Plus - Appreciations

A medical marvel who had many other interests

Dr. Percy de Zilwa

Dr. Percy de Zilwa was born on February 4, 1917 and often reminded his friends that we could never forget his birthday because of Sri Lanka's independence day. He died a few weeks after his 94th birthday.

On April 30, 1970 he suffered his first myocardial infarct and in December the same year he had his second myocardial infarct. He was treated at Prince Henry's Hospital in Melbourne - a hospital that has long since ceased to exist although Percy kept going there for some 40 years since then. He was then treated with Warfarin, Atromid and as he said a "sensible diet".

Many years later he was tried on a "statin" to which he reacted violently and it was later discovered that he, his brother Jim and the rest of the family were all intolerant to "statins". He carried on in spite of high LDL and total cholesterol levels.

Percy had many different medical appointments in his life time. He worked in the orthopaedic clinic in Colombo, and in Melbourne he was for many years in the school health service. He maintained an interest in medicine even after his retirement and often alerted me to the possibility of a side effect of some medication - he picked up the latest edition of MIMS from me.

But Percy's medical background was just one facet of his long and varied interests in life. His knowledge of religions apart from Christianity was astounding - he could name so many sects and how they came to be formed.

Trinity College was his school above all other learning institutions. He will long be remembered for the exchange scheme he started with Wesley College in Melbourne. Many are the students who first visited Australia because of Percy's effort and some of them are now domiciled in Australia.

Percy was also closely associated with several clubs in Melbourne and the A.C.F. was his pride and joy for many a year. His one lament in later years was that there weren't younger generations who could keep these clubs going.

He was recently upset when he read that an award I had received in Sri Lanka had spelt my name incorrectly - he told me that a jeweller whom he knew could correct the spelling on a bronze plaque that I had received! That was Percy at his immaculate best.

Those of us who knew Percy as a friend and for many years as a patient - will always remember his happy smile and jovial disposition. There will always be only one Dr. Percy.

Quintus de Zylva

A dedicated teacher who left an indelible mark at Thurstan College

Arty Walter Pathiraja

Arty Walter Pathiraja belonged to a distinguished family from Suriyagama, Kadawata, his father being the late D.D. S Pathiraja and his mother Eugene de Saram. His passing away has created a void which will be difficult to fill. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune of knowing him.

He will be long remembered for his outstanding record as a teacher at Thurstan College, and his successful teaching career of over 30 long years. His wife Anula was also from a well known family in Ratnapura, and was an illustrious teacher herself. She gave him the unstinted support he needed in the work he was involved in.

They played a very happy supportive role in the upbringing of their children, who repaid them in full measure by reaching great heights in their respective professions. Mr Pathiraja’s contribution towards the progress of the school was not limited to the academic side, which he did with much integrity and commitment, but also extended to the field of sports, specially cricket.

He gave generously of his time and guidance to the students. It was during the tenure of my husband, the late P. S. Gunasekara as Principal of Thurstan College that I had the privilege of knowing Mr Pathiraja. I was attached to the Department of Education, Green Path as In-service Advisor for English in schools in the Colombo region. Mr. Pathiraja took great pains to improve the quality of English in the schools and stressed the need to converse in English fluently.

Unassuming, but asserting himself as and when the need arose, he will be remembered at Thurstan throughout the years with deep gratitude and affection for those of his calibre are rare today. After his retirement he was invited to assist in various functions in the school office, which I believe he was ready to perform.

He was popular among the staff and students and much respected. He was unassuming and bore no malice towards anyone. He had a keen sense of humour which evoked much fun and laughter in the company of friends.

I extend my deepest condolences to his dear wife, Anula, children and families.

“ Nama gottam nagirathi”

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Irene Gunasekara

Gentle yet iron-willed principal who gave us lot more than a sound education

Rev. Sister Rosina Nanayakkara

I write with great respect and pride for my beloved principal Sister Rosina Nanayakkara though I might have been one of the naughtiest pupils, during her time.

