Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The town of Kotahena (Colombo 13) begins along the western coast of Colombo where The Pettah (Colombo 11) ends and winds its way up north towards Mutuwal (Colombo 15) and east towards the town of Grandpass (Colombo 14) and Hultsdorp (Colombo 12).

Most of its populous comprises of Tamil Catholics and members of the Colombo Chetty community who have been resident therein from Colonial times. The town boasts of one of the oldest and largest Catholic Parish Cathedrals in Sri Lanka, the St Lucia’s Cathedral, located with its rear facing the Indian Ocean and facing East towards Grandpass. There is also a large population of Tamil Hindu’s in the town.

Being a very Roman Catholic town there are many famous Catholic Churches located within it and many are the famous feasts that are held annually at these places or worship. The town also has a very large population of Tamil Hindus thus creating an environment that also has many famous Hindu temples and Hindu Festivals.

Two famous schools that have provided an excellent medium of education for boys and girls in Kotahena are St Benedicts College (boys) and Good Shepherd Convent (girls), both managed and maintained by the Catholic Church.

Other places of religious interest in Kotahena are, the Dipaduttaramaya at Kotahena, 5km (3 miles) from Fort; the Sima Malaka at 61 Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo, 3km (2 miles) from Fort; the many Hindu Temples at Kochikade Kotahena, the Sri Siva Subramania Swami Kovil, Gintupitiya – within walking distance of Sea Street, Pettah, Colombo 11. In the Sea Street in Pettah in Colombo are several Hindu temples, the Ganeshan, the Old Kathiresan and the New Kathiresan with their colorful Gopurams (doorways). Several other Hindu temples (Kovils) are also seen in the City.

"Father Anthony COCHIAL built a chapel on the ground given to him by the Governor. The Protestants in derision called it COCHIKADE - the shop of the COCHIN Man. He worked among the Christians of Colombo more or less unmolested to his death, and was buried in his modest chapel.At present, St. Anthony's Church, one of the most frequented of Colombo, stands on the spot of the ancient chapel, and all that quarter of the town is called 'KOCHIKADE'." - Quoted from a paragrap of 'HISTORY OF CEYLON: an abridged translation of Professor Peter Courtenay's work - by Francis M.G.

Paramanada Purana Viharaya in Kotahena was founded in 1806 and Dipaduttamaramaya in Kotahena is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city.

Several copies of the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya were built across the world in ancient times. There are numerous modern copies as well. A rather bazaar copy was built in Kotahena, a suburb of Colombo, in 1928. The lower part of the temple is a good copy of the original but the pinnacle is completely different. This Kotahena Pagoda, as it is called, attracted a lot of attention when it was first built. It is in a very bad condition today.

G P V Somaratna’s book, published in 1991, titled “Kotahena Riot 1883: A Religious Riot in Sri Lanka”, explores the true nature of the events which took place in Kotahena in 1883. The intention is not only to contribute to an understanding of the social history of Sri Lanka but also to provide the original documents to the readers to enable them to make their own assessment of the events (from the author’s preface). “The riot in 1883 caused great amount of unrest and anxiety among the officialdom in Sri Lanka. The serious incident of rioting took place on Easter Sunday, March 25th 1883 where two people, one Buddhist and one Roman Catholic died and about thirty others including twelve police officers were wounded. It was a turning point in the revivalist movement of Buddhism where anti Christian propaganda and rhetoric led to a violent clash” (from the introduction). The book is all original documents excepting the brief introduction and a concluding chapter of analysis which is not even 30 pages in length.

It may be interesting to note that the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic riots that were sparked off in 1983, a hundred years later, also had significant impact on the residents of Kotahena since they were largely Tamil. Many schools in the town were used as refugee camps to shelter and transfer the victims of this recent tragedy.

Being an electoral ward in the Colombo North area the town of Kotahena has strongly contributed to the many victorious members of the United National Party in General, Presidential and Local Government Elections. Mr V A Sugathadada, UNP MP lived in Kotahena and held his seat as member for Colombo North for many long years before he bowed out of politics.

Venerable Narada Maha Thera originated from Kotahena. He was born on July 14, 1898 into a middle class family in this town, a predominantly Roman Catholic suburb of Colombo. As a matter of fact, Kotahena is the place where the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Arch-diocese of Colombo is located. His father was Kalonis Perera; his mother, Pabilina de Silva. He was named Sumanapala at birth. He had his early education at a school run by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) at Kotahena and later joined St. Benedict's College also at Kotahena, an institution run by the Brothers of the Company of De La Salle. There among other secular subjects he studied the Christian Scriptures and Apologetics. One of his Preceptors, Rev. Brother James who passed away in 1977, was so impressed with young Sumanapala's keen interest in these subjects as well as his quiet demeanor and exemplary behavior that he once told him very seriously that his real vocation lay in the Roman Catholic Priesthood. But his destiny was to be otherwise, though in a parallel capacity, in the Religion of his forefathers.

Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, the indomitable orator
by C. V. Rajapakse Daily News Sat Jan 25, 2003

At the beginning of the 16th century European races landed in Sri Lanka and various attempts were made by them to dilute and replace our Sinhala culture with theirs. In this context the missionaries played the key role and they functioned with the idea that ours is a primitive culture and the people were also such. They were considerably successful over a period of time and gradual process of degradation and eradication resulted in the decline of our culture and religion.

