GALLERY OF EVENTS - Felicitation Dinner for George Pillai - 26th December 2008

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Mr. George Pillai arrived in Sri Lanka on December 21, 2008, accompanied by his wife and younger daughter Sharmila, who lives in Niger. Sharmila had made this trip possible by buying the tickets for them and she could not have given them a better X’mas present ever, judging by the happiness Mr. and Mrs. Pillai felt, as can be read below.

Mr. Pillai advised Mahen Ranasinghe by e mail on September 27, “Our younger daughter Sharmila is making a gift by sending us tickets to visit Sri Lanka. She will come directly from Niger to be with us. We will arrive on Sunday, December 21 and return on Sunday, January 4. Looking forward to meeting you and any of the other students who remember me.”

Mahen immediately got on with the act of organizing a get together. Later Mr. Pillai sent a list of his students of boxing, scouting cricket and soccer, he could remember and with his schedule of touring various places like Gurutalawa, Bandarawela and Uda Walawe. Based on that the date for the party was fixed for December 26, unfortunately the Boxing Day and a Friday, with a long weekend.

That being the case Mahen gave adequate notice and the response to meet an old Guru after 40 to 50 years was overwhelming. The initial target was 30 and it gradually increased, making the final count of past pupils to 45.

The venue was Palm Beach Hotel Mt. Lavinia and the party by the poolside, with trees draped with lights and the letters STC prominently located in blue lights made the atmosphere warm and colourful. Almost all past pupils were there to greet Mr. & Mrs. Pillai when they arrived at around 8.30 pm. Wimalanath Wickremasoriya’s wife greeted Mrs. Pillai with a bouquet of flowers. There was another bouquet for Sharmila for making this great event possible, but unfortunately she was not there to receive it.

Mr. Pillai was immediately surrounded by his past pupils and he hugged each and everyone calling by their names, as if he had only left them yesterday. He had met the majority of them after 40 to 50 years. He was so thrilled and happy to find so many of his past pupils gathered in one place after so many years. Among them were several he had been in touch and met in USA and some from UK and Australia, who happened to be visiting Sri Lanka. He moved from group to group, relating old stories and pranks of individuals and it was a case of reliving his period at College from 1954 to 1964. Mahen’s periodic requests to him to have dinner fell on deaf ears, as he was engrossed in conversation with his past pupils. Finally he was the last person to have dinner, as late as 10.45 pm. The menu comprised of hoppers, string hoppers, kotthu with the usual pol sambal, katta sambal and a variety of curries and watalappan and fresh fruit salad for dessert. The wives of some of the old boys present kept Mrs. Pillai company.
Mahen formally welcomed him with cheers from all present and thanked Mr. Pillai’s daughter, Sharmila, for giving us this opportunity to meet and felicitate a great guru of STC Gurutalawa. He remarked that it was the first such felicitation to a master of College and the large gathering on a difficult day was a tribute and proved the love and respect the past pupils had for Mr. Pillai. It was also a coincidence that the party was on Boxing Day, for a master in charge/coach of boxing. A crystal plaque in the shape of a shield, engraved with the following was presented to him by two of the great boxers he produced, Brigadier Bandula Munasinghe (B. Muna) and Upali Jayawardena (UJ).

Mr. George Pillai
STC Gurutalawa
1954 – 1964

Felicitation Dinner
Palm Beach Hotel
Mt Lavinia Sri Lanka

26 12 2008
His dedicated service as a teacher scoutmaster
master in charge/coach of boxing soccer and cricket

By Past Pupils

A shield shaped plaque was considered most appropriate, as Mr. Pillai was responsible for many students receiving wooden shields in boxing, soccer and cricket, as the master in charge/ coach.

A “Thank You” card signed by the past pupils present was also presented to him with the list as given below, in order of the year of leaving school, starting with Nanda Mathew in 1956 and ending with Krishantha Weerawardena in 1968.
Nanda Mathew, Bandu Munasinghe, Hermon Fernando, D.B. Ilapperuma, Herbert Perera, Evin Mohamed, Ananda Medonza, S. N. Rodrigo, N.L Fernando, A.G. Jayasinghe, Anura Nilaweera, Nihal Nilaweera, Anver Chatoor, Peter Saturninus, S.A.A.Aziz, J.H Marikkar, T. Sundarajah, Ananda Gallearachchi, Mahen Ranasinghe, Lakshman Jayatilaka, Upali Jayawardena, Jim Connor, B.A.Mahipala, Zubair Caffoor, A.H.M Razeek, Ravi Kotalawela, Lakshman Amunugama, Sarath Jayasinghe, J.J. Rajakaruna, Philip Jayawardena, Nihal Wanniarachchi, Don Gazara, Karu Amarasinghe, Mahesh Heenatigala, David Claasz, Mahendra Liyanage, Kamal Kodituwakku, Bandu Kodituwakku, Srilal Wickremaratne, Gamini Jayasuriya, M.P.D. Perera, Palitha Rajapaksa, Kulasiri Jayasinghe, Wimalanath Wickremasooriya, Krishantha Weerawardane
Peter Saturninus also addressed the gathering and said that Mr. Pillai’s advice and guidance contributed a great deal to make him what he is today.

