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Wesley College Colombo - Sri Lanka

The History of Our School

John Wesley (1703 - 1791)

From the Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Wesley College Colombo, Sri Lanka is named after the Rev John Wesley

Born 28th June 1703 - Died 2nd March 1791

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

John Wesley, born in June 1703 was the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley, a clergyman from Epworth in Lincolnshire. He was educated at Charterhouse School in London and was nominated by his schoolmaster for an exhibition to Christ Church, Oxford to which he was admitted as a commoner in 1720. He studied classics and logic and very much enjoyed 'Oxford Life' frequenting coffee houses, playing cards and making excursions up the river. It was at Oxford that he started to keep a diary, an old red note book in which he would sometimes write in code (only accurately and fully deciphered in 1972).

After completing his BA, Wesley followed the traditions of his family by taking Holy Orders and was made a deacon in Christ Church Cathedral in September 1725. Three years later he was ordained.

In 1726 a vacancy became available for a Fellowship at Lincoln College, which at that time was open only to those born in the diocese of Lincoln. Wesley's father had connections with Dr Morley, Rector of Lincoln College, and after being examined in Homer and Horace he was duly elected to a fellowship on March 25th. Samuel Wesley was very content that his son was to become one of the twelve fellows and wrote:

"What will be my own fate before the summer is over, God knows, sed passi graviora, wherever I am, my Jack is a fellow of Lincoln."

Wesley resided in a rather cramped set of rooms in Chapel Quad, overlooking Turl Street. He found Lincoln very friendly and remarked:

"I never knew a college besides ours whereof the members were so perfectly satisfied with one another."

It was whilst at Lincoln that he continued to keep the diary he had begun as an undergraduate. Wesley's diary recounted the life he had at Oxford from the friends he breakfasted with to the excursions he made and services he took.

He had quite a lot of leave granted during the first part of his fellowship to help his father in the parish of Wroot but in 1729 the Rector summoned him back to Lincoln to become a tutor. Wesley was a conscientious tutor in Greek Testament but he also enjoyed a rich social life in Oxford and the Cotswolds. He began to think deeply about religion and spent hours in the Bodlien library, mulling things over and discovering new strands of Christian thought. A group of likeminded individuals began to meet together on a regular basis, forming what became known as a 'Holy Club'. It grew rapidly so that soon it included a member from almost every college in Oxford. The club met together to read, study scripture and undergo rigorous self-examination of their Christian lives. They would also take part in works of charity especially by preaching to prisoners in the city. In 1732, the term 'Methodists' was first coined to describe these men meeting in Oxford as it reflected the method and order of their lives. They tried to ensure that every hour of the day had its proper purpose.

Charles Wesley

Two of Wesley's siblings, Samuel and Charles, were also now at Oxford and Samuel especially began to worry about John. He was concerned about John's yearning to reach Christian perfection, his stiff regulations and graveness. The Dons in the Lincoln Common Room also began to talk about this 'sect' called the Methodists. Some unfavourable criticism followed and some defected from the society. John also began to lose his reputation as a tutor as students and parents feared indoctrination. In March 1733 he was even confronted by a mob at the gates of the college but this left him undeterred.

Wesley's father offered him the opportunity to take charge of his Parish but he felt he had more to do elsewhere. In 1735 he decided to become a missionary (chiefly to save his soul) and sailed with his brother Charles to the Americas. His mission was not as successful as he had hoped and he claimed of himself:

"He who went to America to convert others was himself never converted to God."

Wesley tormented himself with thoughts on faith and what it meant. Gradually his ideology began to change and he began to preach "salvation by faith alone" rather than "salvation through righteousness and good deeds". As with nearly all shifts in ideology, it was greeted with some apprehension.

In London, Charles and John, along with James Hutton, founded another 'small company' initially consisting of nine members meeting over Hutton's bookshop in 1738. It became known as the 'Fetter Lane Society' and grew rapidly until after four months, when membership had reached 56, it was divided into smaller bands of five to ten. Wesley's new found fervour came from the 'conversion' he had experienced during that year.

Over the course of the following year, Wesley worked extremely hard preaching all over the country in an attempt to reinvigorate the Church. His campaign was centred on the Bristol and Bath area but Wesley travelled anywhere that he could be heard. He coined the famous phrase: 'I look upon all the world as my Parish'.

Large crowds of up to 20,000 were drawn to hear this eloquent, soberly dressed man evangelising, expounding and converting. Sometimes he gave offence to other priests as he preached in their parishes but he made use of fields and in streets in which he could be heard.

Wesley's talents lay not only in preaching the gospel however. He began to write hymns, and he also put his mind to medicine: he set up free clinics, which were some of the first in England to use electricity for medical purposes. He also wrote 'Primitive Physick: An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases' published in 1747. His hope was to aid the education of the common people so that they had something practical to use to help themselves.

Over the next few years the Methodist campaign became more intense. Wesley nearly lost his life in Staffordshire when he was set upon by an angry mob. In 1744 Wesley preached before the University for the last time. Unfortunately his rather abrasive sermon on 'scriptural Christianity' in St Mary's Church received a hostile reaction from the Deans and Chancellors of Oxford and he never preached from the University pulpit again.

However, it was not until 1751 that Wesley formally left the University of Oxford. After years of forming friendships and connections with various women, and, having been rejected by Grace Murray whom he loved, he finally married Molly Vazeille, a forty-year old widow in February of that year. By marrying, Wesley relinquished his right to continue as a Fellow of Lincoln, married men at that time not accepted as Fellows. His marriage unfortunately was not one of love but more of convenience and, because he was so often away, both were unhappy.

Over the course of the next few decades Wesley strove to build the Methodist movement so that it did not simply fade away when he died. He was probably spurred on to do so after he recovered from life threatening tuberculosis at the age of 51. He continued to travel, spreading the word as far as Ireland.

In 1781 Molly passed away but Wesley did not attend her funeral, as relations between them were so bad. Three years later, at the age of 81, Wesley made real progress for the future of Methodism. He signed a declaratory deed poll that meant ' The Conference of the People called Methodists' now had 100 legally named preachers. Towards the end of the 1780s, his health began to fail but he continued to give sermons until 1791 when he became very weak. On March 2nd of that year, he died aged 88.

John Wesley was a powerful personality whose passion and devotion to his cause led him to explore and profoundly change people's views on Christianity. Throughout his life his eloquence, his determination and, sometimes, dictatorial nature enabled him to influence many people, so aiding the process of secularisation within the Church. Wesley's achievements spanned decades, his longevity enabling him to see Methodism's development from the first small societies at Lincoln College and Fetter Lane to the chapels of later years. He planted the seed of a new denomination, the Methodist Church, which was to grow and flourish in Britain and across the world for many years to come.

Text by Caroline Iddon.

The Arrival of Wesleyan-Methodism to Ceylon

Wesleyan missions 'among the heathen' began in 1786, when Thomas Coke, destined for Nova Scotia, was driven off course by a storm and landed at Antigua in the British West Indies. There he developed a successful mission of both slaves and landowners. Within a few years almost every colony in the West Indies had been reached. Under Coke's instigation, a mission to West Africa was undertaken in 1811 and successfully established at Sierra Leone (the first scheme for the establishment of a mission to West Africa, devised by Coke in 1769, had proved a failure).

The story of the beginning of Methodist church in Ceylon

“I am now dead to Europe and alive to India. God , Himself has said to me, ‘Go to Ceylon’. I am fully convinced of the will of God , that He thinks I had rather be set naked on the coast of Ceylon, without clothes and without friends than not go there.” These were the triumphant words uttered by Dr Thomas Coke, when the British Conference ultimately gave him its reluctant permission for Dr Coke to proceed to Ceylon with his team. the Conference had very good reasons why Dr Coke should not be allowed to take this hazardous journey- his old age, poor health, language problem, finance and the need for his presence in England. Ultimately his tears and sincerity and an offer of Stg. 6000/- out of his own money, obtained for him, permission of the Conference.

Dr Coke left London on 31 December 1813 with Benjamin Clough, William Martin Harvard, William Ault, James Lynch, George Erskine and Thomas Hall Squance . Clough and Harvard embarked on the ship ‘Cabvava,’ while others were on the ‘Lady Melville.’

During the early part of the journey, Mrs. Ault died and was buried at sea. Dr Coke himself was found dead in his cabin, on his knees on 3 May 1814, and was buried in the Indian Ocean. The others arrived at Weligama on 29 June 1814, six months after they stared their journey.

Rev Harvard remained in Bombay whilst the others continued on their journey, landing at Weligama on 29 June 1814, six months after it commenced from London.

Ten days after the arrival they decided to split up and travel to different parts of Ceylon. Then two other missionaries Rev. James Lynch and Rev. Thomas Hall Squance left to Jaffna and they established schools in the Jaffna peninsula, Jaffna Central College in 1817 which celebrated its bicentenary in 2016 and Wesleyan Mission Central School in Point Pedro in 1818 which is now known as Hartley College. Rev Thomas Squance began preaching in the Dutch Church at Jaffna Fort, mainly to soldiers.

Another missionary Rev. William Ault went to Batticaloa from Galle but he could sadly remain in Batticaloa for just one year as he passed away in 1815. However, during his short stay he achieved a remarkable feat. On the 29th of August 1814 he started off a very small school which is now known as the Methodist Central College.

Rev. George Erskine left to Matara, from Galle on July 31, 1814. Warmly received in Matara by the local Sinhalese and the European residents. Erskine started the second Wesleyan Methodist School of the country in the Matara Fort. It was maintained by the Ceylon Wesleyan Methodist Mission. The school began with three teachers and eighty students, with its main building being the church. It is now managed by the Department of Education and is called Matara Janadhipathi Vidyalaya.

From the first missionaries to arrive, Rev. Benjamin Clough (1791-1853) decided to remain in Galle and started a very small school at the request of the government Mudliyar with five children and one adult which was the Mudliyar himself. They started this schools as an English School on 25th July 1814 and later came to be known as Galle Boys’ School. This school expanded in the most extraordinary way. As the years went by the school got upgraded to Galle High School and later on further upgraded to a College and the school had to be moved to Richmond Hill in Galle due to lack of space. This property at Richmond Hill was bought by the Methodist missionaries. The school changed its name once again and is now known as Richmond College Galle. When Rev. Benjamin Clough started off a school with just five students he would never have imagined that it would expand into becoming a great College later on. In fact, Richmond College which had two forerunners, is arguably the first School to be established in Sri Lanka in the established educational context as well as the oldest Methodist School in Asia and also in the World Methodist heritage.

We also got to know that, Rev. Brownridge who arrived in Ceylon later had gone on to establish the first Girls’ school in Sri Lanka and Asia, in Negombo which is now known as Newstead College Negombo. They too celebrated their bicentenary last year. As the Methodist church celebrates 205 years (in 2019) in Sri Lanka you can see the schools which the church started also going through some significant milestones. We are very thankful to the missionaries and these schools as they have rendered a great service to Sri Lanka.

Photo: Brunswick Wesleyan Chapel in Liverpool, England.

Rev William Harvard arrived in Galle in early 1815 and was subsequently posted to Colombo. Harvard was trained as a printer in England and started the famous Wesley Press in Colombo. In 1816 with the help of Andrew Armour, a former army officer and school teacher, he purchased a portion of land on Dam Street and built the first Methodist chapel in Asia known as Wesleyan Mission House. Its design was modelled on the Brunswick Wesleyan Chapel in Liverpool.

The 1865 engraving of Wesleyan Mission Chapel and School

The first service at the chapel was held on 22 December 1816, and was jointly conducted by Harvard and Clough. It was attended by the Governor of Ceylon Robert Brownrigg, his wife and a number of local civic and military dignitaries. The building complex comprised a chapel, dwelling house for two families, a large schoolroom, printing and bookbinding offices, a type foundry and warehouses. The chapel was described in the 'Government Gazette' as "almost an amphitheatre, with three rows of elevated seats nearly all around".

Apart from these first four schools, we are glad to note that the High School in Moratumulla is a school which has been operating for 175 years, the Methodist College Colombo celebrated their 150 years in 2017, Wesley College Colombo is celebrating 146 years. They are also part of this journey in providing education. In 1962, when the Schools were taken over by government, the Methodist Church had 182 schools. Of course, the Church very gladly gave away these schools to the State and we were allowed to retain only two schools, Methodist College and Wesley College.

In 1863 the arrangement of the seats was altered and the pulpit which was formerly at the same end as the entrance porch was moved to the opposite side. On 2 March 1874 the first classes of Wesley College, Colombo were held in the schoolroom. The college continued to be conducted from these premises until 1907 when the school was moved to its current location in Borella. In 1966 the building was remodelled and the exterior of the chapel was slightly modified.

The Schools built by the original Wesleyan Missionaries
L to R: Richmond College Galle Jaffna Central College
Methodist Central College Batticaloa School Started by Rev Erskine now called Matara Janadhipathy Vidyalaya

The Chapel built by Rev William Harvard in Dam Street Pettah called Wesleyan Mission House

An Artist's impression of its early days

A Photo taken in the early 21st Century

The Methodist Church on Dam Street Pettah reflects the austere outlook of its missionary founders, who built it in 1816. Still often referred to by its original title of the Colombo City Mission, the building houses Asia’s first Methodist church. The mission building was also once home to the first classrooms of Wesley College, Colombo, which opened in 1874.

Methodism in Sri Lanka - 196 years by Ransiri Fernando
From the Daily News Sri Lanka 28th June 2010

The Methodist Church in Sri Lanka was established 196 years ago on the 29th of June 1814. It is with great gratitude that we remember the indefatigable effort and the courageous stand of the missionaries who tread the soil of Sri Lanka on that day. We also remember their successors and thank God for their sacrificial service. Many lost their lives while in service in this country.

John Wesley was the founder of Methodism. He was born in June 1703 in a small village called Epworth in England. He became a priest at the age of 23 and later qualified as a Master of Classics and Philosophy. This was the time that England underwent several changes. The Industrial revolution was beginning to transform the villages into towns.

London was crowded a city stricken with poverty, drunkenness, gambling and riots. Angry riot squads roamed the streets indulging in violence. The prisons overflowed with criminals and hospitals were crowded with patients of various diseases due to neglect and dire poverty. This was an era where moral principles lost its distinctiveness and paralyzing fears harrowed people.

The church which was called to be the moral guardian and the institution built to combat social evil remained silent behind stained glass windows.

Called to lead and teach the values of brotherhood and to summon all to rise above the narrow confines of race and class, the Church practised devastating selfishness and racial exclusiveness. It was to this depressed outclassed community torn with strife and disunity that john Wesley took the tidings to great salvation.

His mission was to reform the nation, more particularly the Church; to spread scriptural holiness over the land. Once when asked where was his Church, he replied “I look upon all the world as my parish.”

The great mission Wesley started was a “rising of the poor” - in the sense that it was an organization of the poor people, claiming for themselves a place within the religion of that time and the society. He became their friend. He was prepared to live with them, share a meal with them and to observe their world from his eyes.

A close relationship was developed and a gradual but steady uplift and awakening was noticed. The people were convinced that John Wesley had a great vision and that he was a true servant of God. He educated most of them and appointed a group of preachers to speak to the others.

The preachers were very ordinary people and consisted mainly weavers, carpenters, masons and bakers. Wesley “Sat at their feet” thought and encouraged them.

He gave them enormous freedom to function as they were called. A bit of advice he gave his fellow workers as recorded by one of them is as follows:- “Be diligent. Never be un-employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. Be punctual. Do not mend our roles but keep them, for warmth but for conscience sake.” It is worth mentioning the admirable quality of this great servant of God.

1. Five thousand miles a year for fifty years, this once sickly man rode horseback.

2. A prolific writer, a translator and an editor accounting for more than 400 books and pamphlets.

3. Lived on a 3 pounds month wage and gave away the rest to the poor. In the winter of 1785 at the age of 81 he went from door to door on behalf of the starving ones.

His effort and preaching has no equals in English religious history.

He was able to change the lives of many. Historians argued that Methodism not only saved England from a French Revolution but also diverted into religious channels energies that could have gone completely astray.

A journalist by the name of Bernard Semmel said Methodism was in fact the British form of a Democratic Revolution. The work of Wesley prompted Woodrow Wilson to remark. “The Church was dead of Wesley awakened it. The poor were neglected and Wesley sought them out; The gospel was shrunken to formulas and Wesley flung it fresh upon the air once more in the speech of common man.”

Methodism in England

As Methodism flourished in England there was much enthusiasm and interest to take this movement to other parts of the world. However one great handicap was finding the necessary revenue to undertake foreign missions. Sir Alexander Johnstone, who was the Chief Justice of Ceylon in 1809 recommended Ceylon as an island ideally suited for the spreading of Christianity. The Methodist authorities found it difficult to entertain the commitment involved. However Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke was highly pleased with the information given by Sir Alexander Johnstone.

Dr. Coke was from a little village called Brecon in Wales. He was born in 1747. In addition to being a priest he was a doctor of Civil Law. He had a fairly large private income and many influential friends. Dr. Coke’s enthusiasm was very high and he began to plan his voyage almost immediately. Two other missionaries William Ault and Martin Harvard accepted his invitation to go to Ceylon. The Methodists of Ireland offered three volunteers in James Lynch, George Erskine and John Mckenny.

Dr. Coke was overjoyed and wrote to his friends “I am now dead to Europe and alive for Ceylon” God himself has said to me to take the living gospel to Ceylon. There was bitter opposition, from certain groups. The main questions being the raising of money and that Coke was 66 years old and whether his health would permit him to undertake such a strenuous tour. Thomas Coke was determined. He offered his personal wealth of 6000 pounds almost all the money he had to defray the expenses. At last the British Methodist Church gave him the blessings to tour Sri Lanka with five other missionaries. The party set off on 31st January 1813 on two ships namely ‘Cabalva” and “Lady Melville”.

The group had to face fierce gales and many of them felt very ill. Dr. Coke was deeply involved in studying Portuguese, translating hymns and Bible quotations into that language because he thought most Sri Lankans were familiar with Portuguese. On 2nd May 1814 Dr. Coke appeared to be feeble and went to be dearly. The next morning the steward was shocked to see him dead on the floor of his cabin. The group from the other ship also joined and they buried their revered leader at sea. Dr. Coke was an apostle who never set foot in the land that he dreamt of spreading Christianity. The sudden loss of the leader was a tremendous blow to the other somewhat inexperienced missionaries. The funds were in his name.

Yet the group was determined to continue. Trusting in the Lord and believing that God will give interior resources to face the storms that are to come they continued. Sir Robert Brownrigg was the Governor of Ceylon and he was delighted to hear that the Methodist Missionaries were on the way to this beautiful island. He advised the Galle harbour to give them the best attention.

Two boats were sent to meet the missionaries coming on “Cabalva” and “Lady Melville”. The strong winds and tides carried the boats in which Ault Erskine and Clough travelled to Weligama Bay. A massive search was made and they were fetched around 3 a.m. in the morning of June 29, 1814 unhurt. Lynch and Squance stepped on the wharf in the evening of 29th June.

So this was the first step taken with regard to the establishment of the Methodist Mission in Sri Lanka. No sooner they reached the shores of Ceylon Rev. George Bisset a special messenger from Governor Brownrigg interviewed them. He suggested that they should open schools to teach English, and that will give a chance of meeting the people directly. Colombo had enough English teachers and therefore suggested Jaffna, Mannar, Batticaloa, Galle and Matara.

This was only a suggestion and the Missionaries were given the liberty to accept or reject it. They pondered over this new suggestion and on Monday 11th July decided to take the gospel to several places in Ceylon. They appointed each Missionary to take over a certain area.

Jaffna - Rev. Jams Lynch.

Batticaloa - Rev. William Ault.

Galle - Rev. Benjamin Clough.

Matara - Rev. George Erskine.

Colombo - Rev. Martin Harvard.

So from the inception Methodism branched out to all parts of this country.

Colombo Headquarters

Colombo became the headquarters of the mission. By the middle of 1815 a block of land was purchased in Dam street (which was then known as Caymans Street) A chapel was built upon the plan of the Burnswick Weleyan Chapel, Liverpool.

The Chapel built by Rev William Harvard in Dam Street Pettah called Wesleyan Mission House

An Artist's impression of its early days

This church which stands today is the oldest Methodist church in Asia. In the same month the first Sunday school was opened and on the first day 250 children were enroled. A three acre land extending from the seashore to the Galle Road was purchased in 1824. It costs 262 pounds and the church found it difficult to raise such a large amount and assistance was searched from England.

Today this site contain the Headquarters of the church, The residence of the president, Methodist College, Kollupitiya Methodist church and the New building by the Galle Road.

Methodist Church, Kollupitiya

When Methodism spread to Colpetty (as it was then called) was just a village consisting of a bazaar, and a series of mansions and small houses, mingled together, without any regular order, in the midst of coconut tees. The present Kollupitiya church was opened for worship on Friday, 10th July 1896. A large congregation was present.

Methodism began in the south. The work was spearheaded with village evangelism and education. School and Mission stations were opened out in the villages. Rev Benjamin Clough opened the first Wesleyan school in Dickson Road Galle. This educational work later expanded at Richmond Hill. Many people from Kalahe, Metarambe, Ambalangoda and Batapola became Methodists. The advance of Methodism in the Western Province is an inspiring story.

Educational work began with the opening of two schools in the Pettah and for boys and girls, which later developed into Wesley and Methodist colleges. Daniel John Gogerly, one of the greatest men ever to come to this land arrived in 1818.

He came as a printer to take over the oldest printing institute known as Wesley Press. He came to Sri Lanka as a layman but became a Priest in 1823. He studied Buddhism in the Pali originals and wrote many articles on Buddhism which was later put into two volumes entitled “Ceylon Buddhism”. A great scholar who never to his mother land but served the church with great dedication for twenty four years.

Rev Robert Newstead

The first missionary to be resident in Katunayake was Rev. Robert Newstead. A church was built in Negombo and dedicated in 1820. Rev. Don. Daniel Perera who was an understudy to Rev. Newstead was a very committed Sinhala priest who gathered a large amount of people at Katunayake. A large church was built in 1828 and the work of God at Katunayake flourished amazingly. Soon churches were built at Dalupota, Andiambalama and Pitipana. Seeduwa was the most flourishing of all during the first twenty five years. Newstead opened schools at Tampola in 1817, at Seeduwa in February 1818 and Ekela in August 1818.

When the first missionaries arrived, Moratuwa had a population of 17,000. From the very beginning of the British occupation in 1795 the Church of England was strongly established in Moratuwa.

The Methodist work began by building a mission school at Idama. The school hall was made a preaching place and within two years the attendance went up to 97. In the year 1832 a chapel was built at Egoda Uyana. This building is still in existence and is the oldest church in Moratuwa, belonging to any denomination. Rev. Peter Gerard De Zylva rightly named as the “Apostle of Moratuwa” was appointed to this circuit in 1840.

He advised a plan for systemic work and his work was a great success. Within twelve years he was able to build eight churches and Moratuwa which was considered to be the least hopeful became the most flourishing circuit in the country.

The work in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Trincomalee grew steadily in strength. Rev. Robert Carver started the mission work at Point Pedro. At Jaffna Fort the Missionaries conducted Divine worship on Sundays in the Dutch church. They began to learn Tamil and became true good friends of the people of Jaffna. Rev. Peter Percival who served in Jaffna was an outstanding scholar. He wrote many books in Tamil, produced an English - Tamil dictionary and translated the English Bible into Tamil. He was the missionary who started Jaffna Central College and Hartley College, Point Pedro. Rev. Peter Percival exerted a tremendous influence not only over the people of Jaffna but the entire North of Sri Lanka.

From the beginning of the Methodist church a great deal of money and effort was put into the running of the schools. In very many villages it was through the schools that the missionaries first established contact with the people. The church challenged the British Government to establish State schools, when the British policy favoured English schools. The census report of 1900 showed that about 75,000 children of school-going age were not in School. The church brought this to the notice of the people and interest was roused to provide every child with an elementary education.

In 1900 there were altogether 310 schools and 66500 pupils sponsored by the church. In addition to this there were 33 Estate schools with 2322 children.

School Commission

Rev John Gogerly

The Government appointed a commission known as “school commission” in 1834 with the Archdeacon of Colombo as President, members included the President of Methodist church clergy residing in Colombo Auditor General, Head of the Treasury and G.A. The teaching of Sinhala Language along with Mathematics was greatly emphasized. When the need arose for good mathematics teachers the church brought down mathematics wranglers in the form of Rev Darrel and Small. Even Rev Thomas Moscrop, W. T. Garrett, Wilkes were highly qualified mathematicians. A training college was opened in 1845 for training teachers in the Sinhala medium. Rev D. J. Gorgerly and Andrew Kessen were the two men initially in charge of this college. Similarly the Arasady Training College was started in Batticaloa to train Tamil teachers. The church had a target and that is to establish 100 schools every 5 years until every single child is provided with a good school with a fair amount of facilities.

Rev Thomas Moscrop

s8This venture became a tremendous success. The country started producing National leaders, reformers, outstanding scholars and sportsmen. Foremost among them were Sir Baron Jayatilake, Oliver Goonathilake, T. B. Jayah, C. W. W. Kannangara, S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, W. Dahanayake, P. de S. Kularatne, E. F. C. Ludowyke, J. H. F. Jayasuriya, S. C. Paul, W. G. Rockwood, Nevis Selvadurai, A. C. Eliezar and N. Nadarasar.

The Methodist Church continuously had cordial relations with the Government even though it was quite evident that the State was partial towards a certain group. There was opposition to Christianity, yet most of the problems were solved with discussion and dialogue. The climax of the differences of opinion is reflected in the famous Panadura debate which took place on the 25th and 28th August of 1873. There were smaller debates that took place at Baddegama (1864), Waragoda (1865, Udanvita (1866) and Gampola (1871), Bhikshu Migettuwatta Sri Gunananda Thera, a well-known Buddhist scholar and an orator was the chief spokesman while Rev David de Silva who was also a Sinhala and Pali Scholar serving in the Panadura area, was the Methodist protagonist. A crowd of over 4000 were present on the opening day and it increased to about 7000 on the second. Various doctrinal issues such as the existence of the Soul, working of Karma, concept of Sin and Punishment, Life after death morality of Jathaka Stories were discussed and debated. The net result was very small. Both parties realized that they have much to learn, to respect each other’s beliefs and aspirations.

Also that the key, to co-existence is patience, love and understanding as beautifully exemplified in the lives of the Buddha and Jesus Christ. The chief importance of the Panadura debate was that it prompted Colonel Olcott to establish the Buddhist Theosophical Society in 1880 chiefly for the purpose of setting up and managing Buddhist schools. The response of the Methodist Church to social transformation and problems facing the nation has to be admired. In 1848 rebellion flared up against the heavy taxes being imposed by the Government. The Governor at that time was Torrington and the manner in which he handled the situation was nothing short of barbaric. He executed a number of innocent civilians including Buddhist monks. The Methodist missionaries severely condemned his killings and destroying the house and properties with attacks of arson. They appealed to the Governor against this form of humiliating oppression. The ultimate result was that Torrington accused, condemned and removed. The year 1915 is also remembered because of the riots that occurred.

At the end of May there was an outbreak of violence. The trouble started in Badulla and soon spread to the Kandyan Province and elsewhere. The disturbances were accompanied by rioting and looting and the lost of life was considerable. The British Government hired Punjabi troops to suppress the uprising. The riot Act was made use of and Martial Law was declared. The British Government made use of this unfortunate situation to arrest some distinguished Sinhalese leaders who were connected to the temperance movement. They were put behind bars on charges of treason and misleading the masses. Among those Buddhist leaders arrested and imprisoned was D.S. Senanayake. The Methodist church spearheaded the temperance movement and criticized the colonial Government at all forums. Dr. Solomon Fernando, a Methodist leader demanded a full investigation by a Royal commission into the administration of the country. It was Rev. Henry Highfield, the principal of Wesley College that demanded the release of D.S. Senanayake. In appreciation of the excellent work done by Rev. Highfield he extended a special invitation to be a guest when Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. Rev. Highfield was old and living in England was not able to attend. In keeping with the Methodist tradition, every Methodist priest took an active part in the drive against the drink evil. All Sri Lankans were grieved over the ethnic violence which erupted 25th July 1983. The Methodist church worked in various ways for the public welfare. Its buildings all over the country were places of refuge for all people.

Teams of priests and laymen visited the areas affected by disturbances on missions of relief, rehabilitation and reconciliation. The church appealed passionately to both parties to lay down arms and come to the table for a political solution.

The year 1931 was important because in accordance with the report of the Donoughmore Commission new power and responsibility were given to the Sri Lankans in the country. This encouraged the process of devolution in the church. Rev. G.A.F. Senarathne was made the first Sri Lankan Secretary of Synod. Rev. Senaratne later became the first Ceylonese Chairman. During the war days (1939-1945) steps had to be taken to transfer authority to Sri Lankans and to make the Methodist church increasingly self-supporting. In 1951 the church took a progressive step in building of a study centre in Wellawatte. Rev. Basil Jackson was the first Secretary of the study centre. He was replaced by Rev. Dr. Lynn de Silva, who made a significant contribution by publishing a number of books. A theological college was built in 1963 at Pilimathalaawa to train the priests. On the 18th of June 1964, the President of the British conference inaugurated the independent Methodist Church of Sri Lanka. The deed of foundation was signed in front of a large and a representative gathering. Thus the Methodist church was established for the purpose of witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ and spreading of the gospel throughout the land. Rev. Fredrick Stanley de Silva was the first President of the conference. Watson Pieris was inducted as the first Vice President. After Jesus accomplished his mission he told the disciples to teach all nations about the love of God and to hasten the call to repentance and the offer of forgiveness.

The church was not allowed to be static but to go out into the world. This command of Jesus was to put into practice by the church. It has grown like a tree spreading its shade and filling the land with resting places. Lord Jesus has been with the church leading from the front. So 196 years have passed since the seeds of Methodism were sown. The church had its successes and failures. The joy of the Lord is our strength. The hand that leads us will no doubt guide us in the future. Let us all unite and bring our mother Lanka to the bright mountain of hope.

Early years of the Methodist Mission in Ceylon
Exerpts from The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society by G.G Findlay and W.W Holdsworth

The Chapel built by Rev William Harvard in Dam Street Pettah called Wesleyan Mission House

An Artist's impression of its early days

We have seen that Mr. Harvard was appointed to Colombo while still remaining in Bombay. It was not until the spring of 1815 that he was able to begin his work in Ceylon. He was received, not only with courtesy, but with the spirit of friendliest sympathy on the part of all officers of Government in Colombo. The Governor and Lady Brownrigg, the Chief Justice (Sir Alexander Johnston), Archdeacon Twistleton, and the Governor's Chaplain, the Rev. G. Bisset, all seemed desirous of co-operating with him in his great purpose, and eager to identify themselves with the Missionaries.

With such friendly co-operation available Harvard was not long in getting to work. With Mr. Armour's help a house was taken in the main street of the Pettah. Services were held at first in the Dutch Church, but before long Methodists had a church of their own built after the model of Brunswick Chapel, in Liverpool. A Sunday school was begun, and was largely attended by children from all classes of the community, most valuable help being given by officers of the Government. One part of the equipment for the Mission to the East included in the comprehensive preparation made by Dr. Coke consisted of a small printing-press, and Harvard now proceeded to get this into working order.

The Dutch press taken over by the British Government was found to be in such a state of neglect that it could not be used, and several efforts were made to secure the service of Harvard in this department. He was first offered a post as superintendent of the Government press, and when he declined, an offer to purchase the Mission press was made to him. This, too, was declined. Finally Harvard, anxious to show some recognition of the kindness received from the Government, offered to put the Government press into working order, and this was done at the cost of much physical exertion.

Rev Clough

A considerable amount of press material not required by the Government was put at the disposal of the Missionaries, who thus added to the efficiency of their own establishment. This press was to prove a fruitful source of misunderstanding and trouble between the Missionaries and the adminstrative Board in London, but it proved to be invaluable in giving facilities for the distribution of Christian literature at the very beginning of the Mission. After a few months Harvard was joined by Clough, McKenny being left by the latter in charge of the work in Galle, and the two men, closely united in friendship, abundant in labours, and wholly devoted to the Master in whose service they were employed, laid broad and deep the foundations of the Methodist Church in Ceylon.

Some indication of the difficulty of maintaining a close connexion with the London Committee may be found in the fact that though Dr. Coke's party left London towards the close of 1813, it was not until June, 1815, that any communication from the Mission House was received. In that month, however, McKenny arrived in Ceylon from South Africa with the information that reinforcements were close at hand, and presently Samuel Broadbent, Robert Carver, John Callaway, and Elijah Jackson arrived. In July, 1816, the whole staff met in what was called ' The General District Conference.' The appointment of the Missionaries to the several centres was as follows:

JAFFNA -James Lynch, T. H. Squance, Robert Carver, and Daniel Theophilus (Assistant Missionary).

TR1NCOMALEE -Samuel Broadbent. (One to be sent.) BATTICALOA.-Elijah Jackson. (One to be sent.)

GALLE -G. Erskine, J. McKenny.

COLOMBO - W. M. Harvard, B. Clough.

MATARA -J. Callaway, W. Lalmon (Assistant Missionary)

Rev John Gogerly

The Mission press (later name Wesley Press) in Colombo was by this time working at full pressure to provide the books· required in the schools, as well as other publications taken up on behalf of the Bible Society, and the Anglican Church in Calcutta. A version of the New Testament in Sinhalese had also been prepared by Clough with the assistance of two converts from the Buddhist priesthood. An edition of two thousand was printed, and work on the Old Testament was at once begun. Other useful publications followed, and so rapidly did this branch of the work grow that it was thought desirable to send out from England a layman who should relieve the Missionaries of this burden. The layman chosen was Mr. Daniel John Gogerly, a notable name, the name of one who was in the providence of God to bring light and strength beyond all calculation possible at that time to the Methodist Church in Ceylon. Mr. Gogerly arrived in 1818, and under his direction the efficiency of the press rapidly increased.

Photo: Rev Joseph Passmore

s2In 1818 reinforcements from England arrived in the persons of the Revs. W. Buckley Fox (who shortly afterwards succeeded Lynch in the Chair of the two Districts), R. Newstead, G. Erskine, and T. Osborne, and in consequence it became possible to occupy new centres of work. One of these was Kaluta1c1, a town situated on the coast south of Colombo. The first Missionary stationed here was Mr. Fox, but it has proved to be the least successful of the many circuits established in the course of years. For some time no Missionary was stationed here, but in 1895 it was reoccupied by the Rev. J. Passmore. In the centenary year it had a Christian community of 374.

In 1816 it seemed as if their close and happy fellowship was likely to be broken when the home Committee proposed to transfer Harvard to Calcutta, but this proposal was so strongly opposed, not only by his brethren, but also by the Governor of Ceylon and other officials, that Harvard remained in Colombo until failure of health in 1819 compelled his return to England. After some years in English work, during which he was at one time designated for Madagascar but never went there, he sailed for Canada in 1836, and in the following year was made President of the Upper Canada Conference. In 1846 he again returned to England, where he became the Governor of Richmond College, and passed to his rest in 1857.

One other Missionary may be mentioned here, though his fuller power was not realized until later. In many respects Daniel John Gogerly was the greatest of all those who have served in Ceylon. He came to Colombo in 1818 as a layman to take charge of the Mission press, and at once gave evidence of great qualities of mind and of missionary zeal.

In 1823 he entered the Ministry, and for forty years after that he served the Church to whose ministry he was then admitted. He soon became known-and that far outside the pale of the Methodist Church-as the greatest authority in Pali literature, and as the most redoubtable antagonist whom Buddhist priests have ever encountered. He was accustomed to preach in three languages, and excelled in each. He became Chairman of the Sinhalese District in 1838, and in administration as in scholarship he had no peer, while his capacity for rule was balanced by a very kindly heart. He continued to hold office until his death in 1862.

The next decade, that of the 1860’s, was notable for events which had much to do with the subsequent development of the Church in South Ceylon. The Rev. D. J. Gogerly died at his post on September 6, 1862, and his long and able administration was followed by that of the Rev. R. Spence Hardy. The description given by the Rev. John Walton of Daniel John Gogerly deserves a place in our record, for it is doubtful whether the Methodist Church ever had a greater Missionary in Ceylon : Other Missionaries of this decade were the Revs. S. Langdon, S. R. Wilkins, A. Shipham, and S. Hill. These, with Baugh and Nicholson, who both returned, made the staff one of great strength and efficiency.


