Re-visiting Prince of Wales – III
Posted on August 31st, 2012

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Before I could read the printed version of Part II, I received the following feedback from USA which goes to say there are many versions to this popular story:

“Hi, I am a Sebastianite living in USA. The story about killing two birds with one stone, the version that I heard was slightly different. It goes like this: He threw the Kettha to the centre, so it planted in the middle of two animals. Then he aimed his gun and fired his only bullet which hit the Kettha and split into two and hit the animals instantaneously killing them – Moratuwa Porak”

The most memorable event during our time was the annual cricket match between St. Sebastian’s College and PWC. Those who are familiar with the geography of Prince of Wales College will know that the vast cricket ground is facing the main Galle road. When Don Bradman once played at Prince of Wales grounds it is said that spectators watching from top of May trees had to duck when he pulled out massive sixes over the main road!

The college compound became a bee-hive with students from both colleges during the rival match with cheering in many forms while some got into lorries and started waving flags, chanted slogans, sang songs and played steel bands to give a real carnival atmosphere.

First lesson

Once during the match, a popular teacher from St. Sebastian’s College who was renowned for his side-splitting acts, especially for gulping two raw eggs at the end of the first lesson during a double period, was seen taking his rosary out of his pocket swiftly and praying to God, perhaps seeking divine help to save St. Sebastian’s from defeat………! Few boys, having caught his presence dashed towards him, grabbed and lifted him and carried him on their arms round the ground shouting, “He is a jolly good fellow….. He is a jolly good fellow……”. The uncomfortable master had no choice while he was hurled up and down in the air.

Stocks of eggs in his jacket pocket were an open secret. One impish student in the rush grabbed his jacket and squeezed both pockets hard. The poor master must have been cursing the culprit for the mess and inconvenience caused but had to be in that position until he was put down.

School masters during our time were modest, and a few cycled to school and back. The above mentioned master was well built and donned Western outfits. Paddling his bicycle twice in forward motion, and free-wheeling four times backwards at 5 MPH, he could be recognised from any distance on the road.

Once a minor who was learning to cycle on a side road swerved, went zig zag in trying to get his balance while riding abreast hung on to his right shoulder to escape falling. Looking straight ahead and still freewheeling, he shouted, ‘Amanaya Atha Harapan, Atha Harapan’ (you monster leave off) but within seconds both fell onto the road without much injury.

Skipping lessons

One day some boys in my class decided to lock the geometrical drawing master out by shutting all windows and the louvre-door in a classroom immediately underneath the college clock. Earning a reputation as a notorious bunch of ‘incorrigibles’ who were being transferred from one room to another after every act of mischief, teachers were naturally thrown into perplexity not knowing where we were.

It happened to be the last period of the day and boys managed to hold up till the final ten minutes in complete darkness until a curios student slightly shifted louvres in a window to take a glimpse when the teacher was in the corridor, very next to the classroom and walking in a haze.

An excited voice within the classroom shouted “shut it…. shut it…” which gave a clue to the master where we were hiding. Within minutes there was a thundering voice shouting: “Open the bloody door” with a forceful kick which nearly flung the door open. Someone in the classroom announced: “Don’t open… don’t open,” but the enraged voice thundered even louder: “Never you mind! Open the bloody d…..o …..o… r……..!” . Fuming Principal entered the classroom like a rocket with a long cane.

Sorrow amidst fun

Gnashing his teeth, the Principal wanted to know who was responsible for the loutish act. Dead silence of unity prevailed and the final result being we all received three cane lashings on our buttocks.

In the midst of the hullaballoo the final bell to dismiss the college went off and we were detained for 45 minutes after school, for which poor teacher too had to lounge around with us.

As much as fun and disorderly behaviour, we experienced the most tragic moment in our time when one of our beloved teachers committed suicide inside the laboratory by swallowing a concentrated concoction of acid. That morning the teacher walked up and down across the classroom in a pensive mood. At 2.45 pm there was pandemonium and everyone rushed towards the laboratory with the news of a suicidal incident.

Frightful scene

Our master had befriended the lab technician in advance and diplomatically done his homework. On this particular afternoon, sending the lab technician out, to buy some cigarettes, he swallowed a concoction of noxious acid.

It was a frightful scene to watch when a senior prefect carried the suffering teacher on his arms like a child. Some antidote had been administered immediately inside the lab but his tongue had dissolved along with part of the clothes he was wearing by that time.

After rushing immediately to Lunawa hospital he died, but such madness and sadness is ingrained in our memory as the worst experience at PWC.

It gives me the shivers, even today, when I evoke that horrible scene. The feeling that remains with me is that despite this misfortune, he was a great teacher even though he may have had his own reasons for doing what he did….something like taking his own life! I wish we were old enough for him to have been able to talk to us. Or we could have been there to help him out.

To be continued


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