Some Memories of Our Teachers

Chandradasa Or Sandadas Coperahewa?


Chandradasa Coperhewa was a teacher at St.Thomas’College, Mount Lavinia for thirty two years. He was well known as Sandadas Coperahewa as a Poet, Scholar, Writer in both mediums and also as an Art Critic and other name appear in all the official documents.


After his retirement he was one of the editors of the Pali Dictionary brought out by “Siri Vajiranana Bhikku Center Maharagama”. Editorial Consultant of Little Star Children’s weekly and Lankadeepa. Worked here and abode to bring out the journal “Life of Buddha for Children” which is a fully illustrated journal in Sinhala and English suitable for children.


Art masters often provide schools with striking personalities and Mr. Coperahewa in his Thirty two years at S.Thomas’ College has surely been one of them. He came to Art teaching through no ordinary channel, for he was in fact at the outset a teacher of Sinhalese Literature in the University entrance or College forms and produced very good results in this Subject. He has a wide knowledge of Sinhalese Literature and a profound sensitivity and love for the language, with such a background coupled with his wide reading in English, his approach to teaching was unlikely to be traditional or dilettante and so it proved when he was appointed full time Art teacher, in the Middle and Upper school.


The great regard shown towards his work by Warden Canon R.S.De.Saram. taking into account the contributions he had made to foster and promote the aesthetic education, Sinhala Language and Literature sent him a letter of appreciation in 1958.


“He has taught Sinhalese in the highest forms of the school and is also our Art teacher. He has shown great enthusiasm for his work and had very good results. Many of his pupils have had their pictures selected for exhibitions both in Ceylon and abroad. Thank you very much indeed for all the trouble you took in connection with the Art Exhibitions. It was greatly enjoyed. It was the kind of thing that does great credit to the school. He is hardworking and conscientious”


Art in college fell into doldrums after his predecessors left but his arrival provided the right stimulus that led to a flowering of artistic activities in all fields within three years after he took over. Had he been provided with an Art Room Art at College would have reached greater heights. Mr. Coperahewa was able to combine artistic skill and theory of a high order with ability to impart enthusiasm to boys for Arts and crafts and many boys here benefited greatly by coming into contact with him.


As sectional herd and faculty head of Art, he used his wide knowledge of methodology, examinations regulations and course requirements for the drafting of comprehensive authoritative notes widely researched for the benefit of teachers and students in the Art courses as well as for the compiling of multiple choice new type tests of a high standard in this subject. As a sectional head of the Grade 8 classes he exercised firm disciplinary control of the boys and of the teachers in his charge and made them understand what is right and wrong. Unfortunately his own Artistic output suffered under the demands of teaching and class supervision but Artistic achievements of the boys were on display annually at the Art exhibition on Old Boys Day. He held annually exhibitions of Thomian Art which received enthusiastic commendation from old boys and panel of judges invited to judge the exhibits.

Some of the comments made by judges are as follows. “A very colorful back ground of most effective child art” “Was a grand piece of execution and conception where child art has been assiduously fostered” “Chosen 17 pictures of first grade value and cannot choose one better than the other. All are equally good.” “Public will be interested to see the excellent work done under the guidance of Mr.Coperahewa.”


He was responsible for the first public exhibition of Thomian art at the Lionel Wendt Art gallery in 1961 which was widely acclaimed as the creditable show amongst them was the then Warden C.H.Davidson.


A man of many interests, he turned in recent years to contributing poems, Art criticism and compiling articles of cultural of aesthetic education interest to news papers and journals. He made a valuable contribution to the development by providing the sinhala reading public with a translation of Prof R.H.Wilenskis Miniature History of European Art. He is a completely dedicated school master always thinking what education is for and about whilst striving to make his pupils stand on their own feet, very methodical and painstaking in the class room. At times used to relate horror stories and explain the art of tumbler talking and that of unseen sprits. He maintained discipline and insisted on neat and methodical work. His devotion to the school was deep, quiet and steady. Always had a good word and respect to the Wardens and often spoke about their tact and farsighted approach. His conduct and character was that of a first class school master which a head could dream. The “Hela Havula Movement” in recognition of the invaluable service rendered to the sinhala language awarded the “Hela Bas Mini” in 1993


The cultural department considering the services rendered to foster and promote Art awarded the “Kala-Bhushana” in 2003


I was fortunate to be amoungst the large number of Thomians who felicitated their teachers including Mr.Coperahewa on 4th December 2007 at Sasakawa Hall which turned out to be a roaring success and wish him continued good health in his retirement.


In conclusion I can do no better than to remind you of Arun Dias Bandaranaika’s recital of David Sansoni’s poem about Mr.Coperahewa that unforgettable evening

Mr. Cop’rahewa Apey ‘Roopa’ man
Portrait, landscape, graphic: ona ekkak can!