Wesley College, Colombo, began its illustrious career first as a high school in 1874, the Rev. S. R. Wilkin being its first Principal, and Richmond College, in Galle, followed in 1876, with the Rev. S. Langdon at its head. Both of these institutions attained positions of first-rate importance, not only in the Church, but also in the general life of the community. The Rev. Samuel Hill had been engaged largely in educational work, both at Galle and in Wesley College, Colombo.

In 1895 the call came to him to join those who offer the more perfect service of heaven. He was succeeded at Wesley College by the Rev. Thomas Moscrop. When Rev Moscrop left, his place at Wesley College was filled by the Rev. T. C. Hillard.

With the appointment of the Rev. S. R. Wilkin in 1873 a Collegiate School was opened in Colombo, and was most successful. Wilkin was followed in 1880 by the Rev. Arthur Shipham, and by the Rev. S. Hill in 1884. Under the direction of the last-named there seemed to be every prospect of the College becoming a first-class institution, but the untimely death of the Principal in 1885 dashed all such hopes to the ground. Excellent work was done by his successors, the Revs. T. Moscrop, T. C. Hillard, and J. Passmore. College students began to win distinctions in the scholastic world. In 1895 there were five hundred students on the College roll, and of these about tlrirty were boarders.

Now all this time the buildings in which the College was housed were most unsatisfactory. They were of the poorest and shabbiest type. The boarding house especially was more like a broken-down stable than a home for boys. Protest had followed. appeal for many years, but nothing was done, though the amount spent annually upon repairs would have proved to be good interest upon a considerable capital outlay. A debt of six hundred pounds upon the buildings already in existence made the outlook more than depressing. But in 1895 the Rev. Henry Highfield took over the charge of the College.

Rev Henry Highfield

Like those who had preceded him, he was scandalized by the state of the buildings, and he determined that 'Wesley College' should be housed in a manner more worthy of its name and of its purpose The first thing to be taken in hand was the liquidation of the debt, and this was accomplished. Then the scheme was launched which projected a new College in a more suitable position. A site was obtained, not without great difficulty both in Ceylon and in England. But the case was one in which delay would have meant an indefinite set-back to missionary educational work for many years; and the Committee in London showed its wisdom in not insisting too rigorously upon the due observance of its perfectly reasonable regulations.

To have refused to accept the opportunity which offered would have been deplorable; for, apart altogether from the value of the College as an evangelistic centre of great fruitfulness, the youth of the rapidly increasing Christian community made this provision an urgent necessity. In 1904 Highfield set himself to raise locally the amount which, added to a building grant from England, would enable him to remove the reproach which rested upon our educational work in Colombo.

Wesley College in January 1907


His success in raising the sum of two thousand five hundred pounds is an indication of the value put upon the efforts of his predecessors by educated Ceylonese in Colombo, and indeed throughout the island. Excellent buildings were erected in Campbell Park, and the results, both educational and evangelistic, have been quite beyond tabulation. ' Old Boys ' from the College now occupy high positions, both in the official, the professional, and the mercantile world; and others, not less to be honoured, have given themselves to the service of their countrymen in proclaiming the Gospel which they were led to accept while passing through the class-rooms of Wesley College. The new buildings were opened in 1907.

An Artist's Impression of Wesley College in the Pettah
Researched by Dr. Nihal D Amerasekera

This artist's impression is from the year 1865 showing the Mission Chapel and its school. A small school existed on the site where Wesley College was started. On 2nd March 1874 (the death anniversary of Rev. John Wesley) Wesley College was founded in the City Mission buildings at Dam Street, Pettah. Wesley’s first principal was Rev. Samuel R. Wilkin and the first vice-principal was Rev. D. Henry Pereira.

According to the Archives of the Wesleyan Missionary Society of London - In 1895 there were five hundred students on the College roll, and of these about thirty were boarders. Now all this time the buildings in which the College was housed were most unsatisfactory.

The artist's impression of the building where the school was started was taken from "Mission Chapel and School, Colombo, Ceylon". Wesleyan Juvenile Offering. London: Wesleyan Mission House. XXII: p168, year 1865

The Wesleyan Mission House and Chapel in Dam Street Pettah and its Associated School

Wesley College is named after John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of the Methodist Church . An Oxford graduate, he was one of the greatest evangelists in the history of the Christian Church. A preacher of great power and an organiser of genius, he founded Methodism in the face of intense opposition and laid the foundations of future world-wide expansion.

Historically, Ceylon Methodism began when the first Methodist missionaries landed in Ceylon on 29 June 1814. But it was in 1813, when Dr Thomas Coke wrote those historic words of his, 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".

The Wesleyan Mission House and Chapel, Dam Street, Pettah, Colombo.

(Artist: P.P. Van Houten; Source: Rev. William Martin Harvard Courtesy : changing face of Colombo by R.L.Brohier.)

On the 23rd December, 1816, The chapel of the Wesleyan Mission House, Dam Street, Pettah, was completed and opened for public worship. It was erected after the model of Brunswick Chapel, Liverpool with classical features common in the Dutch colonial period. The gentleman who acted as master builder was Captain Gualterus Schneider of the Royal Engineers ...... The purchase of the site and the erection of the various buildings cost upwards of Rs. 30,000 . The entire establishment consisted of a place of worship, a dwelling house for two families, a large schoolroom, printing and bookbinding offices, a type foundry, and warehouses.

The first sermon at the opening of the chapel was preached by Mr. Clough from Psalm CXXII., 16, and in the evening Mr. Harvard officiated, preaching from Luke II., 14, when the Governor was present, also Lady Brownrigg, and nearly all the principal Europeans in Colombo. The chapel, as described in the Government Gazette, was almost an amphitheatre, with three rows of elevated seats nearly all round. The same building is still the principal place of worship for the Wesleyans in the Pettah ...... In 1863, under the direction of Mr. Bough, the arrangement of the seats was altered, and all are now placed upon the same level. The pulpit was formerly at the same end as the entrance porch. There are mural monuments to the memory of Dr. Coke and Mr. Ault and of Mrs. Clough and Mrs. Scott, the wives of Missionaries.” (Hardy, pp. 80-1.)



Sacred to the Memory of the late Revd. THOMAS COKE, LL.D., of the University of Oxford, General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Missions, who was an ardent lover of immortal souls, and a zealous and persevering Friend and Advocate of Christian Missions among the Heathen. By his Instrumentality, Liberality, and Personal Exertion, the Wesleyan Methodist Missions were introduced and established in all the four Quarters of the Globe! Their success in the Conversion of Sinners lay nearest his heart, and was one of the chief sources of his joy while on earth.


There was a small school associated with the Mission House. The number of students increased and it became popular. It was in 1874 that Wesley College was established on this site

Dam Street in 1930

The School in Dam Street Pettah

Wesley College began its life in Dam Street Pettah and was founded by Rev.Daniel Henry Pereira on the 2nd of March 1874. He became its first Vice Principal during the Principalship of Rev. Samuel Rowse Wilkin. Dam Street takes us back to the Dutch period. During the early days Pettah was a respectable residential area and its streets were lined by tall trees. Messenger Street was called 'Rue de Massang' by the Dutch as there were many Massang trees. Even today it is called Masang Gas Vidiya. Earlier Dam Street was called 'Damba Street' as Damba trees lined its path. The school had its beginnings on the dusty verandahs of the old Methodist Church at Dam street, Pettah.

Following is a notice published in the Weekly Christian Journal- Satyalankaraya or The Beauty of Truth on the 21st of January 1874.

Closely associated with Rev Pereira was Jan Crozier, a kindly Boer, from the South African Rand. The Pettah merchants, of mixed race and religions, sent their children to receive their education in this school. Daniel Henry Pereira was much loved by the people and his pupils. He laboured thus for years in the dust and the heat of Pettah. When Rev Highfield arrived In 1895 Pettah was rapidly becoming industrialised and he saw the need for

quieter surroundings for his school with room to expand. Wesley College was moved to its present site in 1905 with the help of the dynamic Rev. Henry Highfield.


Reminiscences of Wesley in the Pettah By Rev Henry Highfield

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

S.S Golconda - The ship in which Rev. Highfield travelled to Ceylon

S.S Golconda was owned by the British India Steam Navigation Co. and built in 1887 by W. Doxford & Sons, Sunderland, England; She was 422 feet (129 m) long with a beam of 41.8 feet (12.7 m) and had two funnels and was operated by the British India Steam Navigation Company. In 1916 the steamship Golconda, outward bound from the Tees in England to Calcutta, was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine UC-3 five miles S.E. by E. of Aldeburgh in Suffolk (on June 3rd, 1916). Nineteen of her crew were killed. The captain was among the survivors.

The Bell of the ship

I was one of four young Missionaries who left London in the British India ‘Golconda” for the East in September 1895. Two went on further for India. R.C. Oliver and I were for Ceylon and so left the ship at Colombo in the early hours of a mid-October day, being met by Rev. T. Moscrop and Mr. S. Passmore.

Mr. Passmore was to initiate me into the work of Wesley College and Mr. Moscrop was Chairman of the Colombo District and a former Principal of Wesley. I lived with him and Mrs. Moscrop until they left to return into the work at home. I was thus exceptionally fortunate in having two such fine and experienced men to guide me at the start.

Besides, this, when Mr. Passmore took me the next day to Wesley I quickly found that I had two other unusually fine and experienced men on the Staff. Charles Peter Dias joined Wesley in its second year (1876) and continued as Head Master until after my departure in 1925. So too did W.E.Mack, the first assistant; and both, but especially Mr. Dias were of the very greatest help, not at the start only but all along and the School should never forget what it owes to them. Of the premises I had a very different opinion and I think from the very first I was resolved that the School must have a better habitation.

It was good for Wesley that she had in Dias a genuine Church of England Christian and in Mack a good representative of the Dutch Reformed Faith. I quickly realised that the school believed in itself and was on its toes to spring forward towards the front and in Redlich and Honter we had two who would give any other school a hard tussle for the first place in scholarship.

Before Mr. Passmore took charge, Mr. Hillard venturing boldly had built the one building that had given the School an Assembly Hall in which all could gather together twice a day and so get to feel their corporate existence. This hall too served for the teaching of four large classes – not an ideal state of things. It is true that Hillard was unable to get it paid for but he wisely pledged the future to make good. So when in 1899 Wesleyan Methodism at Home set out to raise a million guineas from a million Methodists and successfully reached the target, as we would call it, the resolve in my heart on the first day of my seeing the school was confirmed. As however none of these guineas was to be spent in cancelling debts I had to become a beggar. It was done almost as in a dream during the last six months of 1899 and so eventually the Committee at Home gave me a promise of five times all that we could raise in Ceylon.

By the end of 1904 that came to Rs.35,000 and the Committee, though much surprised by the total, stood to their promise and the building facing Base Line Road was erected and opened early in 1907 with the Director of Education, John Harward (previously Principal of Royal College) as chief speaker.


The Early years of the Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira

From the Notices of the Wesleyan Missionary Society Archives of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Although this is from the Wesleyan Missionary Journal of 1874 the information is from an earlier period as letters and documents were transferred by ship taking several months around the Cape of Good Hope. There were long delays in editing and printing.

Photo: The Rev.D. Henry Pereira

The Rev. Henry Pereira, a Native Minister now stationed at Godapitiya, South Ceylon, is one of the most active, energetic, and successful men the Singhalese District has known. In addition to his efficiency in what pertains specially to a Minister, as Pastor and Preacher, he possesses qualities rarely found amongst those of his class ; for instance, he has a knowledge of carpentry and mason work sufficient to enable him to build a chapel as cheap and substantial as any man in the island. He was born in the year 1824, was baptized by Mr. Gogerly in the Morotto School Chapel in 1828, and about the year 1885 was converted through the agency of a schoolmaster, a Class-Leader of that Circuit. In 1842 he attended the Morotto Government English School, where he gained a silver medal; and later on, at a night school conducted by an English teacher, he studied geometry, algebra, and Latin. In 1845, on being recommended •by Mr. P. G. de Zilva as a theological student, he was sent to Col- petty, where he remained under the supervision of Mr. Gogerly for two years, and was then sent as English teacher to Caltura, a station at that time in charge of Mr. Dickson. In 1848 he returned to Colpetty to resume his studies, but remained for a short time •only, as in July of that same year he was appointed to Angulana as a Catechist under Mr. Wijesingha. In 1851 he was recommended to the Conference, and his ordination took place two .years later. From the time of his appointment to Angulana his ministerial life may be said fairly to have begun. He found tlio work in a very low and unsatisfactory state. However, the work progressed from year to year, family after family were reclaimed from religious indifferentism and heathenism, until, in the year 1864, there were congregations in the Circuit numbering in all some four hundred persons, one hundred Society members, and, in place of the old dilapidated structure at Angulana, a large and commodious chapel worth £250, and also lesser buildings at Uyana, Lunawatta, and Selewela. Five schools for boys and girls were established, and two hundred names were placed upon the register.

In 1867 he was sent to Seedua, where his success was most marked. The congregation rose from one hundred and fifty to three hundred and thirty, and the members from fifty-five to one hundred and twenty-five. The Circuit, though composed of poor people, displays a liberality worthy of imitation in England. The Circuit has also sent out a theological student, who is now at Richmond Hill, and a normal student at present under training at Colombo.

The Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira By Shelton Peiris
Founder of Wesley College, Colombo

From the 125th Anniversary Souvenir

In a Journey back in time, to the environs of the dusty noisy Pettah, we go over to the Wesleyan Mission premises in Dam Street, where we find a group of children at the feet of a benign Minister, the Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira. It certainly was no place for a school but in spite of the many difficulties, no doubt inspired by the Lords invitation "suffer the little children to come upto me" This man kept his grace. Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira, born (circa) 1826 was the eldest son of the Rev. Don Daniel Pereira who started life as a young school master and taught in a school built by the Rev. Benjamin Clough. On joining the Ministry he followed deep evangelistic trends.He was called " the apostle of Kurana - Negombo ". The Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira had a younger brother, who was Rev. Peter Bartholomeusz Pereira. Young Daniel Henry was keenly interested in teaching and at a very early age took an equally great interest in the snakes which he studied identifying their species and habits under a famous South Indian Snake Specialist who reserved no secrets as he instructed his pupil. Daniel Henry was quick to absorb the life pattern of these ophidian reptiles. In fact, in later years, he had edited a catalogue in Sinhala and had contributed to journals. He submitted papers to the Ceylon friend a journal associated with the Wesleyian Church. His contribution to these many journals gave rise to research. He was also an authority on ants in Ceylon. He had great hopes of being a Scientist but in response to his dying mothers wish, he entered the Ministry, in 1851. In addition to his knowledge of reptiles, ants, snails and slugs as a nature scientist he was also proficient in English, Sinhala and Portuguese. His fluency and masterly use of these languages kept this congregations spellbound. He had also a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. He had a brilliant mind displaying itself in lhe clarity of expression. Certainly he would have been on par with the Western Missionaries of evangelistic fervour. He was a pupil of the famed Oriental Scholar, the Rev. Don John Gogerley who was in charge of the Institute of Colombo which was an early "Divinity School". His interest in teaching combined with his parish work and his deep interest in natural science made him eminent. In his Parish work he served in many stations for over 25 years. Moratuwa, then a very large Parish, which he took over from the Rev. G. G. de Zilva saw him work with zest and vigour. He founded an English School at Gorakagaha in Mankada conducting cottage meetings in the homes of those Methodists whilst he resided at Rawattawatte. He contributed largely to the spiritual revival at Moratuwa. When he fell ill his work was taken over by the Rev. Robert Hardy. The school at Dam Street he conducted formed the beginning of Wesley College which was founded on the 2nd March 1874 of which he was the first ever vice Principal with the Rev. Samuel Rowse Wilkin its first Principal. (1874 -1879) who was followed by the Rev. Arthur Shipham (1880 - 1883) with whom Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira works till the latter's retirement. The Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira's son, William H. D. Pereira, studied at Wesley. He was later an Assistant Accountant in the Colombo Port Commission. On his retirement as a Minister in 1882 he settled down in Hambantota. Though not in the best of health he visited homes and those persons who had surrendered their lives to Christ. They were greatly helped by this erudite, but simple, priest, with his life style, though plain, was rich in the -scriptures and its application. His was a life of deep prayer and faith of wide labour and concern ever with an alert mind. His old friend. Rev. Arthur Shipham who was stationed at Matara, no doubt, may have had communication with each other. The last few months of his life had been a challenge. His health was failing but his discipline and training, his deep reliance on his Saviour had increased his faith. He faced the storm yet on an even keel as he was confined to his home with restricted movement.

A large number of villagers visited him. It was on the 22nd November 1886 that death took him. His was a life that laboured and was well spent in the lords vineyard as 'answering the master's call 'come follow me'. Wesley commemorates the memory of her Founder, the Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira - annually on Founder's Day March 2nd. This is the most important event in the School's calendar. A three storeyed imposing building dedicated to his memory, the " D. H. Pereira Memorial Building" to accommodate the junior school was constructed during the Principalship of Dunstan Fernando No doubt the labours of the Rev. Daniel Henry Perera - servant of God - has accumulated a rich harvest of which we, in this present age, are beneficiaries and no doubt this harvest will be garnered by ages yet unborn.

The Progress of the School in 1874

From the Notices of the Wesleyan Missionary Society Archived in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

In the year 1874 - Among our reasons for rejoicing is the realization of the long cherished but long deferred hope for the establishment of a superior school. This is necessary to complete and consolidate our general educational work; to provide trained and cultivated agents for the Mission ; for the education of the sons of our Ministers, and to give a sound and Christian education of the higher kind to those able to pay for it and desirous of receiving it from us, as members of our own and other churches, and respectable natives. With the arrival of Mr. Wilkin almost the last obstacle was overcome; the final and cordial sanction of the District Meeting having been obtained, and a distinctive name (which was found to be desirable) having been chosen, WESLEY COLLEGE, Colombo, was opened on March 2nd, the anniversary of Mr. Wesley’s death. Upwards of one hundred pupils were present the first day, and a meeting which was held at night, to explain our purpose to the public, was attended by a very large congregation, who showed the greatest interest in the undertaking.

There is a dearth of trained teachers. We earnestly hope and pray that Wesley College will help to remedy this terrible scourge, by giving us trained and, above all, converted teachers. The opening of our Educational Establishment in Colombo marks a new era of Mission work in this District, and in the higher rank of teachers we shall have more superior, and therefore more efficient, schools.

The new Institute, Wesley College, removed from Richmond, (Galle,) to Colombo, is so far a great success, and its success brings to us calls for more help to insure efficient teaching. The following is an extract of a Letter from Rev. John Scott, dated Colombo, October 30th, 1874.

The number of pupils has become so great (about two hundred) that we need an increase of teachers, at least one more Englishman. At present Mr. Langdon takes part in the teaching, especially by giving lectures on science, for which he is well qualified; but his work, in addition to pastoral duties, thus becomes too much for his strength.

It is a great encouragement to me to remember your great interest in our educational work. In this respect we have long been behind our Missionaries in Jaffna; but our present effort helps to supply the lack, and provides for a want which was, as you know, for many years most pressingly felt, Before we began the College I was often told by experienced Missionaries, “ Begin, and then the Committee will be sure to help you.” When Mr. Wilkin came, for the first time we had the opportunity of beginning; and now that we have so well succeeded I do hope we shall be able to carry on the scheme effectively. We obtain an income from fees, but the men we must have from England.

Mr. Wilkin’s whole time is absorbed, and we really (without any exaggeration, I assure you) require a second Minister to give his weekdays to the work. Could you find us a young man, or could Mr. Shipstone come to our help ? He would do very well, as his love for study and education is very great.

Our general work in Colombo is highly encouraging, and it would be a great pity to endanger it. But Mr. Langdon cannot, with proper regard to his strength, and with such help as I give when in Colombo, do justice to our manifold Colombo work, and regularly teach also.


An Exerpt from the History of the Methodist Missionary Society Vol 5, Circa 1910 Edited by Findlay and Holdsworth
Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Many a Missionary has found himself hampered in his work, and robbed of the auxiliary influence he might have found, by being compelled to work in buildings which could never elevate the tone of Iris pupil's minds, and which were often even insanitary. The problem arising from Mission buildings has often seemed insoluble. The grants for this purpose made by embarrassed Committees in England were, in comparison with the need, quite insignificant, and in most fields (South Ceylon was, as we shall see, a happy exception) little could be obtained from local resources.

Individual Missionaries were left for the most part to supplement such slender provision for their work as best they could. Of the educational work of Dr. Kessen we have already written. With the appointment of the Rev. S. R. Wilkin in 1873 a ' Collegiate School • was opened in Colombo, and was most successful. Wilkin was followed in 1880 by the Rev. Arthur Shipham, and by the Rev. S. Hill in 1884. Under the direction of the last-named there seemed to be every prospect of the College becoming a first-class institution, but the untimely death of the Principal in 1885 dashed all such hopes to the ground.

Excellent work was done by his successors, the Revs. T. Moscrop, T. C. Hillard, and J. Passmore. College students began to win distinctions in the scholastic world. In 1895 there were five hundred students on the College roll, and of these about thirty were boarders. Now all this time the buildings in which the College was housed were most unsatisfactory. They were of the poorest and shabbiest type. The boarding house especially was more like a broken-down stable than a home for boys. Protest had followed. appeal for many years, but nothing was done, though the amount spent annually upon repairs would have proved to be good interest upon a considerable capital outlay. A debt of six hundred pounds upon the buildings already in existence made the outlook more than depressing.

But in 1895 the Rev.Henry Highfield took over the charge of the College. Like those who had preceded him, he was scandalized by the state of the buildings, and he determined that 'Wesley College' should be housed in a manner more worthy of its name and of its purpose. The first thing to be taken in hand was the liquidation of the debt, and this was accomplished. Then the scheme was launched which projected a new College in a more suitable position.

A site was obtained, not without great difficulty both in Ceylon and in England. But the case was one in which delay would have meant an indefinite set-back to missionary educational work for many yeaTI;, and the Committee in London showed its wisdom in not insisting too rigorously upon the due observance of its perfectly reasonable regulations. To have refused to accept the opportunity which offered would have been deplorable; for, apart altogether from the value of the College as an evangelistic centre of great fruitfulness, the youth of the rapidly increasing Christian community made this provision an urgent necessity.

In 1904 Highfield set himself to raise locally the amount which, added to a building grant from England, would enable him to remove the reproach which rested upon our educational work in Colombo. His success in raising the sum of two thousand five hundred pounds is an indication of the value put upon the efforts of his predecessors by educated Ceylonese in Colombo, and indeed throughout the island.

Excellent buildings were erected in Campbell Park, and the results, both educational and evangelistic, have been quite beyond tabulation. ' Old Boys ' from the College now occupy high positions, both in the official, the professional, and the mercantile world; and others, not less to be honoured, have given themselves to the service of their countrymen in proclaiming the Gospel which they were led to accept while passing through the class-rooms of Wesley College. The new buildings were opened in 1907.


From the 'Ceylon Friend' of February, 1874 (obtained from the archives held by Edmund Dissanayake )


A project earnestly desired for the last sixteen years has at length been carried out. It was in 1858 that the Rev. J. Rippon first made the proposal for a superior Educational Institution for the Wesleyan Mission in South Ceylon. The idea has never been lost sight of; there have always been some to urge its importance and we have never succeeded in obtaining the appointment of a Principal until the last Wesleyan Methodist Conference (August 1873). Now the Principal has arrived--The Rev. S· R. Wilkin, of the London University. He is to be aided by an ardent friend of Education, the Rev. D. H. Pereira, as Vice Principal and Wesley College. Colombo. is to be opened, God willing, on March 2nd. The Mission Buildings opposite the Colombo Kachcheri are in process of adaptation, and for the present, it is hoped. will be adequate and complete. No doubt in time to come greater accommodation may be required; and we should be thankful for any friend who would give us a good site, say in the Cinnamon Gardens, for the College of the future.
This College is intended as the completion of our school arrangements. Without it our labour is to a large extent lost as our most promising scholars leave us for better schools elsewhere. .
"Financially, we mean to make those who learn English pay for it. We hope that this College will in no degree be a burden upon the funds of the parent Society. From Fees and Government Grants, we trust that an income will be derived sufficient, or nearly 80, for current expenses. But for alterations of buildings and purchase of furniture some Rs.2,000 or more must be expended; and those who love light and value instruction will, it is hoped, provide the needful funds. The Missionaries give time and care for this project. It is a fair bargain for others to give the money,"
Notes of the Month--April. 1874.
Wesley College, Colombo, was opened on March 2nd, the Anniversary of Mr. Wesley's death. In the evening a public meeting was held, the Honourable the Queen's Advocate in the Chair. The Rev. J. Scott delivered an address giving the reasons for the opening of the College from a Missionary point of view. R. V. Dunlop, Esq., and the Rev. S. R. Wilkin, the Principal, also took part in the meeting. It was largely attended, and much interest was manifested in the undertaking."
It is on these well-laid lines that the College has been run, and the change of site anticipated came about in 1907 when, after the begging campaign of 1904 and the generous grant from England out of the Million Guineas and Twentieth Century Fund. those present premises were opened with about tile same amount of debt-Rs. 20,000-that the Y.M.C.A. had to admit a week ago. The total cost of land and buildings (without one rupee of Government money) was about Rs: 220,000.
In fifty years the College has had seven Missionary Principals.
The portraits of the six who preceded me, with their names and dates, are in this Hall for all to see. Men enter the ministry of our Church with no expectation of being specially appointed to educational work; but they are ready to go where they are sent and to do to the best of their ability the work to which they .are appointed. Thus in the earlier days, the Principals of this College undertook its duties for periods of about the same length as they would have served in stations of pastoral and evangelistic character, and moved on to those other charges in due sequence. The period covered by my predecessors extended to the later months of 1895. Throughout this period the valuable help of a Master who is still with us, though he joined the staff somewhere about the year 1876. Mr. C. P. Dias still going strong, has advised and helped us all; and what the College owes to him, and What l owe to him is quite beyond words to express. Another 'valuable member of the staff, Mr. W. E. Mack, reckons forty years of service, having joined in 1884: I arrived in October, 1895, and there are also still with us four others who joined the Staff of Wesley before 1900; that is to say, there are to-day seven masters on the Staff who have each served over twenty-five years.

Photo: Rev P.T Cash

At the end of 1906 the Home Committee sent us out the first full-time Missionary Vice-Principal-The Rev. P. T. Cash, B. Sc. The College Owes very much to Mr. and Mrs. Cash for services continued up to August 1920. It was Mr. Cash who initiated the work of the Boarding House in 1910 he too, by becoming lecturer in Zoology in the Medical College for some years, obtained funds to equip our Science Laboratory. He started our Boy Scout Colombo 14th Troop, just now I regret to say temporarily out of action. In very many ways the influence that he and Mrs. Cash exerted upon the College, and particularly the Boarders, has done much to make the College what it is today. To Mrs. Cash we owe the, inauguration of the College Choir, and it was her excellent training that enabled them to win the Singing Shield the first time it was offered to boys. After a well· earned furlough in 1920, Mr. Cash was appointed Principal of Central College, Jaffna. My present colleague, the Rev. E. C. Horler and Mrs. Horler, arrived in October, 1921, and he has taken up the care of the Hostel, also the organisation of the Lower School, and his work is of great value.
In the earlier days external examinations had not so strong a -vogue as now, but as the College grew it was affiliated to the Calcutta" University, and sent up students for that Calcutta Entrance, M.A. and B A. In 1892 we entered the Cambridge lists for the first time, and in so doing gained both honours and distinctions with pass list of ten. The Ceylon University Scholarship was won for the first time by a Wesleyite on the results of the Cambridge junior of 1895; and in subsequent years five more from Wesley have won that coveted prize. The schools can no longer win these scholarships. directly, but we hope that some of them will continue to be taken by Wesleyites after their course at University College.

Photo: Rev Joseph Passmore

s2I believe that it was not until the Principal ship of the Rev. Joseph Passmore that Wesley entered into the friendly rivalry of the cricket field with Royal and St. Thomas', but since those days in 1893, 189i we have bad regular matches with both of those Colleges, a Id later have had a place in the recognised. Inter-Collegiate competitions, and have had at least two Seasons when we were unbeaten by any College team. We joined the Cadet movement from the start and have done good work all along, though never coming, out first in the annual encounters.
Our Literary Associations, Y.M.C.A. and student Christian Union have maintained a steady existence of much usefulness.
Thirty-three Wesleyites took part in the Great War, in the fields of France, Palestine and Mesopotamia, and three Redlich, Staples, and Brohier gave their lives for the Empire.
Our Old Boys are to be found in positions of trust and usefulness all over the Island, and not a few in lands afar. Their names can be shown in the Legislative Council, in the Civil Service, in the' Christian Ministry, and that not only of our own Church, in the Medical and Legal professions, in Mercantile and Government Offices, as private Landowners and Cultivators. and last but by no means least important. as members of the Teaching Profession:’
We can fearlessly maintain that our past has been strenuous . Honourable and useful, and we are justified in looking forward into the future for the continuance and enlargement of our influence upon the life of this Colony. Of the achievements of Old Boys and the' humours awarded to them since last Prize. Day. we have pleasure in recording the following :-
The eight boys who left us in August, 1922. qualified to enter University College, are giving a good account of themselves. Four,. J. Sitheram, A. H. M. Ismail, W. V. D. Pieris and A. M. Charawanamuttu, have passed the Intermediate (Arts or Science) and are on the way to London degrees. H. S. Goonewardenl bas passed:
First M.B., and the first part of the Second year Medical; A. E. G. La Brooy his First year Medical Of older Old Boys who are following the Medical Profession, we may mention that M. Osman after a very successful course in our Medical College. gaining prizes and medals has now won the full diploma. Dr. Hector Ferdinando is practicing in Colombo on his return from England with British qualifications; Dr. C. M. Gwyllim has gained his B.Sc., (Lond.) and M.B., with honours in Midwifery: Dr. R. P. Perera has gained British qualifications.
In the Legal Profession:-
E. W. Jayawardene is King's Counsel.
F. C. Loos, Junior, and K. Dhammakasiri. Barrister-at-Law.
J. R. V. D. Ferdinands and C. J. C. Jansz have passed the
Advocate's Final, Mr. Ferdinanda has also passed Inter-Laws Lond,. London, and is Assistant Adjutant to the C. C. B.
The following have passed their Proctor's Final :-
H. L. de Silva. M. T. Jainudeen. S. Ratnakaram, Allan de Zilwa and R. L. Kannangara. The last, however, though be gained the Intermediate Scholarship, has elected to train as a Teacher and is, along with S. V. O. Somanader and others, now at the Government Training College.

The very first letter the Rev. S. R. Wilkin wrote to the Missionary Society in London after assuming office as the first Principal of Wesley College Colombo.

Received and Added on the 17th of October 2013

The Letter from Rev. S.R Wilkin of September 28th,1875 was kindly sent to me by Ananda Dias-Jayasinghe

Photo: Ananda Dias-Jayasinha of Richmond College Galle

Ananda Dias-Jayasinha, is a distinguished historian and an old boy of Richmond College Galle. I have been in contact with Ananda for many years and he has provided much information about the history of Methodism in Ceylon, the early days of Richmond College Galle and Wesley College. He firmly believed and provided historical documents to prove that Richmond was established before Wesley College.
Ananda Dias-Jayasinghe was a gentleman of the highest calibre. On behalf of Wesley College I wish to thank him for sharing his reseach with me. I remember most fondly his honesty and courtesy during our long association despite the time, land and the oceans that separated us.
He sadly passed away on the 23rd May 2021

May he find Eternal Peace

Displayed in Honour and Memory of the late Ananda Dias-Jayasinghe

From what I have seen of mission work-my experience of course is rather limited education and evangelization seem to be inseparably linked together, the former being necessary to the success of the latter; hence a missing link was supplied when our school was opened now less than two years ago, under the name of  Wesley College.

The want of a superior school had long been felt in this district, and the interests of our church had undoubtedly suffered from that want. The sons of our members and adherents went either to the Government Institution or to the College belonging to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and in many instances after leaving either of these places were lost to the church. Moreover, there is among the people of this country a growing desire for a first class English education indeed, many a native reads and write English better than he does his own language. The missionaries on the spot felt that a school to meet this demand was absolutely necessary, not only to satisfy the desire of the people generally but mainly to stop the leak.

Photo: Rev. S.R Wilkin

We have been so far fairly successful, indeed more so than any expected. But having done well is no reason why we should not do better and having gained a position it ought to be strengthened. We need help. In the Academy, which is under the direction of Government, there are three European masters, and in the S. P. G. College, four; therefore, to hold a position alongside of these without more help is difficult. It is not as if we had the field to ourselves, and, unfortunately, it is not easy to get suitable native men to do the work we want done. These institutions have been established for years and have made a name, and we should strive to make our school equally successful. To this end, we should be prepared to make ours so attractive as those of our neighbours. In order to make our institution attractive, we want not only more European teaching power, but also Scholarships and Prizes, and shall ere long need new buildings; and so we shall be able to attract those who come to Colombo from outstations, for to Colombo they will come.

A few particulars as to our work may not be uninteresting to you. In the two divisions of the College, there are eight classes, in some of which there are twenty, in others thirty, or on an average about twenty-five boys in each class. The first class, six in number, is preparing for the Calcutta University Matriculation Examination, which will be held in December next.

To attend to this class properly and yet not neglect the others is a great strain on me. It will be more difficult next year should we have to prepare any for the First Examination in Arts unless help is forthcoming. The tax upon a European is too great when he cannot get through the work allotted him without taking classes all day from nine to three with but an interval of an hour this climate is too enervating for continuous toil of that description. I need hardly enumerate all the subjects taught. From what is said above respecting the first class, a clue is given to the work of the College. But, in addition to the subjects required for the University Entrance Examination, there are lectures in Chemistry; and last but not least, Scripture is systematically taught. We give a foremost place to this last subject, and it is encouraging to know that without exception they all, Buddhist, Hindu, Mahomedan and Roman Catholic-for all these are represented in our school read the Scriptures. We compel no one to attend the Scripture class who shall. bring a letter from parent or guardian saying he wished him to be so excused. A short time ago, one of the young men in the fourth class came to me and said as he was a strict Buddhist he ought to be allowed to absent himself from the Scripture lectures. I told him if he would bring a letter from his father to that effect I would allow him. The letter has never appeared. This shows that the heathen are not averse to Christianity.

We have 96 Singhalese, of whom 17 are Buddhists; 24 Tamils, of whom 8 are Hindus; a few Mahomedans, and the rest Roman Catholics and Protestants. It has been my, endeavour of late to link together Our Sunday and day school work, and I have succeeded in getting several of the young men who attend the College in the week to attend my Bible class in the Sunday School.

There are in the College several members of society, and already I have hope that some of the best Singhalese young men in the school will become native ministers. One of these is a local preacher.

There are twelve mission students preparing for the work as native ministers, catechists  or school masters. These in addition to College duties, receive lectures in Divinity in there own language from the Vice Principal - the course this year being a translation of several of Wesley" Sermons and instructions in Pali from a qualified Pundit.

A few weeks ago, a young Buddhist expressed his desire to be baptized as a Christian. The importance of the step I explained to him in my class-meeting. Since then he has been suffering from a severe attack of typhoid fever. Let us pray that he may be spared to be openly acknowledged by the church ne a Christian, and that many more may follow him to Christ.

From the Editor - Dr Nihal D Amerasekera:

Rev S.R Wilkin left the comfort of work in a rural Parish in Britain to be a Missionary in Ceylon. Life in Ceylon in those days was hard with poor medical facilities. Devastating and Cyclical epidemics of Typhoid, Dysentery, Small pox and Cholera took their toll. To live as foreigners in a country struggling for independence could not have been easy. His achievements show the tenacity, resilience and character.

