sweat and tears, and eventually the cop shop, parents, teachers and maybe, even lawyers.
And then there's the lot who eat and scoot without paying the bill amidst the mayhem and madness that prevails within and outside the premises. Oh what an annual picnic this is that one must see to believe! The boys are usually clad in various forms of fancy dress and travel in an old "croc", specially hired for the occasion, accomopanied by one of the funeral bands from Wattala who dish out spicy baila rockers that keep the youngsters swinging to the quantity of liquid protein in their bellies. Flags and rattles and whistes are the order of the day and noise is something out of this world.
Dharmadasa Bookshop is located at the top of Visakha Road that came next in line. The bookstore was well stocked and the most famous place for school books for almost every grade.The massive oriental castle styled mansion that belonged to the famous Bohra merchant, Carimjee Jafferjee, stood tall facing the Galle Road. It was located almost bwteen Shrubbery gardens and Holy Family Convent Girls School on the seaside.
De Fonseka Place
De Fonseka Place came nextwhere the Zanoon family lived at the first house on the left. Much is spoken about the python they reared, in their garden, for a pet. Naufal, attorney at law married Mumtaz Ahamed, daughter of MLM Ahmed of Ahmed Brothers at 3rd X Street in the Pettah, and moved to Horton Place where he died of an illness some years back. Rizvi went on to pass out as a doctor and is practicing in Colombo. Shehara married Muiz Marikar, spent some years in Saudi Arabia and is now back with her family to live at the family residence at de Fonseka Place.
Cycle Bazaar was a massive hoarding on the landside that displayed and sold bicycles, both, imported and locally made in Sri Lanka. It was located on the building facing the Galle Road immediately after de Fonseka Place.
Sittams Pharmacy & Chemists, a well stocked drug store, came next attached to the same building. Immediately after, a private road led down to many residential homes.
Then came the two gasoline stations, Shell and Caltex, side by side that offered various auto servicing facilities in addition to gasoline. At the end of this stretch began Dickman's Road.
One of the most famous residences down Dickman's road was the Eastern Aquaria which exported and sold ornamental fish. Owned and managed by a Bohra family this place was a favorite with kids who enjoyed keeping fish as pets.Sri Lanka's well known and sought after ENT Specialist, Dr. FazleAbbas, a member of the Bohra Community, also lived and practiced down Dickmans Road.
Dr. HSR Goonewardene, whose son Ramlal attended Royal and excelled in Rugby and Athletics and later joined the CID and was a member of the War Crimes Tribunal for Bosnia in the Hague, also lived down this street. Dr HSR was also an old Royalist who was a batch mate of Thahir Sameer who lived at No 300 Galle Road.
The Madani Ismail Family, consisting of Madani, his wife, and their children, Salih, Sadiq, and Nazeera, lived right opposite the side section of St. Pauls' Milagiriya. Advocate Nazim and his family lived further down the road towards the Havelock Town section. Ms Nash, who belongs to Mack School of dancing was also a teacher at St. Pauls Milagiriya, lived here. Her neice Jennifer Batholamuse too lived with her.
Ebert Place branches off Dickmans Road, opposite the gate of St Paul's Milagiriya, and meets De Fonseka Place. Many palatial homes, engulfed with foliage, used to be located there.
The Portuguese, during their reign of Ceylon from 1505 to 1640, built a church to Nossa Senhora Dos Milagros – "Our Lady of Miracles" – on the landside bordering Galle Road in Bambalapitiya.
The Dutch, during their subsequent rule, tore it down and raised a "Reformed" church on the same location. When the British overruled the Dutch and took possession of Ceylon, in 1815, they converted the church to a Presbyter of some sorts and giving it the name of St. Pauls.
Eventually a girls school sprouted up within the church premises and to this day is called, St. Pauls Milagiriya. Since then, even the locality around the church is referred to as Milagiriya and an electoral Ward named Milagiriya also exists to date. St. Pauls Milagiriya Girls' School is located right at the top of Dickman's Road and stretches all the way along Galle Road to de Kretser Place.
It also borders Dickmans Road all the way down to the first cross road on the right which meets de Kretser place at right angles.
The school, which was founded on the 14th of January 1887 as a Parish school attached to the St. Paul's Church of Milagiriya with just 24 students and 4 teachers, it is worthy of special mention that it has a student population of approximately 4000+ students, a tutorial staff of 140+ members and a non-academic staff of 25+ members.
The Rev Canon Ivan Corea, Vicar of St. Pauls Milagiriya Church, also lived at Milagiriya. he is the father of the late Vernon Corea, broadcaster and Ernest Corea, former editor ceylon daily News and also Ambassador to the US. Ivan Corea is the grandson who now resides in the UK.
de Kretser Place
St Anne's Maternity & Nursing Home was located down de Kretser Place. A very famous location at Bambalapitiya where many interesting people were born in latter days. Vijaya Corea, also a famous boradcaster of Radio Ceylon vintage, s a cousin of Vernon and Ernest.
The Nayar family whose daughters went to SPM lived there and so did the Moosin family the then famous glassmaker lived in a large house down this street.
Rama Ratnam and his family lived at No 23 De Kretser Place in the early 1970's when he was barely 10 years old then. The Ratnam's were from India and his father was serving in the Indian High Commission Office in Colombo.
There is a little dead-end lane that branches off De Kretser Place, on the left, to one side of SPM. The Ratnam bungalow was across the little lane facing the SPM wall. On the same side and down the lane was a retired judge named Weerasuriya. The one-storeyed bungalow was owned by a Tamil lady who had migrated to England and she had, in turn, rented it out to the Indian High Commission. It was a charming bungalow, across the street from St. Anne's Maternity Hospital & Nursing Home.
