Edmund Disanayake A legend at Wesley


The dream begins with a teacher, who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau. If I may quote the famous Pandit Guru Govinda (1898-1985), a guru is an individual, who is definitely more than a teacher or a pedagogue, a strict or formal teacher. This individual has all these atributes. There are certain teachers whose names are synonymous with the schools they teach. Also, there are school cricketers, many names that go with the respective schools they studied at. For example, Viji Weerasinghe, E. C. Gunasekera of Royal, W. D. E. Perera, Captain V. I. Perera, Stanley Munasinghe, W. B. (Bertie) Perera with Nalanda, Keerthisinghe, A. D. Karunanda, Bertie Fernando with Ananda, Lassie Abeywardane, Bertie Wijesinghe, Orville Abeynaike, Jayasena Ratnayaka with S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and Edmund Dissanayake, with Wesley, to name a few.

Out of the schoolboy cricketers, some of the names like Amendra’s of Mahinda, Gunasekera’s and De Saram’s at Royal College, Senanayake’s (D. S., Dudley, Robert), Molamure’s, Bulankulama’s and Pieris’s) from S. Thomas’ Perera’s – Lincoln, Parliamentarian and Chairman of the United National Party, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Asoka Warnapura, Weerasinghe, Illukkumbura’s, (Daya, Karunatilake), Narangoda’s, (Herbert, Eastmen, Leslie, Jayantha), Nalanda’s, Ranatunga’s – Dhammika, Arjuna, Prasanna, Nishantha, Ruwan, are unforgettable.

Dissanayake clan

The name Edmund Dissanayake as a school cricketer and a teacher at Wesley College, Colombo is one of a kind.

Wesley College and the Dissanayakes are inseparable. Fathers, brothers and sons have represented Wesley at cricket. The Dissanayake clan began their cricket career in Wesley in late 1930s. Bertram played for Wesley from 1939-1941, Chandra, Donald, Edmund from 1944-1945, Graham Dissanayake, who retired as the Commissioner of the Food Department was the first Ceylonese to secure the Diploma in Development Administration (Manchester). His son, a livewire at Wesley, Mahendra Dissanayake, captained in 1984. He played cricket in Australia too. While in Australia, Mahendra, son of Graham, obtained the Bachelor of Engineering Degree and Msc in Information Technology.

Record breakers – father and son

All these Dissanayakes (father-son combination), wrote their names in gold in the cricketing history of Wesley.

They both captained the college. Both scored centuries against Royal College, another unique record. These two Dissanayakes set many records at Wesley. Edmund’s son Danesh, did better than the father Edmund, by scoring two centuries against Royal.

Fairy tale

The Wesley and Dissanayake episode, is like a fairy tale. It will not be complete, if I do not enlighten you on the famous, Wesley – S. Thomas’ encounter in 1947.

Wesley were riding high, having beaten Royal a week before.

The Thomians were captained by Upali Katugaha and Wesley by Edmund Dissanayake. Ronnie Weerakoon was the vice captain of S. Thomas’ College. An unprecedented crowd flocked to Mount Lavinia to see a ‘Greek meeting a Greek’.

Edmund Dissanayake had a premonition of disaster before the game. On the second day of the match (Saturday), Wesley Principal, Rev. James Cartman, decided to drive Edmund in his car to Mount Lavinia. The car stalled near the Lady Ridgeway Hospital, Borella. Was it a bad omen?

They managed to do a quick repair and proceeded to Mount Lavinia. The first day belonged to Wesley with their skipper Edmund Dissanayake capturing 6 for 14 in the first innings. In the second essay, the school by the sea were at sea, losing their last six wickets for 60 and and were staring at defeat.

Edmund Dissanayake was a brilliant captain. He was a fine strategist. From one end he brought in N. S. Jayasundera, a spinner for an odd over. Edmund, the fighting captain, took up position at short leg. During this era, there were no helmets and other protective gear.

Ronnie Weerakoon was at strike facing N. S. Jayawickrema. One of his deliveries slipped off his palm. Ronnie clobbered the full toss with all his might and the red cherry struck Edmund with a resounding thud on his head. Edmund swung around and around like a merry-go-round.

Wesley Principal Rev. Cartman was the first to rush to the field and carried his injured skipper Edmund.

Before Edmund lapsed into unconsciousness, he instructed the deputy skipper regarding the bowling changes.

While Edmund was battling for his life at the hospital, Wesley emerged victorious by 112 runs.

At the hospital the good doctor Dr. J. H. F. Jayasuriya, the eminent Neuro Surgeon, battled round the clock to save Edmund’s life. He suffered from concussion, laceration of the brain tissues, associated with paralysis of the region below the waist. Edmund Dissanayake’s recovery was a miracle.

For nearly three months Edmund’s life was hanging on a thread.

Added to all this commotion, there was a death notice in the Daily News – stop press – E. Dissanayake. Presuming that the worst had happened to Edmund, people sent floral tributes and telegrams and rushed to E. Dissanayake’s residence. The Royal and S. Thomas’ cricket teams were also present to pay their last respects. Can you believe, the lady principal, teachers and students in the southern capital, the sister school of Richmond, Rippon Girls School, held a memorial service on behalf of the living Edmund Dissanayake.

Wesley – A great seat of learning

Wesley was founded on March 2, 1874. Through its portals, several highly distinguished sons have passed through. To name a few out of many; Sir D. B. Jeyatilleke, Dr. E. W. Adikaram, Prof. J. E. Jayasuriya, Prof. E. F. C. Loduwyke, P. de S. Kularatne, Father S. G. Perera, Sir Oliver Goonetileke, Sir Claude Corea, Sir Gerard Wijekoon, Sir Mohammed Macan Markar, Justice Amir Ismail and Rienzie Wijetilake.

From Wesley emerged Sri Lanka cricketers, M. Sathasivam, Abu Fuard, L. R. Gunatileke and Sridharan Jeganathan.

Edmund began has career as a teacher at Wesley and rose to the rank and positions of Head Master, Deputy Principal, Prefect of Games and Master-in-Charge of Cricket.

Edmund Dissanayake taught at Wesley from 1949 to 1980, the last five years as Head-Master. Then from 1982 to 1985, he taught English at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura. From 1982 to 2005, he was an English Lecturer attached to Aquinas.

In the meantime, he did his law studies and became an Attorney-at-Law. From 1980 to 2005, he worked as an attorney at the Magistrate’s Court. After a motor accident, in 2005, he did not attend court. For the last five years he had been kept under ‘House Detention’.

His beloved wife Amara is nursing him. Daughter Gaithri, daughter-in-law Kanchana and son Danesh have given a fresh lease of life to Edmund Dissanayake.

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