My grateful thanks to Ananda Dias-Jayasinha, an old Richmondite, for this most valuable document which he has discovered on his research on the history of his old school. It outlines the trials and tribulations and also the perils and obligations of a Principal and a Missionary in the late 19th Century. He remained the Principal at Wesley from 1874-79 and proceeded to Richmond College Galle where he was Principal from 1882-88. He returned to England in 1889. According to the Methodist Chronicles "In England he continued to render devoted service. His preaching was instructive and useful. He was systematic and faithful in all pastoral duty, silfully used his great gift of sympathy. He had a wealth of tender affection, often indeed concealed but always effectual. His was a strong faithful minister throughout. He died with startling suddenness at Bangor on February 16th 1918, in his 70th year and in the 46th of his ministry".

Did he leave Wesley because he needed a different challenge? Was he unhappy with the crowded surroundings of Dam Street Pettah? Did he get the support of the Missionary Society in London? We will never know the answers to these questions without the interest, expertise and research of tenacious historians like Ananda Dias-Jayasinha. We eagerly await the publication of his book on the history of Richmond College Galle and wish it every success. I am certain it would give us an interesting insight into the world of the Methodist Mission and its Missionaries in those early years.

From the Archives:

Wesley College Colombo in 1874: The classes are divided into 2 divisions, upper and lower. The first 4 classes read subjects precribed yearly by the Syndicate of the University of Calcutta for the First Arts and Entrance Examinations, in English, Latin, History, Geography, Logic, Chemstry and Mathematics. The course also includes Botany, Physics and Divinity.

The Gogerly Scholarship to the value of Rs 120.00 a year, tenable for 2 years is open to competition for all students of the College. Incorporated with the College is a normal Institution for the training of Mission teachers.

Instructive Staff

Visitor: Rev John Scott General Superintendent of the South Ceylon Wesleyan Mission.

Principal: Rev SR Wilkin

Head Master: Rev Arthur Shipham

Lecturer in English Literature and Divinity: Rev J Otley Rhodes

Asst Masters: C.P Dias, C Chellapah, AW Siebel and 7 others

First Impressions and Experiences From the Rev T Moscrop

Added 22nd June 2018

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera - From the Bodleian Library, Oxford University

s8My time, however, has been fully occupied since my arrival here- I found Mr. Shipham suffering from dysentery, and at once I had to take the greatest part of his work at Wesley College. Besides this, I have been a sort of District Missionary deputation, everybody wishing to see the latest arrival. There has been one great advantage in this; it has given me, in a very short time, a fair knowledge of the work in most of its branches.

First impressions as to particulars are often incorrect, so that I had better confine myself to generals. My idea of the work as a whole, is that there has been an excellent leavening process going on in the past, and that our work is now so far advanced and consolidated, that it would be almost impossible for us to lose our hold of the people. The violent opposition of former days has passed away, and the superiority and power of Christianity are tacitly and respectfully acknowledged. This being the case, the wisest movement is vigorous and continued aggression. The Church cannot afford to be at ease, for the work is terribly real, and aggressive movements on well tried lines are imperatively necessary if the results of the past are to be preserved and fully used.

The people of England will be morally culpable if they ever become less loyal to Missions. Now that we are sure of our forces, let them make us sure of our resources. Given the practical sympathy and fervent prayers of believers at home, and Ceylon can be won for Christ. The work already done points unerringly to this issue. A few particulars of my early experiences may interest you.

Soon after my arrival I went to the opening of a new bungalow for a school, voluntarily instituted and carried on by a native lady as an expression of her love for Christ. On October 13th, I went to Caltura where I found good premises, and had good times in preaching. When walking on the bank of the river, I furnished some entertainment to a Singhalese man, by attempting a conversation with him. I hoped to learn something of the language, but my limited knowledge did not carry me far enough; and notwithstanding the somewhat vigorous use of gesture and sign as well, the result was only amusement to him and bewilderment to me. As yet, when addressing the natives, I have been compelled to have an interpreter; but the process is not very exhilarating, and the sooner I can grip the language the better. The following Saturday I went to the laying of the foundation stone of a new chapel at Moratuwa Mulle. The day before, one hundred men had been voluntarily engaged in digging out the foundations and bringing the material for the building. Mr. Scott, our chairman, performed the ceremony in true English fashion. The people looked cheery and happy, as if animated with bright hopes for the future. They sang in slow, sober Singhalese style, and bent the head reverently in prayer. After an address from Mr. Strutt and the always necessary collection, we went to breakfast. To describe the various compositions provided would baffle me. Suffice it to say that, as I wished to be preserved to the Mission for some time to come, I was compelled to be very cautious in my choice. After breakfast we went to a Missionary meeting at Moratuwa Rawatawatta. Mr. Strutt and I went in a hackery, and as the road was in a very bad condition and the bullock almost unmanageable, we expected to be pitched again and again into the bushes. As it was we flattened each other out a little and made merry over the shaking. The meeting was well attended, and it was satisfactory to learn that more than Rs.100 had been collected by the children during the year.

A fortnight ago I went to take an English service at Pantura. The native Minister there told me that there had been several conversions lately, and that he had baptized a Singhalese man that morning. A few days after I preached at Dahiwala by means of an interpreter, and four found the Saviour. The worthy native Minister there has had the joy of seeing fruit of his labours in about a dozen conversions. At Galle, to which place I came a week ago, conversions have taken place and the Church has been quickened. A good work has been going on for some time; silently, slowly the results have appeared. But there is plenty to do yet, and success only opens up for us a wider field. The noise of the tom-tom, indicative of devil ceremonies, begins at dusk, and continues far into the night, and the heart saddens at the thought of the fewness of the labourers and the vastness of the work. A little while ago a young native showed me marks on his body received from his father because he would be a Christian. He said it would take him all day to tell of all he had endured through his determination to love and serve the Saviour. He requested me, with tears in his eyes, to pray for his loved ones who are still in heathen darkness.

All this is indicative of work, of faith, of hope. There is a spirit of expectancy among the people. Whilst the Methodists in England, during the week of special prayer for Missions, were praying for them, our Christian people were praying for themselves. The fervent prayers of those in England can affect the work in Ceylon; and this lovely isle is worthy of their most fervent prayers, and their choicest gifts.

Links to further reading

The Great Men of Wesley of the 19th Century

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Rev Daniel Henry Pereira

There are photographs of the College Principals who guided Wesley’s destinies and touched hundreds of young lives into finer issues by their saintliness and scholarship. They have exemplified in their life and teaching all that is beautiful and striking in· "Ora et Labora". They are to us what Arnold. Thring, Jowett. Moulton. Paton and others have been to the larger educational world. We have entered on the Jubilee Year, and it will be fitting-even in a cursory manner-to find inspiration in the Men and their Message.
Daniel Henry PereraAbout sixty ago in an upstairs building adjoining the Pettah Wesleyan Church-the cradle of Ceylon Methodism-there lived a minister of genial and gentle temperament. He was an ardent student of men and books. As a preacher, Daniel Henry Pereira was as attractive and helpful in English as in Sinhalese and Portuguese. But teaching was his forte. He opened a private School at his residence, and his pupils were charmed by his magnetic personality and rare gift of imparting knowledge. The school gradually grew in popularity and efficiency. and in 1868 he made an application to the Chairman, John Scott. to have it registered as a Grant-in-Aid School. This was done in due course, and on March 2nd 1874 it was opened under the new designation of " Wesley College." But why on March 2nd? Just 83 years before its inauguration there passed away on the self-same day the great Prophet of the Eighteenth Century-John Wesley-with the final message, The Best of all is, God is with us," on his lips. He was great in genius as in generosity and piety. Augustine Birrell has well said" " No man lived nearer the centre than John Wesley, neither Clive nor Pitt. neither Mansfield nor Johnson. You cannot cut him out of our national life. No single figure influenced so many minds. no single voice touched so many hearts." In many respects John Scott was a striking counterpart of the Founder of Methodism. During his long period of service in the-' Island he won the affection of all communities and creeds by his catholicity of spirit and kindliness of demeanour. To him the' College owes a great debt of gratitude for placing before it the highest ideals which a Missionary College should have. One of the salient features of his life was the intrinsic Value of Time. By a conscientious economy and habitual improvement of time he acquired considerable stores of information on abstruse subjects and they were applied with singular ability and success in the elucidation and defense of God's Word. In Daniel Henry Pereira.. we have another who 'scorned delights and lived laborious days'. He sought to emphasise the Value of Hobbies. During his leisure moments he prosecuted his studies in Chemistry, Astronomy. Geology, Biology and Natural History. He was an authority on the Fresh-Water Fishes and Snakes of Ceylon, and contributed a. series of articles to the" Ceylon Friend," and on other subjects to '"European journals. Sir Arthur Havelock, at a College Prize-Giving, sagely said, "Cultivate a hobby. A hobby is more than a recreation of the mind. It is a protection which relieves the man who has it from ennui or boredom, from the oppressive sense of the sameness of life, and from that tendency to judge everything from a single standpoint, which is the course of the efficient and the industrious.

Rev Samuel Wilkin


Samuel Wilkin was the first Principal, and during his five years' work the College was singularly fortunate in having as its Pioneer one who combined, in a marked degree, Consummate Tact with Indomitable Energy. What a splendid union! Labour conquers all things but without tact or sanctified common sense' his work goes for naught. With it. for forty years after relinquishing hi. onerous duties. he Won the unstinted admiration of the people in
responsible spheres of activity in England. One of his pupils describes him as ., One eminently fitted for the role of a schoolmaster and a College Principal" and another was deeply impressed with his .. kindly disposition."
.. Oh! he was of knowledge a Pioneer

Rev Arthur Shipham


His successor. Arthur Shipham, was at the helm for three years. He has just retired from the active work of the ministry. 'His deep and abiding interest in our work was clearly indicated in the Message that. appeared in the Magazine recently ; " I am thankful that God has given me forty-four years in this work, the first eleven of which were spent in Ceylon. My memories of the beautiful Island and the kindness of many friends in Colombo and Matara are very pleasant and precious. Wesley College has still a warm place in my heart, and I have followed its magnificent progress with joy. The only Message I would send is. Ora et Labora the Motto for which I am personally responsible."
In giving so choice a Motto he has bequeathed a priceless legacy. Here is a man with a Vision, who has given us a noble watchword which, if carried out in our daily life, will make our lives nobler and sweeter. " A people that hath not the vision perisheth." It is the man of vision that has done an enduring work in all ages. Up, and follow the Gleam !
During the regime of these two Pioneers there was a. loyal band of Lieutenants. Two of the honorary tutors were men of brilliant gifts of bead and heart, whose names are proverbial in our midst.

Rev Samuel Langdon

Samuel Langdon was a man of versatile gifts. He was great as a preacher with his rich endowment of intellectual and spiritual gifts; great as a lecturer on literary and scientific subjects; great as writer; for such books as "'the Appeal of the Serpent", My Mission Garden". Two men of Devon," "Punchi Nona" , etc make interesting reading; great as an organiser, 'and in his advocacy of mission and reformatory work in Haputale and its environs he justly earned the name of the .. Apostle of Uva". But what struck me forcibly as a lad was his buoyant cheerfulness. He was always bright and Joyous. The glow of happiness on his countenance was contagious What a tonic to the jaded worker to have this choice gift I Carlyle says; Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness; altogether past calculation its power of endurance.

Photo: Rev Samuel Langdon

The other tutor was John Otley Rhodes, a man of unswerving uprightness and integrity, of discriminating judgment, of solid attainments," of sincere piety. His sermons were perspicuous in style. orderly in arrangement, chaste in diction. and delivered with much fervour and warmth of feeling. Clarity of thought and keen spiritual insight distinguished his contributions to Magazines. Consumption, however, marked him for its prey, but his passion for work and sunny disposition stood him in good stead for several years· Ten, on medical advice, he left for Australia where he passed away. He was an Optimist. Unlike the pessimist who sees difficulty in every opportunity, he saw an opportunity in every difficulty. Even in the most trying moments of ill health he shut out the gloomy and called. in the light. He greeted the Unseen with a cheer I In his lectures to the senior students on the book of Job he was self-revealing. The secret of his life was his Value of Prayer. He was able to say with 'one of Tennyson's characters;
"If you fear, Cast all your care on God: that anchor holds."

Rev Samuel Hill


After a brief period of work as Principal of Richmond College. Samuel Hill assumed duties in 1885. He was one of the saintliest men that ever came out to the East. His entire conduct showed the beauty of holiness; his religion and his life were one. He was a man of meek and amiable disposition; his life blameless and transparent. By the force of holy example he allured others to brighter worlds and led the way.' His life was out short at thirty two, but it was crowded with activities. "We live in deeds not years."

Rev Thomas Moscrop

s8What better choice of a successor could there have been than Thomas Moscrop Many an Old Boy Will echo the sentiments of one who sat at his feet; He was a great thinker and a very able writer. He was equally happy in the pulpit and in the lecture room. He possessed considerable administrative ability and organizing skill. His was one of the most comprehensive intellects that I have ever known. And he was withal very warm-hearted and brotherly. o him shoddy work was abhorrent. For every hours work in College he put in twice as much time in preparation: and on his Sunday sermons he worked diligently from Monday morning till Saturday evening; and no wonder that his sermons were' gems of purest ray serene.' Every week saw a steady improvement in the quality of his pulpit utterances. What a rebuke to our slipshod methods of work "The Utmost for the Highest " is what is expected from young and old alike


Rev Thomas Hillard


In Thomas Coke Hillard, who came from a talented family,. and Joseph Passmore, we have two men of sterling worth and clear-sightedness, who are still in labours abundant. What shall I more say? For every time will fail me to tell of Strutt, Burnett, Charlesworth, Bestall, Corlett, Triggs, Spaar, Willenburg, Nathanielsz, Cash and others-who have shown In their selfless devotion to duty the wisdom of Wesley's couplet:
" Unite the pair so oft disjoined, Knowledge and vital piety,"

Rev Joseph Passmore



Of the untiring efforts of the present Principal for over 3 quarter of a century- and of his coadjutors-primarily that of the Bead Master, who has been intimately associated with the College from its earliest years, you know as much as I do. To them, as well as to their predecessors, we are greatly indebted. Their fruitful lives and glowing message of hope and uplift should make our motto 'let thing of beauty and a JOY for ever'. We are the heirs of all the ages - the trustees of posterity.
What an inalienable inheritance is ours. In God's good providence we are nearing the fiftieth Anniversary, and as good stewards, the Past and Present should give due heed to the earnest Appeal of the Principal for a forward move, which will tend to consolidate and extend the work. Mr. Gladstone, in his Rectorial address to the Edinburgh students, said :- If you let yourselves enjoy the praise of your teacher!!, let me beseech you to repay their Care, and to help their arduous work, by entering into it with them, and by showing them that you meet their exertions neither-with churlish mistrust. nor with a passive indifference, but with free and ready gratitude. Rely upon it, they require your sympathy." What stirring words.

Rev Passmore’s Reflections of the School in Dam Street Pettah

From the Wesley Memorabilia archived by Shelton Peiris and now devotedly maintained by his son, Peter and grandson Sushendra

 Joseph Passmore

pssPrevious to the actual beginning of Wesley College, it had been felt for many years that a first rate high school was necessary for Methodism in Colombo, which would at least equal, in time, the Anglican College and the Government College in the efficiency of its work and the extent of its influence. A school was in existence on the very premises where Wesley College now is, with Rev. Kessen at its head, but when he took charge of the Government institution, then known as the Academy, the Wesleyan school went along with him.(Rev Kessen was the Head-master in 1942 of the Colombo Academy which later became Royal College)

Photo: Rev D.H Pereira

For some time after this we had no school in Colombo worthy of the name, but one was eventually begun, and was for many years ably managed by the Rev. D. H. Pereira, now deceased.

But during the greater part of this time it was felt that Methodism in Ceylon was suffering from the want of a collegiate school for all its sons had to he sent, for the completion of their education, to institutions which, if they were not antagonistic to Methodism, were most certainly not friendly to it. The result was that they became estranged from Methodism; and I could name very many who are today not Methodists, and who are in good positions in the island, but who, I believe, would have been Methodists had we been able to keep their education in our own hands.


As early as 1858 a college for South Ceylon was proposed by the Rev J Rippon but at that time it was not carried out. In 1871, however, a request for a Principal to be sent out was made by the District Synod, and the conference of 1873 appointed a man to the post, the Rev S.R. Wilkin. The college was not begun until his arrival, which was about January, 1874.

The District Synod of that year expressed their thanks to the Committee and the Conference for the appointment, and the Ceylon Friend of February, 1874, contains an announcement of his arrival The same number of the Ceylon Friend goes on to make what really amounted to a statement of the policy to be followed in the management of the college, and as this is practically our present policy, it may be as well to quote what is said This College is intended as the completion of our school arrangements. Without it our labour is to a large extent lost, as our most promising scholars leave us for better schools elsewhere.... Financially, we mean to make those who learn English pay for it. We hope also that this College will in no degree be a burden upon the funds of the Parent Society.

From fees and Government grants we trust that an income will be derived sufficient, or nearly so, for current expenses. March and was the day fixed for the opening, and the Ceylon Friend of April says, Wesley College was opened on March and the anniversary of John Wesley's death.

In the evening a public meeting was held, the Hon. the Queen's Advocate in the chair. The Rev. J. Scott gave an address giving reasons for the opening of the College from a missionary point of view. R. V. Dunlop, Esq., and the Rev. S. R. Wilkin also took part in the meeting. It was largely attended, and much interest was manifested in the undertaking. We are glad to announce that so far the college has been a success, a large number of pupils having joined it.

The college was successful from the start a large number of pupils attended at once, and the devotion of Principal and masters to their work secured the Fullest confidence of parents. At the end of the first term which was concluded on August 14th there were no less than 200 boys on the roll; all the available rooms were taken upon more boys could be admittedand an application has been made to the committee for some one to assist the principal.

It will be seen from this account of the beginning of Wesley College that it was primarily, both ideally and actually, a Missionary institution. It was begun as an auxiliary to other methods of making known the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathen, and also as a conservator of the interest* of our own church. It was never anticipated that it would or could he a purely educational affair. Its causa vivendi was missionary from the first, and remains to this day.

This does not mean, however, that the importance of an education of the best type has been lightly regarded. It is perfectly evident from the records of the earliest days of the college that its promoters were extremely anxious that while Wesley was first and foremost a missionary college, it should not fall a whit behind its senior rivals in the type of scholar it produced. It was the determination of those to whom it owes its origin, that they would provide the very best education possible; but that they would add to it a Christian training —and even a Methodist training. I trust I shall be able to show that this has not only been the policy but the practice.

For a considerable period after its establishment the college continued to flourish and increase. Additional accommodation was arranged for by adapting some of our old premises adjoining. From the first very little money was expended on buildings. The old buildings of the Pettah premises were altered, and inconvenient as they were, they were used for many years, until they became so crowded that removal to a more commodious hall was necessary.

The course of study first adopted for the college seems to have been the Calcutta University course, and the examinations of the Government grant-in-aid, and in 1875 there is a record of three candidates passing the Calcutta entrance examination. This was continued until 1884, when the Rev.T.Hill was appointed principal. There was not much scope for gaining educational honours as long as the course was practically limited to the Calcutta Entrance ; but, nevertheless, there is no doubt that much good work was done. It is the fashion now to decry the work of the Calcutta course, and it has some weaknesses; but it also has some excellences.

It is not by any means a bad course for boys such as we have to teach, and if a boy takes the course, with English as his vernacular, and passes the Entrance in the first or second division, as many of the Wesley boys did at this period, it is a guarantee that he has a fair knowledge of the English language, elementary mathematics, English and Indian history and can read at least one other language. Such, then, was the course followed in the early days of “ Wesley.” But even then they were preparing for more advanced work.

In giving an account of the scheme of education followed in a missionary college. Scripture should not be forgotten. From the beginning, daily work has been done in Divinity throughout the classes. It has always been the custom for the ministers stationed in Colombo to render considerable assistance in the various classes in this subject, and many a story might be told of the influence they have been able to exert on the youthful heathen mind. In addition to the simple teaching of Scripture, courses of lectures have been given frequently, on such subjects as “ Christian Evidences” 44 Christ, the Principal Evidence for Christianity,” “ The History of the New Testament,” and other cognate topics. The work of the college has therefore been given a thoroughly missionary character.

Rev Arthur Shipham


The first principal, Mr. Wilkin, continued his work until 1880, when the Committee allowed him to return to England for a year's furlough. His place was taken by the Rev. Arthur Shipham, who continued to hold the position until 1884, when the Rev. Samuel Hill became principal. During Mr. Shipman’s regime the course hitherto followed was continued, and an experiment was tried in the direction of introducing a modem side, but the people were not prepared for it, and it had to be abandoned. The subsequent development of education in Ceylon, however, shows that it was only another case of a reformer being ahead of his times.

Photo: Rev Samuel Hill

hillIn 1884 the Rev. Samuel Hill commenced duties as principal, and with his advent a change took place in the curriculum. Some time previously the government had introduced the Cambridge Local course into the revised code for aided schools. A grant, to be fixed according to results, was offered, and likewise a scholarship sufficient to defray the cost of an English university education, tenable for four years, was offeree) annually to the student who came first in the senior division in Ceylon. Hitherto, Wesley for some reason had avoided them, but Mr. Hill immediately introduced the Cambridge Local exams., with the result that the candidates took a position that surprised everybody.

The first year was a very modest attempt. Only three candidates were sent in and they all passed, two gaining distinction a splendid testimony to the sound, thorough work done hitherto, so quietly. The Government Inspector's report that year is very gratifying, It was, in fact, the best examination the college bad ever had. The following year eleven passes in the Cambridge Locals were secured, two senior and nine junior—one of the juniors coming sixth in the order of merit for the island, and one of the seniors coming second. The result of the Government examination was exceptionally good, and great credit is due to the principal and his staff.

In November, 1885, a very sad calamity befell the college. Mr. Hill, who had been such a successful principal, and who had won the respect and confidence of all, died after three days' illness. At the time of his death his wife was absent in England on a visit to her friends; and there is little doubt but that his death was due largely to his severe application to work in a climate that, to say the least, is treacherous, and that encourages nature to take serious revenge on any outrage made on her.

In speaking at the prize-giving the year following Mr. Hill’s death, Mr. H.W. Green, the Director of Public Instruction, said : " I do think I may say today—and I desire to SAY—that in Mr. Hill’s untimely death, not only Wesley College, not only I myself, but the whole educational interests of this island have lost a most able, worthy, and talented supporter, whom it will be hard, if not impossible, to replace."

Photo: Rev Thomas Moscrop

s8Immediately after Mr. Hill's death the Rev. T. Moscrop took charge of the college, and in the January following was appointed Principal by the District Synod; and with that began four years of hard and devoted labour in the interests of Christian education. From this time the college began to improve very rapidly. In 1886 fifteen passes in the Cambridge Locals were secured, and distinctions in drawing and mathematics. In 1887 the Inspector reports that Wesley College “ for excellence in discipline and instruction is second to none in my district." During this year, too the first government Exhibition was earned by H J. V. Ekanayaka, who was connected with the college first as a student and then as master from that time until the end of 1894 (when he became a law student), and who has always taken a foremost place in the examination list gaining distinct in drawing in the Senior Iocal in 1888 and taking the first place, unbracketed, in all England and the Colonies. For some time the college was affiliated to the Calcutta University only up to the First-in-Arts standard, but in 1888 affiliation up to the B.A. standard was secured.


Mr. Moscrop laid the foundations of all the good work that has been done in Wesley College from that time until the present He left for Kandy in 1889 and was succeeded by the Rev. T. C. Hillard, who in 1893 was succeeded by the present principal.

The description of its staff and the staff in this case shall have our attention. The Principal is a missionary sent out by the committee, and in twenty one years Wesley has had no less than five ; he may fairly therefore be denominated an uncertain quantity.

Photo - Wesley College Circa 1890

Seated: Mr Peter, Mr. C.P Dias, Rev J.S Corlett,Rev Passmore, Rev T. Hillard, Mr Wijeyekoon

Others in the photo are assistant masters and senior students

Mr C.P Dias

The headmaster, Mr. C. P. Dias, is an Anglican who received his education at an Anglican college. He is a man of considerable attainments, great teaching ability, extensive influence with both boys and parents, and, most of all, of a deeply religious and devout mind. The college and its interests are his all absorbing idea. He sacrifices all his own interests to its welfare, and nothing is too much trouble for him. He is genial but firm, a good disciplinarian, and an extensive influence in the place for good.

Mr. R. J. Peter is a Madras man, who received his education at the Christian College under Dr. Miller. He is a graduate of Madras University, and is a Christian.

Mr. W. E. Mack is a Presbyterian, and he too, like Mr. Dias, is a very enthusiastic supporter of the college.

Photo:Mr. W. E. Mack

Mr. J. A. Wijeyakoon is a Wesleyan, a member of society, and an office-bearer. He came to the college as a boy when it was first opened, and was one of the first, if not the first, convert from Buddhism. He has been connected with the college ever since its beginning as student and master. The masters of the lower forms are all of them Christians; six of them are Wesleyan’s—two being local preachers— one a Baptist, and two Anglican. The same can be said of the masters as was said of the boys. They are all jealous of the interests of the college, and identify themselves with it entirely; they arc all loyal, they are all painstaking, and have in many ways shown their whole-hearted devotion to their work.

Wesley College is a missionary institution, and that fact is always kept vividly before masters and pupils. It is a great gratification, too, to be able to give some proof that the missionary work is well done. There is a great amount of such proof, but first let me point out the character of our missionary work. As the statistical table show, there are no less than 350 of our boys who are sons of nominal Christians, whereas more than one third of that number are Wesleyans. Evidently, then, our missionsry work is very largely in the direction of developing in such boys as these, whose environment is largely Christian, a sturdy religious and moral character.

Their conversion is desired, worked for and prayed for by masters, all of whom are men of piety. There is no cant; but there is a great deal of moral and religious vigour, and it has frequently been my joy to aid some considerably enlightened lad in his search for Christ at the time when I have been giving him some help in bis search for knowledge. Only a few weeks since, in the course of my work at the college, in one day I secured no less than three members of society in connection with our Colombo churches.

Some months since one of our senior boys died, and one of the last things he did was to preach Christ to a number of his school fellows who had gathered round his bed. He had been in Wesley College for several years, and though no one could point to the exact time when they could say he was converted, yet there is not a doubt that he had gained a knowledge of Christ's saving power there.

But in order to see the results to their greatest advantage, it is necessary to move about the island, by which means one is brought into contact with many who were trained at Wesley ten or fifteen years ago. The following is a reproduction of an experience given me some time since by the head-master. He paid a visit to a district about forty-five miles north of Colombo, where he had not been for many years, and while there found a Sinhalese man who chimed acquaintance with him. It turned out that some years since he was a boy at Wesley College. He had left, and for a time had been lost sight of; but not lost sight of the college. While there he had become a bright Christian, and he carried his Christianity back to his native village, and there being no Methodism near began some work on his own account.

He gathered the village children together on Sundays and taught them of the Christ who blessed the little ones. He got a congregation of his fellow-villagers together and preached Christ to them, and thus laid the foundations of a Christian church, which he still continues to teach and care for. Surely no better type of Apostolic Evangelism could be had; first he finds Christ himself and then he brings his friends to Him. This man describes the origin of his religious life to his training at Wesley; and this is only a type of many others who are scattered up and down the country, scores of whom are vigorous' Christian workers. Some months since an old Wesley boy came to me and asked if I could procure some Bibles for him to sell among the people of his village.

I was doing the work of the Colombo Auxiliary Bible Society secretary at the time and allowed him to take a quantity of Bibles to sell; in less than a month he had sold Bibles and New Testaments to the value of fifty rupees. He did it quite voluntarily, and handed back the discount, to which he was entitled, as a subscription to the society.

These are instances of practical Christianity, the type of Christianity which, at any rate in the past, Wesley College has been instrumental in spreading. It is not perfection yet, probably never will be, but in whatever particulars it may fall short, it is absolutely certain that it is making itself felt in Ceylon. It has a very powerful influence on the life and thought of the Colony. This influence, it is a pleasure to know, is on the side of truth, on the side of Christ. It has only been established twenty-one years and cannot be supposed to have attained as yet to the full extent of its power, and in the days that are to come its influence may be expected to spread more widely still.


English 2

European Descendants ..130

Sinhalese... 274

Tamils …. 49

Others ... 68

Total — 523


Wesleyans... 130

Church of England… 94

Presbyterians... 32

Baptists ... 26

Roman Catholics ... 78

Buddhists ... 06

Hindus ... 18

Mohammedans ... 59

Others .. nil

Total 523

Number on the roll on 30th June, 1895

From Dam Street Pettah to Karlsruhe
Added 1st June 2020
Researched by Dr. Nihal D Amerasekera

Much of the early history of our institution is lost in the fog of time. Obtaining information of events of a hundred years ago is fraught with problems. They are archived in several different institutions and the information has to be paid for. There are still a few documents available in the public domain but the information is scattered and difficult to gather for a useful article. This requires much time and effort. I have obtained much of this information from the Bodleian library in Oxford University, School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London and the Wesleyan Missionary Society of London. I hope this short article will provide a glimpse into the situation prior to the move from Dam Street and the gargantuan efforts of Rev Henry Highfield to make this move a possibility.

From the History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society - Published January 1924

Wesley College, Colombo, began its illustrious career first as a high school in Pettah in 1874, the Rev. S. R. Wilkin being its first Principal, and Richmond College, in Galle, followed in 1876, with the Rev. S. Langdon at its head. Both of these institutions attained positions of first rate importance not only in the church but also in the general life of the community.

Photo: Charles Ambrose Lorenz, The Lawyer who owned the property at Karlsruhe Gardens

calWith the appointment of the Rev. S. R. Wilkin in 1874 a Collegiate School was opened in Colombo, and was most successful. Wilkin was followed by Arthur Shipham, and by the Rev S Hill in 1884. Under his direction there seemed to be every prospect of the College becoming a first- class institution but his untimely death dashed all hopes. Excellent work was done by his successors Revs T.Moscrop, T.Hillard and J.Passmore. The students of the institution began to win distinctions in the scholastic world. In 1895 there were 500 students enrolled and of these about thirty were boarders. Now all this time the buildings in which the College was housed were most unsatisfactory. They were of the poorest and shabbiest type. The boarding house especially was more like a broken—down stable than a home for boys.

Photo- The residence of Charles Ambrose Lorenz which later became the Principal's House

Protest had followed appeal for many years, but nothing was done, though the amount spent annually upon repairs would have proved to be good interest upon a considerable capital outlay. A debt of six hundred pounds upon the buildings already in existence made made the outlook more depressing. But in 1895 the Rev. Henry Highfield took charge of the College. Like those who preceded him, he was scandalized by the state and he was determined that Wesley College Should be housed in a manner more worthy of its name and of its purpose. The first thing to be taken in hand was the liquidation of the debt and this was accomplished. Then the scheme was launched which projected a new College in a more suitable position. A site was obtained not without great difficulty both from Ceylon and England.

Wesley College in January 1907

wes1 But the case was one in which delay would have meant an indefinite set-back to missionary educational work for many years, and the Committee in London showed its wisdom in not insisting too rigorously upon the due observance of its perfectly reasonable regulations. To have refused to accept the opportunity which offered would have been deplorable; for, apart altogether from the value of the College as an evangelistic centre of great fruitfulness, the youth of the rapidly increasing Christian community made this provision an urgent necessity. In 1904 Highfield set himself to raise locally the amount which, added to a building grant from England, would enable him to remove the reproach which rested upon our educational work in Colombo. His success in raising the sum of two thousand five hundred pounds is an indication of the value put upon the efforts of his predecessors by educated Ceylonese in Colombo, and indeed throughout the island. Excellent buildings were erected in Campbell Park, and the results, both educational and evangelistic, have been quite beyond tabulation. ‘ Old Boys’ from the College now occupy high positions, both in the official, professional, and the mercantile world ; and others, not less to be honoured, have given themselves to the service of their countrymen in proclaiming the Gospel which they were led to accept while passing through the class-rooms of Wesley College. The new buildings were opened in 1907. Then Wesley College had 639 in their roll.

Highfield of Wesley - From the School Archives

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Henry Highfield is to Wesley what Thesius is to Greece. His Legend is everywhere. Spurred on by his Missionary zeal and love for humanity collected the money to build the school in its present site. In the new Wesley there was pride in teaching and dignity in learning in an atmosphere of tranquillity and understanding. On leaving school they were able to face the struggles of the wider world with courage and fortitude. I am sure every Wesleyite will remember his photograph in the Assembly Hall above the stage in the centre. He was born in Bengal India, in 1865 and was the son of Rev. George Henry Highfeld, who spent many years on the Indian mission-field. His early education was at Kingswood, England, and he afterwards took the MA. degree at London and Cambridge. He was accepted as a candidate for the ministry, and after training at Richmond near London was sent to Ceylon in 1895. Here he had charge of Wesley College. Colombo, and remained in Ceylon for thirty years.

On returning to England he served in the following circuits: Aberystwyth, Marazion, and Cradley Heath. He retired to Pickering in 1936 and to within a few months of his death was actively engaged in the life of the circuit, taking regular preaching appointments and leading a society class. He will always be remembered for his outstanding work in Ceylon. it was under his guidance that the new Wesley College at Colombo was built, at a cost of £15,000, and largely through his unremitting efforts this magnificent structure 'was opened free of debt. He cycled throughout the length and breadth of Ceylon soliciting subscriptions for the enterprise, and actually collected £2500 in this way. He left a lasting impression on the public life of Ceylon. and many of his former pupils came to occupy posts of great administrative responsibility. The first Governor-General of Ceylon was one of his old students. The Education Officer for Ceylon writes: Like "Arnold of Rugby ", he will ever be remembered as "Highfield of Wesley ".' He excelled as an expository preacher, his intimate knowledge of New Testament Greek enabling him to present ever-fresh aspects of Christian truth.

During his retirement he freely placed his knowledge at the disposal of the probationers in the Ryedale area and guided their studies. He exercised a wonderfully helpful ministry in the homes of his people, where he was ever a welcome visitor. He was utterly consecrated to his Lord and counted no sacrifice too great for the extension of the Kingdom. He was most generous in his financial support of the work of God at home and overseas, and never refused a duty he was able to fulfil. He died at Scarborough on 1st February 1955. in the ninetieth year of his life and in the sixtieth of his ministry. A host of friends in England and Ceylon give thanks for his life of service. Henry Highfield is no more but his legend lives on.

Rev Henry Highfield's Vision for Wesley College Colombo

Written from the Dam Street Pettah

Published by the Wesleyan Missionary Society London - obtained from the archives held by Edmund Dissanayake

Highfield's vision of the New Wesley College

In attempting to sketch the nature of the work already done and now, being done by Wesley College, I cannot avoid in some measure retracting ground traversed by Mr. Passmore in his article on the College, which appeared, in the November number of WORK AND WORKERS for the year 1895. But as that is nearly six years old now it may not be a disadvantage even for ", constant readers" of this magazine to have their memories refreshed with some details of the story of a brave struggle to win and keep a front rank place in the educational progress of Ceylon; and, at the same time, to do needed work for Methodism and for missionary enterprise generally in the island.

The College was opened on March 2nd, 1874 the anniversary of the day of John Wesley’s death and was intended to put on the roof to the building of our missionary school system. The need for this had long been felt and felt keenly. Our brightest boys, after passing through our primary and middle schools, were continually leaving us to seek the highest education in other schools, where the influence was very adverse to the retention of any loyal feeling for Methodism. The old mission premises adjoining the Pettah Church, in the heart of the city, were made to do duty as the College buildings at the very slight cost of some £200, including the furnishing. In these very modest quarters a good staff of teachers was quickly gathered together under the able and energetic lead of the Rev. S. R. Wilkin, the College's first Principal. The need of the undertaking and the demand for high English education was amply proved from the start by the fact that before the first term closed: over 200 boys were enrolled as pupils. From that day to this the numbers have steadily gone up, and we now have an annual return of over 550 boys.

From the outset, the aim of the College has been missionary. The Bible is regularly taught to every boy attending its classes, and school is opened and closed with prayers, from which no student is allowed to absent himself if on the premises. We are always glad to give any passing missionary, minister, or Godly layman the opportunity of addressing either the school as a whole or else the boys of the large upstairs classroom for senior scholars. I can vividly recall the memories of many such addresses during the last six years, and the close attention with which they were received by the boys who heard them.

