Plus - Appreciations

Childhood fun with ‘nose guitar’ uncle

A.M.S. Perera

We were saddened to hear of the passing away of A.M.S. Perera, Annesley to his numerous friends. He was a popular and influential figure in Colombo before he migrated to the US, where two of his daughters, Nimi and Sheana lived.

He was a genial person, the life and soul of a party and enjoyed life with zest. His absence was deeply felt by his many friends when he left the country some 20 years ago.

A distinguished past student of St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya, he excelled in the academia as well as sports. He graduated with Honours from the University of London in 1940. He had a distinguished career in the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, serving as Permanent Secretary to the Ministries of Health, Defence and External Affairs (where he was responsible for the training of diplomats) and Secretary of the Public Services Commission. He retired from Government Service as Registrar-General, to join the private sector as Secretary of the Planters’ Association. Subsequently he served as the Managing Director of Reckitt and Coleman, E.B. Creasy & Co. Ltd., Darley Butler & Co. Ltd., and Lanka Canneries. He has represented Sri Lanka with distinction at many international conferences including the ILO and FAO.

Being a friend of our parents, he was the much loved ‘Uncle Annesley’ to us as children. We often went on holidays together, particularly to Nuwara Eliya in April. He was interested in the horse races both in Nuwara Eliya and Colombo. This interest continued even in the US. He used to regularly travel by bus to see the races and place his bets.

He never tired of entertaining us with his jokes,- related with a serious face, but a twinkle in his eye and songs. - His ‘nose guitar’, where he would twang a tune pressing one nostril, was a favourite among us children. However much we tried we were never able to simulate his melodious tone. It was no surprise that he was popular among the children of his many friends.

Uncle Annesley loved company and never missed a party. Towards the end of a party, when spirits were high, he would never fail to whip up a boisterous sing song, with Aunty Naomi co-opted to play the piano.
Uncle Annesley’s sense of humour was a legend in our time. He had several stock-in-trade jokes. If we failed to turn up at some function saying we had the flu, his invariable comment was, “where did you fly?” And knowing our penchant for ice cream, his order at Fountain Café would be, one scoop for everyone and ‘fobble’ for us – meaning four scoops.

As we reached adulthood too, Uncle Annesley still remained a firm favourite. He was a helpful person, ever ready to help those with a problem, personal or work related. Many a friend or even acquaintance, who sought his intercession in varied problems, would always have a patient hearing. Many are the letters he drafted and calls he made on behalf of those who came to him for help. Even when he used to come to Sri Lanka on visits, he was kept busy sorting out problems. His passing away is indeed a sad loss to many who will remember him with much affection.

May he rest in peace!

For the past 20 years, Annersley resided in Los Angeles, CA. He was devoted to his family and enjoyed being with his children and grandchildren. He leaves behind his wife Naomi, daughters Nimi Karunaratne, Eromi Paiva and Sheana Wijeyeratne and grandchildren Eshani, Anouki, Rushil, Tehani, Sasha and Shihan.

Hiranthi and Dilmani

Memories tinged with gratitude, affection and sadness

Johan Alan Leembruggen

Time cannot steal the treasures
That we carry in our hearts,
Nor ever dim the shining thoughts
Our cherished past imparts...
And memories of the ones we've loved
Still cast their gentle glow,
To grace our days and light our paths,
Wherever we may go
. - Author Unknown

Life will never be the same without our regular visits to Layard’s Road more frequent in recent years with his inability to get about which made him so appreciative of our company, a few anecdotes and some laughs. He was always cheerful though he hated his semi-confinement and sometimes strained at the leash to ‘have done’ with it !

Johan Alan Leembruggen was almost family having known him most of my life …he was my Dad’s collegemate at Trinity and Varsity friend… and I remember visiting them at Bogala Court first, and then at Layard’s Road on our trips to Colombo . Then, quite by chance I had the opportunity of applying for a job, my first serious foray into the mercantile world and it was he who interviewed me. I thought I wouldn’t make the grade but voila! I was the ecstatic recipient of a telegram asking me to report for work at Mackwoods Ltd. within a week.

This was the start of a great working life where I took my first steps working for two directors, and there were times when I was summoned to the feet of my guru! He was exacting, precise and a wonder with the English language ! I remember within a few days of my initial attempts at transcribing my halting shorthand, when I asked him whether I had made any ‘bulls’ (meaning errors) in my work, he smiled and remarked “No, only a few calves !” His sometimes caustic sense of humour and clever turn of phrase were hilarious … and I don’t think I had ever emerged from his office without a grin on my face at something he had said, done or commented on !Then he got me involved in a play that he had authored about a romance in the Bambalapitiya Flats and I made my stage debut under his direction, as Geetha Perera, at the Lionel Wendt !! It may not have come anywhere even close to a remote suburb of Broadway, but we had the most hilarious rehearsals at Linden Hall, Flower Road, [so kindly lent for this purpose by Aunty Sita] and we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly ! It was great fun !

I had found new pastures after some years, and although the initial years were wonderful, there was a change of ‘boss’ at the new place. We were in regular touch, JAL (as he was fondly referred to) and I, and he was truly sympathetic to my problems. He gave me so much of his time, took me to lunch, and was a tower of strength, so appreciative that I was then dealing with raising an infant, and coping with an unbelievably stressful work situation.

