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Government Gazette

Rev. Fr. Jayakody: A unique blend of religious and musical lives

REMEMBERED: His birthday was on June 3, and if he had lived, he would have been a hundred and seven years old.

Father Marcelline Jayakody was a gifted musician, talented composer, and an outstanding lyricist, a good writer, and above all, a down to earth Priest. He hailed from Sandalankawa, and his father was a reputed native doctor, and an ardent Catholic. His mother was a Buddhist at birth and later became a Roman Catholic after marriage.

Fr. Jayakody attended the village school first, and then went to Madampe Junior School, and ended up at St. Joseph’s College Colombo.

Quite early in his life he entered the Borella Seminary and became a priest, in the mid-nineteen twenties. He was the Assistant Parish Priest at St. Anne’s, Wattala, and from there he was transferred as the Assistant Parish Priest at St, Sebastian’s Church, Kandana. From Kandana, he was made the Parish Priest at Duwa, in Negombo.

At Duwa he became very popular. During his two years period at Duwa, he had been the first to use human beings for the Duwa Passion play instead of puppets. By this the play became more popular and realistic. When time went by used Sinhala poems for the functions in the church instead of Latin hymns.

He started decorating the church with “Gokkola” and Lotus flowers for functions, to which the elderly priests objected and showed displeasure. During his young days Fr. Jayakody was a rebel.

Without getting the permission of the then Archbishop or informing him Fr. Jayakody left for India and joined Shanthinikethan and studied music. On his return to the island from India, a disciplinary inquiry was held, and he was transferred to St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna on punishment.

He served there for three years, and was equally popular with the tutorial staff as well as with the students. Subsequently, he was transferred to St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya.

I met this affable priest for the first time in 1959, when I joined the Police and came to Kollupitiya. From that day onwards until his death, I moved with him closely.

Whilst in conversation once, he told me that his best period in musical work and literary affairs was the time when he was a parish priest at Maggona. This was the time he had composed Sinhala songs like “Malata Wadina bingu obai”, “Obai ape Rani” etc.

During this period of time, Fr. Jayakody had been specially selected by the Government to train 100 girls to sing “Namo Namo Matha” at the first independence celebrations held at the Independence Square, Torrington Place, Colombo, on the 4th of February 1948. For this assignment, he had to travel daily from Maggona to Colombo and back, as the selected girls had been from Colombo Schools.

In 1956 Fr. Jayakody wrote the lyrics for the Music of maestro Sunil Shantha for the film “Rekawa” by Sir Lester James Peiris. Those songs are still popular, and Fr. Jayakody was selected by a vote sponsored by Lake House Newspapers as the most popular person in the production of the film.

Later, he published a book called “Muthu”, which was a collection of his poems. Fr. Jayakody was awarded the first prize, and won the Magsasay Award for the year.

He was also very popular with the Buddhist clergy, and they named him the “Catholic Priest of the Buddhist Temple”.

After retirement as a parish priest. Fr. Jayakody stayed at St. Anne’s Church at Pilapitiya, Kelaniya for about three years. He had two rooms abutting the church located by the Kelani River.

Sometime later, Fr. Jayakody came to reside at 226, Havelock Road, Colombo 5. This building was said to have been donated to the church by a lady. Here too, he occupied two rooms at the rear of the building.

The main building was occupied by Rev. Fr. Joe de Mel, and later, by Rev. Fr. Ernest Porutota. Both these priests had a high regard for Fr. Jayakody. During this period I was stationed at Wellawatta, and I visited him very regularly. One afternoon he was taken ill suddenly, and was rushed to a private nursing home.

Two days later Fr. Jayakody left this earthly domain and went beyond, never to return. When Fr. Jayakody was living and a few days before he fell ill, he gave me a present - a framed 12” x 08” unclear photograph of Virgin Mary with infant Jesus.

According to Fr. Jayakody, this photograph had been given to him by an elderly American couple, who had been long-standing friends. The couple had told him that they toured Lurdes and went to the site where some children had seen the apparition of Virgin Mary.

They had stood there and had told the guide to take a photograph of them. When the negative of the film was developed in America, this photo had come in the print.

Though I am a Buddhist, this photograph presented to me by the late Rev. Fr. Jayakody now adorns my bedroom, with a miniature electric bulb burning right throughout the night & day.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service

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