Photo of Rev Henry Highfield taken by Mr KM De Lanerolle in 1952 in England

For the last three years Foundation day-March 2nd-has been observed in a special manner. We have obtained the help of a missionary-one year Mr. Moscrop, another Mr. Darrell-to preach a special sermon to the boys who have been assembled either in our large hall or else in the Pettah Church, which they have thronged to its utmost seating capacity. After this service we have had holiday, and enjoyed a pleasant game of cricket, Past and Present Wesleyites engaging in friendly rivalry of bat and ball. .

Besides these words of passing visitants and special preachers, the Principal holds weekly a Society class meeting after the close of school an Wednesdays, and he and the staff are assisted in Scripture teaching by two of the missionaries residing in Colombo, and by the Ceylonese minister of the Central Circuit, in I, which the College is situated. The methods employed in teaching Scripture, of course, vary greatly with the various teachers. In the lower classes, however, the work is mainly based upon the memoriter learning of small portions of the text and of the catechism, whilst in the middle 'school a whole gospel is Studied in the upper classes this is supplemented by the Acts. of the apostles. or 'by the Epistles selected for the Senior Cambridge examinations. These books are taught, not merely from the examiner's view point, but used as a means of elucidating and applying Christianity. Some do it by way of argument, directed to the discrediting of the false religious systems we are face to face with in Ceylon; others rather by way of exposition, aiming at expelling the false through the entrance of the true, just a5 mercury can be poured into a cup full of water and displace the water. Over and over again has the writer of this article struck out far himself same fresh thought, and seen the truth from a fresh paint of view as he has endeavoured to make clear the divine records to that large senior class already spoken of, and 'he has found the classroom a good preparation far the pulpit.

Photo - of Rev Highfield taken on 1949

What, it may be asked, are the results of all this effort? Who can rightly tell? It is impossible to schedule or to number them. But they can be traced in many ways. Even the increased activity of Buddhist and Sivite school managers trying, to compete with missionary high schools proves that they knew that .our schools not only offer a first-class education, but are a Christianizing farce in the midst of their young people. There is also the nearly universal goodwill among Ceylonese parents, the lessening of prejudice generally in the community telling as it does of the quiet leavening process at work through our high schools. Again and again have we occasion to rejoice over young men acknowledging that, though they were born outside the influence of Christ, yet now they are Christians, and admitting that it was when they were at the College that the real change was being accomplished, although they did not then acknowledge it, and, indeed, scarcely could until they felt themselves in a less dependent position. Whilst I lived with Mr. and Mrs. Moscrop at Colpetty I heard of several such cases from Mr. Moscrop, who was Principal for four years.

Cases of direct and open conversion at college are comparatively few; still there are some within the knowledge of all who have been actively engaged for any length of time in the teaching work of the College. When I took over the charge of the College, in October, 1895. I found a boy in our senior Cambridge class who had but recently acknowledged Christ, and was having to suffer some amount of persecution from his parents, who were people of evil life and nominal Buddhists. After a time things came to such an acute crisis, that the lad was turned out of his home, and had I not been able to get him work to do in our Colpetty Boys' School, his case would have been a very hard: one. Now he is doing good work there, being Headmaster of the school and setting the example of a good life lived by the power of Christ.

Photo - Wesley College Circa 1949

One day, at the close of school, when I was tired out with the five hours' teaching in am hot, humid, and yet dusty atmosphere, and was sitting for a few minutes at my desk in my own. small classroom, there came, as so frequently is the case, a knock at the door, and I admitted a boy, who advanced somewhat diffidently towards me, bearing a piece of paper in his hand. He said it was a poem he had written, and would I read it? smiled inwardly as I heard this, but took the paper and read. As a poem, it certainly justified my inward smile, but the matter of it made my heart rejoice greatly, for it. told how J. A. R. had passed from the darkness into the light of Christ, from nominal Romanism into real fellowship with the Saviour. That lad has been a source of great stimulus and encouragement to me ever since. He is a regular attendant at my Society class. His work in school, if not always the most brilliant, is never beaten for diligence and carefulness’s; and on Sundays when I am planned at Maradana I can reckon safely on his being there and on seeing in his bright, earnest, attentive face that which is always a help to a preacher. When we were making our big effort to clear off the College debt--¬of which more by and bye-he twice came to me at the close of school with a rupee or two, saying that he had earned the money by self-denial, giving up sugar for a month or two or something else equally palatable to Ceylon lads.

All those who have won our highest honours have been boys of Christian parentage and good moral lives, and most of them truly Christian lads.

We do not require, or rather are unable to support, a great number of ministers in our Ceylon churches, and so there never are very many candidates for the ministry in training in our College at Galle at anyone time. At the present moment there are, I believe, six only, and of these two are old boys of Wesley College. One of these was there in my awry time, and took a very active part in all that was best in the College life. He was the most successful secretary of the College Literary Society that I have known. On Sundays he had a prayer meeting and Bible-class in connection with the small boarding establishment we then had, and was the means of leading several of his younger schoolmates to Christ. We put him on the plan as a local preacher in the Sinhalese work, and he was, whilst still a student with us, accepted as a candidate ·for our Ceylon ministry, and is now doing very well at our Theological College. One of our most popular and gifted young ministers, a B.A. of Calcutta University, is an Old boy of the College, and another ministerial Old Boy is a missionary in the fullest sense of the word, for he has gone over to Burma, and is labouring as a minister in our mission there to the Burmese Buddhists.

One boy who has just recently left the' college is a local preacher on trial, and has spoken very acceptably in Sinhalese several times at the open-air services held in front of the College on fine Sunday evenings under the shade of the big tree, whose spreading boughs can be seen depicted on the right of the illustration that accompanies this article, and that represents the front view of Wesley College as at present.
another old Wesleyite, a Tamil law student, who has been most successful in his law examinations, coming out first in both the Preliminary and the Intermediate, is a local preacher in the Tamil Circuit, and is a most diligent reader and student of the very best books. He has borrowed from my shelves many a volume of Westcott or Fairbairn or Dads and other of the leading theologians of today, and I have squeezed in time of an early morning to help him in the study of both classical and New Testament Greek.

Another Old Boy returned to take lessons in Logic and Latin, and over them I had many a talk with him on matters of higher value, and he, whilst successfully passing his preliminary and intermediate law examinations, is also at work for the Master under the auspices of the Y.M.CA., and is helping to keep up a vigorous evangelistic service for young men at Bambalapitiya every Sun. day evening.

All this proves that Wesley College is not only missionary in its profession, aim, and efforts, but also in its results.
I must now turn from the missionary to the purely educational side of Wesley College work, and try to prove that the College has already done what its founders hoped for-supplied to Methodists and to Free Church folk a college for higher studies that competes successfully with the very best schools of the Island. When Wesley College was started the only outside tests of its work were the Government inspection, on which an annual grant in aid was awarded, which tested the general and more elementary work at the classes throughout the school’ and also the examinations of the Indian Universities. Accordingly, Wesley College was affiliated to the Calcutta University, and its upper classes were directed towards the Matriculation and First Arts examinations of that body. The results, both of the Government inspections and of the Calcutta examinations, show that much good work was done; and by and bye Wesley College was able to boast its own graduates. One of them is the young minister already spoken of and another, who has recently been admitted to the Ceylon Bar, is a most enthusiastic and distinguished Old Boy, who still has much to do with the life of his alma mater. Another of these earlier alumni is a Crown counsel of high repute in Ceylon legal circles. Still another was last year appointed by His Excellency the Governor to the honourable position of a member of the Legislative Council as representing his co-religionists, the Mohammedans of Ceylon.

I have no means of summing up the results of the past in regard to the Calcutta University examinations, but I am convinced that the work done was far less of a "cram" nature than is the case in certain large colleges in India, where the University classes are unwieldy large and the teacher is little more than a lecturer, the students getting up their work afterwards from "cram" books of the most wretched description. Our classes were comparatively small, and the number of candidates annually sent in never large, hut each had had his share of individual attention.

After some years the Cambridge Locals were introduced into Ceylon, and though, at first, Wesley College did not take advantage of these newer tests, it soon came into line with the other Colombo Colleges. This naturally was detrimental to the Calcutta classes, which gradually languished, and have now at length died out.

Though our number of passes in these Cambridge examinations has not been as large as we could desire, yet there has been a steady annual record of success that indicates good work in progress_ As the records of these examinations are somewhat more complete and in my possession, I will now endeavour to give ketch of A DECADE'S HONOURS. The results for nine out of the ten years in the last decade (1891-1900) are given in the College Log-Book. From this record I find that the College has won thirty-six passes in the Senior Cambridge, sixteen of which are passes in the Honours' Classes’ and that the successful candidates have amongst them secured eighteen marks of distinction in such important subjects as English (four), drawing (four), Latin, mathematics, and various branches of Natural Science. Our junior classes have scored in those nine years sixty-six passes, of which sixteen are in honours, and they have been responsible for fifteen marks of distinction.

Photo- Principal's House during Rev Highfield's reign

The Cambridge Syndicate gives annually the order of merit of those who win distinctions in any subject, in which lists home and colonial candidates are placed together in competition. In December, 1894, one Wesley College boy was bracketed equal first in English among the Seniors, and in 1895 he had shaken off all competitors, and was first alone in this mast important section. In the last published lists, those for December, 1900, a Wesley College student came out first in Arithmetic for the senior examination, and two others are placed in the first bracket in that subject among junior candidates. Though Latin is one of the strongest subjects amongst the m English boys who take these Local tests, a Wesley College boy succeeded in ¬coming out fifth among the juniors who won distinctions in that language at the examination of 1896. Once-but before this decade-a Wesley College senior student came first in all the world in the Drawing section.

Photo: Principal's Bungalow - now

The Educational Department of the Ceylon Government encourages these local examinations by glinting to the first senior bay a scholarship of £150 value for four years, thus enabling him to proceed to an English University also a money prize to' the first in Mathematics in the Senior and in the Junior examination, three exhibitions to the first three in honours, to' stimulate and enable them to go' on further in their studies. Within the decade two Wesley College bays have won the first Junior Exhibition, another the second, and another the third. December 1895, was the last senior examination in which the Government scholarship was awarded, and Wesley College made its first big win by securing this much¬ coveted prize. The winner went to Cambridge, and has had a steadily creditable career there, and is still in England trying to' gain a place in the Higher Civil Service of the Colonies. Although the scholarship ceased to' be awarded on the Senior Cambridge, it did not cease to' be granted. In May, 1897, a special examination, conducted by the Joint Oxford and Cambridge Examining Board, gave the prize to' a second Wesley College lad, who' also proceeded to Cambridge, and has done some brilliant things there, and is still there and working for the Higher Colonial Service, like his comrade. In 1899 Wesley College again won this highest ·of Ceylon educational prizes. The winner proceeded to' Oxford, and had obtained the high esteem, not only of his college tutor, but also' of the men he met at the Wesley Society, and others, when the extreme ('old of the English climate settled an his lungs and brought an a rapid consumption. He passed away last August, but has left behind a bright Christian testimony and an unblemished memory.

There is one other high educational prize open to' Ceylon youths, and that is a scholarship granted by the Gilchrist Trust once every third year. It is awarded for proficiency in Mathematics and Natural Science, and is tested by the Cambridge Senior examination. It was not until the last year of the decade and of the century that Wesley College succeeded in winning this valuable prize but within the last month I have heard the very pleasant tidings that a Tamil youth, who took his final preparation in our College, is declared the winner an the results of last December's examination, and, as the same young man is first of all Ceylon candidates in the Mathematical sections, he has, I suppose, wan far Wesley College its first possession of the Government prize far mathematics.

Thus it will be seen that the College has been successful most markedly in· the highest competitions, and it has consequently taken up a truly front-rank position in the estimation of Ceylon people. It must be 'our business as missionaries, no' less than as educationists, to enable it to' keep there, and to see to' it that its future records not only equal, but excel its past.

Will the application of the same methods and of like energy be sufficient to' achieve this? If not, why not? And, if not, how are we to secure far Wesley College in the future this progressive and larger usefulness? These questions I will endeavour to answer in next month's issue.

cut short my account of the work of Wesley College in last month's issue by asking several questions, the answers to which I promised to try and give this month. The questions I asked were these: "Shall we be able to achieve equal and increasing results from the College if we continue to exert the same effort and to work along the same lines?" "If not, what is the reason why we should expect a less measure of success, and how are we to act so as to avoid any such disastrous declension?" To the first of these questions I am compelled to answer, No. We shall not continue to succeed at Wesley College: the latter days will not be better than the former, and, therefore, will be worse, if we only continue to employ exactly the same means and exert the same energy as in the past.

The College has reached a most critical stage in its history, and unless we are able to launch out in a new direction we shall, as the years go on, be left hopelessly' behind by other institutions not at all favorable to the growth in strength of Methodism in Ceylon. What 'Wesley College most needs now is what it has needed more and more urgently) or many years-new buildings. With the exception of a large hall~ built in Mr. Hillard's time but almost entirely hidden away from public notice by our Pettah Church, the present College buildings are of the shabbiest and poorest description, utterly unworthy to represent Methodist collegiate work in the metropolis of Ceylon. The illustration given in last month's issue of the front view of our premises proves this completely old, irregular, mean, inconvenient they look and are to an unspeakable extent. To drive home that impression, I now give two other views of the ('allege as it now is. The first is a view of an inside corner of the quadrangle just behind that front range of buildings. It is interesting as showing where we tried to lodge some twenty or thirty boys not further back than three or four years ago. It looks more like a broken down table than a fit and proper place to house growing boys.

The second shows the unpretentious and indeed barnlike approach to our senior scholars' classrooms, and to the small room which the principal regards as his sanctum, but which' exigencies of space often turn into another small teaching-room.

Despite our earnest desire to improve these old stairs out of existence altogether, the sight of their picture recalls to me as I write many pleasant memories f hours of Scripture lessons and diversified tailings that contributed in part to the winning of those successes already chronicled.

My readers will now, I think, readily believe that the first founders of the College spent but little money in the up-fit of the College premises. That has not, however, been a really economical plan, for yearly our bill for absolutely necessary repairs to premises reaches a figure so large that it would be good interest on a fairly big capital outlay. It was, I suppose, a policy c-f painful compulsion. That new buildings have been a felt need for long enough back will at once appear when I quote the words recorded by Mr. Moscrop on retiring from the post of Principal, in December, 1889. He writes in the College log-book, "New buildings are perhaps the greatest need. The best scheme (excepting one to clear the whole away and begin afresh) seems to he that thought of first by Mr. Shipham (Principal, 1880-1882) an upstairs building at right angles to the present upstairs science room."

Mr. Hillard, who succeeded Mr. Moscrop, did build. He erected a large school hall, capable of containing our present large number as they assemble for prayers at the opening and closing of the school day. It is a plain structure, but the best school hall in the city. It is, however, wholly lost to view, and, moreover, it was left wholly unpaid for. It accommodates four large classes of over forty boys each during the teaching hours of the day. That the more comprehensive scheme was not abandoned is shown by the note which Mr. Passmore placed on record in the log-book on leaving the College in December, 1895 to the effect that" the new hall built by Mr. Hillard does not interfere with the building scheme recommended in 1889 by Mr. Moscrop, except financially, by the burden of debt incurred.

The need felt and voiced thus clearly in the past has only grown acuter in recent years, for our rivals. have made progress, and are projecting still further schemes. The Roman Catholics have been very active. They have erected a princely pile by the side of the lake, where they offer ample accommodation of the best description for 500 or 600 students, a large proportion of whom can be boarders and at St. Benedict's, another large institute of theirs in the north of the city, they are projecting new premises to take in a hundred boarders. St. Thomas' College, the High Anglican institution, has a beautiful site and very commodious premises, which they are steadily improving; and at. the. Royal College Government is sure to make, very soon indeed, some important amount of progress in the direction of buildings. However royal ,and energetic our staff we cannot long compete against the better equipments and superior attractiveness of these powerful colleges, unless we too do something, and' something really great, immediately. If we do not, we are bound, humanly speaking, to go to the wall.

If it were only a question of stylish and attractive premises to vie with the others, we should not feel so greatly concerned but the present buildings are really inadequate, not so much in matter of seating space as in real fitness for College work, but principally because of the total lack of boarding accommodation. Our main object in desiring to rebuild the greater part of the premises is that we may make good' and lasting pro
vision for a large number of boarders. This would at once almost double the missionary efficiency of the College, and make the higher teaching of the leading boys an easier matter for the Principal.

s8That this has been a great drawback in the past will be seen to be the opinion of those two previous Principals whom I have already quoted, that Mr. Passmore states in the log-book that one of the great difficulties in the way of the progress of the College is the lack of proper premises for boarding" and Mr. Moscrop, on leaving, declares that the boarding establishment is imperatively necessary to make the College really successful " and It is of no use attempting first-class boarding until the Principal lives on mission property in its own grounds, unburdened by debt." Long and varied missionary experience in Ceylon has proved conclusively that the most effective means of Christianising the people is through boarding schools for girls and boys. Of course, it is essential to the success of these institutions that the European in charge should really live on the premises, in close daily contact with the whole life 0'£ the establishment, and that the supervision should be much more real than that of a daily visit, however careful and thorough the latter might be. Where a missionary and his wife can live in charge of a large boarding institution that has fairly taken root, the spiritual fruition is most satisfactory.

When, therefore, we say that we desire a good boarding house for Wesley College, we practically postulate the residence on the spot of the missionary Principal. This has been quite impossible for Wesley College in the past. Its Principal has usually commenced operations as an unmarried man, in the first years of his probation, and he has had to live in the home of another missionary at Colpetty, two and a half miles away from till' College, or even further out still. This has militated most seriously against his missionary influence of the Principal, It seems, after all, to be but as other I4'llihers of the staff-a day teacher, whose opportunities close with the close of school classes.

The College was opened in order that it might keep for Methodism the sons of her more well-to-do and able adherents. Yet as things now are, these are the very lads we are losing, and all for want of good boarding premises. Many of our influential laymen live in outstation some of them very far from Colombo. They want their sons to receive the very best education, and, therefore, they turn towards Colombo and its colleges. If ours were as well equipped as the Church College, to say nothing of the princely Roman Catholic one, these laymen would not hesitate a moment: they would send their sons with full confidence to us. But we are not so equipped in fact, we have no accommodation whatever of late years, as the little attempt-because of its littleness and mean surroundings-proved a burdensome failure.

It has grieved me again and again to be compelled to tell inquiring parents that we cannot take in their sons. Meeting with a refusal from us, they have had to accept one or other of two most unsatisfactory alternatives. Either they have attempted to board their sons in the families of others, and let them attend Wesley as day scholars, or else they have sent them where there is a thoroughly good boarding-house-to St. Thomas' College, or even to the Roman Catholics. The first course is not at all satisfactory, for the home discipline and moral oversight is far too slack, and our great port city is full of grievous snares for young lads. The second, though it may be morally safer-at any rate, the Church College -is disastrous in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred to the Methodist loyalty of the youth; He is lost to us, however much he is used- among others.

If we do not remedy this defect speedily, we shall lose more and more; and though our numbers may keep up we had 565 on our roll last October:-it will be by the influx of day boys of the lower and middle trader type, largely Mohammedans, the hardest to reach and to influence. We are even now finding the quality alike for scholarship and for Christianity of our boys showing a few subtle but unmistakable signs of deterioration and this will rapidly be intensified under the continuance of present conditions.

It is evident, therefore, that we must build. But where? At present we have a freehold site in the heart of the city between two converging road-arteries. The College takes up the greater part of the ground space, but our old and dearly loved Pettah Church occupies a central and fronting position, and on the other side of the plot is the girls' school, occupying property that really is the College's, and paying a small rental for it. If we build here we must build upwards, as the ground space is too limited for anything else. On the whole, this is the wisest plan, though many ,You’d urge us to move our site and seek opener ground in the southern suburbs.

The fatal objection to this is the well-being of our , Pettah Church. If we sold the ground of our College and Girls' High School, the church would be completely crippled and quickly hedged in by unsanitary native shops and warehouses, and we should by-and-by have to sell it, and so break up bonds of affection and love that are of almost immemorial strength, and run the risk of alienating many adherents and shattering our work in the city. Whilst the College and Girls' School protects its flanks, the church can breathe and be comfortable and respectable, and its manifold activities have space to exercise themselves. Remove the College, and with it, sooner or later, the Girls' School, and we deprive the church of all its facilities for the conduct of the Sunday school, Wesley Guild, and Band of Hope, and also for holding social gatherings and similar reunions. The church owes more to the College than it is perhaps ready to admit.

An alternative plan is to seek good house property close to the College on some healthy spot, such as the upper slopes of Wolfendahl or of Hultsdorf Hill, buy it up and rebuild to accommodate both boarders and Principal's family. But house property in Colombo is very difficult to' acquire, and prices rule very high, and the house, when bought, would be practically worth to us no more than the freehold land it was situated on. In short, this plan, though attractive and possessing some features of advantage peculiarly its own, is a precarious one, and would prove quite as costly, if not more so, than the original one of rebuilding in, a skyward direction on land already our own. In favour of this original scheme is the fact that a thorough drainage of the neighbouring open ground has been going on, and that the Municipality allows our College lads special privileges in the use of the Price Park-as that open ground is now called---as playing fields for cricket and football. Our site is much healthier now than formerly for residential purposes, and even half a dozen years ago our boarders, meanly and inadequately housed as they were, were singularly free from serious illnesses.

Consequently an old boy, who has taken up the architect's profession, was commissioned to draw up preliminary plans for our project, and these were submitted to a most capable member of the best European firm of builders in Ceylon, and passed by him, and a rough estimate given of the cost of the new structure.

The illustration above is a photograph of his first sketch-plan of the front elevation to' Dam Street, and should be contrasted with the view of our present front, which is given on p. 7· The ground floor would be for classrooms, the first floor for boarders, and would allow of our taking in at least eighty, and possibly 100. The top floor would be practically another missionary's house, with a reception-room and the like. The illustration shows three stories, but that would only be the case in front. The two flanking portions would have only two floors. One wing would belong to the Boarding House, and the other would give a. sickroom and library, etc., over a range of classrooms.

The estimated cost of all this, including allowances for furniture, comes to £10,000 Sterling: a very big sum indeed, but if we delay longer, a bigger still will be needed, and if forthcoming now, would prove a very valuable and profitable investment of Methodist money. We have only dared to ask for £5,000 of this from the Mission House, and our hopes of getting even that are not at all bright. If £5,000 were definitely promised, I believe that hard begging in Ceylon itself would raise £1,000 more in the next two years; and the College is now financially so sound ac; to be able to lay by annually from the commencement of this century £100 or a little more, say another £1,000 in ten. years. But where the rest is to' came from one cannot tell, except that the need is so convincing to those who know that we believe our wonder-working God looks with approval on us, and will open up a way if our faith fail not.

To show that we in Ceylon have been doing something to meet the financial position and prove ourselves worthy of help as trying hard to' help ourselves, I will now tell as briefly as may be the tale of How THE DEBT WAS CLEARED off Wesley College. Mention has already been made of the building of a new hall and of the financial burden involved by it. This debt remained untackled for several years, and has hampered us sorely, as the heavy charge for interest has prevented our making the College more than pay its way.

Although the inception, in 1898, of the Twentieth Century Fund in England stirred us up to contemplate clearing off the debt on the College, which then stood at over £600, very little was done in 1899 in the way of actual begging in Ceylon except that' my wife that now is made the College a present of £100, gathered in England. Indeed it was not until the close of the April holidays of 1900 that the realisation of imminent failure came home with full force, and I resolved that, cost what it might, I would be up actually begging.

Now I had always been under the firm conviction, strengthened by previous success, that I had no vocation as a beggar. I still feel it. I wanted confidence. And I can assure my readers that I displayed this timidity to the full in making my first attempt at a personal visit to beg for this fund. I cycled round the Government offices, where the object of my attentions was to be found, and ultimately I went home without even venturing a call. The next day, however, I screwed my courage up to the sticking point, and after blurting out awkwardly enough my errand, and getting, as I deemed it, too quickly the promise of" a small cheque," I was glad enough to turn the conversation on to other topics, and by-and-by, as quickly as might be, effect my departure. I waited a day or two before making any fresh ventures until the arrival' of the promised "small cheque." When, however, this turned out to be for one hundred rupees I began to take courage and work more determindly and hopefully. The next real effort was on a Thursday afternoon, taken by myself and my wife from our usual pastoral visitation and devoted to this campaign. A list of seven names had been given me by the esteemed headmaster of Wesley College, and we visited them all, though scattered somewhat widely over Colombo. Forty-five rupees paid down and promises which ultimately realised 160 rupees more made this a very memorable afternoon. The following Thursday afternoon exemplified the other side of this struggle, for three hours' cycling produced nothing but disappointments.

My rough notes call up to mind here the events of a couple of days taken off from College work, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 19th and 20th-one of these being a school holiday. On Tuesday morning I started out on my cycle at 10.30, and opened the ball by obtaining a promise (of two guineas) from the Mahamudaliyar. The next gentleman whom I called on was out, and thence I made my way up Hultsdorf and visited three gentlemen of the law; one had not yet arrived at his office; the other two made me promises which have been honourably redeemed. I then transferred my attentions to the Fort, but was not very fortunate, as two of the three on whom I purposed to call were out. After this I changed my district again and speedily found myself in the aristocratic quarters of Cinnamon Gardens, where five visits resulted in the receipt of Rs. 15.50 and one promise, the others called on being out.

One of the gentlemen of the law on whom I had called at Hultsdorf had just left his home abode when I made my visit to the Cinnamon Gardens. I then returned to the Fort, only to find those whom I had called on earlier in the day still out. So I made my way back to Hultsdorf and made my third attempt on the aforesaid gentleman of the law and got a welcome promise of twenty rupees. Thus encouraged I returned to the Fort, and persistence was rewarded by finding one gentleman returned to his work and by receiving from him another very welcome twenty rupees. After this I returned homewards, arriving, tired, but on the whole cheered, about 4 p.m. After an hour's rest I spent an hour and a half in penning letters of appeal to a number of" old boys," and so closed a day of full toil.

The next day I was out at 7 a.m. and stayed out till 9.30 and again started out at 10.30 a.m. and made upwards of twenty calls before returning home at 2 p.m. By this means fifty rupees were obtained in cash together with sundry promises. By the end of June we reviewed our progress and found that we had secured 2,000 rupees paid in. It was then that my wife and I were led to make it a matter of prayer that our rate of getting should be greatly increased. We aimed and worked for 500 rupees a week, and are thankful to record that God gave it to us for six consecutive weeks until the end of the school term, thus sending up the total to over 5,000 rupees by the middle of August and making it practically certain that, when the legitimate income of the year from all sources was obtained, the debt would be extinguished at last.

This resolve meant being out on the cycle every morning at seven, and staying out till nine j and then snatching every possible hour that could be in any way spared from the College work during the middle of the day. It also involved going out again almost immediately after the return from College and spending another two hours in this search after money.

My rough notes and memory supply me with the story of another day's endeavours. The day was Friday, July 13th .. A sharp shower early in the morning prevented a start until 7.30 a.m. I called first on a near neighbour, Dr. M., from whom I received a cheerfully given Rs.10 Thence, despite the wetting of another sharp shower, I proceeded to S--. Street, and taking shelter under the roof of Advocates., I rewarded his hospitality by lightening his purse of twenty rupees. My next call was at the top of St. Sebastian Hill, and resulted in the receipt of another twenty rupees. Thence I cycled across Colombo to Col petty, to be rewarded. by yet another twenty rupees' donation. A run back into Union Place brought -me in Rs 10., after which I returned home for a late breakfast, and then out again quickly, making calls on Pettah and Fort merchants, which resulted in two refusals, two promises, and three payments that totalled seventy-five rupees. A letter from a gentleman residing in N-- received that day made the actual receipts of the day come up ·to Rs. 165.50 or £11. General experience of Ceylon life led us to dread the fourth week in the month as the least likely to produce its 500 rupees owing to the recurring impecuniosities of many reaching its maximum as the month drew to its end. So when the Friday night of that week found us with only 350 rupees gathered in during the week we were not greatly surprised.

The two early morning hours did not do much to revive a somewhat fainting faith, for they only secured ten rupees. However, after breakfast I cycled forth once more, and journeying slowly down Main Street, Pettah, called on, a large number or the Mohammedan merchants, and in that way obtained another fifty rupees. After a brief period of work and of refreshment in the Fort I took the southern road through Col petty and Bambalapitiya, and made the Spinning Mills of Wellawatte my goal and turning point. Gradually the amount rose, and when I left Bambalapitiya on the return journey I had brought up the total for the day to 120 rupees, leaving only thirty rupees short of the prayed-for 500. Instead of going straight home and thus arriving to time agreed upon, I made my way into Flower Road, picked up ten rupees, and then called on a prosperous old Wesleyite who had often been out when I had made previous attempts upon his purse. This time he was at home, and a handsome cheque for one hundred rupees sent me home with curious sensations of joy and gratitude more easily to be imagined than described.

I think I have given with sufficient detail the story or some of the most outstanding days of this campaign, though I might yet say much of many other memorable incidents. As, for example, the elation felt when one Saturday morning Mr. Tarrant most generously promised me 500 rupees, or of the pleasant early morning spent in visiting the bank shroffs at their residences in or near Pickering's Road, and of the afternoon's hot and dusty exploration of the upstair offices of Keyzer Street commission agents. I may add', as throwing some light on the persistent nature of the campaign when at its height, that I bought and used up five packets of visiting-cards in four months, and that for ninety-five consecutive days, Sundays, of course, omitted, we obtained donations at the rate of fifty-five rupees a day. I must not forget to add that the boys and masters of the College helped somewhat in this effort. The boys raised over Rs.300 (£20) by cards that they took out; and a magic lantern entertainment got up by the College brought in about Rs. 70 (£413s. 4d.). The masters gave donations that were entered on the personal subscription lists. My wife too, beside all those home assiduities which need not be detailed but which meant so much, organised a sewing meeting among the young ladies of our Pettah Church, and raised for the Debt Fund no less than Rs. 531 (£35 odd).

At the commencement of 1900 the College debt stood at Rs. 6,765, In the course of the year we raised by sheer personal visitation and begging, the sum of Rs. 6,794, not counting in at all the Committee's grant of £300 sterling, which we at once put aside as a grant for boarding premises. Nothing more in the way of begging in Ceylon can be attempted until a substantial grant from the Committee or generous personal help from friends, at home proves to our Ceylon friends that the buildings will really be undertaken. Were they in actual progress I could again take up the beggar's task and make a further and larger appeal, but I really dare not do it until that is the case.

I cannot close without uttering a few words of appeal to all friends’ of Methodist education and of missionary enterprise to hold out the hand of help to us just now. You can make of Wesley College another Leys School-a Leys School for Ceylon Methodism-rich in influence of the best kind for the spiritual health of your churches there; or you may put our plea on one side as one among so very many, and leave us to an almost desperate struggle against circumstances, and forces that are from a merely human, point of view overwhelming us. I write these words amid the invigorating breezes and most pleasant. prospects of a North Yorkshire dale, "'here already we, have found warm-hearted and friendly, Methodists, ready to open their ears, and their hearts too, to personality told tales of the needs and Opportunities out yonder. One generously good lady has' already offered us help if only others can be induced to' join her. Our wants are very great, but many helpers can do very much to meet them, and God can do more. If only we are permitted to return to the work in Colombo and feel ourselves supported by the active goodwill of friends at home, we shall be able more easily to understand God's dealing with' us in stopping for awhile our share in that work and renew it again with greater courage and simpler' faith to follow His leading and do His will.

Rev.Henry Highfield’s Vision when he built Wesley College By Rev Rohan L Wijesinghe,Toronto, Canada

I studied at Wesley College from grade 2 to grade 13 and completed my studies therein 1960/61. Before leaving school I was engaged in a several discussions with Mr. L.A. Fernando, the Vice Principal. On one such occasion I asked him why Wesley College did not have a big match (Cricket) like other colleges in Sri Lanka. I asked this question because I, along with several other fellow students, felt that without a big match we had a sense of inferiority as Wesleyites. His response surprised me and got me thinking of our beloved college with an even higher sense of pride. Wesley College was built not merely to be on par with other schools but to be unique!

It is said that Rev. Henry Highfield was offered land in Colombo 7 at Rs. 1.00 per acre to build Wesley College there. But he deliberately chose our present location because it was on the border of Wanathamulla –Dematagoda area which then had many disadvantaged families. It was his vision that Wesley College opened its doors to provide opportunities to these families as well to give their sons a worthy education in a leading Colombo school! This vision blends with our motto: “Ora et Labora”!

I am yet excited with this information, because it makes me feel very proud to have studied at Wesley College. Today Wesley College has prospered. Wesley College has a swimming pool and now the idea to build an auditorium in the college campus is coming alive. We are doing our best to lack in nothing. But in this pursuit let us also keep the doors open to those who cannot afford to come to the school where we “Ora et Labora”!

I have not had the opportunity to research more into the valuable information that I received so long ago. But it would be worthwhile for a present generation Wesleyite to research the archives and find out more about the vision of our founding father. This would give us a profound perspective that would root us back to our beginnings and help shape our plans as we continue to forge ahead in the years to come. It would be a worthy sounding board as we celebrate our 140th anniversary. It is well said that the key to our future lies hidden in our beginnings!

With that in mind I humbly submit this thought which I have been carrying with me all this while.

The Background to the move from Wesley in the Pettah

Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

From the Archives of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, London held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University

With the appointment of the Rev. S. R. Wilkin in 1873 a Collegiate School was opened in Colombo, and was most successful. Wilkin was followed in 1880 by the Rev. Arthur Shipham, and by the Rev. S. Hill in 1884. Under the direction of the last-named there seemed to be every prospect of the College becoming a first-class institution, but the untimely death of the Principal in 1885 dashed all such hopes to the ground. Excellent work was done by his successors, the Revs. T. Moscrop, T. C. Hillard, and J. Passmore. College students began to win distinctions in the scholastic world. In 1895 there were five hundred students on the College roll, and of these about thirty were boarders. Now all this time the buildings in which the College was housed were most unsatisfactory. They were of the poorest and shabbiest type.

The boarding house especially was more like a broken-down stable than a home for boys. Protest had followed appeal for many years, but nothing was done, though the amount spent annually upon repairs would have proved to be good interest upon a considerable capital outlay. A debt of six hundred pounds upon the buildings already in existence made the outlook more than depressing. But in 1895 the Rev. Henry Highfield took over the charge of the College. Like those who had preceded him, he was scandalized by the state of the buildings, and he determined that Wesley College should be housed in a manner more worthy of its name and of its purpose.

The first thing to be taken in hand was the liquidation of the debt, and this was accomplished. Then the scheme was launched which projected a new College in a more suitable position. A site was obtained, not without great difficulty both in Ceylon and in England. But the case was one in which delay would have meant an indefinite set-back to missionary educational work for many years, and the Committee in London showed its wisdom in not insisting too rigorously upon the due observance of its perfectly reasonableregulations. To have refused to accept the opportunity which offered would have been deplorable ; for, apart alto gether from the value of the College as an evangelistic centre of great fruitfulness, the youth of the rapidly increasing Christian community made this provision an urgent necessity.

In 1904 Highfield set himself to raise locally the amount which, added to a building grant from England, would enable him to remove the reproach which rested upon our educational work in Colombo. His success in raising the sum of two thousand five hundred pounds is an indication of the value put upon the efforts of his predecessors by educated Ceylonese in Colombo, and indeed throughout the island. Excellent buildings were erected in Campbell Park, and the results, both educational and evangelistic, have been quite beyond tabulation. Old Boys from the College now occupy high positions, both in the official, the professional, and the mercantile world ; and others, not less to be honoured, have given themselves to the service of their countrymen in proclaiming the Gospel which they were led to accept while passing through the class-rooms of Wesley College. The new buildings were opened in 1907.

Rev. Henry Highfield's new school in 1907
By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera


The present site on which Wesley College stands and the surrounding land was once owned by Charles Ambrose Lorenz. The Burgher intelligentsia in the 1860s was led by a young man who hailed from Matara - Charles Ambrose Lorenz. Being a brilliant lawyer he was popularly known as the "morning star of Hulftsdorf". Together with a group of young Burghers like Leopold Ludovici, Francis Bevan, Samuel Grenier and James Stewart Drieberg they produced a leading local literary journal called Young Ceylon.