Sister Rosina passed away on January 11 this year . And on January 13 we had a day of reunion and nostalgia in the city of Galle with past pupils of Sacred Heart Convent from various parts of the country, principals, staff and students of other leading schools in the city, politicians, clergy and of course the past pupils of St. Aloysius College, our brother school gathering to pay their last respects.

Any words I can use to describe or remember Sister Rosina seem inadequate. Having been born to a Buddhist family and being a practising Buddhist myself, I respect other religions while retaining faith in my religion. It is an attitude I learnt from Sister Rosina. Even though a Catholic nun herself, Sister Rosina made sure we Buddhists attended our rituals and sermons whenever they were conducted in the school.

I remember she even went to the extent of making sure the children not only removed their shoes but their socks too during religious observances. I remember this vividly as I was pulled up once for not removing my socks at a sermon. But I obviously had to keep my toes "under cover" as they were painted in a colour that I was certain would not have impressed Sister Rosina had I removed my socks in her presence, not to mention my two sterling silver toe rings.

The strict disciplinary code maintained by her in the school not only forced us to do the right thing, but also left us with loads of memories to carry with us after we left our alma mater. Despite numerous punishments for not tying up my hair, I still "let my hair down", although at times it used to "get in someone's hair"!

The undisputed, assertive partnership she had with our most loved vice-principal Elizabeth Senanayake is still talked of, not forgetting them being nicknamed by the Aloysians as the "doubala" (meaning a pair). The two of them set a perfect example of lasting friendship.

Sister Rosina taught us how to be courageous in a crisis without losing one’s dignity. I remember but not much of that unpleasant day in 1988, during the youth unrest in the south when students of leading schools in Galle were asked to take to the streets. SHC remained the only school that didn't fall into the hands of the ‘rioters’.

Sister Rosina took care of our physical safety. While some students were manhandled and verbally abused, I was one of the relatively lucky ones who managed to hide under a table in the music room. Although the school was left with a smashed chapel, ruined garden and messed up classrooms, when I came out of hiding, I witnessed children getting picked up by the parents as if it was another ordinary day in the school calendar. This is how Sister Rosina put such chaos in order.

A member of the School Development Council for a number of years and having close association with the school, my father called her the “Iron Lady”. Although the physical resemblance was quite contrary to that, I believe what he meant was her courage.

Growing up in the beautiful city of Galle, with a pampered upbringing, and a lot of mischief in school, there are two things I carry from my wonderful childhood that no one or nothing can take a way - beautiful memories and a good education. Sister Rosina will always remain in my memory as "unique".

Wathsala de Silva

A true physician with a heart of gold

Dr. H. Z. G. Oswald Senanayake — A tribute on his 100th birth Anniversary

Hubert Zachias Gerard Oswald Senanayake was born the 11th to his proud parents Don Eusthakius Johannes Senanayake and Elizabeth Prera on May 2, 1911. He was the youngest brother of Gracelyn, Cyril, Beatrice, Lily, Winifred, Pearl and Ruby. Three more brothers had passed away at a very young age.

Having lost his father at a tender age, Oswald was ably cared for by his mother who passed away eventually. The boy commenced his education in his hometown at the Kandawala Primary School, then went on to St. Mary's Negombo for his secondary education and finally to St. Joseph's College, Colombo.

At St. Joseph’s he won many a prize, became a Greek scholar and took up teaching Greek. He was a keen Cadet and member of the Volunteer Force. He was no mean sportsman, playing soccer for college on the left flank. His prowess included a curling left which hit the back of the net, long before maestro Pele was born! He also played tennis and was a good swimmer.

Then came a different calling – to take to medicine and specialise in tuberculosis, for his father had died of TB in an era when there was no cure for this deadly disease.

Being selected to university to pursue a course in classics, as he was proficient in Sinhala, English, Greek, Latin, French, German and Russian, he decided to change course with the help of his good friend K. George N. Fernando who was a medico. To this unorthodox proposition, the then Rector of St. Joseph’s, Fr. Legoc the legend himself, called it a Herculean task. Oswald did change course and qualified as a medical doctor in 1931.

