GALLERY OF EVENTS - Fr. Goodchild's 85th Birthday Celebrations - 4th September 2008

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September 04,2008

A special ceremonial General Assembly was organised at the Foster Memorial Hall at Gurutalawa by the Headmaster to felicitate Rev. Fr. Harold Cuthbert Goodchild, Chaplain Emeritus, on the occasion of his 85th birthday. The event had been planned since the second term and had been organised over the last few weeks in top secret as Fr. Goodchild, being the man he is, would not have approved nor participated in any celebration had he been aware of same.

The entire school community of Staff, Support Staff, Students, a few Old Boys and well wishers had assembled by 9.30 am in the hall. Fr. Goodchild had been made to believe that a special assembly had been organised to bid farewell to Mr. G. Nesaseelan (Overall Supervisor) who had received appointment on the staff of S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia. Thus he was visibly surprised when he entered the hall and found that the decorations and the gathering was in his honour.

The Headmaster presided over the event. The entire staff was accommodated on the stage. The Ven. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Archdeacon of Nuwara Eliya was in attendance in his personal capacity and also as the Bishop’s Commissary to represent the Chairman of the Board of Governors of STC and Lord Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera.

The proceedings commenced with a special prayer by the Chaplain, Rev. Fr. Andrew Gnaniah, who used the Peacemaker’s Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which he explained was so dear to Fr. Goodchild’s heart. This was followed by a group of four choristers singing one of Fr. Goodchild’s favourite hymns ‘Father of heaven, whose love profound’.

Thereafter the Headmaster addressed the gathering and outlined the thinking behind the celebration. He referred briefly to all Fr. Goodchild’s achievements at and contributions to STC at Gurutalawa since he had arrived as Chaplain in 1964. He said Fr. Goodchild’s most significant contribution was the faith he invested in the children that had borne fruit over the years. He referred to the fact that Fr. Goodchild had been named ‘Cuthbert’ because when he was born in 1923 the Church calendar had celebrated the Feast day of St. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne on the 4th of September. St. Cuthbert had been a famous teacher, pastor and shepherd and the Headmaster called the attention of all present to the fact that Fr. Goodchild had certainly proved worthy of the name by his ministry at Gurutalawa. The Headmaster also mentioned that when he had first visited Gurutalawa in January 2007 with Mrs. Billimoria in order to see the School at first hand before responding to the Bishop’s invitation to be Headmaster, he had met Fr. Goodchild and said that had it not been for that meeting and the discussions he had had with Fr. Goodchild he may not have accepted the position. He praised Fr. Goodchild’s faith in the endless possibilities that Gurutalawa possessed despite the many experiences of the dark and sad years. He also said that ever since he had assumed duties as Headmaster it was Fr. Goodchild who had been his closest advisor, confidante and friend despite the difference in age and years in the priesthood, and to whom he had turned when he needed guidance. The Headmaster mentioned in closing that he had fully endorsed the Bishop’s suggestion of 2007 that Fr. Goodchild could continue to stay at Gurutalawa for as long as he desired, despite having taken full retirement.

The Archdeacon of Nuwara Eliya spoke of his association with Fr. Goodchild going back to the period that the latter had served in the East of Sri Lanka at the Christa Seva Ashram in Kiran. He also brought greetings from the Bishop of Colombo who was unable to be present because of a prior commitment in Bangladesh as well as from the entire Diocese.

Mrs. Seetha Jayasekera, the Sectional Head of the Upper School, gave credit to the Headmaster for having organised this event to felicitate Fr. Goodchild for his long service and mentioned that this was the first time since she and a few other senior teachers had joined the school around 1983, that a member of the staff had been felicitated for long and loyal service in such a manner. She enumerated Fr. Goodchild’s contribution to the School, particularly during the dark days of 1990. Thereafter Mr. G. Nesaseelan, outgoing Coordinating Supervisor, spoke of the services rendered by Fr. Goodchild over the last several years to the school and specifically spoke of his wonderful example as a teacher and how he had truly lived up to the first part his name - ‘good’.

Mr. Cryshantha Jayawardena, a distinguished old boy and former Secretary of the STCG OBA, spoke of the years he had spent in College and the services Fr. Goodchild had rendered at that time. He referred to the many activities Fr. Goodchild had been involved in at the School since 1964 when he had taken over from Fr. Foster and for having influenced so many so positively during that time.
Mr. Premadasa of the Headmaster’s Office, speaking on behalf of the clerical and support staff referred to the great help Fr. Goodchild had been to the College during the last several years and particularly the darkest hours the school had been through.

The last of the tributes was by the Head Prefect of the School. Shehan Gomes, speaking on behalf of the student body outlined the various aspects of school life in which Fr. Goodchild played a prominent role and specifically thanked him for, among other things, being the most powerful influence for good on their young lives as well as to his having been more than just a Chaplain and Teacher but also a parent figure and friend to the hostellers.

