Warden and the garden -mistaken identity
My Days at S.T.C (Episode 3)
By Quentin Israel
Within a year of joining S. Thomas', the Warden, C.H. Davidson asked me whether I would like to be a House Master in the boarding, as Lassie Abeywardena would be leaving and a vacancy would arise. Even though I was in my first year in College, he offered this post to me probably because I had been in the Trinity boarding, a prefect and had good references from the Principal, N.S. Walter and the Vice Principal, G.Y. Sahayam who taught me mathematics and Major Gordon Burrows, who was my choir master. I was also an Anglican. I was also involved in rugger at that time at Havelocks and the Warden had indicated that he required my services to help the college in rugger.

I informed him that I lived in Station Road, Dehiwela, just a five minutes bus ride to S.T.C. In any case, I continued, I would seek the permission of my father, which I subsequently obtained.

I thus, became House Master of Miller/Chapman and within the next few years, I was also appointed Senior Boarding House Master in change of Copleston / Claughton as well. The boarding was the life of the school and the rivalry between Miller/Chapman and Copleston / Claughton was very fierce, particularly in the field of rugby, when players went at each other with animal ferocity, resulting in many injuries. Wardens Canon R.S. de Saram, Mr. C.H. Davidson and Mr. S.J. Anandanayagam have always forcefully stated that the spirit of S. Thomas' came from the boarding. The boarding at that time was full and vibrant, but alas, it is no more. Most of the college cricketers, rugger players and athletes came from the boarding, while the entire hockey team came from Miller and Copleston.

Class examinations for the second term and then for the end of the year went on till the last day of that term. This necessitated the staff having to wait for a few days into the holidays in order to correct answer scripts, attend staff meetings and write out reports, with attendant remarks etc.

It so happened that on such an occasion while I was correcting answer scripts in my quarters from where I could see the main gate, college drive, the quadrangle and many school buildings, a large Chevrolet drove down the main drive. The school was deserted but for a gardener of Burgher descent, who was dressed in khaki shorts and a large khaki shirt with a torn pocket. On his head he wore an old broad brimmed green felt hat, associated with the Founder of Scouting, Lord Baden Powell. I must mention here that the Warden took a great interest in the beauty of the compound, and apart from occasionally attending to flowers in the absence of the gardener during the vacation, he would even pick up little bits of paper lying on the quadrangle lawn and stuff them into his pockets.

I got off my chair and walked to the parapet like wall under the open arch of my living room, which gave me a good view of the proceedings below. It was a large open car with the hood drawn down. A fair, lean boy was behind the steering wheel. He saw the gardener and tooted his horn and the gardener responded by looking back after the third toot, which was prolonged. Having caught the attention of the gardener, the boy beckoned him to come to the car. The gardener, not sure whether the boy referred to him, quizzically pointed his index finger to himself and the boy nodded in affirmation. The gardener obediently left his little garden implements and meekly complied.

The driver then addressed him "Hey Gardener, could you tell me where I could meet the Head of this College?" "Yes, of course," he replied. He then pointed to Thalassa, a building which housed the Accounts Office and the Warden's office, and said - "There it is. I am afraid you will not be able to drive direct from here. You will have to drive back through the gates through which you came, drive left, turn left at the first road intersection and again left and you will come to that ground you see over there and that is the office," he said, pointing to the building again. He then continued, "The person you wish to see should be there within 15 minutes. Please wait for him." The gardener then turned and proceeded towards a small gate leading towards another building.

He was about to disappear from sight when the boy called him back - "Hey gardener! please come back.” The gardener obliged and returned to the car. The boy reached for his wallet in his hip pocket, pulled out a note and with a smile, said "I 'm terribly sorry, I forgot to thank you and give you this." The gardener blushed and said with perfect diction "Thank you very much, it is kind of you but that will not be necessary." He then turned around and walked off again.

The boy drove to the office and asked Lassie Abeywardena, the College Bursar where theWarden’s office was. He was shown the room, sat down and patiently awaited the Warden’s arrival.

He did not have to wait long for soon the Warden arrived, said "Good Morning" to the boy and took his seat at the Warden's table. The boy was speechless for some time and then in his American accent proffered a profound apology when he realised the gardener,who had changed his attire, was in fact the Warden.

The Warden politely brushed it aside as a matter of no consequence and asked him - "Now what can I do for you?" He replied, "My name is Cooper, I am an American and my father is here on an UN assignment. I have heard so much about this school and I wish to be enrolled here as a student." The Warden pressed the button under his large table and Mr. Ferdinends stood before him. The Warden told Mr. Ferdinends - "This boy is joining S.T.C. Please enroll him and let him know what is required."

The boy was a good student and also represented the college in under 17 rugby and basketball.

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