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Bridging distances with trucks and lorries

This may sound like a slightly lighter version of Cane's story in Geoffery Archer's Cane and Abel, but this is true and not fictitious as Archer's story. The protagonist, like Cane, in this week's Situmedura began life in the hardest way possible.

Singho Appuhamy Welgama

The son of a farmer in the village of Ovitigala in Kalutara, Pasdun Korale, he ran away from home at the age of ten to work as a garage hand in a motor repairing workshop in Nagashandiya. With the money he earned, he came to Colombo and at the age of nineteen took the first step in beginning a business of his own.

He was Singho Appuhamy Welgama. Born on April 5, 1911, his formal education at the Ovitigala Maha Vidyalaya, lasted only up to Grade 2. Had he lived today he could have said, like Anton Chekhov, "When I was a child I had no childhood". But by working as a garage hand he was able to master all the techniques of motor mechanism as a teenager.

In 1930 he left his hometown, Kalutara, came to Colombo, bought his first lorry with his savings and began his transport services in front of the petrol shed in Panchikawatta.

Business improved during the Second World War when he got the opportunity to transport food from the Colombo Harbor to various destinations. Soon he was able to purchase a piece of land near the petrol shed and establish S.A Welgama and Sons Limited, the transport system which can today claim to be one of the oldest in the island.

Hailed as a "large hearted" person, S.A Welgama was a philanthropist to the very core of his being. Though he lived in Colombo with his wife Beatrice Hidelaarachci who was from Peradeniya and, five sons and five daughters, his heart was in his hometown Kalutara, where he built a school in the Agalawatte electorate in 1959.

Undoubtdly, before he began his business he knew there would be difficulties and delays quite impossible to foresee, on his path. He knew if he could see them he would have done everything possible to overcome them. But he also knew that there was one thing he could see clearly, his goal. He formed a mental vision of that and clung to it, through thick and thin.

"Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use" said Charles Schultz. For one who reached the top from scratch, S.A Welgama is surely an entrepreneur who had used all of them.



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