Actually the hospital was to one side across the street. There were two elderly Burgher sisters, who lived in a house by the side of the hospital, and they were right across the street from us. They would have the Ratnam siblings over for tea now and then. Their verandah was filled with variegated plants and they served these lovely little cakes and things. They were kind and gentle people and so affectionate to the neighborhood kids.
Rama states that he liked the write-up on this blog because it mentioned two families that he and his siblings knew very well. There were the Moosins (a wonderful, happy, large sprawling family living in this wonderful sprawling house that looked more like a hotel than anything) and the Nayars. They hung out a lot with some of Mr. Moosin's younger children (Nazeera and Mumtaz who were roughly Rama's age at that time). And then there were the Nayar's daughters who went to SPM and were somewhat older (they were perhaps in their teens at that time). Their names were Urmila and Sharmila and they would ply Rama and his sister with tons of books. They were ever so nice people and the whole gang had lots of fun. It was so laid back then.
Leaving sunny Lanka and returning to India was a wrench, as Rama writes. "I was barely in my teens when we returned to India, and it was big, chaotic and so very noisy. My heart was in Sri Lanka, and there is a part of me that still lives in Bambalapitiya (after so many years). I still consider myself a Royalist and keep in touch with the old boys. May all of this live long and prosper. I loved it all." [Received from Rama Ratnam, currently in India, by email on May 20, 2006]
Between de Kretser Place and Nandana Gardens stands the beautiful home of Newton Wijeratne and his family at No 321, facing the Galle Road where he lived with his wife Freda and children, Shalini, Kusum, Kumar, and Naushad. Newton, brother of Donald, owned and managed his own photography studio at Maradana but died under very tragic circumstances in the sixties. Freda and the rest of the children have since migrated to Australia.
It was here that David de Kretser, now Professor and also recently elected Governor of Melbourne, Australia, lived. The street took its name from this famous Burgher family in Ceylon at that time. David and his family left Ceylon and migrated to Australia in 1949. Other significant members of the family, in recent times, are Nigel de Kretser, Barrister, who livdd at the Bambalapitiya Flats, whose family also migrated to Austraolia in the late fifties.
Nandana Gardens & Hildon Place
Next came Nandana Gardens and Hildon Place. Starline Pharmacy was a household name at Bambalapitiya for drugs and groceries. Located at the beginning of Hildon Place, facing the Galle Road, its clientele were far from few and the business was run very successfully.
The Weinman family at #28 Hildon Place were also famous for many significant contributions to Bamba's way of life. Darrell, the oldest went on to become a very sought after and famour Neuro Surgeon and migrated to Australia. Lester was oje of the founding partners of East-West, a premier computer company in Colombo. Rosaine studied at HFC and was a batchmate of Pauline Ratnayake (married to Nazeer Rasheed and living in New York now) and is supposed to have married Maurice Anghie of Sagara Road and St Peters' College Rugby fame.
McLeod Road came next with the Paiva family right at the helm. Tyronne Paiva, an old Peterite, worked for Citibank in Colombo in the Treasury before moving on to join Union Bank as a branch manager where he is still attached to.
The Marikkars from Mawanella also built their mansions down McLeod Road. Yassin Marikkar, his wife, Dr. Nafeesa and the two girls lived there. Yassins father was referred to as SP Appa in Mawanella , as he was the unofficial SP of the area, and everyone knew him by that name. The girls spent most of their time studying in the UK while Yassin and Nafeesa spent many a year as expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia where Yassin was the Chief Engineer at the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh and Nafeesa worked as a doctor at the Shemeesy Hospital. Yassin suffered from kidney failure towards his latter days and passed away in 2003. He is the brother of Mukthar Marikkar, ex Vice Chairman Rupavahini Corporation who is married to Farahana Lathiff, granddaughter of the late Badiuddin Mahmud. Zarook Marikkar, another brother is married to Neela Candappa, Director of Grants Advertising, and daughter of the late Reggie Candappa.
A massive, tall, glass building was erected on the landside, facing the Galle Road immediately after McLeod Road. It was owned and managed by the proprietors of Alerics Ice Cream and Piccadilly Café, the Wickremaratne's at Wellawatte.
The Wellawatte Hindu Kathiresan Kovil (Temple)
The Wellawatte Hindu Kathiresan Kovil came next, similar to the one at Bambalapitiya described above.
A row of businesses and shops marched all along Galle Road on its front face. The temple would throng with worshippers in the evenings of Fridays when devotees would attend to their rituals accompanied by the beating of drums and the blowing of long flutes and pipes. Jasmine was the flower that devotees usually carried to the temple or females wore on their hair. The businesses that thronged the front of the temple ranged from skin clinics to laundry's.
The most famous Mr Pillai's Skin Clinic was the first in the row. It was here that the much attended Sai Baba Bhajans were held on a weekly basis. Several vegetarian restaurants, Asoka Lodge and Ramjee Lodge, were also famous for their special south Indian culinary of Vadais, Thosays, Idli's and Sambaar, not forgetting the Murukku's and Pakkoda's.The banana shop was located in between the two lodges and served the public with a variety of banana, beetle leaves, jasmine flowers and other temple ritual accessories for the devotees who visited the temple.
The main entrance to the temple came next.Podi Singho's Motor Cycle and bicycle workshop was, and still is, the oldest establishment in the rwo. After the death of the father, Podi Singho, his sons took over and ran the business successfully extending their services to maintain cars and heavy vehicles too. Right next door was the largest grocery store in the area owned and managed by AMS Nadar & Company, affectionately known as "Nadar's shop". Later on this business was bought over by a young lad from Galle who renamed it to Piyasena Stores by which name it still runs successfully.
