Three Turf Wickets at S.Thomas’
Historical background and road map to the launching of three
‘Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes’ (‘I fear
the Greeks even when they bring gifts’)
When Collin Ratnayake, Headmaster, S.Thomas’ College
Gurutalawa resigned and left in 1977 even without the customary
one month’s notice, the Board of Governors and the Bishop
at the time- Bishop Kenneth requested me to take charge of
the College administration and review the ground situation.
To be honest, I really took to the task entrusted to me with
great relish ‘ as ducks take to water’. It was
really ‘home’ ground for me and also brought nostalgic
memories where I was a student in 1945, then teacher, Read
Housemaster, cricket and hockey coach (1952-1956) inclusive
of the year at Christ’s College, Cambridge on study
leave, thanks to my parents, Dr.Hayman, Fr.Foster and Professor
E F C Ludowyke. As Rajan said, I should know S Thomas’
College Gurutalawa ‘inside out”! In fact, I was
de facto Headmaster cum Manager.
I visited S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa and met the
staff and minor employees. At Assembly, I told the boys that
I was happy to be back and would look after their interest
in order to maintain the high standards we are accustomed
to. Fortunately, I had an excellent team to work with.
On my return to Colombo, I met and discussed with Bishop
Kenneth the strategy to be adopted during the inter regnum
till a new Headmaster was appointed. On my recommendation
Bishop Kenneth made the follwoign appointments: 1) L A M Chandrasekera,
as Acting Headmaster to be in overall charge 2) S T Moorthy
– Master-in –charge of the Boarding and academic
work, with special reference to the Tamil Medium 3) K Bandusena
– Master-in-Charge of infra-structure including buildings
etc as Technical Officer 4) The Revd Dushantha Rodrigo as
As Manager, I appointed 1)ACM Laffir (now deceased) Prefect
of Games and coach of Hockey, Squash and Badminton and Master-in-Charge
of the swimming pool 2) J W Marasinghe (also now deceased)
Master-in-Charge of Swimming in addition to his duties as
Secretary to the Headmaster 3) Mrs. Yapa, Teacher-in-Charge
of Keble Dormitory and the Primary Section. I am writing from
memory, please excuse a lapsus linguae.
My magnum opus, so speak, was the construction of three turf
wicket – two for matches and one for practices. The
Bishop blessed the site and cut the first sod, followed by
Ronnie Weerakoon (deceased) Bradman Weerakoon,Clifford Ratwatte
and myself. The illustrious Aravinda de Silva’s famous
coach W A N Silva and the Proprietor of the Cricket Shop recommended
Marion Cooray (deceased), curator of the Moratuwa Cricket
Stadium to lay the turf wickets. He did an excellent job (vide
Ajit Jayasekera’s) report to the Board of Governors).
I collected the money from a few former students of mine and
some friend s (vide my financial report to the Board of Governors).
To say the least I was overwhelmed by the response to my letter.
Bandula Wanigasekera was the first with Rs.10,000! Ismeth
Cassim was a tower of strength to me in my collection campaign,
in addition to his own contribution of Rs.10,000/-. He took
me in his car and that indeed was a God send.
On the recommendation of Bertie Wijesinha who was our coach
in the 1st eleven cricket when I was playing for STC in 1946
and later our cricket coach at S.Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa
when the late Bala Gunasegeram was Headmaster, I bought a
‘turf cutter’ for Rs.85,000/- with your money.
He said it was essential if we are to have turf wickets. Ironically,
at a Board of Governors’ meeting at which I was present,
Mr.G Mendis, Headmaster at the time offered it on a platter
to the Warden, S.Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. O tempora
O mores. He did not care to get my permission, though I had
bought it with money collected by me.
During the inter regnum, at my request, Anura Tennekoon successfully
conducted an excellent coaching camp with Asoka de Silva,
Sylvester Dias to help him. Anura wanted us to invite Welimada
Central and another Maha Vidyalya. I also invited STC Bandarawela
to the camp. 2. Nihal Cooray (deceased), Director General
of Education and Teacher Training (English) organized a week-end
course for teachers of English at STCG. He brought a team
of trained specialists in English teaching methods. Here too,
I invited STC Bandarawela and there is no doubt it was beneficial
to all the teachers who participated. 3. Dr.E S Thevasagayam
(deceased) was a source of inspiration to our teachers with
his workshop on “Integral Education’.
