• Last Update 2022-12-03 08:01:00

Kingswood Union holds 118th AGM, as College marks 131 years

Education

 

By L.B.Senaratne
Kingswood College Kandy held the Kingswood   Union’s  118 Annual General Meeting at Blaze Memorial Hall on October 30, 2022. In Kandy.
 This is the only Union of old Boys' when it was established 118 years ago . In fact the idea was mooted by Captain Ernest Hamdscombe Spencer a tutor who entered Kingswood on the invitation of Louis Edmond Blaze who  wanted the Union to be formed for the old boys fo the then present and the future. But it did not come to pass until in 1904 the Union saw  the light of day.
Everyone in the country knows Louis Edmund  Blaze a a Historian, Journalist, writer and the founder of Kingswood College one of the prestigious educational  Institutions in the county. There is no parallel anywhere in the world that a Journalist had founded an educational Institution.;
But, this is what  he  left  for the people in the country - an educational Institution Par- Excellence. founded by a journalist and Historian Louis Edmund Blaze the son, of a Teacher, who tried his hand to become a Journalist at the age of 15 years editing ‘Gleaner’ a magazine at  Trinity College, Kandy.  Blaze was a Trintian but formed his own school on different lines even bringing the name of Kingswood from Bath , England. The son was also adapted from Kingswood, and Ms.Sansom of Kandy Girls' High School had lent a copy, which was adapted, with the first few lines to meet the environment and atmosphere.
Kingswood College - a College Par Excellence stepped into one hundred and thirty one years this year.
One has to go to the City of Amsterdam around 1785, at the Board of Admiralty meeting on 7th October 1785 appointing a  person known as Hendrick Carel Blaze to serve as the Third Mate under the command of Captain F.J.Wiert to acknowledge H.G.C.Blaze in the rank of third Mate.  Then that was the Grandfather of Louis Edmund Blaze, who arrived on board the ship “ Amphittribe " 
He had three children and the second was John Henry Blaze who grew to be a School Teacher and was appointed by the Wesleyan Methodist Conference as the English master in the Methodist Mission School at Bentota in 1821.
He chose as his wife the Headmistress of Government Girls’ School at Bentota Margareta Caroline de Joodt and married at Kalutara in 1826.


John Henry Blaze’s eldest son was named Louis Ezekiel and was the father of Louis Edmund Blaze of Kingswood and was born on 29th September 1861.  
Blaze was the first graduate to obtain the B.A.Degree from the University of Calcutta, a student from Trinity College. His contemporary at Trinity was Andreas Nell. 
After his graduation he taught at the Boys’ School of Lahore for a short time.  Then he taught at Bishop’s College Calcutta and then for eighteen months at St. James School also in Calcutta. It is of interest that when he left the Boys’ School at Lahore, he was given a souvenir and the cover was designed by Rudyard Kipling’s father. Blaze was a keen rugger player and because of this, the cover bore the following “ To L.E.Blaze Esqr:
"Captain ....Semper Paratus ..First on the field and last to leave it “." 
After his Indian connection, he arrived in Sri Lanka in January 1891 and thought of setting up a school for children in his own way, perhaps having copied the Public School spirit in India.  Soon after his arrival, he scouted for premises to set up the school. and also Blaze was determined to set up a school on the lines of Public schools in England, as he had experience from India which had set up schools as Public Schools in England. But there was a difference, in that, the boys would not be trained to pass examinations, but to be educated in the right atmosphere to fit into society  Also to have the friendliest relationship with the tutors.
 Where can he find space? This question mattered to him most and while he was scouting around Kandy, he found a Cavalry Officer on Pavilion Street, Kandy.  This Cavalry Officer was having an office opposite St. Paul’s Church and they were to move from these buildings as these were stables of the Unit and the officers were on the first floor and the soldiers who were looking after were on the lower floor with the horses stabled on the same floor as well even today the outline of the buildings given one a scene of stables, though Lawyers had it for years.
“Yes, Young Man what are you searching,’’ asked a Cavalry Officer with a mustache long enough to hang.  
Blaze told him that he was looking for space to run a school. ‘Well, we are moving tomorrow, you can have my office and also the adjoining room.’’ 
Surprised as Blaze was, he inquired as to how much he would have to pay. This belongs to the government you just occupy, we will do the rest “was the reply.
So Blaze lost no time in moving to No. 11 Pavilion Street, Kandy to form the "Kandy Boys’ School". as by then Kandy Girls High School had begun.