Then came Lorensz Road, leading all the way down to the entrance of Saraswathi Hall and Hindu College on the left. The road ended at the Layards Road/Dawson Road intersection. Dawson Road is now renamed to Amarasekera Mawatha after Mudaliyar ACGS Amarasekera who lived there. Dawson Road ran further down to meet Havelock Road at the point where the Colombo Colts Cricket Club is located in Colombo 5.
The beautiful Ms Maureen Hingert, Miss Ceylon, who went on to become the second runner-up at the Miss Universe Contest 1955 lived, with her parents, down Lorensz Road. The final results at the beauty pageant was as follows:
Miss Universe 1955: HILLEVI ROMBIN Sweden
1st Runner Up: MARIBEL ARIOLA - El Salvador
2nd Runner Up: MAUREEN HINGERT - Ceylon
3rd Runner Up: MARGUT NUNKE - Germany
4th Runner Up: KEIKO TAKAHASHI - Japan
Maureen was born in Ceylon, the daughter of Lionel Hingert and Lorna Mabel de Run. She won the Miss Ceylon contest in 1955 and also in 1955 she becomes second runner-up to Hillevi Rombin, Miss Sweden, in the Miss Universe contest.
In 1956-57, under her real name she stars opposite Maxwell Reed as Anura, a beautiful South Seas native girl, in the British TV series Captain David Grief, shot on location in Mexico.
Revealing photographs of her appear in the September 1957 edition of Playboy in scenes from the film Gun Fever. In 1958 she acts in the film Fort Bowie on location at the Kanab Movie Fort at Kanab, Utah.
She had a daughter, Gina. More information on Maureen can be seen at the following link:
Many other small houses with adjacent common walls lined the right side of the street all the way down to the end. Proctor NM Zaheed of Kotahena bought one of the houses opposite the Saraswathi Hall where one of his sons, Huzair Zaheed, lived with his family. Huzair was married to Zulaiha, the eldest daughter of Rameela Sameer, grand-daughter of Muhammad Sameer of 298 Galle Road fame. Rameela and family lived at No 43 Lily Avenue Wellawatte. Lorensz Road was located right opposite to Sagara Road. Mr and Mrs Fernando with their one and only daughter lved there before they moved to AustraliaMiss Rene and Miss Alvis lived down Skeleton Road and so did Mr. and Mrs Colin from Mack School of dancing (Britisher)
The New Wellington Sports Club
Situated between Lorensz Road and Davidsdon Road on a block of land housing slums stood the New Wellington Sports Club.This club catered to the leisure and recreational needs of the local community. The President of this Club was Richard "Aiyar" Perera who was the chandiya (thugman) of the whole of Bambalapitiya, Wellawate region right up to Vihare Lane in Wellawate. He had a huge Eagle with wings spread tattooed on his back.
Richards other brothers were Albert and Wilson, Albert the eldest was the original owner of the Giant Wheel, Ocean Ride, Merry ground and carnival amusement equipment which he used to lease for carnivals and fun-fairs. These were in frequent use at Vel festivals, local funfairs and carnivals. The local kids were always treated to free rides. Wilson Aiyar ran a bucket shop, under the cover of a "Te Kade" (tea boutique) which was the meeting place of people hoping for a win on the horse races held in the UK and many horse racing venues in India,
The members of this Club were very protective and respectful to the people of the neighborhood, but woe is unto those who crossed their paths. The Bambalapitiya Police kept a sharp eye on some of the activities of this Club but seldom was there any major trouble. As the children of this neighborhood frequented the Kinross bathing enclosure, and many were rescued by the K.S. & L.S squad, there was a deep bond and respect for the Kinross S, & L.S C. members. The grandson of Herbert Bartholomeusz, a pioneer resident was accorded special privileges. In fact, he learnt the game of Billiards from none other than Richard Aiyar.
The descendents of the Perera Family, Henry and Edwin still live in Bambalapitiya and are still friends of the writer.
Another row of shops lined the Galle Road all the way up to Davidson Road which also ends up at Layards Road and turns left towards the beginning of Dawson Road and the end of Lorensz Road. Rajah Jewellers occupies the first business enterprise at the top of Lorensz Road facing No 298 Galle Road on the seaside. The famous barber salon with its western style swing doors came next followed by the laundry. It was located right opposte to No. 300 Galle Road on the seaside.
A narrow cul-de-sac housing tenements and shanties came next with a billiards and bar club next door where bookmakers flourished taking bets on horses for races run in the UK. Richard was the most famous of the leaders of this mafia type gangland that lived, worked, and thrived in this small slum within the town.
Then came a "bottle shop", so called because his business was the collection of old used bottles, scrap iron, clothes, and throw-away stuff for collection and resale. Next door was a Muslim restaurant that served delicious night food for those who drove past in the late hours. The music on the radio was blaring all the time. And last, but not least, in the row was another grocery store later renamed to "Gintota Stores" which also served the neighborhood successfully.
Davidson Road, during the fifties, was considered a kind of dangerous place where dangerous elements roamed. The Shareef Hajiar family (known as "Pulla Kutty" Sheriff on account of the large number of children he had) owned property on the left side of the street and lived there.
Old man Shareef Hajiar, impeccably dressed with a white pointed cap on his head, was often seen driving his polished limousine up the street many a times. Shareef Hajiars second spouse, Mazaya, lived down the street with her many children, Jabir, Shafi, Mazeena (Shuhaib Ghouse), Lareefa, Ummu Zohra (Izzet Packir Saibo), Noor Mueeza (Fuard Thahir) & Nazly (Wahid), Hussain, Hassan, Muhsin, Ali Reza, & Imthiaz.
The Sanoon Caders lived there before they left to Frazer Avenue Dehiwela and on the opposite side lived Mr. & Mrs Sulaiman and Mr & Mrs Fowzie who later sold the house and the Sulaimans went to Malwatte road Dehiwela and Fowzie went to Wellawatte.A thriving entertainment business that provided carousels for carnivals was also located on the right side of the street.