After these tributes a huge cake (sufficient for 600!) in the shape of the College flag and crest, baked in the college bakery surmounted by 85 blazing candles was carried in to the hall on the shoulders of about 8 School prefects, and placed on a table just below the stage while the assembly sang the birthday song. A visibly overcome Fr. Goodchild was invited to cut the cake and was assisted by Mr Athula Senaratne, old boy and former Head Prefect of the School and his family, with whom Fr. Goodchild has very close association.

After the cutting of the cake a number of presentations were made. Mr. Jacques Huyghebaert, Advisor and Mr Sumathipala, the College Carpenter presented Fr. Goodchild with a hand crafted ‘Christus Victor’ Crucifix; Mr. S. R. Ratnapala of the Staff Welfare Society made a presentation on behalf of the staff; Mr. Christo Gonawala, Vice President of the STCG OBA, presented a special plaque from the OBA; Mr Bandula Vithanage, a former Secretary of the STCG OBA, presented him with a book on Sri Lankan Birds on behalf of a group of Fr. Goodchild’s students; and the Deputy Head Prefect presented an autograph album signed by all the senior students and academic staff.

The Headmaster then invited Fr. Goodchild to address the assembly. Although at first too overcome for words, Fr. Goodchild spoke and admitted that he had been well and truly caught off guard despite his boxing skills as he had been totally unaware about the event. He thanked all those responsible for having organised it commenting that while he believed that one’s reward was in heaven, he felt he had received his reward that morning. He then paid tribute to Dr. Rollo & Mrs. Mary Hayman, Canon A . J. Foster, Mr. A. K. Chapman, Mr. A. C. M. Laffir and Mr. John Marasinghe among other members of the staff of days gone by who had rendered invaluable service to the College. He spoke with great affection of Sri Lanka and mentioned that although he had been invited many times to migrate to Australia, USA, UK and New Zealand he had always declined because he said there was no country like Sri Lanka and his wish was to be buried here. He requested the boys too to think twice before qualifying and leaving the country. He said the secret of his long life was work and quoted Brother Andrew who is supposed to have said that “work is life’s best recreation”. He went on to say that despite the ups and downs of life he had always experienced that if you took adequate rest and watched what you ate and worked with all your heart that was the secret of long life. He spoke with great affection of the School and exhorted the children to work hard in the classroom and the playing fields and do well and contribute to the reputation of Guru – a place like no other. He finally thanked the Headmaster and all concerned for the good wishes and the celebrations.
The Headmaster then offered his thanks to all those who had been his ‘co conspirators’ in planning the event and next invited the Archdeacon of Nuwara Eliya to offer prayers for Fr. Goodchild and to pronounce the benediction.

The proceedings ended with the singing of the College Song and the National Anthem.

The Senior Students and the Staff joined the Old Boys together with the Headmaster and Fr. Goodchild to lunch in the College Dining Hall.

It was gratifying to observe the meticulous care and concern for detail applied by the Headmaster. Also the dignity with which the Prefect Body attended to the duties allocated to them and the exemplary manner in which they supported their Headmaster to make his task lighter. It was also quite pleasing to note the pin drop silence during the entire proceedings and the attentive manner in which all students including the very young conducted themselves. The speech of the Head Prefect was delivered with skill and ease. The entire student population was very orderly and very respectful towards the Staff, the Guests ,the Old Boys and Well Wishers who attended the days events. At lunch too one could see a marked difference in the behaviour and manners of the students. In all of these areas referred to there was a remarkable improvement as compared with the recent past when there did not appear to be anybody in charge. It was not difficult to see the stamp of the Headmaster writ all over the place. One can only imagine the long hours of sacrifice it must be taking for him to put the House in order. To put it all in a Nutshell- who said the Hayman Era was gone for ever. If at all every aspect of the event was an improvement and brought back memories of that Golden Era. Well done Headmaster and all who were involved in the arrangements and all those who supported him and participated in making this memorable and unique event the resounding success it was.

Amongst the Old Boys present were Bandula Wanigasekera –(1949-1953), a former Senior Vice President of the STCG-OBA; Lakshman Jayatilaka (1958-1962); Chrishantha Jayawardhana-(1963-1972) a former Secretary of the STCG- OBA; Bandula Vithanage (1965-1972)–a former Secretary of The STCG-OBA; Athula Senaratne-(1976-1984). All Round Boy-1981, a former Head Prefect 1981 & 1982; Prabhath Jayasundera-(1977-1987) All Round Boy-1984, and a former Head Prefect -1985. Chrosto Gonawela –(1966-1971) a former Manager of the College and presently a Vice President of the STCG-OBA.


