Premasara Epasinghe – man for many seasons



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Premasara Epasinghe


by Ralph Gunawardena


 


Epa, as he’s best known was born on October 5, 1937 at ‘College House’ of the old University College (presently the University of Colombo). His father, D. R. Epasinghe, was an employee of the University College who worked with greats such as Sir Ivor Jennings, Sir Nicholas Attygalle, Prof. Gunapala Malalasekera etc. His mother was a school teacher who taught for more than 30 years in various schools at Dematagoda and Homagama. From Epa’s childhood his mother was the greatest influence in his life. She wanted her son to be a simple unassuming person and insisted that he balances his studies with sports.


Epasinghe had his early education at Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo and later joined Nalanda Vidyalaya at grade three. Nalanda moulded young Epasinghe’s character and gave him a good English education. Here he found his first love – cricket - and played as an opening batsman/wicket keeper. He was a member of 1957 champion side captained by Chandrasiri Weerasinghe with players such as Daya Illukkumbura, Mahawatte Premaratne, Mahinda Athulathmudali, Shirley Weerasinghe, Mithra Siriwardena, Nihal Amaradasa, Danister de Silva, twin brothers, Parakrama and Gamini Jayawickrema Perera (present Minister of Wildlife) and Sarath Silva. This champion side was coached by Gerry Gooneratne, one of the best school cricket coaches in Sri Lanka at that time, who produced dozens of national cricketers during his 35 years of coaching. He inculcated good cricketing values and sportsmanship on all cricketers who came to him. Even today Epasinghe remembers his coach with great respect. After Nalanda he played for Bloomfield C & AC (Daily News and Sara Trophy) and also for the Government Services.


As a kid Epasinghe visited the temple very often and learned ‘Wadankavi Potha’ and ‘Ganadevi Hella’. He was fortunate to learn Pali and Sanskrit from his father’s brother - Mawittara Sri Revatha, Nayaka Thero of Walukaramaya at Kollupitiya. In later years he acquired knowledge on Buddhism mainly by reading and associating with Buddhist monks such as Ittapane Dhammaloka - presently the Maha Nayaka Thero of the Kotte Chapter and Prof. Dr. Bellanwila Wimalaratne Nayaka Thero. Epasinghe was a freelance writer on Buddhism. He took part in various Buddhist discussions on TV and wrote many articles and books on Buddhism.


His professional career started at Mahanama School at Kollupitiya in May 1958 as an English teacher, thus becoming one of the pioneer teachers at Mahanama. In 1963 he joined Sri Jayawardenapura University as a teacher. Subsequently he became an undergraduate at Sri Jayawardenapura.


Very few people know that he studied at Sri Jayawardenapura University and obtained a degree (Bachelor of Arts) in Sinhala, English and History. After graduating, he selected teaching as a career and his first appointment was to Sigiriya Maha Vidyalaya, Sigiriya, which had only three teachers. He was one of the first or perhaps the first graduate to teach in the Dambulla area. He was so committed to his work that didn’t feel much of a difference in teaching in Colombo and Dambulla.


October 14, 1967, can be considered as the darkest days for Sri Lanka archaeology. Epasinghe was on his way to the school early morning and he was told by one of his students about the tragedy at Sigiriya where some uncivilized and unpatriotic ruffians had vandalized and damaged the world famous Sigiriya Frescos. Epasinghe, a patriot in every way, rushed to Sigiriya to get the first hand information about the tragedy and conveyed the news to the media. Dr. Raja de Silva, then Commissioner of Archaeology, and Italian Luziano Maranzi restored the frescos to their former glory.


Epasinghe was not destined to be a teacher for a long time. In 1970 he joined Bank of Ceylon as Public Relation and Marketing Manager. While working there he found his second love – music and was the live wire behind the ‘Aradhana Programme’ which became a national hit. He then joined Mr. N. U. Jayawardana’s Sampath Bank, then known as Investment and Credit Bank thus becoming a pioneer of the Sampath Bank. Apart from teaching and banking he had been a consultant on marketing management for many companies and banks lecturing on marketing management in Sinhala and English. He also had the privilege of working with five cabinet ministers - Lakshman Kiriella, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, Maithripala Sirisena and Susil Premajayanth. He always believed in honesty and integrity and never solicited political favours.