Give a chalk and blackboard; watch the picture grow;
Like ‘Sigiri Maidens’; gal-uda fresco
Raconteur of repute; tales of daring done;
Opting for the “Kaduwa”; eschewing the gun!
People saying “Copra-Rabbit”; simply want to taunt
“Sinhala-English Kawalama, kohomatath don’t want”!!
Top communicator; mother tongue and more;
“Come!” “Go!” “Enna!” “Yanna!” “Vaange!” “Suruka Po!”
Mr. Cop’rahewa, MANY, in one man
“Manjusri” and “Chatterjee”; “Bacon” and “Gauguin”.



Mr.Aryasena Ashubodha or Mr.Arisen Ahubudu?

Mr.D.D.A.Ashubodha joined the school by the sea in 1951 as a 1st class trained teacher and served the College for twenty nine years. During this long period he taught From I class right up to the Advanced Level class. He was a very popular teacher in Sinhala and Buddhism, with great distinction at that. Although he was a qualified teacher in Art and Music his talents were not fully utilized by the College.


“Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious for literature is a kind of historical fraud by which honest fame is injuriously diminished” are the golden words of Dr.Samual Johnson. So please permit me to reflect the image of a School Master and Poet so eminent as yourself sir. If the places held by such masters of men is worthy of mention the training they gave and the fortunes that went with it are doubly worthy of appraisal.


I was fortunate to be in his Geography class in the Lower 4th. His historical knowledge was hardly harnessed at S.T.C. College which had a proud record of several outstanding Teachers, clad in coat and tie, where culprits and weak students regularly get “Six of the best”, Mr.Ashubodha eschewed such temptations and his kind words were more effective then the cane. His advice en clothed in the rich grab of simplicity and truth, was one which reminds us of king Solomon of old who said “A word fitly spoken is like Apples of Gold in pictures of Silver”.


His attire was the National Dress with the “Uturu Saluwa”. Without an iota of doubt, I wish to state that he is one of the greatest teachers who roamed the class rooms of S.Thomas’College, Mount Lavinia.


He was the Head of the Faculty of Sinhala. He was instrumental in organizing a Hela Havula Movement in the school and was also the master in charge of the Buddhist Society. His main contribution was training speakers and debaters to express themselves without throwing their limbs and mixing with words of other languages. He was also in charge of the Sinhala Literary Society and the Sinhala Debating team.


During the time when Hela Havula was very active at college, Mr.Ashubodha was taking a walk on the beach one evening. Spotting him, a group of young Thomians shouted “Helayo” and ran into hiding. One boy was spotted by Mr.Ashuboda, he too knowing the kindness of his Teacher did not run. Our beloved Teacher came up to him and said “Continue shouting, it is not a bad word, we all are Helayo”. This boy is non other than the famous actor Gamini Fonseka and he very sincerely told me, “Even as school boys we respect our teachers, specially the good once, and it was not me who shouted but the others who went into hiding”. At a tender age all of us who were in his Sinhala class were encouraged to write Articles and compose Kavi. During our school Days there was no Oratory contest or a Debating competition without his participation either as a judge or the master in charge .In the class room he used to devote a few minutes to relate stories about the history of our country, emphasizing on great work done by our kings, going into detail about our culture and the traditions, all this was done to promote us to love our country and to be proud of our heritage.


One day a young police officer traveling in his jeep spotted Mr.Ashuboda waiting for a bus, stopped his vehicle and invited his old school master to get into the jeep in order to be dropped at home. Unable to recognize his past student Mr.Ashuboda inquired “ Ma Kala Warada Kumak Da? ” this officer was Priyanka Perera his close associate now.


Our Gurutuma was the best pupil of the great Munidasa Cumaranatunga. Continued the good work of the master to promote and foster the Hela Basa and Desa. He brought out “The Ediya” journal with the help of Mr.G.L.Ginadasa with much sacrifices. He penned several books under the name Arisen Ahubudu. He also authored several books for children in order to promote them to love our Motherland, Culture and Heritage. His good work was richly rewarded with several Literary awards. Amongst them Mr.Arisen Ahubudu was the recipient of State Literary Awards for his prose “Paraviya” in 1962 and “Rasa Dahara” in 1969 and also for his verse “Athu Aga Dili Vana Mal” in 1987.


He was honoured with The Sarasavi Award in 1979 for composing songs for the “Hadhaya” film.


After leaving college he was instrumental in completing a good portion of the Sinhala Dictionary. The genuineness of his work and the path of simplicity he trod brought along with it his appointment as an adviser and consultant to the late President Premadasa.