As they were the rulers, people went after them and then started to follow their religion and culture in order to gain various positions and other material benefits from them. Situation at a time (around 1870) was such that where education alone at the time of our Gunananda Thera was concerned there were only two Buddhist schools in the country - in Panadura and Dodanduwa with an attendance of 246 children as against 805 Christian Schools with an attendance of 78086 children, in the country.

In this situation, the need of the hour under such conditions was an educated dynamic and able person, and at that time emerged Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.
It was around the last quarter of the nineteenth century well known debate between the missionaries and the Buddhists had taken place and Panadura Debate - in August 1873 - took the most prominent place in these debates.

The Christian side was supported by able clergymen. On Thera had on his side people like Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera etc. Ven. Gunananda was the accepted leader of the Buddhist side and his education has helped him to a greater extent along with his eloquence to give leadership as he supposed to have studied as a layman and had undergone some training also under Christian clergymen, for a few years.

He was born in Balapitiya had entered the Buddhist Order at Deepaduththaramaya - Kotahena which happened to be the first Buddhist temple in Colombo with a history of over 300 years. Subsequently this was known all over as Thai Temple in Sri Lanka since a member of the Thai Royal family had been Ordained by Waskaduwe Subuthi Mahanayake Thera and this Thai priest lived at this temple from 1904 - 1911. Thai kings had visited this temple on several occasions. Chaitya there had been built according to Thai Style and this is the only Thai temple in our country.

At this temple Vesak Poya day was declared a Holiday. Our Thera was one of the pioneers who created the Buddhist flag and at this temple in Kotahena the Buddhist flag was hoisted for the first time in Sri Lanka. Gunananda Thera had published several Buddhist periodicals which included 'Riviresa', 'Lakmini Kirana' and 'Sathya Margaya', to give leadership to the cause of Buddhism.

With his counter campaign in defence of Buddhism took him to every nook and corner of this country and thousands flocked to hear him wherever he addressed people.

As stated earlier the most important debate is accepted as the Panadura Debate and John Capper of the Ceylon Times published the entire debate in Book form. Colonel Olcott having read this book decided to visit this country with his party and what he has done for the revival of Buddhism in this country - is now history.

Olcott had described Gunananda Thera as "the most brilliant Polemic Orator of the Island, the terror of the missionaries, with a very intellectual head, most brilliant and powerful champion of the Sinhalese Buddhism". A well-known missionary Rev. S. Langden had written to the Ceylon Friend in 1873, after hearing Gunananda Thera speak; "There is that in his manner as he rises to speak which puts one in mind of some orators at home.

He showed a consciousness of power with the people. His voice is of great compass and he has a clear ring above it. His action is good and the long yellow robe thrown over one shoulder helps to make it impressive. His power of persuasion, shows him to be a born orator".

He was known as "Great Orator" - Wadibhasingha - who was the key figure in the start of Buddhist revival of this country in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, passed away in 1890, after rendering such a yeoman service to the Sinhalese Buddhists

- Nama Gottam Najirathi -(the writer is Additional District Judge of Matale)

St Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade

St. Anthony's Kochchikade is one of the best-known Churches in the Archdiocese of Colombi, both to Christians and non-Christians. Declared as a national shrine within the Archdiocese it is a Church that always has devotees seeking the assistance of the Saint. The site on which the Church was built brings into focus both the difficulty the people had to preserve their faith during the persecution by the Dutch East India Company which ruled the Maritime Provinces and the conviction of the people in their religion.

The origin of the Church is accorded to Fr. Antonio. He was a companion to Joseph Vaz and had been assigned to minister to the religious needs of the Catholics in Colombo. He resided in a small house near Philip Neri's Church in Pettah and whilst working as a labourer during the day, in the nights he held service for the faithful. One day on hearing that the Dutch soldiers aware of his residence were coming to arrest him, Fr. Antonio fled towards Kotahena. Some fishermen recognized him. The erosion of the sea, which prevented them from drying their nets, and promised him protection, if he could intercede from his God forth sea to recede, frustrated them. The priest surrounded by the fishermen and the soldiers who had by then arrived, prayed and the sea receded. The Dutch soldiers reported the incident to the Governor who gave the priest the land. He built on it a small hut and since the priest was from Cochin, the land was referred to as the place in which the Cohin had a shop hence the name Kochchikade. The present Church according to the Historical Sketch given by DJB Kuruppu was blessed on the 1st of June 1834, 'This Church is a material link with the past. The little mud hut put up by Fr. Antonio lasted till 1806, when it was enlarged. In 1822 the statue of St. Anthony was brought from Goa and placed in the altar of the small chapel. This is the statue that is venerated and though the altar on which it rests today is the side altar, it was the original altar of the old Church. It stands on the very spot sanctified by the miracle to which the origin of the statue is due."

The deep affection people have for the Church is such that when Governor Macallum wanted to acquire the land for the Port, the Colombo Port Improvement Commission recommended against it saying "The Church is held in peculiar veneration by the native Roman Catholic population, not only of the western littoral but of the whole Island. It is visited daily by numerous pilgrims-there is specially a large attendance on Tuesday." Above the Main Altar the statue of St. Anthony is surrounded by traditional motifs designed in brass and on either side are circular plaques representing the Sun and the Moon.


