Sir John, my father’s boss
My late father, Francis Samarasinghe, from the inception of Independence, worked in the Prime Minister’s Office, initially as Chief Clerk and later as Office Assistant, absorbed into civil service. His demise was under the tenure of Mrs. Bandaranaike,
Thus he also served during the short years of Sir John. My father wrote short addresses and speeches in English for Sir John. After office hours, Sir John operated from Temple Trees, with then Secretary Mr. N. W. Atukorale, brother-in-law to late Mr. J. R. J. At this time the Dehiwela Fernando Road, where we lived, was a gravel, path with no electricity or phone lines. Often a P.C. from Dehiwela Police Station, situated about 100 yards from our house, would come in the evening and inform father that the Prime Minister wished to speak to him. It would take at least 10 minutes for father to reach the phone.
This constant delay prompted Sir John to ask the Secretary (‘mey yakata’) why does this devil take such a long time to answer the phone. Atukorale informed the absence of a phone in our house. "Tomorrow, tomorrow itself see to it that he gets a phone in three days’ time. Within two days, in year 1954, the phone (No. 309) Mt. Lavinia arrived at our house. Now its seven digits, but the phone still remains in the family. A phone at that time was not a simple luxury, but a super luxury and a high status symbol.
My father, after an illness, was summoned to the Orient Club, then at Race Course Avenue, and had been given a cheque for Rs. 500/- saying, "umbata hungak wiyadham neda", must have spent a lot on hospital charges?
Once in the night about 7.30 p.m., he sent the official Rolls Royce to fetch my father. My sister and I too made that trip. While we waited in the foyer at Temple Trees, we were treated to a sumptuous dish of fried chicken and French fries. This was manna from heaven for us who rarely ate chicken.
When he lost the 1956 election to S. W. R. D., he had summoned my father to his office and given him a lunch carrier of four compartments, which was of pure silver, weighing nearly two kilos. Today, this is in my possession. Sir John, my father, used to say, admired honest and diligent workers.
I can proudly say that Mr. Atukorale and my late father belonged to that category.