A pioneering physiotherapist Theera Fernando The life of Theera Fernando, nee Arumugam, was concurrent with the establishment of a new profession in Sri Lanka -the birth and pioneering of the physiotherapy profession, its establishment and its growth. And stretching across this entire span, she was amongst the first when it came to any and all [...]




A pioneering physiotherapist

Theera Fernando

The life of Theera Fernando, nee Arumugam, was concurrent with the establishment of a new profession in Sri Lanka -the birth and pioneering of the physiotherapy profession, its establishment and its growth. And stretching across this entire span, she was amongst the first when it came to any and all these stages.  Among the first to be selected to be sent abroad for study in 1952, she was immensely popular as a student at St Thomas’ Hospital in south-east London where she completed a three-year course of study. She then completed the examinations which gave her membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy of the UK.

Membership of the CSP gave her the authority to work as a physiotherapist anywhere in the world. But she returned to Sri Lanka to be placed by the Ministry of Health at the main Physiotherapy Department at the then General Hospital in Colombo. She worked here with the eminent physiatrist Dr Frank Perera.

And herein lies a romantic tale to be told. While she was working here came a patient for treatment for a painful neck. His name was Chandra Fernando. Since he was a dentist who worked particular hours, he could only come in for physiotherapy treatment as the last patient for the day. His treatment would go past the department’s closing time. It was Theera who characteristically volunteered to go beyond her working hours. And so three times a week Chandra would come in for physiotherapy to be given by Theera. Her friends and departmental colleagues Camilla and Radhi never left the pair alone – how could they in those times?  When treatment was over, Chandra would drop the three friends off at a convenient spot from which they could get home. What began as a therapist-patient professional relationship soon blossomed into friendship, soon thereafter romance and the two were married. A marriage filled with happiness that lasted 62 years.

Another first was when she was selected to be sent to the UK to study to be a teacher of physiotherapy. It was to St Thomas’ Hospital and to her many friends there that she returned for another two years. But this time she had to leave behind a husband and an infant daughter Sudheera. She returned to take over the School of Physiotherapy which had, in her absence, been set up at the General Hospital with the support of the WHO and a physiotherapist from the UK.

The early years were difficult but soon the school was producing therapists recognized by the developed countries. Many who had passed through Theera’s tutelage had opportunities to get employment abroad. And today you will meet Sri Lankan physiotherapists in most countries that you visit. Other firsts in her career was that she was the first Sri Lankan Tutor Physiotherapist having been appointed in October 1965 and the first Superintendent Physiotherapist in 1981.

Theera retired from the Department of Health in 1987 at the age of 55 years. But she did not really leave her beloved profession or her school and the teaching she so enjoyed. She continued to come in on a voluntary basis for the next 18 years as long as the school and students needed her and until there were others to take her place as teachers. With her retirement she also began to work voluntarily in other areas that she had always wanted to. One was at the Family Rehabilitation Centre, giving therapy and psychosocial support to victims of torture and trauma, helping them rebuild their lives. These were times when Sri Lanka’s civil conflict was raging and the Centre could hardly cope with demands made on it.

A second area of work was back in her profession – she continued to give physiotherapy to any and all who sought her help, sometimes travelling long distances all by public transport. All given voluntarily in her own time and at her own cost. And these contributions to society she continued until age and ill health no longer made it possible.

In all these she had the unstinting support – and participation when necessary – of her husband Chandra, daughter Sudheera, son-in-law Prasad Jinasena and grandchildren Ishan and Savindi. And then when she was frail and could no longer do things for herself, Sudheera who was now living in Canada returned home to be by her mother’s side. This was remarkable, that a daughter continued so efficiently to look after a husband and two children in Canada and at the same time could be in Sri Lanka, doing whatever was needed to be done for her ageing parents with unstinting love to all.

Then when at last it was time for Theera to leave this earth, her beloved Chandra went with her. Eleven hours after Theera passed on Chandra breathed his last. As they were united in life so they were together when life was no more. They had a joint funeral, never to be parted.

