was Poson Poya in 1911. The date was 19th June. A jubilant
father went from Borella in Colombo to the Tiruwana Walawwa
in Ambepussa to convey the news of the birth of a grand son to
his father. The father carrying the glad tidings was Stephen
Senanayake to Mudliyar Don Spater Senanayake and his grandson
was Dudley Shelton Senanayake who was to become the Prime
Minister of Ceylon on four occasions.
Don Spater Senanayake was bestowed the title of
Mudliyar by the colonial governor Sir Joseph West
Ridgeway probably because of his wealth 'black gold' (plumbago).
Don Spater had invested heavily in the plumbago industry in the
Kegalle district and his mines at Botale were very productive.
Spater Senanayake had four children. Three sons, D.C., F.R. and
D.S. His daughter married a Dias Bandaranaike (Mrs. F H. Dias
Spater Senanayake, though educated at St.
Thomas' Matale and later at S. Thomas, Mutwal before it was
removed lock, stock and barrel not to mention the banyan
saplings to the more salubrious environs by the sea at Mount
Lavinia, was a devoted Buddhist. He made a resolution that he
would gift his, mansion at Ambepussa known as the 'Tiruwana
Walawwa' (so named due to the abundance of the hard mineral,
'Tiruwana', a type of quartz found to this day in the
locality) to the Sasana — the day that his first grand son was
first grand son
So, Spater's first grand son was Dudley. On
receipt of the good news he vacated his home in Ambepussa and
gifted it with all the valuable furniture and fittings to the
Ven. Kokaliyagollewe Sri Bharathandra Thera who had his
makeshift temple the Rukgastenna temple in the Bajjangoda paddy
field which got submerged for the, slightest rain.
The 'Tiruwana Walawwa' became known as
the Senanayake Mudalindaramaya. (The temple that Mudliyar
Senanayake built would be a passable translation!) and today it
is a great seat of Buddhist education. It has a resident student
monk population of 150 today with 15 teachers teaching not only
the subjects upto G.C.E. A/Ls but also ecclesiastical subjects
like the Abhidharma, Sanskrit, Pali, Buddhist Civilisation etc.
The temple properties too have been vastly enhanced by rich land
donations by a lay-devotee Wijepala Mendis ex-minister who
donated 50 acres whilst his eldest daughter Manori gifted 26
The Senanayake Mudalindaramaya continued to
receive Spater Senanayake's patronage even after it was gifted
to the Maha Sangha (’Agatha, Anagatha, Chatudesa, Saghasa
Dene' — gifted to the present and future monks who come from
the four corners) and the present Chief Incumbent, Ven.
Madathiyawala Medhalankara, Anunayake Thero of the Sri Lanka
Ramanna Maha Nikaya told this columnist that in 1917 Mudliyar
Don Spater Senanayake organised a procession which had 117 'banas'
(braces) of elephants (i.e. 234 elephants) at the head of a
bullock cart carrying a huge 'Aggala' (sweet-ball made of
rice) and a 'money tree' also hoisted on top of a bullock cart.
The procession wended its way to the Kaluaggala temple and at
the head of the procession marched D.S. who by now had cut his
teeth as a national leader, having been incarcerated by the
British in 1915 falsely accusing him (and others) of being
responsible for the Sinhala-Muslim riots. Ven. Medhalankara
stated that, the procession was organised as a means of 'Thanks
giving' for a bountful harvest of plumbago which found its way
to the markets in Europe, United States and Japan.
Dudley was only 4 years old when on the 21st of
June his father was arrested and he used to tell us that he
could faintly remember DS being taken away by Punjabi soldiers
whilst he was on his father at the breakfast table. This
incident gave rise to the nationalist struggle which was
ultimately responsible for achieving independence.
Dudley was admitted to S. Thomas' College —
following the tradition established by grand father Don Spater
and he soon endeared himself to his peers and to his teachers as
a fine all-rounder. He won the college colours in five sports —
cricket, boxing, athletics, football and hockey. He was also the
Head Prefect which earned him the prestigious Victoria Gold
Medal. Going to England for higher studies he joined Corpus
Christie College in Cambridge where he was awarded the Natural
Science Tripos. Taking to law, he was admitted as a Barrister of
the Middle Temple.
