An Illustrious Alumnus Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
By L R H Anrdt.
The Warden at a special Assembly spoke of the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike as one
of the most illustrious of our Old Boys. History alone can determine whether or no this
assessment be just. In this short note we intend to present to many of today the part played at
S. Thomas' by one whom many consider 'hardly a Thomian'.
The Premier-to-be was brought up-as was the manner of scions of many aristocratic lines-
under the guidance of a private tutor. When he first came under the aegis of S. T. C. it was as
a private boarder of Warden Stone's-a fact that caused must resentment. The Warden passed
on the responsibility of teaching his charge the element of Greek, to an Assistant Master
(whose flair has been admitted in the Centenary Magazine); his indebtedness to whom was
acknowledged in a letter shortly after he succeeded to the Premiership. In nine months he
passed the Cambridge Senior with Greek, in that annus mirabilis, coming second-according
to a Magazine Summary-to R. S. de Saram in the whole Examination and in English, to A. G.
Ranasinha in Latin. The Magazine record, however, also reads: "F. L. Wickremasinghe [now
S. P., our envoy in Bonn] is first ????.. in all subjects taken together Proxime accessit :
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike".
Let us go back in time. There is no record of Admissions in Term I, 1915; but in the March
issue of the Magazine is the first to two articles on his experiences between Naples and
London, by S. W. R. D In August he spoke at a meeting of the Debating Society; maintain
that. The dowry system should not be abolished; and in December he proposed that, Party
Government is a disadvantage to a county!
In 1916-according to the Prize List published-he tied with R. S.de Saram for the Arndt
Memorial Prize and was third speaker in the debate against Trinity, putting forward the case
that protection was necessary for the growth of industries and the solving of the
Soon after, came the result of the Cambridge Examination, showing he had secured First
Class Honours in company with R. S. de Saram, F. J. T. Foenander, F. L. Wickremasinghe
(all three exempted from both parts of the Previous). J. E. M. Obeyesekara, A. G. Ranasinha,
I. H. Wijesinghe, E. B. Wickramanayake. In the whole examination there were only 15
distinction In Greek, 9 coming to Ceylon. Of which 6 came to S.T.C Of interest are the
remaining eight honours (2nd & 3rd Class) passes in the list: C. E. A. de Silva, L. J. de Silva
[now Seneviratne] B. E. T. Jansz*. K Somasunderam, C. A. Van Rooyen*, R. S. S.
Gunawardena, S. J. V. Selvanayagam [Chelvanayakam] (exempted from Previous.)
Special reference was made, on receipt of the news (cabled by P. Saravanamuttu): "Dias
Bandaranaike of VI B is the first to obtain first class honours from this From, which is
composed of boys who read for Junior honours. His performance is very creditable indeed".
The prophet was not without honour already. The full record of his result read: Scripture ^
English ^ History ^ & Geography ^ Latin* Greek ^ French ^ Maths. ^ Physics 1 / 2 ,
1916 saw the "Passing of the Locals" anticipated and "A Dip into the Past" was printed. The writer
states. "Dias Bandaranaike, son of the Maha Mudaliyar, and J. T. P. Handy, son of Dr James
Handy of Singapore, were the two best considering that they obtained first classes in the
Senior and Junior respectively at their first attempt".
It is of special interest that the same writer also says this: "The honours we have obtained
are the results of ordinary teaching and not of special coaching".
In the Magazine of December 1916, "The Curse of Zuleika" was published. The writer is
stated to be S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. He had dated the article 12-1-16. Again, he proposed
in debate, that "The methods of warfare of the ancients are preferable to those of the moderns".
August 1917 saw yet another side of our subject. He played 2nd Singles at Tennis against
S Joseph's and S. Benedict's winning both.
In August 1918 the following valedictory notice was printed.
"S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was admitted in January 1915 and places in From V I B where
he acquitted himself with credit and passes the Cambridge Senior in the same year, obtaining
First Class Honours with distinctions in Latin and English. He left from the college From and
intends to go to Oxford. We wish him success".
In August 1919 are two more notice of him, in Notes and Comments, and Old Boys'
News-referring to his departure for Oxford "where we predict for him a bright career".
Nor has the Magazine finished with him yet. In December 1919 R. S. de Saram, from
Oxford, wrote: of S. W. R. D. at Christ Church: "He says his tutors are already rather pleased
with his work. It is rather a pity Tennis is his only game. There will be very little Tennis this
Term and the next....
