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Sports in Kandy from the last century to recent times



When one thinks of sports in Kandy in the last century the most important thing that comes to mind is the achievement of Duncan White. He was the first Ceylonese to win a silver medal at the Olympics which he achieved in the 1948 Olympic Games held in London. Up to now no other male Sri Lankan athlete has been able to emulate Duncan White. The only other Olympics silver medalist from Sri Lanka was Susanthika Jayasinghe which she achieved as a result of the gold medalist being disqualified.

Later there were the long distance runners who participated in the 10,000 metres event at the Olympics. They were Linus Dias, SLB Rosa and Ranatunga Karunananda. Linus Dias captained the Sri Lanka team at the 1960 Olympics held in Rome. All these athletes were from the Kandy District, and all three had been products of Berreawaerts College in Ampitiya.

Though they were not able to emulate Duncan White in winning any Olympic medals, Karunananda became a hero at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by completing the last four laps of the race alone after all the other competitors had finished. He was cheered right to the end by the spectators, and he became a hero in Japan as well as in Sri Lanka.

In athletics another product from Kandy was MA Akbar who won a Silver Medal in pole vault at the first Asian Games held in 1951.Both Akbar and his elder brother met with their deaths under tragic circumstances. Whilst Akbar died of a motorcycle accident his elder brother, MA Hakeem died in a freak accident when he was officiating at an athletic meet. This was when a discus accidentally flew off an athlete’s hand and struck him on his head. He succumbed to this injury.

Cricket had two outstanding products of Kandy who brought fame to themselves as well as to the country. They were Muttiah Muralidaran and Kumar Sangakkara. They were from the two rival schools in Kandy, Murali from St. Anthony’s College and Kumar from Trinity College. Both of them hold records in world cricket with Murali holding a bowling record in Test cricket which might remain for a very long time. In addition to these two famous cricketers, there were ACM Lafir and Ruwan Kalpage, both from St. Anthony’s College and TB Kehelgamuwa from Dharmarajah College were in the national team at different eras. Niroshan Dickwella and Lahiru Kumara from Trinity College are presently in the national pool.

Whilst on cricket, I must mention that the first schoolboy cricketer of year was W. Premaratne of St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota when he won he award in 1957 and the second such cricketer was Maurice Fernando of Kingswood College, Kandy who secured the title in 1958.

Hockey was a sport that flourished in Kandy in the mid twentieth century with Kingswood being the leading school whilst Trinity and St. Sylvester’s College also produced good players. The most outstanding hockey player from Kandy was Freddie White (younger brother of Duncan White), an old Kingswoodian who was considered Asia’s best goalie at one time. The other national player from Kandy was Derrick Harvie who was selected as a national player while still a schoolboy at Kingswood. Iqbal Jumar was the third national team player from Kandy (also from Kingswood). The other two who were on the verge of national selection were Mohamed Jumar and WB Adikaram.

On a personal note, the hockey I learnt at Kingswood College helped me to play for the University of Ceylon Peradeniya team and captain the team in my final year. We for the first time won the inter-club tournament conducted by the Kandy District Hockey Association that year. It took the University over a decade to repeat this achievement. I was able to participate in the All-India Inter University Tournament held in Ahmedabad in 1961 as a member along with WB Adikaram another product of Kandy. I also got an opportunity to play as fullback with three illustrious hockey players from Kingswood College – TS Adahan for the Nationalised Services team and Dilsiri “Bullet” Peiris for the Government Services in the Hockey Nationals and with Freddie White for Bloomfield Club in the Andriesz Shield Tournament.

Women’s hockey too became a prominent sport in Kandy with almost all the leading girls’ schools taking to the sport. The game became popular in Kandy after the Kandy Whites women’s team dominated the hockey arena in the 1960s. Zohara Jumar was an outstanding player for Kandy Whites and she secured a place in the national team. Of the other players Nayani Madushani Jayaneththi (product of St. Anthoy’s Convent) takes pride of place as she captained the national hockey team in 2014/2015.

Rugby football was the sport where many players from Kandy excelled. The credit for starting rugby football has to go to Mr. LE Baze’, Founder Principal of Kingswood College who introduced the game at Kingswood in 1893, and the first match was played against Trinity College on August 11, 1906 with the match ending in a draw. Kandy produced most of the national players in rugby football with many of them being from Trinity College. The names of all who have donned the national jersey is too long a list to remember. There have been outstanding players such as Nimal Maralande, Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Mahinda Ratwatte, Eric Roles, Ken De Joodt, Mohan Sahayam, Glen Van Langenberg, etc from Trinity College.

The other players who represented Sri Lanka have come from Kingswood such as Nalaka Weerakkody, Fazil Marija, Eranda Weerakkody , Owen Mattau, Iqbal Jumar, etc, and from Vidyartha which produced players such as TB Wijesinghe, George Jayasena, Edwin Gunaratne, etc, St.Sylester’s had players such as Nimal Leuke, Tony Direckze, Lucky Peiris, etc and Dharmarajah which produced players such as CS Fernando, SU Mendis, Daya Jayasundera, etc. At present the captain of the national rugby football team is the Kandy skipper, Sooriyabandara.

