Fife and Drum Band of St. Peter’s College & Rev. Fr. Arthur Fernando – Rector (1956 – 1963) – Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, JPNN
Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, and by this time the education system was firmly in place thanks to British-Ceylon influence during the period 1815 – 1948. The first school established by the British in Sri Lanka was ‘The Galle School’, now known as Richmond College, in Galle.
Archived history tells us that St. Joseph’s College, Colombo was established in 1896 and will be celebrating its 125th or Quasquicentennial Anniversary in 2021.
St. Peter’s College, Colombo was established in 1922 and will be celebrating its centenary year in 2022. From 1922-1926, the founder Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc overlooked the administrative and operational functions of St. Joseph’s College (South), later renamed as St. Peter’s College.
Technically, the first Rector of St. Peter’s College, Colombo, was Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera who provided stewardship from 1927 – 1942. During this period, Fr. Nicholas initiated a few important administrative and operational matters in sports and also spearheaded the formation of the St. Peter’s College Old Boys’ Union in 1927. Norman Paternott was named the first cricket captain of St. Peter’s College in 1927, and the rich legacy he left behind has been carried by his three sons Aubrey, Rodney and Hamish who excelled in both cricket and rugby.
A lot of cricket was not played between schools at this time. Historical records claim that only friendly games were played until 1933 – when the “Battle of the Saints” or the Josephian-Peterite series was launched. George Jayaweera was named to captain his alma mater in the inaugural “Battle of the Saints” series. A great honour that remains etched in the annals of history with this memorable series. Once again, George Jayaweera’s legacy was honourably carried later by his three sons Tissa, Shanthi and Ruwan (Captain – 1974), who played cricket for college.
Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga took over as Rector, SPC from 1943 – 1955. By this time St. Peter’s College had built formidable cricket and rugby teams. The highest individual score of 204 not out by Clive Inman in 1954 in the “Big Match” still stands as a record unbroken for 66 long years.
Then came the dynamic years of Rev. Fr. Arthur Fernando who served as Rector from 1956 – 1963. He was the 3rd Rector of St. Peter’s College, and will be remembered for the encouragement and support he gave to the development of Aesthetic Studies. Fr. Arthur is credited for starting the island’s first schools’ Fife and Drum Band on June 30th 1956. The band led by debonair Dodwell de Silva was the cynosure of all eyes and the “Peterite Brand” was further enhanced by this new initiative. Our boys looked very smart attired in white and we were all proud of the “Fife & Drum Band”.
A Cultural Centre to promote Music, Drama, Dancing and Art was started in November 1956 with the help of Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. Kandyan Dancing, Oriental Singing and the formation of Western and Oriental Orchestras came about. St. Peter’s College also staged “Trial by Jury” under the direction of Douglas Ferdinands during Fr. Arthur’s tenure as rector. Sandy Reimers and Nihal Fonseka played major roles in this super production.
The fantastic Carnival of Carnivals held at St. Peter’s College in 1961, the ‘Fun-O-Rama’ was Fr. Arthur’s brainchild. The carnival offered numerous features that in post-independence era, a first in the island. These features included Close Circuit TV, Fountains with coloured underwater lights, a model train exhibition, variety entertainment in the College Hall (which was seen outside through CCTV), etc.
International entertainers Tony Brent and “Blue Diamonds” performed at St. Peter’s College Hall during Fr. Arthur’s tenure of service as Rector.
It was Fr. Arthur who first had to manage the direct impact of the Schools take over from December 1st 1960 when St. Peter’s decided to remain as a Private Non Fee Levying institution. The Welfare Society came into being under his astute leadership. A superb organizer and administrator, he installed a modern Canteen to supplement the much needed finances. He also set up the College Boarding.
Fr. Arthur was a visionary and took the school to the next level in many spheres. His seven years as Rector seemed like a memory but there was so much activity that was all credited to his able leadership. Fr. Arthur was a strict disciplinarian and was not the most popular priest on the block. But this comes with the territory. Popularity is not the greatest trait for good leadership, in my humble opinion.
May he rest in peace!
Yours truly started his high school studies at St. Peter’s College in 1956 in the Prelim A, the same year Fr. Arthur Fernando became Rector .I was booked to enter my father’s alma mater St. Joseph’s College but plans changed as my father and Fr. Arthur were schoolmates/good friends and the former asked that I enrol at SPC where he was going as Rector. I remain blessed. Rest is history!