ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 01
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Two renowned Sri Lankans

Two eminent Sri Lankans in the field of arts were born in the first week of June. The date happened to be June 3.

Fr. Marcelline Jayakody

The Roman Catholic priest who was an acclaimed lyricist and poet, Fr. Marcelline Jayakody (O.M.I) was born on June 3, 1902. Son of an ayurvedic doctor from Sandalankawa, his mother was born a Buddhist. Having studied at the Roman Catholic Boys School, Madampe and later at St. Joseph's College, Colombo and St. Aloysius Seminary, Borella, he was ordained a Catholic priest on December 2, 1927.

As parish priest at Duwa, Negombo he took the bold step of changing the script of the original Duwa passion play and introduced live actors in place of puppets, used till then. He played a key role in giving a local flavour to church music composing many hymns and carols moving away from dubbed Latin hymns and western melodies.

He was assigned the task of training the choir to sing 'Namo Namo Matha,' at the independence celebrations in 1948 and its impact is said to have contributed to the song being accepted as the National Anthem. The lyrics he wrote for the songs, 'Olu Nelum Neriya,' and 'Vesak Kekulu,' in Lester James Peries' film, 'Rekawa' set to the music of Sunil Shantha are appreciated to this day. Sunil Shantha sang the English song, 'My Dreams are Roses' which Fr. Jayakody wrote for the film, 'Romeo saha Juliet Kathawak' (1969), directed by G. D. L. Perera.

His interest in music took him to Ravindranath Tagore's internationally acclaimed Indian school of music, 'Shantiniketan.'

He has scored several 'firsts.' When he won the State Literary Award for his book of poems, 'Muthu,' in 1979, he was the first Catholic priest to have won such an award. He was also the first Catholic priest to win the Roman Magsaysay Award (1983).

He was editor of the Catholic newspaper 'Gnanartha Pradeepaya,' and was actively involved with the Sinhala Poets Association of which he was president for several decades.

He died on January 15, 1998 at the age of 96. A commemorative stamp was issued to mark his 103rd birth anniversary.


Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra

Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra, the eminent university don, dramatist, novelist and critic was born on June 3, 1914 and studied at Richmond College, Galle and S. Thomas’ College,. Lavinia before gaining admission to University College, Colombo in 1936. After graduation, he taught at S. Thomas' College. He obtained a Master's Degree in Indian Philosophy and a PhD in Western Philosophy from London University. As a member of the academic staff of the University of Ceylon, he was Professor of Sinhalese for many years.

His interest in drama made him study the subject in depth in India, USA and Japan. It was a mission fulfilled when he produced 'Maname' (1956), the highly acclaimed drama based on traditional nadagam style. It was followed by several others including 'Sinhabahu' (1961), generally regarded as his most successful drama. In 'Folk Drama in Ceylon,' he presented an authoritative account and analysis of various forms of Sinhala folk theatre.

His impressive record as a writer includes five novels, three collections of short stories, five critical essays, two classical works and three translations (with A. P. Gunaratne). The tally of dramas written by him is 22. In addition, three radio plays have also been published. He has written several books in English as well.

'Ping athi sarasavi varamak dunne,' describes the life and times of Professor Sarachchandra.
Following his retirement from the University, he served as Sri Lanka's Ambassador in France (1974-77). His service in the fields of art and literature and his academic achievements were recognized with the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) by almost every university in the country. He was also the winner of the Roman Magsaysay Award (1988) and the 'Kumarana Asahan' award from the State of Kerala.

UNESCO paid tribute to him with the publication of a felicitation volume in 1988.
At the time of his death on August 16, 1996, he was Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya where he spent most of his academic life and was inspired to produce most of his notable dramas. He was among four Distinguished Personalities recognized with the issue of stamps on November 11, 1998.

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