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. Josephâ€™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. Anneâ€™s, Wattala, and from there he was transferred as the
Assistant Parish Priest at St, Sebastianâ€™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 â€śGokkolaâ€ť 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. Patrickâ€™s College, Jaffna on
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. Peterâ€™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
â€śMalata Wadina bingu obaiâ€ť, â€śObai ape Raniâ€ť etc.
During this period of time, Fr. Jayakody had been specially selected
by the Government to train 100 girls to sing â€śNamo Namo Mathaâ€ť 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 â€śRekawaâ€ť 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
Later, he published a book called â€śMuthuâ€ť, 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 â€śCatholic Priest of the Buddhist Templeâ€ť.
After retirement as a parish priest. Fr. Jayakody stayed at St.
Anneâ€™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 12â€ť x 08â€ť 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.