The “Hela Havula Movement” in recognition of the invaluable service rendered to uplift the intelligent understanding of the Sinhala Language and the enormous contribution made by Mr.Arisen Ahubudu by writing many a gems of poetry awarded the Kiwi Suru in 1986 and Hela Bas Isuru in 1991. Although the facades of politics that seem interesting at times for some but dissatisfying for the most, leaders of our country, however, in recognition of the vast strides by this humble gentleman, with gratitude for unique and un para rel contribution in arresting the deterioration of the Sinhala Language and Literature and elevating it to reminiscent of its past glory coupled with the gallant steps taken to uplift the culture and heritage of our motherland, very appropriately bestowed him with a Janadipathy Award “Kala Suri” in 1984


I was fortunate to be amongst the large number of Thomians who felicitated their teachers including Mr.Ashubodha on 4th December 2007 at Sasakawa Hall which turned out to be a roaring success and wish him continued good health.


In conclusion I can do no better than to remind you of Arun Dias Bandaranikes’ recital of David Sansonis’ poem about Mr.Ashubodha that unforgettable evening.


Telling tales; Jathaka Kathaa
Very few paying attention Ahh!?
Plot unfolding; hero? Ennadaa?
G. Yasaman at the back of the class
Carrying on his own comedic farce;
Not a clue of “who”, or “what” or “why”
Waiting for the bell to say “bye,bye”.
Ashuboda comes close, very close;
Wit and kindness were his ploy; not force.
Gently by the shoulder led the ‘star’!
“Menna lamaine, Kalagolaya


Mr.W.G.Sugathadasa or Mr.Walpitagama?


Walpita Gamage Sugatadasa was a teacher at S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia for twelve years from January 1954. In school he was our beloved teacher .Mr.W.G.Sugathadasa, and in his home town he was activity involved in social service and is popularly known as Mr.Walpitagama. His children use this name as their surname. Authorities taking into consideration his contribution to the country bestowed him the honour of all island Justice of Peace.


I first came in contact with him in 1964 in the Upper 4th class when he was our General Science teacher. I could clearly remember him encouraging us to read journals such as the Knowledge Magazine. He had the knack of spotting intelligent students and led them in the correct path. He was always keen to know about his past students’ progress. One of my colleagues was put on “On Report” by Mr.Sugathadasa but the end result was that he was the 3rd best in the Island at the Advanced Level Medical stream and is a leading doctor now. That would have being his turning point.


Metal Work Shop and the Light Engineering Workshop were initiated, designed and equipped by him. No Old Boys’ day celebrations were complete without exhibitions of metal work products during 1957-1966, very often received very high commendation from old boys for the type of good quality exhibits that were on display. Wardens have gone on record saying this is the kind of thing that does great credit to the school and Mr.Sugathadasa has shown great enthusiasm in his work.College Magazine editor had to say this with regard to the 1960 Old Boys Day celebrations.


“In the physics lab, on the landing, the metal workshop exhibited a working model of the proposed silent running curtain of our stage. It was a really good scaled down version of the Ladies College hall curtain, involving the gearing down of a discarded ‘player’ motor”


“An unusual feature earlier in the day, was the motor club’s maneuverability trial in which several participated including many still in school. In fact the youngest of the latter group came within an ace of leading the field. The enthusiast Cliff Batstone rendered in valuable assistance to the hardworking members of the club, who contributed the most novel feature to an interesting program”


Mr.Sugathadasa started the Automobile Club of S.T.C and was the master in charge till he left.


In addition to his teaching of Science, Metal Work and Geometrical Mechanical Drawing he was responsible for submitting annual returns of The School to The Department of Education.


He was also in charge of school trophies. Incidentally in 1964 we won all the public no trophy. school trophies including the Tarbet Challenge Cup after a very long time, Hockey we were champions but there was All of them were in Mr.Sugathadasas charge and every thing was in place. Three decades later there was a time when even the house competition Trophies had gone missing. I could recall an incident when I was presented a Challenge Cup at an assembly. I was given instructions to hand it over the same day. When I went to hand it over I was told to, “Take it home show it to my uncles and aunts and bring it back later”. As a young teenager the joy I got was fantastic. This is the type of happiness and trust you bestowed on us.


I was fortunate to be amongst the large number of Thomias who felicitated their teachers including Mr.Sugathadasa on 4th December 2007 at Sasakawa hall which turned out to be a roaring success and wish him continued good health in his retirement.


“We elders will become very happy when they get some recognition and when recognition is blended with gratitude, it becomes a diving food to us and I am sure adds more year to our life.” This is what Mr.Sugathadasa wrote to one of the organizers of this felicitation dinner.


In conclusion I can do no better than to remind you of Arun Dias Bandaranike’s recital of David Sansoni’s poem about Mr.Sugathadasa that unforgettable evening.


