Reflection of a Thomian Legend

Reflection of a Thomian Legend

Source:Thomiana Newsletter

Reflection of a Thomian LegendDuring the past 100+ years at Mount, the distinguished ‘School by the Sea’ produced Prime Ministers, Sri Lankan Cricket Captains, Rugby Champions, Politicians, Businessmen, Professionals, Academics, amongst many other professions. This article, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Australia STC OBA, is in memory of a true Thomian legend whose love for our alma mater is reflected in every aspect of his life.

Frankie David had an outstanding career in Rugby, both as a player and coach. But his exemplary character and inspiration to all those fortunate enough to know him made him a true Thomian Legend.

Early Childhood

Desmond Frank (Frankie) David was born on January 11, 1940, to Deutrom and Tommy and was the oldest of four siblings with sisters Jeanne, Roseanna and Pamela. Some years later, he gained entry to S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, where his father (Mr D.F David) was a teaching staff member and retiring as the Head Master of the Lower School. The four David siblings shared a special bond growing up, which endures up to today and Frankie, the only boy, was spoilt rotten by the sisters.

Early ChildhoodThe highlight of Frankie’s time at College was being appointed the captain of the First XV Rugby team in 1959. Although rugby football was relatively new to STC, they were a formidable opposition to the more established rugby playing schools. Remarkably, several team members, including Frankie himself, represented Ceylon in the 1960s. He was considered an outstanding Rugby player of the mid-fifties. As Ken de Joodt said in his article ‘Fabulous Franky, an asset to Rugby. Frankie was ‘sporty, skilful and solid’. He played in the scrum, in the vital position of ‘hooker,’ synchronising ball and foot movements to perfection, understanding the players around him, to win matchesBeing a teacher’s sondidn’t prevent Frankie from participating in the revelries, especially during the Royal-Thomian. Friends recall him being one of the ‘leaders of the pack’ in the Old Crocks Parade. However, there is no evidence of him being under the influence of any ‘spirits’ from the Colpetty Tavern!!
On leaving College, Frankie became a PT instructor for a short time before accepting a cadetship as a Junior Executive at a leading engineering firm, Colombo Commercial Co.

Reflection of a Thomian Legend

A Star at ‘Havies’!!

On leaving school, Frankie joined the Havelock Sports Club (Havies), where he quickly earned the reputation of being a fast-striking, unrelenting hooker. The Havelock’s team of the early sixties had a galaxy of stars. Still, the undisputed glamour boy of the side was former Trinity College flyhalf Nimal Maralande, who kept fans mesmerised with dummies, scissor-passes, and booming kicks to touch. In 1961 Frankie was a member of the Clifford Cup-winning team, including Quinten Israel and Maurice Fairweather.

Reflection of a Thomian LegendNimal and Frankie were very close friends by then and went on to captain the Havelock’s teams of 1965 and 1966, respectively, representing Ceylon consistently from 1961 to 1965. Their friendship was cemented for life when they married the Pereira sisters – Cleonie and Yvette.

Frankie and Yvette were a glamorous couple of the sixties, Frankie for his rugby exploits and Yvette for modelling and dancing. Both appeared in the newspapers regularly, with Yvette in the Fashion Editorials and Frankie in the Sports pages.

Rugby Coach at Isipathana College

Frankie took on coaching the fledgling rugby team of Isipathana College from 1968 to 1971. He instilled in the young side the need to play the game the only way he knew — hard and clean. The Isipathana teams on Frankie’s watch for nearly five years had some of the most dreaded tacklers in the game of that era. Hafi Abdeen, Horace Perera, and Thajone Savanghan leap to mind. Nevertheless, these young men never let their coach down, notwithstanding the relentless bone-jarring tackles they meted out to the opposition. Before long, Isipathana was a dominant rugby playing school in Sri Lanka. In 2015, Frankie received a special honour  for his services to Isipathana Rugby.

