My grandfather, the quiet gentleman and faithful fisher of men  CAPTAIN PETER NEVILLE LESLIE MENDIS If my grandfather were alive, tomorrow- June 14, would be his 106th birthday. It is in June, when many mark Father’s Day, we remember my Seeya’s remarkable life. His birthday, every year was a milestone when we his grandchildren were [...]




My grandfather, the quiet gentleman and faithful fisher of men 


If my grandfather were alive, tomorrow- June 14, would be his 106th birthday. It is in June, when many mark Father’s Day, we remember my Seeya’s remarkable life. His birthday, every year was a milestone when we his grandchildren were growing up.

Peter Neville Leslie Mendis was born in 1915. His father Peter Calvin was a station master. He lived the early part of his life in Moratuwa, attending S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia with his two brothers Peter Florizel and Peter Granville. He entered the University of Colombo but did not complete his degree due to compelling reasons. He took up his first employment with the Survey Department.

In 1938, when the forerunner to the present Sri Lankan Navy, the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force was formed, Neville was one of its first 28 recruits. The next year, World War II broke out and the unit was mobilized for war duties in the Royal Ceylon Navy. Neville served as a Signalman Gunner in Trincomalee and was there when the Japanese airplanes bombed Ceylon on Easter Sunday, 1942. He did not see much action in the war, but in 1944, while patrolling about 20 to 30 miles offshore they saw a huge ball of fire in the sky, and upon investigating, found the wreckage of a downed airplane and the bodies of Japanese pilots, which they handed over to intelligence.

In late 1943, he married Lynette Fernando of Richardia, Moratuwa. The following year his first son, Peter Lalith, was born and by 1947, his daughter, Shiranee, and his second son, Peter Mohan, had followed.

After the war, he left the regular navy but continued as an officer in the Ceylon Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR) and held the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He joined the Fisheries Department taking up an offer by Captain Mitchell to pioneer the new Deep Sea Trawling unit of the government of Ceylon. After some time as a crew member of the SS Raglan Castle he was sent in 1951 to the UK to study navigation. After a short spell in Hull, he returned accompanying a British captain with the steam ship Braconglen, a 338-ton fishing trawler.

As he was very keen to complete his studies and the Colombo Plan gave him a break, he returned to Hull, but two weeks after his arrival, he fell and broke his arm, but continued for his examination, which was two months ahead, with his arm strapped up. He managed to get through all the drawing and charting that was required of him.

On January 17, 1953, there was bad news from Ceylon. His wife, Lynette, had died under tragic circumstances and he was called home to arrange the funeral and the care of Lalith, Shiranee and Mohan aged eight, six, and four.  The British Council helped him get an air passage home. He returned to Hull in February and passed his Skippers examination.

He captained the Braconglen for many subsequent years. He travelled to Yugoslavia to bring back the newly purchased 108-foot, 150-ton fishing motorized trawler, Gandara- the first of a few more to follow.

During the 1958 riots, he was called back for duty as a member of the voluntary reserve and stationed in Kotahena. Also during this time, he was put in charge of evacuating refugees by ship from the camps in Colombo to the safety of Jaffna.

After his retirement from Ceylon Fisheries in 1972, he served as a director at Cornel & Company and continued to serve this firm even well into his eighties.

Although he did not have an easy life, his unwavering faith in God helped him to get through difficult times. It was many years later, in his seventies, that he became involved in Christian work, but I believe he carried his faith with him throughout his lifetime, or rather, his faith carried him.

He married my grandmother, Rukmini Samaraweera in 1960, and they lived happily together at the Bambalapitiya Flats for 45 years. My grandmother still maintains our Flat in this housing complex. Together, they were instrumental in introducing Selwyn Hughes’ ministry to Sri Lanka.

Captain P.N.L. Mendis was, to me, the epitome of a gentleman. I never heard him raise his voice or speak ill of anyone. He was slow to anger and quick to forgive. Many of his good deeds passed unnoticed. After his death, several people visited my grandmother and told her of how he had helped them consistently in quiet ways.

He had little regard for conventional wealth and material possessions, but  found it easy to acquire a wealth of friends from all walks of life. He never engaged in conspicuous consumption. He used to always say “Never incite the envy of the poor”. He was a man who could walk with rulers as well as amongst beggars with equal ease and command the respect of both.

He disliked conflict and avoided it unless it was absolutely necessary. However, when necessary, he acted with resolve. Once, during a storm his crew had panicked and headed for the lifeboats, and the ship was in danger of capsizing because of the weight of all the men on one side of the ship. He had pulled out his revolver and threatened to shoot if they tried to get into the lifeboats.

