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26th April 1998

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Thambapillai of Royal, a revered teacher

By. C.R. de Silva

Amidst a large gathering of Royalists young and old and friends from all walks of life the mortal remains of one of the most revered teachers of Royal was laid to rest on the 22nd of April 1988. Mr. Thambapillai who was affectionately referred to as Thamba, served Royal College with distinction for a period of nearly three decades in the dual fields of academics and sports. Physics and Rugby were his forte at Royal. His enduring and all-encompassing influence in the fields of Rugby has touched upon generations of Royalists who have borne out that they had ascended the summit of inter collegiate and Sri Lankan Rugby and tasted its heady success mainly due to the meaning, purpose and direction provided by him. He gave all of us not only of his skills, but of himself by breathing right into our youthful souls as in younder valley that morale breathes its fragrance into space. To Thamba, teaching was not a vocation but a calling and he always gave with joy, not with a mindfulness of virtue, so much so that the joy with which he gave was his reward.

Thamba who received his early education at Trinity Colege, Kandy joined the tutorial staff of Royal College in 1947 after having read for a degree in physics and mathematics. Having acquired his skills in the noble art of Rugby at T.C.K he imparted his knowledge to the lads of Royal whom he moulded so perfectly, enabling them to convert the game to an art form and thereby ride upon the crest wave of scintillating success. To Thamba the game of Rugby was one that equipped his charges with the necessary skills to meet the challenges of life. As living proof of his vision one sees his former charges embellishing the wide varied tapestry of modern public life in their chosen fields of politics, medicine, engineering , commerce, law and other disciplines. His sense of closeness and proximity to the students was the hallmark of his personality. So much so that he used to address his students by their endearing pet names whilst maintaining a strong sense of discipline which was never compromised. At Rugger matches he was a one man cheering squad virtually running from one end of the ground to the other screaming encourgements mixed with the liberal use of endearing pet names which touched the very core of our souls. I can recall with nostalgia his baritone voice fill up the entire atmosphere of the playing arena with references and endearments such as Roti, Bala, Kalu, Lolo, Burah, Laki, Bulla etc.

Thamba was an exemplary human being who bestrode this narrow world like a colossus. He know no discrimination. Fairplay was his forte. Narrow provincialism and ethnic considerations were his sworn enemies and he proceeded on the sturdy platform of right and wrong. I could in unison with Col Olcott, state without fear of contradiction, that Thamba believed that "there is no religion higher than truth".

Thamba preached what he practised. He was large hearted and generous to those who were less fotunate than himself. During his final days in hospital after a most unfortunate accident, an injured soldier who occupied the neighbouring bed was a beneficiary of his generosity as Thamba saw to it that the soldier received the same kind of meal that he got down from home. Another instance of his large heartedness and humane sympathy is illustrated in another incident which I shall recount. When the officers of the law visited the hospital to record his statement in connection with the negligence of an errant driver who had knocked him down at a pedestrian crossing, he refused to make a statement saying "this chap never intended to knock me down, I am not interested in having this poor fellow prosecuted;" such was the humaniaty of this great soul that all of us could stand up and say as Shakespeare did that: "this was a man".

Thamba lived a full life with the satisfaction of seeing all his children doing extremely well in their chosen fields. All mortals have to one day breathe their last and as Thamba would say, this is the undeniable truth. Thamba has played a full innings, and an excellent one at that, and finally before I end this appreciation I am reminded of the famous words of Omar Khayyam.

"The moving finger writes and having writ moves on, not all thy piety nor wit can lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it". My humble prayer for my great and beloved Guru and teacher who taught me and many generations of Royalists of books and men and how to play the game is "May all the angels in heaven sing thee to they sleep".

( Mr. C.R. de Silva is the Additional Solicitor General. He captained Royal College first XV in 1968, which won the coveted Bradby Shield that year).

Mr. Thambapillai is no more, Long may Royal's Rugby flourish

Ken Balendra

Having known Mr. Moses Thirugnanasingham Thambapillai (Berty) from the early fifties, I have always wondered why this graduate of the then elite University College, with an outstanding background became a teacher and did not join any other better- paying areas of the public service.

He was a brilliant academic, an all-round sportman, articulate, handsome and always well presented. He had all the qualities and pre-requisites to rise to the top of whatever field he chose. Yet destiny or possibly his own choice directed him into the teaching profession and he bestrode this area as a colossus to the benefit of the profession, Royal College and his students.

Mr. Thambapillai had the privilege of being revered and written about in his lifetime. I know that he took these accolades in his stride and was more intent on talking and writing about his proteges. More will be written about this personality in the days, months and years to come. He was a great human being and a gentleman to his finger tips, who stood erect with a head on a pair of shoulders without any chips whatsoever.

His first love was, of course his immediate family but very close behind was Royal, Rugby and his rugby proteges.

He ate, drank and thought of Royal ruggerites, and to his last day never stopped speaking of generations of Royal Rugby players who learnt how to play the game at his feet. His memory of minute details of several hundreds of Rugby games Royal participated in or his ancedotes which covered over four decades could not be matched.

To the end, and at the age of 88, he had a clear mind and was fit. It is some consolation to those who grieve his passing that the call came without a prolonged illness, as I am sure, that the ever active Mr. Thambapillai would not have wanted it any other way.