Mr. Sugathadasa, he of ‘crafty’ brain;
By the pool and weights-room had his own domain.
File and Vise and Cutter were his stock in trade,
Wise and foolish likewise always made the grade.
Artfully designing with geometric ease
Artifacts of beauty which did our parents please.
Hitherto knowing not the talent they had bred;
Now it seemed so worthwhile, the lifeblood they had shed!
Volumes can be written of this amazing man
But this tribute will suffice: we’ve given all we can!
To this humble craftsman a massive debt we owe
Hail Sugathadasa! Our Michelangelo !!


Mr.G.K.Mandawala or Lieutenant Madawala?


Mr.Madawala after completing his school carrier at the School by the sea, joined the staff as an Assistant Librarian in 1959. Very soon he became the College Hostel Master and the Master in Charge of Physical Training. Here he had the advantage of spotting raw talent for his cadet platoon. Mr.G.K.Mandawala was holding the rank of Lieutenant in the Ceylon Voluntary Force. He was in charge of the Junior and Senior cadets and had setup a very proud record following the achievements of two Army commanders, one Air Force Commander, one joint operations commander, two Chief of Staff one in the Army and other in the Air Force, One Commandant of the General Kothalawala Defense Academy. Two Major Generals in the Army one was a Governor of the North East whilst the other was the Defense Secretary. Few other high ranking officers of the Sri Lanka Army and the Air force including a D.I.G. in the Police who were moulded by Mr.Mandawala at a tender age as cadets to take up these high positions which have definitely brought honour to our motherland as well as to our Alma Master.


He was also in charge of the Miniature Rifle Club up to the time it was banned in 1971, was the Master in Charge of the Sinhala Music & Drama Society in the mid Sixties. This was after the only Public Drama that was produced during our school days by Mr.Nuwansiri Jayakuru named “Bari Dey”. The back ground songs were sung by Mr.Mandawela here we remember with gratitude the back ground scenery painted by Mr.K.G.Dharamasiri who also helped with the traditional drumming.


Thomian teaching staff had a proud record of high caliber teachers of great repute and young Mandawala was able to rub shoulders with them. He was the class master of From 5C class which had the reputation of the best class in the Middle School. I was fortunate to be in this class in 1965. He was an excellent teacher and most of us were able to answer any question paper by quoting chapter and verse. I recall an incident during the revision time when one of the better students asked about map marking. His reply was “We want ask you to mark Watarappla Road in the Ceylon map, you will only be required to know the prominent places and you will not be questioned on anything that was not discussed”.


Mr.Mandawala was the Business Manager of the College Magazine. Also was the Master in Charge of the Royal-Thomian Match Souvenir and the Boys Tent. Working with him under his guidance we got the necessary foundation to handle any type of event in later life.


Mr.Mandawala was a House Master, Asst .Secretary, S.T.C. Old Boys Association, President of the Staff Club and Master in Charge of the College Orphanage. However, the contribution made as the Chief Librarian was enormous. He had the knack of picking intelligent young boys to work in the Library and mould them to be trustworthy and reliable. Mr.G.K.Mandawala was a role model teacher and a true Thomian and was well accepted by both the staff and the boys. For the mischievous types he was a terror but the very neat dress and the shining shoes mirrored a very kind interior. He gave culprits many chances to defend themselves before they were punished. Any one prepared to turn over a new leaf was accepted with open arms. School authorities very correctly made him the Master in Charge of College discipline at all important college functions.


Once you get into his good books life is easy with him. A Junior Librarian has once given a reference book to a friend and got caught. Mr.Mandawala jokingly asked the Librarian to collect the book. Both are now leading Doctors. He was appointed a member of the Dehiwala- Mt.Lavinia Municipal Council Library Advisory Committee by the late Mayor Major L.V.Gooneratne.


I was fortunate to be amongst the large number of Thomians who felicitated their teachers including Mr.Mandawala on 4th December 2007 at Sasakawa Hall which turned out to be a roaring success and wish him continued good health.


“I wish to say, that it was memorable, magnificent and a magnanimous act performed by the past students of that era. The act was noble while the attainment was par excellence. We feel that we have been recalled to life”. This is what Mr.Madawala wrote to one of the organizers of this felicitation dinner.


In conclusion I can do no better than to remind you of Arun Dias Bandaranikes’ recital of David Sansonis’ poem about Mr.Mandawala that unforgettable evening.


Keerthi Mandawela, Lieutenant!
Also O.I.C. Of Thomian Tent.
“General” of the College Library
Lodging in Thalassa by the sea.
Sinhala to Burghers he did teach,
Sandhi and the other parts of speech
Small of stature; yet a GIANT tall;
Pin-drop-silence-Prep time in the Hall.
Expert shot! Two-Two or Three-O-Three!
Leisure with a smoke and a cup of tea.
Clad in white; truly a work of art
Son of STC- Our “Bonapate”

Esto Perpetua

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