Few boys who were at the School by the Sea in
the early 1930’s are alive today to recount the early years of
Reggie de Saram’s stewardship as Warden. I give below the events
as I can remember them.
The Rev. Mr. R. S. de Saram returned from Oxford
and assumed duties as Sub-Warden of S. Thomas" College (STC) in
1929. He was a son of the soil, an old Thomian, imbubed with the
spirit of the old school of Miller, Buck and Stone. He was a
model school boy except for a little carelessness in his dress.
He had been Captain of Soccer and Vice - Captain of Cricket. He
was excellent at Fives and at Tennis. At STC and later at Oxford
he was a positive influence for good among his is fellows. He
and SWRD Bandaranaike were great rivals, especially in the Form.
In 1918 he was on the College staff and enlisted for war
service. Before he reached Britain the war was over. He entered
Keble College, Oxford and took second in Greek, having reached
first class standard in five out of six papers. He also won the
University Boxing Blue, the first from Ceylon. After a
Theological course at Cuddesdon he was ordained Deacon, and
ordained Priest on returning to Ceylon. He married Miss Edith
Clarke of Oxford at the Cathedral Mutual. He acted as Warden in
-1930 and 1931 when Warden McPherson retired. The new Board of
Governors appointed him Warden in 1931, the first Ceylonese and
the first Thomian to fill the post.
He was installed as Warden by the Rt. Rev. Mark
Carpenter- Garnier, sixth Bishop of Colombo on June 24, 1932, in
the College Chapel.
"We, Mark, by divine permission Bishop of
Colombo and Vistor of this College, do institute thee, Regional
Stewart de Saram, priest, to be Warden of the College of S.
Thomas, in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy
Leading the Warden to the Warden’s Stall and
placing him there, he installed him: "" Take your place as
Warden of the College of S. Thomas. Remember those who have gone
before you, guard your trust with faithfulness and joy. And may
the Lord preserve your going out and coming in, from this time
forth and for evermore. Amen."
He was later introduced to the school by the
Bishop in the Big School.
The Good Lord did preserve him for many decades
and the school and its boys profited greatly from his kind but
I met him on several occasions after his
retirement. He lived in Kandy and made it a point to be present
whenever his School played Cricket or Rugger against TCK at
Kandy. On these occasions I reminded him of some of the amusing
incidents of the 1930’s. He would ask "Did that happen?". And
then laugh as he remembered the details. I will now mention a
few of the incidents.
He would come ready for a game of Fives every
evening and I enjoyed making him run around the court, shouting
"Wretch!" when I made him bend low to strike the ball. After
games one evening I descended the steps - at the rear of Miller
House to go to the bath when he stopped me to give a message to
the Head Prefect. He then stared at the towel I was wearing and
asked ""Is that all you got on?*’ "‘Yes". "‘Do all the boys
bathe like that?" "Yes, we bathe Oxford". Bathing in the nude
was referred to as taking an Oxford bath. At STC and may be at
TCK and elsewhere boys were bathing Oxford!
He used to invite the School Prefects to dinner
every term. At one such meal Donald Fairweather was seated on
his left. A leg of chicken he was tackling with his fork and
knife jumped across, on to the Warden’s plate. From the look on
his face I knew Donald was wondering whether to apologize and
take it back. The Warden continued to eat two legs while Donald
had to be satisfied with the gravy and vegetables. The Warden
probably did not wish to embarrass his Head Prefect.
At another dinner we were served a green
vegetable that tasted delicious. While sipping coffee after the
meal he asked "‘Did you like the leaves you ate?" All said we
had. "Do you know what it was. You ate grass." Someone in the
Agriculture Department had given him an imported edible grass
which he had planted in his garden. That morning he had the
first harvest, and decided to enjoy it with his Prefects!
His bald head was a source of amusement to many. He must have
heard (more than once) boys referring to him as "Thattaya". Once
a crow dived on the a shining pate and pecked it ! I had a line
in the school magazine of which I was Editor, to the effect that
empty barns need no thatch. I had occasion to go to the office
one morning. When about to leave, he called me to his office and
said "you know, Tom, grass grows best where there is cow dung."
Now that I am more bald than he was then, I second that!!