Reflection of a Thomian Legend

Hafi Abdeen, who now lives in Australia, paid the following tribute: “A short memoir on the gentleman and friend who I was privileged to get to know through the great game of Rugby. Growing up in the suburbs of Havelock Town and schooling at Isipathana, as a youngster, I used to watch Frankie turn up for the Havies as Hooker and involved with many Champion sides. Although I studied in this great club, the Havelocks neighbourhood, I was an ardent CR&FC fan!! Following Frankie’s stardom in the field of Rugby for both St Thomas’s and Havelocks Sports Club, I started playing Rugby for that champion school, Pathana, in the mid-’60s, when Frankie took over the reins in 1968 as one of our legendary coaches. I vividly remember him working for Colombo Commercial Company as their Personnel Manager and driving this Yellow TR 2 convertible sports car. Frankie and I hit it off from day one, as he had a lot of faith in me as a rugby player and as a leader. Soon

I was handed over the mantle of physical fitness, and by the time he arrived for training after his busy schedule at work, the team was ready to go into action. Frankie always knew we were a bunch of disciplined guys, full of enthusiasm and rugby skills, which made his job easy. He used to make the team jog from our College grounds to the Havelocks and make us play a 15 minutes game against the Havelocks side, which possessed great players like Glen, Gama, and Gogi, to name a few. The practise sessions against the Havelocks were very fiery, as we had great talent within our ranks to combat the more fancied opponents. Frankie was a great coach who managed us and guided us to many splendid seasons. In 1970 when I skippered the Pathana side, I had the proud distinction of captaining both the Colombo and Combined school sides, which boasted an exodus of Pathanians representing both teams. Frankie will be remembered as a legendary coach of Isipathana due to his immense status in the rugby fraternity and the influence he brought into the game.”

New Life Down Under

Frankie, Yvette, and young Dirk migrated to Australia in the seventies, armed with two suitcases and £100 (British Pounds) to start their new lives. Early days were very tough, managing without a car and doing two jobs to make ends meet. After sharing accommodation with relatives, they finally bought their home in Brandon Park, where they spent most of their lives. They accommodated most of the families who migrated in this home, and their generosity was overwhelming. It was also where Frankie and Yvette hosted many friends regularly for drinks, meals and catch up.

After over a decade at multinational Pacific Dunlop, Frankie ventured into his own business (Weatherware), which steadily grew to a successful enterprise. The Marmalade’s were regular visitors to Melbourne. To watch the tuxedoed Frankie David and Nimal Maralande and their glamorous wives glide across the dance floor was to witness poetry in motion.

Rugby remained Frankie’s passion, and he travelled across the globe to witness World Cup Rugby. Bledisloe Cup games in Sydney in the company of his closest mates, including Noel Brohier, Mohan Shayam and Dilip Kumar, were another regular fixture on his busy schedule.

While running a successful business, family, golf, overseas travel, and hectic social life, Frankie’s allegiance to his old school never wavered. He was an active member of the Ex-Co of the Australian Branch of the OBA for over four decades. He got involved in the STCOBA activities and, in 1983, was elected Vice-President, a position he held until 1992 when he was elected as the OBA’s 6th President. On a lighter note, Frankie frequently boasted, “Machan, I must be the only bugger who was sacked from the Ex-Co by Brookie (ExPresident) for not attending meetings and later to be appointed as President”.

Since leaving the Ex-Co, Frankie has been a tremendous supporter of the OBA and one of the major sponsors of the Annual Thomian Dances. He was an inspiration to the younger Old Boys serving in the Ex-Co, who regarded him as the Godfather of the OBA. Frankie was the first member to be awarded the ‘President’s Award’ for his immense contribution to the OBA back in 2001.

Reflection of a Thomian Legend

Reflections from Friends

Ralph D’Silva

I first crossed paths with Frankie about 1959/60 when he left College, joined the STC staff as a Physical Education teacher, and took our Phys ed. class on the big club grounds. It was customary in those days for credentialed ex schoolboys to be given temporary teaching gigs pending going out into the Mercantile World. So, we addressed Frankie as “Sir” then, in line with tradition.

Frankie joined the famous Colombo Commercial Company as a Junior Executive and would be seen riding his motorcycle on Galle Road all decked out in typical Executive attire, white shorts, shirt and stockings, as the socks were called those days. A group of College boys stood at Abdul Rahim’s bus stop in Wellawatte to catch the red double-decker bus to Mt Lavinia each day. A bit of school girl watching or ‘capping’ took place at the bus stop in the morning. This group at various times comprised of Bumpy Jayasekera, Tony Mallett, Derek D’Silva, Ravi Perera and myself. We used to see Frankie ride past around 7.30am every morning lookingevery bit like the up-and-coming Executive.

