EMMESS and his legacy: KINROSSAugust 18, 2012, 4:00 pm
By Maheen Senanayake
Sometimes, the real world has to be pitched against the mythical and imaginary. At least once, the story must be real, the characters real and the places real. Ladies and gentlemen, for once, reality must be tested against the imagination. Live it, believe it.
The morning sun moved on its trajectory towards its zenith as layers upon layers of society converged onto that stretch of beachfront facing an infamous ship wreck - the wreck more popular than the ship itself. Personnel from the police and army exercised in squads while families in ordinary clothes challenged the waves only to be defeated by the soldiers of the Indian Ocean. The fitness fanatics and enthusiasts did the `Bay Watch’ while others walked waist deep into the water enjoying their sea bath. Yet others swam along imaginary lanes parallel to the shore. The sound of the train to and from the Wellawatte station did nothing to stop life on the Kinross beach. Avians took turns to challenge the winds flapping their wings in stationary motion while other birds rode the air current. On the ground below, about 50 metres apart, two yellow and red flags fluttered in the breeze.
The shouts were first occasional. Then they became hurried. The two boys on the log shouted and tried reaching out in desperation. Their partner, another boy in the water struggled. As the people on the beach suddenly fell silent, many exclaimed and shouted as they spotted the threesome in the water. The yellow shirt clad swimmers had already hit the water, pulling the novel torpedo behind while a third dashed into the water with a surf board. The swimmers used controlled strokes, reading the waves as they moved towards the distressed bather. It was August and the currents were still rough. The drifting log indicated the flow, direction and speed of the currents.
‘Don’t struggle – RELAX!,’ shouted a female voice. She had momentarily paused and was treading water and ensured her partner ahead of her was calculating the direction of his swim to account for the drift. While the cries of the now frozen spectators were distant, Chryshantha held the young man in trouble and moved him onto his back. The female yellow shirt reached the log and pulled it back to shore, both synchronizing their swimming and adjusting and angling their course to factor the current as they moved towards the shore.
As they reached the shoreline, several other yellow shirts moved to help resuscitate the young man who coughed and sputtered and came back to life. The sigh of relief from the crowd on the beach was almost audible. As his name ‘ Herath’ was penned in the life saving log on August 4, 2012, he became the nth life to be saved by the Kinross Life Saving and Swimming Club’s lifeguards.
A tradition has been kept alive since the beginning of the club which began as an idea in November of 1940 when EMMESS or Mike Sirimanne, the founder of the club, saved a life in similar fashion on the same beach front. The life saving squad has over the years handed their skills to the following generations through a regiment of succession planning.
Mr. Victor Peiris,the current patron of the club organized the 47th annual six mile sea swim, the longest in south east asia in April this year. That too was the brainchild of Mike Sirimanne. The two mile and six mile sea swims organized by Kinross are now main events in the island’s swimming calendar.
"Interestingly, Mike has participated in this meet continuously fro 21 years since 1943 to 1963", said Peiris, a life member and former patron of the club. Its committee responsible for the training the lifeguards is led by Priyantha Jayakody (coach and trainer – lifeguard squad) under the direction of Susil Perera, chairman, aquatic sub-comittee and the able assistance of both R H Karunaratne, a swimming and life saving instructor ( a member of both the life saving association and the SLASU) and D R Athukorala, the oldest serving life guard at 72-years and a life saving instructor. He represented Sri Lanka at the World life saving championships ten years ago in Australia. The Club renders yeoman service as it trains its lifeguards free of charge and expects to continue to provide this service in the same fashion.
Speaking on the service, Mr. Jayakody who dedicatees a good portion of his time and resources to the training of the lifeguards said "We have continued this free service for 22 years. 32 of our candidates passed the intermediate examinations and eight completed the resuscitation stage two weeks ago."
Ian Kelly, a founding member who had only recently returned from Australia, was very keen that the club moved in the right direction. There had been a time when it was hard to get boys and girls to embrace life saving as a sport and gift to society and commended the current chairman of the aquatic sub-committee, Susil Perera for his efforts along with the dedication of Victor Pieris who have dedicated themselves to this cause.
The team maintains watch on the Kinross beachfront every Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays from 10 am and 5 pm.
Reminiscing the past, Ian related to me how the Kinross Club which began in a shed today has over 3,000 members. "We raised the funds ourselves by organizing a carnival," he reminisced. ``We were first on Charlemont Road before we moved here."
He fondly remembered Mike Sirimanne who he says was like a father to him.
Pictures by Aamina Nizar
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