In 1859 Lorenz and a syndicate purchased the Ceylon Examiner which became the first Ceylonese newspaper. Until his death in 1871, at the age of forty two, Ambrose Lorenz wielded the powerful influence of his pen for social reform, championing democratic causes and courageously criticising the British colonial government, the Governor and his Executive Council. Principals bungalow was built around 1860. The architecture of the building is typical for that period with tall cylindrical columns supporting a large porch, a wide verandah and the lovely lounge with many spacious rooms. Part of the beautiful front garden has been taken over for the Chapel, a useful addition.

He was a member of the Legislative Council representing the Burgher Community

It doesn't fail to amaze me that the Principals bungalow is almost 150 years old. It has been tastefully restored and redecorated recently maintaining its historic facade and its "Regal" appearance which we all remember. Its awesome to think every Principal since the move from Dam Street in 1905, lived in that bungalow. Its walls must keep the secrets of the trials and tribulations and of course the happiness and fulfilment of those years in service. "Karlsruhe" in German means "Charles Rest" and so it was the final rest of Charles Ambrose Lorenz, the first occupant of that magnificent building. He died at the young age of 42. Rev. Henry Highfield acquired this land including the bungalow for the School and the rest is our most cherished history.

Remembering C.A. Lorenz

"KARLSRUHE" (Charles Rest) - Present Residence of the Principal of Wesley College

calCharles Ambrose Lorenz (1829-t 1871) in his Will and Testament made and dated 13, April, 1871, 4 months before he died at Karlsruhe, presented a detail account of the properties and other items he owned. During his life time he lived in several houses. Some as far and distant as Matara, Kalutara and Colombo. Many of the residences Lorenz is associated with were sited in these coastal towns .He was born in Rose Cottage Matara which is still extant - right on the banks of the Nilwala Ganga. His father Johan Lorenz built Lodge Harmony soon after his retirement as Sitting Magistrate in 1841 – just 4years before his death. Lodge Harmony in contrast to Rose Cottage on the opposite side of the Main Street, Matara was a pretentious two storied building. This building too has survived and needs protection. After his stint at the Colombo Academy and his training as lawyer he came to live in Colombo. The holiday home for Lorenz as a busy practicing lawyer was Teak Bungalow in Kalutara- this too was on the bank of a river the Kalu Ganga.


The black and white photos below are from Avishka Mario Senewiratne

Quite well known earlier as Mount Layard it was the house of Charles Edward Layard-C.C.S. (Government Agent Western Province) and had 26 children. One was famous naturalist after whom several animals and birds are named after? Fred Layard is remembered by ornithologists as the naturalist after whom a Parakeet and wood pecker are named. Lorenz purchased the Teak House in 1860. I believe this house was also owned in late 1870s and early 1880s by Henry Hay. Cameron the son of Charles Hay Cameron and the famed nineteenth century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. He was then the G.A. of Kalutara-and his parents spent their last year of their life before they moved to the ire coffee Estes in the hills... It was here that Julia Cameron took the famous portraits of the botanical artist Marianne North whose oil paintings are now in Kew Gardens, London housed in a specially designed building by Fergusson.

Of the five houses associated with Lorenz in Colombo only two survive needless destruction and demolition. Three were demolished in the last two decades. The site of Elie House which is now a reservoir for North Colmbo was where the famous house stood. Originally built by Ansthruther the Colonial Secretary from 1840- 1845 it was leased to Emmerson Tennent who preceded him till this Colonial Secretary was recalled by the British Parliament in 1845. Marvellously beautiful water colour views were painted by his Belfast friend Andrew Nicholl- who taught drawing and pain ting at the Colombo Academy. It is likely he would have given lessons to Lorenz and van Dort. Lorenz owned that house right up to his death Ellie House was sold to Mudaliyar Rajpakse and the government on behalf of the Colombo Municipal Council acquired it from him for 20,000 Pounds for the 8 acres, a copy is availably of his Christmas Debates Autographed at Elie House to his niece to whom inherited Karlsruhe at his death-an 11acre house in Welikada – now days you will not mention that you live in Welikade for obvious reasons. Before he moved into Elie House he lived in Gatherum. In the late 1950s -at the time when Lorenz‟s biography was being written by E. Blaze – he described Gatherum- the house was in the heart of a forest in Maradana. At present the site with its demolished building is a howling wilderness and lost in a urban sprawl.

The name Gatherum was given by him- no doubt derived from the fact that Lorenz‟s numerous friend gather there for drinks and dinner. One other residence he had some dealings is the present YWCA building called St. James which he might have leased. Rented or owned.

At his death in 1871, he also had substantial property (a residence) in York Street, Fort, Colombo, as well. Though his doctors failed to induce Lorenz to take a rest from his arduous public duties and obligations, they succeeded in convincing him at last that his days were numbered. It was a concession to their repeated warnings that he should have named his new residence Karlsruhe, or Charles's Rest. It was not until early in 1871 that Lorenz came into residence at Karlsruhe, and he was then a dying man! He knew that himself... There 'is a letter which he wrote nearly a year previously, in ,which he refers to his illness. The house, which still stands as Lorenz lived in it, is on a slight eminence, and is now the residence of the Principal of Wesley College. Among those who lived here before Lorenz was the Registrar-General of Ceylon; W. J. McCarthy, brother of Lorenz's friend Sir Charles who later was elevated to the post of Governor...

Lorenz bought the place from Messrs. Dickman and Vambeek; it then consisted of over eleven acres of land. How ever in his will he gifted it to his house keeper, and niece Eliza La Brooy, on her birthday. The property passed into the possession of Louis Pieris, who sold it in blocks, a good portion including the house itself being acquired by the Methodist Mission as the new premises of Wesley College. One interesting link,"with Lorenz that still remains in the old house is the. historic screen", as it has been described, which separates the sitting- room from the dining- room. It is built into the archway, eight feet by twelve feet, elaborately decorated panels on either side with a background in the acanthus pattern, and standing out in a diA-erent style the letter L for Lorenz on the left and the letter K for Karlsruhe on the right. Originally, these panels were the doors of the screen. The soft brown of the old satin-wood is still beautiful in spite of later coatings of varnish.

The first owner of our Principal's bungalow By Kalasuri Wilfred M. Gunasekera

There is no personality more dear to the Dutch Burgher community than C. A. Lorenz who was not only a great representative of his community but also one whom all the various races of Lanka claimed him as a distinguished countryman of theirs. In other words Lorenz was `a profound jurist, a consummate lawyer, a District Judge, an able and accomplished scholar, a fluent and eloquent speaker and a clever essayist.'

He was also known for his wit and good temper. Lorenz received his early education at the Colombo Academy (now Royal College) under the care of Rev. Dr. Barcroft Boake, the then Principal. Lorenz was bracketed with George Nell in 1857 for the Turner Prize. It was during his last year in school that Sir Emerson James Tennent, (1845-1851), the famous historian and the then Colonial Secretary visited the Academy and found that young Lorenz was not second to the best taught lads in England. In 1850 he married Eleaner Nell, the sister of his two literary friends G. F. Nell and Louis Nell. In 1953 he went to Europe and on his return, Governor Sri Henry George Ward offered him the post of Acting District Judge of Chilaw in October 1855. In the following year Sir Henry offered him the Burgher Seat in the Ceylon Legislative Council which fell vacant on the appointment of Sri Richard F. Morgan as the District Judge of Colombo.

Right through the seven years in Ceylon's Legislature, `he never faltered in the fulfilment of his responsible duties, never betrayed his trust, never showed himself less than equal to the difficult demands made on him. His clear intellect, his quick grasp of the intricacies of a problem and his sound knowledge of the principles of the law slowly won for him a reputation in Council which few enjoyed to the same degree. It was also said of him that he never missed a good argument or used a bad one. He began his compilation of the Law Reports from the first years of his practice as an advocate. This was issued for three years, thus `providing for professional men for the first time accessibility to the decisions of the Supreme Court in leading cases and guidance on important point of Law.' They were no doubt reports of a masterly character in which the salient points in cases and the authorities bearing on them were lucidly presented.

One other important venture he began in 1859 was his paper Ceylon Examiner which first owned by John Selby. Lorenz with H. Dias, James Dunuwila, Charles Ferdinands and James D'Alwis raised this paper as an organ of public opinion. To this paper Lorenz gave of his best, writing in every issue and practically editing it. ``Not only did he raise the `Examiner' to power and influence as an organ of public opinion but he gave to it the higher character of an Educator, teaching through its column the people of his country their rights and their privileges. And if his writings have accomplished nothing else, the confidence and self-reliance which they have infused into the character of his countrymen was no mean achievement.'' We need today such examples to enable us to live a dedicated and a consecrated life for the sake of Sri Lanka.

Let me wind up this Essay of a man who in social life was the soul of every gathering who displayed his considerations and affection to all present irrespective of creed, caste, race or class by placing before my readers a tribute of him by Sir Richard Morgan, then officiating Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, on the occasion of unveiling the portrait of Charles Ambrose Lorenz in the Colombo Municipal Council Town Hall, one hundred and twenty three years ago on August 19, 1894.``He was indeed a man of whom his country must well be proud. His versatile genius, his brilliant accomplishments, his public and private virtues endeared him to his friends and commanded the respect and admiration of all who knew him. There was a freshness and a raciness in his writings, a rich vein of wit and humour running through them, and a perspicutary and masculine vigour of style that showed as a great promise in him as a writer as he had then given as a scholar.

Shortly after he gained the profession he entered the list of public journalists. His clear perception of his subjects and close powers of arguments always commanded respect. Whilst the rich vein of fun and humour which ran through his writings secured the attention and delight of his readers. There was hardly any pursuit to which he applied himself in which he did not achieve success, whether we view him as a scholar, a writer, a speaker or a lawyer. Not alone to his friends and dependents were his sympathies and charities extended. He was without exception the brightest ornament in legal circles. It was while in the midst of this bright and useful career-happy himself, and making others around him happy - that he was suddenly stricken down.

Photo: Principal's Bungalow

His unceasing exertions in the exercise of his profession and in his pursuits as a journalist proved a drain upon him which not even his strength naturally great, his spirits ever buoyant, could withstand. His brain and energies were always in a state of tension. From the commencement there was reason to fear that his illness would prove fatal, but he clung to life and after some months of suffering, seemed to rally for a while, and became able to attend to business. Some of the most painful and yet not altogether unpleasing recollections of my life are associated with my interviews with him during the long interval between his illness and death.

He used to speak feelingly of his past, the plans he had formed for the future, and his bitter disappointment that he could not live to carry them out. We felt that we have lost a very dear friend, a loss which never could be compensated for or adequately supplied.'' Towards the evening of his short life he purchased a large and airy house in Borella which was later occupied by the then Principal of Wesley College. He called it ``Karlshrue'' meaning ``Charles Rest''. He passed away in this bungalow on August 9, 1871. A grateful public will remember him and say in one voice: Out of the storied past, their forms arise And look friendly glance deep in our eyes, Into our eyes they came with gentle tread,

Telling us what they did, and what they said.''

Charles Ambrose Lorenz 1829-1871

Born: 8 Jul 1829 at Matara Youngest of nine children. Son of Johanna Frederick Lorenz & Euna Petronella Smith Education: Royal Academy, Colombo, 1842. Won Turnour Prize, 1846 Apprentice in Law under John Drieberg, Journalist, Proctor SC, 1849 Coined the expression ‘Ceylonese’ Member Royal Asiatic Society - RAS (CB) 13 Aug 1830 Married Eleanor Nell, sister of Louis Nell, 19 Dec 1850 Sailed for England on 10 Feb 1855 and returned the same year Barrister at Law Lincolns Inn District Judge Chilaw, 26 May 1855 Reverted to the Bar Dec 1855 Supported Dr Christopher Elliott for a more representative Council and for an unofficial majority in the Legislative Council Burgher Member LC 1856-1864 Resigned his seat from LC with six others in 1864 Purchased ‘Examiner’ newspaper by a syndicate and renamed it to ‘Ceylon Examiner’ and took up the challenge of Managing Editor & Editor Member MC Colombo Jan 1860 to Jan 1870 Works: Provisional Payment, 1856 – Editor Law Reports, 1856-1870 – Notes on Kovil Practice, 1860
Passed Away: 9 Aug 1871

The Burgher intelligentsia in the 1860s was led by a young man who hailed from Matara - Charles Ambrose Lorenz. Being a brilliant lawyer he was popularly known as the "morning star of Hulftsdorp".

Together with a group of young Burghers like Leopold Ludovici, Francis Bevan, Samuel Grenier and James Stewart Drieberg they produced a leading local literary journal called Young Ceylon.

In 1859 Lorenz and a syndicate purchased the Ceylon Examiner which became the first Ceylonese newspaper. Until his death in 1871, at the age of forty two, Ambrose Lorenz wielded the powerful influence of his pen for social reform, championing democratic causes and courageously criticising the British colonial government, the Governor and his Executive Council.

In the true traditions of 19th century Burgher leaders, like C. A. Lorenz there came a few years later - George Alfred Henry Wille, who was also of the legal fraternity in that he was a proctor by profession. A keen student of history and politics from his young days, Wille was alive to his responsibilities as a citizen.

His interest in public affairs was such that there was hardly a public movement in the early 20th century in which he did not play a part. He was well-known for his knowledge in constitutional matters and when the Ceylon Congress came into existence, Wille had the sagacity to foresee the political reform in Ceylon which could not be postponed. Alone among minority men, George Wille joined the Congress and took a prominent part in its affairs side by side with its foremost leaders from the other communities.

The present site on which Wesley College stands and the surrounding land was once owned by Charles Ambrose Lorenz and used by the school since 1902.

Charles Ambrose Lorenz, of whom it was said, "the most versatile and gifted member the community ever produced," followed James Martensz succeeded him and then came C. L. Ferdinands. When the latter accepted government office as District Judge, Colombo, Advocate James van Langenberg Sr. was appointed to fill his place. On his death, Dr. P. D. Anthonisz of Galle, was appointed breaking the tradition of lawyer members. The appointment again of H. L. Wendt revived the legal link.Lorenz was a proud product of Royal College, Colombo.

Edward Skinner the Architect

He designed the iconic buildings at Wesley College at Karlsruhe
Added 12th October 2021
By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Photo: Wesley College in 1907


In the photo there are 2 domes at the top of each tower. That was a feature of Edward Skinner's designs as we see in the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital at the De Soysa Circus. These do not exist anymore at Wesley and believe they were removed in later years.

Photo: Edward Skinner

wes1Edward Skinner was born in 1869 in Scotland. In 1883 he passed the qualifying examination and was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects. He emigrated to Ceylon circa 1893. There he was responsible for designing some of the most iconic buildings in the island at the time. The most famous of them were the South wing of the Galle Face Hotel (1894), Victoria Masonic Temple (1901), Cargills & Co. (1902),[5] Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital (1903), Lindsay Lecture Hall, St. Andrew's Church (1906), Wesley College (1907) and Lloyd's Building (1908). Now these buildings are architecturally considered as masterpieces.

Edward Skinner was a brilliant architect. His wisdom and designs won him the admiration of the City and was popular and much sought after in Ceylon. He had his offices in the Colombo Fort. When he was recently married, he had a cycle accident and suffered with concussion from which he never fully recovered. Sadly, Edward Skinner took his own life by hanging in his own office in the Colombo Fort on Boxing Day in 1910. The stunning designs he created in prestigious buildings in Colombo will remain as monuments for his superb architectural ability. He died, far too young, at the age of 41 years when he had so much to offer this wonderful world. I certainly have huge respect for the man and stand and applaud in awe.

On behalf of the past, present and future old boys of this great school I wish to thank Edward Skinner for his great design which has served us well into the 21st Century.



Laying of the Foundation Stone of Wesley College, Karlshrue

The following account of this interesting function is taken from the “Ceylon Independent,” November 6th, 1905.

Thirty years ago, on November 4th 1905, the foundation stone of the buildings which Wesley now occupies was laid by the then Lieut. Governor A. Murray Ashmore, Esq. “Karlsrhue” Grounds, opposite Campbell Park presented quite a festive appearance on Saturday afternoon, (Nov 4) when His Excellency the Lieut. Governor laid the foundation stone of the new Wesley College, in the presence of a large and sympathetic gathering of friends. The entrance to the premises was spanned by a handsome archway, bearing the inscription “Welcome to the H.E. the Lieut.Governor”. Immediately above this was the shield of the College and the words “Wesley College” – Ora et Labora. A very handsome little cadjan structure, octagon in shape and elaborately decorated, accommodated His Excellency, the Lieut Governor, the Rev. Robert Tebb who presided, and a distinguished few, while the rest of the gathering were accommodated with chairs on the right and left of the building.

Wesley College in January 1907


The roadway opposite, and the grounds looked gay with flags and bunting, and the Coronation Orchestra under the guidance of Mr J Fernandez, help greatly to enliven the proceedings. The Lieut.Governor, who was accompanied by Capt. Tarbot, ADC was received by a guard of honour of the Cadet Corps of the College under the command of Capt. C.V. Honter, with Lieuts. Foenander and Zilwa. His Excellency having inspected the guard, walked up the drive, and was received at the entrance to the marquee by the Revs. Robert Tebb, P.M. Brumwell, H.J. Philpott, J.H. Darrell, Messrs John Ferguson, F Dornhurst and J Harvard. 


It is said you should be able to read a building and it should say what it does. I am certain it must be clear to all Wesleyites what it reads. This is how the school looked when it first opened having moved from Dam Street Pettah. Even the drive is not quite ready. I wonder what has happened to the structures seen above the two towers in the picture on your left? I must have looked out from every window seen in this photo specially the top left corner which is the chemistry lab. Those corridors are full of memories and varying emotions of elation and depression as life unfolded. I recall the long trek back from the Principals office after 3 "cuts" from Oorloff for using un-parliamentary language. I remember the happiness and the spring in my step on receiving my exam results which were better than my wildest dreams. We always lived in hope and on many occasions when it rained in the morning I have looked out from the porch wishing for a "rain holiday".

Wesley College - from a Ceylonese Journal in 1906

The institution is under the management of the Wesleyan Mission in Ceylon and was opened for the purpose of higher education on March 2nd 1874, in the premises still occupied in the Pettah adjoining and in fact with the Girls' High School enveloping the Pettah Church, the oldest of the Missions Churches in the island, having been built in the year 1815. The first Principal of the College was the Rev. S.R.Wilkin, now engaged in ministerial work in England. Although at first only able to receive a few day scholars, the College rapidly increased in numbers, and for the last ten years has had about five hundred scholars annually. With this number the limit of accommodation has been reached, and the erection of larger premises on another site has become necessary.

New Premises - Foundation stone was laid on the 4th of November 1905. The school opened on the 25th of January 1907

In its educative work the College is subject to the Departmental Code of Government and annual inspection by the Government Inspector. It was, during its earlier history, affiliated with the University of Calcutta, and a respectable number of its students figure honourably in the records of that Alma Mater. When the Cambridge Local Examinations were established in Ceylon, Wesley College was among the earliest educative institutions to send pupils to undergo these tests, and for the past twenty years some of its scholars have not failed to pass both the Senior and the Junior examinations held annually, while Wesley College students have frequently gained places in the Honours Classes or other distinctions.

It was not till 1896, however, that the Ceylon Government Scholarship first came to the Wesley College ; but since that date that coveted prize has twice fallen to its pupils, and the Gilchrist Scholarship, one of almost equal value, has been won once by an alumnus of this College. In the year 1900 a determined effort was initiated to secure a more suitable locality an superior buildings for the College, and gradually a scheme was formulated, and subsequent adopted by the Governing Committee at Horn by which a great advance in the desire direction was made possible. In 1902 a new site within the municipal limits of the city, purchased.

Here, during the years 1905 and 1907 a very handsome set of college buildings have been erected, having a frontage of over 300 ft, and with dormitory and other accommodation for a hundred resident pupils. The new premises are expected to be fully ready for occupation in January, 1907- To keep pace with the great advance in science study required by the affiliation with London University, chemical laboratories are included in the design of the new buildings.

History of the House System at Wesley College

by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Added 20th December 2018

The House system was first introduced into British Public Schools between 1820-1860. There is nothing more quintessentially British in schools than their house system. As most students were boarders, in those distant days, the house system was designed for boarding houses. But as the numbers of non-boarders increased the house system was extended to include all students. It is a means of dividing pupils into groups and thus creating smaller communities within the wider community. Over time these Houses developed their own corporate identities, providing a framework for pastoral care of students and also fostering of healthy sporting and cultural extra-curricular rivalry and competition with other Houses.

The House Masters were usually senior teachers responsible for the personal welfare of pupils and were usually staff whom the pupils already held up as role models. Students are assigned to houses randomly. Traditionally, however, once a pupil has been assigned to a house, any younger siblings may automatically become members of that house when they arrive at the school. Pupils joined a House at an early age and remained in their House until they left school. The House System helped build an individual's strengths within a group and created a bond with other pupils of all ages. As pupils reached their senior years at the School they became increasingly involved in running and co-ordinating activities of their respective Houses. The sense of community within each House encouraged a strong feeling of identity, loyalty and belonging.


Distinguished Wesleyite, Alfred Kulendran David, in his fine account of the history of the school has this to say about the House System at Wesley:

Rev Albert Hutchinson

Rev. Albert Hutchinson (1925 – 1928) was Rev. Highfield’s successor. He was a keen disciplinarian, stressing particularly the importance of character building. It was no easy task to follow a Principal like Rev. Highfield, but those who knew Hutchinson speak of the valuable contribution he made to the life and wellbeing of the college. The present House system in Wesley together with Inter-House competitions was introduced during the time of Rev. Hutchinson. The suggestion to introduce the House system was made by Rev. Highfield but it was his successor who began it. The college was divided into four houses, three were named after the earlier Principals Wilkin, Hillard and Passmore, while the ‘Boarding’ formed the fourth House. In 1947 the 'Boarding House' changed its name to Moscrop House.

Further from Alfred David

Rev David S.T Izzett

Rev. David S.T.Izzett (1941 to 1943) assumed office in January 1941. One of Rev. Izzett’s first duties was to re organize the House system in the school extending it to all departments of the school curriculam. Hitherto, the House trophy had been awarded on results in sports alone, but now points were awarded not only for sports but for debating, attendance and for scholastic achievement.


Mr C.J Oorloff

It was much later during the Principalship of Mr. C.J Oorloff (1950-57) the Primary School was given their own Houses – Dias, Mack, Honter and Lemphers, the names of legendary teachers at Wesley during the tenure of Rev. Henry Highfield.

Boarders of my vintage will remember the 3 houses within the boarding - Vikings, Spartans and Yodayas. Within the confines of the boarding the rivalry was fierce and intense. Sadly, the boarding has now been scaled down. The concept of boarding students has become less popular worldwide. The last I visited Wesley in 2012 the boarding didn't exist but was told it would be revived 'soon'. In all honesty I believe the hostel and its houses have now been confined to history. The fun and laughter that was endemic in the boarding must swirl in the ether of that great institution to surprise the vary.

The Senior Houses are named as a tribute to four past principals

While, the Junior Houses are named to honour four Head Masters for their invaluable service to the school. They are

The House System provides opportunities for students to develop all aspects of their growth and learning. It is also a way of getting younger pupils to mix with older students – and remove the fear of them being a little fish in a big pool.

The House system has been a tremendous asset to Wesley College in providing a fine all- round education to every student. This arrangement has been a defining feature and cornerstone of the Wesley's history of success. The House System provides competitive sports, opportunities for boys not selected to represent the School on the regular teams. Competition between the Houses is fierce for Athletics, Basketball, Rugby, Cricket, Football and Drama. These events always are closely fought with exciting endings.

One notable feature of the house system is the appointment of house captains, who exercise limited authority within the house and assist in the organisation and running of a multitude of events of their house. Students involved as House Captains also chair the house meetings thus promoting student leadership and responsibility. Adapted to a school with a great tradition, it has fostered among pupils that feeling of lifelong camaraderie, pride and love towards their Alma Mater.

Personally, I have such fond memories of being in the boarding from 1952-58 and as such in Moscrop House. The boarders were together 24X7 studying, playing, eating and sleeping in the hostel. Hence we developed a strong brotherhood and a fierce loyalty to Moscrop House. We were there in full force for the inter-house competitions cheering louder than our opponents. The Sports Meet was such a fine occasion to which we gave our fullest support. The house system brought us together and we learnt to respect our opponents in victory and defeat.

When we look back on our lives at Wesley the House System features prominently. We all can recall the rivalry, the little tiffs that ensued and the fun and the laughter we enjoyed. During my years at Wesley we had 1100 students. We knew each and everyone in the school from the youngest to the sixth formers. The unity and the camaraderie was magical and something to behold. They are without doubt some of the best years of my life.

The School Crest
By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

We grew up with it and like the school flag it is an integral part of the school. The school crest is a visual symbol of identity for a school, a rallying cry, a focus of its pupils' pride and loyalty. Emblazoned on a flag, embossed on a metal badge, monogrammed on school blazers and sports jerseys, printed on exercise book covers and certificates, or integrated into official letterheads, the school crest proclaims the school's identity far and wide.

The College Crest - How it evolved by Shelton Peries

In this note an attempt is made to trace the evolution of the College Crest which has adorned every school boy's exercise books, blazer and nearly every document originating from Wesley College. There appears to be two stages in the development of the crest. The cross and the shells are derived from the Coat of Arms of none other, and indeed quite appropriately from that of John Wesley. On the other hand the origin of the shield of the crest is not known, as it is not featured even in any of the designs of the College of Heraldry.The Motto, "Ora et Labora" which is an integral part of the crest was originated by Rev. Arthur Shipham (1880-1883), and John Dalby, commenting in a later time said Worship & Prayer are the salt of life. There is a generally accepted interpretation of the crest.

The twelve (12) shells are symbolic of the journeying Pilgrim, seeking and searching ahead, with no complacency. One could compare them to the twelve wandering tribes of Israel. Within the Shield of Faith is placed the rugged Cross of Sacrifice. This was the first arrangement which composed Wesley's crest, and included Shipham's motto. It is not certain when this design of the crest was first introduced, but it is evident on stationery used by Rev. Henry Highfield. In our archival section we feature a document of the 1900, on which this same crest is placed.

This same crest is incorporated into the art frame of the Farewell Scroll presented to Rev. Henry Highfield by staff and students, on his departure from Wesley in 1925. We have evidence of the continued use of this crest during Rev. Albert Hutchinson's time (1925-1928) when he commissioned the Head Baas - Cornelius - to construct the time hallowed stately chair, used by Wesley's Principals, and on the back head Is carved the College crest This chair still adorns the stage of the hallowed College hall.

It then becomes clear that during the Headship of Rev. John Dalby (1929 - 1934) a further addition was made to the crest, when it was embellished with the scallops circularly fringed around the shield, giving the present form of the shield. Prize books and College exercise books of 1933 have this crest. Thus we see how the crest, a means of readily identifying Wesley has truly a rich inheritance, and Wesleyites of all generations will continue to be inspired by this remarkable crest, and will proudly wear it as the occasion demands.

The History of the Wesley College Motto - Ora et Labora
Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Ora et labora is an old Benedictine motto of the monks from AD 480-547. The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.. The spirit of St. Benedict's Rule is summed up in the motto. It refers to their ethic of Prayer and Work in the Seminary.

In Christian mysticism, the phrase or the Latin motto Ora et Labora reads in full: "Ora et labora, Deus adest son has". (Pray and work, God is there ie: God helps without delay.) The pray and work (or "pray and labour"), refers to the monastic practice of working and praying, generally associated with its use in the Rule of St. Benedict.


Rev. Arthur Shipham, was the Principal at Wesley College Colombo for three years (1879-83) . He had just retired from the active work of the ministry. 'His deep and abiding interest in our work was clearly indicated in the Message that. appeared in the Magazine recently ;
" I am thankful that God has given me forty-four years in this work, the first eleven of which were spent in Ceylon. My memories of the beautiful Island and the kindness of many friends in Colombo and Matara are very pleasant and precious. Wesley College has still a warm place in my heart, and I have followed its magnificent progress with joy. The only Message I would send is. Ora et Labora the Motto for which I am personally responsible."
In giving so choice a Motto he has bequeathed a priceless legacy. Here is a man with a Vision, who has given us a noble watchword which, if carried out in our daily life, will make our lives nobler and sweeter.

Rev. Arthur Shipham - A short biography

The History of the College Song - Now in Cyberspace

By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

HJVI Ekanayake was a brilliant scholar at Wesley College. He came first in the world in Drawing in the Cambridge Senior, with a Distinction. H.J.V.I. Ekanayake founded the now world famous Sinhalese Sports Club in 1898. He served as a District Judge in Kegalle and also as a Civil Servant.

The School Song - Composed by HJVI Ekanayake

Boys of Wesley through the land
Wesley Boys together stand
Bound by one fraternal band
Band of double blue
Wave our colours high and free
Wesley forward steadily
From victory to victory
Wesley to the fore

Past and present kindly meet
Each the other proudly greet
Hearts ne'er cool that once have beat
Neath the double blue
And when Wesley's call shall sound
Ready aye shall all be found
In duty and in honour bound
Wesley to the fore

We'll do our best in mart or hall
We'll do our best with bat or ball
Taking cool what e'er befall
Pray and labour on
And for our dear land we'd be
Men of grit and industry
Honour bright and loyalty
Wesley to the fore

Photo: Mr HJVI Ekanayake - Kindly sent to me by Peter Peiris

3At Wesley we had much to sing about and we still do. So much of what makes Wesley exceptional are the students and the staff. Its buildings, the grounds and the setting helps to cherish our time in that great institution. Our heritage and archives provide an insight into our glorious past while its education prepare boys for a future of leadership and public service. We had a distinguished past student to compose a song to include the mission and the vision of our great school.

The School Song was sung for the first time in 1898 during the Principalship of Rev. Henry Highfield. We know the song was the first school song in Ceylon and was sung at Wesley College in the Pettah. Since those days of long ago the Song has been an important part of school life and has remained a unifying force within the School. The school song, like the school crest and the school flag, is a powerful rallying force. It will always remain as a symbol of our love, loyalty and gratitude for the fine all round tutelage at Wesley. The Song is one of the most remarkable and enduring aspects of education at Wesley in terms of maintaining the bonds between School and alumni. The lyrics of the song was composed by Mr HJVI Ekanayake, a distinguished old boy. It incorporates the hopes and wishes of the Founding Fathers of the School. The Melody belongs to Robert Burns and Scotland as shown by Keith de Kretser in his writings . We grew up with it and like the School Flag, the Crest and the Motto it is woven into the fabric of the school. It is a rallying cry, a focus of its pupils' pride and loyalty and proclaims the school's identity far and wide. We sang it in the School Hall on the big occasions. We sang it at the beginning and end of term and also many times in between. Both its lyrics and its melody have a certain charm which every old boy will remember with much nostalgia. The College Song has a timeless quality and has retained its grandeur despite the passage of years. Now we sing it whenever Wesleyites meet and at Old Boys Meetings. It has been sung with heart and passion all round the world.

From gawky teenagers to shuffling Octogenarians, individual memories of Wesley College consist of a myriad different sets of sounds and images. But the singing of the Century-old School Song is the only shared experience that cuts across the generations. It is also a reminder of those carefree days of our youth.

I have such fond memories of singing the College song with the school choir in the 1950's conducted by Mr. Maxwell De Alwis. We sang it every Friday before inter school cricket matches, at the Prize Giving Ceremony and at the start and end of every school term. Whenever I sing it now it takes me back to the Great Hall with a thousand voices singing with such verve and vigour virtually lifting its roof.

A former Wesley cricketer (1947), Pete Mendis who lived in London, requested a digital copy of the school song to be played in his final hours. There are numerous past students living in Sri Lanka and abroad who want the school song to be sung at the final ceremony as they say their goodbyes to this wonderful world with their coffins draped in the school flag. Some insist on the famous Wesley War Cry at the very end. An unmistakable sign of loyalty in memory of those glorious years.

When the song is ended
The melody lingers on



The Melody


Santhusht de Silva, an old boy of the Oorloff-Nonis-Wirasinha era, has very kindly sent me a youtube clip of the College Song which I wish to share with you. Those who remember him from school will recall he was a gifted musician even as a schoolboy. The music has been created by Santhusht. Do enjoy and sing-along and allow your thoughts to wander and relish those images that flash across your mind.

The School Song on Youtube - Double Click

A Choral Version

There is a version of the school song sung by a choir. This brings back great memories of happy times in our Karlshrue village. The song arrived on my PC by email - author unknown!! The imagery as I listen is evocative with Miss Mary Colin-Thome pounding away on the piano amid a few squeaks and squeals of a thousand young voices in the Great Hall. The nuances, pronunciations and pauses in the rendition of the Song has remarkably remained unchanged despite the many transformations that have taken place in the school and in our country. Perhaps when Wesleyites, new and old, next sing their School Song they should do so with thankfulness and praise for its author, now long departed, for that unique Song that is so much an inseparable part of the Institution. We remember the students, teachers and principals who once sang that same Song under the very same roof since it was composed all those years ago. Such is the power and reach of a School Song to rally, nourish and rouse the spirit of a school, long after school days are over.

The School Song- Double Click

The First College Song in Sri Lanka

Wesley College School Song was the 1st College song in Ceylon. Here is an excerpt from the 150th Anniversary Magazine of Royal College Colombo

Photo: HJVI Ekanayake

3Royal College the oldest Public School in Sri Lanka lagged behind other Colleges without a College Song until Principal H. L. Reed composed and set to Music the SCHOOL OF OUR FATHERS in the Third Term of 1927. The Music was later revised by S. Schmid.
In the following year when Royal College won the MEADEN SHIELD in the Schools Singing Competition for the 8th year in succession SCHOOL OF OUR FATHERS presented at the competition was a 'hit tune'. Much credit for the magnificent performance of the College Choir goes to Mrs. H. L. Reed who was assisted by R. C. Edwards. The College Song made its public debut on 13th July 1928.
A College Song provides inspiration, a fervour and attachment to one's old College. To the Old Boys its nostalgia, of the years that were, the happy carefree boyhood days. To the young 'uns' who now bear the torch- the College Song is something for every conceivable occasion. They sing themselves hoarse. They sing with pride their own "anthem", One has to witness them rendering the College Song with gusto-there's happiness written on their faces.

Every Public School boasts of its Song. In Sri Lanka the credit for the first College Song goes to Wesley College with "Wesley to the Fore" composed by H. J. V. Ekanayake, Next comes our Century old rivals St. Thomas' College with "Esto Perpetua" composed by Edmund de Livera in April 1916

Wesley Archival Photo Circa 1927

Cambridge Senior Class

Added 7th December 2021

Kindly sent to me by Neville Weerasekera, a distinguished old boy

Dear Nihal,
I am attaching an archival photo which belonged to Suveni's father. He is seated on the extreme left. It must have been 1927, and they were in the Cambridge Senior Class. What a turnout at the time. The headmaster is C P Dias, I don't know the principal, and I guess you will research that.

Left to right Seated: R G P Weerasekera, Christie Adams, Principal( Cannot be identified in your list of Principals), C P Dias Headmaster. Walter Sellayayah, P A D Perera
Standing : second from left: Harold Algama. others not known.
Best regards,

From the editor- Nihal D Amerasekera

Photo:Mr. W. E. Mack

The Principal from 1925-28 was Rev Albert Hutchison. The one in this photo doesn't look like the one in the photo I have of him. Could it be Mr.W.E Mack who was Deputy to Mr C.P Dias and often described as over dressed and wore a waist-coat always. This may be a photo from 1926 as Alfred David in his account on the history of the school Mr W.E Mack left Wesley in 1926. Any help to unravel this mystery would be gratefully received

The Highfield Block as it was in 1959

An account from the School Magazine

The Highfield Memorial Building: The work commenced by Mr. C. J. Oorloff as Principal has now been completed, and Wesley is now able to have not only a fitting Memorial to the Revd. Henry Highfield, but a set of modern, and well equipped class-rooms, including a much needed Art Room. The Geography Room which was also housed here has now been shifted to the Library end of the College. We would remind those boys who use this building, to use it well. The present boys greatly appreciate the work done in this connection by The Old Boys' Union. The building itself was not formally declared open, though the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir O. E. Goonetilleke was to do so, on the Prize Day, last year. This was because of the State of Emergency that was declared in Ceylon, in June 1958, which resulted in the Governor General cancelling all his public appointments.