In August 1920 extracts from a letter, in February, of E. S. de Saram-incidentally, an
indefatigable contributor to the Magazine throughout! - stated: "Bandaranaike of Christ
Church is working hard. His tutors are very pleased with his work. He is playing Golf this
In March 1921 he is noticed along with other Old Thomians in England. He was taking
Honours Moderations and 'his friends expect will do well, but the correct Oxford attitude is
described as hoping for a first, thinking you will get a second and telling your friends you
expect a third!' The August Old Boys' News states he obtained 2nd class Honours in
Classical Mods. "We are informed he just missed a First owing to his paper on Aristotle". He
is also noticed-in drawing attention to F. de S. jayaratne's Success as the third one V I B
produced of the kind (the other was R. G. Perera, Jeejeebhoy Scholar at the Ceylon Medical
August 1922 Old Boys' News mentions his third class in Real Property. In December Note
and comments in this: S. W. R. Dias Bandaranaike has made a name for himself as the finest
debater at Oxford. In August 1923 he is noticed having been elected Secretary of the Oxford
Union Society for the following term being also mentioned in the Report of the Secretary,
O.B.A. printed in the March issue, 1924.
Then in August 1924 Old Boys' News has this:" Mr. S. W. Bandaranaike B. A (Oxon) was
appointed Junior Treasure of the Oxford Union - a highly coveted honour. Mr. Bandranaike
continues to maintain his reputation as a debater, and, according to a recent issue of "The
Isis", made the most brilliant speech of the day'.
It is not our intention to reproduce every notice thereafter. What has been stated about our
subject, shows that any notion of "de mortuis nill nisi bunkum" once more, is false.
Before the rest of Ceylon, his Alma Mater had recognized merit. Shorts as was his stay at
STC, he had played a full part; many have done less, and brought less kudos to the school.
In 1951 the special centenary Number of the Magazine carried a few more complimentary
statements. Then Leader of the House of Representatives and Minister for Health and Local
Government ;"( he) is one of the ablest speakers in Ceylon. On the eve of Warden Stone's
departure from Ceylon, he named Mr. Bandaranaike as 'his only student who knew his
Homer well'." None will forget his superb speech in Independence Hall before the Duke of
O.P.G. mentions him among Classics students who "have become so well-known as public
men that I need not refer to the high positions they hold today" Perhaps in the course of this
article he struck an unconscious prophetic note when he stated Caesar-not the Gallic wars-
should be the centre of interest, 'as one who dared to believe that there was something in him
that rose above circumstance'.
Again he figures in the chapter on Thomian Lawyers, as one who left a successful practice
at the Bar for politics.
M. F. de. S. J. alludes to his departure for Oxford, writing about the transplanting from
Mutwal to Mt.Lavinia.
Once at least one remembers he, proposing the toast of Sister Colleges. More than once he
addressed or was invited to address the Debating Society. In company with leading
politicians he appeared at the O.B.A. celebrations soon after the attainment of independence.
Then that drift gathered momentum, which so often breaks the heart of many a kindly
mother. D. S. Senanayake dropped him or he crossed the floor-according to one's politics-and
bitterness tinged relations.
When "Dido and Aeneas" was staged in 1956 reconciliation was feasible; he was to have
attended, but his Private Secretary (a young Old Thomian) pointed out a prior engagement.
He saw a croud close to s Public Schools Athletices Meet and publicly expressedhis pride in his Old School. But restoration was not to be. There were two, or there,
unseemly episodes and public figures appeared in somewhat less than dignified roles. The
clouds began gathering fast while he tried to
Ride the whirlwind and direct the storm.
Much as many admired the adroitness with which he swayed and bent to winds from Right or
Left (which might have toppled one who stood four-square, endangering those around),
equally, many felt here was another Caesar who would
....Bestride our narrow world
Like a Colossus....
Many shook their head in wearied doubt whether this were not a latter-day "Trimmer", one
sitting on the fence of political expediency, not walking the tight-rope of that compromise
which Life demands of rational Man. Latterly, he lost touch, that deftness so many admired-
much, again, like that other Caesar.
Ushering in-as he was wont to say-the Age of Transition, hefell a victim (inevitably,
perhaps) to the extremism that precedes return to sanity. Be he Fate's plaything, Man of
Destiny, or the resultant of the forces of his age, may he rest in peace-until that Dreadful day
of Judgement when we shall all stand revealed.
The rest is silence,
College Magazine Term 3 1959.