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Kingswood College, Kandy: a tribute to alma mater

The 114th anniversary of the founding of Kingswood College, Kandy was on 4th May. The school was founded by Louis Edmund Blaze on 4th May, 1891. At the time it came into being the school was called the Boy's High School. The vast strides made by the school from its very small beginning, during this period of over a century, is something for all Kingswoodians, past and present, to be proud of.

Blaze, after obtaining his London Matriculation, was recruited as a teacher in Trinity College, his alma mater. However after teaching for sometime, he left for Calcutta to do his degree. Thereafter, he obtained teaching appointments in Calcutta and Lahore, where he saw a great difference in the normal teacher-student relationship, which was much more friendly than what he was used to in Ceylon. On his return to Ceylon in January 1891, after his teaching stint in Calcutta and Lahore, had dreamed of establishing a school of his own, and different from what he had been used to as a student and a teacher in Ceylon, and to run it his own way.

Five months after his return to Ceylon, his desire to start a school of his own choice was fulfilled when the Boys' High School was established in a small building in Pavilion Street, Kandy with eleven pupils on the roll. Blaze wanted his school to be one in which the friendliest relations would prevail between teachers and pupils. He was keen on this teacher-student relationship after he had learnt of the existence of the cordial relationship in the English public schools which he came to know of during his stay in Lahore. He also wanted the pupils of the school to be really educated in the right atmosphere and not to be trained to merely pass examinations.

He encouraged a sense of obligation of duty and loyalty among the students. A testimony to this loyalty and manliness imbibed into the pupils by Blaze was the largest number of volunteers for service overseas during the First World War being the old boys of Kingswood College.

In July 1894, Blaze handed over the management of the school to the Methodist Mission. In 1897 the school was registered by the Government as a Grant in aid school. During this period there had been a rapid growth of the school and this made it necessary to shift the school to a larger premises in Brownrigg Street which was done about the end of 1897. It was in 1898 that the Boys' High School took the name of Kingswood College.

Blaze had learnt the game and the rules of Rugby football when he was teaching in India, and it did not take long for him to introduce the sport to his pupils. In 1893 Kingswood became the first school in Ceylon to start rugby football, and later Trinity, Royal and other schools followed suit.

The first rugby match between two schools in Ceylon was between Kingswood and Trinity, Blaze's alma mater, which was played at the Bogambara Grounds on 11th August and quite appropriately it ended in a six all draw. However, Kingswood gave up the game after a few years and in 1965 rugby was re-introduced to Kingswood. Since 1980, Kingswood has been doing well in rugby and has won the Tyrell Muttiah Trophy.

It is of great interest that to commemorate the man who introduced the game to Kingswood the L E Blaze Trophy is awarded to the winners of the Kingswood-Wesley rugby matches annually. In 2004 Kingswood did exceptionally well in rugby to go through the season undefeated and winning all championships available. In 2004, Ranjith Chandrasekera, the Principal of Kingswood College was elected as the President of the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Association.

In the field of sports, Kingswood assisted another school to play the first soccer match between schools. This was with St. Anthony's College, Katugastota, which was the first school to introduce soccer to the schools. In addition, the Kingswood-Dharmarajah big match in cricket is the oldest big match in Kandy. This year the two schools played the 99th match in the series and the match ended in a draw. This year, Kingswood achieved another landmark in cricket when the team came to the finals of the Lemonade Trophy. But, unfortunately Kingswood lost to Nalanda. Kingswood College had the distinction of producing the second schoolboy cricketer of the year in 1958 when Maurice Fernando, the captain of that year was chosen for this prestigious award.

Last year, a student of Kingswood Ransilu Ranasinghe, brought credit to his school and country when he won a Gold medal for weight lifting at the Junior Commonwealth Games held in Australia. This was the first time that a sportsman from Sri Lanka had won a Gold medal at an international competition of this nature.

Kingswood College was one of the first schools to start cadetting. As in the case of rugby, Kingswood gave up cadetting after sometime. A few years ago cadetting was re-introduced. The school fared very well in 2004 annexing the Herman Loos Trophy.

Kingswood established traditions which none of the other schools in Sri Lanka had. Blaze established the tradition of reciting a prologue at the annual prize giving of the school. The prologue was written in verse describing the events of importance that took place during that year in the school, the country and the world. Blaze wrote the prologue during his lifetime, and thereafter it was one of the old boys who did it, but maintaining anonymity.

It is with a sense of pride that all Kingswoodians, both past and present, would vouch that the prize giving has been held every year without a break, whereas in some big Colleges it is not so. The then Governor General, Lord Soulbury graced the occasion as the Chief Guest at the prize giving in the Diamond Jubilee year of Kingswood in 1951, which, in fact was the last prize giving that the founder of the school attended with his daughter.

