ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41
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Wesley College opens

Stamp issued to mark the 125th anniversary of Wesley College.

It was in the month of March, 133 years ago that Wesley College, a leading school in Colombo was established. The exact date was March 2, 1874 – marking the death anniversary of John Wesley (1703-91), an 18th Century, Anglican clergyman and Christian theologian and the founder of British Methodism. It was the first widely successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom.

In 1858 Rev. Joseph Rippon (a great uncle of Rev. Henry Highfield, who later became the most revered and longest surviving British missionary principal) wanted to establish a superior educational institution for the Wesleyan Methodist Mission in South Ceylon. His mission was accomplished 16 years later. The Methodist institution was envisaged to be a distinctly Christian college, providing a secondary education.

The school which began at City Mission Buildings at Dam Street, Pettah, had 12 British Missionary Principals from inception until 1949. The first principal was Rev. Samuel Wilkin with Rev. D. Henry Pereira as vice principal. The last of the missionary principals was Rev. James Cartman.
Historically, Ceylon Methodism began when the first Methodist missionaries landed in Ceylon on June 29, 1814. But it was in 1813, when Dr. Thomas Coke wrote the following words, that Ceylon Methodism actually came into being – "I am now dead to Europe and alive to India. God Himself has said to me, 'Go to Ceylon!' I am as convinced of the will of God in this respect as that I breathe – so fully convinced that methinks I would rather be set naked on the coast of Ceylon without clothes and without friends, than not go there."

Rev. Highfield was a clever teacher as much as an able administrator. Among his pupils were hundreds of eminent personalities including the first Sri Lankan Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, Sir Mohamed Marcan Markar, Sir Baron Jayatilaka, P. de S. Kularatne, E. W. Adikaram, Sir Gerard Wijekoon and H. J. V. Ekanayake.

Wesley College, which shifted to its present location at Borella in 1907, has always been a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious institution. Its contribution was recognised with the issue of a stamp on March 2, 2000 to mark its 125th anniversary.


'The conqueror of the Kingdom of Kandy' arrives

Sir Robert Brownrigg

The British Governor who was hailed in Britain as 'the conqueror of the kingdom of Kandy' arrived in Ceylon on March 11, 1812. He was Sir Robert Brownrigg, under whose direction the British succeeded in gaining control over the whole Island. An army Lieutenant General, he came over with no experience of civil administration and no previous contact with Asian people.

The conflict between the King of Kandy and his chiefs paved the way for Brownrigg to annex Kandy although the intention of the British at the time he arrived was to bring the whole island under British influence, if not British control.

A grand ball was held in Colombo on August 1, 1815 to celebrate the conquest of Kandy. There were elaborate decorations, with landscapes of Kandy and its environs, in colour from sketches made on the spot, taking pride of place.

Following annexing Kandy, there was peace for three years until the 1818 rebellion created problems. Troops were brought from India to break the rebellion.

Brownrigg left Ceylon on February 1, 1820 after an eventful tenure of office.


First Sri Lankan Chief Justice

Sir Arthur Wijewardena with Governor-General, Lord Soulbury, Prime Minister
D. S. Senanayake and the first Cabinet of Ministers of independent Ceylon

Sir Arthur Wijewardena (1887-1964) was the first Sri Lankan to become Chief Justice. Born on March 21, 1887, he had his education first at Ananda College and later at S. Thomas' College. Although he won a scholarship and went to Cambridge University, he had to return due to ill health. He had to forgo a career in the Civil Service also due to ill health but later qualified as a lawyer. He served as Public Trustee, Solicitor General and Puisine Judge before becoming Chief Justice in January 1949.

Sir Arthur was the first Sri Lankan to act as Governor-General when Lord Soulbury went to UK on leave.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.