St. Lucia's Cathedral:
The oldest and the largest parish cathedral in Sri Lanka

By Nalika Fernando
Published in @Explore Sri lanka

St. Lucy of Sicily whose feast falls on December 13 is venerated the world over as the protectress against eye trouble. Legend has it that she had the most beautiful pair of eyes and that she pulled them out to present them to an unwelcome suitor who was enamoured by their beauty. However her eyes were miraculously restored to her more beautiful than before.

Named after this virgin and martyr saint is St. Lucia"s Cathedral of Kotahena, the oldest and largest parish cathedral in Sri Lanka and the seat of the Archbishop of Colombo. Situated at Kotahena to the north-east of Colombo this magnificent edifice sprawled on 18,240 Sq. feet of land, rises to a height of 150 feet and has the capacity to accommodate 6000 people in its nave.

The 110 year old cathedral had humble origins in a small chapel of wood and cadjan built by the Oratorian fathers in 1760 when Ceylon was under Dutch occupation. This was replaced by a larger church of brick and mortar in 1782. When Ceylon was detached from the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa in 1834, Rev. Fr. Vincente Rozairo was appointed the first Vicar-Apostolic of Ceylon and St. Lucia"s Cathedral became the first cathedral of Sri Lanka. Eventually the foundation stone for a new cathedral building was laid to replace the old one. In 1873 Bishop H D Sillani and Rev. Fr. S Tabarrani, men of great vision and talent designed and initiated the building of St. Lucia"s Cathedral thus planting the seeds of grandeur and magnificence of what was to be. The Catholics of Colombo, the churches outside the city, and even the fisher folk contributed their share to the building fund. The cathedral cost Rs 160,000 to build which was an enormous amount in the last century, yet totally funded by the pious generosity of the Ceylonese Catholics of the time. Towards the end of 1887 the main body of the cathedral was complete and the blessing of the cathedral took place in December of that year. However the building of the cathedral took 30 years and was completed in 1902 when the scaffoldings were finally dismantled and the site cleared. The succeeding generations of parishioners and parish priests continued to embellish the cathedral with exquisite statues and sacred vessels often shipped from Europe. After a succession of European priests Rev. Fr. Nereus Fernando became the first Sri Lankan parish priest of the cathedral in 1956. Under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Fr. Rufus Benedict the cathedral was prepared for its centenary which was celebrated in December 1987.

What was the pride and joy of the late 19th and early 20th century Ceylonese Catholics is today a totally captivating experience to the worshiper or the sightseer. The cathedral is of distinct Gothic architecture. The facade rests on massive ionic columns and it"s adorned with seven statues. Silhouetted against the sky is the cross on the concrete lantern crowning the dome, the pinnacle of the cathedral. The interior of the cathedral engulfs you immediately, along the side aisles are ornate larger than life statues of saints sculptured and painted in minute detail. Many of these statues were installed in 1924 by Rev. Fr. J Milliner who was a gifted artist. Open confessionals of intricately carved dark wood are also placed along the aisles. On the left, in front of the sanctuary is a unique dark skinned statue of the Madonna called "Our Lady of Kotahena".

This statue is taken in procession during the "Month of May" celebrations. Altars of white marble are located in the transepts of the church with relics enshrined within them.

Surmounted on the main altar is a beautiful larger than life statue of St. Lucy holding up her eyes on the palm of her hand. The exquisite stained glass windows when lit by sunlight create a panorama of colour further enhancing the transepts of the church. In a far corner of the church is an enchanting Baptismal Font of white marble. It is circular in shape, carved with cherubs and a statue of John the Baptist crowns it. When you go up the narrow staircase that leads to the choir loft you come upon Anthony Thomas " an enormous bell weighing 4300 lbs. Intricately engraved on this bell are elaborate floral wreaths and various holy figures and symbols of Christianity. It is the largest of the four bells shipped from Marseilles and christened at the cathedral in 1903. Over the decades these bells have pealed in jubilation and tolled in mourning. The choir loft contains a unique pipe organ gifted to the cathedral in 1934. Rev. Fr. M Berared, a French priest who has been in the cathedral for the last 20 years, still plays this organ every Sunday before mass. The view of the cathedral from the choir loft is enthralling " a solitary pigeon flies across the vast expanse of the vault above and the episcopal throne of the Archbishop of Colombo stands out majestically in the sanctuary below.

Rev. Fr. Mahes Ganemulla present parish priest of St. Lucia"s Cathedral says "unlike now, in the old days only the senior most priests were appointed parish priest of the cathedral and some of them have gone on to become bishops." Father recalls all his predecessors to be very capable men who have contributed much of their time and talent to the betterment of the cathedral. "It"s difficult to maintain the same high standards in the cathedral like that of the yester-years, the recent bomb blast has affected the dome and the leakages have got worse. Even a small repair will cost lakhs," says Father.