It was in the year 1925 that Kingswood moved to Randles Hill, the location which the school presently occupies and which is half way between Kandy and Peradeniya. Kingswood was able to move into these premises through a generous donation given to purchase the land and put up the buildings by Sir John Randles, who was a Member of Parliament and a distinguished Methodist in England.

With separate buildings for the lower school and the upper school, two buildings for the hostels right on top of the hill and two playgrounds in the premises helped the school to develop further and to accommodate a larger number of students. Students residing in the hostel benefited a great deal in that they had two study periods every day and the playgrounds being just below the hostel enticed all hostellers to participate in sports, so that the larger number of members in all teams were from the hostel.

Kingswood had the distinction of being the first school to have a lady teacher on its staff. Blaze appointed the first lady to teach in Standards one and two at that time. At the beginning, this appointment of the lady teacher was criticized by those who were averse to change. But when it proved successful, other boys' schools too followed suit. I still recollect that we had lady teachers from the Baby class to Standard Two and they were the persons who really moulded the Gentlemen of Kingswood.

The Gentlemen who had been in school during the forties and the fifties would recollect with gratitude those gracious ladies, Miss Jacob (Baby class), Miss Kreltshem (Lower Kindergarten), Miss Thorpe (Upper Kindergarten), Miss Elias (Standard Two), Miss Lekamge (later Mrs. Samarajiwa) and Miss Abrahams (Standards Three and Four) who did the teaching as a service rather than a job, with dedication, kindness and care.

To illustrate the dedication, during the years of the Second World War, there was a shortage of square ruled exercise books which were required for Arithmetic, and the teacher in Standard Two used to convert the single ruled exercise books of the children into square ruled ones. Every day the student who finished the Arithmetic first with all the sums correct received a toffee for his successful effort. Their work did not end in the classroom. Even outside good manners were taught, and walking on the correct side of the road.

These lessons have stood all of us in good stead in life later on. Even now when we walk on a road where there is no pavement for pedestrians those of us who have been taught always walk on the right side of the road. While doing so we see so many walking on the wrong side. Not only do some parents walk on the wrong side, sometimes they have their children on the inner side of the road! This is quite a contrast to teachers of the present day for some of them, instead of guiding their pupils they themselves walk on the left side of the road!

In addition to Blaze, Kingswood had been served by some of the finest educationist, in the land as its Principals who continued the traditions introduced by Blaze, and some even did more. O.L. Gibbon, M.A. Utting, P.H. Nonis and Kenneth M de Lanerolle were some of these stalwarts who contributed immensely to uplift the standards of Kingswood and the maintenance of its traditions.

Lest I forget, mention should be made of the other teachers who taught at Kingswood with dedication and helped to mould students into gentlemen before they ventured out into the world on their own. We will never get teachers of the calibre of C.H. Lutersz, P. Shockman, B.A. Thambapillai, C.V. Abeyratne, A.P. Samarajiwa, J.O. Mendis, Sydney Perera, Anton Blacker, K.O.E. Fernando, Mrs. Arieth Perera, Mrs. Evelyn Samarajiwa and Misses Muriel Elias, Gertrude Thorpe and Eileen Kreltszheim to name a few.

The dedication of the teachers during the time we were in school was such that the teachers who were good in sports coached the school teams, and this was done free of charge. Whilst we had teachers such as Messrs B.A. Thambapillai, Winston Hoole, Roy Abeysekera, R.A.V. Dharmasena and Anton Blacker were in charge of cricket, Messrs Leonidas James and Sathananthan were in charge of athletics, Mr. James was the hockey coach. Mr. James was so good in hockey that he captained the Kandy District team in the first Hockey Nationals to be held in Sri Lanka.

Blaze, with the knowledge of the Public Schools in England he had gained whilst teaching in Lahore, established the Houses in the school named after four of the most celebrated Public Schools, namely, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester, which are continued to this day. It is a credit to the school that the conducting of the affairs of the Houses was left entirely with the captains and vice-captains.

Last year the Kingswood Union (Old Boys' Association) completed a century after its establishment. To celebrate the occasion, the Union had given a swimming pool, a basketball court, a library building and a Language laboratory, all from donations and monies collected in various ways. It was a fitting tribute to the untiring efforts of the old boys to give back something to their alma mater that Her Excellency the President graced the function to declare open these gifts to the school.

The motto of Kingswood College, "Fide et Virtute" and the school song which starts "Hill throned where nature is gracious and kind" are two things that no Kingswoodian, past or present, can easily forget! The boys who pass through the portals of Kingswood College cherish the memory of the unforgettable time spent in school and the traditions and discipline inculcated in them during that time. The spirit of Kingswood is such that all those who have had their education at Kingswood express their appreciation by the sign "Kingswood for ever".

- K.F.E.

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