September 8 is celebrated the world over as World Physiotherapy Day. We, Theera’s friends, colleagues and former students remember Dr. and Mrs. E.A.C.T. Fernando, Chandra and Theera, on this day and always with much love and appreciation.

Padmani Mendis

Dedicated to serving his beloved country and school

Warren Ranjithan Breckenridge

Ten years have slipped by since my father passed on and yet, it feels like yesterday.

I miss my father now as much as I did on the day he left us, but draw comfort from knowing that he will always be a part of me. Dad was a gentle, kind and loving father.  He was unselfish, forgiving and caring. I often picture him in a pale blue long sleeved shirt, seated with a newspaper or open book on the desk, fountain pen and notebook beside him, and his long legs stretched out beneath the table.

This morning as I walked to the library, a soft breeze and swaying maple trees reminded me of our numerous walks together in the beautiful, sprawling Peradeniya campus. Each time I see a movie with Humphrey Bogart, or I hear the haunting voice of Billy Holiday or Frank Sinatra, I think of him and his passion for movies and jazz, and with it the realization of my appreciation for the same.

My father has left us with many beautiful memories of his visits to my home in Toronto. I cherish those times when my mother and father visited.   Living in two ends of the world, we only had a few precious days to spend together over the years in Kandy and Toronto.

Dad had an extensive knowledge of the Sciences, Arts and Music and yet he was unassuming and never made a person feel lesser in any way. My father never discriminated by religion, race or social status, always showing respect and seeking the best in a person. He firmly believed in giving back to his beloved country.After dad received his Ph.D at the University of McGill in Montreal, he returned and served as Professor of Zoology at the University of Peradeniya.

In Dad’s final years, he was the Principal of Trinity College, Kandy, the school in which he grew up, where his father and uncles taught, and the alma mater of his brothers and cousins. Imbued with the morals and values of Trinity College, and grateful for the lifeblood that nurtured and nourished him, dad’s desire was to do his best to serve the school.Dad loved his school. He served Trinity College with dignity and a vision for moulding students into men of honour, character and distinction. Dad’s legacy will live on.  When friends and family, students and peers reminisce about his kindness and generosity, I am always struck by the vast extent of people, from all walks of life he touched in his lifetime.In reading his memoir of growing up in Kandy, I warmed to an unfamiliar glimpse of his childhood.I am immensely blessed and filled with gratitude and pride to have such a wonderful father.

I extend warm thanks to my friend Shevanthi for unfailingly visiting the cemetery on dad’s death anniversary every year, and to Angela for her thoughtful visits on his birthday.

My father loved and protected me and my sister as only a parent can, and I can ask for no greater gift.I believe in my heart, we will always remain daddy’s little girls.We love you and miss you.

Nadine Breckenridge Rodrigo

A great father, loving husband and excellent lawyer


My beloved father Alfred Silva, Attorney-at-Law for more than half a century silenced his great voice to go back to his Creator. The “great voice” was for his unique achievement of a rare title Wageeshwara, which is an honour bestowed on people who are par excellence with speech, which he used all through his life from school to courtroom.

After schooling in St. Mary’s College Negombo, he entered Law College Colombo to qualify as a proctor (Attorney-at-Law) in 1962. Since then he practised at the Magistrate’s courts in Negombo until his passing.

During his career he also mentored many junior attorneys and they still hold him in high regard as a great teacher with a kind heart to guide others to be successful in the legal profession. The respect and regard he earned from his peers and honourable judges during his long legal career led to his appointment as an Acting Magistrate in Negombo.

For me he was my silent hero apart from being a great father. Education was paramount for his four children (sons) who all excelled in their professions, two in the legal field, one in engineering and myself in medicine. Our achievements were his dream come true and humble pride.