All in all this period was a fruitful one and many sent letters
of appreciation. Bishop Kenneth and I assisted S Thomas’
College Gurutalawa often and addressed the staff and students
in order to monitor the progress till the Board of Governors
was able to find a suitable Headmaster.
Anyway I would like Father Marc to check (a) the location
of the turf cutter and (b) what happened to the Rs.10,000/-
balance in the Turf wicket Fund when I resigned and MR.Clifford
Ratwatte was appointed the Manager. Mr.Alban Fernando was
the Headmaster at the time.
I am very happy that Father Marc is settling down as the
New Headmaster- already he has made his mark – no pun
is intended ! There is no doubt that he has a Herculean task
in cleaning the Augean stables. When I met Bishop Duleep de
Chickera on 5th October in his office to invite him for the
Festival of Cricket, I expressed my thanks to him and to the
Board of Governors for the excellent choice. S.Thomas’
College Gurutalawa is in safe and capable hands and things
are looking bright. He needs our help and support and I am,
therefore, appealing to you to give generously for the turf
wicket fund. Please send contributions, however small, to
the Revd Marc Billimoria, Headmaster, S Thomas’ College
Gurutalawa to be used exclusively to restore the turf wickets
which have been thoroughly neglected by successive Headmasters.
Guy de Alwis has very kindly agreed to re-lay the turf wickets
to be ready when we have the Festival of Cricket. It is not
fair to use the College Funds to revive the turf wickets.
Fr.Marc has enough on his hands to upgrade the infrastructure
with the limited resources at his disposal.
Mirabile dictu, on 8th February 1998, at my invitation, Bishop
Kenneth left Colombo at 4 am along with Anura Tennekoon and
Mahesan Selvaratnam blessed the turf wickets before the matches
of the Festival of Cricket organized by me. Similarly, Bishop
Duleep de Chickera has agreed to bless the ‘restored’
turf wickets on 1st March 2008 before the Festival of Cricket
The Lord is good, his love is eternal and his faithfulness
lasts for ever.
‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
With Christian greetings and every good wish.
Gerald de Alwis
97/6, Poorwarama Road
12th June 2000
Mr M.R. Aluwihare JP, MMC,
S. Thomas’ College Board of Governors,
102/11, Templars Road
REPORT ON THE TRUF WICKET AT S.T.C. GURUTALAWA
At the last meeting of the S. Thomas’ College Board
of Governors, I was asked to inspect the Truf Wicket at St.
Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa and submit a report on its
condition, after it was brought to the notice of the Board
that the wicket had ‘sunk’.
The Board was also told at the March meeting that the turf
wicket was a ‘White Elephant’ and that it would
cost a minimum of Rs. 50,000/- per month, to maintain.
I visited S. Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa on 3rd June
2000, to carry out the said inspection. My primary concern
on hearing that the wicket had ‘sunk’ was that
white ants had attacked the under-surface, thereby causing
the bottom layer of clay to collapse. This phenomenon is a
common fault in turf wickets, and needs extensive digging
and filling up to rectify. However, on inspection of the wicket,
it was found that it had not sunk, as stated, but the wicket
was in perfect condition despite its neglect over a period
The impression I got was that there was a remarkable lack
of interest in maintaining not only the turf, but also the
entire playing area of the grounds, which is in a state of
overall neglect. A concerted effort seems to have been made
to blame the turf as the cause of this neglect. The turf itself
has been extremely well constructed and has the making of
a good cricket wicket. A tube well is available at the edge
of the field, but no effort has been made to tap that source
of water. Sufficient clay is available to maintain the wicket
for at least the next one year. Blue grass is available in
plenty in the area. The groundsman shows a positive attitude
and asked if he could be trained in the preparation of wickets,
which could be arranged by me personally, but it would be
of no use if he lacks support. The Sports Master did not even
bother to visit the grounds during the time I spent there.
It would be in the interest of the College and its students,
if the authorities make maximum use of this excellent turf
wicket and also improve on the overall maintenance of the
grounds, instead of making false and damaging statements to
discredit this invaluable gift they have got.
In conclusion, I wish to re-iterate that the turf has been
extremely well constructed and its maintenance will not cost
anything for at least another one year, if the authorities
concerned show some interest and a more positive attitude.
OBA Representative on the Board of Governors.