The School Chapel
By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

The Photos were kindly sent to me by Peter Peiris (Son of the Wesley legend, Shelton Peiris)


Schools are places of endemic change. We must change with time and we have done so maintaining our links with our glorious past. We have kept the old traditions whilst embracing the innovative and modern. Rejuvenation and modernisation is a continuous process. It would be dismissive to say that transition has procured no benefit. Our beautiful Chapel is the centre of spiritual life at Wesley. As the Chapel is a new addition to our buildings, within the premises, many of the senior old boys, specially those living abroad have never seen it. I felt by including several photos these images will help old boys to get an impression of the serenity of the new building and the change to our landscape.

When Mr. Dunstan Fernando arrived at Wesley College in 1989 to assume the post of Principal, he was surprised and disappointed to find that the school did not have its own chapel. Instead, the school’s Great Hall was used for everything from boxing to badminton and as an occasional class room, for daily assembly and acts of worship. He felt this arrangement was unsatisfactory and inadequate.

Mr. Dunstan Fernando will always be remembered as a great builder. The Rev. Daniel Pereira block of classrooms, extensions to the Labrooy Block, chaplain’s quarters, and for the first time a much needed Chapel came to be built during his period as Principal.

The Chapel is a recent but a welcome addition to our School. For those living abroad like myself, It is situated at the Karlshrue end of the Principal's garden. On the 14th of February 1993 Rev. Dr Kinsley Muttiah the President of the Methodist Church Sri Lanka who had laid the foundation stone declared it open and blessed while the Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Kenneth Fernando preached the 1st sermon.

Mr Fernando regarded a chapel not just as a place of religious contemplation and worship but a key element in building a strong school community. He was formidably determined and once he had set on his plan to build a chapel, nothing was going to stop him. This was a parochial matter of importance to all Wesleyites who have benefitted from its Christian culture.

So began an extraordinary campaign to bring a chapel to life. Mr Fernando worked virtually single-handedly in its early stages, raising money and interest and overcoming obstacles that would have defeated a less committed individual. The old boys from around the world gave him the financial backing in addition to the massive support of the OBU Colombo who were behind the project all the way.

When it was completed Mr Fernando was proud of the simple but elegant and evocative building. The School Chapel is one of the most serene buildings on the premises and is a restful haven from the busy demands of the school day. Our beautiful Chapel is the centre of the spiritual life at Wesley.

The Chapel was renovated for the 150th Anniversary in 2024

The school welcome all faiths. Its foundation is nevertheless rooted in the Christian tradition and the Chapel has an important part in the life of the school community, symbolising Wesley’s past and present. It is a daily reminder of life’s spiritual dimension.

The New Primary Block


The New Primary School building was opened in July 2000

The 125th anniversary Primary School Building was opened at Wesley College at a ceremony held in the school premises. The funds for the building were raised by the school Welfare Society, expatriate old boys unions, the Old Wesleyites Sports Club, well-wishers and parents. The block with facilities which is on the Karlshrue Gardens end of the school will be used by the primary. The chief guest at the ceremony was Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Hatton National Bank, Rienzie Wijetilleke. Other guests were the Chairman of the Methodist Church Duleep Fernando and Tyronne Maye, President of the Welfare Society of the school. Despite some setbacks Wesley's students past and present remain a vibrant community deeply loyal and ever willing to help the school in distress.

The Labrooy Memorial Building

William Justin Frank La Brooy (referred to as Justin) was born on 21.10.1910. in Tangalle. He was the 5th child of Frank La Brooy (proctor in Tangalle) and Maud (nee Poulier). His father was from Colombo where he had attended Royal College before training in Law. His mother was originally from Kandy where she had briefly worked as a teacher before marrying Frank in her late teens.

Justin had his primary schooling in Tangalle before moving to Wesley College Colombo, where he was boarded, for his secondary education. While he participated in sports, he did not distinguish himself in any. Academically he was one of the brightest students who went through Wesley at the time when Rev Highfield was Principal. He entered University College on the basis of outstanding results in the Cambridge Senior examination.

The La Brooy Memorial Building

His undergraduate studies in the University were in Arts, majoring in History with an Upper 2nd Class from the University of London. His mentor, Professor S. A. Pakeman is on record as saying that he had expected him to get a First Class and that he was disappointed that he did not achieve this. Following his graduation, he taught briefly at his old school, Wesley, with which he maintained contact throughout his life. I believe there is a block of class-rooms named the “La Brooy Block” commemorating the family of 4 brothers who were students there, before moving on to a variety of professions, between the 1910’s and 1930’s. He then worked for a short time in the Income Tax Department in colonial Ceylon before being recruited by Professor Pakeman to a position in the

History Department in the University in the early 1930s. He spent the whole of his subsequent working life in this Department. This encompassed the transition of the University College in Colombo into the University of Ceylon around the time of independence, with Ivor Jennings who was intimately involved in formulating the constitution of the new nation, as its first Vice-Chancellor (Robert Marrs had headed up University College, Colombo, before). When the Arts Faculty shifted to the new University campus in Peradeniya, he moved there in 1953. He continued to work in the History Department in Peradeniya, till he retired in 1975 (?) and maintained close contact with it till he died at home in 1979 having been driven home, by Erica, from a lecture he had wanted to attend in the University.

While he enjoyed teaching and encouraging others to undertake research, his own research output was limited. This was undoubtedly contributed to by the breakdown of movement across to Britain due to the 2nd World War and his delayed return to study. Though he commenced work towards a PhD through the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London University, with sabbaticals while working on this in 1952/3 and 1958, he did not complete this. What he most valued from his work in the University were the students he helped mould. These included his wife, Erica (nee Christoffelsz) who was one of his earliest students and his daughter-in-law (Nirmala Dissanayaka) who was one of his last students, and more importantly many historians who were students or colleagues in the History Department.

The Labrooys in London in 1951

Justin and Erica married in 1937. Their family arrived after some delay: Justin Theodore was born in 1946 and Franklin Charles in 1947 while they were still living in Colombo. Basil Henry was born in 1953 in Kandy after they had shifted to Peradeniya.

They lived first in a bungalow in Mahakande from 1953 to around 1955, then in a University bungalow on Sanghamitta Hill before moving to the Principal’s bungalow at Kandy High School around 1957. When Erica completed her time as Principal of High School, they moved to another University bungalow close to the Mahaveli Ganga in Getambe. Their final move was in the 1970’s to a house on the block which Professor KM de Silva bought from them some years later. My father was living there till he died.

Abiding interests outside of his work included his work in the church, with schools where he was on a number of governing boards, and the support he gave to his extended family. A number of nephews and nieces, his mother, mother-in-law and various sisters and members of their families lived for considerable periods of time, with him and his family. **** ****

A NOTE from Michael Roberts

When I entered Peradeniya University and pursued Western History as one of my first year subjects, I found myself in a tutorial group guided by Mr Labrooy –one that included Trevor Roosmale-Cocq, Russell Forbes, Ananda Wickremaratne and Jayantha Dhanapala if my memory is on the mark. Once I chose to spend a further three years pursuing a History course oriented towards the Modern Era I came into greater contact with Mr Labrooy, though also benefiting from a cohort of excellent teachers: Fr Pinto, Karl W Goonewardena, S. Arasaratnam, Shelton Kodikara, and KM de Silva for instance.

Mr Labrooy was our Head of Department and when I ended up with a good degree by 1961, he offered me a job with the stipulation that I would have to teach in Sinhala. I took up that challenge of trying to improve my Sinhala, while also deciding NOT to sit for the CCS examination because I felt that I could not survive in that circuit in the the situation prevailing in the 1960s (how wise that reading now in retrospect).

Mr Labrooy’s benevolent duty of care was exemplary. He took the trouble to visit me at my sister’s home in Wellawatte and urged me to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship — something I was not thinking of doing because one had to finance one’s journey to UK , calling for a sum of money beyond my pockets and beyond my pater’s reach. Mr Labrooy overrode my fears: he stressed that the Rhodes stipend in UK would more than make up for the initial voyage ,.

So I did apply.

That made my future.

To WJF Labrooy my eternal thanks ….. and so too to him and Erica for supporting me, Shona and our two kids when we were struggling financially on a paltry Assistant Lecturer’s salary in the late 1960s. Their attentiveness to a duty of care was truly exceptional.

 The Shelton Wirasinha Memorial Building

2nd March 2004 - the 130th Anniversary of Wesley College began with the foundation laying ceremony of the Shelton Wirasinha Memorial Building. Rev. Noel Fernando, Manager of Wesley College and President ofthe Methodist Church of Sri Lanka laid the foundation stone amidst a representative gathering of Students, Teachers, Old Boys and Parents.
Mrs. Manel Wirasinha, wife of Late Mr. SheltonWirasinha and her daughter Mrs. Dushyanthi Wirasinha were the special guests.
Rev. Noel Fernando and the Principal in their address referred to the sacrificial contribution by Late Mr. Shelton Wirasinha in guiding the school through a dark periodof her history.

The new building will provide a new canteen, a Junior Science Room, a Technical Skills Room, and classrooms to conductAdvanceLevel classes from January each year.
The building will cost approximately Rs. 12 million. The project started with a donation given by Old Boys Union London Branch and the money generated by the Wesley Walk.
The Welfare Society, PTA, and the Methodist Church have pledged to finance the balance cost.
The new building fulfills along felt need of providing better facilities to improve the quality for education. It isour hope and prayer that the building could be released for students by January 2005.

125th Anniversary Primary Building




New Look for the 21st Century




The Bust of Rev Henry Highfield at the front of the school


100 Years at Karlshrue by Miss O D Fernando

Wesley College, Colombo 09 celebrated 100 years at Karlshrue on the 10th of February 2007. A number of events were organized to commemorate this historic occasion. A thanks giving service was organized on the 3rd of February 2007 and the guest speaker was Rev. Ebenezar Joseph, President of the Methodist Church and Manager of the school and 2 other distinguish old boys Mr. Shelton Peiris, M. A. K. David. In collaboration with this the Wesley Walk was held in Mar c h 2007. It became a very popular event in school. Many old boys, present boys and well wishers participated. After the walk a mini fair was organized by the PTA, at Campbell Park, with many trade & games stalls.

A commemorative a 1st day cover and a stamp was issued by the Postal Department in the college hall. Rev. Dulip Fernando was present at this occasion. A plaque was unveiled by Hon. M. H. Mohamed at Campbell to inaugurate the construction of the swimming pool.

Wesley - Will Grow but Never grow old
Development from 2005-2008 by Shanthi de Silva

Like a tree planted by the water Wesley has grown, spreading out its branches, reaching out and bearing fruit in its service to humanity. Though Wesley has reached a high mark in so many ways, this article will highlight only the most outstanding aspects of its development and growth.

Shelton Weerasinghe Memorial Building
This memorial building has been constructed mainly for the use of the students of the middle school. The foundation stone for the building was laid by Rev. Noel Fernando, the President of the Methodist Church on 2nd March, 2004. The two storied building was declared open on 2nd March (founders day) 2005 by Mrs. Manel Weerasinghe the wife of late Mr. Shelton Weerasinghe in the presence of old boys, parents, staff members and well wishers of the college.
The building consists of class rooms, a junior science lab, and a conference room, with audio visual equipment, a well laid out canteen and staff room. The cost on completion of this project was around Rs. 12 million. The OBU of the London branch, the Korean Methodist Church, the staff and the Welfare Society of Wesley were the main contributors of this endeavour.

Havelock Town- Primary Campus of Wesley College

This indeed is growth. A well planned campus to house the entire primary school is taking shape at Havelock Town, Colombo 06. This ambitious new venture was initiated by Mr. M.A.P. Fernando, our present Principal, who possessed the drive and the vision to expand and develop Wesley to face any competition, as well as serve society in the best way possible.
The initial stage of this project was completed by the end of 2007. Two, Grade 1 classrooms were opened in January 2008, in a beautifully laid out compound. These classrooms were housed in a renovated building in the compound. These refurbished buildings consist of an assembly hall with piano, IT room, a small canteen and office room for administrative work. The adjoining, shady park with play equipments for the young ones makes the picture complete.
A well attended service of dedication and blessing was held in the Chapel of the compound. Rev. Ebenezer Joseph - Manager unveiled a plaque, and the principal, Mr. M.A.P. Fernando joined him in declaring this new campus open amidst a representative gathering.
The staff pioneers who accepted the challenge of guiding the destinies of the new Wesley primary were Miss. Oneetha Fernando (sectional head) and Mrs. Lalani Dias, a senior teacher, both having completed 25 years of dedicated service to the college.
As continuation of this development another old building in the new campus has been refurbished and adjusted to house the year two classes, which would move in January 2009. A new entrance, giving direct access to the primary campus from the southern boundary is being constructed, giving a full view of the beautifully sculptured landscape with its paved pathway.

Cartman Library

Photo: Rev James Cartman

The library was named after the Rev. Cartman in recognition of his invaluable service to Wesley. The library is now 60 years old. The college library is part of this extension and was named after Rev. Cartman. It now stands as a monument of honour for his selfless and determined work at Wesley. The library was declared open by the then Prime Minister D S Senanayake on 8th July 1949. In 1955 a full-time senior librarian was appointed for the 1st time to work during school hours. The Cartman Library which houses nearly 8000 books needed renovating, as it was structurally in a poor condition. The leaking roof and the dilapidated ceiling was not a pleasing sight. Though repairs were done many times before, the structural condition was poor.

In the year 2007 the Double Blue Trust of Wesley College, identified the Library area as needing an immediate and complete renovation and refurbishment. A master plan for change was drawn up, and as the initial stage the entire roof of the library area was. taken care of. A beautiful new wooden ceiling with fans and modern lighting replaced the old one. The adjoining library corridor too was renovated and painted. A new wooden stair case leading to the library and classrooms replaced the damaged old stairs.

The Cartman Library

The complete master plan of the Cartman Library includes the replacing of book cupboards with open shelves, separate computer and IT section for the Library and the connection of the Junior Library to the main Library making it one sprawling reading room for the students.

The Junior Computer Laboratory
A computer laboratory was declared open in the 125thAnniversary building in 2006/07 fulfilling the need of IT education of the primary and middle school. Therefore one could assume that due importance has been given to modern standards in the field of education, where future minds of Wesley would carry this knowledge for the betterment of their careers.

Computers and office space for the sectional heads
2007/08 period could be mentioned as the time where due recognition was given to sectional heads and their work. The sectional heads were provided with partitioned office rooms withcomputers installed to encourage organized and efficient work in their own sections. The Welfare Society of Wesley has contributed to this venture, for the sake of achieving high standards in education.

Renovation and upgrading of the hostel 'kitchen
The college hostel which accommodates outstation students of Wesley, was badly in need of a well equipped modern kitchen, which could provide clean and wholesome meals for the hostelers. This need too was taken care of by the Double Blue trust and Welfare Society of the College. The floor and table tops were tiled and new kitchen equipment installed, giving it a new look, with many other structural changes.

Land purchased for expansion of Wesley
A valuable land adjoining the Vice Principals bungalow with a two storied building was purchased by the college for Rs. 24 million, with a loan of Rs. 14 million from the Methodist Church, to expand and develop, in the future. Preparations are also being made to open a branch school in Katunayaka too, which is scheduled to be opened in January 2009.

In conclusion it should be noted that many other aspects of growth were observed at Wesley from 2005-2008. Re-plastering ofthe main building with the exact sculpture was a time consuming repair, while purchasing new furniture, repairing the hostel block and renovating the pavilion are a few instances where Wesley has shown its keenness - never to grow old. The Welfare Society, PTA, The OBU, the Double Blue Trust, the Principal and staff should be congratulated for their dedication and effort, in keeping Wesley forever young and growing.

Wesley College Swimming Pool

Having our own Swimming Pool in our own premises has been a dream of Principals, Old Boys and well wishers for over a half a century. This dream has now come true. The much looked forward to opening of the Wesley College swimming pool took place amidst a large gathering. The swimming pool was commissioned by Rev. Dr. A.W. Jebaneson, President of the Methodist Church graced by Dr. Shanthi McLelland, Principal of Wesley and distinguished old boys of Wesley. Without the enthusiasm and hard work of Dr. Shanti McLelland and the encouragement and expertise of the old boys and well wishers this project would not have seen the light of day. We thank the generosity of all those who contributed money and collected funds. They made it all possible despite the odds.

Opening Ceremony of the Wesley College Swimming Pool, Shower/Changing Room Complex was on 1st August, 2012 at 5.30 p.m. at The College Premises.

As you are aware the Swimming Pool Complex of Wesley College has been constructed with the support and contributions from Old Boys ,Parents and Well-wishers. Although the basic construction of the pool was completed and the initial opening was held in March this year, the other facilities such as the changing rooms and shower-rooms remained to be completed. We are happy to inform you that the additional facilities complete with shower and dressing rooms which could be used by students and other members have now been completed. Membership Cards will be handed over to Individual and Family Life Members during the inauguration ceremony, at which refreshments will also be served. This event is organized by the Principal and the Pool Committee to formally inaugurate the above mentioned facilities, hand over Membership Cards and also to felicitate the Members, Parents, college staff and others who contributed toward the success of this dream project.

Swimming Pool Project Committee - 2012

Seated From Left: Lasantha Fernando (President OBU), Mohamed Cassim Farook (Communications), Sastrya Dolaphilla (Parents’ Representative), Perumal Gajendran (Treasurer, Swimming Pool Project), Dr. Shanti McLelland (Principal, Wesley College), Richie Sappideen (Chairman-Fund Raising, Swimming Pool Project), Champa Rodrigo (Merchandise), Chryshan Rodrigo (Secretary, Swimming Pool Project)

Standing From Left: Teranka Careem, Rajanayagan Thirukumar, Rohan Amerasinghe (Landscaping), Shiham Marikar (Life Membership Marketing Team), Fowzil Nawaz (Secretary, Head of Life Memberships), Maithri Vithanage, Tariq Bazeer (Directory Designer), Peter Wijayasekara

Absent: Minda Isuru Gamanayake (Architect), Raja Sinnathuray (President, Welfare Society), Ranjeeva Senanayake (Chairman – Tile Project), Senthil Rajendran (Life Memberships Marketing Team), Firdouse Ghouse, Farman Cassim, Derrick Goonetilleke, Chandima De Silva.

The History of Wesley College (1874 to 2007)

From Alfred Kulendran David
From Dr Nihal D Amerasekera - Editor DBI

Alfred was a brilliant student at Wesley College and a talented all round sportsman during the 1950's. My sincere thanks go to Alfred David for this most comprehensive and complete account of the history of the school written with such great accuracy, panache and style. When it comes to writing about the school no one does it better than Alfred. On behalf of the brotherhood of Wesleyites spread all over the world I wish him a long and happy retirement. God Bless


From Dam Street to Karlshrue Gardens by Alfred K. David

Member Governing Board

Wesley College, Colombo celebrates the centenary of its shift from Dam Street to Karlshrue Gardens in February this year. A number of events have been arranged to celebrate this event. A Thanksgiving Service to celebrate the occasion was held on 3rd February at the College Chapel.
It was Rev. Joseph Rippon ( a great uncle of Rev. Henry Highfield) who in 1858 mooted the idea of the establishment of a superior educational institution for the Wesleyan Methodist Mission in South Ceylon. As a result Wesley College was founded on 2nd March 1874 (the death anniversary of Rev. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism) in the City Mission buildings at Dam Street, Pettah. In fact, a few years earlier Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira had started a private school in the Dam Street premises and this was eventually absorbed in the school that came to be known as Wesley College. Rev. Samuel Wilkin was Wesley’s first Principal and Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira, the first Vice Principal. Wesley was envisaged to be a distinctly Christian school, providing a high standard of secondary education. From 1874 onwards, Wesley has maintained her position as a premier Christian educational institution in Sri Lanka.

The Early Years  - 1874 to 1895
Rev. Samuel Wilkin was Principal from 1874 to 1879. Wilkin was described as “one eminently fitted for the role of a school master and a college Principal”. From the outset, Wilkin was ably assisted by Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira, an experienced educationalist. Both Wilkin and Pereira were hard working, devoted men and together they laid the foundation upon which subsequent Principals and teachers built. Rev. Wilkin had said that the main aim of the school was to give the boys a substantial education to make them useful members of society. During the period of Rev. Wilkin, the attendance had increased to about 200 boys.

Rev. Arthur Shipam (1880 to 1883) who succeeded Rev. Wilkin was responsible for the Wesley motto “ora et labora” (pray and labour on) which has meant so much to generations of students at Wesley. The third Principal Rev. Samuel Hill (1883 to 1885) came to Wesley from Richmond College, Galle where he had been Principal. His stay at Wesley was short, as he died suddenly at the early age of 32. Rev. Hill’s name is associated with Wesley’s highest award, the Hill Medal, given annually to the best student in the school. The next Principal Rev. Thomas Moscrop (1886 to 1888) was greatly revered. He was very conscientious and hard-working.

s8 He possessed considerable administrative ability and organizing skill. He planned and arranged for the construction of a new college hall, which was opened later by his successor. Rev. Moscrop was also responsible for the construction of a new church and the Methodist Mission House in Kollupitiya. Rev. Thomas Coke Hillard (1889 to 1892), who followed Rev.Moscrop came from a very talented family. He was a graduate of the University of London and represented the University as an oarsman and was a member of the soccer team. It was during the time of Rev. Hillard that the upper classes at Wesley began to prepare students for the newly introduced Cambridge Local Examinations.

The first passes, Junior and Senior, are found in the 1892 lists. Hitherto, the school curriculum “aimed at satisfying the Government inspectors”. The brighter students had worked for the Entrance and First Arts Examination of the Calcutta University. Sometime later the Indian Universities’ Commission decreed that Ceylon’s connections with the University of Calcutta should cease. However, as far as Wesley was concerned, the Cambridge Local examinations had replaced the Calcutta examinations even before the decree was enforced. The Rev. Joseph Passmore (1893 to 1895) like Rev. Hillard before him pursued a clear sighted policy for Wesley. Both Hillard and Passmore improved the standard of work at Wesley and prepared the way for many of the scholastic successes which came in 1895 and the years immediately afterwards. It was during Rev. Passmore’s regime in 1893 that the inter-collegiate cricket matches against both St. Thomas’ and Royal began. Wesley’s first cricket captain was P. de Bruin.

Wesley under Highfield
The most significant contribution made by any Missionary Principal to Wesley was that of Rev. Henry Highfield (1895 to 1925). His coming to Wesley marked a new era. A tribute paid to him said “He was a born teacher with a faculty of lucid exposition. There was the delicate precision of the scholar and the charming simplicity of the clear thinker. In his teaching his exact scholarship and careful preparation gave to a lesson something of the finish of a work of art”. From its inception in 1874, until the early years of the 20th century, Wesley continued to function in Dam Street, though the need for a another more adequate site was increasingly felt. Long before the end of the 19th century, the buildings in Dam Street were most inadequate for the purposes of a progressive educational institution. So Rev. Highfield began to see another home for Wesley.

In 1902, a site of five and a half acres of land at Karlshrue on the west side of Baseline Road, near Campbell Park was acquired. A campaign to raise funds to put up buildings then followed. Rev. Highfeild relieved from school duties for twelve months, cycled around the country making personal appeals to old boys and friends for contributions to the new college building fund. A pamphlet published at the time of Highfield’s departure in 1925 stated “with his gentle persuasiveness, vital energy and indomitable zeal, he covered the length and breadth of the island, and secured what he wanted from high and low, rich and poor, Christian and non Christian……. Today the magnificent pile of buildings at Karlshrue is an enduring monument to his untiring and selfless devotion to a good cause.” Rev. Highfield was able to collect over Rs 38,000.00 The Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in England, having previously promised to give five rupees for every rupee collected in Ceylon added a sum of more that Rs. 180,000.00. Thereby, the new college and hostel building in Karlshrue were erected.

The foundation stone was laid on 4th November 1905 and the new premises at Karlshrue were opened in February 1907. The Vice Principal Rev P.T. Cash wrote “The new buildings were a monumental record of the energy and devotion of Rev. Highfield. In airy and commodious classrooms and in the beautiful even if ill ventilated great hall the work of teaching proceeded happily.” For some years a branch school has continued in Pettah but henceforth Wesley College was to grow and develop at Karlshrue. Rev. P.T. Cash came to Wesley as Vice-Principal in December 1906 and continued until 1920, when he became Principal of Central College, Jaffna. Rev. Cash and his wife most ably assisted Rev. Highfield during this period. Rev. Cash was keenly interested in the science section of the college and was responsible for the provision of equipment for the Physics and Chemistry laboratories. By becoming lecturer in Zoology at the Colombo Medical College Rev. Cash was able to collect sufficient money to provide facilities for the Chemistry, Botany and Physics laboratories at Wesley. In the new college, Highfield and Cash organized the more specifically Christian activities. In 1907, a Wesley Meeting held on Wednesday at 4 p.m. was known as the Christian meeting for several years. Later, it was renamed the College YMCA and there was subsequently added a junior section which had a large membership. The College boarding was opened in February 1910.

Rev. Highfield was held in high esteem by the general public. On questions of policy in education, he was a fearless critic. He was equally fearless in his criticism of government policy. In 1915 during the riots, when a number of leading Buddhist leaders were arrested, Highfield strongly protested against the British action and he played no small part in securing the release of these leaders. At the Wesley College, prize giving in 1948, Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake said “We Sinhalese leaders were over there (in the Welikada jail). Highfield was here and he was the only man in the island to have the courage to say to the British Governor, ‘release these men at once. They are innocent and I can vouch for them!’ We Ceylonese will never forget the courage of the missionaries standing up for us against the Imperial Government and in wartime”.

When Ceylon celebrated its independence in 1948, Rev. Highfield was invited as a distinguished guest of the Government but he was unable to undertake the long journey. However, the invitation was an expression of appreciation and gratitude for his service and goodwill for the country. P. de S. Kularatne an old boy during Rev. Highfield’s time, who became a Buddhist leader, wrote in the Wesley  College magazine at that time “What we are grateful to missionaries is not for their intellectual brilliance although there were many gifted men among them. The debt we owe them is how they befriended us and molded our lives by their integrity”.

Rev. Cash left Wesley in September 1920 after many years of most devoted service. Rev. E.C. Horler joined the school as Vice Principal in 1921. Rev. Horler re-organized the lower school work and was responsible for starting the kindergarten in July 1922.The 50th anniversary of the school was celebrated from 29th February to 3rd March 1924. Rev. Highfield had started a Jubilee fund and the original aim was to raise Rs.75,000.00 for additional buildings. Later this was considerably modified and the target was fixed at Rs. 25,000.00.

Rev. Highfield completed thirty years of dedicated service at Wesley in 1925 and returned to England to take up pastoral work there. Throughout the whole period of his stay at Wesley Rev. Highfield was assisted by a very loyal staff. His headmaster Mr. C.P. Dias joined the staff in 1876 and remained until his retirement at the end of 1926. Rev. Highfield expressed his appreciation of the valuable work done by Mr. Dias, in his Jubilee report in 1924. He said “

Mr. C.P. Dias is still going strong, has helped us and advised us all; and what the college owes to him is quite beyond words to express”. Closely associated with Mr. C.P. Dias was another esteemed member of the staff, Mr. W.E. Mack who joined Wesley in 1884 and retired at the end of 1926.Mr. Mack was a good history teacher. Rev. J.S.B. Mendis (an old boy) wrote “the great subject that Mr. Mack interested me was in History.

I have discovered, both in actual life and modern thought on this subject, that he anticipated much of what is now declared as discoveries in the way in which the subject ought to be taught. He made it fascinating”. In his report at the Jubilee Prize-Giving 1924, Rev. Highfield stated that in addition to Mr. C.P.Dias,  Mr.W.E. Mack and himself, four others had joined the staff before 1900 making a total of 7 teachers who had served over 25 years. The other four teachers were Messrs. C.V. Honter, James S. Ratnayake, F.J. Lemphers and A.H.de Silva.

Post Highfield period upto the 75th Anniversary of 1949
Rev. Albert Hutchinson (1925 – 1928) was Rev. Highfield’s successor. He was a keen disciplinarian, stressing particularly the importance of character building. It was no easy task to follow a Principal like Rev. Highfield, but those who knew Hutchinson speak of the valuable contribution he made to the life and wellbeing of the college. The present House system in Wesley together with Inter-House competitions was introduced during the time of Rev. Hutchinson. The suggestion to introduce the House system was made by Rev. Highfield but it was his successor who began it. The college was divided into four houses, three were named after the earlier Principals Wilkin, Hillard and Passmore, while the Boarding formed the fourth House  (in 1947 its name was changed to Moscoop House).

The new venture was enthusiastically taken up by the students and keen inter-house rivalry followed. During his term of service, Rev. Hutchinson introduced into the college the Prefect system, which Rev. Cash had earlier started at the hostel. The Prefect system has since worked well and many prefects were trained for leadership. Rev. Hutchinson built a new Primary School block of five classrooms on the extreme north of the main building, and soon afterwards was responsible for the construction of the new kindergarten building near the Boarding Block on the Karlshrue side. In 1928 Rev. Hutchinson improved the Science laboratories. The two classrooms beneath the Chemistry laboratory were adapted to make the present Physics laboratory. The Chemistry laboratory itself was re-fitted in the same year. By his sound business acumen, Rev. Hutchinson placed the college which had been in debt, in a good financial position and provided the funds for the new buildings and other improvements.

Rev. John Dalby (1929 to 1940) succeeded Rev. Hutchinson as the next Principal. He had earlier been Vice-Principal during Rev. Hutchinson’s time. Rev. Dalby was a Methodist laymen (he joined the Ministry later). He was a graduate of two universities, Leeds and Oxford. Rev. Dalby was responsible for the formation of the Wesley College Teachers’ Guild. In February 1929 was formed the Wesley College Social Services League.

The Social Services League did not continue long in existence  but its work was largely taken over by the Student Christian Union, and many of its activities, particularly inside the college, were made part of the normal routine of the College. While Rev. Hutchinson was on furlough, Mr. F.A.J. Utting was Acting Principal from July 1931 to December 1933. In 1931 Mr. P.H. Nonis was appointed as Vice-Principal and he was the first Ceylonese appointed to this post. He was also an old boy. During the years between 1931 and 1942, Mr. Nonis played an important role at Wesley as Vice-Principal. From March 1938 to March 1940, Mr. Nonis as Acting Principal guided the affairs of the college. In 1940 Mr. Nonis rendered the college great service when he  was able to purchase the present pavilion in Campbell Park from the Tamil Union for a sum of Rs.10,000.00.

The pavilion was officially opened on 19th January 1940 by Hon. Mr. G.C.S. Corea (an old boy) who was then the Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce. On the same occasion, Mr. P. Saravanamuttu, the President of the Ceylon Cricket Association, unveiled a portrait of the late Mr. C.E. Perera, an old boy, whom he described as “Ceylon’s greatest batsman, perhaps for all time, and a perfect gentleman and sportsman”. Mr. P.H. Nonis continued as Vice-Principal of Wesley until early 1942 when he became Principal of Kingswood College, Kandy. 1940 was to mark the end of Rev. John Dalby’s long connection with Wesley.

During Rev. Dalby’s second term at Wesley (1934 to 1940) there was progress in several departments in the school. He transformed the teaching of the Junior School, introduced several new features in the curriculum to meet the needs of modern education tendencies while the study of Sinhalese received a great impetus under his regime. Although no expert at games, he followed all the activities of this department with enthusiasm. This interest of his was rewarded by the uniform improvement maintained in Wesley’s cricket since 1935.


The next Principal Rev. David S.T.Izzett (1941 to 1943) assumed office in January 1941. One of Rev. Izzett’s first duties was to re organize the House system in the school extending it to all departments of the school curriculam. Hitherto, the House trophy had been awarded on results in sports alone, but now points were awarded not only for sports but for debating, attendance and for scholastic achievement. Rev. Izzett’s first year at Wesley was marked by considerable advances in respect of numbers, examination passes and sports achievements. In his second year, Wesley suffered dislocation along with other schools in Colombo due to the war. In April 1942, the College buildings were commandeered by the military authorities who gave the college very little time to remove its properties. In consequence, considerable losses were incurred both in the college buildings and the hostel, including valuable furniture and science equipment.

The college went into exile, first at Carey College, where in May 1942, the second term opened with only 45 students. Later, the college was removed to Kittiyakkara in Campbell Place, where a number of cadjan classrooms were erected. Soon after the commandeering of the college building, many members of the staff volunteered for civil defense work. Some of them were able to return to school after a few months but others were retained for a much longer period. During the following years, the number of students gradually increased again but the conditions under which the college had to work was most distressing. By the end of 1942, Rev. David Izzett joined H.M. Forces as a Chaplain. After Mr. F.J.Lemphers retired in April 1933, there was no Headmaster until Mr. Eric A. Gunasekera was appointed in 1943. Mr. Eric Gunasekera began his connection with Wesley as a student in 1896 and became a member of the staff in September 1908. During the 35 years he served Wesley, he rendered valuable services to the school. Between September 1944 and March 1945, Wesley was without a Principal and the burden of running the school rested on Mr. Gunasekera.

Rev. W.A. Holden (1943 to 1944) came to Wesley as Principal in March 1943. He steered the school during the war years, since the school had to be content with temporary accommodation in Kittiyakkara. In fact Rev. Holden was not able to do more than keep the college “going”. The prevailing conditions greatly restricted advancement or improvement. The number of students dropped to less than 100 but Wesley continued to function. In his report in 1944, Rev. Holden said “Wesley has a purpose, it enshrines much that is fine in educational life in Ceylon. Such institutions cannot be lightly set aside, they have their roots deep in the life of this land and to seek to tear them up, root and branch, is tear out much of what is noble. It is to throw their traditions to the wind as no value. But that cannot be done without very great and serious loss”.

In September 1944, Rev Holden bade farewell to Wesley. Rev. G.A.F. Senaratne acted as Principal until Rev. James Cartman (1945 to 1949) arrived in March 1945. Rev. Cartman had a formidable task of re-building Wesley. In 1945 the roll was down to 350 boys and little over 20 teachers. Before the school closed at the end of 1945, a long procession of staff left the temporary buildings at Karlshrue where once again the college buildings were occupied. The college premises which were under military control from April1942 to the end of 1945, required extensive repairs and alterations, but it was a proud moment when the staff and boys once more took full possession of the school. Then under the guidance of Rev. Cartman the process of settling in began together with the building up again of the old traditions of the school. Due to the evacuation, the school lost considerable property and, on returning it was found that the wall panels, containing college records had been destroyed. Compensation was received for all external damage and structural alterations to the buildings, but not for the movable properties that were lost or destroyed. 

The arrival of Rev. Cartman at Wesley also coincided with the adoption of a new Education policy by the Government. At that time Government Central Schools were opened in many parts of Ceylon and a large number of special posts, on a comparatively higher salary scale, were available for graduates and first class trained teachers. In view of these opportunities, together with the then fears regarding the future of the denominational schools, many well qualified and long experienced teachers accepted posts in the new central schools. Wesley like many other denominational schools experienced this exodus of teachers. Most of these qualified teachers who left were responsible for work in the upper School and to replace them was extremely difficult. Thus the college was called upon not only to fill the vacancies created by the resignation of teachers, but also to find additional teachers, including several specialist teachers.

After October 1945, the new education policy created several problems for Wesley. The Government made it obligatory for Christian schools to restrict their Christian religious teaching and training to the children of Christian parents. All non-Christian children, whether their parents desired it or not, were no longer permitted to attend a Christian Assembly, prayers, scripture classes or specifically Christian meetings. For these children, moral instruction classes were arranged.

Another state requirement was the insistence upon the mother tongue as the medium of instruction for children in the Primary School. Wesley was thus obliged to create parallel classes for standards 2, 3, 4 and 5: one stream for the Burghers and Muslims taught through the medium of English, the other for Sinhalese taught through the medium of Sinhalese. Along with the mother tongue requirement, came the regulation that all Ceylonese students must pass in either Sinhalese or Tamil at the Senior School Certificate. This sudden change caused much difficulty for many senior boys, especially Burghers who had taken Latin as their Second language.

