P. M. Jayatilaka: Cricketer
turned great educationist, scholar

P.M. Jayatilaka had the proud distinction of scoring the first century in the Ananda Nalanda series.

He was an outstanding educationist and exemplary principal who moulded many productive citizens.

Certain names of devoted, dedicated, committed, outstanding principals and the seats of their learning connected with them are synonymous. To name a few, out of many, are Wardens Stone, Canon de Saram, Neville de Alwis, - S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, Dr. P. de. S. Kularatne, L. H. Mettananda - Ananda College, Colombo, Dr. Malalasekara Gunapala Wickramaratne - Nalanda College, Colombo, Father Peterpillai - St. Joseph’s, Maradana, F. L. Woodward - Mahinda, Galle, Billimoria, S. A. Wijetileke - Dharmaraja College, Kandy, Mrs. Pullimood and Clara Motwani - Visakha Vidyalaya, Dr. Wimala de Silva, Kalyani de Zoysa - Devi Balika Vidyalaya.

The name of Ibbagamuwa Central College, Thurstan College, Colombo and P. M. Jayatilaka are inseparable.

Jayatilaka was more than an educationist. He was one of the best left hand batsmen, a colossus among schoolboy cricketers in Ceylon in the 1920s. He was one of the most brilliant products of Nalanda College, who made 111 not out against their arch-rivals, Ananda, in 1927.

This batting record in the Ananda-Nalanda series stood for more than 40 years, or four decades, until Carl Obeysekera equalled it. First to cross the 111, in the big match came from the bat of Bandula Warnapura in 1972, when Nalanda was captained by that brilliant all-rounder Nandadeva Perera, who shone in India and and Hong Kong later.

After leaving Nalanda, Jayathilake represented and played for Colts Cricket Club in the club circuit. He gave up his illustrious cricket career to become an academic and an educationist. Undoubtedly, he was an ornament to both cricket and education.

This outstanding cricketer turned educationist was born on 10 October 1909. He hailed from a highly respectable family from Madawala, Negombo. His father was Ayurvedic Physician, Vedamahattaya and his beloved mother was Clara Garlin de Silva. Jayatilaka’s only sister was the late Dr. Wimala de Silva, the founder of one of the leading girls’ schools, Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo. Both brother and sister were great principals and outstanding educationists, who served the country at the highest level.

Little Jayatilaka started schooling at Newstead Girls’ School, Negombo. At the age of 10, he was admitted to Wesley College, Colombo. He was a boarder. At Wesley, there were students of all races and religions - Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays and Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Christians, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists etc. He grew up in this environment and he was a true Ceylonese or Sri Lankan.

He started playing cricket at Wesley as a tiny tot of 12 years. This talented child was selected to play for the 3rd XI. He was coached by an excellent teacher named Terrence de Silva, who was responsible for starting the famous ‘Suriyamal Vyaparaya’ in the 1920s. The reason for little Jayatilaka to join Wesley was mainly due to two of his uncles - Raymond and Edwin. Out of these two, his ‘Lokumama’ - Raymond, did not encourage sports. He was under the impression that too much of sports and cricket, would ruin Jayatilaka’s studies. Raymond de Silva was employed at the Mercantile Bank, Galle. He took Jayatilaka to Galle and admitted him to the leading Buddhist school in southern Sri Lanka - Mahinda College.

His uncle, Raymond, was a strict disciplinarian. Uncle Raymond gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted from 3.00-6.00 p.m. At 6.30, he had to be with his books.

Nalanda Vidyalaya was established in the early 1920s. His parents and uncles decided to admit Jayatilaka to the new school. In 1925, he joined Nalanda and was very fortunate that he found a place in the Nalanda First XI. He had the proud distinction of leading the Nalanda cricket team in later years.

His most memorable innings was the first century he scored in the big-match Ananda-Nalanda in 1926. This big encounter was played at Nalanda College grounds. This hard hitting left hander pummelled the Ananda attack to all parts of the park. He always believed that ‘attack is the best form of defence’.

He reached his half-century with a towering six. When he was 75 not out, there remained only 20 minutes of play left for the day. It was his day. Jayatilaka never got the opportunity of walking back to the pavilion. Nalanda and Ananda supporters threw him around like a football. He was delighted not because of his century, but Nalanda were able to record the first victory in this big clash. Nalanda was captained B. S. Perera and Ananda was led by N. M. Perera, who became a great national leader and the leader of the Lanka Samasamaja Party.

He was such a brilliant batsman that he turned a bowlers’ best ball, into a bad ball by attacking. He was a born cricketer.