As the writer left Kingswood to read for the pre-med at St Joseph’s College, as there were no schools in Kandy for this examination, my Physics Tutor Anton Blacker, insisted that I should join the Union.  Then the founder of Kingswood Louis Edmund Blaze was the President of the Union and Late Senior Attorney M.B.Abeykoon was the Secretary. We had the meetings of the Kingswood Union in the ante-room of Wesley Church on Brownrigg street and Mr. Paiva sending the members of the Union tea and sandwiches on his account, as he knew the founder of Kingswood was the President.
One day while M.B.Abeykoon and I were ready to move away after the meeting, Blaze joined us in the conversion and I took the opportunity to request him to show where Kingswood had its foundation.  He immediately made it known that he would take us to the place. Blaze said “Let’s go”. Abyekoon was not that keen, but I was.  Attorney Abeykoon had his office on upstairs of this same building. But, Vice Principal J.O.Mendis also joined us who was once a old Boy when the school was fonded by Blaze.
"Blaze took us to the place and showed us the building which was housing a Lawyer’s office, being Sunday there was no one. Now the building is vacant as the UDA has taken over under the Sacred City concept. This building deserves to be preserved as such a prestigious school. There is no parallel anywhere in the world that a journalist had founded an educational institution and has lasted for one hundred and thirty  one years in a turbulent world of time. He was the Editor of “Ceylon Independent” and built a public school for the children of the country. He also became a Historian  and has a vibrant group of students who pass out of its portals, to fit any society.  They may not hold Degrees but they hold Degrees of the Society they represent. 
To Blaze, his chargers were “Our Boya”, until the Principal after Blaze, Revd: Pearson having opened the main gates and  his sermon said that those who enter these portals would go through as “Gentleman of Kingswood’’   and so are they. 
In parallel was the Kandy Girls High School which remained and remains by that original name, which once belong to the Methodist Mission. 
The name “Kingswood’’ came into being in 1898 when she moved on to Yatinuwara Veediya, which was the home of the Wanigasekera’s. Blaze moved on to this building as the school at Pavilion Street was crowded and he wanted a Hall for the school Assembly.  
There are many firsts at Kingswood woven for the benefit of the country, not only for the school. Traffic Units were born at Kingswood College when a senior prefect Sanaraja Banda Senaratne mooted the idea for a school traffic unit way back in the nineteen fifties.  Kingswood commenced rugby and gave up after a player died after a missed attack of a kick. It was the first school to recruit woman teachers such as Miss Annie Bartholomeuz to a Boys’ school. The first to introduce school bands. The first to send a delegate Francis Rajapakse, to a World Jamboree in Paris, a detachment to the Mysore Jamboree and the only delegate to represent Sri Lanka at the Centenary Congress of the Red Cross. These are only a few of the many firsts.  
The blessings of Blaze was that any child who passes out of the portals of Kingswood could live up to its standards and also fit into any society, high or low. There was no supremacy and everyone was equal, humble, and disciplined. Blaze instilled this concept to the pupils at a very early age, so much so that when the Tulba family of Egyptians were exiled from Egypt and lived in Sri Lanka, they opted for Kingswood for their children’s future rather than ‘forcing’ them into other recognized schools in Colombo.  
Blaze forsook an appointment offered by Professor Mars to be the Librarian of the University College in order to give guidance and stimulus to the contact of personality. Blaze would have considered the appointment but by that time he had accepted the appointment  of Editor of  the ‘Ceylon Independent’ for a short-lived journalistic career. 
He was also an author of Ceylon History.  The Birth anniversary of Blaze falls on 29th September 1861, if he lived would be one hundred and sixty one years.

There are a number of stories related to the period the school was housed at Pavilion Street and close by was the Magistrate’s Court and the District Court. Policeman and boys are the same then and now. This story has done its rounds, yet I would repeat for the readers to judge for themselves the period then and now. 
When a boy saw a ‘cock’ walking on the narrow pavement of Pavilion Street, out came the catapult and the cock rolled on the ground and lay still. Right behind the boy was the ‘Arm of the Law’ and the boy was taken to the Magistrate - a stone throw. The Magistrate then was firm and also humane. He asked, “Where is the cock?” 
The policeman could not touch the cock, because the cock stood up, shook his feathers and walked away, among the laughter of the legal fraternity and the Magistrate. That was life then
Then another instance is when a murder was brought to the Magistrate's Court and all students ran to see the culprit.  While they were there the school bell rang th entire lot of boys ran out of he Court disturbing the proceedings.  The arm of the law was hand all boys were brought into the court.  They pleaded guilty. The Judge on the pleadings of the Crown sent the boys awy with a stern warning.  
The first prize-giving of Kingswood was held in 1895 at the Kandy Town Hall which continued to be the venue till 1904 after which it was moved into Kandy Girls’ High School Hall and back to the Town Hall.  
The first Chief Guest was Fedrick. Dornorst and the unique prologue was read by E.G. Jonklass  to take out the tedious business at a any Prize Gviing then or now. The privileged student to read the prologue was the winner of the oratory prize of the school, then and even now. Kingswood seldom invites politicians to be their Chief Guest, unless he is the Head of State.  
Kingswood is the only school that has prologues recited and this tradition was borrowed from Harrow of England, where prize day poems were recited. In the words of Blaze, the object of the prologue was to get rid of the restlessness that is created during Prize Day in any school. In fact, it was a diversion.  
 A brief caning incident at Kingswood shows Blaze the educationist par excellence at work. It is recorded that when a boy had to be caned, he asked one of the boys to bring a cane and one who volunteered and jumped forward to bring the cane was the one who was caned by Blaze. The reason attributed by Blaze was that the boy who jumped to bring the cane was very eager to see one of his colleagues being punished. This he used to say was not the spirit of Kingswood.  

Kingswood had no science teachers and the Wesleyan Mission ‘imported’ them from India. Most of them did not return but entered the life of Kingswood. They were involved with the spirit of Kingswood and their contribution spelled beyond the school walls.  Kingswood was lucky enough to obtain spacious land to build the school in the present premises at Peradeniya Road. The gift was by a man who never set his foot on Kingswood soil nor did he see what was happening at the new education institution. Sir John Randles the benefactor in England was looking for a school to which he could give 10,000 sterling pounds. The Wesleyan Mission selected Kingswood, which by this time was firmly built by its founder.

The current Principal of the College is W.D.Upali Chandrakumara.

 

 

A statue of L.E.Blaze  sculptured by two former tutors.
 
 

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