The cathedral celebrates the "Month of May" and the feasts of St. Lucy and Corpus Christi with much pomp and pageantry. The day of the celebration begins with a trilingual festive mass conducted by the Bishop. On the eve of that day the relevant statue is taken in procession around the streets of Kotahena followed by school bands, around 60 flag bearers with the flags of different nations and the various associations of the cathedral. During the feast the whole of Kotahena is infected with a festive mood and the houses along the procession route are decorated by the residents.

St. Benedict"s College, Good Shepherd Convent and St. Lucia"s of Kotahena are three schools that share a sacred bond with the cathedral. The cathedral has been instrumental in founding these schools and their long histories are entwined with that of the cathedral. The school children participate in all activities of the cathedral while the masses on all important school days are held at the cathedral.

St. Lucia"s Cathedral has been pivotal to the Catholic families that have lived in Kotahena for generations. From baptisms to funerals and from first holy communions to weddings the cathedral remains intrinsic to the long standing Catholics of Kotahena. Ms. Elva Gonsal is 92 and lives on St. Lucia"s lane. She has been decorating the cathedral, its altars, its chariots on all festive occasions since the age of 16. Her creative and artistic work have been highly commended. Her last great work of creativity before taking ill, was the altar for the mass on the eve of the beatification of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz conducted by Pope John Paul II on January 20, 1995.

The cathedral has also witnessed within its walls, many historical events. The midnight mass that ushered in the 20th century. The religious ceremony to mark the National Independence in 1948. The visit of Our Lady of Fatima in 1951. The reception to Cardinal Cooray after having received the red hat from the Pontiff in Rome. The visit of Pope John Paul II for the beatification of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz was the greatest event in recent times.

St. Lucia"s Cathedral Kotahena is the legacy of our forefathers whose fervent faith aspired to build this magnanimous tribute to God. At the threshold of yet another century the cathedral stands unsurpassed in beauty and in magnificence as it has always stood over the last one hundred years.

(Reference - "A Light set on a hill" by Placidus M Fernand)

Please see the Lanka Library Reference to St Lucia’s Cathedral at


St. Thomas’ Church at Kotahena
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema and Kumudu Amarasingham @ The morning Leader / 02Oct, 2005

Tucked away in a very noisy corner of Colombo, Kotahena to be exact, is a church though small and cozy, of great importance. According to historical records St. Thomas himself, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, visited the location many many years ago. The place was deserted when we visited, but the church doors were invitingly open. Ancient wooden rafters, quaint old lamps, history and peace beckoned. The garden needs maintaining, but the old structure speaks of many loves, lives, joys, sorrows and above all union with the divine, experienced within its walls through the years. During the past 190 years, St. Thomas’ Church has faced upheavals, like St. Thomas himself faced during his life on earth. Historical evidence proves that St. Thomas who preached the word of God visited Sri Lanka to carry out his ministry, choosing the present location for the church.

Apostle Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, is the founder of the St. Thomas’ Church of India. There is plenty of historical evidence to strengthen this view. Christian writers and delegates of the church of the 4th century have referred to the missionary activities of St. Thomas in India. Christians in India have traced to St. Thomas the founding of their church in the 1st century A.D. St. Thomas came to India, preached the Gospel of Christ, and founded the church. He died a martyr in Mylapore in Chennai. Spread far and wide The boundaries of the church extended far and wide. On the northwestern part were Kashmir, Sindh, Baluchistan and Afghanistan. On the western coast, were Kalyan near Mumbai and on the southeastern coast the land from Madras to Sri Lanka’s coast.

The ancient book Act Of Judas Thomas which relates the Apostle’s preaching of the Gospel to Gondopohrus, has clearly stated that Gondophorus was the king of the northwestern part of India. By the sixth century, we have crosses and inscriptions from Sri Lanka and Turkistan (where some early manuscripts were also found), and by the eighth century, Sian-fu-stele, documents from Gobi sites, inscriptions from central Japan and Russian Turkistan (which has also frescoes and church remains), along with large bodies of the writing of the golden age of Syrian literature from West Asia. With local writings, these have been found across the region, especially in South India and West China.

In the next three centuries would be added the large collections of crosses and tombstones from Kirghizstan (ninth to 14th centuries), others from central and northern China; relics in Burma and Malaya; crosses, inscriptions and documents in Tibet and South China; along with contemporary manuscript evidence of Christian activity in Syria, Iran, Turkistan, Indo-China, Sumatra, and China (north and south). It is also probable that there were indigenous Christians in Ceylon (other than the Persian Christians who settled there) from the beginning of Christianity in Ceylon.

Just as it happened in South India the East Syrian influence might have been felt in Ceylon through Persian merchants and missionaries, or perhaps through the St. Thomas Christians in South India at least from the fifth century onwards. A series of stone inscriptions and coins record the ‘presence of foreign Christian high officers at the service of Sinhala kings’ from AD 473 to 508, and the conversion of one of these kings.