The whole block from the billiard club to Davidson Road housed many a slum at its rear which was referred to as the "Watta" meaning "garden". The place was famous for illicitly brewed alcohol and other shady going-ons, especially after dark. Many a fight or quarrel would ensue within the locality and would be sorted out by the Mafiosi in their own special way.
A plot of bare land facing Galle Road follows. Later on a tourist guest house called "Elephant Walk" was built there but also closed down on account of the many Police raids that were conducted for many shady activities that were taking place within the premises.
The famous Bambalapitiya branch of KVG de Silva Book store came next at the beginning of a large two storey building that reached up to Kensington Gardens. Just before the bookshop, at a lower level from the Galle Road slightly to the rear, was a small illegally erected stall referred to as the "Lottara Kadey" meaning "lottery shop". Here a young Sinhalese lad ran a small store that sold comic books, fruit, and other knick-knacks. He also had a lottery offering several juicy prizes of sweets, comic books and other stuff, that attracted the young.
The place was demolished after many years of existence and many a youth in Bambalapitiya used to patronize the place for their weekly stock of comic reading or spicy mango preserve. KVG's as the bookstore was referred to had a wide array of imported books and novels that were the attraction of many residents who spent long hours in literary pursuit during those halcyon days of English learning and acquisition of general knowledge.Next door was a textile store called "Padmini's", owned and managed by a Sindhi businessman, his son and daughter. The old man was much loved by the neighborhood. Adjacent to Padmini's was a pharmacy followed by another Sindhi owned Textile Store called "Beauty's".
Kensington Gardens came next. The first house on the right was owned and occupied by the Rizan family where Shiraz Sharker, Rizvi Bishrul-Hafi and their families lived. An old smashing Cadillac used to stand parked under their porch very visible to the traffic on Galle Road. The family were very wealthy owning and managing a very lucrative textile store in the Pettah which was built and run successfully by their ancestors.
Mr and Mrs Jayah and Family too lived their with there one and only daughter Shanaz and with them were the orophans Dhilma and Yasmin Sally and another cousin of theirs. In the annexe was Mr. and Mrs Carawalio with their son and daughter Jennifer who married and went to India and Stanley who married one of the Suby girls. All of them moved over to Arethusa Lane Col 6
The Muslim Ladies College was located on the right further down Kensington Gardens, built on land that was donated to the school by Sir Razik Fareed whose house abutted the school at the back down Fareed Place, two lanes next.Another bookstore, "Rohana Bookshop", facing the Galle Road, stood next. Its owner was an ex employee of Dharmadasa bookshop at the top of Visakha Road at Bambalapitiya, who had ventured out into his own business.
Razeendale Gardens, a private road that also led up a garden path on a short cut to Muslim Ladies' College was situated next.
The name was derived from its tenant Ms Razeena Abdul Rahman, sister of Sir Razik Fareed, who married Ghouse Mohideen and lived there with her family. She was also the first ever Muslim female Justice of the Peace, appointed by the British Government before Independence in 1948, in Sri Lanka.
MUSLIM LADIES COLLEGE
Muslim Ladies College is known and recognized in Sri Lanka as the premier state educational institution for Muslim Girls. It is located at No 22, Kensington Gardens, Colombo 04 and was started in 1946 by the Ceylon Moor Ladies' Union on land and buildings donated by Sir Razik Fareed.
A school that started with 26 students, today has a student population of 2800 and a tutorial staff of 109. It has a student hostel. The school has completed almost 60 years of dedicated service to the cause of Muslim girls' education.
The school follows the educational ideals of a good citizen and upholds a life of purity, discipline and service exemplified by the highest and the noblest in Muslim Womanhood. Students are given the opportunity to participate in planning sharing and managing school activities which would give them the experience to perform to the best of thier ability and to develop the confidence and self understanding so necessary for a full and satisfying life.
Fareed Place came next where the famous Sir Razik Fareed had his sprawling mansion, with his orchid gardens in full bloom throughout the year, at the bottom end of the street.
Sir Razik, as he was affectionately known, was a very prominent Muslim leader who served the nation as Minister and also High Commissioner in Pakistan. He was the founder President of the MICH, a premier Muslim Social Service Organization started in the early nineties. His grandfather, Wapchi Marikar Bass was the owner and builder of the houses at 298 & 300 Galle Road, Bambalapitiya in addition to having been given the honor of building the GPO and the Colombo Museum. WM Bass was also one of the founders of Zahira College, Maradana.
The Imamdeens also lived down Fareed Place, whose sons are Shamil and Shiham. Shiham married the granddaughter of Rameela Sameer &AWM Ghouse, of Lily Avenue Wellawatte, great-granddaughter of Muhammad Sameer of No 298 Galle Road, Bambalapitiya. Mr and Mrs Rashid Bin Hassan lived there with their one and only daughter Zeena who married Shibly Mohideen from Pendennis Avenue Col 3. Presently Shibly and his wife Zeena are staying there with their children and grandchildren.
St. Peter's College
SPC 1960: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/146157453/
SPC Band 1960: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/146157454/
SPC cadets 1960: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/146157456/
And then, finally at the end of the eastern Galle Road section of the town of Bambalapitiya, came St. Peters College. A massive area of land bordering Galle Road in the West and the Wellawatte Canal on the South, stretching far down into the landside into the East.
St. Peter's College school building and chapel graced the front while the cricket and rugby grounds bordered the rear. A pavilion was built sometime later on and even later a swimming pool was added for the benefit of the students attending. With the road development of Duplication Road extending into St. Peter's College, the grounds had to be separated with the school as the road passed right in between spilling on to a newly constructed bridge over the Wellawatte Canal.
