Noel: The bells are silent
Born in Sri Lanka Noel my long-time friend, guide and inspirer was
ordained a Priest of the Catholic Church on the Feast Day of St.
Joseph 19th March 1943 at St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena.
of his Sacerdotal Ordination carried a quote, "I am what I
am by the Grace of God - a Priest for ever". It lasted only
18 years when he was granted special dispensation to marry in the
Church the beautiful woman Marie Tirzah many years younger than
him, one who cared and inspired him and was always at his side in
all his endeavours. She was a tower of strength to him for 46 years.
An Old Boy of
St. Peter's College, Noel served on their tutorial staff and also
at St. Joseph's College, where he was called the Bing Crosby - Hollywood
It was then, that I first met him as a 15-year-old student of St.
Joseph's. I had from then onwards got involved in so many of his
projects through many years. It was then I met my kingdom my devoted
wife Imelda, back stage at Lionel Wendt Theatre as stage manager
of one of the many of Noel's productions "Thy Kingdom Come
" by the pupils of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya.
At St. Joseph's
he was the master-in-charge of the Film Society and the Music Art
& Drama Society when I was the President of both. He directed
a film "Little Bike Lost" a 16mm send up of De Sica's
"Bicycle Thieves" made by the students of St Joseph's
with girls from Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya.
The film which
was Co - Produced by Lalin Fernando and me, won wide acclaim. It
was shown to London audiences too and the "British Amateur
Cine World" carried an article under the caption "Crusader
with a Camera" In Colombo, The Premiere of "Little Bike
Lost " & Award presentation was attended by the then Prime
Minister S.W.R.D Bandaranaike his wife Sirimavo Bandaranaike and
their children Sunethra, Chandrika and Anura. Mrs.Bandaranaike gave
away the prizes.
Noel held a
BA from the University of London, MA from the University of NSW
and a Diploma of Education from Armidale NSW and Fordham University
USA. He was trained at the BBC London and broadcast on London's
Home Service Programs and from Radio Eireann, Hilversum, Cologne
and Berne. He was a newsreader for Vatican Radio and had broadcast
on the Voice of America.
In Sri Lanka
he was a Director of Radio Ceylon, Catholic Hour Programme, produced
Radio Features, Plays, Interviews and was Script Writer for the
Government Film Unit's weekly film news reels.
As a journalist,
Noel worked for the Sun Weekend Group of newspapers and the popular
column "Norexa" was his creation with his friend and editor
Rex de Silva.
He also wrote regularly for The Sunday Times, the Australian and
International Press. "The Cocos Islands Mutiny" was his
first book and it was serialized in The Sunday Times 10 years ago.
The story of
Noel's life and struggle was also told powerfully in his widely
read book "The bells of silence". I had the rare privilege
of proposing the toast at his 75th surprise birthday party organised
by his erstwhile friends Lalin & Carmen Fernando. I remember
well the speech of the man who gave Noel a flying start when he
migrated to Australia in 1974. He was Bro. Bernard Bulfin, Principal
of the Patrician Brother College who in spite of the Catholic Church
banning ex-priests from teaching in Catholic Schools gave him his
first teaching post at the College in Blacktown NSW. Bro. Bernard
referred to him as a "Wonderfully dedicated teacher for 17
years, a model and guide to staff and the thousands of Australian
Youth". Another speaker Allen Giles who sponsored Noel &
Tirzah to Australia said, "Their story is a success story of
what migrants have contributed to this Country".
When Noel attended
my installation as the 39th President of the Lions Club of Bankstown
- District 201 N5 Australia, he wrote to a Sydney newspaper, "For
me it was with pride that I saw my pupil Harry whom I taught at
St Joseph's College, receive this great distinction from one of
the world's largest service organizations".
A devout Catholic upto the time of his death, Noel will be truly
missed by the Sri Lankan community especially the Old Peterites
and Old Josephians in Sydney/Melbourne.
He leaves behind
his loving wife Tirzah, sisters Noeline & Yvonne, brothers Rienzie,
Maxwell and Jerome, the late Prof. Hilary and Vernon pre deceased
Harry de Sayrah J P