Plus - Appreciation

Rugby stalwart doctor was a man for all seasons

Hubert Aloysius

It is hard to imagine that it is 21 years since Hubert Aloysius passed away. I can still hear him on a coach heading somewhere, perhaps Radella, singing heartily and cracking a joke from his endless store of rugby humour. He was such an ebullient, entertaining and amusing character that even after all these years he is still remembered vividly by his close friends.

Hubert was born on January 8, 1933 and educated at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, where he came under the influence of the great educationist, Rev. Father Peter Pillai. Apart from his studies, he was a very good athlete and basketball player, both at school and later in the university. Indeed, I first came into contact with Hubert when we played rugby and basketball together on the playing fields of Reid Avenue and later at Havelock Park.

Although he took up rugby only after leaving school, his athletic prowess helped him become an excellent player. Representing Havelock Sports Club as a line-out forward, he bravely took on the big European players of those days and fought it out with them. In 1961 he was chosen to captain the team. Most of his team members were very young, some just out of school, but charismatic Hubert knew how to motivate them.

Ultimately, he produced a match-winning outfit that brought the Clifford Cup to the Park after a lapse of 10 long years. A photograph showing Hubert being chaired off the field by his ecstatic teammates used to hang in the clubhouse, but now there is only a photograph of Hubert looking down fondly on the friends he has left behind.

After passing out as a doctor, Hubert worked in the Kurunegala and Karawanella hospitals. One of his favourite anecdotes from his Kurunegala days concerned his friend the undertaker, whose funeral parlour was next to the doctors’ quarters. The undertaker would salute Hubert on his way to and from the hospital. “I was a famous man,” he would laughingly say. Well, one night this man was taken ill and admitted to the hospital. But when he saw Hubert striding through the ward the next morning, he forgot all about his illness, leapt over the hospital wall and ran home. One presumes the undertaker feared he would end up as one of his own customers if left to the tender mercies of the famous Dr. Aloysius!

Later Hubert joined the private sector and worked with his brother, Dr. Dennis Aloysius, in Dehiwela. In practice with Dennis, Hubert worked three days a week, which gave him enough time for other activities, including cookery (turning out tasty bites for our get-togethers); journalism (contributing weekly medical articles to a national newspaper), and, of course, playing rugby and singing. Hubert had an excellent voice. If he had received proper voice training, I am sure he could have become an opera singer.

After our serious playing days were over, we formed a team called the Pink Elephants, made up of former club players, such as Peter Amerasinghe, Graham Hamer, Y. C. Chang, Eric Alwis, Jayantha Jayawardena, Didacus de Almeida, Tony Amit, the Paternott brothers, and so on. We had fun with Hubert leading the way.

On a trip to Uva, our coach skidded and ended up with the front hanging in mid-air over the edge of a precipice. All except Hubert managed to get out of the coach. He was right at the back, and every time he moved forward the bus would tilt forward dangerously. We all had to grip on to the rear buffer so Hubert could slide slowly towards the entrance and escape.

On another occasion, Hubert gave us such a riotous time on the journey that we arrived too late for the match. However, we attended the post-match social arranged by our hosts, and played the match the next morning.

After hanging up his rugby boots, Hubert would officiate as medical officer for inter-club rugby matches. Invariably, when an injured player saw Hubert running over to examine him with his high knee action, he would forget his injury and get up before Hubert reached him, preferring to trust the injury to God rather than Hubert.

On or off the rugby field, Hubert was a jovial person. He was the life and soul of any party, carousing and cracking jokes far into the night. We would go on trips together – Babu Jacob, Eustace Fonseka, Y. C. Chang, Quintin Israel and others – most of them now gone with Hubert.

When a marriage proposal came for Hubert from Willie Aiyadurai, I was nominated to take Hubert to meet Carol. When I went to pick him up, he was missing. I had to hunt him down at the Havelock’s, take him home, get him dressed and then accompany him to the Aiyadurai’s.

Hubert was so shy he wouldn’t even sit down. He stood and talked, hoping it would be a two-minute affair. But when he was introduced to Carol, the two wouldn’t stop talking. They chatted on for at least an hour, and the rest, as they say, is history. Meanwhile, I did full justice to the bouchées, cutlets and sandwiches laid out for the occasion.

Hubert and Carol had two sons. Hiranjan, their first born, is settled with his family in Australia, where he practises as an accountant on the Gold Coast. Jehan, the younger son, decided to pursue a career in drama, and has successfully produced and directed a number of plays. He has clearly inherited Hubert’s talents, mannerisms and voice, as well as his penchant for jokes. Whenever I watch Jehan on stage, I am reminded so much of Hubert.

Unfortunately, in his latter years, Hubert neglected his health and did not heed his friends’ advice and curb his excesses. His standard excuse was that it was too late to do anything about it. In the famous words of his favourite song, which he would sing lustily, he would say, “I did it My Way.”

Dr. Harry Rasiah

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