Prof. W.R. Breckenridge - Tribute to a friend
The passing away of Prof. Dr. W,R. Breckenridge, former Professor of
Zoology and one time Principal of Trinity College was indeed an
inestimable loss to those who had the good fortune to know him
intimately. Dr. Breck as he was known to his wide circle of colleagues
and students at the University and "Breck" to many generations of
Trinitians is the second son of one of Trinity's illustrious and
distinguished teachers of Trinity - the Late R.R. Breckenridge.
I, my late father Teddy Abeyesekera who was a senior practitioner at
the Kegalle Bar and my late uncle, Oliver Abeyesekera former Regional
Director of Education Kegalle has had the distinction of being taught by
him at various times at Trinity. My association with Breck began on the
11th of January 1950 when both of us were in Form II B along with Mr.
S.M.L. Marrikkar. This 59 year old friendship, has been one of absolute
pleasantness and joy and it was a wonderful to associate with him and
enjoy his delightful company.
As a student at Trinity from the early 50s Breck ascended the
Rosestrewn path of promise and expectation and achieved distinction in
studies winning for himself a sizeable proportion of special prizes on
offer each year at Trinity's Prize Giving.
The year 1952 became a memorable year for Breck with the return from
England of Hilary Abeyaratne who became our class master. Each one of
Hilary Abeyaratne's classes proved to be absolute gems of thought in
learning as we sat at his feet and listened to him in admiration.
Celebrities as teachers from Oxford and Cambridge were Rev. John
Elliot and Gordon Burrows who taught English Literature and Latin
respectively. Of course the unforgettable teacher of mathematics dressed
in sherwani was A.M. Sundaramani who left an indelible mark on his
students of that year as his expressions and anecdotes both in class and
outside was a constant source of amusement in the many mid night chats
we had in Ryde House and also figured prominently in our conversations
later in life when Breck and I met with Mariks, when the three of us
indulged in unstoppable fits of laughter nearly rolling off our seats.
School life to Breck were great and jolly days as it was to us in the
boyhoods surrounded by river, lake and mountain.
In the year 1957 when we were both in Colombo for higher studies,
Breck as an undergraduate at the science faculty and I for my law
studies, Breck would take time off on Saturday mornings to cycle along
the various roads in Colombo and as a lover of nature would admire the
verdant foliage that adorned the landscape of Colombo and would often
say "how happily they grow" very much like his brilliant teacher of
Botany the late Bill Sinnatamby who taught botany in the natural
Proceeding to Canada in 1964 for his Doctorate which he obtained with
remarkable ease he returned to Sri Lanka in 1967 to be a lecturer in
Zoology. All these years abroad he kept writing to me about various old
boys he met and life in Canada. And when I was abroad he urged me to
write to him as he said these friendships must be kept where ever we
are. Recognising his capabilities as a brilliant teacher of zoology he
soon donned the mantle of Professor of Zoology at Peradeniya which post
he held till 1998 when he became principal of Trinity College which was
a re-investment of the best of Trinity traditions. In his sacrament of
service to Trinity as Principal he brought to bear on his work, the
highest decree of service to Trinity.
Quite apart from brilliance in the study of science subjects Breck
was a lover of music his best loved singer being Frank Sinatra his other
favourites being Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong and Nat King Cole. His
collection of recorded music is mostly that of Frank Sinatra. He also
liked very much the evergreen compositions of Rogers and Hammerstein.
(Oklahoma), Learner and lore, Stephen Foster and orchestral music of
Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. An avid reader W. Somerset
Maugham was his favourite author. At an early age he had read most of
his short stories and travel books and would often quote his colourful
expressions. Having read "on a Chinese Screen" Breck was quite
fascinated how the old spirit of China was recaptured in that book.
Other books he fancied were "the Moon and six-pence" and "Christmas
holiday" Leaving Trinity Breck setup his cozy home amidst the lush green
hills of Hantane Forest abundant with flowers and bird life. About three
tears ago, I spent a weekend at his Hantane home with Mariks walking in
and it was most enjoyable.
His home was fragrant with cheer of friend and stranger alike and his
charming wife Chandra was the perfect hostess. Honourable in word and
deed and generous to a fault Breck held warm in friendship the many he
knew. The best in human nature was often inspired by associating with
To his immediate family he was a fount of knowledge and comfort. He
was a stead fast and loving husband to Chandra a kind and understanding
father to his two daughters now well settled in America. Though he is no
more with us, I hope he will be with them in some way as an invisible
"And what does the Lord require of thee" asks the prophet Micah in
the Bible in the Old Testament, "to do justly and to love mercy and to
walk humbly with thy God".
Worren Ranjitham Breckenridge was such a man.
Good Bye Dear Breck you will always be remembered.
- Ranjan Abeyesekera