A couple of years later, Frankie graduated from his motorbike to an open-top Sports car. I thought it was a Healey Sprite, but I was told by his good friend Noel Brohier that the vehicle was an MG TF and that he should know because he crashed it…….and on occasion, he always would have a pretty young lady in the front seat. When I got older and left College, I used to think, “I want to be like Frankie.” Fast forward many years, and we find ourselves in Melbourne, Australia. This, of course, was the start of STC OBA Melbourne, of which

Frankie was one of the founders. Needless to say, Frankie was the quintessential Thomian Leader. He helped foster and grow the Old Boy movement in Melbourne and gave not only his time but significant amounts of his own money to help further the cause and bring Thomians together. As President, Frankie was the driving force behind the OBA and its many social events. And in those early days, together with the likes of David Varney, Bandulal Molligoda,

Delwyn Lappen, we took the Annual Thomian Ball from suburban Town Halls with BYO grog in Eskys to Black Tie Dinner Dances at places like the Hyatt on Collins. Apart from our Thomian OBA connections and interactions, I enjoyed being with Frankie on several Rugby trips both in Australia and overseas. The Hong Kong 7’s and on several World Cup Tours. Frankie was a passionate Wallaby supporter, and his incredible knowledge of the game was insightful. We had many post-game chats, some at his home in Mulgrave (Melbourne Tests) and a great many at the Sydney home of our great friend Sydney Barrister the late ‘Sandy ‘Sandarasagara. Sandy’s house was the meeting place for all. Sandy’s mates from the Sydney Bar, several ex-Aussie Rugby people and of course, the Who’s who of Sri Lankan Rugby. Noel Brohier, Mohan Sahayam, Ivor Brohier, Tony Rankin, Geoff Weinman, Rodney Ingleton, Dilip Kumar, just to name a few, were always present. Needless to say, the wine, beer and scotch flowed freely well into the night, and Rugby story’s got more prolonged, and so did the singing…..Frankie was at the forefront of all this, and
who will forget his “Brother Sylvester song, a Havies favourite. Frankie David was an outstanding human being, true Leader and highly respected Thomian. Vale Frankie David……Esto Perpetua

Maurice Fairweather

Frankie and I were more often than not in the same class through College. One very fond recollection of his ‘generosity’ was really a very small gesture but clearly demonstrated his thoughtfulness. We sat at adjoining desks in the front of the class in Upper 6 B. I forget who the master was, but I suspect it was the ‘formidable’ (for want of a better word??) Bada Perera. It was the first period after lunch where I was a boarder (constantly hungry) to share Frankie’s lunchtime treat. He would buy a 5 ct packet of Seeni Kaddalay (for those who remember that delicacy??)

The 5 ct gotthay contained about 15/20 bits…and FD would surreptitiously divide it equally and give me half. Through the 40-min period…we would obviously, without the master who sat right in front seeing us…separate the outer sugar skin from the pod and very slowly eat it..followed by the pod.

We were able to drag out this treat right for the whole 40 mins of class. He could easily have eaten it during the lunch interval but chose instead to share Later on, after we left College, I started to play Rugger (as we called it)…for The Havelocks. In one match, I was tackled from behind by a tough guy of Chinese extraction called Toopee (No names, no pack drill…caaaaaaaaaaause he is still with us!). The end result was a popped Clavicle bone. I had never heard of
such an injury and, of course, couldn’t continue to play. So there was I with a bone under the skin sticking out. I
couldn’t ride my bike back, so I was taken back to where I was boarded, spending a painful and uncomfortable night. The following day (Sunday), Frankie rides up on his bike…puts me on his pillion and takes me to see Dr Benny Chapman, a Havies stalwart. Benny diagnosed the problem and arranged for me to visit the General Hospital OPD ( I think we called it)…The department head was another Havies member… so the treatment was fast-tracked. Frankie came home and took me to the hospital for treatment on Monday. I can’t recollect what excuse he had given for cutting work at CCC to see to my needs. As he rode a bike to work along the Galle Road, he would stop for anyone he recognised and give him a lift. 

Chris Lawton Snr.

He was that rare individual, a man of contradictions: quiet and humble in demeanour and yet, made his presence known and felt: diminutive in stature and yet, excelled himself in a sport which demanded brawn: firm and decisive and yet, patient and compassionate. This was the Frankie David I had the great pleasure and joy of being associated with for nearly fifty years.

Reflection of a Thomian LegendA Thomian to the very core, I realised within a few days of the start of our friendship that I had the privilege of working with someone whose greatness lay in his humility. He was not a distinguished scholar or sportsman as some of his contemporaries were, but the essence which endeared him to his numerous colleagues was his patience to listen and be heard. He did have his minor faults, but they were harmless and cleared away with the tide of the following day in the main.

