Duo of Alumni to Herald 125th Anniversary of the Royal College Union


by Mahinda Wijesinghe

Royal College, Colombo, originally known as the Colombo Academy is now 180 years old, and as the school song warbles on "and thence did Lanka’s learning thrive." On January 17, the Royal College Union (RCU) is due to celebrate the quasquicentennial, or the 125th anniversary, of their origin at a gala event to be held at a sit-down dinner in a five-star hotel. Now it can also be stated without much fear "and thence did RCU thrive!"

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to propose the toast to the RCU while yet another distinguished alumnus, Eustace Lorenz Pereira- now resident in Melbourne, Australia – will do the honours to the College.

Of course the track record of Mr.Wickremasinghe who is now in his fourth decade in the political arena, and has a unique record of being the country’s Prime Minister for the fourth time needs hardly any introduction. His reputation in all these years as the impeccable Mr.Clean speaks for itself. The other toastmaster, Eustace Lorenz Pereira - who emigrated some four decades ago though he kept in touch with Royal College and his contemporaries – should be introduced especially to the younger generation. It is not mere rhetoric to accept the fact that Lorenz must quite easily be the most outstanding all-round student in the history of the College. Indeed, an ideal role-model for any youngster to follow.

Lorenz’s parents, the legendary Professor E.O.E. Pereira, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and subsequently Vice Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya and his mother Mavis would indeed have been thrilled to know that their eldest son had reached such heights thereby not only bringing honour to their family, his brothers Brian and Alan, but also to Royal College and Sri Lanka.

Lorenz entered Royal College in 1950, and went on to excel in four sports, namely as an outstanding all-rounder in cricket – a dashing left-hand batsman, wily off-spinner and a brilliant close-in fielder – who not only went on to captain the Royal College first XI, the Combined Colleges XI but also ended up as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1959. After leaving school he played a few games for the Singhalese Sports Club and rugby for the CR & FC then went to England where he joined the Cambridge University. He played a few county cricket matches under two future England cricket captains, namely Tony Lewis and Mike Brearley. There he successfully obtained his M. A. in Real Estate Economics. On his return to his native land he joined the tea-brokering firm of John Keells, and continued his sporting activities becoming the first non-white to captain the CCC and the CH & FC cricket and rugby teams, respectively.

In rugby-football, though not big-made in physique, his fleet-footedness in the wing and the swerving, dodging runs he made compensated and was eventually picked to represented the national team while still in school; a rare achievement indeed in a tough and tumbling game.

Tennis is still another game he still loves to indulge in, and whilst at College he became the runner-up in the Senior Singles competition in the Public Schools tennis championships.

In athletics, he was a member of the senior 4x100 relay team during the Public Schools Athletics meet when not only did Royal College become champions clinching not only the much-coveted Tarbat Challenge Shield but also the relay team broke the existing record. Thus Lorenz won his public school athletics ‘colours’ as well.

As the modest Lorenz claimed: "We played sport not for glory, but for the joy of mere participation. My greatest memories are the life-long friendships that evolved. Sport in my day was a pleasurable passport to an amazingly indulgent lifestyle."

How he managed to be involved in all these sports, and to think that he bagged the prestigious Dornhorst Memorial prize for the most outstanding student and be appointed the Head Prefect as well, beggars one’s imagination. "Acquire a keen interest in something which becomes a driving passion in your life and get out there and innovate and never give up due to initial set-backs" is another bit of advice he offers to the growing generation.

Indeed, past and present teachers and students of Royal College can hold their heads high that such legendary alumni would be clinking their glasses to propose the toasts on this momentous occasion.

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