Most Ven. Pelane Siri Vijiragnana
Although the Senanayakes attended S. Thomas'
College which was an Anglican educational institution, D.S. and
his wife Molly wanted the sons to learn their own religion.
Dudley and younger brother Robert were placed under the tutelage
of the Most Ven. Pelane Siri Vijiragnana Maha Thero and his
disciple, Ven. Narada Thero, of the Vajirarama.
D.S and his brothers D.C. and F.R. too were
dayakas of the Vajirarama and other Buddhist temples in Colombo
and the Botale, their family seat.
Although Don Spater Senanayake was a leading
figure in the very lucrative business of running taverns, his
three sons were pioneers of the temperance movement which was a
spring board to prepare the people for the independence
struggle. The Senanayakes were responsible in wiping out all the
taverns in their home 'Korala' (Division) of Hapitigama and this
movement no doubt affected their father's toddy rental business
But Spater Senanayake never interfered with the
activities of the temperance movement which went from strength
to strength even arousing the suspicions of the colonial rulers
that it was a movement aimed at driving the British away from
the island. No doubt it would have been their ultimate goal, but
D.S. being the shrewd leader he did not want to show his hand —
instead he carried on in his usual 'hemin hemin'
(slowly, slowly) strategy.
Thus the young Dudley too was subject to the
influence of the temple and that of his parents. In later years
he too spearheaded the temperance movement. The Buddhist
environment that he grew up with moulded his character that he
undertook missions of Dhamma abroad and was the chief lay
custodian of the Sri Lanka Ramanna Maha Nikaya. He succeeded his
father as the President of the Mahiyangana Chaitya Restoration
Society and actively supported the cause of Buddhism.
The education he received at S. Thomas' during
the famous 'Stone Age" prepared him to shoulder responsibilities
in the years to come. At S. Thomas' there were boys from various
communities, of various races and faiths. S. Thomas' during the
stewardship of Rev. Stone followed Wykeham's famous motto
'manners maketh men'. At S. Thomas' he learnt not only maths
and classics, but also lessons of life.
Mr. T. T. S. S. Amarasekara, an Old Thomian who
was the librarian in parliament told me what Dudley had implored
on the young Thomians at a Prize Day speech he made as the Chief
He had narrated the incident where he took part
in the one mile event which was the last event at the sports
meet. Others had finished but Dudley still had to do several
'laps'. By the time Dudley completed the mile others had already
gathered at the venue where the prizes were distributed. Unknown
to anybody Dudley's perseverance in completing the event had
caught the eye of Warden Stone who had given a special prize to
Dudley who came last. Incidentally Dudley also won his athletics
colours at S. Thomas'.
Even in England, Dudley pursued his love for
sports cricket in particular. Bradman Weerakoon narrates this
story in his book 'Rendering unto Caesar'.
Dudley was playing his first game at Lords for
the Indian Gymkhana Club XI. He was batting comfortably and was
particularly severe on a medium fast leg break bowler. He had
compiled a chanceless 45 by the time lunch was taken and looked
set for a big score.
Dudley knew that the fielding side had a feared
all England bowler by the name of Ian Peebles. At lunch he asked
a colleague as to why their opponents had not yet brought
Peebles into the attack.
'Peebles'. It was Peebles that you were
dispatching to the boundary ever so often. So schocked was he,
that he got out to the first ball from Peebles after lunch!
Dudley had a voracious appetite. Being a very
humble and unpretentious person, he accepted invitations from
party supporters representing even the lower strata of society
to attend their wedding receptions — not in star class hotels —
but in their humble abodes. On such occasions he was invited to
'declare open' the wedding feast by partaking of rich food that
had been laid out. We used to be amazed at his ability to pop in
cutlets and full-boiled eggs with obvious ease.
Last Sunday accompanying Wijepala Mendis to the
Senanayake Mudalinderamaya an 'old' UNP youth leaguer, Gamini
reminiscenced as to how Dudley used to 'whack' two pockets of
buriyani in one go, chatting with the youth delegates from all
over the country. At conferences he always sat for meals with
the ordinary party cadres. A leading hotelier regularly supplied
'buriyani' to most party functions held in Colombo and perhaps
it was this practice that earned the UNPers the rather
contemptuous nick name 'both gottas'.
Dudley, in spite of a notorious stomach that
rebelled against its owner at the slightest provocation, was
also a record holder at S.T.C. This record was unique for it was
established for 'downing' 75 string hoppers in one go!
