The Trinity College Kandy Archives


BY Nanda P Wanasundera

I take a sentence from Sharm de Alwis’ article in the Sunday Island of April 13 titled Memories of Lakshman Kadirgamar and wish to add some information.

Sharm writes: "The wall at the entrance to the Trinity Archives was my concept wherein the bricks of the original Ryde House that was demolished were used as the facade. When Lakshman and I were discussing the project over a glass of beer, Mr Seneviratne whose father had demolished the original Oakley’s Church, offered us the front door free and gratis and is now positioned at the entrance to the Archives."

Unfortunately there was no mention of the person who was in truth responsible for the very idea of setting up a Trinity College Archives and saw to its planning and completion.

Sriyanganie Weerasekera Jayasekera was Librarian of the Trinity College senior school library from 1989 to1996. It was a well stocked library and much used. Her husband, a historian specializing in 19th century history, found some extremely rare and valuable books written by and about the early missionaries who came to Ceylon. He pointed them to his wife who immediately shelved them separately. These were looked after very carefully by Library Assistant, Mr Khemsara, to whom the library and its collection were very precious.

When Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar returned from Britain and had not got into politics as yet (1988-1994), he was a frequent visitor to the TCK library and would discuss books and other matters with Sriyanganie. During one of these conversations, Sriyanganie mentioned that she had found invaluable papers relevant to the history of the school from almost its inception (1872), including architectural plans for the new chapel. Her idea was to collect such archival material from all over the school, and from past students, and place them for exhibition and better preservation, along with the rare books. Mr Kadirgamar approved the idea hundred percent. He said he would get her a room and money to set up the archives. All support too. He added he would tap the TCK Old Boys living abroad for contributions. This conversation Sriyanganie conveyed to me by letter; so happy was she that her idea was accepted and would be made real. She also got the Principal’s (Lt. Colonel Leonard M de Alwis) permission and full approval and support to proceed with the project.

The project succeeded because Mr Kadirgamar funded it and both he and the Principal were totally supportive. Also very importantly, due to Sriyanganie’s skill as a qualified librarian, enthusiastic dedication and strenuous work put in. Additionally she got much help from Mr Franklin Jacob of the tutorial staff and Khemsara. In fact Mr Jacob and Sriyanganie visited the National Archives in Colombo to get needed ideas. The Trinity College Archives was set up in a fine room displaying elegantly all the material which included rare tomes, papers, artifacts, medals and such like donated by past pupils. Mr Kadirgamar himself donated his Ryde Gold medal and other trophies won through his years at Trinity.

It was the first such collection in a school with an entire section o f the library dedicated to it. Sriyanganie told me that Nalanda College had an archives of sorts but the Trinity one surpassed it due to the richness of the collection and generous amount of money collected by Mr Kadirgamar. The friendship of Librarian and sponsor continued and visits exchanged even after Mr Kadirgamar became a much lauded Minister of State. He never forgot Sriyanganie who started the entire project and saw it through. In spite of his very busy schedule at the time, he was at the ceremonial opening of the TCK Archives on 17 June 1995.

Sriyangani is no more. She was and continues to be unsung. There has not been much acknowledgement from people in the school, nor the book which devotes space to the archives – i.e. Trinity by Ramya Charmalie Jirasinghe, and the website of the Trinity College Library. That is how things are, and surprisingly were: often the person who was the initiator is not acknowledged solely because that person does not seek publicity nor praise. Sriyanganie who died prematurely in 2008 was such a person. But she got appreciation, praise and friendship from Lakshman Kadirgamar; the then Principal –Lt Colonel Leonard M de Alwis; and a very few others who openly appreciated her contribution to Trinity College Kandy.

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