Ancient crosses Nestorian crosses have been found in several places such as Anuradhapura, the capital of the north-central kingdom between the second and the 10th centuries, in Kotte (east Colombo) and Ginthupitya (St. Thomas’ town, Colombo). The crosses found at Anuradhapura are very similar in style to those in Persia (7th century), China at Sian-fu-stele (8th century) and to those in Tibet and Armenia. With the advent of the British, the Malabar or Tamil Christians who had earlier followed the Presbyterian form changed over to the Anglican tradition and worshipped along with the Europeans at St. Peter’s Church, Fort, where Anglican services were held from 1804. When the number increased to nearly 600 these Malabar (Tamil) protestant Christians collected 800 dollars and approached the government through Abraham Rodrigo Devanesan Mootookistna, who was the interpreter Mudliyar to the governor, for assistance to erect their own church. The Governor, Sir Robert Brownrigg, readily granted their request and gave orders for the erection of this present church at Ginthupitiya where a Roman Catholic church had stood in Portuguese times. This Church of St. Thomas was the first church built in Sri Lanka for worship according to the Anglican tradition.

The first divine service was held at this church on July 16 (Sunday) 1815 at 7 pm. The Rev. George Bisset conducted the Service and Rev. M. Twisleton delivered the sermon. A discourse was delivered and prayers were said in Tamil by G. J. Ondaatjie, proponent. Since 1915, locals had administered the church and local clergymen had ministered the church.

It is in no way imposing, but upon visiting, the little church leaves indelibly its imprint on some part of the soul.


Public library branch - Kotahena

The newly constructed Kotahena Public Library was declared open on February 15 2002.

The premises comprises a two storied spacious building at Kotahena junction, the ground floor being the Library and the first floor a large study hall.

In the past it was a dilapidated building very crowded without proper ventilation and could not accommodate the number of students who used to patronize the study hall.

Colombo Mayor Omer Kamil was responsible for having given due consideration to education, particularly for the residents of Kotahena, and for having being responsible in demolishing the old building and constructing this new structure within 1 1/2 years.

The Library serves a very valuable purpose in offering its educational services to the community at Kotahena.

St Benedicts College, Kotahena

St Benedict’s College, the oldest Catholic institution in Colombo was founded in 1865, at that time the three main educational institutions in Sri Lanka were situated in Kotahena, Colombo Academy (later Royal College) in Wolfendaal, St Thomas’s College in Aluthmawatte Road (Gal Palliya), although in later years Royal moved to Reid Avenue and St Thomas’s to Mount Lavania, St Benedict’s still remains in its original location.

St Benedict’s College managed by the La Sallians Brothers the leading teaching order in the Catholic Church, has an outstanding record, having produced some of the finest gentlemen of this country.

Today when there is a spirit of National resurgence and religious amity, we cannot forget the contribution made by St Benedict’s through its distinguished alumni, the Anagarike Dharmapala the foremost National Hero of Sri Lanka, the Most Venerable Narada Nayake Thero considered one of the greatest Buddhist scholars and the Most Ven Soma Maha Thero the author of over 30 books on Buddhism and recognized as one responsible for the spread of Buddhism in Europe , are the pride of all Sri Lankan Buddhists and to be products of a Catholic institution is testimony to the equality and religious harmony that exists in this great institution.

The history of Catholic education in Colombo is the history of St Benedict’s, being the only Institution available to Catholic students from its inception in 1865 St Benedict’s had contributed in many ways towards the formation of all other Catholic institutions in and around Colombo, Institutions like St Joseph’s Maradana, St Sebastian’s Moratuwa, De Mazenod Kandana and St Peter’s Bambalapitiya(whose founder incidentally was a Benedictine Rev Fr Nicholas Perera). These institutions have since made great strides and produced many great personalities.

It is impossible in the space of an article such as this to enumerate all the notable achievements of Benedictines, which significantly include a number of ‘firsts’ in every field. This limited resume however, will be sufficiently indicative of the vast contribution made to many by the products of this institution.

Beginning with the Catholic Church, St Benedict’s produced the first Sri Lankan Catholic Bishop in Dr Bede Beckmeyer, the first Indian Catholic Bishop in Dr Tibutius Roche and the first Tamil Bishop in Dr Emilanius Pillai. Fr Peter Pillai who was considered the most learned man in the British empire at one time and his record of academic achievement has never been equaled, he was also one of the most distinguished rectors of St Joseph’s College Maradana.

Mention should also be made of some of the other eminent Benedictines in their chosen professions namely Dr Cyril Fernando, the leading physician of his day, Prof Kandiah the first Ceylonese to obtain the D Sc, Mr C M Fernando the country’s first Crown Counsel, Dr A W Joachim the greatest soil chemist produced by this country who rose to be the first Ceylonese Director of Agriculture, Prof P B Fernando the first Professor of Medicine of the University of Ceylon , Mr P Navaratnerajah Queens Counsel, Professors Mylvaganam, Chapman, Kingsley De Silva among others, who are all products of this great institution. . This great tradition is continued to this day with many leading professionals like Orthopedic surgeon Dr Rienzie Peiris, Mr A N S Kulasinghe the country’s leading Engineer and many others.

Not only in the fields of Science, Law and Commerce but in every sphere Benedictines have rendered a rich tradition of service to the country.

In the film and music industry St Benedict’s have a record unparalleled by any school. In the film industry personalities such as Vijaya Kumaranatunga, Ravindra Randeniya and Robin Fernando are household names and are considered as kings of this industry, in the music industry Sunil Shantha is considered a legend, in addition some of the greatest names in popular music such as Denzil & Bosco, The Jay Brothers, the Dharmaratne Brothers, The Spit Fires, The Savages, the Jet Liners, Mirage to name a few, were all bands that ruled the scene in the 60’s and 70’s.

