Posted on June 14th, 2012

By Dr. Tilak S Fernando

The sail of Don Hubert’s life boat took the impact of imperceptible but inevitable natural wind force on   18 May 2012 to plunk it peacefully.  I could reconcile to the inevitable death we all have to face one day, but  sudden news of someone close to you bidding the final good-bye comes as a natural shock and disbelief.

Peramunagamege Don Antony Leonard Albino   died of organ failure and also MRSA, the hospital superbug in the UK.  Alas! His two daughters, Marina and Paula, travelling from New Zealand and Australia at the eleventh hour could not make it in time to say good bye to their beloved dad.

Don  was born on 5 July 1930 in Kandana, educated at De Mazenod College and married Chandra Perera in 1958. Like many of his friends at the time, he decided to seek greener pastures  abroad.   Within six weeks of his decision Hubert family arrived at Harwich harbour only to ponder as to why such a decision was taken! It happened to be a gloomy, cold, wet and a miserable day. Despite their early uncertainties and fears, they soon settled into British way of life. Don joined National and Grindlays Bank (now part of ANZ) in 1961, worked in the city of London and passed his banking exams from the University of London. In 1964 the family moved to Harold Wood in Essex where he lived until his death on 18 May.

Don became an artist late in life – at the age of 53 to be exact.  His first attempt prompted him to take   art lessons seriously. One of his early oil paintings on Ruwan Weli SƒÆ’†’¡ya received a commendation at the open exhibition organised   by the London Borough of Havering .   His initial guru was a   distinguished art teacher at De Mazenod College, the late Mr. M.D. Peter.

 Subsequently when he joined the Bower Group in Romford, Essex he worked alongside   well known amateur artists, Jean Harding, Jean Baker and Bill Newton. Don was influenced by Bill Newton to  join  an art  class to master  the subject professionally

One of the highlights of his artistic career was capturing England v Sri Lanka test match at Lords Cricket grounds in 1988.  The painting auctioned at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London  fetched £450. He made a second attempt on England v India at Lords in 1990 and the commissioned piece took a prominent slot at   the United Breweries Board Room in London.  

Don held over hundred exhibitions in the U.K and Sri Lanka.  Many of the paintings featured the majestic elephants at the Yala National Park. Much of his work was inspired by the world famous wildlife artist David Shepherd.  Shepherd admired his elephant paintings and Don and Shepherd shared a common bond to help preserve Sri Lanka’s unique wildlife and to protect Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and environment.  Later  Don introduced David  Shepherd to me in 1993 when I  interviewed  him  for the Island newspapers  in  August 1993 and carried a  full page feature under the caption “ƒ”¹…” “ƒ”¹…”David Shepherd: World leading wildlife artist’,  with a picture of Don and David posing to my camera.

Seemingly Don became a great artist capturing wonderful Sri Lankan village life to the beautiful wildlife in the Yala National Park, particularly incorporating elephants.

He also was involved in many fund raising events with good causes such as helping the Maharagama Children’s Cancer Institute, particularly during the Festival of Cricket in the UK by donating his paintings to the organisers of the FOC to auction and raise money.  

He always got immense pleasure out of painting, and felt a wonderful sense of serenity. “Even if a herd of elephants were charging across the roof of my house while I was painting, I wouldn’t even stir to look up because I’m that entranced in my work.” That’s how he described his dedication to paint elephants.   To remind me of the camaraderie we enjoyed   he gifted- to-me a prominent painting of elephants on canvas on my birthday in 1991.

 Don will be deeply missed by all. We all loved him and will miss his wonderful sense of humour, a bit of “ƒ”¹…”saucy’ jokes, his kindness and his wonderful artistic talents. He was a one-off.

For me personally Don’s demise will not simply end like a mid morning dream or a few letters written on sand. Although Don has left this mortal coil he appears in my heart  every day  when  I look at   his elephant painting which hangs in my sitting room.

May he Rest in Peace.

Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

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