Jayatilaka was a versatile student. He balanced both studies and sports. He entered the university college. The subjects he selected were Sinhala, English and Classics (Latin and Greek). When he completed his inter-arts, one of his uncles, an engineer by profession, died and his father found it difficult to provide funds for his children’s education. My beloved father used to borrow money from money-lenders. There were no scholarships those days. The western oriented banks never provided funds for students to pursue their studies. Therefore, Jayatilaka was keen to gain employment and fill the family coffers. He was very fortunate that one day, one of his old masters at Nalanda, the late J. C. S. Fernando, a Catholic teacher from Negombo offered him a teaching post in a Negombo school. After serving five years at the school, he joined St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya.

He never wanted to be a teacher. As he was a Latin scholar, he was keen to study law. But circumstances compelled him to take to teaching. In short, Jayatilaka didn’t choose this life; it chose him.

Jayathilaka was always a perfectionist. Whatever he did , he did it in style.

When E. R. de Silva (Dr. Ediriweera Sarathchandra), who was attached to St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya left St. Peter’s to join the University College, Colombo, it was Jayatilaka who replaced him.

The students at St. Peter’s during that era did not have a Sinhala teacher. They considered the Sinhala teacher a ‘Godaya’. In fact, a Sinhala teacher was never recognised by these students. One remarkable incident changed the entire attitude of the students towards the young Sinhala teacher.

There was an annual cricket match played between the St. Peter’s College First XI and the staff members before the ‘Battle of the Saints’ - St. Peter’s versus St. Joseph’s. A notice was sent to all staff members, requiring them, if they desired to play again in the First XI to inform the prefect of games. Jayatilaka too, signed to play in the match. The names of the teachers was displayed on the notice board and most of the students made fun of the situation. The made made nasty remarks; "Ado! Sinhalaya, to play Cricket."

St. Peter’s College First XI was captained by Joe Misso. They batted first and scored 196. When the teacher’s batted, they lost their first wicket for no score. Then the majestic P. M. Jayatilaka walked in. From the word go, this brilliant left hander attacked Joe Misso’s team and deposited seven massive sixes in the adjoining Wellawatta Canal.

There were right royal cheers for the Sinhala teacher. After this match, the boys paid him the highest respect and regarded him highly. They little knew that he was the Ananda-Nalanda record holder for the highest individual score.

In the 1940s, with the initiative taken by the ‘Father of Free Education’ Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara, Central schools were established. P. M. Jayatilaka was selected by Kannangara and he was appointed Principal of Ibbagamuwa Central College.

During the stewardship of Jayatilaka as the Principal at Ibbagamuwa Central, he made this school one of the leading schools in the island. He modelled this school like a public school in England. Even today, the name Jayatilaka and Ibbagamuwa Central are inseparable.

P. M. Jayatilaka’s sister, Wimala de Silva served as the Principal of Maliyadeva Balika Vidyalaya, Kurunegala, and later served as the first Principal of Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo.

In the 1960s, P. M. Jayatilaka was appointed Principal of Thurstan College. He was instrumental in starting the Thurstan-Isipatana big match. Colonel G. W. Rajapakse was the Principal of Isipatana Vidyalaya.

In mid 1960s, he became the head of the Schools Cricket Association and I, prefect of games and MiC Nalanda, was a committee member and a member of the selection committee of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association. Our greatest achievement was the selection of the Sri Lanka schools side to tour India in 1969. P. M. Jayatilaka chaired this committee. He was a fine cricket administrator and a fine human being and a thorough gentleman.

This great educationist P. M. Jayatilaka, produced thousands of students, who even today serve the country as productive citizens. His majestic personality, charming ways are ‘simply music’. His dedication and committment was enormous. He was undoubtedly an ornament to the central school culture. He started this school with about 60 students in a small temporary shed, but when he left after serving this institution, Ibbagamuwa Central was like a mini university. Then, later, he made Thurstan College, one of the leading schools in the island. He was more than a teacher or principal. For many, Jayatilaka was the guide and philosper. He was a born teacher, a cricketer and an administrator. He was a disciplinarian.

P. M. Jayatilaka tied the nuptial knot with Sumittha Rupesinghe from Balapitiya in 1946. She was a tower of inspiration to him. They were blessed with three daughters. They are Preethi Kumudini, Deepa Shyamali and Saroja. He was a dutiful father. All of them are happily married.

P. M. Jayatilaka was a devoted Buddhist, a great English and Latin scholar. He was a fine conversationalist. I respected him so much as a Principal when I was teaching at Nalanda in the late 1960s. We used to have long, friendly discussions and I learned many English poems relating to cricket from him. He was retired then and staying at Sumner Place, Borella.

I will never forget the last day I met him at his residence at Borella. I went down on my knees and worshipped this great teacher, principal, scholar, philosopher, whom I always admired and respected.

This great cricketer and educationist P. M. Jayatilaka, passed away on 19th June, 2001.

Dear sir, we are ever grateful to you and will always remember you.

May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

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