In respect of football, Kandy used to have a very popular and very vigorously played inter-club tournament which attracted a large number of spectators with most of the matches being played at Bogambara grounds. But I cannot recollect any other players of yesteryear who represented Sri Lanka, except for Tom Ossen.

There were some outstanding boxers from Kandy such as Raymond, Bobby Jayaweera and Malcolm Bulner who were products of St. Sylvester’s College. Manju Dinesh Kumara Wanniarachchi (from Vidyartha College) won a Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in the bantamweight category (but unfortunately he was stripped off his medal after failing a drug test).

Kandy also produced outstanding weight lifters in the SA Wijewickrama brothers and a son Athula, all of whom represented the country. It was Ransilu Jayathilaka who brought fame to Sri Lanka and especially to Kandy by winning medals at the Commonwealth Games and winning the title five times in succession at the Asian Games.

The schools in Kandy are involved in big matches in various sports. The oldest big match in cricket in Kandy is the Battle of the Maroons, that is the big match between Kingswood and Dharmarajah. Then there is the Trinity vs St. Anthony’s College big match. In Rugby the famous school rival matches are the Bradby Shield matches between Trinity and Royal College. There is also the match between Kingswood and Wesley College for the LE Blaze’ trophy. In hockey Kingswood plays Royal for the Lennie de Silva Trophy.


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Speculations about origin of placename, ‘Negombo’ (Meegamuwa)



By Chandre Dharmawardana,

A writer using the pseudonym GADS, replying to a previous article regarding Negombo, states (The Island 17 Sept. 2023), “It is also historically recorded that the name Negombo is the Portuguese corruption of its Tamil name Neerakolombu and the Sinhala name Meegamuwa which means and comes from old Tamil Naval terminology Meegamam Pattnam. Meegamam denotes a naval captain”.

Unfortunately, the author does not give the reference to this “historical record” or elaborate on the details available from any early sources, Portuguese and Dutch maps etc. Furthermore, he asserts that “Meegamam” denotes a naval captain. Here again, this is certainly not so in any of the Dravidian languages, or Indic languages. No such usage exists even in Arabic and other languages of the Hebrew family, as far as we can ascertain.

A “naval captain” in Arabic would be Kabtin Bahriun, while the Tamil usage would be Katarpatai Kaptain in modern usage. In old Tamil words like Nakutawere used [1]. However, “gama, gamuwa, gammam, kamam, etc., are all refer “village”.

I have collected what is known about the place name Negombo in the website listed at the end of this note [2]. I quote from it below:

The name Meegamuva is believed to refer to a village (gamuwa) which was reputed for its honey (mee). Thus, the Mahavamsa-based tradition has it that honey was procured from this region for Queen Vihara Maha Devi, (2 century BCE)[3], initially from a honeycomb found in a boat turned upside down. It could also refer to a forest of Mee trees, Madhuca Longifolia (Koenig). It is well known that placenames have been based on vegetation and prominent land marks; in our view, this is the most likely source of the name.

Another interesting legend is that the name is related to “Nihumbala, the nephew of the Yakka king Raavana. The Tamil form, Neerkozimpu may mean water, and ‘kozimpu’ is sometimes claimed to mean ‘village’, but such a meaning is not recognised in standard Tamil Lexicons. Also, the Tamil name originally applied only to the lagoon-like area and not to the whole of Meegamuwa. Given the ancient histoofthe village, kozimpu may have comefrom the sinhala kalapuva adorned with the Tamil “nir”.

Maya Oya flows north of Negombo and falls into the ocean near Kochchikade. This was an early center of the cinnamon trade, set up by the Moors in medieval times. The Portuguese ousted them in the 16th century and built a fort, and established a strong Catholic religious centre here. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese in the 1644 CE. The ruins of the fort, with its fine archway marked ‘1672’ can still be seen. In 1796 the British took over Negombo, by which time the cinnamon trade had declined. The town has remained strongly Roman catholic to this day.

Frivolous folk-lore etymology attriutes the name ‘Negambo’ to nikam biruva. That is, a dog ‘just barked’ is said to be the response given by a non-comprehending bystander to a colonial who asked ‘what is the name of this town? While GADS recognizes such frivolities for what they are, the claim that Meegamuwa or Neer-kozimpu comes from the Tamil words for “sea captain” can be very intriguing if anyone takes it seriously; one cannot find a source for substantiating such a claim in any reputed Tamil lexicon or Tamil literary source.

[1]Madras Tamil Lexicon.

[2] index.html

[3] Mahawamsa, XXII, verse 48.

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How to conserve electricity at home and workplace



Going through my old paper clippings, I came across the following news item which is more applicable today when the country is facing a severe energy crisis on how to conserve or restrict the use of electricity at Offices and other working places.

There are several ways of conserving electricity at home, offices and other workplaces. It is absolutely necessary to do so because electricity is harmful for our environment and the planet we live in.

