Features

Kingswood Union - 101 not out
by H. M. Nissanka Warakaulle

On the 30th of September, the Kingswood Union celebrates 101 years after its establishment, which is a rare achievement for an organization of this nature. The Kingswood Union is the name of the association of old boys of Kingswood College, Kandy. Kingswood College was founded on 04th May 1891 by that great educationist, Louis Edmund Blaze as the Boys’ High School in a small building in Pavilion Street, Kandy with II pupils. In 1898 the Boys’ High School took the name of Kingswood College.

Within 13 years of the establishment of the school, the Kingswood Union was started by the founder of the school himself on 30th September, 1904. Mr. Blaze himself was its first President. Immediately after the school sports meet in 1904, a meeting was held and the Kingswood Union was formed with 44 members, which was quite a good number considering the student population at that time. Mr. Blaze was unanimously elected the President at the first meeting with E. H. Spencer as the Secretary and W. I. Samaraweera as the Treasurer. Since that time, the Kingswood Union has been functioning continuously wiathout a break.

In addition to the parent Union functioning in Kandy, branches of the Union were formed in Colombo, Australia and the United Kingdom. The Colombo branch of the Union was formed on 17th December 1917 with W. E. Gratien as President. In the early years, the meetings of the Colombo Branch were held at the Founder’s residence, and after his demise at Miss Ray Blaze’s, the daughter of the founder. Later, when the numbers swelled as a result of more and more old boys seeking and obtaining employment in Colombo, the meeting had to be held at more spacious venues.

Kingswood Union participated very actively at the opening of the new buildings at Mulgampola on the Kandy-Peradeniya Road in 1925, by Sir John Randles himself (who donated the funds for the land and the buildings). The school did not have an entrance gate and with monies collected by the members as the Gate Fund, the Union presented the entrance gate to the College on 14th November 1936. The keys of the gate were handed over to the Principal of Kingswood, Mr. O. L. Gibbon, by the President of the Union, Mr. Blaze. This entrance gate, through which almost all boys (and girls at certain times) have passed, is one of the most noteworthy gifts given to the school by the Union.

A very important function fell on an old boy nominated by the Union which was proposing the vote of thanks at the annual prize giving of the school. This was traditionally seconded by the Senior Prefect of the College, who invariably would ask for a holiday on the Monday following the prize giving which was usually held on a Friday. The President of the Union was also accommodated on stage. I remember very vividly, though I was very small at that time, my uncle M. B. Abeykoon, an Attorney-at- Law and President of Rural Courts, who was always accommodated on stage by virtue of the position he held in the Union, namely, President .1 too had the good fortune to walk proudly up to the stage to collect the class prize year in year out from the Upper Kindergarten to the 5th Standard, watched intently by my uncle on stage!

After Mr. Blaze relinquished office, Dr. G. C. Mendis, another distinguished old boy and renowned historian, took over, followed by Mr. Abeykoon. It was later Senator J. P. Jayasena’s turn after Mr. S. Dolapihilla. Mr. Abeykoon and Mr. L. O. K. Perera functioned as the two representatives of the Union on the Board of Governors for a fairly long period of time.

In 1953, the Union had a life membership of 125. However, even with this small membership, the Union was able to organize a Fete in 1953 in the College premises to collect funds for the construction of the hall in memory of the founder of the school, Mr. Blaze.

The Union has done yeomen service to the alma mater in various ways. Most of the sports activities of the school are funded by the Union, especially Rugby Football. In the case of Rugby Football, the entire expenditure is looked after by the Union, from the playing kits of the players to the salary paid to the coach. The Union looks after the annual Rugby encounter with Wesley College for the Blaze Trophy. In addition, in 1987, for the first time in the history of Kingswood , the Old Kingswoodians Sports Club held a Colours Night.

The most important contribution made to the college by the Union in its programme for the Centenary celebrations in 2004 was the construction of the swimming pool which was declared open by H. E. the President, along with the Language Centre and Basketball court. It was at that function that the President stated that if all schools had old boys associations like the Kingswood Union, the government would not be faced with a problem of finding funds!

Prior to the achievement regarding the swimming pool, the Kingswood Union was involved in a big way in the expansion of the College playground. Kingswood College had two playgrounds, one for the seniors and the other for the juniors. A few years ago the space occupied by the junior playground was utilized to put up a building. The senior playground was not adequate to play inter-school cricket matches and therefore the necessity arose to expand it. Along with the Principal, it was the Kingswood Union that handled this gigantic venture. This was achieved in the midst of litigation and threats! As a result of this unstinted effort now Kingswood boasts of a playground that every Kingswoodian, past and present, can be proud of.

As mentioned earlier, the Colombo branch began in a very humble way and continued till the 1950’s. However, after some time it became nonfunctional. In 1978, a handful of loyal old Kingswoodians banded themselves together and revived the Colombo branch after a meeting convened at the Girl Guides’ Headquarters. Now the branch boasts of a very large membership and has been helping the school in various ways.

Every year the Colombo branch commemorates the birth anniversary of the founder of the school L. E. E Blaze, with a service of thanksgiving at the Methodist Church in Kollupitiya. An old boy of the school conducts the service. At the end of the service, a fellowship is held for the old boys who are present to socialize, and in certain years this function was utilized to recognize the contributions of distinguished old boys. Earlier, the Colombo branch used to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Kingswood College on the 4th of May or a day closest. It was after the revival of the Colombo Branch that the commemoration of the birth anniversary of the founder commenced.

Another noteworthy feature that the old boys of Kingswood has done is to form a Group named Group of the 40’s which comprises the old boys who were in the school in the forties. Of course, the teachers of that era are also included in the Group. This was the brainchild of an old boy at that time and later a teacher in the school, Mr. Arthur McGill. The meetings of the Group are held regularly at the residences of old boys who agree to host such meetings. An important function of this group is to collect all available records pertaining to Kingswood with a view to enlarging the collection at the Arthur McGill Museum, named after the person who not only mooted the idea of a museum, but whose rich collection of rare books, magazines and valuable souvenirs formed the nucleus of the museum. Unfortunately, in this group there is no increase in the membership, only a depletion with members departing to the other world from time to time!

All in all, it is indeed a great achievement for the Kingswood Union to have survived for over a century and be of service to the alma mater during this entire period. As members of the Union all old Kingswoodians would wish many more years of service to the Union. I am proud to be a member of the Kingswood Union.

 

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