Plus - Appreciation

Papa and his eight brothers did St Benedict’s proud

Joseph Bernard Nicholas Fernandopulle

May 20, 2010 would have been Papa’s 100th birth anniversary, had he been alive. Joseph Bernard Nicholas Fernandopulle, better known as Bernard, was the son of Christopher and Roslyn Fernandopulle, and the eldest in a family of nine boys.

Papa and his brothers grew up in the Fernandopulle ancestral home, in New Chetty Street, Kotahena, opposite the famous Mother of Seven Sorrows Mater Dolorosa Church, parish church of the Colombo Chetty community.

Papa had a total and absolute love for the game of cricket, and excelled in the art of wicket keeping, a skill he was happy to impart to anyone who sought it. Papa studied at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, which was within walking distance of his parents’ home.

Even in Papa’s time, cricket was the most popular sport, with boys dreaming of playing for their school. Cricket came naturally and instinctively to Papa. At 15 years, he was a wicket keeper par excellence, and a member the First Eleven in 1926. He continued to play for the school till the end of the 1928 cricket season. He was also a regular opening batsman. He was a well-established member of the team before he turned 16. His performance paved the way for his eight younger brothers to succeed him.

From 1926 right up to 1946, there was a Fernandopulle wicket keeper doing duty behind the stumps for St. Benedict’s. Nowhere in cricketing history have nine brothers stood behind the stumps successively as wicket keepers for their Alma Mater.

On completing his Senior Cambridge (with flying colours), Papa joined the mercantile sector. He received a glowing recommendation from the St. Benedict’s Brother Director, Bernard. Papa, who was 18 at the time, went on to serve in the State Bank of India.

Papa married Grace Rodrigo Candappa, who also came from a stalwart Colombo Chetty family. Sons Nihal, Neville, Mahen, SriRajan and Prakash inherited their father’s sporting spirit. Nihal, Mahen and SriRajan played for the St. Benedict’s First Eleven, from 1959 to 1964. SriRajan and Prakash, the youngest, were good athletes and represented the school in the Rugby First XV teams. Prakash went on to play rugby for the CR&FC, from 1968 to 1971.

After passing a competitive public exam, Papa joined the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) and worked at the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). Much of his 42 years’ service with the CMC was spent with the Water Works Department, where he made many friends. He was prompt in getting pipe-borne water connections to homes. In those days, pipe-borne water was a luxury.

The water, water connections, and services of the CMC officers overseeing this utility were all free of charge.

Cricket continued to figure in Papa’s life for a long time after he left school. He played for the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club (C&AC) for many years. The C&AC teams included such stalwarts as Dr. G. Wignaraja (Captain); L. A. Perumal; R. Kumaranayagam; S. S. Perimpanayagam; S. Saravanamuthu; L. Rajanayagam; S. Somasunderam; K. C. Visvanathan; N. Sinnathamby; John Pulle; P. Alexander; Joe Saverimuthu; R. Sabanayagam; S. Gunasekeram, and K. Balakrishnan.

This same side toured India in the 1932/32 cricket season. Air travel was not even thought of in those days. The teams used the Thalaimannar ferry and did most of their travelling by train. They won several matches against reputed club and state teams in South India.

When the CMC Commissioner, B. A Jayasinghe, formed the Nomads Cricket team, which took part in the premier P. Sara Trophy Cricket tournament, much of the team’s management and administrative work was assigned to Papa. He was also the team’s official scorer and statistician for many seasons, even after he had retired from the Municipality. Besides being a promoter of the game, he was a good talent-spotter.

Papa led the way for his eight brothers – Cyril, Telus (TB), Fausta, Quinton (PJ), Anston, Reginald, Camillus and Peter Iraneus. Peter, the youngest, captained the St. Benedict’s cricket teams in 1945 and ’46. The Fernandopulle brothers played for their respective employers at mercantile tournaments, often facing each other from opposing sides in a spirit of healthy competition.

During his 28 years in retirement, Papa stayed close to his family and friends, whiling away the hours playing contract bridge or keeping company with his jolly pensioner friends in and around Kotahena.
Papa would sing old favourites from the ’30s to the ’50s. He also had a wide repertoire of naughty ditties, such as Nellie Blye, Po Nalaki Wa, the Ballad of Adolphus John and John Adolphus, and others too many to mention. He was a livewire at parties and get-togethers.

Papa bade us farewell, peacefully and in a happy frame of mind, at dusk on December 30, 1998. He was four score and eight and a bit. His was certainly a content and well-lived life.

He is remembered with the greatest love by his sons, grandsons and great-grandchildren and relatives.

We will cherish our memories of Papa.

He has earned his due reward.

With love from the nine of us – Needra, Ranee, Maryse, Dilrukshan, Priyaneetha, Natasha, Sharleen, Chinthaka and Channa

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