His love of cricket never diminished due to pressure of work or any other commitment. He earned a name for cricket commentary and still recalls with gratitude Mrs. Nanda Jayamanne and Mr. Livy Wijemanne who introduced him to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. His first radio cricket commentary started in 1971 with the Royal-Thomian and continued for many years. He had the privilege of commentating on the first, 100th and 150th Cricket Test Matches of Sri Lanka. It was late Gamini Dissanayake who brought him to Sri Lanka Cricket’s ‘Commentary Box’ and sent him to Pakistan to cover the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Test Series in 1985. Since then he had visited all the Test Cricket playing countries except the West Indies and sat in the Commentary Box with giants like Trevor Bailey, Peter Baxter, Brian Johnson, Richie Benaud, Tony Greig etc. He was at Lahore in March 1996 to give live ball by ball commentary at the pinnacle of Sri Lanka Cricket-The World Cup Victory. His commentary at the World Cup final was brilliant and the people who listened to the radio were able to visualized what was happening at the match in its final moments.


Apart from cricket commentary he served the Interim Committees of Sri Lanka Cricket during Jayantha Dharmadasa and Arjuna Ranatunga era and wrote many articles on cricket and published two cricket books namely-‘ Ma Dutu Cricket Lowa’ (The World of Cricket That I Saw) and the other about his cricketing hero Sir Donald Bradman -‘Bradman Era’ with the preface written by late Tony Greig. He wrote, " When I heard the sweet dulcet voice of my friend Premasara Epasinghe, for a moment thought that the legend of World Cricket Commentary late John Arlott has come alive" . Epasinghe was recognized by the Sri Lanka Cricket Board for his services to the game of cricket and awarded the ICC Cricket memento when Sri Lanka completed 100 years of cricket.


Epasinghe was a visiting lecturer at the National Institute of Business Management on Public Relations, Leadership and Management. He was much sought after as a guest speaker at many functions, due to his knowledge of the subject, flow of words and oratorical skills. He considers Sir Winston Churchill and SWRD Bandaranaike as great orators and while at Nalanda as a schoolboy, he had a rare privilege of witnessing SWRD Bandaranaike making his brilliant speech at the Town Hall Colombo after forming the SLFP.


Epasinghe was a teacher and married a teacher in 1968 when he wed Swarna Samararatne from Deraniyagala, a pioneer teacher at Stafford Ladies at Colombo-7. They are blessed with two children-son Bhagya and the daughter Upsara. Bhagya studied at S. Thomas’, College at Mt. Lavinia and played in the Royal-Thomian cricket match in 1989 as an opening batsman like his father who opened for Nalanda College. These are two leading cricketing schools in the country. Bhagya was selected to the under 19 cricket national pool in 1989. Later he decided to pursue his studies and now he is a leading accountant in Australia. Epasinghe believes that his son’s birth brought him good fortune and that prompted him to name his son- Bhagya.


Epasinghe who is a lover of history named his daughter after Sigiriya Frescos (Upsara). She was a national squash player, started her career as a banker at Seylan Bank, later migrated to Scotland and now lives in Singapore. She is married to Dr. Harinda Goonesekera, a medical consultant.


As an educationist and teacher, Epasinghe firmly believes that all students -boys and girls - should not only pursue their studies with books but also participate in various extracurricular activities and sports and said " that what we want in education is not only to produce good citizen but a productive citizen with moral values who can serve the world in a big way"


Premasara Epasinghe is a man of many talents - teacher, historian, educationist, lecturer, banker, writer, marketing guru, public speaker, TV and radio commentator. When he looks back on his life he feels that his success is due to his wife, Swarna who remains the wind beneath his wings.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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