A specialist he became in TB in addition to being a Child Specialist, Chest Specialist and tireless Physician in government service, transferred from one corner of the country to another. In 1942, he married Maysie Regina Frances Goonetilleke who had to move house 150 miles all the way from Deniyaya to Kandawala. He shared his life with her for the next 48 years and we were the half dozen offspring -- Priyadarshini, Dharini, Sriani, Rohan, Susantha and Hasita.

His dedication to treating TB patients was amazing. He was in charge at the Anti-Tuberculosis Institute at Kehelwatte, Colombo 11 and before that the mainstay at the Welisara Chest Hospital. He was also the first Medical Officer of Health at the Kandana Chest Hospital.

After retiring from government service, he came back to the village he loved, Kandawala, and began practising from his ancestral home, Senanayake Walauwe in 1964, soon after opening his second surgery in the heart of Negombo.

His surgery not only provided free consultations but also free medicines both day and night to those who could not afford to pay. He was a true physician with a heart of gold in contrast to those engaging in thriving private practice these days.

Not too happy about disturbing his staff at midnight, he even trained one of his offspring to assist him in his dispensary after office hours! His hunger for new methods of treatment took him back to Britain where he studied psychiatry in Manchester and subsequently worked at Prestwich Hospital. On his return to Sri Lanka he also took up acupuncture. Invited by the Parish Council of the church in his area, he became an active member, serving as its Hony Secretary. His donations to the church were many.

He also contested the Village Council election, narrowly losing to the sitting member. Heading the co-op movement as its chairman, he introduced incentives including the ‘deep-litter system’ to the poultry farmers.

Banking at the doorstep he brought to the village, facilitating the opening of the first rural bank at Kandawala. Having lived in the ‘kuppi lampuwa era’ he pioneered efforts to blow out the bottle-lamp and introduce electricity to the whole of Kandawala.

A keen planter, Oswald not only developed his ancestral property at Kandawala but also bought prime coconut land at Bingiriya. He planted a wide variety of fruit trees in his home garden, the succulent yield of which we still enjoy. He also ventured into paddy cultivation to make at least our family self-sufficient in this staple.

He had business acumen too and I remember his stories on how he paid for his medical degree by making bricks in his garden and selling them. Later in life, he installed a brand new coconut fibre mill at Kandawala. Ever charitable, he donated school books to the children of the mill workers to encourage them towards education which he dearly cherished.

He also pioneered a fisheries project in Pitipana, Negombo with his bosom buddies H. Cyril Fonseka and Proctor Marshal Fernando. This doctor turned architect and builder also constructed three houses in Negombo with bricks manufactured in his own backyard.

Ever-willing to share his knowledge, he ventured into writing, believing that someone out there will benefit. His writings included ‘Manna for the Hungry’, ‘Let Your Golden Age Dawn at 70 Years’ (translated to Sinhala on numerous requests), ‘Conversations about Sri Lanka around the World’ and ‘Happier Marital Sex Life for The Able & Less Able’. He even re-printed and distributed his learned father's historic ‘First Book of Sinhala Grammar’.

After battling diabetes for decades when he bade goodbye on July 17, 1990, his last publication was being translated to his mother tongue.

The trademark of this man of many achievements was his laugh. He never showed anger to anybody.
Now his children look back affectionately on his love and care, we cherish his guidance and advice and we are justifiably proud of his awesome achievements. We believe he is out there with the Lord Almighty, watching over us every minute!

Susantha the fifth

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Plus Articles
Into the valley of death marched the 600
Letters to the Editor
‘Sai Baba will return’
The leak that turned into a flood
Mayday! Colombo, we may have a problem!
A magical surprise hidden in tropical wilderness
Walking through democracy
Abhaya the little jumbo was lucky but what about others?
Bawa memoirs are the big buzz with the Bevis set
Buddhism - Letting the world know
An encomium for a hero – the hospital worker
How green is my highway
Giving Lanka’s tea tales a local flavour
Tagore and the renaissance of India
Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Thera tells Royal couple meditation key to happiness
People and events


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 1996 - 2011 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved | Site best viewed in IE ver 8.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution