Madness and Sadness
Before I could read the printed version of Part II, I received the following feedback from USA which goes to say that there are many versions to this popular story:
"Hi, I am a Sebastianite living in USA. The story about killing two birds with one stone, the version that I heard was slightly different. It goes like this: He threw the Kettha to the centre, so it planted in the middle of two animals. Then he aimed his gun and fired his only bullet which hit the Kettha and split into two and hit the animals instantaneously killing them - Moratuwa Porak"
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The most memorable event during our time was the annual cricket match between St. Sebastian's College and PWC. Those who are familiar with the geography of Prince of Wales College will know that the vast cricket ground is facing the main Galle road. When the English cricketer Dennis Compton once visited Sri Lanka and played at Prince of Wales College grounds it is said that spectators watching from top of huge trees, which were planted far beyond boundary lines, had to duck when he pulled out massive ‘sixes’ ‘over the main road through the branches of trees!
The College compound became a bee-hive with students from both colleges during the rival match with cheering in many forms while some got into lorries and started waving flags, chanted slogans, sang songs and played steel bands to give a real carnival atmosphere. More than a game for the cricketers, it became a fun day for spectators!
Once during the annual ‘rival’ match, a popular teacher from St. Sebastian's College who was renowned for his side-splitting acts, especially for gulping two raw eggs at the end of the first lesson during a double period, was seen taking his rosary out of his pocket swiftly and praying to God, perhaps seeking divine help to save St. Sebastian's from defeat.........!
Some boys, having caught his presence dashed towards him, grabbed and lifted him and carried him on their arms round the grounds shouting, "He is a jolly good fellow..... He is a jolly good fellow......". The uncomfortable master had no choice while he was hurled up and down in the air.
Carrying eggs in his jacket pocket by this teacher for ‘emergency energy boost up’, was an open secret among the boys! One impish student in the rush grabbed his jacket and squeezed both pockets hard while he was swinging up and down in the air. The eggs broke and made a mess inside his jacket pocket. The poor master must have been cursing the culprit for the inconvenience caused but unfortunately he had to be in that position until he was put down on to the ground before any cleaning out of the pocket could be done.
School masters during our time were modest. A few of them used push bicycles as a means of transport and cycled to school and back. The above mentioned master was well built and always dressed in western attire - shirt with collar, neck tie and jacket, Pith Helmet hat made from plastic, cotton and a leather strap and highly polished shoes. He could be recognised from any distance on the road as he paddled his bicycle twice in forward motion, and free-wheeled four times backwards at 5 MPH.
Once a young boy, a fisherman’s son, who was learning to ride a bicycle on the Koralawella ,Moratuwa road swerved and went zig zag in trying to get his balance back. Whilst he became unsteady and was about to lose his balance he was seen riding abreast with the master. The next morning the young man quickly hung on to his right shoulder to escape from falling off the bike. Looking straight ahead in fright and still freewheeling, he shouted, ' Hey! Amanaya, Atha Harapan, Atha Harapan' (you monster leave off) but within seconds both of them fell onto the road without much injury.
Once some boys in my class decided to lock the ‘geometrical drawing’ master out by shutting all windows and the louver-door in a classroom immediately underneath the College clock. Earning a reputation as a bunch of notorious 'incorrigibles' who were being transferred from one room to another after every act of mischief, teachers were naturally thrown into perplexity not knowing where we were.
It happened to be the last period of the day and boys managed to hold up till the final ten minutes in complete darkness until a curious student slightly shifted louvers in a window to take a glimpse when the particular teacher was in the corridor, very next to the classroom and walking in a haze.
An excited voice within the classroom shouted "shut it.... shut it.. Men!" which gave a clue to the master where we were hiding. Within minutes a thundering voice was heard saying : "Open the bloody door" with a forceful kick which nearly flung the door open. Someone in the classroom announced: "Don't open... don't open," but the enraged voice thundered even louder: "Never you mind, open the bloody d.....o .....o... r........!" . Fuming Principal entered the classroom like a rocket with a long cane.
Sorrow amidst fun
Gnashing his teeth, the Principal wanted to know who was responsible for the loutish act. Dead silence of unity prevailed as usual and the final result being we all received three cane lashings on our buttocks.
In the midst of the hullaballoo the final bell to dismiss the college went off and we were detained for 45 minutes after school, for which poor teacher too had to hang around with us.
As much as fun and disorderly behaviour, we experienced the most tragic moment in our time when one of our beloved teachers committed suicide inside the laboratory by swallowing a concentrated concoction of acid. That morning the teacher walked up and down across the classroom in a pensive mood. At 2.45 pm there was pandemonium and everyone rushed towards the laboratory with the news of a suicidal incident.
Later we learnt that our master had befriended the lab technician in advance and diplomatically done his homework. On this particular afternoon, sending the lab technician out to buy some cigarettes, he swallowed a concoction of noxious acid.
It was a frightful scene to watch when a senior prefect (the late Ronnie Abeysinghe) carried the dying teacher on his arms like a child. Some antidote had been administered immediately inside the lab but his tongue had completely dissolved along with part of the clothes he was wearing. He was rushed immediately to Lunawa hospital where he died, but such madness and sadness is ingrained in our memory as the worst experience at PWC.
It gives me the shivers, even today, when I evoke that horrible scene. The feeling that remains with me is that despite this misfortune, he was a great teacher even though he may have had his own reasons for doing what he did....something like taking his own life! I wish we were old enough for him to have been able to talk to us. Or we could have been there to help him out.
Courtecy of series published in the Daily News in 2012