|Saturday, 14 December 2002|
Dr. Brendon Gooneratne - a remarkable man
by Premasara Epasinghe
It was the first time, as a fresher schoolboy cricketer, I walked into a cricket field, way back in 1956, representing Nalanda Vidyalaya first XI. I was called in to the field as a substitute - 12th man, by my skipper Nihal Withana, former University of Ceylon Cricketer, who later distinguished as a Brilliant Engineer in Sri Lanka, Scotland and England. It was the Royal-Nalanda encounter, played at Reid Avenue.
Royal's best all-rounder was in full cry. His majestic personality added more colour to his power packed innings. He was neatly attired and wore the Blue and Gold Cap. My skipper, Nihal assigned me to patrol the fine and square leg territory. I was fielding at the University of Ceylon, King George's Hall end. I wonder whether this batsman was having fun as the cheering was everywhere. About 1500 spectators were witnessing this saga. This hard hitting batsman started placing his shots to square leg and fine-leg area, making me his target. Butterflies were in my stomach. Thank God, he never lifted a ball. He was keeping all along the ground. One ball whistled past me and he scored his half a century.
Who was this all-rounder?
He was Brendon Gooneratne. The most feared fast bowler among schools at that time and the most accomplished all-rounder, sports wise and academic wise, that Royal College produced.
I met him twice recently. Once at the Sarvodaya Headquarters at the Annual National Awards Ceremony 2002 and on the following day at Sam Wijesinha's residence, when another distinguished Royalist, Diplomat, T. D. S. A. Dissanayake launched his latest book. I thought of penning these few lines about my friend Brendon, who possesses a multi-faceted life, so that it will be an example to others.
If someone can emulate him, it will do lot of good to the person concerned. Cricketer, athlete and a great sportsman, physician, conservationist, writer, historian, benefactor, and above all a fine human being - can one cover so many fields in a single life time. Not only he excelled in sports and academic achievements, he passed the YMBA - Dhammacharya Examination been the first in the island in 1950's. He is a devout Buddhist.
Gooneratne is a great innovator. He has his own style of doing things.
I asked him, how he managed to achieve so many things in his multifaceted career.
Discipline-key to success
"It is nothing but Discipline, from my childhood, I have been a very disciplined student. Whatever, I did,
I planned it systematically, and work hard. I am dedicated to my work, whether it is studies or sports. Everyday, I get up at 4.30 a.m. I plan my day's work, very meticulously. Further I never neglect breath consciousness meditation. (Anapanasathi). I walk at least four miles a day. I am also a teetotaller. Probably all these together spell my secret."
Dr. Gooneratne, now domiciled in Australia, was the first winner of the Sir Cyril De Zoysa challenge cup for the Best Performance in the Royal-Thomian cricket encounter in 1955. He scored 45 runs, and returned the best figures by a bowler from both sides 4 for 15 in 14.5 overs, with 8 maidens. He played three years in the first XI from 1954-1956. During this period, he also won the Best Bowler's and Best All-rounder's prizes.
He scored a number of centuries for Royal. I remember him taking match bags of 10 wickets against Ananda, St. Benedicts and Wesley. Versus Wesley, Gooneratne captured 8 wickets in the second innings and dismissed Lou Adihetty's Wesley Team for a paltry 95 runs. In Royal's victory chase, they lost 4 early wickets for 69 runs, before Gooneratne guided Royal home for victory by six wickets, hitting a hurricane 42 which included 8 boundaries.
Michael Wille, his partner scored an unbeaten 61. I have a personal memory about Michael. He sent me packing for nought at Campbell Place, Nalanda grounds in 1957 in the first over, when I opened batting with Sarath Silva. It was the one and only time that happened to me in my cricket career spanning from 1956 to 1982.
Learie Constantine - coached Brendon
Brendon Gooneratne showed class as a Junior Cricketer for Royal in early 1950's Sir Learie Constantine who played 18 tests for West Indies was in Sri Lanka on a coaching assignment and was highly impressed about the 15 year old Brendon.
"Son, you generate great speed for a boy of your age. However, you must learn to control it., Otherwise, you become a spent force sooner rather than later, because you do not match your speed with your strength. But if you conserve your strength and speed, you will be able to maintain your speed for greater intervals.
Those were golden words of advise from the Great West Indian constantine. Gooneratne was one of the three cricketers, Constantine wanted to take back with him to play in Lancashire League.
But, Gooneratne opted to continue his studies in Medicine. Gooneratne captained the University of Ceylon in 1961-1962 , to become runners-up of Sara Trophy Division I Tournament.
In 1979 in memory of his father late William Gooneratne, he awarded Gooneratne Memorial Prize for Buddhism for Seniors and Juniors at Royal College.
Every year the literary centre, Dhvanyaloka in Mysore, invites an outstanding scholar to deliver Sally Sage and David Mcalpin Lecture.
In 1990, the scholar chosen was Dr. Gooneratne MBBS, DAPE, PhD from Sydney, Australia. The title was The Kandyan Kingdom; Its epic struggle for survival from 1505 AC till 1815 AC and its relevance to modern Indo Sri Lanka relations. While in Mysore, Dr. Gooneratne endowed the Yasmin Gooneratne fellowship in post-colonial English studies at Dhvanyaloka, where Professor C. Narasimhaiah is the Director.
Wind behind his wings
Dr. Gooneratne's wife, Professor Yasmin Dias Bandaranaike Gooneratne, AO, D.Litt, has enjoyed a very distinguished career as a Teacher of English Literature, as a Poet, Literary critic and more recently, as an author of fiction in Asia, Europe, Australia and North America. Her professional literary collection includes over 350 publications and 18 books. Her Book, Relative Merits, A Personal Memoir of the Bandaranaike Family of Sri Lanka has been described, a classic in genre of autobiographical writing publication. She is the wind behind his wings.
Pemberley International study centre - Haputale
Dr. Gooneratne inaugurated the Pemberley International Study Centre at "Pemberley House", Viharagala Estate, Nikapotha, Haputale.
This centre provides an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, a congenial milieu for scholars of all disciplines, writers and artists. It is situated in a tea plantation, set in 12 acres landscaped gardens, with a panoramic views 4,000 feet above sea level. This centre is Brendon Gooneratne's brain-child, and it provides a great service for local and foreign Researchers and Writers. Pemberley International Study Centre is named after Pemberley in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.
The writer and scholar
Among some of the literary work of Dr. Gooneratne are the Epic Struggle of Kandyan Kingdom, from Governors Residence to President House, a book written on John D'oyly and a Medical Text Book titled Lymphography Clinical and Experiential. In 1967, he was awarded Beit Memorial Medical Research Fellowship. Further, his papers of Medical and Scientific Research and Sri Lanka History Cartography and Wildlife had been highly acclaimed.
He is also one of the authorities on Whaling and Marine Mammals. He is an Environmentalist and a Wild Life Protector.
Multi-Faceted Personalities of Dr. Gooneratne, are invariably national assets, who have to be cherished and nurtured as treasures produced by mother Lanka.
Produced by Lake House