Old Royalist T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka (Royal College Class of 1949) recalls the days of Principal E.L. Bradby
Learning of books and men and how to play the game
This year’s Bradby Shield matches will be played on:
Saturday July 19 - Bogambara, Kandy
Saturday August 2 - Royal College Sports Complex

Edward Lawrence Bradby, Principal of Royal College from 1939 to 1945, was born in 1907 and educated at Rugby and Oxford, where he took a double first in Classics. At the time of his appointment he was General Secretary of The International Student Service. Earlier he was a much-respected House Master at Merchant Taylors School, a famous public school in England. By virtue of his educational background and proven ability as a teacher and as an educationist, he was well suited to be principal of the renowned Royal College, which had celebrated its centenary in 1935. However he had one disadvantage, he was only 32 years old.

Fate decreed that Bradby would be a wartime principal of Royal College. His arrival in Ceylon in mid-September 1939, in time for the commencement of the third term for schools in Ceylon, was delayed by World War II. His initial contract as Principal of Royal College was for five years, thus ending in September 1944. It appeared in 1944 that World War II would end in 1945. Therefore he accepted an extension of one year because he wanted to get back to England after World War II was over. Before he left Ceylon in 1945 he presented the Bradby Shield for the two Rugby football matches, which are played annually since 1943 between Royal College and Trinity College, one in Colombo and the other in Kandy. Incidentally, from 1921 to 1942 only one match was played annually.

From a few hundred spectators in 1945, the Bradby Shield now caters to crowds of several thousand spectators, with many disappointed being left out because of the lack of seats and even a lack of standing accommodation. Besides the high standards in Rugby football maintained by both schools, there is much revelry organized by past pupils of both schools. For years the OBA of Trinity College organized a splendid dance at the Queen’s Hotel in Kandy. Of late the old boys of Royal College have organized a dance to match it at the Citadel Hotel, Kandy. What makes Bradby one of Royal’s great Principals? This article will attempt to answer that question.

Before leaving London he read widely about Royal College. These included every magazine of Royal College and every annual report the Principal read on Prize Day. Besides he had many long and fruitful discussions with Major H.L. Reed MC, Principal from 1920-1932, another of Royal’s great Principals, and Principal L.H.W. Sampson, his predecessor who had served from 1932-1938. Now he not only had to implement his corporate plan to usher Royal College into the decade of the nineteen forties but also to place the School on a war footing.

When Bradby assumed duties in November 1939, he exhorted the boys of the Sixth Form at Royal College to join the Armed Forces and fight for King and Country. He gave vivid accounts of Royalists who had seen action in World War I. Some of them had won the Military Cross, others the Military Medal and many were killed in action.
As a scholar in the Classics, Bradby was puzzled that whereas Royal College down the ages had some of her best pupils studying the Classics, the Oriental Classics, namely Pali and Sanskrit, were not even in the curriculum.

He set right that defect with immediate effect and took a personal interest in the teaching of these new subjects. Indeed Pali and Sanskrit turned out to be very popular subjects at Royal College. Bradby was so pleased with the standard of English too, both spoken and written, at Royal College and repeatedly said that the standards in English were higher than those at Merchant Taylors School. By the same token he was puzzled that Sinhala and Tamil were woefully neglected. Therefore corrective action was taken without delay.

Bradby was a devout Christian and read the Bible frequently. However, professionally he had misgivings about one aspect of the traditions of Royal College, namely readings from the Bible at school functions. In his opinion Royal College was a secular institution as opposed to a Christian institution, therefore there should be readings from the Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic scriptures as well. Thus in one master stroke he honoured Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam by having readings from all four scriptures at the daily General Assembly.

Before his first year at Royal College was duly completed, he decided to utilize the funds collected to build a swimming pool to build a gymnasium. It was ceremonially opened in 1941 and gymnastics was introduced to the school curriculum with immediate effect. Bradby displayed the human side of him in the supervision of the Royal College Hostel at "Maligawa", across the street. Mrs. Bradby, who was expecting their first baby, was put in charge of all welfare measures. With food rationing due to World War II, Mr. Bradby was an unexpected visitor for a meal to check for himself that nourishment was adequate. Every day he was a visitor to the sick room, where he comforted the inmates. Periodically he invited a few hostellers to join Mrs. Bradby and him for high tea.