In 1945 the Government made another far reaching decision when it adopted free education from the Kindergarten up too, and including the University: Denominational schools which hitherto levied fees were given three years to enter the free education scheme. Many schools joined immediately, fearing that if they remained outside the scheme, the State would open free state schools and draw away their students. Wesley was one of the denominational schools that decided to continue as a fee levying school for three years. It was soon evident that instead of a decrease in attendance, there was an increase in students seeking admission to Wesley.

Eventually, the time came when Wesley, like all other Colombo denominational schools was unable to take the greater number of those seeking admission. At the end of 1945, 350 students were in attendance. By 1949, there were 800 on the roll and this unprecedented increase had necessitated the purchase of large quantities of school furniture and equipment. By October 1948, the Government was unable to insist on all the remaining denominational schools joining the Free Scheme and a further two years’ grace was allowed.

In 1948, it was imperative that more accommodation be provided at Wesley, and plans were made for a Building Scheme to mark the 75th Anniversary of the College. Two new classrooms were built on the north side adjoining The Primary School buildings. The Diamond Jubilee Scheme included the completion of Rev. Highfield’s original plans for the college buildings. These included (i) an adequate college library (ii) a biology laboratory and (iii) two new classrooms. The new extensions were opened on July 8th,1949 by the Prime Minister Hon. D.S. Senanayake. The opening was part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations which were held from July 1st to July 10th, 1949.

Rev. Cartman restored Wesley’s image and helped in restoring the school to conditions prevailing before the war. Rev. Cartman worked hard to restore Wesley’s credibility and stability. In order to cope with the increase of the number of students to 800, he was able to organize a 40 strong, loyal, efficient and well-knit staff despite the fact that many senior teachers had left as a result of the changes in the educational policy referred to earlier. He spent a great deal of his time and energy in organizing the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, in the collection of funds for the extension of the college buildings and in the compilation of an excellent history of the school.

Rev. Cartman was undoubtedly The Apostle of Restoration, striving for excellence in whatever he attempted. His name has been fittingly given to the handsome library built during his time. Rev. Cartman’s era, though short-lived, witnessed rapid growth in the school. Wesley’s studies and sports developed tremendously.In particular, Rev. Cartman will be remembered by students of his time and succeeding generations for giving Wesley its war cry; “Zum Zum Zake, Zum Zum Ze, Ishuba Ishuba Ooh Ay Ey”.

The Post Independence Period  
When Rev. Cartman left Wesley in 1949, the ardous task of acting as Principal fell on Mr. Kenneth M. de Lanerolle, the Vice-Principal. He carried out his duties with finesse. Then at the beginning of 1950, Mr. Cedric J. Oorloff (1950 to 1957) was appointed Principal. He was not only the first layman but also the first Ceylonese Principal of Wesley. He brought with him the richness of a classical education and undoubtedly the efficiency of the Civil Service, in which he served before coming to Wesley. His experience was valuable at a time when there were far-reaching changes in the country’s educational policy. It was under the guidance of Mr. Oorloff that Wesley was registered as an Assisted School in 1951.

This was a very significant stage since Wesley ceased to be a private school and was provided funds by the Government for running the school. Then from January 1953, the mother tongue was progressively introduced as the medium of instruction in the school. Mr. Oorloff helped Wesley to cope with all these compulsory changes in the educational policy of the country. Mr. Oorloff was also responsible for launching an Extension Fund to provide new buildings to accommodate swelling student numbers. Mr. Oorloff was greatly assisted in his work by his wife Mrs. Christobel Oorloff, a woman of charm and simplicity. Both contributed enormously to enrich Wesley’s spiritual life, promote her academic claims and successes, and last but not least, rightfully place sport as a discipline to mould the character of numerous youngsters.

In the early 1950’s Wesley gained much prominence in Sri Lanka’s education and sports landscape. Mr. Oorloff was not only an outstanding administrator but an equally committed Christian teacher, who had a deep rooted respect for the young and the family unit as the core of society. Mr. Oorloff was indeed a product of his time, the values of which he vigorously upheld with a sincerity which only people of strong conviction can comprehend and admire.

When Mr. Oorloff left Wesley to join Trinity in 1957, he was succeeded by Mr. P. Harold Nonis (1957 to 1961). Mr. Nonis had been an outstanding student of Wesley who had come under the influence of Rev. Henry Highfeild. He won the Hill medal, captained the cricket team and was Senior Prefect. After graduating in 1924, he joined the Wesley staff and was appointed Vice-Principal in 1930. He was the first Ceylonese to hold this post. He continued to serve Wesley until early 1942. From March 1938 to March 1940, Mr. Nonis was Acting Principal. Mr. Nonis served as Principal of Wesley from 1957 to 1961, which was a critical period in the life of the school.

Mr. Nonis was the first Wesleyite and the first Sri Lankan Methodist to head Wesley College. As a Principal, he took over the role earlier played by a Methodist missionary. During his period at Wesley, Mr. Nonis strove hard to maintain high academic standards. A large number of students gained admission to the University of Ceylon. Many of these persons went on to serve the country in eminent positions in the public service and in other professional fields. Wesley maintained high standards in sport while Mr. Nonis was at its helm. Within a brief period of his arrival at Karlshrue, Mr. Nonis worked untiringly to collect money for the Highfield Memorial Fund.

In 1961 Mr. Nonis had to cope with the situation created by the Government’s decision in January 1961 to take over schools. During the controversy created by this decision, Wesley had to make a difficult choice – either to go over to the Government or continue as a private non-fee levying school. Wesley decided on the latter. Wesley’s decision to become an unaided school in no way shows her dislike for a national system of education. She always supported such a system. Wesley being the premier boys Methodist institution in the island, together with Methodist College, Colombo (the leading girls Methodist institution), decided to go unaided.

All other Methodist schools in the island were handed over to the Government. Mr. Nonis helped to nurture Wesley during these difficult years and perform the demanding tasks of the age. Mr. Nonis was assisted in his task of maintaining high standards of education at Wesley by Mr. L.A. Fernando, the Vice-Principal. He took over this post from Mr. Kenneth M. de Lanerolle. Mr. Fernando made a tremendous contribution to the school during the 18 years he served it. Mr. Fernando was an integral part of the school. He was not only an accomplished educationalist but a person who believed in the student’s rights for freedom and responsibility. Apart from the time he spent in the classroom, he spent many hours in the playing field encouraging the cricketers, athletes, hockey players and other sportsmen.

Mr. Nonis retired in 1962 and he was succeeded by Mr.  Shelton Wirasinha (1962 to 1983). Mr. Wirasinha had been Principal of Richmond College. He was also educated at Richmond where he excelled as an outstanding scholar and a talented sportsmen. With the exception of Rev. Henry Highfield, no other Principal guided Wesley for more than 20 years. Mr. Wirasinha’s spell of 22 years saw Wesley through one of the “darkest” and “bleakest” periods of its history. Mr. Wirasinha had to manage the affairs of Wesley which in 1961, had become a private non-fee levying school. Wesley had now to depend on the donations of parents to maintain the school. The  Wesley College Welfare Society which was established in December 1960 helped in this connection.

The Welfare Society had to interview prospective parents and obtain donations from them to maintain the school. Unfortunately, during Mr. Wirasinha’s era, Wesley had to sell two valuable properties – the flats along Campbell Place and the small park on Karlshrue Gardens to raise funds to run the school. Wesley’s image changed quite drastically during these difficult years. A school which was a predominantly Christian school had now to make various changes and to keep pace with the changing times. Mr. Wirasinha, a staunch Methodist, was backed by the Methodist Church and he continued to steer Wesley through the difficult times.  When Mr. Wirasinha left Wesley in 1983, Mr. Kenneth M. de Lanerolle came to Wesley’s aid as acting Principal. He had on previous occasions functioned in this capacity and once again steered Wesley during difficult times.

The next Principal of Wesley was Dr. Lou Adhihetty (1984 to 1988) who came to serve the school from Switzerland. Dr. Adhihetty was an outstanding student at Wesley excelling in sports. He captained the cricket, athletics, soccer and hockey teams. He represented Wesley in seven games. Though he did not excel in his studies in school, he was successful in entering the University of Cambridge. During the years he spent at Wesley, he tried to maintain high standards in both studies and sports. He strove hard though the Wesley he served as Principal had changed much since his student days in the 1950s. The school faced much financial strain and stress but Dr. Adhihetty managed to keep Wesley on an even keel.   During the period that Dr. Adhihetty served Wesley, he was assisted by Mr. M.A.P. Fernando. Mr. Fernando, another old boy, became Vice-Principal in 1983.

When Dr. Adhihetty left Wesley in 1988, Mr. Kenneth M. de Lanerolle came to Wesley’s rescue once again and became the Principal for a year. Mr. Lanerolle is considered as one of Sri Lanka’s foremost educationalists. He was indeed a colossus in the educational field. It was Wesley’s good fortune that Mr. Lanerolle was associated with the school during difficult times.

Mr. Dunstan Fernando (1989-1995) succeeded Mr. Lanerolle as Principal in 1989. During Mr. Fernando’s period as Principal, there was a great deal of building activity. The Rev. Daniel Henry Perera Building was opened during this time. This resulted in the school being provided adequate classrooms since earlier certain classes were conducted in the college hall. Another very important development was the opening of the college chapel, which greatly benefited the religious life of the school. The chapel building was put up largely due to donations of old boys. During Mr. Dunstan Fernando’s period as Principal, Mr. M.A.P. Fernando continued to be the Vice-Principal. 

Dr. N.A. Ben Fernando (1995 to 2001) the next Principal was a person who had a long association with Wesley. He had his complete school education at Wesley before joining its staff in 1960, which he served until 1965 when he proceeded to England. Dr. Fernando was able to maintain the traditions of Wesley with which he was very familiar. The highlight of Dr. Fernando’s period as Principal was Wesley’s 125th Anniversary Celebrations. During the Celebrations, the 125th Anniversary Building was dedicated on 29th June 2000. The vision for this new building had started in 1996, within 12 months of Dr. Fernando assuming duties as Principal of Wesley.

The foundation for this building was laid on 27th March 1998. The new building also contained a Junior School Resources Centre, whose aim was to improve the quality of English of the students. Dr. Fernando was largely responsible in obtaining finances to build the centre. He visited many parts of England and obtained contributions from persons in England whose support he enlisted. During the period that Dr.Fernando served the school, Wesley maintained high standards in both studies and sports. Dr. Fernando was greatly assisted by his Vice-Principal Mr. M.A.P. Fernando and in particular to make the 125th celebrations the success it proved to be. Mr. Fernando also played a vital role in many areas of the schools activities such as the school clubs and societies. Mr. Dunstan Fernando ascted as Principal of Wesley for a short time after Dr. N.A.B. Fernando left in 2001.

Mr. M.A.P. Fernando became the Principal of the school on 10th July 2001 after the short period the school was in charge of Mr. Dunstan Fernando. Mr. M.A.P. Fernando was an old boy of Wesley College and later graduated from the University of Ceylon. He had been earlier associated as Vice-Principal of the school since 1983. Mr. Fernando was associated with certain note worthy features introduced in the school. The facility was provided to educate a child in the English medium, commencing with Grade 1 to 3 and the Advanced Level Science classes. The new Resources Centre set up by his predecessor Dr. Ben Fernando provided audio and video education tools for the Primary section of the school.

Mr. Fernando initiated a new building project to provide better facilities to students in the G.C.E. Advanced level classes and the middle school. This building was opened on 2nd March 2004. The present Vice-Principal Rev. Shihan Fernando joined Wesley in January 2001. He has been a tremendous asset to the school particularly since he was an old boy. He was of great assistance both to Dr. Ben Fernando and to Mr. M.A.P. Fernando by participating in the varied activities of the school. Rev. Shihan Fernando has also contributed greatly to the religious activities of the school by being its Chaplain.

This narrative has largely dealt with the Principals of the School. It is necessary to remember the role of succeeding generations of teachers who were devoted to the school and had a consuming passion for its welfare. They not only helped students to learn their classroom lessons but also helped them to cope with the important questions in life. Wesley is what it is today, due to their dedicated and loyal service. The present generation of teachers and students have the responsibility of carrying on their good work. In the spirit of “Ora et Labora”, Wesley has to face the challenges of the new millennium, in the same way that it coped with those of the 20th century. Therefore let all of us who are associated with Wesley, wave our colors high and free and take Wesley to the fore steadily!

Links to further reading

The Historic Journey of Wesley College by Shanti McLelland

Wesley College, a Methodist missionary school was founded in 1874.  The school is named after Rev. John Wesley (1703-1791) the founder of the Methodist Church. Wesley was founded by Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira on March 2, 1874 on the dusty streets of Dam Street, Pettah, initially with about fifty students.  The first Principal was Rev. Samuel Wilkin.  In 1906, Rev. Henry Highfield (1903-1939) moved Wesley to Karlsruhe Gardens.

The Motto “Ora et Labora – Pray and Labour On” an integral part of the crest was originated by Rev. Arthur Shipham (1880-1883). The generally accepted interpretation of the crest is that the twelve shells are symbolic of the twelve apostles. The Dark Blue and Light Blue are the hard and soft colours of the Lion Hearted “Men of Grit” of Wesley.
The Senior Houses are named as a tribute to four past principals, Rev. Thomas Coke Hillard (1889-1892), Rev. Thomas Moscrop (1886-1888), Rev. Joseph Passmore (1893-1895) and Rev. Samuel Wilkin (1874-1879). While, the Junior Houses are named to honour four Head Masters for their invaluable service to the school.  They are Mr. C. P. Dias (1882-1926), Mr. C. V. Honter (1896-1928), Mr. F. J. Lemphers (1899-1933), and Mr. W. E. Mack (1884-1926).

The landmark buildings, both historic and contemporary, at Wesley College campus include the grandeur of the Main Block aesthetically built by Rev. Highfield consisting of the Assembly Hall, Chemistry, Physics, and Biology Laboratories, the opulent Cartman Library, and the impressive College Hostel. The elegant Highfield Memorial Block was built in 1959. The more recent buildings are the D. H. Pereira primary building (1990), Labrooy block (1998), Rev. Shelton Wirasinha memorial building (2000), and the Majestic 125th Anniversary Edifice (1999) accommodating the “Centre for Performing Arts”. The Sports Pavilion at Campbell Park was acquired in 1936 and the splendid “John Wesley Chapel” was built in 2001.

The architecturally and aesthetically magnificent College hall elegantly sculptured in Burma teak with intricate carvings Anglo-Saxon era and windows splashed with stained glass were constructed as a monumental Church.  The stately arm chair majestically used by the Principal during morning assembly has been intricately carved and expertly hand crafted in teak, and beautifully woven in finely trimmed rattan. The prize procession was presented during the time of Rev. Albert Hutchinson (1925-1928) was principal.  In 1929, can be carved as a landmark year when fine cricketer Mr. D. Rajapaksa grand uncle of the current President of Sri Lanka Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa joined Wesley from Richmond Galle.

The lyrics of the College Song was written by Mr. H. J. V. I. Ekanayake to the music of the Scottish National Song “Scotts Wae Hae”. He was an old boy of the school and grand uncle of the present Principal. Lawyer HJVI known as the Lion of Ambalangoda for his Grit during the riots at that time. He was greatly honoured by the then British Governor Edward Scott and later Old Wesleyite Sir Oliver Goonetilleke Hill Medal winner a brilliant scholar had the distinction of being appointed the First Governor General of Independent Sri Lanka. Fellow Wesleyite  Sir Claude Corea was hounoured as the first High Commissioner to the United States of America.

Extraordinary HJVI and another distinguished Wesleyite Sir Baron Jayatillke are remembered proudly for being the architects of the Sinhalese Sports Club. Later Sir D.B. went on to become Principal of Dharmarajah College and Ananda College; while Wesleyite P de S. Kularatne founded Nalanada College and Mrs Kularatne had the distinction of being invited to be the Principal of Vishaka Vidyalaya. One of Sri Lanka’s finest sons Mr. Terrence de Zylva known as one of the leaders of the Suriyamal campaign founded Kolonnawa Maha Vidyalya. 

From its inception, until we gained independence in 1948 the Principals at Wesley College were all Christian missionaries from England. The College Library is named after the last missionary Principal Rev. James Cartman.  Rev. Cartman is gratefully remembered for literally raising Wesley from ashes to grandeur after World War II with his distinguished service from 1945 to 1949. From 1939-45 Wesley served as a Military Hospital and the cross is yet visible on the roof as much as Adam’s peak is visible on a clear day from the monument Rev. Henry Highfield built in 1905 after collecting funds cycling around Sri Lanka.

The first Sri Lankan Principal of our school was Mr. Cedric J. Oorloff a civil servant. Mr. A. Shelton Wirasinha an old boy of Richmond College was the longest serving Sri Lankan Principal at Wesley with a term of 23 years (1961-1984).  Wesley has been fortunate to having five other old boys serving as Principals in the past five decades; Cricket captain and Senior Prefect Mr. Harold Nonis (1958-61), all-round sportsman and Cambridge Blue Dr. T. Louis de Z. Adhihetty (1985-1987), Dr. N. A. B. Fernando (1988-2000), and long standing teacher Mr. M. A. P. Fernando (2000-2009) who had the privilege of linking with Wesley for nearly 42 years as student, teacher, Prefect of Games, Vice Principal and Principal. The best ye to unfold!
-           Ora et Labora   -

The Wesley College Coat of Arms

From the OBUA Newsletter June 2011

Have we lost an important part of our identity by not representing the Coat of Arms of Wesley College in full colour and as it was meant to be? By Keith De Kretser

answer to this question is YES. For many generations, one's first impression of the College crest has either been a single colour image or a two tone blue image. We have lived with this image not knowing that the College Coat of Arms once had a colourful presentation depicting the symbolic elements that had a specific interpretation, Sadly this has been lost and it is a terrible oversight that must be rectified.

In our last issue of the Wesley Times we carried an image of the blazer pocket bearing the Coat of Arms of Wesley College that belonged to the late Henry Duckworth who captained the Wesley cricket team in 1936. It is important to note the colours in the Coat of Arms but they no longer appear on the crest and they have been lost along the way for many years. In heraldic Coats of Arms, colours and symbols are elements that symbolise something associated to the roots of the family or in this case Wesley College. It says something about our heritage. However this has not been the case and we have failed to acknowledge, respect and retain the actual colours of the Coat of Arms as designed from our inception by our founding fathers. It was good enough during the era of Principals Wilkin, Shipham, Hill, Moscrop, Hillard, Passmore, Highfield, Hutchinson and Dalby and then no more?

St Thomas' Mt Lavinia- Crest

To this day St Thomas's College(above) and Trinity College(below) have their College Coat of Arms displayed in full colour in traditional format where as Wesley College no longer represents it in its original form The question I pose is why have we forsaken such an important part of our identity and tinkered with altering the Coat of Arms which through history is respected and revered and never changed as a rule.

Trinty College Kandy- Crest

Since receiving the blazer pocket of the late Mr Duckworth I have been puzzled as to why we have ceased displaying the correct Coat of Arms in full colour when the Coat of Arms should represent our very being.

De Kretser - Crest


Many of the Burgher boys who went to Wesley would have their family Coat of Arms which has not changed over centuries. Take for instance my own family - DE KRETSER. The Coat of Arms goes back to the earliest records of the family from the 1400's in Bavaria before moving to Holland. In the article on the origins of the College Crest by Shelton Peiris he covers a broad interpretation of the symbolic representation contained in the Crest that has been gathered over time but sadly missing is the significance of the red cross on a white shield which was in the original Coat of Arms and the colours. There appear to be no records of the true meaning and significance of the colours and neither any records of why Rev John Dalby altered the presentation or for that matter the removal of the colours. In this article I have done my own research and try and provide more explanations for this wonderful Coat of Arm

which relates its own story. It is interesting to note that Wesley College being named after John Wesley has as its core the shield, cross and scallop shells as depicted in the Wesley family Coat of Arms in the image on the right. The origin of the shield in the Coat of Arms with the cross whilst unknown, takes on a couple of possible interpretation not withstanding it's link to the Wesley family. We need to bear in mind that the Methodist Missionaries who brought the message of Christianity to the East through Methodism were our founding fathers.
THE CROSS(Red Cross on white shield)

1. The cross represents Christianity and Christ as the focal point of our being which goes along with the Wesley family motto – "God is love". 1 John chapter 4 verse 8 …"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
2. The cross represents the four compass points of North, South, East and West – the four corners of the world which cover the spread of the Christian message,
3. The cross represents the cross of sacrifice on which Christ died.
Wesley Times June 2011 page 12/24
4. The red cross is very important as it is similar to the symbol used in the Crusades by Richard the Lion Heart in battle. In medieval times the Crusades were lead by Christians and if you look at the images of that era, you will see that the shields protecting the Crusaders in battle were white with a red cross.
5. The red cross is also in the origins of the English flag which is represented by a red cross (the Cross of St George) on a white background.
It should be noted that the St Thomas' and Trinity College Coats of Arms have the red cross, both being Christian schools formed by the Church of England in Sri Lanka. Given that the Methodist Missionaries came across the oceans to spread the Christian message in the East, it is not only symbolic that the College Coat of Arms represented the Wesley family but its Christian and English origins.

The explanation of the twelve scallop shells may also have more than one interpretation.
1. The twelve (12) shells are symbolic of the journeying Pilgrim across the seas, seeking and searching ahead, with no complacency.
2. The scallop shells could also represent the twelve wandering tribes of Israel and
3. The scallop shells could also represent the twelve Disciples of Christ spreading the Christian message to the people.

1. The words "ora et labora" can be attributed to Saint Benedict (500 AD) an ascetic monk who prescribed the rules referred to as "The rule of Benedict" which is a set of precepts. The Rule of Saint Benedict has been used by Benedictines for fifteen centuries, and thus St. Benedict is sometimes regarded as the founder of Western Monasticism. The spirit of St Benedict's Rule is summed up in the motto of the Benedictine Federation which is ora et labora ("pray and work").
2. The Methodist Missionaries who set sail for the Far East had as their charter to spread the message of Christianity. When one considers the Wesley family motto of "God is Love", the brothers John Wesley and Charles Wesley were both ordained as Anglican Priests like their father and led an evangelic revival within the Anglican Church at the time that came to be known as Methodism. It is only natural that the motto reflects that sense of order and priority prescribed in John Wesley's teachings in how one should conduct one's life, i.e devotion to God and work. Therefore "ora et labora" defines man's true function - to pray and to work. Rev Arthur Shipham gave Wesley her motto

In examining the symbolic elements contained in the College Crest, I find it difficult to accept the need for the embellishment that was proposed by Rev John Dalby (Principal 1929 - 1934) and subsequently implemented. Having no records to support the proposed changes other than that it was commissioned by Rev John Dalby, I have conducted some research in to what possibly made him propose this change. The College Crest as we know it today is represented by the Coat of Arms at the centre surrounded by outer concentric circles bearing the name of Wesley College and contained within an outer circle with a scalloped edge. The Coat of Arms represents Wesley College for over 50 years and is a traditional symbol. It raises the question "Why did Rev John Dalby who is accredited with the change, modify the Coat of Arms or embellish it ?"
In the period 1920 – 1940, (post World War 1), there was a new trend for stylizing architecture, symbols, fittings and a host of structures. It is referred to as the "Art Deco" era where themes were often classical motifs reduced to geometric stylisations. It was very popular in the period and perhaps as a sign of the times, Rev Dalby felt it was important to translate the College Coat of Arms into an Art Deco style. It has made the Coat of Arms very busy, the scalloped outer circle is typical of the geometric curves(arcs) introduced to embellish things in that period. In modern speak we would refer to it as "Corporatising" the Coat of Arms to effectively a logo. I believe in so doing it has lost the symbolism of what the College Coat of Arms was meant to represent and I would guess that at the same time, the Coat of Arms took on a single colour losing its true identity. I may be wrong but there are no records that refer to this and the reason for the changes.

Having spoken to many Old Wesleyites of the "war " years (1939 -1945) and beyond, they can recall the "Dalby" crest as being in single colour. Perhaps circumstances at the time of the War and recovery from the great depression of that time may have influenced the introduction of a single colour image. The following are possible reasons for the single colour:

1. Availability of coloured threads to embroider the crest in full colour.
2. Cost of materials to embroider the crest in colour.
3. Wesley College campus was used for other purposes at the time of the war and with the many distractions and re-location that was around at the time and the introduction of the embellishments by Rev Dalby to the coat of arms, having the "Dalby" Crest in a single colour may have been practical and cost effective at the
time. However it never returned to the colours of the original coat of arms as it was meant to be and has been lost to generations of Wesleyites since then.

I believe it is important that the symbolism and the colours in the College Coat of Arms are not lost to our history. The Coat of Arms in its original colours and the College Crest with the core(the Coat of Arms) in full colour would look terrific when you consider that the photo of the blazer pocket it is faded having been embroidered over 80 years ago and using threads that lacked lustre and sheen.
I have had the College Coat of Arms and the College Crest re-done by a graphic artist in its original colours. What do you think?


College Coat of Arms College Crest
It is not too late to restore our Coat of Arms to its full colours and maintain our heritage. If we do not it will be lost forever and that would be a terrible tragedy and disrespect for the efforts of founding fathers. Had it not been for Mr Duckworth bequeathing his blazer pocket to the Old Boys Union in Australia, we would never have known this part of our historic identity.

When our founding fathers were considering matters of significance like our Coat of Arms, the College motto and our college colours, they were mindful that they vested with the responsibility of educating and developing the lives of your boys to turn out to be young men, gentlemen, decent, educated and upstanding in society. Men of grit and industry as our College song states. Therefore like the Coat of Arms, when picking the College colours, they symbolised a meaningful statement connected with what they were hoping to achieve. The light blue and dark blue were not selected because they were pretty colours.

To some of you who may not know, the College colours – Light Blue and Dark Blue may also have symbolic links representing
1. Cambridge University (light blue) and Oxford University (dark blue) the oldest seats of learning in England. You would note that many of the Missionary Principals were either graduates of Oxford(Oxon) or Cambridge (Cantab).
2. The two blues also represent the sky and the ocean - what you would see if you gazed at the horizon. We joined Wesley College and began a journey of learning and development which has no boundaries very much a kin to the horizon which goes on and on as far as our eyes can see. When we joined Wesley College it was the start of a journey of learning and development which presented fresh challenges every day and searching for limitless knowledge. It will be the same tomorrow as it was on our very first day at Wesley, as we journey through our days endeavouring to reach those goals we have set ourselves in our daily life.
3. Another interpretation is that the colours represent our destiny. The Light Blue the tranquillity of heaven – the sky, celestial space and Dark Blue the tempest, the depths of darkness, despair and hell.

In conclusion: I believe that all of the above interpretations could add credence to what the Wesley Coat of Arms represents the values they have stood for all these years will remain unchanged regardless of shape, colour or form. That's Wesley College.




 Wesley Primary is in its 3rd year at the Boys Industrial Home (BIH) site. Children from Grade 1 to Grade 3 receive their education at this branch. A total of 364 children are presently enrolled with a staff of 20 handling the work.

A security guard mans the premises and the gardens and takes care of the needs of the children.

From 2010, a bilingual system of education is being followed. General subjects are taught in mixed medium classes after which the students break-up into the three mediums (English, Sinhala and Tamil).

At present we have five Grade 1 classes, two Grade 2 classes. The original batch of students that started their education at Havelock Town campus comprises the two Grade 3 classes.

Extracurricular activities:
Many extracurricular activities have been introduced this year being Hockey, Badminton, Cricket, Basketball and Tennis where the fundamentals are taught.  In Tennis we have formed a small team that practices after school. We hope to participate in the Inter-school Mini Tennis tournament. Chess will be introduced to students during the year. Children also have the opportunity to join the Cub Pack which meets every Thursday. We have about 33 students in the pack. The Cubs have now been given the task of keeping the premises beautiful and neat.

We are proud to say that due to the donation from an old boy parent Mr. I Mohideen, instruments for a western band have been received and we will have our own band very soon.

Joint Activities under the Wesley Flag:
Wesley Primary with the students at Borella and Katunayake participated in many activities which are as follows:

  •     The Annual Sports meet,
  •     Founders Day celebrations, the Carol Service,
  •     Fusion 2009,
  •     English Day, and
  •     Other important events.

We are also looking forward to jointly under the Wesley flag participating in the Talent Search and Fusion 2010 event.

 Our own programs:
We conduct our own programmes too. They are

  •     Art and Handwork Exhibition,
  •     Educational tours,
  •     Campfire get together with a Carol Service,
  •     Celebration of Elders’ Day with the elders in the compound,
  •     Activity Day, and
  •     An Easter Service combined with the Logos School..

We take pride in stating that the first ever Junior Speech Crafter program in the history of Wesley College was conducted by this campus. This was promoted by our Principal Dr. Shanthi McLelland. This was also the first time it was conducted for this age group in the Island . The Rotary Club of Colombo North assisted us and a spectacular Awards Ceremony was held in March 2010. This programme is continuing successfully at Wesley Primary in Havelock Town.

Our Activity day this year will be conducted on an inter-house basis.

 Building Leaders for tomorrow:

Facilitating the growth of abilities as well as developing the child intellectually is another of our aims at Wesley Primary. We strive to mould the child to face the challenges of the modern world.

Discipline, leadership, and self esteem, is built through various methods. Children are challenged to participate in Spelling Bee Competitions. Presentation in all three languages and General knowledge training is conducted in parallel with the general education syllabus.

The computer lab provides students with Information Technology education to cope up with modern technology.

As the children need to be trained in leadership too, we have appointed children with leadership qualities as helpers to assist in maintaining the discipline.

Monthly and Term end evaluations are conducted regularly for each class. On the last Thursday of every month the parents have the opportunity to meet their child’s class teacher to discuss their progress.

 Future Activities:
We are presently practicing to participate in Fusion 2010 and also our own little concert during the third term.

A Campfire with a Carol Service will be held later this year.

The Staff at Wesley Primary Havelock Town are grateful to all parents and well wishers who have given their total support and encouragement in numerous ways particularly the Principal, Vice Principal and Chaplain for their guidance at all times. It is due to the team work and total commitment and dedicated service of the staff at Havelock Town that this branch of the School has ensured its progress and success. The staff have at all times done their very best to give their students a sound holistic education. This has all been possible through God’s Grace. 

Ms. O.D.C Fernando

Wesley College Primary School at Katunayake.
The Opening Ceremony

The New Building in Katunayake
The Principal receiving the Chairman of the Methodist Synod
Blessing the New Primary School

Wesley College - 140 years by Peter Casie Chetty

25th March 2014

When the Dutch dominated the low country of "Ceylon" the more residential areas were around the Fort and the Pettah. These areas however went into decline with the transfer of colonial power to the English and those areas underwent a steady decline. In 1874 when Reverend D.H. Pereira built a school it was to educate the working class Dutch people's children. This was the Dam Street area not far from Hulftsdorp. An Englishman Rev. Samuel Wilkin was the chosen principal educator of the Dam Street school where 150 boys from the Pettah area attended.

In 1907 the campus was then moved to its present location on land belonging to the Methodist Church. It stood with the front gates facing Baseline Road and the rear entrance was on Karlshrue Gardens. This came around the time that Wesley's most famous benefactor Rev Henry Highfield took charge. The man was a legend to everyone who knew him and the statute of the great man is seen when one enters the gates of this esteemed institution.


From 1895 to 1925 under Rev. Highfield the campus grew in size and pupils of different denominations were accepted at Wesley who maintained that tradition throughout. Highfield was known to have ridden a bicycle around England collecting funds for his favourite dream: Wesley College. He continued collecting funds and even today the high impressive wooden ceilings, the works of art and design the endearing stain-glass windows shed light on the boys and men who would bring great repute to the institution. They were works of Victorian and Edwardian art in every sense of the word. The school hall is still the most astonishing piece of Wesley College and over the staff entrance today hangs a photograph of a man whose praises could be sung each year on founder's day, the first week in March.

Many famous old pupils of Wesley graced this school before they became the beacons of Ceylonese Society. One of the most noteworthy was Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, later the Governor General of Independent Ceylon. Appreciated by members of both sides of the house for being impartial, Sir Oliver was one Wesley will always be proud of. Mayors and politicians, businessmen and physicians, lawmen and lawyers they all had sung the school song with gusto every-time it was sung since it was composed and written by H.J.V.I. Ekanayake in 1898. This song was paradoxically based on a war song meant to rally Scots warriors against the rule of Edward king of England. It is a war song while the words of the school song mean to gather all Wesleyites old and young around "the bands of double blue". It advocated fraternity and some should listen more closely to the words and what it really means.

Most recent is the name synonymous with Wesley - Mohamed, who rose from Municipal Councilor to being Mayor of Colombo then rose from the back benches to being part of the engine room of the conservative UNP governments. Mr. Mohamed has had five sons and many nephews, grandsons and nephews all loyal old Wesleyites.

Other men were Sir D. B. Jayatillake who with composer lyricist H.J.V.I. Ekanayake founded the now world famous Sinhalese Sports Club in 1898. Wesley was honoured by the presence of another icon in Rev James Cartman (1945 - 1949) to whom the senior school library is dedicated to. Rev Cartman has the reputation of being the man who encouraged Wesley to being a bigger player at school cricket after the war years and the decline. His encouragement was taken up by two stalwarts Edmund Dissanayake and Shelton Pieris. The revival was stupendous and soon Wesley was treated as the school to beat.

Rev Cartman was followed by Cedric J. Oorloff a civil servant who gave up a lucrative practice at law to lead the school into the glorious 1950s and beyond. His stay created a bond between two schools - Wesley and Trinity and that friendly rivalry is still carried on with a fraternity beyond par. During this time Wesley shone in all sports and as an academy. He was assisted by vice Principal Kenneth de Lanerolle himself an ardent sports fan.


The school in these years produced the famous Claessen brothers, Radley, Brian and Herman, the Adhihettys, Lou and Vincent, the Fuards, Abu and Ansar and M. N. Samsudeen. Orloof went on to take over Trinity College in 1957 and Wesley had their first of many old boys principals in P.H.Nonis. Wesley had to turn a corner when the dilapidated historical buildings were crumbling with neglect until Dr. Shanti Mc Lelland sacrificed a career in Canada to right the wrongs and return the school to its pristine glory. The school now boasts a magnificent swimming pool and a campus that has many loyal old Wesleyites proud.

The school also has three new primary school buildings and will soon have a spanking new five storeyed building to house the Colombo Primary School where the Boys' Industrial Home, Wellawatte once stood.

Dr. McLelland was preceded by principals Dr. Lou Adihetty, and Chemistry scholar world renowned. Dr. Adihetty was in his time Senior Prefect, and captain of the cricket, football, hockey and tennis teams. N.A. Benito affectionately known as "Nabbie" Fernando was a leading hockey player before he moved to England to teach there.

He was followed by M.A.P. Fernando also known as "Mappa" who served from 1985 - 2008.

The saying is that a great institution will always rise out of shambles. That is exactly what Wesley has done over the past five years.


A New Look for the School Buildings - 2016

22nd January 2016

From Nihal D Amerasekera

My thanks to Richie Sappideen for sending me the photos

Ora et Labora

The image I carry with me of the school is still the view of Wesley College I saw on my first day in January 1950. I was mesmerised by the elegant sweep of the majestic buildings. Now as I reflect it is impossible to forget its history and the sacrifice of those who founded the school. I can picture Rev Highfield, looking vigorous and fit, pacing the Great Hall and the endless corridors as his dream of a new school in Karlsruhe Gardens was fulfilled.

Time has not diminished its splendour. The family of 1200 students and teachers have made me what I am today. Growing up in such surroundings was a privilege. What I learnt on and off the classrooms has helped me in my long and tortuous journey through life. Despite its ups and down Wesley remains, at least in my thoughts, as one of the finest schools in the country.

However timeless and imposing, the school is not just a set of buildings but a vibrant community. Memories return as I see the familiar buildings which was my home away from home for 12 long years from 1950. As a boarder I was in the premises 24X7. Then the school was painted a dark magnolia which is the one I will always remember.

I wish to include some words of wisdom so elegantly written by an old Trinitian and a former Wesleyite - the late Sharm De Alwis: As we grew in limb and stature we learned that boarders owned the College. Day scholars were only visitors. It has been said of boarders that the school was their school, their home, their club and their family. The close bond that existed between boarders was impossible to break. This has been the cornerstone of any brotherhood of boarding life. How very true as I look back with nostalgia.

