The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



He was part of the golden era of St. Anthony’s College Kalutara | George Denlow

We learnt with sadness of the death of an outstanding personality George Denlow who passed away recently in Australia where he migrated in the late 1950s. Mr. Denlow was associated with St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota for 35 years as a student and later as a teacher.

His reputation as a teacher of geography has outlived him and many still speak with awe at the brilliance of the man who having taught the subject with great acclaim, on deciding to migrate, painstakingly put together his vast knowledge in three tomes which were translated by Lake House into Sinhala for the benefit of Sri Lankan students who were suddenly confronted with the switch to Swabasha and a vacuum as far as Sinhala texts were concerned. He was the authority in teaching geography in his time.

This writer was a student of St. Anthony’s during the last few years of Mr. Denlow’s career as a teacher there. The students always looked up to their teacher as a role model, a gentleman worth emulating in every detail. He was always precise in his speech, amiable and helpful to any student who sought his assistance.

At the age of 92, George Denlow wrote his memoirs which bore the title ‘The Two of Us- Memoir of a Good Life’. (The two of us refers to his wife Eileen and himself. His wife predeceased him in June 2008 and it is clear that the loss was a great blow to him). Reading his autobiography, one finds that at the age of 92 his ability to express himself with razor sharp clarity which would be envied by academics several decades younger.
St. Anthony’s during Denlow’s years was the envy of the country. He maintained a Geography Room which was in the nature of a permanent exhibition with scale models created by him and his students. One which I recall vividly showed the Gal-Oya Scheme. The College had its own Geographical Society of which he was the founder President and many students attracted to the subject learnt about the country thanks to his zeal, infectious enthusiasm and profound dedication.

In celebrating 25 years of the school moving to Katugastota, in his tribute to various stalwarts Fr. Macky referred to George Denlow as one of those students who had been in P.B.A. Weerakoon’s class which created a record for the Cambridge matriculation exam in the British Empire as it was then called. The whole class had either first classes or second classes and Denlow was one of those who secured a first; he was also one of the youngest to sit the exam. He later graduated from the University of London and secured also a graduate trained teacher diploma.

One of his greatest achievements as far as St. Anthony’s was concerned was his historical review of the school in the Centenary Magazine which he edited. He relates the difficulties he encountered in editing this monumental publication. Apparently after it was compiled and handed over to H.W. Cave and Co, the printing establishment burnt down and it had been necessary to re type the text and find new pictures. The tenacity and perseverance of the man is reflected in his account of the travail in completing a Herculean task and then finding the whole task had to be repeated. This was an era when one had to laboriously retype each word.

We all know that the man who loved this country left our shores with great sadness as he could not teach the higher classes in Sinhala. He didn’t give up easily and it is said that he took lessons from a monk . This did not help too as his language was too flowery and inappropriate for students. Denlow was always a perfectionist and it would have made him sad not to be able to give of his best to the students and so he migrated to Australia.

The Denlows left in 1959 and it was a great loss to St. Anthony’s and the whole country but he continued to have links with the school and with old Antonians. Among the tributes paid to him I found one by writer Jean Arasanayagam which said : George Denlow was one of the most exceptional and brilliant teachers in the golden era of St. Anthony’s College.

May his soul rest in peace and may he be remembered forever by the country for his inestimable services.

Franklyn Amerasinghe

Who can forget a colleague such as him | Cecil Ashoka Kotinkaduwa

S.A. Hemasinghe, the Founder President of the Association of Ex-Immigration Officers of Sri Lanka conveyed the sad news of the sudden and unexpected demise of Cecil Ashoka Kotinkaduwa, retired Chief Immigration Officer, an active member of the association.
He was born on January 9, 1939 and passed away on June 17 this year. Kotin as he was fondly called hailed from a respectable family from Matale, his father being a physician and his mother a housewife who bore ten children, Kotin being the second.