St. Peter's College has a very colorful and old history dating back to old times when the children of Burgher railroad workers, engineers, engine drivers and policemen graced its halls of fame and went on to become me of honor and stature.
The eighty one year period of St. Peter's College, beginning 1922, could conveniently be divided into six distinct eras.
- Firstly, The beginnings dominated by that great French missionary Very Rev. Fr. Maurice LeGoc;
- Secondly the era of the First Rector Very Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera 1922 to 1943 who laid a solid foundation, a period which saw St. Peter's making a big impact on the local educational scene in next to no time;
- Thirdly, the aftermath of World War II and the Rectorship of Very Rev. Fr. Basil A. Wiratunge O.M.I. from 1943 to 1955;
- Fourthly, an era spanning 21 years which take in the Rectorships of five Rectors all of whom had to grapple with financial constraints brought about by the daring and bold decision not to be vested with the State, but to function as a ‘Non fee levying private school' - Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando (1956 to 1963), Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody (1963 to 1971), Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. (1971 to 1975), Rev. Fr. Claver Perera (1975 to 1976), and Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela (1976 to 1977);
- Fifthly, the enlightening and brilliant Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Joe E. Wickramasinghe (1978 to 1994) an era which could well be called ‘The Renaissance in Peterite History' and
- last but not least the nine year old Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Felician Perera (1994 to date) on whose young shoulders has fallen the responsibility of guiding St. Peter's College into and during the early 21st Century.
VERY REV. FR. MAURICE J. LEGOC AND THE "JOSEPHIAN" CONNECTION
St. Joseph's College was founded in March 1896 and by 1921 St.. Joseph's was 25 years old and the founding of St. Peter's College under the name "St. Peter's College South' could well be considered as a silver Jubilee gift of St. Joseph's to the nation. The land was purchased from E.C. de Fonseka for a sum of Rs, 75,000/- and on the broad shoulders of Fr. LeGoc fell the responsibility of bringing St. Peter's College South into being. Building operations began on this neglected cinnamon land bordering the Galle Road and alongside the Wellawatte Canal, on the 7th July 1921.
On the 18th January 1922, Fr. LeGoc with a large number of Josephian students and Staff arrived by special train and alighted near Kinross Avenue at 2 p.m. and marched to St. Peter's for the opening. The Josephian Magazine of 1922 described it thus, "Great St. Joseph's by the lake was setting out this bright January day to open and inaugurate the little St. Joseph's by the sea. "His Grace the Archbishop Dr. Anthony Coudert blessed the building and premises and Hon. Mr. Edwin Evans Director of Education formerly opened the new school."
Thus was St. Joseph's College South born on 18th January 1922. Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera was appointed President of the College, with classes from Grade 1 to Grade VII, while the number on roll was 204.
FIRST RECTOR VERY REV. FR. D. J. NICHOLAS PERERA, OMI : 1922-1943
Events moved fast under the direction of Fr. Nicholas Perera and on 16th, June 1926 it was sanctioned by His Grace the Archbishop and the Department of Education that St. Joseph's College South be renamed St. Peter's College with Fr. Nicholas Perera appointed as Rector. On the Feast of St. Peter 29th June 1927 the new College flag with the colours - Blue, White and Gold was blessed and hoisted by Rev. Fr. LeGoc, who in his speech that day mentioned that Blue signifies heaven, White Purity of Heart, and Gold Achievement and High Resolve and added that St. Peter's would, at no distant date, be one of the greatest Educational Institutions in the island.
Under Fr. Nicholas Perera's dynamic leadership St. Peter's made great leaps forward. In 1930 Dr. P. R. Anthonis world famous Surgeon and Leslie J. D. Fernando entered the Medical College and the Science Faculty of the University College respectively. Messrs. A. O. Wirasinghe, A. M. S. Perera and A. L. Perera followed suit and later joined the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. In 1933 St. Peter's challenged the mother institution, St. Joseph's at cricket the first Big Match which Fr. LeGoc who was still Rector of St. Joseph's insisted should be played on the Peterite grounds which had been opened in 1930. The magnificent Hall was completed in 1931. The extension of the classrooms, a Science Block, Physics Theatre, the Fathers' Quarters followed in quick succession.
As early as 1934, St. Peter's under the captaincy of Shirley Illesinghe won the Tarbat and Jeafferson Cups at the Public Schools Athlectic Meet, ably coached by Herbert Wittahatchy. In 1935, again under Shirley Illesinghe, St. Peter's were Rugby Champions repeating it in 1936 under Archibald Perera. In a matter of a decade St. Peter's had arrived.
From 1922 to 1943 Fr. D. J. NIcholas Perera had laid a solid foundation at St. Peter's, and he brought lustre to the College with his genialty, experience and scholarship. On 9th November 1943 Fr. Nicholas Perera handed over the reins of Rector to Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunge.
THE SECOND RECTOR REV. FR. BASIL A. WIRATUNGE, OMI : 1943 – 1955
Fr. Basil Wiratunge took a tight control of the main administration branches of the school and helped produce the successes in studies and games which quickly brought St. Peter's to the forefront of Public Schools of this period.
Fr. Basil assumed duties as Rector at a time when he not merely had to follow a policy of consolidation and expansion, but first he had to re-build, resuscitate, and reorganise the College after the travails of World War 2.
His first task was to convert a war time military hospital that the College had become during the evacuation period of 1942 to 1946 into the school that had been St. Peter's. Nothing could unruffle Fr. Basil. At times of stress and difficulty there was Fr. Basil with his calmness and his implicit trust in Providence. Whatever the magnitude of his problems he radiated that calmness amongst all.
