Of glucose and arrack: Re-visiting PWC – Part X (Final)
Posted on November 1st, 2012

Dr.Tilak Fernando

“These are small remembrances which bring broad smiles to our aging faces” – Old Cambrian

I never expected to write so much on our school day pranks, but the nostalgia among old Cambrians who had read the series became infectious, judging by the several stories and incidents that have been pouring in, as feedback.

This cannot go on forever………! And all good things must come to an end! However, what struck me most was an 82 year old Cambrian’s expression from abroad which summarised it all: “These are small remembrances which bring broad smiles to our aging faces”!

I am grateful to all those old Cambrians, known and unknown, from many parts of the world who responded positively to the series. I was overwhelmed by the fact that it enabled to raise a smile or two of the very teachers mentioned in the series who are still amongst us and especially to one or two who came back with compliments and at times with some additional amusing stories to enrich the series.

Sports meet

So, all in all, stories in the pipeline such as Erick Perera (Bless his Soul) picking up a dim witted boy while teaching mathematical fractions and saying “Umbata ganan walin nam beha Paan Walin nam puluwan” (you can’t do it in figures but can only with bread), and how a chap who stole a fowl from Kuttapa’s land and when exposed, the Principal JBC who could not do much about it as it was done outside school premises but how he got his message across to the culprit while teaching Latin by writing on the blackboard: ‘Nanda Chases Kukulam’ and asking the class to conjugate verbs in the sentence; furthermore, how some of the students ate frog curry when a Zoology teacher convinced them a particular type of frog as edible etc., have to be shelved due to the conclusion of the series.

An interesting story or rather a top secret, which had been kept under wraps for over 50 years, has surfaced after the ‘re-visiting PWC series’ through interaction of emails among old Cambrians. I am withholding all identities to avoid any embarrassment even at this late stage but only looking at the entertaining aspect of the incident.

Annual sports meet was regarded as a vital event in the PWC calendar. During our time we belonged to five inter-sports-Houses namely, Jayasooriya, Founders, Gunawardena, Lewis and Mendis from which athletes competed to bring glory and pride to their respective houses and finally to grab the Challenge Cup. Usually, before the commencement of sports activities a ceremonial March Past took place with members of each House led by a pole bearer carrying the respective House Flag.

The narrated story is about an incident when an individual who had no knowledge whatsoever of Cadetting becoming the pole bearer and marching with ‘chest forward and a prominently protruded posterior’ (C….F…, P ….B!) in an awkward pose, which gave an eye full to the onlookers. Even to this day those who remember the incident exclaim, “Oh! What a scene it was”….. ….!

The vital part of the story is about energising athletes as they took part in various events in the hot sun and to ensure they did not get dehydrated. For this very purpose glucose was mixed in abundance with water making it a refreshing drink. One smart House Captain, with the presence of mind, decided to mix approximately quarter bottle of arrack into the basin of glucose to work as a catalyst to boost performances of athletes of his House.

The ‘pole bearer’, probably getting high spirited with the consumption of glucose drink was seen doing rapid visits back and forth to the track area and to the marquee where the glucose drink was being served until the whole basin full of the ‘spirited’ drink was consumed by all.

Journey through Wales

The ultimate result was that the new formula with adulterated glucose with an arrack base had done the trick for the particular House where some of the athletes who normally ended up at fourth position and less astoundingly finished as the first in many events enhancing the rating and helped the particular house to grab 76 percent of all the trophies. It was considered a ‘massive haul’ by any means and the House Captain and athletes finally ended up posing for a photograph at a studio at Kurusagas Handiya.

At one time Merrill de Silva and Brindley Perera were joint editors for the College Magazine (The Cambrian) while late Messrs APM Peiris and Nobert Dias were school editors. Prior to the release of the college magazine Nobert Dias met with a tragic death and the Principal late JBC Rodrigo insisted that ‘a stop press article’ be inserted in that issue, which was written by A.P.M. Peiris. In the same issue, a senior engineer at the then Radio Ceylon, the late R.E.H. Perera, published an article captioned, “A Journey through Wales” which described an outing in the UK where en-route they had come across a large burial mound on which was inscribed the PWC motto with three feathers.

The entire group had sprung up to attention at once, and sung the Welsh National Anthem, “Among our ancient mountains………..”. Mr. Perera’s memory had instantaneously flashed back to his Alma Mater PWC which made him sing by himself after the chorus.

Perera’s solo version of the song had led to incredulity of the locals in the party who had wondered as to how this foreigner knew the Welsh National Anthem so well which had been handled serenely by Perera. In his article to The Cambrian he made it a point to make a request to all Cambrians to remember their College Anthem.

O/L class

Time seemed to fly faster than expected as we graduated from junior school, middle school and finally to the gateway to the outside world where we ended up at the O/L class. It came to a stage where one had to put aside all the mischief, pranks and fun and to concentrate on studies seriously as the O/L certificate became the passport to higher education and to one’s future. For some it may have been too late to pick up, but again it all depended on one’s circumstances, ability and least of all providence. ‘All can’t be masters of the world’ and each one had one’s future written before one landed in this world, spiritually speaking.

Finally the future was written for all of us individually, some continued until university entrance, others sought various other seats of learning in Colombo and abroad and a few sought a career. I too left college and sought greener pastures in the UK. tilakfernando@gmail.com

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