Of Journalists there were Editors like Quintus Delikan, Felix Gunawardena, Clarence Fernando and of course the popular E C B Wijesinghe, and to this day the likes of Lasantha Wickremetunga the winner of many awards for fearless journalism.

Of the many Benedictines who have shone in Diplomatic service is Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala a distinguished diplomat who presently holds the highest position ever by a Sri Lankan in the United Nations as under Secretary General, he was recently awarded an international peace award for his contribution to disarmament.

In the field of sports, St Benedict’s has an enviable record unsurpassed by any school in the country, having produced champion teams for Cricket, Basketball, Hockey, Cadetting, Gymnastics and athletics, in soccer St Benedict’s has a fabulous record and have been almost invincible in the post World War 11 period, a famous Benedictine footballer V A Sugathadasa became the Country’s first Minister of Sports, whilst J J Sarangapany is acknowledged as the country’s foremost administrator, Albert Fernando was the first Sri Lankan to qualify as a coach in Brazil and Germany.

St Benedict’s has during the years produced many Political leaders, this trend continues todate with the Minister of Labour Mahinda Samarasinghe and Minister of Public Utilities Mohammed Maharoof who are both considered very powerful Ministers in the present Government.

St Benedict’s College has during its long history been a quiet and humble Institution that has during the years produced some of the finest gentlemen of this Country, many have adorned positions of high office both here and overseas with humility, equality and fairplay, qualities that have been instilled in them through this institution, always keeping in mind the message conveyed in one verse of the College anthem:

”True to our God and true to all man, Follow we ever life's holy plan ! Doing the duty that is to do, Bearing the cross with the crown in view”

The information produced above is by no means comprehensive and the writer humbly apologizes to all those great Benedictines who have in the past and even at present hold high office for non inclusion in this brief article.


Queenie Solomons
Queenie's lifetime wish: Three centuries
by Elmo Leonard - Daily News 23 Jan 2000

When the sun shone in Canberra, Australia, heralding the dawn of the second millennium, Sri Lankan Queenie Solomonsz, domiciled in Australia, realised her life's ambition of seeing the daylight of three centuries. Queenie Solomonsz was born in Colombo Sri Lanka on November 25, 1899. She immigrated to Australia with her husband in 1969 to join her daughter, who had immigrated two years earlier. Queenie is the eldest of five children of her family, who have all departed, having lived long lives. Up to the mid 1980's Queenie visited Sri Lanka, traveling alone, and living with her relations here.

Having changed her residence after she celebrated her 100th birthday in Canberra on November 25, last year, the writer who is a nephew of the centurion, has lost communication with her, since. The writer lived with the old lady in Sri Lanka, and much of what is written is from memory, and from an article of November 26, 1999, which appeared in The Canberra Times.

Her secret of long life are the Christian acts of faith and hope, she clung to, to live to be 100 years. She does not want to live much longer; just to be 101.

A devout Catholic, the day before her 100th birthday, Queenie had prayed all night that she would live to be 100.

She received a certificate from the Pope for reaching 100 at a Mass held in her honour. A tea party was also held on her birthday, at the Villaggio Sant'Antonio Hostel where she lived with people from a variety of different cultures.

Sinking of Titanic

Queenie remembers many things, the sinking of the Titanic, the First and Second World Wars, the English governors of pre-independent Sri Lanka, the introduction of the car to Ceylon. Her husband was a guard in the Ceylon Government Railway, and they were posted to different parts of Sri Lanka. Queenie remembers the improvement of the railway. She also remembers the different towns of Sri Lanka as they were in the early part of the 20th Century. She remembers the island's hill country, the tea plantations and towns. Most important, she remembers the people of Sri Lanka, the different races, their culture, creed, and some of the changes which took place. It is a pity that a cultural anthropologist did not record her, while she was in Sri Lanka. Her attitude and the way she speaks Sinhala is unchanged from what the middle class of the early part of the 20th century spoke. Not only was her language unchanged, but her cultural outlook of Sri Lankans, too. Just before she immigrated to Australia in 1969, she identified a little boy by his race, and inquired of him why he spoke in a tongue which did not match his race. Now, in Australia, she does not call herself a Sri Lankan, but an Australian passport holder, according to a nephew.

Her father was Arthur White, who worked as a chief clerk in the office of the Post Master General. He lived a long life. Queenie was the eldest of her father's second marriage. She had an older step sister, Gladys, who has also departed.

Her mother was Mary Brigette Livera, a past student of Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena, and a housewife after marriage. Brigette or Biddie, also died in old age, in the year 1950.


Queenie attended St Anthony's Convent, Dematagoda, until she was fifteen. She spoke very good English, and we have to conclude that she was good at her studies, at a time when girls did not bother to count educational qualifications. Leaving school, Queenie became a Hello Girl, at the Colombo telephone exchange.

In 1923 she married Christian Earnest Solomonsz (Christie). Christie was a Presbyterian (Dutch Reformed Church) while Queenie is a Catholic. In those days marriage between Catholics and Protestants hardly happened. The Catholic Church was so strict, it forbade even the members of her family attending her wedding. To atone for the `sin' of marrying a non-Catholic, the penalty was public penance. Queenie, however, kept her peace with The Holy Mother the Church.
Queenie, had a pew at All Saints Church, marked Mrs C. E. Solomonsz.