In the final analysis, Mr. Thambapillai left a charming wife who staunchly and with all the love in the world stood by him for fifty-five years, four sons who are a credit to him and their families and thousands of Royal ruggerites who near worshipped him.

Having spent more than half of the last day of his funeral at his home, the Royal College Hall and the cemetery, I came away with mixed feelings, sad that we will not have Mr. Thambapillai with us any longer but glad that he was given a send off which he richly deserved and which will add to his immortality in the minds of those whom he taught, nurtured, motivated and proudly spoke about.

Thousands moved through his home over three days paying their silent tribute to a once-in-a-generation personality. His mortal remains were moved to the great hall of fame - the Royal College Hall, where they were received by the principal, teachers and pupils who filed past his cortege paying their respects to a great man. As a final tribute their lusty throats sang the College song and in different circumstances Mr Thambapillai would surely have joined in with gusto in addition to his other gifts, he was also a very good singer.

Streams of old Royalists from all walks of life and his other friends and family filed past his bier in the school hall in large numbers to pay their respects.

Three old Royalist clergymen, his past pupils Reverends Duleep Fernando, Duleep de Chickera and Lokendra Abhayaratne conducted the service under the gaze of past principals and distinguished old boys whose portraits adorn the walls. The names of coveted prize winners on the panels silently proclaimed the excellence this great teacher strove for.

Mr Thambapillai's remains were borne out of the portals of the great institution he loved so dearly by past Captains of the Royal Rugby teams which he coached and counselled to reach great heights.

At the cemetery an exceptionally large gathering, a great many of whom wore their old school ties and blazers joined his family and friends in laying him to rest under the low-lying branches of a flamboyant tree in full bloom, in the most dignified manner that Mr Thambapillai would have wanted. Having been a lover of nature he would not have wished for more.

His farewell would have gladdened this large-hearted man. His wife, all his four sons, two of them from abroad, and their families were in loving attendance together with throngs of others he always recognised as his extended family, with the final funeral service being conducted by yet another of his past pupils, the Very Revd. Kenneth Fernando, Bishop of Colombo.

Having known him as I have, I am certain that his last thoughts were not only of his family but also of his second love, which was Rugby at Royal. May rugby continue to flourish in the truest traditions of the game in our revered Alma Mater in honour of this exalted rugby personality who dedicated himself right through his adult life to the game and Royal ruggerites whom he often referred to and regarded as his sons.

As a ruggarite he was not used to light turf but may the turf lie gently over him under the branch of that flamboyant tree which at this time of the year will be in full bloom shedding its petals over him. He would have liked that.

(Mr. Ken Balendra is the Chairman of John Keells Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. He played for Royal First-XV from 1957-60)

Grand Hotel win 3-nil

Grand Hotel, Nuwara-Eliya beat the newly promoted Hameediya's by 3 goals to nil in their Mercantile A Division knock-out match played at the City League grounds, Slave Island.

In another match in the same division, Lake House beat AirLanka by 6 goals to 2 while Ceylon Business Appliances received a walk-over from Ceylon Tobacco.

In the B Division, Airport & Aviation beat Colombo Hilton by 5 goals to nil and AirLanka Catering beat Pelwatta Sugar by 3 goals to nil.

Grindlays Bank will meet CBA in a quarter-final match on April 27 with John Keells taking on Grand Hotel on April 28 and Tri Star meeting Ceylinco on April 29 followed by the semi finals on April 30 and May 4.

The final will be played on May 7 at the City League grounds, Slave Island.

The B Division quarter-final will see Seylan Bank encounter Union Assurance on April 27 while Airport & Aviation battling AirLanka Catering on April 29.

The final of the B Division will also be played on May 7 at 3 p.m.

World Blind Cricket boss here for talks

George Abraham, the Chairman of the World Blind Cricket Council in consultation with the National Federation of Sports for the disabled in Sri Lanka, will visit Lanka from April 27 to 30.

His visit is intended to launch a promotional for the forthcoming World Cup cricket tourney for the blind scheduled to play in India in December.

To mark this event, the Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped and the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind have arranged to play an exhibition limited overs cricket match on April 28 at the School for the Blind at Ratmalana commencing at 10 a.m.

This match will be the first trial to pick Sri Lanka's team for the World Cup.

Special awards will on offer for the Best Allrounder, Best Batsman, and Best Bowler.

800 runs and 40 wickets…

Dushantha to play for North Middlesex

Dushantha Amaraweera who led D.S. Senanayake College in an unbeaten school cricket season this year left the country recently for England being invited for a six-month stint with North Middlesex cricket club.

Dushantha had a successful season both with the bat and the ball scoring over 800 runs and 40 taking wickets at school cricket. He was also an outstanding fielder at any position. A right arm leg spinner and left hand batsman. Dushantha was adjudged the Best Batsman at the Annual DSS/Bens encounter and was the best bowler at the limited over match.

He also led his school to share the joint championship with St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa at the Astra Trophy tournament last year. Dusantha was in the under 19 cricket pool to tour South Africa last year.

When Dushantha returns, he will continue to don his pads for Bloomfield Cricket & Athletics Club of which he is a member.

He is the son of Rear Admiral H.R. Amaraweera, Director (Operations) Sri Lanka Navy Headquarters.

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