At one time Dudley was a 'chain smoker'. He also
smoked the pipe. (after his death, a pipe smoking judicial
officer approached me to get one of Dudley's pipes as a
souvenir. Alas! by that time every conceivable item used or
possessed by him from expensive cameras to golf shoes worn by
Dudley had been snatched or spirited away by Souvenir hunters!).
Once he declared like Mike Tyson in his hey-day
'Buddhika I have now completely given up smoking. You know what?
Now I have such a voracious appetite that I can eat like a
Rhinocerous!' I burst out laughing. Dudley may have wondered
why? It was only because I was at a loss to fathom the quantity
he now ate with his increased appetite when I was fully aware of
his eating habits before giving up smoking.
His craving for food was such that his mother
Mrs. Molly Senanayake always insisted that Dudley was served
last when they had guests for a meal (perhaps through fear of
the guests going back starving if Dudley was allowed to serve
'Rendering into Ceaser' records how Dudley
became seriously ill whilst at Cambridge trying to confine
himself to a diet of fruits only.
Another solid witness to Dudley's eating habits
as quoted by Bradman is K. S. Periyasamy the Indian cook at the
Prime Minister's Lodge at Nuwara Eliya. Bradman quotes
Periyasamy as saying that Dudley had the biggest appetites he
had encountered. And that coming from Periyasamy an expert on
culinary skills who had seen many 'world eaters' of the day is
indeed a (dubious) compliment!
When Dudley returned to Ceylon after his studies
his parents were keen that they should get their son 'settled'
in marriage. Dudley was certainly a most eligible bachelor
hailing from one of the leading aristocratic families in the
Marriage brokers were deployed country wide and
the Senanayake's took their son to see several brides. One such
visit took them to an aristocratic walawwa off Balangoda. A
sumptuous banquet was laid for the groom’s party and Dudley
'dug' in with relish. There had been 'Watalappan' for dessert
made from the choicest jaggery that Balangoda Kitul palams
produced. Dudley was seen helping himself to several services of
watalappan obviously relishing the tasty caramel like pudding.
The pretty bride was dressed in a Kandyan 'Osariya' and
bedecked in expensive traditional jewellery. She was indeed a
very pretty lass with an ivory complexion and D.S. and Molly
Senanayake were silently praying that their elder son would at
least say 'yes' to this proposal.
On the way back to Colombo, the parents posed
the question though in an indirect way.
'So what do you think?', asked Mama Senanayakes.
'Hari Shoak! Hari Shoak' (excellent!
excellent) exclaimed Dudley. The parents obviously relieved said
'Oh we must not waste time in bringing 'Sirima' home!
Startled by the mention of a feminine name,
Dudley asked, 'Who is this Sirima?'
This time it was the Senanayakes turn to be
startled. 'Why 'Sirima' is the name of the bride. Barnes
Ratwatte Disawe's daughter when you described as 'Hari Shoak!'
said Mama Senanayake.
'Oh' I was commenting on the watalappan as being
'hari shoak' not to the girl!'
'The old couples' world collapsed with this
And if Dudley had said 'yes' to the girl Sirima
instead of to the watalappan, the course of history of this
country would indeed have changed — for better or worse only God
would know. At the rate that the Gods are being harassed these
days by politicians it is doubtful whether even they would have
I couldn't remember who told me the above story
so I checked it up with Sam Wijesinha — a former Secretary
General of Parliament who confirmed the story. It was offered to
the Sunday Islanders to savour it only after 'double
checking' as we have been trained to be news hounds whilst being
attached to the Fourth Estate.
Amarasekara, the former librarian of parliament,
also narrated, a story told by 'Dudley himself at a function at
S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia as to how a piece of meat on his
plate did a pole vault to another diner's plate some distance
away. This incident had taken place during his very first meal
at Cambridge. The 'accident' occurred due to a bluntknife placed
with the fork and spoon.
I have also heard of the story how Dudley
skipped lunch when he realized that the small rest house off the
beaten track where he descended with a retinue of journalists,
during an election campaign well past the hour of lunch had not
enough food to cater for the whole party. He 'cooked up' a story
that he was not feeling hungry and instead ordered a whole plate
of 'pappadam' which he munched to alleviate the hunger.