Then I had this phone call- a vacancy had arisen in his office and he needed a Secretary pronto ! He even did me the great favour of calling my boss to ask how soon I could be released to return to work with him at Mackwoods … so I had two stints of working with him …

The years rolled by, we kept in touch, and we were with him when he lost Aunty Dicky, loyal wife and companion creating a gap in his life. He sorely missed having someone in the house with him, but managed to get through that patch with golf and lots of TV until he had to give up driving too.

These restrictions took their toll and time used to hang unpleasantly and I am so grateful for the hours we spent with him, chatting, drinking ‘inguru’ tea made by his carer “Daily” who put the kettle on as soon as our car turned in the gate; and laughing at the vagaries of our politicians, cricket, the weather, our respective health situations, etc. He also loved to see Daya enjoy a Scotch even though he couldn’t join him latterly.

As sad as I am that he is gone I realise it was time. He left knowing there were folks who loved him no matter what; although he had no immediate family here with the exception of Michelle there were three of us who worked for him at various times Diana, Ruthie and myself who were known as Johan’s Angels and were always there for him until the end. He loved the little celebrations we would arrange for his birthdays, and would dive into these events with joy !I am so full of happy memories, my heart is filled with joy, tinged with sadness … thanks JAL for what you meant to us ! I, for one, will never forget what a tower of strength you were.

Always there--how you stood by me at all times; giving me your support which I shall always value ; and remember with love and gratitude how you made me feel so worthwhile ! I treasure most of all for your unconditional friendship. You will always be remembered with love.
Rest in Peace

Sriani de Silva

A writer and teacher remembered

Sriya Pereira

Sriya Pereira (nee de Alwis) was a gifted writer who made a name for herself in the 1960s and ’70s. She was born in Wasala waluwwa, Palolpitiya in 1935 and had her primary education at the Eliyakanda Methodist School and St. Thomas’ Girls’ School, Matara.

After passing her O’level exam she joined the English Teachers’ Training College in Maharagama and followed the special English Course. From 1960 to 1970 she taught English at St. Mary’s Convent, Matara. In 1970 she married Rev. Henry Pereira, a Methodist priest from Moratuwa.

She has taught in various schools in places like Badulla, Ampara, Bandarawela and Ratnapura. She was also attached to the English Department of the Curriculum Development Centre and authored the English textbook for Grades 3, 4 and 5. In addition to this she was a prize winner in the All Island short story contest sponsored by the Ceylon Daily News and won first place in the Drama Contest held in October 1970.

Sriya was the eldest in the family and was like a mother to her younger brothers and sisters.
May her soul Rest in Peace.

Joe Jayasuriya

Newspaper-loving Dad had great stories to tell from the war years

M. Don David Goonetillke

January 30, 2011, marked the 15th death anniversary of my father, who passed away in 1996, aged 98.
He was born in 1898, and joined government service in 1918. He was District Registrar of Land in the Kalutara District, and also acted as Assistant Registrar General. He retired in 1958 after completing 40 years’ service.

He never bought a square inch of land, although thousands of acres were available at the time for a few hundred or thousand rupees per acre. To buy land was incompatible with the post he held.

He was a keen and dedicated reader of the Ceylon Daily News for nearly 60 years, going back to the days when the paper cost only 10 cents. As children, we remember how in the late 1940s he came home in full suit and tie, the Evening Observer in his hand. The Observer, which cost five cents, had a red star on the front page.

It is interesting to mention a few episodes in his life, as these are linked to a part of history. During the 1915 Sinhala-Muslim riots, my father, a 17-year-old schoolboy, was coming into Panadura Town when he saw several Muslim shops being looted. He found an expensive cricket bat thrown on the road by looters. My father picked it up and ran all the way to his home in Wadduwa. Thereafter, he lived in fear of the Punjabi and Marati troops that were brought down to quell the communal riots.

During this time, my father saw a sea mine that had fallen off the German warship, the Emden, and which had washed up on the Wadduwa beach. The mine later exploded, killing several people and uprooting some coconut trees.

He served the British Government faithfully and loyally, never taking part in any strikes or demonstrations (although I was nearly shot when I took part in a strike and demonstration in Kollupitiya in 1966).

He married Habaragamu Ralalage Edith Peries Goonetilleke in February 1928. The horoscope readers and soothsayers said he should not marry in February. Marrying in the shortest month of the year meant a short-lived marriage. But my father dismissed the predictions and married on February 3, 1928 (the wedding photograph still hangs in our home). My parents were together for 69 years, and they had six children. I am the youngest.

For a few years, my parents lived in a rented house in Wadduwa. My father bought a new Raleigh bicycle, which had a pillion. People in the toddy business in the area demanded his bicycle to transport toddy to the collection centre. My father bluntly refused and was threatened. He explained his plight to the British Government Agent at the Kalutara Kachcheri, where my father was working at the time. The GA promptly issued him a gun, and there were no further threats to his life.

It was thrilling for us children to see my father clean and service the gun once a month, on a Sunday, and fire a shot with a live cartridge into the air or at a tree. Just before the war, my father built a house in Panadura on a property belonging to my mother. It is this house where I, the youngest son, live with my grandchildren.

After his retirement, my father got involved in honorary social activities. His favourite pastime was to cycle to town to buy the provisions, which he did till he was 90 years old. He, my mother and I made a pilgrimage to India and Nepal in 1969.

He was a good swimmer, and remained in excellent health all his life. He never complained of any ailment. May he be born again with us in this long life of Samsara.

Ranjan Goonetillake

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