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.