Here is how

(a)  Unplug all electrical appliances in the kitchen when not in use, except the refrigerator. This includes coffee pots, sandwich toasters, blenders and ovens. These appliances use small amounts of electricity when they are left in standby mode.

(b)  When it comes to washing, soap them first and then open the tap halfway to wash them.

(c)   Use the washing machine once a week. Try washing some of your lighter clothes by hand and save jeans and other heavy clothing for the washing machine

(d)  When drying your clothes, do not use the dryer unless very necessary. Hang wet clothes on a line in the backyard which is an easy way of drying them and clothes dry so easily during the day in this intensely hot weather.

(e)  Change the traditional light bulbs for energy saving bulbs. The garden lights can be replaced with solar powered lights. In the kitchen, the refrigerator is out of direct sunlight and not next to the oven. Avoid putting hot dishes in the refrigerator as it will have to work harder to cool the dish, therefore wait for a while for the dish to cool and then put it in the refrigerator.

(f)    Unplug any phone or laptop chargers when they are not in use.

(g)  Unplug the computer when it is not in use. This is very important because it can get very badly damaged if it is plugged in during a thunderstorm. You may not even be at home during the storm, so it is advisable to unplug the computer when it is not being used. Do not leave the computer switched on for long hours.

(h)  Unplug the television set and gaming consoles too, as they can get damaged if they are on standby mode during a thunderstorm.

(i)    Keep DVD players, TVs and other audio and stereo equipment plugged into a multi-port which can be turned off with one switch. This saves electricity.

(j)    Turn off the lights, fans and air-conditioner when you leave the room. Remember that you do not need the lights switched on during the day.

(k)  Do not use electric appliances such as vacuum cleaners and use the broom instead.


Via e-mail

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Some lesser known historical facts



The Greek women in ancient Greece realised to their utter dismay that their husbands were always fighting wars overseas. One brave Greek woman, Lysistrata, organised a women’s front with the sole purpose of denying their husbands the marital pleasures unless they remained at home to fulfill their marital duties

Socrates, known for his wisdom, was invited by the King of Sparta, which had waged war against Greece, to be an honorary citizen of Sparta. He gracefully turned down the offer as he valued the democratic way of life in Athens. As he was always arguing with fellow Athenians neglecting household work his wife used abusive language on him in the presence of his companions. Socrates continued with his arguments when his wife in utter exasperation treated him with a plate full of dish water. Socrates merely said to his companions that after thunder comes the rain.

In the Olympic games held during the peaceful times the athletes ran the races naked. Women were not permitted to attend them. The penalty was death if a woman was discovered breaking the law. On one occasion a middle-aged woman was caught breaking the law. As she happened to be the mother of a celebrated athlete she was forgiven.

Julius Caesar was caught dressed as a woman in a women only club in Rome. He was not punished since he had gone there only to meet his lover who saved him. On another occasion he had to offer a bribe to the ship’s captain, a pirate, who threatened to throw him overboard into the Mediterranean Sea.

Isaac Newton was accused by Robert Hooke for plagiarizing when the former introduced the gravitational constant in his book Principia Mathematica. Hooke was the Secretary of the Royal Society of which Newton was the President. Hooke was the person who encouraged Robert Knox to write the book “Historical Relations…” Newton was accused by the German philosopher Leibniz of plagiarism as the latter had published the calculations of infinitesimal calculus before Newton. There was a rule in the Universities that dons should take holy orders. The king exempted Newton from this obligation. Newton’s denial of the divinity of Jesus and the trinity did not earn any punishment from the ecclesiastical authorities. The complementary part of calculus, integral calculus, had been discovered by Archimedes in the second century BC. After the conquest of Greece by Rome the intellectual supremacy and the culture of Greece saw a gradual decline. It was known that the burial place of Archimedes was a much-venerated place visited by Greeks. The Romans did not show such veneration and the burial place got neglected. However, when Cicero, a Roman intellectual, lawyer and writer became the governor of Athens in the second half of the first century BC, he visited the burial site and had the monument restored to its former state. He noticed the epitaph wherein the symbol of a sphere within a cylinder had been inscribed.

A century later Rome conquered England, killing the English queen Boudica. There stands the figure of this queen on a horse (close to the underground tube station Westminster) with words emblazoned on the flanks in poetic language indicating that while England was colonised by Rome, England had conquered half of the world.

Guy Fawkes was the man who made an attempt to set fire to the Parliament building. This incident is known as the “Gunpowder plot”. He failed in his attempt and was executed. This incident may be compared to the attempt by a JVP member who threw a hand grenade when a Cabinet meeting was taking place in the Parliament building with the President JRJ presiding. The culprit got away.

When a German prince from Hanover became George the First of England, he found life in England very dull as he could not speak English. So, he invited his old German friend Handel, the musician, to be his companion. It was during this time that Handel composed his famous “Water music” and many operas.

Dr. Leo Fernando

Talahena, Negombo

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