When I was in my teens, Seeya introduced me to one of his favourite books – “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. It is the story of a fisherman who, in his old age, goes out to sea one last time and catches the biggest fish he has ever caught in his life. This, in a sense, is also true of my grandfather. Seeya saw himself as performing his life’s most important work during his old age when he became involved in ministry and became a fisher of men.

Seeya once told me that when he went to England to study fishing, he was told by his captain, an Englishman, that no man could be a fisherman and a gentleman at the same time. This had upset him, but he had replied that, in that case, he would be the first gentleman fisherman. I believe that in exemplifying the qualities he did, he kept his word to the end.

 Peter Jehan Mendis

 He always did his ‘duties’ at the Cathedral with a smile

Liyanage Anthony Perera

We walk into the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour for the morning service.  The doors are wide open and everything is neatly arranged – the hymn books and Bibles ready for the congregation’s use. We relish the sight of shining brass vases filled with beautiful flowers and potted palms around the altar area.  The altar table is neatly laid out and the sacred vessels and elements are ready for the offering of Communion.

We hear the ringing of the large bell at the entrance which indicates the beginning of the service. We stand up to sing the opening hymn and the cross bearer, who is the Sexton of our Cathedral, dressed in pristine white leads the clergy and those participating in the service along the centre aisle from the entrance to the altar.

The Sexton is Anthony! And it was Anthony who has been responsible for all these flawless arrangements.

I first recall meeting Anthony when my husband Simon and I attended the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo in the mid-1980s.  I got to know him really well as I was involved in the tea making for the congregation  after the Sunday service and would visit the church during the week to check on the supplies.  Anthony would greet me with a smile and immediately take over the items I had brought and place them in a cupboard in a very systematic way.  His wife Wimala also helped us very much in the tea making. I used to keep in touch with him and Wimala even after he retired.

As the Sexton, Anthony had a wide array of ‘duties’. He lived within the Cathedral premises and began his work early morning when he had to unlock the Cathedral doors and was responsible to see that the doors were locked at night and the Cathedral was safe!  He was in charge of looking after the vestments of the clergy and the sacred vessels and elements.  A dynamic worker, he took all this in his stride.

In addition he was in charge of the arrangements for the special services and all other major events held at the Cathedral. For Palm Sunday he would collect the palm leaves and cut them to the correct size to be made into palm crosses. He was also present at the various meetings held in the Cathedral and saw that everything required was arranged to perfection.  At the annual pola, Anthony was of enormous assistance.  When my children got married Anthony was of immense help with the arrangements in the Church!

He also had to overlook the general maintenance of the premises.  As the congregation numbers increased so did the activities in the Cathedral and Anthony had the assistance of Darsan who proved to be a very loyal and hardworking partner.

When Rev. Fr. Sydney Knight was appointed Dean of the Cathedral, he recommended that Anthony should join in administering communion to the congregation  which he did with great devotion.

We shall always remember Anthony for the wonderful helper he was to all of us.

May he rest in peace in the safe arms of Jesus and may his family continue to be blessed by the Lord.

 Anthea Senaratne

Beloved aiya, the livewire at any family function


We were greatly saddened when our beloved cousin Parakrama Aiya passed away on the eve of the Sinhala New Year after a prolonged illness at the age of 78 at his Punchi Borella residence. Parakrama was a son of our oldest uncle, the late P. P. Herat Gunaratne JP who was a prominent personality in our ancestral village of Galmuruwa.

Parakrama was a livewire among our first cousins and was always in the forefront of organizing and coordinating any family event, be it the annual Munneswaram family perahera, family alms giving or the regular get-togethers. He was very fond of his uncles including my father and whenever the uncles sought his assistance on any matter, Parakrama responded speedily.

An old Anandian like all of us, Parakrama graduated from the then Vidyalankara University and worked at the Petroleum Corporation for a short period. Thereafter, he joined the Labour Department, in 1970 and was fortunate to work under superiors of the calibre of G. Weerakoon, Labour Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners – David Soyza, Felix Wijesinghe and Mr. Navaratne. He specialized in the fields of Industrial Relations, Manpower Planning and Training and Labour Standards. When the Foreign Employment Bureau was established in 1985, he was handpicked by the Ministry of Labour to be its first employee in the capacity of Board Secretary which he served for 20 years getting an extension even beyond the retirement age of 60. He served many Chairmen of the Bureau with absolute dedication and commitment and had an excellent command of both English and Sinhala.