Amidst his busy schedule he never forgot to fulfil his commitments to the needy and less fortunate in society not only by offering free legal advice but also in other ways. Being a devout Catholic, his service to the church was immense as he was the national president-elect of an international Catholic charitable organization -St.Vincent De Paul Society. He represented Sri Lanka in various forums internationally and locally to bring high repute to his motherland on charitable projects conducted by the same organization.

Reading biographies, writings, speeches and quotations of great people was his passion. His library was filled with rare books about Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mother Theresa and other personalities of different ideologies which greatly enriched his knowledge and wisdom. He was never reluctant to share those visions with others.

During his final days, I affectionately requested him to share with me his reflections about his journey spent of almost 90 years of life as a devoted father, excellent husband and  successful lawyer . He said, “My dearest son, I ran the race to the end, let the good Lord decide the rest.”

Still this statement echoes in my mind – perhaps it will for the rest of my life – how he concisely expressed it in short and sweet manner. That’s the talent of a Wageeshwara title achiever.

My dearest Dad, may you have eternal rest in the hands of our Lord until we meet one day.

Dr.Tilak Silva

A tower of strength to the family

Mahindasiri Galappattige

Engineer Mahindasiri Galappattige, my dearest son-in-law left us forever a month ago on August 6, 2019, in Canada after ailing for some time.
He served in Ceylon Petroleum Corporation as an Engineer attached to Sapugaskanda oil refinery for around 10 years and left to Doha- Qatar to work for 15 years.

Mahinda received his primary and secondary education at Mahinda College in Galle and later higher education in Hardy Advanced Technological Institute- Ampara.

He was a loving and devoted husband to his wife Nelum, my daughter, and a proud father to his two sons Aravinda who lives in Canada and Dimithra who recently returned to Sri Lanka from UK.

Despite his busy work schedule including night shifts, he fulfilled his responsibilities to the family and managed domestic affairs commendably supporting his wife Nelum and bringing up their two sons to climb the ladder of life.

The two sons were the light of his life and he committed his whole life for their success and helped them immensely in their studies and their achievements in their chosen field of Information Technology.

My son- in-law had great affection for his brother and five sisters and extended his helping hand to them when in need ever since his parents passed away some time ago.

He took care of me like his mother and was very helpful, kind and good to me always during his life time.

H e left for Canada with his wife Nelum for treatment of an ailment which he was suffering from for some time. He was admitted to Brockton City Hospital Canada and breathed his last in a few days.

As I go down memory lane I cannot forget his kind-hearted qualities. May his soul rest in peace.

Nita Silva

He would go out of his way to help others

Eddie Karunarathna

Eddie Karunarathna was born in Kamburupitiya in the South 86 years ago and had his early education at the village school. A fine student, fluent in both English and Sinhala he wanted to be a teacher even before he graduated from University.

Later he left the teaching profession and took up the post of Administrative Officer in a semi-government firm in Colombo. He had married a teacher in Galle and they built a house in Kadawatha- Eldeniya and soon settled in.

He was a friend to all in the neighbourhood and often the centre of the crowd. The spearhead of many voluntary organisations, he became the head of St. John Ambulance Force of Kirillawela Maha Vidyalaya. He was ever ready to help people and would even take patients to hospital in his own vehicle if the need arose.

He was in the habit of reading every evening and this continued through his life. A devout Buddhist, he shunned alcohol but his fondness for tobacco though may have contributed to shortening his life.

He left us on June 4 – his four children in great sorrow.

I pray for your Nibbana Dad.

Dinith Chintaka Karunaratne

 The gentle philanthropist

Carlo Fonseka

During his tenure at the Medical College, my great hero offered me a rare opportunity to help a lot of patients who were suffering with physical ailments and in mental agony.

No fees were charged. But, he emptied his wallet to support some of them generously. He was a gentle philanthropist.

The “black-July” did not permit us to continue our social service. He was away from Sri Lanka some time.

Those who were fortunate enough to receive his advice will remember him always.

For me, it is a lifetime lesson.

Adios, my dear Sir. We will meet one day to recall our fond memories.

Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena



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