Christie was a workaholic. He mopped his house twice every day. His garden did not see an extra blade of grass. Every brass button of Railway guard Christie Solomonsz shone as brightly as it possibly could. Christie was very punctual at work. He could work night after night, sleep only a few hours, and get back to answer another call of duty. In recognition of his services, when Queen Elizabeth visited Sri Lanka in 1954, Christie was in charge of four guards on the train, and was awarded a medallion by the Queen.

Christie was a lover of bananas or plantains, and every day took home a bunch. Perhaps, this practice lead to the long healthy life of Christie and Queenie.

They had two children. The elder was a boy. Apparently, he did not live long. Their daughter Carmen, Philomine to some, studied at All Saints College, Colombo 8, and later at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena.

The Solomonsz family lived many years at 10, Railway Bungalow, Mount Mary, Colombo. After Christie retired from the railway, they moved over to 29, Rodney Street, Colombo, the house being under the influence of poltergeists at the time. Then, the Solomonsz family built a house at 15 Galpotta Road, Nawala.

Christie continued to work after retirement, cashing cheques at the Maradana Railway Station, and Queenie helped him with his accounts, at the end of the day. When Christie's money was taken by a snatch thief, the story was recorded in the Evening Observer.

Carmen was a secretary, who worked at Radio Ceylon, and later at the Ministry of Nationalised Services. She married Fredrick Koelmeyer in Sri Lanka. They had two sons when they moved to Australia.

Queenie and Christie followed two years later. They lived in their own flat in Ainslie, until 1976, when Christie at the age of 82, was found dead of a heart attack, falling short of entering his gate.

Not long after that, Queenie moved with Carmen and her husband to Darwin, northern Australia, and Queenie went with them to look after the children. After two years they returned to Canberra and Queenie lived with them until she came to Villaggio, Canberra in 1994.

Queenie has four grand children, Johann, Kirk, Christopher and Eloise, and three great grand-children, Jessica, Kate and Rebecca.

Queenie always did her own cooking. She is an expert in the Sri Lankan culinary art, with her own innovations. Her curries are dry, and the gravy concentrated; the best cook of Sri Lankan food, the writer has known. Queenie is also interested in crochet which she still does.

Queenie loves going to mass and reading her prayer book every day. She still writes her own letters and cards.

Queenie now suffers from gastritis.

Harold de Andrado - the doyen of Sri Lankan cricket writers
by Neil Wijeratne - Island, Wed Mar 12 2003

For me, like thousands of other Josephians, his name is the password for the Josephian cricket heritage. Through his writings over the years, possibly of over five decades, I was able to grasp the glamour and colour of Josephian cricket history. Also its unique records, the character of players and administrators. His writings on cricket influenced me so much that there was a time I had the habit of collecting his articles and pasting them on a used drawing book. Going through those articles over and over again, not only bring back nostalgic memories down memory lane but is also like visiting a cricket archives.

Harold de Andrado and Josephian cricket are synonymous, like the colours blue and white in the Josephian flag. He was to me what Neville Cardus was to the Englishmen. He became a hero of my little cricket world even before I had seen him personally. That was not because of his prowess as a cricketer but for the reason of his classic art of cricket writing.

Being a complete product of St. Joseph’s College, Harold’s journalistic career is studded with a long history like his club the Nondescripts C.C. He was a player and a coach but strangely his chosen field was the history of the game and its statistics. Although the Britishers planted and nurtured the game in the British Colony and later taught its finer points to the natives, they were never interested in guiding the locals in recording and maintaining the history of the game.

The reason was obvious. The "Gurus" of the game never thought that the game would reach greater heights in the Colony. Therefore the history of the game became a neglected area like an abandoned paddy field. But thanks to some of our historians like S. P. Foenander, P. L. Bartholomeusz, Harold de Andrado, S. S. Perera, Gerry Vaidyasekera and M. M. Thawfeeq, to name a few, Sri Lankan cricket history was elegantly painted in words providing a richly fascinating account that we all should be proud of.

It was against such a backdrop that Harold de Andrado entered the cricket arena as a cricket writer. That was the time when Sri Lankan cricket was confined only to ‘at home" matches.

News agency reporters from the other cricketing nations filled local newspaper sports columns with their "pieces". Harold was not satisfied with the traditional way of sports journalism. Bearing the expense out of his own pocket, Harold was able to enter the "press boxes" in England and Australia to cover "Ashes" series purely because of his passion for the game. His articles sent from abroad and appearing in the local press, could be considered as a pioneer work by a local sports scribe reporting from a foreign turf. Certainly it was a novel experience not only for the writer but also for the readers in Sri Lanka. Unlike modern sports writers who carries the "reporting from.... " bye-line with their photographs and numerous sponsor logos, only to see the scoreboard being reproduced in the so-called articles, Harold’s reporting either from England or Australia provided an in-depth account of the game. His versatility in the field of sports journalism makes him a genius. Over the years, as a cricket reporter, writer, historian and a statistician, he showed a great command of the subject which correctly elevated him to the highest place in the chosen field.

