ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 49
Funday Times- Our Heritage funday times logo

First school to play rugger

It was 116 years ago this week that a leading school in Kandy, Kingswood College was established. The exact date is May 4, 1891. The well known Sri Lankan writer, poet and educationist Louis Edmund ( L. E.) Blaze (1861-1951) was the founder. The school, founded under the name of Boys' High School, Kandy had the unique distinction of being the first school in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) where the founder was also the first principal.

During its formative years, the school was housed in a small building in Pavilion Street, Kandy with eleven students on the roll. In 1895 it moved to a new home in Brownrigg Street where it remained until 1925 when it moved into more spacious premises in Solomons Gardens, Peradeniya - the present location. The school was named Kingswood taking the name of a school by the same name in Bath, England.

Kingswood's founder always emphasized that character training should be the first duty of any school.

Kingswood created local history by scoring several 'firsts.' It was the first school in the country to play rugger. It was the first boys' school to employ a woman teacher. It was also the first school that utilized students to control road traffic.

Sir John Randles, a British philanthropist who donated lavishly towards the construction of the new buildings at Peradeniya, came to Sri Lanka to open the buildings personally. That was on February 3, 1925.

Worthy traditions built up over the years have been admirably nurtured by several generations of parents, teachers and students.


First labour leader

By a marvellous coincidence the pioneer labour leader in Sri Lanka was born on Labour Day, May 1. He is A. E. Goonesinghe who was born on May 1, 1891 in Kandy.

Generally regarded as the father of the trade union movement in Sri Lanka, he was the founder of the Young Lanka League and was instrumental in organizing a public meeting in 1915 to record its protest on the completion of 100 years of British rule.
In 1918 as the League's secretary, he conducted a resistance movement against the levy of the poll tax. Those who refused to pay this tax were forced to break metal for road construction. It was while breaking metal that he saw for himself the bitter lot of the workers, as a result of which he initiated the formation of the Ceylon Labour Union in 1922. The poll tax was abolished the same year.

As President of the Union (1923) he championed the cause of the workers for the next 30 years. He led the railway strike in 1923 followed by one in the Colombo port in 1927. The same year May Day was celebrated in the country for the first time.

He entered politics as a member of the Colombo Municipal Council becoming Mayor in 1940. He campaigned for universal adult franchise. From local politics, Goonesinghe entered the State Council in 1931 as member for Colombo Central. Having joined the D. S. Senanayake government in 1947, he was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, after which he was made Minister without Portfolio and Chief Government Whip.

In 1949 he became Minister of State. He was later Ambassador in Indonesia and Burma.

He took a keen interest in temperance work and in Buddhist activities. He died on August 1, 1967.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.