His (in) famous stomachache bothered him in no
small measure from his early childhood. It was considered a
problem that he had been afflicted with from birth. No amount of
treatment from specialists in the States, the UK and Singapore
could rid him of this problem which was identified as a severe
form of peptic ulcer. It had the 'bad' habit of surfacing in
times of emotional stress and in the days of the LSSP staged
Hartal in August 1953 the attack was so severe that he had to
throw in the towel and hand over the reins of power to his
cousin Col. J. L. Kotelawela when fate deprived from donning the
Prime Ministerial hat on the demise of the 'old man' D.S.
In September 1965, Dudley who by then had become
Prime Minister for the fourth time, was felicitated by the S.
Thomas OBA at the Hotel Taprobane. Canon ('Cunji') R. S. de
Saram in welcoming the famous Old Thomian said, 'One people, one
land, equal rights, equal opportunities. That is what his father
stood for. That is what Dudley stands for. This is what our
school stood for'. Canon de Saram declared that Dudley
Senanayake was the worthy son of a worthy father.
Mr. L. W. de Silva, a veteran Old Thomian
replying to a toast to the Old Boys' Association said that
Dudley believed that the state existed for the people and not
vice-versa. "We are able to live with self respect and respect
for others. Those were Mr. Senanayake's ideals."
Mr. N. A. de S. Wijesekera, the Secretary of the
OBA, said that Dudley was called upon to captain the country as
he had captained the Thomian cricket team of old.
Replying, Mr. Dudley Senanayake said that he was
happy to be head of a government which was formed free of caste
creed or religious differences. It reminded him so much of S.
Thomas' College. 'At S.T.C. we knew no difference of caste,
creed or religion. I realised what caste I belonged to only when
I was an undergraduate at Cambridge', he said. 'The government
had a tremendous task ahead of it, but my task is made easier
with the assistance of Cabinet colleagues who are Old Thomians'.
Reminiscing about his school days which he
referred to as the happiest days of his life Dudley declared
that he held no records at S. Thomas'. He was caned twice in a
single day by his teacher Mr. Brodie and he ate 75 string
hoppers at one sitting.
'Those around me must have been quite surprised
at the little I ate today but that is the price one had to pay
for the past. Now my stomach is world famous' he concluded
amidst thunderous laughter, according to an account published in
the centenary issue of the History of the Old Boys' Association.
Dudley was brought on a stretcher to 'Woodlands'
from the 'S. S. Orian' which brought him home from England,
again due to a bad attack of Peptic Ulcer.
His father D.S. had to use all his persuasive
powers to get Dudley to stand for election for the Dedigama
constituency to the second state council adjoining his own
Minuwangoda seat. D.S. even got R.V. Dedigama, another candidate
to withdraw in support of Dudley. Dedigama electorate more so
than now had a very high representation of non-goigama voters. A
formidable candidate N. H. Keerthiratne was the candidate of the
so-called 'depressed' communities. With the withdrawal of R. V.
Dedigama, the 'fight' at Dedigama was a 'straight fight' between
Keerthiratne and Senanayake.
Although it was called a straight fight merely
because there were only two contestants, nothing was straight in
the election. Keerthiratne, who later became a minister in the
UNP cabinet (as did his brother Asoka after him and also Asoka's
daughter Samantha keeping alive the tradition) was a 'Chandiya'
(thu) of no mean repute. Dedigama consistency was very large in
extent then, embracing upto Kadugannawa, Rambukkana and
Keerthiratne brought large numbers of persons
from the villages of Dorawaka and Narangoda to cast 'Hora Votes'
(impersonate) and John Kotelawela who was in charge of cousin
Dudley's election campaign brought in thugs from his plumbago
mines who maulded the would be impersonators. Not to be outdone,
knowing that women folk will not be set upon by Sir John's
thugs, Keerthiratne brought in women from Kadugannawa to cast 'hora
votes'. Keerthiratne was dead right. The things of Kotelawela
did not lay the little fingers of their on the women — most of
them very comedy. Instead, the miners raised their sarongs and
exposed their 'persons' to the shrieking women who took to their
heels never to returns. Dudley who was blissfully unaware of all
these happenings won by a handsome majority of 8299 votes.
Much later when he learnt of the incidents he
had said that had he known that politics was so dirty he would
never have taken the plunge. If Dudley could see how it is today
he would commit 'hara kiri'.