In December 1941, Mr. Bradby was given a few days notice to vacate the splendid premises on Reid Avenue, to make way for a Military Hospital. Ironically Royal College was made virtually homeless on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. Mr. Bradby and the boys of Royal College marched out through the Boake gates singing,

"Are we down hearted?
Oh no, NO".
Mr. Bradby obtained special permission to locate Royal College next door, for one term, at the Colombo University College. In that short period of time, Royal College was re-located at Turret House and three bungalows on Turret Road duly rented out for classrooms and even laboratories for Science practicals. The Colombo University College continued to make available their grounds for sports.

The makeshift arrangements were operational for four years. Mr. Bradby was indeed a practical man. He rarely spoke in parables but instead spoke of well-established truths in the context of Royal College. Thus he spoke not of Mens sana in corpore sano, as his distinguished predecessors had done, but instead quoted from the Royal College anthem: "We will learn of books and men, and learn to play the game."
Mr. Bradby encouraged sports even when Royal College was evicted from its traditional base. He gave the highest priority to team work as opposed to individual brilliance which he never commended in public. However, in private he greatly appreciated individual performance.

By the same token Mr. Bradby attached much importance to literary skills and hence the Editor of the Magazine was a key school appointment. Accordingly several Editors, B.St.E.De Bruin (1940), Neville Kanakaratne (1941), Lakshman Wickremesinghe (1994), L.C. Arulpragasam (1945) and Upali Amerasinghe (1945) would up their distinguished careers at Royal College as Head Prefect and were awarded the Dornhorst Memorial Prize. C.G. Weeramantry, the Editor in 1943 was such a good writer and a scholar that he won the Dornhorst Memorial Prize without being Head Prefect. Today, he is a world famous author on Law and was a Judge of the International Court of Justice, at the height of his career.

With the fall of Burma, Malaya and Singapore in early 1942, Ceylon could conceivably be the next victim. That became a stark reality on Easter Sunday 1942, when carrier-borne aircraft from Japan under the command of Admiral Chechi Nagumo of Pearl Harbour fame, bombed Colombo and Trincomalee causing havoc. Against this background Principal Brady opened a branch of Royal College in Bandarawela, as a wartime measure. At peak, twenty percent of the school operated from "Glendale" Bandarawela. With the threat of an invasion by Japan receding in 1943, Mr. Bradby continued expanding the school activities as he deemed fit.

The Royal College Farm at Narahenpita, which was opened in 1940 on a four-acre plot, was expanded in 1943 to twelve acres and provided the Hostel with all the fruits and vegetables that was needed, and The Boy Scout Troop was established on a permanent basis in 1944.

Mr. Bradby was a strict disciplinarian but a just man. As a matter of routine he put into operation the Royal College Motto "Disce Aut Discede (Learn or Depart). There were no exceptions, not even for those who had excelled in the Royal-Thomian Cricket match or in The Bradby Shield Rugby matches. He went a step further and applied a similar discipline on the teachers. He came into class, sat at the back, and listened to them teach. Those who were sub-standard had to teach or depart.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Principal Mr. Bradby made to Royal College was to ensure that the school’s hallowed traditions stood firm in dark days and in happier times. By virtue of these traditions, success is important but honour is even more important. Consequently being a successful man is important, but being a gentleman is even more important. May those hallowed traditions of Royal College never perish.

In 1983, Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Bradby visited Sri Lanka as the guest of The Royal College Union for the centenary of the Rugby Football match with Trinity College. They were treated right royally. In 1996 he passed away at the age of nearly ninety years. Royal College honoured him with a touching memorial service held at The Cathedral of The Church of Ceylon in Colombo. When the Bishop of Colombo, the Right-Reverend Kenneth Fernando of the Royal College Class of 1943, waxed eloquence in saying an appropriate final prayer, his pupils, then in their seventies, were moved to tears, while some even broke down and wept. May the turf lie gently over this great Principal of Royal College.

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