Mr. Pillai in his address related various incidents involving students and was overjoyed to meet so many of his past pupils after such a long period He thanked Mahen for organizing such a great party and thanked all present for their participation. The party ended at 12 midnight and Mr. & Mrs. Pillai left, with the last photograph taken by Nihal Wanniarachchi, with Mr. Pillai seated in the front seat of the car. Everyone had a great evening with the old guru, Mr. Pillai, and it would definitely be one of the most memorable for Mr. Pillai and his past pupils who were present.



- 22ND JANUARY 2009

Dear Mahen,

I really found out about your real talent as an organizer only after I met you in Sri Lanka. You gave both of us the most unforgettable surprise, which, I must say, will be cherished for years to come. I used to think that it was my sister who could pull off surprises akin to the one we experienced in Palm Beach Hotel, Mt. Lavinia.
Let me explain. After your visit to California which entailed so much affection and effort you had a task awaiting you in Gurutalawa. You undertook this task from the time you got back and in addition you meticulously planned to felicitate an old teacher.

I know I had indicated to you who I would love to meet, but, you surpassed all my expectations. You kept in contact with me from the day I arrived, did your best to make my visit to STCG fruitful.Notwithstanding the failure of the staff member to show me the Hayman Museum I had a profitable visit.Timothy Bridge was there with his daughter.I will always remember the affection with which he greeted me, which, in a large measure wiped off my disappointment.I saw work in progress. What shocked me was the surroundings. I still remember, Ramiah and much later Krishnan, with the supervision of Mrs. Hayman and Mr. Ambrose, tending the lovely lawns, the quadrangle flanked by Winchester, and the Junior dorms of Garnier, Read and de Saram, flower beds, trailing rose bushes all over the campus. Did you know that Mrs. Hayman had a rose bush with green rose blossoms?
What once were temporary buildings are now solid structures but sadly lacking a coat of paint.The co-op store looked piteously neglected. You know when Mr. Laffir, Mr. Kularatne and a committee ran it, we made sufficient profit to be able to maintain the building.

My first residence was the building below the Senior dorms. Mr. & Mrs. Scott occupied the first two rooms. Mrs. Scott had flowering shrubs as well as potted plants. Mr. Oswin Wright occupied the next two rooms. I had the other two rooms. We had a little lawn in front. I also had African Violets in pots. There is nothing now except desolation.

We moved on, the well and water pump had given way to a tank. I understand that there was a fish farm. My quarters appeared to have changed. I climbed the steps and went round the building. I heard some sounds in the next building which was then occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Fernando. The next block was Mr. R.Abeykoon's and Mr. Ambrose's residences. Later, Mr. Oliver de Soyza and Mr. & Mrs. Laffir became the tenants. The next compound was solely for Mr. & Mrs. F.L.Amerasinghe and their children Peter, Christine and Ralph. With the advent of a little cottage and a lavatory, by the edge of the pathway and immediately opposite to Mr. Amerasinghe's residence to house Piyasena and his wife, the days of STCG were numbered and I would trace the decline of the school from this period.

Ofcourse, I did not miss the shooting range, the stables, the carpentry and woodwork shop, the garage, the squash courts built by students under the leadership of U.K.G.Dayananda, the vegetable gardens below and Dr. Hayman's bungalow. It had a lawn with blue grass and I noticed that the Oak tree was thriving. Behind this residence was the Boxing Ring constructed by me. It brought back memories of glorious bouts. Nanda Mathew, B. Muna, Ananda Gunasena and Elmo William. They were in my fist team. Tears were in my eyes when I hugged Nanda Mathew and B.Muna. I am grateful to you for giving me this pleasure.

