The History of The OTAUK

By Dr.Ranjith Dambawinna (STC- 1947-59) A Founder Member and a former Vice President of the OTAUK.

(Article published in 2008)

26 years ago (in 1982), a few old Thomians, living in various parts of England communicated with each other and mooted the formation of a ‘branch’, affiliated to the parent Old Boy’s Association in Sri Lanka.

 

No other old boy’s associations (in Sri Lankan schools) were in existence in UK at that time, and this idea was greeted by one and all with great enthusiasm!

 

It so happened, that one of the greatest benefactors to our ‘alma mater’, and his wife, were living in ‘retirement’ in Southern England. He was none other than the ‘Giant’ himself, the Late Great Dr.R.L.Haymen!

 

He and his wife, as expected, provided the ‘sparkle of inspiration’ we all needed, to inaugurate this Association!  A venue was selected, and those interested were invited to attend the ‘initial’ meeting, to be held at the “Ceylon Tea Centre”, that was in existence, in central London at that time.

 

The ‘Invitation’ for this inaugural meeting, was extended to the wives of all old Thomians attending.

 

There was a healthy ‘Quorum’ of about 20 members, who declared unanimously that they wished to have the ‘patronage’ of Dr.Haymen, at the helm!  There were hardly any ‘refreshments and our biggest ‘worry’ on that occasion were to meet the cost of the rent of the premises!

 

Fortunately, an astute old Thomian whipped out a bottle of Scotch whisky and decided to raffle it, to raise funds to meet the cost of the rent of the premises!  Realising it was for a good cause; all those present dug into their wallets, and helped to pay our dues!  We had a winner too, but subsequently he went into “liquidation”- perhaps too literally! To this day he is unable to recall the event!!

 

A desperate need for a ‘working committee’ resulted in the election of Office Bearers. We elected our first President, Dr.Raja Jayaweera, and the election of other office bearers followed.

 

The enthusiasm and keenness continued, and we were the envy of all other rival schools! They later followed our example, and went on to set up their own respective OBA’s.  It must always be remembered that the old Thomians, initiated ‘old boy’s associations’ and others followed!

As time went by, basic human problems within the association began to raise their ugly heads, resulting in divisions, sub-divisions and factions... The original common ‘goal’, was to amass sufficient funds, to help the old school, whilst providing a ‘platform’ locally, for socialising.

 

A great majority of the members thought that ‘funds’ should be raised, after social events.  Some others thought that ‘fund raising’ was the main theme. Heated arguments and disagreements followed each meeting, of what was originally meant to be a ‘joyous’ occasion, which sadly ended in tears for some!

 

One ‘comedian’ invented an idea that we should contribute to a special ‘Pension Fund’, as an incentive, for the staff members of the school, in an attempt to prevent the best teachers from leaving!  Many others thought that it was a preposterous idea, especially when the school was already an independent and completely private establishment!

 

The fact that it was a bad and sad idea was proved when subsequent ‘attendance’ at meetings diminished, and we feared a lack of ‘quorum’, for future meetings!

 

The worst outcome and an utterly un-Thomian act, was to prevent a worthy and deserving individual, to succeed in to the high office of President, merely because an insignificant minority felt that his ‘occupation/livelihood’ was not ‘in-par’!!  This was a cowardly and dastardly act, and it infuriated many fair-minded, decent old boys, who declared quite openly that such behaviour should never be tolerated.

 

 Things got worse and as anticipated, a historic ‘break-away’ group was formed under the patronage of a truly great cleric, The Late Reverend Charles Karunaratne!! Charles, as he was popularly known, was a formidable opponent, and ‘discrimination’, in any form or shape, always precipitated the wrath in him! He would never hesitate to give vent to his feelings, on matters such as this!

 

 He was well spoken, and had an excellent command of the English Language. He excelled in spreading the ‘gospel’, whilst, displaying a remarkable sense of humour!  He was supported, by his ever loving wife, Muriel, who curiously enough, enjoyed all the jokes, levelled at Charles!!

 

The affiliation to our ‘Alma Mater’ remained ever so strong, and with time, the fragmented factions ‘buried the hatchet’ and re-united under one flag-much to the relief of many!  “Anno Domini” took its toll, and we witnessed the sad demise of Dr R.L. Hayman, a great benefactor to STC.  Mrs Haymen succeeded him and continued to support the OTAUK.  Following her death, an Old Thomian, and a former Captain of Swimming, Dr Vernon Wijeratna was unanimously elected to be the new Patron.

 

Dr.Wijeratna was a leading expert in the Veterinary world and served in the UK Civil Service as a valued advisor, until he retired a few years ago. It is also with great pride and joy that we record our celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the Old Thomian’s Association, last year!

 

Amidst all the problems we faced, and the difficult times we all underwent, there emerged a ‘ray of hope’ in the form of an “anonymous” newsletter!

The ability to laugh at oneself, whilst seeing he funny side of life was the main theme of this surreptitious’ piece’ of literature!  Their ‘motto’ was plain and simple, and it read, “If the cap fits, put it on”!!! – presented in ‘dog Latin as “Cappitis fit-orum, Thoppi put-orum”!!!!!

 

I have my doubts that any ‘malice’ was intended, but it was a grim ‘reminder’ to those affected, that one had to keep one’s feet firmly on the ground!!  I am made aware of the fact that this ‘news sheet’, though sporadic in appearance, is still in circulation, and that the author/s (whoever they may be!) are unable to meet the non ending demand for more and more! (Some say that it comes all the way from Cayman Islands!!)

 

Founder Members were;

  • Dr. Raja Jayaweera 

  • Dr. F L Senanayaka

  • Dr. Ranjith Dambawinna

  • Mr. Elmo Rajasooriya

  • Dr. S C Kapuwatta

  • Mr. L W de Silva

  • Dr. Vernon Wijeratne

  • Dr. Sathis de Silva

  • Mr. Flyle Hussain

  • Mr. 'Blackie' Ferdinands

  • Mr. Dido Keerthi rathne

  • Mr. Mohideen Cader (Jnr)

  • Mr. Mahen Perera

  • Mr. Mohan Samarasingha

  • Mr. Frederick Jayaratnum (Decd)

  • Dr. Harsha Boralessa

  • Mr. Kamal Nilaweera

  • Dr. Thuraisinghma (Decd)

  • Mr. Llasantha Perera

  • Rev.Charles Karunaratna (Decd)

  • Mr. Dennis Wheatley

  • Mr. Ajith Tudugalla

  • Mr. Huzair Cader

  • Mr. Falih Caffoor

  • Mr. John Pearce

  • Mr. Don Lear Iddamalgoda

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