The STC. OBA in Melbourne is very fortunate that the Presidents and Executive Committees served in its management with diligence and loyalty from its inception. Frankie was no different, except that there was exceptional Teamwork throughout his time. He took them all in the final analysis, the rare bouquets, and the frequent brickbats! Rest in peace with your loved ones, my friend. ESTO PERPETUA

Bandulal Molligoda

I came to know Frankie in the late 1950s when he captained the STC Rugby team, and I was a member of the
under 17 team. After leaving school, Frankie volunteered to coach 1960 under 17 Rugby team under head coach
Mr Percy Perera. I vividly remember my first interaction with Frankie. In July 1960, Tuesday before our big match against Trinity

College on following Saturday at Longdon Place. The senior team was fine-tuning their rugby skills at CR & FC.
Frankie turned up on his motorbike to take me for senior practice at CR & FC. Frankie briefed me that the regular centre (Nihal Algama) had sustained a shoulder injury and I will be taking his place in the senior team on our way to the grounds. The news came to me as a pleasant surprise, and it dawned on me that my outstanding performances in the U17 team were the catalyst for my inclusion in the senior squad. On our way to the grounds, Frankie continued to drill me on Trinity players, mainly my opposite number Tony Bultjens (RIP), one of the finest rugby players to don the Trinity guernsey. I was advised repeatedly to keep a firm eye on him and not to give any room to display his scintillating rugby skills. Frankie’s brief but practical advice calmed me immensely and prepared me to remain steadfast before and during the match.

Come the big day on Saturday, the game unfolded according to our predetermined plans. With five minutes remaining in the match and score locked in at nil-all, unexpectedly, I sustained a collarbone injury. As a precaution, I swapped places with Maurice Fairweather on the right-wing. The swap played a crucial role in our win as Bultjens’ punt ahead landed straight into Maurice’s safe hands, who sprinted 75 yards to score a spectacular try under the post to register our first ever win against Trinity College. They eventually carried me off the field soon after Cecil Perera added the extra points, followed by the long whistle. Unfortunately, I could not participate in the post-match celebrations as I was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Following minor surgery, I was taken home, and the following Sunday, Frankie and our skipper Nihal (Baila) Samarasinghe (RIP) paid a visit home to check on my injury. Frankie was by my side throughout this ordeal, epitomising the very essence of character, honesty, and sincerity of a true Thomian personality I had the privilege of knowing and associating with for the next 65 years. May he rest in peace  Final Years Yvette’s sudden demise in 2014 was a bitter blow. Frankie’s own health was fragile at the time, but being a man with nerves of steel and of equally firm resolve, he soldiered on. Desmond Frank David was fiercely loyal to family and friends. On hearing a couple of years ago that a very dear cousin had been declared
terminally ill, Frankie immediately took wing to Colombo to spend time with his cousin, not considering his own deteriorating health and the pain and discomfort of a long flight.

Frankie kept his faith and attended church regularly. A day before his demise, he had wanted to convey to a gravely ill friend that he was in his prayers. This wonderful gentleman, whose generosity knew no bounds and who left an indelible impression on the hundreds of lives he touched, breathed his last on Thursday, August 12 of 2021, aged 81.

On hearing of Frankie’s passing in Melbourne, his STC and Havelock’s teammate, legendary Thomian sporting
icon Maurice Fairweather, sent out a communiqué from Perth. It read thus, “some of you may already know… but heard about an hour or so ago … Frankie too has gone on to play the game they play in Heaven”.

Funeral & Last wishes

Reflection of a Thomian LegendFrankie’s funeral was held on August 19 2021, at the Good Shepherd Parish Catholic Church, Wheelers Hill, Vic, and was live-streamed due to the Covid restrictions. At Frankie’s request, the College Song and the ‘School by the Sea’ were included in the service.

A memorial service is being organised by the OBA this year to pay tribute to this great man and fulfil some of his last wishes that could not be honoured due to the Covid restrictions. These were serving three types of sandwiches (Hundred & Thousands, Vegemite and Pol Sambol) with beer and wine. So we will drink to that – Cheers,

“Those we hold closest to our hearts never truly leave us. They live on in the kindness they have shared and
the love they brought into our lives – Esto Perpetua”.

Family Album

Reflection of a Thomian Legend

Editor’s Note: This article was compiled by the Editorial Team with contributions from Wimal Heenetigala, Ralph D’Silva, Maurice Fairweather, Chris Lawton Snr., Bandulal Molligoda, Hafi Abdeen, Jayampathy Silva and Rod Grigson. Sincere appreciation to Dirk (Frankie’s son) for sharing the family photos.

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