We had only the four posts, the ropes and the bare ground to practice. We did not have skipping ropes, a punch bag or any other equipment, except a medicine ball. We progressed in stages. I hired the school carpenter, bought timber from Welimada and built the platform in two halves. They fitted beautifully. We boxed on this platform but this was hard on the feet. Ananda Gunasena donated the padding and canvas to cover the platform. Now we had a Boxing Ring where we could hold tournaments. We did not enter the Stubbs Shield Tournament but followed events closely. That year St. Sylvester's won the Stubbs Shield. I had a promising team with my brother Patrick Pillai fighting under 135lbs. I, rashly invited the champion team from St. Sylvester's . We suffered an ignominious defeat. Elsworth Pereira, the 135lb. weight title holder fought my brother. After the first round, the master in charge of the Sylvester's team advised me to stop the fight and not allow it to go three rounds. My brother said that he would fight on. He did and although beaten, became the Best Loser.

Simultaneously, Dr. Hayman asked me to take over the sub-junior Scout Troop. This was 1954. The first Patrol Leaders were N.S.Heenatigala, S.Sri Kantha, Ismeth Cassim and T. Stirzaker. The others were, A. Conderlag, Ananda Gunasena, R. Oliver, A.P.Jayasinghe, Pakir Saibo, S.S.Young, Kapila Gunawardena, V.S.C.Anandan, A. Miranda, Errol Callender, M.Kennedy, M.R.A.Azeez, A.N.Perkins, A. Hassanally and D.Jayaweera. About this time, Fr.Foster asked me to take over the Under 14 Cricket. Mr. S. Jayasinge was training the Under 16 cricket team.We had a formidable team. Ananda Medonza was the wicket keeper batsman.Munro Kennedy was captain and off spin bowler. Errol Callender was right arm medium pace opening bowler. P.Ondaatje was the opening batsman and also deadly leg-spinner.That year, St. Anthony's College Kandy had the best team. We invited them and the match was a thriller. Our team had put up a respectable score when the Antonians went in to bat. They had stalwarts like Michael Joseph. We had come to the last over.Their last man was in and they needed four more runs. Ondaatje was the bowler and Michael took a hard swipe. The ball soared towards the boundary but Prasanna Kotelawala was right under the ball and he took the catch. Michael Joseph was out and we won the match.

Scouting continued to flourish. Every year we camped in Yala and in Wilpattu. Luckily for us, Mr.Gerald de Alwis had a brother who was in charge of the Wild Life Department and we always had preferential treatment and were able to get our bookings. Other scouts I remember were Robert Dobbs, Timothy Bridge, A. Sahabandu, V.B.Ratnayake, Peter Saturninus, D.C.Kannangara [Don Gazara], G.A.D.Anandapala [Ananda Gallearachchi]. H.D.Wickramatillake, M.A.Siriwardena, Mahendra Liyanege, S.W.Wickremesooriya, R.K.W.Nilaweera, A.Samarasinghe, S.Kotagama and A.K.Vithanage.
Coming back to Boxing, we learnt from our experience with St. Sylvester's and began training very seriously. We invited Boxer Dassanayake, K. Edwin and Albert Perera and our boxers were licked into shape.We were up at 4.30 in the morning, had a cup of tea in the kitchen and we had a run every day. In the evenings we trained till six. N.L.Fernando, U.Jayawardena, Henry William, Kingsley William, Zubair Caffoor and Patrick Pillai became stylish boxers. Now we invited Carey College and beat them. St. Michael's Polwatte team was also beaten by us. We went to Kandy to meet St. Sylvester's. Patrick Pillai fought Elsworth Pereira again and lost by a very small margin and again became the Best Loser. The final meet was in Gurutalawa where we invited Royal College, the Stubb's shield champions, that year. N.L.Fernando gave a stylish display and won his fight. U.Jayawardena also displayed style and won. Kingsley William won, so did Patrick Pillai.

We beat the team that won the Stubb's Shield that year.

The years moved on.Dr. Hayman left us. Piyasena bought his car. It was parked outside his house. I had a lucrative offer by the Hill School, Nuwara Eliya and moved in July 1964. We had good relations with Gurutalawa. Laffir supplied eggs to the Hill School Kitchen. We had Squash Racquets matches as well as cricket and football matches.

The reception in Palm Beach Hotel still lingers in my mind. How did you round up so many of my old students.Lakshman Jayatillake is heavily involved in keeping STCG functioning. I was very happy to meet him.I was also glad to meet B.A.Mahipala who is also a tireless worker trying to keep STCG afloat. Anura and Nihal Nilaweera surprised me and brought back wonderful memories. Every time we passed through Rosebury Estate we were guests of their gracious father and mother. We have done this every year and they were never tired of us.I remember S.N.Rodrigo with affection as a quiet and dignified student- always ready to obllige. A.G.Jayasinghe will be remembered in my Math class. Lakshman Amunugama, Nihal Wanniarachchi, J.J.Rajakaruna, M.P.D.Perera, Sunderaraj, Illaperuma, Chatoor. J.H.Marikar, Razeek, Claasz, Kamal and Bandu Kodituwakku, Gamini Jayasuriya and S.A.A.Aziz- all bring back fond memories.Your Crystal Plaque is counted among my treasures. I am not sure I deserved all you have done to make the occasion so memorable.

