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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.