He was an accomplished ambidextrous sportsman, hockey being his forte. He represented Sri Lanka in world tournaments in India, Pakistan and Indonesia. In 1968 he won the All Ceylon Public Service Hockey Championship. He was also a cadet and served in the Army Volunteer Force as well. He served the Lions Club of Gampaha Metro as President, Secretary and Treasurer from 1992 till his demise. He also served in the Scouts Movement from 1994 as District Commissioner and Badge Secretary.

Kotin had a great sense of humour and brimmed with intellect. He was above all a principled humanist who never acted in an overbearing manner. As I pen this humble appreciation poignant memories of the dynamic, gentle and soft spoken erstwhile colleague illuminate my mind. Not many are remembered with such fondness and affection as he is.

My association with Kotin goes back to our salad days when both of us were dashing young immigration officers clad in milky white uniform adorned with black shoulder epaulettes and silver bars across indicating seniority depending on the duration of service. As Chief Immigration Officer it was the symbol of the crown which bestowed unbridled authority. It is said that “Uneasy lies the Head that wears the Crown”. Fortunately in our case it was on our shoulders. Alas! Since of late the authoritative uniform with the crown is replaced with civilian attire with a neck-tie akin to an ubiquitous sales representative. What an ignominious fiasco!.
A few decades ago I moved to Kiribathgoda while Kotin continued to live in Gampaha. Naturally we became close friends as both spouses belonged to the same honourable vocation of imparting knowledge.

He was innocent as a child and unassuming to a fault. He also constantly cheered us with light banter. He was extremely warm to everyone he worked with be it among equals or subordinates. The most endearing quality of Kotin was his instant ability to make friends with his sparkling smile. He was a hot favourite among colleagues. His humour, wit and incisive analysis of a situation and the habitual twinkle in his eye made us listen enthralled to his amusing anecdotes as we spent many leisure hours at the seaport of Talaimannar during the placid days of yore when the Ramanujam sailed in and out with passengers on board. We were detailed on a month’s roster.

Usually up early morning Kotin the agile and vibrant athlete and Nanda the fragile and passive follower would have performed one hour’s bare footed perambulation on the sea beach of Talaimannar soaking in the early morning dew. Life then was indeed thrilling.

Immediately after disembarking from an aircraft or a sailing vessel, the very first government official cum representative that a visitor to the island confronts is the immigration officer. Naturally the very first impression goes a long way. Unlike in a strict eight hour purely sedentary job duties of immigration officers are variegated, demanding and involves extra hours at the Katunayake International Airport. Duties also involve field work leading to arrests and final removal of visa overstays and illicit immigrants. The hallmark of an immigration officer is the intuitive perception of what fits in a particular instance especially in dealing with foreigners. Kotin possessed it in abundance. With his remarkable felicity of diction in the Queen’s language he added lustre to the profession and performed his role flawlessly both as immigration officer and later on after his promotion as Chief Immigration Officer on June 1, 1991. Surely, he was one of those ably skilled in putting Sri Lanka on the map.
My wife and I enjoyed the company of the Kotinkaduwa family to the fullest whenever we visited them in their pleasant abode at Gampaha.
It is no exaggeration to describe him as a devoted husband to his loving wife Neeliya and daughters Jeevani and Upeka. Kotin certainly enjoyed the blissful togetherness of a happy family life.

Sweet Prince, I miss you and mourn for you. Your fragrant memories will linger and you will remain ever fresh in my memory until I breathe my last. I bid you adieu now with the cherished hope that we will meet some day some where in the long trek of Samsara until both of us attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Nanda Nanayakkara

To me you’ll always be alive | Colonel Fazly Laphir






My dearest darling Fazly,
It was just the other day
Another 16th July
We got married on a
You came home on a 16th July
That was 16 years ago.
Some ask me to get on with life
Saying that you are dead
Not knowing the fact
That you are still alive
Among those who
Live like dead


(Colonel Fazly Laphir Commanding Officer, 1st Regiment Special Forces died in action on July 19, 1996 in Mullaitivu)

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