No wonder then that St. Peter's College reached its zenith during the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga from 1943 to 1955. Admissions to the University increased. In Sports, St. Peter's excelled during his Rectorship. For two successive years St. Peter's were invincible schools cricket champions in 1946 and 1947. The Primary School block and the College Pavilion bear testimony to his efforts to provide better facilities for the students.
THE DIFFICULT YEARS : 1956 – 1977
The period 1956 to 1977 covers the Rectorships of Five Rectors, all of whom were dogged by the problem of the Schools Take over bid, with severe financial constraints consequent to the decision by St. Peter's not to be vested with the State but to function as a ‘Non Fee Levying Private School'. Nevertheless and notwithstanding each of the five Rectors of this difficult era made their individual contribution to the progress of St. Peter's never succumbing to problems of the times.
Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando who succeeded Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunge as the Third Rector of St. Peter's from 1956 to 1963 will be remembered for the encouragement and support he gave to the development of Aesthetic Studies. He it was who started the first schools Fife and Drum band on June 30th 1956. Tyronne Misso, now migrated to and living in ustralia, was one of the Wellawatte boys who was a founder member of the band and contributed to its success from 1959-62
A Cultural Centre to promote Music, Drama, Dancing and Art was started in November 1956 with the help of Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. Kandyan Dancing, Oriental Singing and the formation of Western and Oriental Orchestras came about. Rowing was introduced to St. Peter's in 1959, as also a unit of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade. Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas it was who first had to beat the direct impact of the Schools take over from December 1st 1960 when St. Peter's decided to remain as a Private Non Fee Levying institution. The Welfare Society came into being under his astute leadership. A fine organiser and administrator he installed a modern Canteen to supplement the much needed finances. He also set up the College Boarding.
Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody succeeded Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando and was the Fourth Rector from 1963 to 1971. Fr. Weerakkody took office at a most turbulent period but his genial qualities helped him to attract benefactors to help the College. He encouraged the Old Boys' Union and the Old Peterites Sports Club to invite more members. Perhaps his greatest contribution to St. Peter's was the formation of the Parent Teacher Association which brought both parents and teachers together in the interests of the students. More authority and responsibility was passed on to the lay teaching staff with the formation of Boards of Discipline, Studies and Sports. He established the Employees Provident Fund for the Teaching Staff. On the 24th, July 1971 he left St. Peter's to take up the Rectorship of St. Joseph's. He will be best remembered for his efforts to inculcate the appreciation of Music both as Teacher and Rector. Many have been the Peterites who chose Music as a career as result.
Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. who had been on the Tutorial Staff of St. Peter's in the 1940s succeeded Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and was Rector from 1971 to 1975. To him fell the honour of presiding at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the College on 18th January 1972. Even though the College still had a struggle on its hands where fiances were concerned Fr. Theodore was able to muster support for the celebrations, which continued throughout the year.
The Sixth Rector of St. Peter's Rev. Fr. Claver Perera was welcomed with much jubilation being the first fully fledged Peterite to adorn the Rectorial Chair. His stay lasted two years from 1975 to 1976. However within that short period he decentralised the administration with the appointment of Sectional Heads from Grade 6 to the Advanced Level. Under his guidance and training the Peterite Choir reached great heights a trend which exists up to today. Fr. Claver was instrumental in enlarging and renovating the College Chapel for the first time in 50 years.
Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela took over the reins of office from Fr. Claver Perera and his stay also lasted two years from 1976 to 1977. Yet in the short time he was Rector he organised a number of Seminars for the Teachers to help them refresh their minds in all aspects of teaching. Fr. Francis Madiwela will best be remembered by the Old Boys' Union because of his conviction that the Old Boys should have their own President, with the Rector who was President since 1927 being Patron. This change came into effect on 4th December 1977, shortly before his transfer to St. Thomas, Kotte as Principal.
THE RECTORSHIP OF REV. FR. JOE WICKRAMASINGHE : 1978 TO 1994
THE RENAISSANCE PERIOD IN PETERITE HISTORY
When the history of St. Peter's College, now in its eighty first year, comes to be written, the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickramasinghe will loom large. Indeed his life and work at St. Peter's, bids fair to be ranked as one of the best performances of any Rector of St. Peter's since its inception. Father Joe's crowning efforts as an educationist par excellence reached its peak as Rector of St. Peter's College from 1978 to 1994. From the doldrums in 1978, Father Joe steered St. Peter's to great heights of excellence in studies, sports and discipline.
Father Joe's greatest strength lay in his ability to harness the human resources at his disposal - in particular his students, teachers, old boys, parents and well-wishers - in all his endeavours. He made St. Peter's financially viable very early in his rectorship A master builder, he was able to generate nearly Rs. 20 million within 16 years to bring the College infrastructure to what it is today - the new 3 storeyed Science Block and Laboratory; the new Canteen and Vocational Centre; the 3 storeyed Primary School Extension; the elegant and tasteful Swimming Pool, a dream come true for Peterites; the 3 storeyed Block at St. Peter's College, Gampaha, the new Dental Clinic; the Badminton and Basketball Courts; the TV Room the Computer Room; the Junior Science Room and the new Office Block. To cap it all, in readiness for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter's in 1997, Fr. Joe has collected enough funds to get started with yet another 4 storeyed Block of classrooms, Library and Auditorium, atop the Canal Side block of classrooms.
9TH RECTOR REV. FR. FELICIAN R. PERERA : 1994 TO DATE
With the retirement of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe the mantle of office of Rector was passed on to the youthful 9th Rector of St. Peter's Rev. Fr. Felician R. Perera M. A. in Education (Lond.) He has guided St. Peter's in the near nine years with acceptance from Old Boys, Parents the Tutorial Staff and the Present Boys and has helped to maintain the high standards achieved during the term of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe.
On his shoulders fell the responsibility of organising the Celebration programme for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter's, and the completion of the new 4 storey Middle School Block. He has also built a new library and a very tasteful reading pavilion for the students and a gymnasium. The primary school has also got a new look with class rooms being done up and the garden turfed & paved, plus a new play area. The boarding which was closed has been re opened and with the assistance of the OBU a very modern computer laboratory has been set up.
A Peterite Icon from those glorious days
Russel Harmer had the uncanny ability of making things happen
By Maxie Kariyawasam - Daily Mirror Mon Sep 17 2007
Whenever Russel Harmer walked into the field, one could sense an aura of excitement among the spectators. Be it with the bat or behind the wickets, Russel had the uncanny ability of simply making things happen. Aggressive batting and slick work behind the he stumps, changed the course of many a game much to the delight of the onlookers and often brought sheer despair to the opposing sides.
Russel learnt the basics of his trade while still a tiny tot at Wesley College when under the guidance of his first coach Mr. Lionel Jayasuriya. Russel was to have a meteoric rise from the under 12 sector stretching up to the first XI via both the U-14 and the U-16 segments. Representing the College Senior team during the last two years of schooling, Russel playing under Everad Schoorman and Donald Thurairatnam, set the school cricket scene alight with some superlative displays both with the bat and behind the sticks. His innings for Wesley against Ananda where he treated the opposing bowlers with utter disdain to score a magnificent 117 will long be remembered by those who were fortunate to witness this gem of an innings.
Russsel's extraordinary talents was to earn him a place in the 1964 and 1965 combined Colleges teams that included Sunil Fernando, Sarath Seneviratne, A.G. Perera, B.Reid, David Heyn and Anura Tennakoon, all outstanding schoolboy stars of yesteryear. While still in college, Russel turned out for Bloomfield C.C. and in his first outing, playing in a Daily News Trophy Match against Colts C.C. scored a scintillating century, which saw him being immediately drafted into the Sara Trophy side.
On leaving School Russel joined Rajendrams Ltd, later to be known as Maharaja's Ltd and soon realized that he made the correct choice as far as employment was concerned due to the patronage he received form Mr. Rajamahenderan who also went on to recruit a galaxy of cricketing stars which made Maharajah's a force to be reckoned with in Mercantile Cricket.
Russel captained the Maharajah's team in 1970/71 and had under him such renowned cricketers as Niel Chanmugam, Mervyn Peiris, Ralston Burke, Everard Schoorman, Srinath Silva, K.M. Nelson and his own brother Mervyn. Touring India and Malaysia with the Maharaja's team Russel showed his calibre with a divesting knock of 100 runs against Malaysia out of a total of 195 for two wickets. Continuing to turn out for Bloomfield in heir first class matches, Russel was once involved in a mammoth stand of 297 runs for the second wicket with A.G.Perera against the B.R.C. Russell's contribution was a blistering 174 and Perera's a grand 104 not out. He then went on to captain Bloomfield with distinction.
In 1972, the Pakistan team led by Intikab Alam toured Sri Lanka and Russel was called upon for National Duty on the merit of his outstanding performances at club level. This writer distinctly remembers Russel coming for the match using the poor man's conveyance the bus, while his more affluent team mates made it to the grounds in their own vehicles or were driven there by friends. Incidentally, another Sri Lankan great Duleep Mendis made his debut together with Russel in this match. In 1973 the M.C.C. team captained by R. Lewis took on Sri Lanka skippered by Michael Tissera and Russel was once again called up to don the Sri Lanka Cap.
After this encounter, Russel was for some strange reason confined to ‘Cold Storage' by the National Selectors, although he continued to represent the C.C.A president's XI in Gopalan Trophy matches against Madras. However, Russel literally fought himself back into the Sri Lankan team with a forceful knock of 132 for Mercantile Cricket Association against government services in the Robert Senanayake Trophy in 1975 and booked a berth for the Indian tour for three unofficial tests that followed.
This preceeded Russell's final International appearance against Tony Greg's Englishmen in 1977, which side included Mike Brearley, Bob Woolmer, Bob Willis, Derek Underwood, Derek Randal, Allan Knott and Dennis Amiss, to name a few. In 1978, Russel turning out for the SSC in the premier Division match against Moratuwa CC claimed seven victims behind the stumps and followed this up in 1980 by repeating this very same feat against Saracens SC, thus joining a select band of 18 wicket-keepers who have performed likewise at club, Sheffield Shield and county levels, including the legendary Australian Wally Grout. Russel also set a record in the very first six a side tournament held by the B.R.C. when he clobbered an electrifying 24 runs in a single over.
Russel's highly productive cricket career could be attributed to the fact that he hailed form a cricketing family. His father, the late Granville was a formidable opening bowler who represented Govt. Services for many years and his brothers Mervyn and Granville Jnr. were gifted cricketers who shone at both college and club levels.
Russels's cricketing genes appear to have passed on to his son Peter who was himself a crack wicket-keeper/batsman and past Josephian captain now domiciled in Australia. Perhaps the most emotional incident in Russell's cricketing life would have come when he and his son Peter opened batting for the SSC in a Daily News Trophy encounter. Apart from being emotional this father and son opening combination is perhaps a unique occurrence in Sri Lankan Cricket.
Russel is currently in charge of the Ketharama School of Cricket and is extremely grateful to the former Minister of Sports Jeevan Kumaranatunge, Commander H.W. Silva, Director, Mr. Sooriyaarachchi, Manager, Mr. Jayantha Dharmadasa and Mr Duleep Mendis for the invaluable assistance and advice given to run this venture successfully.
He also expresses his deep gratitude to Mr.R. Rajamahendran of Maharajah's for being his benefactor and guiding both his official and cricketing careers. This then is the saga of Russel Harmer who adorned the cricketing fields of Sri Lanka and abroad, generating a brand of excitement that very few others could emulate.
The Dutch Canal at Wellawatte
A Milk Board milk booth stood at the end of the school wall adjoining the canal that served nutritious refreshment to the students and passers by. The Wellawatte Canal was the dividing line between Bambalapitiya and the next town to the south, Wellawatte. The waters of the canal brought forth waste and other waste matter from the innards of Colombo and its suburbs to deposit the waste into the vast open waters of the Indian Ocean.
The Boys of Bambalapitiya
George Siegerts took part in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai", and is credited for whistling the theme music of the film the Colonel Bogey March. Several of the Bambalawatte Boys, mainly from the Burgher community, featured in the film as extras and were paid as much as Rs 100 a day, which was a tidy sum in those times. Turab Jafferjee, Ian Kelly, Stanford Chapman, and Allister Bartholomeusz were stuntmen hired for the many river scene takes in the Kitulgala river,
In fact, the famous film producer and director David Lean apologized to the aforementioned stuntmen, for perceived racial discrimination during filming at Kitulgalla. This made headline News by the Journalist Gamini Seniviratne of the Times of Ceylon now a Journalist based in UK.
Another big band of that era was the The Harold Seniviratne Combo, a dance band of great repute for standards and oldies. The band comprised of Harold on Sax, his brother Tissa on drums, Chandra Seniviratne, Ralph Maas, Ronald Bartholomeusz, and Raife Jansz. A great band that was in very popular demand at many gala's. The Seniviratne Bros. lived down Lorenz Road Bambalapitiya. Bunny Ashbourne, and Anita Arndt of singing fame.
The Burgher Community and Bambalapitiya
The Burgher community, who made a significant contribution to Ceylon, in the areas of Law, The Judiciary, Medicine, Administration - the Ceylon Civil Service, lived mainly in the belt of Bambalapitiya and the adjacent Havelock Town area in Colombo 5. It is a known fact that the Colombo Municipal Council and the then Mayor of Colombo encouraged Burghers to settle in this middle class belt, where there were great schools – SPC, HFC, SPM, Lindsay, St Claires School, and later on Vishaka, & Muslim Ladies College.
The Colts. Havelocks and BRC cricket clubs were the breeding ground of champion athletes, cricketers and rugby Union Players. The Burghers lived in harmony and quite easily integrated with the Muslims, Bohrahs, and Sindhi communities. Mary's Road Colombo was indeed a good example of the successful blend of multi culturalism. In this street lived seven Burgher families, five Ceylon Moors, four Tamils, one Sindhi and six Sinhalese, who lived in closeness, friendship and amity. Children referred to the elders as Uncles and Aunts. It was truly an example of respect, tolerance and unity of a kind unseen and unheard today, sadly - That was the way of the true Ceylonese of that era.
Champions - representing the aforementioned Clubs - The fabulous Aldons Brothers of Havelocks Fame, Ernie Kelart, Bob Bartels & Russell Bartels of Cricket/Rugby/Hock4ey fame. The Schokmans, Michael, David and Patrick of rugby./cricket/boxing fame. Frederick and Duncan Kreltzhiem, the De Kretser's, who represented Ceylon in Hockey/Cricket. Larry Foenander and many more who represented the BRC/Havelocks/Colts – Ceylon Champions - Sara Trophy/ The Andriez Shield. Female athletes Myrna Kelaart. June de Kretser, Carmen Joachim, Irene Williams, Irene de Silva and many more were of Bambalapitiya origin
Distinguished Lawyers – The Anthonisz Brotherss. Wickremanayakes, Loos, Drieberg. Pusine Court Justices – St Clair Swan, FHB Koch, EFN Gratien, The doyen of Sports Journalisim SP Foenander lived down De Kretser Place. Australian Prime Minister Menzies. whilst on a visit to Ceylon called on SPF, such was his fame. His daughters Ruth & Carmen Herft were concert pianists who featured on Radio Ceylon classical music programs.
Duck Duetrom was a hot tempered and cantankerous old man. He received the nickname "Duck" after having been seen walking with a duck under his arm, a prize from a local church raffle.
Jumping J was the nickname give to a slightly mentally deranged and middle aged Burgher lady who hopped rather than walk. She was noted for her foul language.
Cap Silva the noted "Homo" used to hang around De Kretser Lane. He attempted to intimidate and molest young boys. However, on a compliant being made by a youngster, well known to the local toughs who used to hang out outside a local club,"Caps" activities were quickly put to an end.
Sports & Games
Every single lane and street at Bambalapitiya boasted a sports club. Names that come to mind are, The Freetown Boys of Mary's Road, The Dead End Kids of Clifford Place. The Golden Orioles, Kotelawala Gardens, Devos Lane Boys.
Inter lane Cricket, Soccer, Athelitics, and even Boxing was fiercely contested but sportsmanship ruled the day. Champion Athletes like Guy & John Motha, Cricketer/Athlete Ian Hepponsrtall of St St Josephs College, Haigh Karunartne. the Chandraratne brothers, V John St Peters/ SL Cricket, Tyrell Gauder (STC Cricket), Jayantha Fernando, SPC Rugby /Cricket, Hamza Saleem (Zahira ) wrestling, Mackeen & Faleel Sheriffden Cricket, Fredrick, Malcolm & Michael Kretlshiem (Royal), Trevor Anghie Royal – Boxing /Rugby and his brother Maurice, "Botam James" De Slva SPC/Ceylon Champ High Jump are some of the many boys born and bred in Bambalapitiya - the town like no other.
Many thanks to Allister Bartholomeusz, formerly of Mary's Road, Bambalapitiya, now resident in Australia, for his erstwhile support and contributions towards collecting material for the above story. Thanks also go out to all those who are sending continuous updates. Regret, it is not convenient to mention them individually here