I remember in the mid 60’s when we lived opposite Ananda College, Parakrama as a University student, lived in the famous family home at Punchi Borella and he was a regular evening visitor to our home along with his late brother Gilbert. They used to have enjoyable evening chats with my father, which sometimes went late into the night. I also recall that after I joined the ETF in the early 90’s, he used to always visit me in office whenever he came to the Ministry of Labour on official business from his Jawatte Road Bureau Office.

During his long illness, he was lovingly cared for by his wife Lilani, son Kelum, step children and in-laws who did their utmost to make him comfortable.

May Parakrama Aiya attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

 Mangala Herat Gunaratne

My grandfather who took on life’s challenges for the sake of his children

 S. Pathiraja

He was short in stature, but had a towering personality. He was a super hero during the early 1940s. He fought for his survival with ten children; six sons and four daughters alongside his wife. It was a challenge to take care of such a big crowd.

Starvation and poverty were two crucial issues to be addressed. Of course, the majority of his contemporaries had to face the same situation. It was a tough time. He did not have any alternatives except the land and water. He got involved in farming with the unstinted support of his wife and worked both day and night to be a winner.

Life had always been a challenge for him but he didn’t give up at any cost. He was in the fields whether rain or sun and had many sleepless nights. His sole concern had always been his family and he was willing to do everything possible to take care of them.

Education was always given prominence and he had realized that life would be unsuccessful without it. When one of his sons was reluctant to go to school one day, he had personally taken him to school. The boy learnt his lesson.

He would go to Anuradhapura to buy the children’s exercise books and he didn’t forget to buy certain sweets for the family. Sometimes he had to walk back home with those heavy bags. It took him over two hours. He was not troubled because he knew he was making the sacrifice for his children.

He was neither a smoker nor meat-eater. He loved animals and trees and took care of his cattle with a great sense of love and affection. He discouraged the consumption of meat. He observed sil, and when he was free, he used to visit the Chief Incumbent of the temple.

He worried over his children and grandchildren’s welfare. Whenever a child wanted his help, he was not hesitant. But he had never stayed at his children’s homes for long periods because he didn’t want to trouble anyone.

Even though he had made an immense sacrifice for the betterment and progress of his children, he expected nothing at all from them.

He did not have ulterior motives. He was a simple, genuine person. He loved his children. He loved mankind. He lived life to the fullest.

He was one of the most exemplary characters I have ever come across. He was a real gentleman who believed in humanity. He was my late grandfather.

 Saumya Aloysius

The family’s ray of hope is no more 

Sarojini Kumaraswamy

My cousin Saro – Sarojini Kumaraswamy nee Sitharam, passed away in April.  She leaves behind her son Niranjan, daughter Rukshy, grandson Aadhit, and son-in law Thangarajah Briyanthan.

Her father, late Mr. Sitharam was an advocate in the 1940s and her mother was Amirrthamma, my late father T. Karalasingam’s sister. I am from a family of ten children and after my mother passed away at the age of 35, I along with two of my brothers lived in Saro’s parents’ home in Batticaloa to continue our studies at St. Michael’s College Batticaloa.

I remember her from her schooldays as a humble, courteous, sincere and helpful young girl. She pursued her studies and became an English Trained Teacher. She married Mr Kumaraswamy and lived in her ancestral home in Batticaloa until her demise.

Saro was a ray of hope for her family and the meritorious deeds she left behind were woven into the lives of others. Our silent tears flow for her. We pray to Lord Siva to receive her in heaven and as Hindus believe, to be reborn as a noble lady again among our circle.

 Karalasingam Sivalingam

He believed he was responsible for all those around him

Karu Wijeyanayake

Karunasena Wijeyanayake was born to Amaris and Baby Nona Wijeyanake on December 16, 1941. His siblings were Kanthi, Ranji, Rupa and Ajith.

Karu married Asoka Caldera in May 1981 and they were blessed with two children and one grandchild.

He passed away on May 10, this year, after a brief illness and is survived by his wife Kanthi, children Lahiru and Asiri and grandchild, Nethuka.

He was last employed as Company Secretary of Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC). Karu was Honorary Treasurer of the Retired Managers’ Association of CTC for many long years and managed the finances well during his tenure. He continued his practice after retirement but spent most of his time with his grandchild.

Karu was a devout Buddhist and an amazing man, who believed that he had a responsibility towards all around him. As colleagues we extend our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the family.

 Chelvam Ariaratnam


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