Stepping into Harold’s residence at Kotahena makes the visitor feel that he has entered a cricket library. More correctly an Australian cricket library. A shelf of books on Bradman and on Australian cricket including that giant book titled "200 Seasons of Australian Cricket" and the photographs of Australian criketing greats are some of the ornaments that adorn his visitors room. The reason is clear. He loves Australian cricket than any one else in Sri Lanka. Many moons ago, in 1969, he wrote the following lines for the official souvenir published by the Board of Control for cricket in Ceylon, to mark the visit of the Australian cricket team.

"...... I had always wanted to go to Australia, from the day 35 years ago as a tiny kindergarten kid, I listened to one of the early broadcasts of Sir Don Bradman making a triple century at Leeds. So the dream which began long ago in my boyhood became true when I boarded the "Arcadia" in October 1958 bound for Down Under. The summers are warn, there are blue skies, lush green outfields, though the batting strips are brown, firm, solid and perfect. Australia attracted me immediately. I like its streets, its shops, its people, its foods, its wines and above all the friendship of this great agricultural people who have made tremendous strides industrially too; a sign of real progress. Nowhere else in the world is the Press treated better. In Australia they like to welcome you because the Press comes next to the players." (From an article titled "In a reminiscent mood" written by Harold De Andrado in 1969.)

Much water has flown under the bridge since then changing the face of the game considerably. The white-flannelled war is now converted to a pyjama confrontation. Playing the game at the highest level is now strictly on commercial demands. Sponsors are the angel guardians of the game. In spite of all these revolutions, Harold de Andrado still makes us feel exhilarated through his writings of the by-gone era where the game is played with all the graces maintaining its noble traditions.

May his involvement in the field of cricket journalism continue "till the mountains disappear".
St Anthony’s Mawatha (Reclamation Road)

The street that stretched forth, hugging the western coastline of Colombo, all the way through the Pettah ending up to meet Aluthmawatte Road at Mutuwal. The famous St Anthonys Church is located on it at Kochichikade, at the intersection of Jampettah Street.

Newham Square
Ratnam Road

New Chetty Street
Proctor N M Zaheed had his family home on this street where his seven sons and two daughters were raised. He chose this location as it was convenient for his legal practice which was located in the next town of Hultsdorp. A very popular lawyer in Colombo, especially amongst the Muslim community, he carried on a successful profession until his death.

His son Hamza also went on to become a successful lawyer taking over his clients after his demise. Hamza married the daughter of Thaifoor Hassim of Alexandra Road and moved to Wellawatte thereafter. Hamza’s son is also a successful lawyer who migrated to Toronto Canada and married the daughter of Razeen Salih, the famous gem merchant and Jeweler from Galle.

Niyaz, the oldest son, migrated to HongKong and married a Chinese Muslim lady and lived there until his demise.

Fareed, who worked at the Food Control Department, married Sithy Rahma Sameer, daughter of Mohamed Sameer, and moved to Bambalapitiya where he lived with his wife and two sons, Rizvi & Riaz, until his demise. Rizvi is currently a director at Hayleys Limited while Riaz carries on his travel and tour business in Colombo.

Daughter Noorul Faiza married Mohammed Ismail Sameer, son of Mohamed Sameer, and moved to Davidson Road at Bambalapitiya, where he passed away after a brief illness. Their children are Azmi, Kareema, Kamal, Zareena & Zahra.

Ayne, the second daughter married Proctor TIM Junaid and are currently resident in Dehiwela.
Son Kamil also did law and practiced successfully in Colombo. He married the daughter of Nizar from Frances Road at Wellawatte and later on moved to Charlemont Road where he passed away after a brief illness.

Huzair, another son, was employed at National & Grindlays Bank in the Fort in Colombo and married Sithy Zulaiha Ghouse. He moved to Lily Avenue at WQellawatte and thereafter to Lorensz Road at Bambalapitiya with his wife and daughter Ruzna and son Azad.

Thahir, married and settled down at Wellawatte

Ismet the youngest son migrated to Toronto, Canada, after working with the Bank of Ceylon in Colombo and also in the Middle East for a few years.

Many famous jewellery stores owned and managed by Nattukottai Chettiars thrived in this location. They were patronized by women of all communities for their fine workmanship and quality of material.

Dr Jaffer, an Unani practitioner, who originally hailed from India, also had his practice down this street. His two sons attended Royal College, Colombo.

Barber Street (Sangamitta Mawatha)
Jampettah Street
George R de Silva Mawatha (Bloemendhal Road)
Pickerings Road
Bonjean Road
Kotahena Street
Wasala Road
Mayfield Road

Mayfield Lane
The literary genius Cecil Aresacularatne, whose many famous and noteworthy contributions to the local press and letters section has always intrigued many a literary interest, and his family lived here. Son Sunil (GLS) attended Royal and was employed with the Ministry of Transportation in Colombo.

Sri Gunananda Mawatha
Alwis Place
A G Hinniappuhamy Mawatha
Green Lane
Sri Sivananda Street
Shoe Road

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great blog! Am planning to make a visit to Kotahena soon, so I can get a glimpse of the many religious represented there, and to get a better sense of why everyone is so enchanted by St. Thomas's church in Kochikade. thanks for all of the info!