An e-mail dated 29th August 2008 from Bandula Vithanage, Former Secretary STCG OBA

Dear All,

A few days back it was mentioned to me by my friend & and a former Ex - Co member of STCG OBA, Chryshantha Jayawardena that HM - STCG has contacted and informed him that Rev Fr H.C.Goodchild will be 85yrs on 04th Sept 08.The HM STCG is arranging a surprise felicitation ceremony at school on that day and has requested the OBA to make representation by gracing the occassion.

Having contacted the Hony Secy STCG he confirms of the above and that a few from the Ex Co is attending. My suggetion is that we should be there in strength.

To my knowledge Rev Fr Goodchild, gave up his ashram life in the East of Ceylon sought to join as Chaplain in the early 60's and since dedicated more than half is lifetime to STC and continue to do so. Which by itself is unique of this humble and unassuming person.

During our time in school in the capacity of chaplain he not only taught Divinity but was also a teacher of English Lang. & Lit. He was in charge of Scouting, Swiminig & Bird Wacthing with Late Mr Marasinghe (Most loved activities of Late Dr Hayman & Fr Foster). He was also in charge of Hockey with Late Mr. Lafir.

As I know him, by nature he was a stickler to the rule where discipline, cleanliness, neatness was concerned and has an enormous respect to the envoirenment. It didn't matter whoever errred - student, minor staff and even the members of the staff, in these instances or disrespected the envoirenment he would not hesitate for a moment to punish. But later being a man of the gospel as always he would forgive the one who erred with godly advise.

Later with my assosiation with the school as member of the OBA I had the good fortune to continue to interact with Fr.Goodchild specially during a period of time I consider the darkest days for STCG. Despite the most horrible and horrendeous happenings the school was facing at that time he had the resilience, confidence, courage and the motivation to state to the administrators of the college not to ignore or err in their duty by depriving the students of a eqiut essential education envisioned by its founders.

He made a request to Chryshantha to restore the Chapel for him as it was in shambles and shame to S, Thomas'. Chryshantha took the whole task upon him personally and self funded the project refurbished it, Father personally supervised the work by forgoing his term vacation at that time. I was witness the fulfilment of this project as we made a number of visits to Guru.

As with our Late beloved teachers of par excellence M/s Chapman, Amarasinghe,Gnanamuththu, Jayasinghe and others of the Hayman & Foster era, father belongs to them, I'm sure his faculties are still alert and will always be focused only to perpetuate the vision of our Founders EDUCATION FOR LEADERSHIP.

It will be very appropriate if the OBA recognise the invalubable service of this humble but great teacher and pay him the highest tribute while he amogst us, as I beleive he is the only remaing link to the Hayman Foster era.

Knowing Fr.Goodchild who shuns celebration like the Haymans, let us take this opportunity to be in strength with the school to the felicitate his services.

Let me suggest its still not too late that the Ex Co meet, plan a small agenda communicate through technology to the members and contact an Old Boy ie Sarath Kotagma a keen bird watcher, scout swimmer and hockey player now a Prof.of Ornothorloogy to deliver speech and the OBA present him a token of appreciation.

Rev Father's name tell is it all GOODHILD and haven't STC been blessed to have him with us for and let us get-together to wish him many more years health and happiness.


Bandula Vithanage.

Plaque presented by the Guru OBA to Fr. Goodchild
Senior Students line up outside the Hall
Bandula Vithanage & Chrishantha Jayawardena approach the Hall
Mr. Dikkumbura, Mr. Christo Gonawela, Jacques Huyghebaert, Headmaster & Bandu Wanigasekera (outside the HM’ Office)
The banner on the stage
The students assembled
The Eastern Band
Old Boys – Christo Gonawela, Bandula Vithanage, Bandula Wanigasekera & Chishantha Jayawardene
The Staff on the Stage
Fr. Goodchild is ushered in by the HM followed by the Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey the Archdeacon of Nuwareliya and others
The HM presides and commences proceedings
The Chaplain Fr. Andrew Gnaniah says a special Prayer
Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey the HM, Fr. Goodchild, Jacques & Mr. Nesaseelan at the Head Table
Part of the Choir sing accompanied by the Eastern Band
The HM delivers his opening address
Rev. Fr. A J Foster looks down benevolently almost 45 years after passing through
The Archdeacon of Nuwaraeliya Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey
Mr. Chrishantha Jayawardene a former Secretary of the STCG OBA speaks on behalf of the Old Boys
Mrs. Sita Jayasekera Senior Section Head speaks on behalf of the Academic staff
Mr. G. Nesaseelan – Outgoing Overall Supervisor delivers his speech
…. And is blessed by Fr. Goodchild
Mr. Premadasa of the Headmasters Office Staff delivers his speech
The HM, Fr. Goodchild & Jacques listen patiently
Shehan Gomes the Head Prefect delivers his speech on behalf of the student body
The 600 piece cake with 85 candles is brought in on the shoulders of six Prefects

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