Those were some of the best years of my life. Schools are places of endemic change. Every year new students join and those who have left go farther on life's journey outside the school gates. The friendships I made and the teachers that taught me are deeply etched in my memory. I hope successive generations of Wesleyites will feel the same gratitude that I have for the school. Ah!! those were the days.

During my school years Wesley had the most beautiful gardens. When the many flamboyant trees were in full bloom in April with their deep red colour it seemed as if the trees were on fire. The tall tamarind tree stood majestically in the centre of the front lawn. This has been a permamanent fixture since Wesley moved to Karlshrue Hill in 1905. The Welikada prison opposite the school reminded us of the big bad world outside. Baseline road too has changed much to become a busy dual carriageway. I hope as we are engulfed by change within and without we do not lose sight of the vision of the founding father Rev Daniel Henry Pereira.

Wesley College ensures friendship and goodwill to all old boys and hope the joy of shared memories will give them a continuing stake in the school's success.

A New Look for the Chemistry Laboratory - 2019

3rd January 2019

Nalin Karunatilleka addressing the gathering at the Opening of the refurbished Chemistry Lab

From L: to R: Wilhelm Van Dort, Nalin Karunatilleke, Mr Avanka Fernando (Principal)

Appearance of the refurbished Chemistry Lab

From Wilhelm VanDort, President of the OBU, Colombo

I write to inform you all about the good news that the College Chemistry Lab was re-furbished and opened this morning by Distinguished Old Boy Mr. Nalin Karunatilleka, for the Boys of Wesley as they Commenced their new Academic Year today. The Refurbishment was made possible thanks to the generosity of Mr. Nalin Karunatilleka in memory of his Dad the Late Mr. B.J. Karunatilleka, on the Initiative of the OBU Colombo.

Attached below are the photos of the Opening this morning. The Principal Mr. Avanka Fernando was very appreciative of the effort, and so were the Students and Teachers.

The OBU Colombo hopes to complete the Physics and Bio Labs also in the near future. As you know work in the Labs can be done only during the School Holidays.

I wish to thank the Principal for organizing the Breakfast after the opening, and I thank all the Members of the Exco who participated in the opening today.

God Bless you.

Ora Et Labora

From Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

The Chemistry, Biology and the Physics laboratories are close to my heart as I spent a fond 2 years with a happy band of 6th Formers from 1960-62. I pay homage to my teachers: Mr LA Fernando - Chemistry, Mr V Chanthirasekeran - Physics, Mr Charles Yesudian - Zoology and Mr. Suntheralingam - Botany. They are some of the happiest years of my life. In memory of those times I donated a sum of money which was used to buy new apparatus and furniture for the laboratories over 20 years ago. Thanks to Wesley, those years helped me to gain entry to Medical School and to a professional life. I recall and remember my teachers and friends who helped me to achieve my goals with much gratitude. None of my former teachers are alive today and a few of my classmates have crossed the vale. May they find Eternal Peace.

I fondly recall the support staff who cared for the laboratories: Lab Rodrigo (Chemistry), S.S Silva(Physics) alias 'Garandiya' and Bio Harris (Botany and Zoology). They all took great care of the laboratories. None of them are alive today. I still remember their friendly smiles and helpful advice. May they Rest in Peace.

I wish the teachers and students who tread the hallowed grounds of the laboratories, at present and in the future, achieve every success in their endeavours. May their memories prompt them to find comfort in remembering their teachers, friends and their Alma Mater.

Some Images from Our Archives from the early 20th Century
Kindly sent to me by Wasantha Kasthuriarachchi

We were unable to find any captions or details for the photos but we wish to preserve them for posterity

Amidst the Damba trees at Dam Street a school took root
By Anoushka Jayasuriya

This article appeared in the Times Newspaper of Sri Lanka on 3rd July 2022

Amidst the damba trees at Dam Street a school took roots By Anoushka Jayasuriya The celebrations begin as Wesley College prepares to mark 150 years in 2024View(s): 163

The school motto ‘Ora Et Labora!’ meaning ‘pray and labour’ was proclaimed proudly throughout the evening in the main hall as the Wesley College fraternity launched their milestone 150th anniversary (March 2024) celebrations this week.

Before settling at its current home at Karlshrue Gardens, Borella, Wesley College’s roots were at Dam Street in Pettah where the school was founded by Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira on March 2, 1874 during Dutch colonial rule. Rev. Pereira served as the school’s first Vice Principal during the Principalship of Rev. Samuel Rowse Wilkin and it was the old Methodist Church’s verandahs at Dam Street thickly flanked by ‘damba’ trees which served as the school’s first location.

With Pettah eventually undergoing fast industrialisation in 1895, Rev. Pereira recognised the growing need for new surroundings. In 1902, a site of five and a half acres of land at Karlshrue Gardens on the west side of Baseline Road, near Campbell Park was acquired. The tenacious Rev. Henry Highfield, one of four young missionaries who travelled to the East from London in September 1895, assisted in moving Wesley College to its current location in 1905. The foundation stone was laid on November 4 and the new premises at Karlshrue Gardens was opened in February 1907.

Wesley College now has over 3000 students and employs over 200 academic and non-academic staff. Founded as a Christian Boys School, over the course of its 148-year history, it has welcomed a multitude of students from diverse backgrounds, races and religions.

The launch of the 150th anniversary celebrations took place on June 28, coinciding with the founder of Methodism, John Wesley’s birthday, and commenced with the unveiling of both the official logo of the 150-year milestone as well as the launch of the official College website. Between a grand Kandyan dance display and moving performances by the Wesley College brass band and Choir, the keynote speakers for the evening were alumni who shared memories of their days at Wesley.

Special invitees included the President of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka and Manager of Wesley College, Rev. Ebenezer Joseph, Secretary of the Methodist Conference, Rev. Leslie Dareeju, Vice President of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, Roshini Peiris, Chaplain of Wesley College, Rev. Rajeev Palihawadana and former Principal of Wesley College, M.A.P Fernando.

Among the speakers were Dean of the Faculty and Senior Professor at the University of Kelaniya, Prof. Sudath Kalingamudali, cricketer Farveez Maharoof and Group Managing Director of the Metropolitan Group of Companies, Ivor Maharoof, media personality Kumar De Silva, and founder of Sri Lanka Unites, Prashan De Visser.

Farveez Maharoof shared a few words on the strong support he received from his alma mater when undertaking his duties as vice captain of the Under 15 national team while concurrently preparing for the Ordinary Level examinations. “Cricket has given me everything but to do that, College first gave me the foundation and the discipline, the gratitude, fellowship and brotherhood,” he said.

“If I look back at my time at Wesley College, we grew on three pillars; education, sports and extracurricular activities – connecting these three pillars, the underlying motif with a vengeance was discipline. Discipline was key, it was critical and it was drilled into us and that has, I believe, made us what we are here today,” Kumar de Silva noted.

Prashan De Visser spoke in similar vein: “All of us came to Wesley as boys and left as men. Not just men, but men with deep values and character that was instilled upon us in these hallowed halls and instilled upon us by these amazing teachers and principals who cared for us – who saw that their call in life was to ensure that they brought out the best in us.”

To mark the landmark anniversary, Wesley College has organised a range of projects and programmes focusing on education and infrastructure not just for Wesley but more needy schools as well. One such project initiated in 2018 focuses on assisting 150 schools in rural and underprivileged areas in the country.

A magazine chronicling Wesley’s extensive history is also to be released and several fundraising events are planned including a ‘Walk of Grit’ and its first ever Double Blues symphony orchestra performance.

Addressing the gathering, Principal Avanka Fernando outlined the school’s guiding philosophy of inculcating Christian values and providing a holistic education to all students. “To guide all our students aiming to reach their goals by inculcating core values of trust, sharing, to be innovative, to promote discipline and to be men with integrity while respecting each other and be second to none.”

The 150th Anniversary of the School - 2024

Collated by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Added 30th January 2023



Core Committee: Principal Mr. Avanka Fernando OBU: Capt. Navin de Silva


FEB 10th 2024

INTER-BATCH INDOOR CRICKET TOURNAMENT at Fusion Indoors, Borelasgamuwa | 9.00am to 9.00pm Contact: Ajwad Cader +9477353911 ajwad78@yahoo. Com

FEB 11

INTER-SCHOOL OLD BOYS INDOOR CRICKET at Fusion Indoors, Borelasgamuwa | 9.00am to 9.00pm Contact: Ajwad Cader +9477353911 ajwad78@yahoo. Com

FEB 22-24

3 DAY/ TRADITIONAL MATCH V. ST. BENEDICT’SCOLLEGE “CARTMAN CUP” AT OVAL Chair: Farman Cassim +94777342720 farman_cassim@hotmail. Com

MAR 01

FOUNDER’S DAY ASSEMBLY at 7.30am College Hall


Chair - Jeremy Brohier +94777393264 jeremybrohier@gmail. Com


Contact: Divakar Ratandurai +94777689631 divakar. ratnadurai@soscvsrilanka. org



CRICKET MATCH – Campbell Park Contacts: Principal@wesleycollege.lk or sportsadmin@wesleycollege. Lk

MAR 02

WESLEY WALK 2024 from College Premises at 7.00am Co-Chairs: Richie Sappideen +94777897257 richsap04@gmail. com

Maithree Vithanage +94776928822 maithri@jatholdings. com


Contact: Divakar Ratandurai +94777689631 divakar. ratnadurai@soscvsrilanka. Org

MAR 03


8.00am at College Chapel

Contact: Principal@wesleycollege.lk



AWARDS CEREMON Y & CLUB NIGH T at College Pavilion

Co-Chair Contacts: Ajeevan Arumugan +94772092982 ajeewan.aru@gmail.com Mahesh Wijayanayake +94777281071 mahesh. wijayanayake@hnb. Lk

MAR 04


Chair: Fowzil Nawaz +94777900808 fowzil. nawaz@gmail. com


Contact: Peter Peiris +94773237073

peter. peiris@dmselectronics. Com

MAR 05

OLD BOYS GOLF TOURNAMENT at Royal Colombo Golf Club, Colombo 8 Contact: Ivor Maharoof +96777707347 ivri@metropolitan. lk

PAST V. PRESENT – BADMINTON at MC A Courts, Torrington Contact: Peter Peiris +94773237073 peter. peiris@dmselectronics. Com

MAR 07

WESLE Y OBU CRICKE T C ARNI VAL (MELBOURNE / UK / S YDNE Y / MIDDLE EAST/ CANADA / SRI LANKA) & FELLOWSHIP E VENING – Campbell Park Co-Chair Contacts: Ajeevan Arumugan +94772092982 ajeewan.aru@gmail.com Mahesh Wijayanayake +94777281071 mahesh. wijayanayake@hnb. Lk

MAR 08

PAST Vs PRESENT – HOCKEY & SOCCER from 4.00pm Campbell Park

BASKETBALL - WATER POLO 7.30pm onwards College Premises


Co-Chair Contacts: Ajeevan Arumugan +94772092982 ajeewan.aru@gmail.com

Mahesh Wijayanayake +94777281071 mahesh. wijayanayake@hnb. Lk

MAR 09

OBU AGM WITH BREAKFAST 8.00am at College Hall

Contact: Afzal Abdullah +94777300108 Afzal. Abdullah@nationstrust. com



Co-Chair Contacts: Ajeevan Arumugan +94772092982 ajeewan.aru@gmail.com Mahesh Wijayanayake +94777281071 mahesh. wijayanayake@hnb. Lk


Co-Chairs: Richie Sappideen +94777897257 richsap04@gmail. com

Dharshana Liyanage +94770751569 dhara247@gmail. Com

MAR 10


Co-Chair Contacts: Ajeevan Arumugan +94772092982 ajeewan.aru@gmail.com Mahesh Wijayanayake +94777281071 mahesh. wijayanayake@hnb. Lk

MAR 11


Co-Chairs: Jeremy Brohier +94777393264 jeremybrohier@gmail. com Wilhelm VanDort +94777318000 wilhelm. doubleblue@gmail. Com

MAR 15-16


MAR 16

“FUSION 2024” (MUSICAL TALENT OF WESLE Y) at Nelum Pokuna Contact: Principal@wesleycollege.lk

* Events and Dates are subject to periodic updates

Core Committee Chair, Principal Mr. Avanka Fernando Secretary - Chryshan Rodrigo Treasurer – College Finance team

Head of Fund Raising - Richie Sappideen

Chronicle - Jeremy Brohier

Memorabilia - Fowzil Nawaz, Nawaal Qasim Marketing &

PR – Ranil Tillekeratne, P.Edema

Helping 150 schools - Divakar Ratnadurai

Planting 150 trees – Tyrone Ahamath, R. Amerasinghe Walk 2024 – Richie Sappideen, Maithree Vithanage Change of street name - Ivor Maharoof

1st day cover & Bookshop project - Ranil Tillekeratne “Fusion” musical event –Rushan Hewawasam


OBU Projects Chair Capt.Navin de Silva

Secretary - M S M Rizwie

Treasurer – S.Renganathan

Sports –Ivor Maharoof, Dharshana Liyanage Pavilion Restoration –Ivor Maharoof, Memorabilia – Rohan Perera

Past Teachers Felicitation – Fowzil Nawaz Banquet – Jeremy Brohier, Wilhelm Van Dort

Dinner Dance –Richie Sappideen, D.Liyanage OBU 150th AGM – Divakar Ratnadurai/ Afzal A International Liaison – Bill Deutrom


Some nostalgia - By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

Rev Daniel Henry Pereira

The 150th Anniversary of the birth of our school will dawn on the 2nd of March 2024. It is once again the time to honour and pay tribute to the Founders of our school and the Methodist Mission. They arrived in Ceylon when daily life was difficult. Healthcare and sanitation were basic. There were many deaths due to typhoid and dysentery. Travel was perilous. People were vary of foreigners and their intentions. The struggle for independence from foreign rule was beginning.

They had the commitment and the devotion to spread the gospel and also to provide an education to the young. The missionaries received immense help from the locals like Rev Daniel Henry Pereira who helped to establish the school in Pettah.

We had lowly beginnings as a school in Dam Street Pettah. As the school grew Rev Henry Highfield had the wisdom and the foresight to think ahead to build our fine new school in the plush surroundings of Karlsruhe Hill. The schools problems never ended with the move as new difficulties and obstacles appeared in the horizon.

The 150 years have been a long and tortuous journey. In the intervening years we have had two World Wars and two serious pandemics of Spanish Flu and Covid-19. The school has survived it all and thrived.

We moved to this present site in Karlsruhe Gardens in 1907. This is the image of the school I still have as I walked through the gates on my first day at school on the 8th of January 1950. It is also the final image I remember as a student as I looked over my shoulder on my last day at school walking down the drive in April 1962. In the intervening years I saw this image everyday as a schoolboy. As a boarder 1952-58 I saw it in the evenings, at night and at weekends. I am certain many Wesleyites will have similar memories. Those who attended the school at its very beginning in 1907 and to the present day this image has changed so little over the years.

I will forever cherish those memories of Wesley.

Links to further reading


From Alfred K David - The disruption caused by the WW2

Wesley suffered dislocation along with other schools in Colombo due to the war. In April 1942, the College buildings were commandeered by the military authorities who gave the college very little time to remove its properties. In consequence, considerable losses were incurred both in the college buildings and the hostel, including valuable furniture and science equipment.

The college went into exile, first at Carey College, where in May 1942, the second term opened with only 45 students. Later, the college was removed to Kittiyakkara in Campbell Place, where a number of cadjan classrooms were erected.

Soon after the commandeering of the college building, many members of the staff volunteered for civil defense work. Some of them were able to return to school after a few months but others were retained for a much longer period. During the following years, the number of students gradually increased again but the conditions under which the college had to work was most distressing.


From Shelton Peiris - The release of the school from the Armed Forces

It was the Rev. Cartman's persistent pleas, his personality and integrity, blended with tact, that moved the South East Asian command under Admiral Mountbatten, to release the Karlsrhue building and the playing fields. On receiving these back, there was the gigantic task of fitting and refurbishing the buildings yet reeking with the stench of death. Rev. James Cartman strove with fervour to carry out repairs and demolishing structures put up within the building. The entire place had once more to be made suitable for a school community. It certainly was gruelling- work. Cartman had a trusted group of Senior students who worked with pride to restore the school.

It was on December 3rd 1945. with much of the work completed Cartman led from Kittiyakara a procession of students and teachers and other staff with the College flag held high, and Wesley was re-occupied with joy and pride with the Rev. Basil Jackson conducting a short service of thanksgiving.


Our grateful thanks to Rev Henry Highfield

Rev Henry Highfield

e1The 20th Century was also a time of enormous change in the world and also in our island. With our independence from British rule we were free of the shackles of subjugation. But with freedom came ultra nationalism and futile ethnic divisions. These led to a conflict lasting nearly three decades and a pointless loss of lives. Successive governments caused enormous damage to our system of education. This resulted in a financial crisis at Wesley College. We had to sell "our family silver" to survive. The school sold the prime land at Small Park and also the Staff flats to pull through those hard times. But survive we did. The school returned strongly to continue to provide a fine all round education to our students as we have always done in good times and bad.

This is the time to remember with thankfulness the Principals and Teachers who have served the school diligently and with great dedication. Let us not forget the many students who have been through the school. Without them there will not be a school. With the fine all round education they have received many have proceeded to become useful citizens of this wonderful world. In turn the Old Boys Organisations worldwide have generously contributed to the School coffers to help Wesley bloom and blossom as one of the finest schools in the country.


Jeremy Brohier - Recording the History of the School

Jeremy Brohier

Jeremy Brohier, a respected Old Boy, is writing the history of Wesley College Colombo. He is no stranger to writing having produced a fine book on cricket called "Wesley’s Cricket History". It was well received and was a sell-out. We eagerly await his new epic on the 150 years of existence of our school unravelling its many mysteries. The book has been many years in the making. No stone will be unturned to get to the bottom of those controversies. There will be plenty of surprises. Some hidden gems will be unearthed . Those well guarded secrets will see the light of day from our long and tortuous journey from dusty Pettah to elegant Karlsruhe gardens.


We request your support and company for this our Special occasion

Walking the long corridors of the school, visiting its many class rooms and being seated in the Great Hall one cannot but feel the presence of the person who made it all possible, Rev Henry Highfield. He was the Principal of the school for 25 years and would have known every corner of those lavish buildings and every blade of grass in our garden. His voice must still echo in the ether at Wesley College. Rev Highfield will remain forever the 'pater familias' of our great school.

As we celebrate 150 years of our existence as a school let us pay homage to the structures that have survived the years like the Methodist Church and the remnants of the old school in Pettah, the residence of Charles Ambrose Lorensz which is now the Principal's bungalow at Karlsruhe Gardens, and the splendid Tamarind Tree that has stood the test of time.

I hope very much many of our old boys will attend the celebrations and support the school to make it a memorable event. Some of us may not be around for the next big celebrations for the 175th Anniversary. So do make the best this time round.


Wesley College to restore its past

From the Sunday Observer 30th July 2023

The Wesley College Old Boys Union, under the leadership of its president Navin De Silva has embarked upon an ambitious project to restore the Wesley College Pavilion to its former glory.

The initiative is part of the school’s sesquicentennial commemoration, scheduled for March 2, 2024 and the restoration aims to transform the existing pavilion into a monumental sports facility while preserving its splendid architectural heritage at Campbell Park.

The Pavilion’s significance dates back to its acquisition by Wesley from the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club at Campbell Park in 1940. Said to have been built in 1900, one year after the club’s formation, Wesley will soon celebrate its 124th anniversary in 2024 with the archeological value and a history resembling an English country clubhouse and the pavilion was inaugurated on January 19, 1940 by old boy GGS Corea, Minister of Labor, Industries and Commerce at the time.

The current Pavilion holds nostalgic and personal memories for countless scholars of Wesley College but it is now in an advanced state of decay, necessitating immediate restoration.

All previous restoration attempts have proven either exorbitantly expensive or only temporary solutions according to the Wesley College authorities.

Taking charge of the restoration project is the vice parton Ivor Maharoof, along with a select committee of dedicated and distinguished Wesleyites that includes banker S. Renganathan as the project treasurer.

The Committee said it is dedicated to renovating the Pavilion while ensuring that it retains its classic colonial architecture on the same hallowed ground and a comprehensive refurbishment will offer enhanced facilities to both players and visitors, enabling them to create lasting memories.

Over the years, Wesley’s Pavilion hosted some of Sri Lanka’s finest cricketers, including the legendary Mahadevan Sathasivam, CE Perera, Abu Fuard, LR Goonetilleke, MN Samsudeen, Brian Classen, S. Jeganathan, Russell Hamer and in the recent years Farveez Maharoof and Jeffery Vandersay among numerous Wesley cricketers.

Wesley sportsmen in rugby, athletics, football and hockey, including the legendary A. Mylvaganam, have graced the site during their sporting endeavors.

The architect of the restoration is Murad Ismail, a highly respected exponent and a disciple of the famous architect Geoffrey Bawa. He is the son of old boy Dr. Ifthi Ismail and nephew of another distinguished old boy Prof. Mahroof Ismail.

According to a Wesley official, Ismail has volunteered his expertise for this project without charge and his commitment exemplifies the collective rallying call for the Wesley fraternity to restore the school’s sporting pride, transforming it into an iconic masterpiece treasured by Wesleyites for generations to come.

To kick start the whole project, Wesley launched its fund raising campaign on Friday at Campbell Park.


Double Click the link below


Links to further reading

The Methodist Day and its significance

By Shirley.W.Somanader

Added 7th August 2023

Photo: Shirley Somanader

The author: Shirley.W.Somanader B.A. (Ceylon). Diploma in ELT (UK) Former Asst. of Director Education A former Editor of 'REACH' [Journal of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka]

What is Methodist Day ?

This is the day- 29th June, (1814)- on which five of the original band of seven Methodist missionaries set foot on Sri Lankan soil. The leader of the group, Dr Thomas Coke died at sea and never reached Sri Lanka. The seventh arrived later on 23rd February 1815. The work started by these seven missionaries has had a great impact on progress of the nation. Hence, June 29th has become a very significant date in the history of Sri Lanka.

Why a Methodist Day?

Methodist Day is not simply a day on which a tiny group of 20,000 or so Methodists, in the midst of a population of 19 million Sri Lankans, celebrate the arrival of their religion. It is a day of notable significance in the history of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has not been the same ever since that day. Methodism has made its contribution to the development of the nation in every sphere of human activity- education, development of Sinhala and Tamil languages, printing and publications, culture and traditions, economic and social progress, etc. The chief motive for the labours of the missionaries was to teach and preach the Gospel but in doing so they introduced very positive and permanent strands in National ethos of Sri Lanka.

What are the significant contributions of Methodism and Methodists to the history of Sri Lanka?

English education The most significant and lasting contribution of Methodism was in the field of education. Methodists spearheaded the development of English education in our country in the 19th and 20th centuries. They sustained well-organized, high-class schools where English language was thoroughly taught. English was gaining the status of an international language at this time; becoming the lingua franca of the world The Methodists established first class English schools all over the island. The people themselves realizing the value of learning English demanded the setting up of these schools. Their immediate aim was to study English and gain employment in Government and private sectors because English was the language of administration at this time. But learning of English ultimately led to receding of insular attitudes and the broadening of an international outlook: For English, as Nehru pointed out, became the ‘window on the world’ to us. We were empowering ourselves with an efficient tool to deal with universal progress in Science and technology. Now, after many years of reversion to swabasha only, the nation has realized the value of English. As a result, English medium schools in the form of International schools are being established in every part of the island. The Education Ministry has also adopted a policy of allowing English as a medium of instruction; to co-exist with Sinhala and Tamil streams in many government schools today. English in its race against the other four international languages, namely French, Chinese, Russian and German, has gained much ground. We should be thankful that at least the missionaries have left us on the winning side.

Liberal Education Further the great educational system established by the Methodist missionaries provided a rich legacy of Liberal education to the nation. To mention a few examples, Richmond College was founded in 1876. Richmond had tremendous impact in raising the national consciousness, promotion of Buddhist education and the advancement of the Southern Province. The liberal education provided at Richmond was able to produce many national leaders, reformers and outstanding Buddhist laymen. Foremost among them are P. de.S. Kularatne, C.W.W.Kannangara. W. Dahanayake, Dr.J.H.F.Jayasuriya and Thomas de Silva. At the Diamond Jubilee of Richmond, Mr C.W.W.Kannangara, who helped to make education freely available to the rich and poor said these words when he was Minister of Education: “The place where I stand is for me holy ground, sanctified by the tread of Mr Darrel (a distinguished Principal of the school) … I stand here as one who remembers the time when he was the poorest of the poor. If I have done, any little thing in the world, the credit belongs entirely to this institution.”

Other Methodist schools, which have played a distinctive role in shaping national life, are Southlands and Rippon in Galle; Girls’ High School in Matara; Wesley and Methodist Colleges in Colombo (Wesley has the unique honor of counting Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, the first Governor General as its old boy. The first Prime minister of independent Sri Lanka, the late Mr. D.S. Senanayake, who was the Chief Guest at the 75th Anniversary of Wesley College, Colombo said, with a voice charged with emotion when he recalled the panic action of the Colonial Secretary who during the Sinhala-Muslim riots of 1915, jailed all Sinhala leaders, “ We Sinhalese can never forget the contribution that the missionaries made to this land. Highfield was here and we were there” – he pointed dramatically to the Welikade Remand Prison on the opposite side of the road - - “and he was the only man who had the courage to go up to the Governor and tell him that those Sinhalese leaders were his friends and were innocent and must be released immediately!” And released they were. It is worthy of mention here that Highfield went on a collecting campaign on bicycle all over the length and breadth of the country for funds to expand the buildings of the school. Wesley was also the nursery for the promotion of cricket.); Kingswood and Girls’ High School in Kandy, Newstead in Negambo, Methodist Central and Vincent in Batticaloa, Jaffna Central (Among a galaxy of eminent men produced by this school, two men strode this country as distinguished men, Dr S.C.Paul and Dr W.G.Rockwood, while a third Mr Nevins Selvadurai became a member of the state Council) and Vembadi in Jaffna; Hartley and Methodist High School in Poimt Pedro (Prof.A.C. Eliezar the Cambridge Wrangler in Mathematics studied at Hartley College); besides these, many other schools have contributed in no small measure to the social, political, economic and cultural life of the country. Before schools like Zahira College were established most of the leading Muslim politicians and thinkers were educated at Methodist Institutions like Wesley, Richmond, Kingswood and Batticaloa Central Colleges.

Women’s Education

In the early part of the 19th century conservative and traditional view was to accept that the woman’s place was the home and the kitchen. But the establishment of fine Girls’ High Schools in all the towns of the island helped to liberate women from their inferior status. Through the education she received a woman was able to become a better mother, a more understanding helpmate to her husband and also take up various public functions like teachers, nurses and even enter the higher echelons of public service such as managers, doctors and lawyers. One can only imagine the numbers of educated women produced by such Girls’ High Schools as Methodist College, Vembadi, Jaffna, Girls’ High School, Kandy, and Vincent School, Batticaloa who were liberated during this period.

Modern Science-based Education

Modern system of primary and secondary and high school education was introduced at this time. The missionaries often challenged the government to establish state schools. When government policy favored English schools, the Church relentlessly fought for vernacular primary education. Teacher training colleges were established for this purpose as far back as 1845. Methodists established over 500 Sinhala and Tamil schools in the island.

The English High Schools were first to teach Modern Sciences like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. In addition to the Classical Languages like Latin and Greek that were taught; semi scientific subjects like Geography and Economics were on Curricula. When Sri Lanka’s economy was changing from subsistence cultivation to plantation agriculture and this in turn led to the development of a network of roads and railways and there was a growing need for surveyors, engineers and administrators. It’s the mission schools that produced such quality personnel to satisfy this need.

Sinhala and Tamil Research and Studies

Some missionaries were instrumental in the development and promotion of the Sinhala language. Rev. B. Clough produced the first English-Sinhala Dictionary in 1821. He also produced a Sinhala-English dictionary in 1840. These were only dictionaries until the close of the 19th century. Rev. Peter Percival of Jaffna, an outstanding Tamil scholar, who wrote many books in Tamil, produced an English-Tamil dictionary. . Rev. Peter Percival translated Bible into Tamil in collaboration with Arumuga Navalar. Rev J.D. Gogerly was acknowledged authority on Pali. Many of his research papers were published in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Printing and Publishing

The Methodist introduced printing technology to Sri Lanka. The Wesleyan Mission Press established in 1815 in Pettah was the first printing and publishing establishment in this country. The chief contribution of this press was the casting of Sinhala types in 1816 by Harvard. So began the production of Sinhala and Tamil books for use in schools and the publishing of Sinhala and Tamil literary works. Some scholarly missionaries like Rev John de Silva (‘Sinhalese Grammar for Lower Schools’) and Rev. Samuel Langdon (‘Notes on Science Teaching’; ‘Punchi Nona’) wrote books, which became acceptable textbooks for use in Schools.

Culture and Traditions

During the British Period of Sri Lanka’s history, there were significant changes in the administrative system. A personal form of government through a hierarchy of chiefs that came down from ancient times changed into a bureaucracy, which was responsible to the Governor. This in turn gave way gradually to a parliamentary democracy. The Courts applied The Roman-Dutch Law. In matters of commerce British law was adopted All these administrative, constitutional and legal changes needed men of understanding with new attitudes and outlook. The English Schools run by the missionaries produced, by changes in popular sentiment, mutations of thought and vibrations of conviction such men of standing and intelligence who could implement these changes that have become a permanent feature of Sri Lankan Society. It is possible to claim that Independence would hardly have been a practicable proposition in Ceylon but for the leaders who have been provided by the Christian schools.

The missionaries sometimes went beyond the field of education and helped to record culture and practices of the native people Rev. Benjamin Clough wrote the first Pali grammar and vocabulary in English, which was published in 1824. “ The Ritual of the Buddhist priesthood” translated from the Pali Kamawachaa was printed by him for Oriental Translation Fund of the Royal Asiatic Society. Rev. Callaway was another missionary who published “Yakkun Natanawa” and “ Kolam Natanawa” in English. “It is by far the most reliable source we have for the reconstruction of Kolam”, says Prof.E.R.Sarachandra in his book, ‘The Folk Drama of Ceylon’. Methodists showed a keen interest in the Buddhist renaissance. Gogerly and Spence Hardy studied Sinhala, Pali and Buddhism genuinely. John Wesley’s new concept of community life, “ Gain all you can, Save all you can and Give all you can”, became the maxim of President Premadasa- one of the most charismatic leaders of Sri Lanka. He received his primary education at Harvard Methodist School in Pettah. In sports, Wesley College became early nursery of cricket. Football and Tennis were also introduced. Sri Lanka In cricket, a game introduced by the missionaries, Sri Lanka has excelled on the world stage in recent times

Social Impact

Traditionally the church took its stand with the poor and underprivileged. Thee Methodist missionaries were alive to the many evils of their time as their leader John Wesley to the social barbarities and evils of 19th century England. The Church spearheaded Temperance movement intensifying its cause and criticizing the action of governments’ policy on making liquor freely available. The Social Service Leagues established by the Church in every district led to a general awakening of the ‘social conscience’. “Papers on Social Service’ by Rev. J. S. de Silva had great influence in this direction. The Social Service leagues of the Methodist churches raised people’s awareness on such social evils as Depressed Classes, Usury, Child marriages and on matters sanitary and hygienic. Rev.G.A.F.Senaratne and the Colombo City Mission lost no time in organizing public relief for the wounded and homeless when the riots of 1915 shook the nation. Hon.P.Ramanathan makes reference to the work of Rev. Senaratne in his book “Riots and Martial Law in Ceylon”

In England, the principal works of social reform of the 19th century were achieved by a few individuals whose social enthusiasm was the direct influence of the Methodist Movement. These men were Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Richard Oastler, etc. They were spiritual sons of John Wesley. In Sri Lanka too most of the social reformers C.W.W. Kannangara, A.E.Goonesinha, R. Premadasa and Leslie Goonewardene and a host of others were men who came into contact with the Methodist tradition. These men resolutely opposed the philosophy that held that human happiness was best secured by giving capital absolute control over the lives and liberties of men and women. They opposed the idea of placing a value on man as mere unit of energy in a mechanical system. It is these ideas, which are still exercising our political decisions even today.

A lot of devoted work by the missionaries among the depressed Tamil community in North Ceylon brought response. Under tyrannical the caste system, crime was measured not by the character of the deed but by the caste of the offender. A fine will expiate the crime when a Brahmin did it; death or torture was reserved for the man from the lower caste. These attitudes were changed. The novel idea of trade and commerce and the new relationship pf Credit and Debit leveled down other distinctions. The knowledge of western medicine the missionaries brought with them vastly improved on state where yearly thousands died through various plagues. Dr J.H.F Jayasuriya’s greatest and most permanent work was the establishment of the National Association for the Prevention Tuberculosis of which he was the first President. He raised public consciousness on problem, which at time threatened health of the nation seriously. His work led to chiefly to the elimination of this threat. He studied under the guidance of great teachers like Darrel and Small of Richmond College. The abatement of disease and the conservation of life by sanitary practices were some concepts introduced through the schools.. The whole fabric Sri Lankan home life changed in the matters of dress, furniture, food and housing during these times.

Spiritual, Moral and Ethical reforms

The dissemination of Christian ethics and morals through schools among a great people, who at this juncture were demoralized and depressed due to the economic and political conditions of times had a salutary effect on Society as whole. Superstitions and the observance of Omens had almost paralyzed the capacity for free actions of men. Animism and devil worship had even crept into the Temples. Rational and Scientific attitudes brought in by the missionaries helped cleanse society of these unfortunate practices.

Historical milestones

The first Methodist Church in Asia was founded in Sri Lanka. The oldest Methodist Church in Asia still stands in Pettah, Colombo. Ceylon, as it was then known, was the scene of the beginning of Methodist work in Asia. Methodism was taken from Sri Lanka to India and China, Burma and Indonesia The famous Panadura Debate of 1873 between Migettuwatte Sri Gunananda Thero and Rev. David de Silva, the Methodist Minister, was an early example of significant inter-religious dialogue.” Communities in dialogue” is very much in vogue today as a result of concept put forward by the late Pope John Paul II. But Sri Lankans introduced this practice as far back as the 19th century. The dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism attracted the attention of Col. H.S. Olcott who founded the Buddhist Theosophical Society and through it the development of Buddhist education.

Methodist leaders have been known for their courageous stand on National Questions. Rev Soma Perera took a bold stand and spoke up for a political solution to the ethnic conflict through negotiation. Rev. Harold Fernando, at the height of the National Crises demanded the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of elections. Both spoke as the leaders of the Methodist Church.

Rev. Theodore Perera founded the Dewa Suwa Sevawa the healing mission in Moratuwa “The influence of the Methodist Church, Sri Lanka has extended far beyond its shores, with Sri Lankan Methodists taking their places in significant areas of proclamation and service both in Methodist Churches and ecumenically in many lands. The penetration of Sri Lankan Methodism throughout the world in a far greater ratio in numbers to most other churches is indeed remarkable”, said Rev Joe. Hale, General Secretary, World Methodist Council Rev. Dr D.T. Niles became the President of the World Council of Churches. Rev. Dr. Lynn de Silva became the Director of the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue.

Thus, it is not an exaggeration to say that Methodism and Methodists have had a positive influence on Sri Lankan Society far beyond their size or numbers would warrant. A small but vibrant community has indeed touched the soul of the nation and made an elegant and ancient culture and society more beautiful and richer by its presence.

It is important to take balanced view of the work and influence of Methodist missionaries during the British rule in Ceylon. The business of belittling their work began in the period of restoring Sinhalese and Tamil languages and Buddhist and Hindu cultures. It would be wrong to judge the work of the Christian missionaries solely in the light of events connected to the development of National culture. The scope of history, as Professor G.C.Mendis points out. Is far wider than cultural developments. It covers political, economic and social movements. The changes that took in these three spheres as result of the exertions of the missionaries were radical indeed


Copyright © 2015 Dr Nihal D Amerasekera