The spirit lives on, instilled by the great master- Dr. Hayman- who knew every student in Gurutalawa by his first name. Dr.Hayman by example, imparted not only knowledge but also a code of conduct which has characterized every student who was in contact with him.I still remember the praise he showered on everyone who achieved something on behalf of the school. My wife and I met them in Bournemouth in 1982. Mr. & Mrs. Hayman were affable hosts. It was like the old times. We will never have the likes of them in STCG. Now it is left to stalwarts like you, Lakshman, Mahipala and Wanniarachchi to keep the old flag flying. I have related our wonderful experience to Lal Yapa, Brian Wickremasinghe and Dr. Mahendra Fonseka and Dr. Ananda Krishnasamy {Dr.Bharat Kumar]. They expressed a wish to have had the fortune to have been able to join us.Mahendra Layanege and Chitra as well as Philip Jayawardena were there and would have related their experience to others.

Than you very much Mahen. My wife and I and Sharmila are grateful to you and the organizing committee. I look forward to your forthcoming visit to California.
With every good wish to you and the School we cherish

George Pillai

Gamini Jayasuriya, Bandu Kodituwakku (Bandu) and James Conner (Jim)
Nihal Wanniarachci (Wanni), David Claasz, Nihal Nilaweera, Kamal Kodituwakku, Mahen Ranasinghe & Don Gazara
Nanda Mathew & B.Muna
Mahen with 02 Foreign guests
Nihal Wanni, Kamal , David, Lakshman Amunugama, Nihal & Don
Jurair Marikkar, N L Fernando & Ravi Kotalawala
Ananda Gallearachchi
Srilal Wickremaratne, Mahes Heenatigala (Partly covered) Mahen
Mahes & Evin Mohamed.
Peter Saturninus, Anver Chatoor, Mahamed Aziz, & Palith Rajapakse
Evin, Mohamed Aziz, Peter & Guests
Mrs.LJ & Dal Conner
Amunu, T.Sundaraj, S N Rodrigo, Gamini & Srilal
Kamal, David & Mahes
Nanda, Ananda Medonza, Sunda, B.Muna ,Bandu & A G Jayasinghe (Ana Jay)
Jim & Amunu
Palitha, Kryshantha, Kulasiri Jayasinghe, Wimalanath Wickremasooriya Mrs.Wickremasooriya (seated in the foreground)
B Muna, Kamal, David, B A Mahipala & Anura Nilaweera
Kamal, David, LJ, Mahen, & Anura
Kamal, David, Mahes & Anura
J J Rajakaruna,(Joe Joe) Amunu, Nihal, Wimalanath, Gallearachchi, Mr.George Pilliai & Mrs.Pillai.
Joe Joe, Wimalanath, Amunu, Gallearachchi, Mr & Mrs.Pillai
Amunu, Mr & Mrs.Wimalanath & Mrs.Pillai.
Mr & Mrs.Wimalanath & Mr & Mrs.Pillai
Kulasiri, Wimalanath & Mr & Mrs.Pillai
Mariks, Mr & Mrs Pillai
Joe Joe, Mariks, Mr & Mrs.Pillai.
Kulasiri, Joe Joe & Mr Pillai
Mrs.Pillai & Mariks
Mr & Mrs.Wimalanath, Gallearachchi, Kulasiri & Mr.Pillai
Sunda, Mr & Mrs.Wimalanath & Mr.Pillai
Palitha, Kryshantha & Mr.Pillai
Palitha & Mr. Pillai
M P D Perera, Palitha & Mr.Pillai
Evin & Mr.Pillai
Evin & Mr.Pillai
Nanda, Herman Fernando, Ana Jay, Evin & Mr.Pillai
Nanda, Herman , Ana Jay, Evin & Mr.Pillai
Nanda, Evin & Mr.Pillai
Nanda, Evin & Mr.Pillai
Herby Perera & Mr.Pillai
Herby Perera & Mr.Pillai
Herman, & Mr.Pillai
B.Muna, Bandu, & Mr.Pillai
B.Muna, Bandu, & Mr.Pillai
Mr.Pillai, Ana Jay & Bandu
Kamal, Anver, Mahipala & Mr.Pillai
Mahes, Anver, Mahipala, S N & Mr.Pillai
Mahipala, S N, N L & Ana Jay

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