Re-visiting PWC

Suicide inside the PWC Science Laboratory

December 31, 2015

Once some boys in my class decided to lock the ‘geometrical drawing’ master out, by shutting all windows and the louver-door in a classroom immediately underneath the Prince of Wales College clock. By that time our class had earned a reputation as a bunch of notorious ‘incorrigibles’ who were being transferred from one  class room to another after every act of mischief; teachers were naturally thrown into perplexity not knowing where we were  and experienced a difficult task in finding our class room.

It happened to be the last period of the day when some boys decided  not to let the geometrical drawing master enter our class room. Until the last five minutes to end the school session we all kept mum in complete darkness until a curious student slightly shifted louvers in a window to take a glimpse. Unfortunately at that very moment the geometrical drawing master in a daze was right in front of the louver window on the corridor not being able to find where on earth we were.

An excited voice within the classroom shouted at the boy who was peeping through the louvers, “shut it…. shut it.. Men!” that gave a clue to the master where we were hiding. Within minutes a thundering voice was heard saying : “Open the bloody door” with a forceful kick, which nearly flung the doors open. Someone in the classroom announced: “Don’t open… don’t open,” but the enraged voice thundered even louder: “Never you mind,  open the bloody d…..o …..o… r……..!” . Fuming Principal entered the classroom like a rocket with a long cane accompanied by the geometrical drawing master.

Gritting his teeth in anger, the Principal wanted to know who was responsible for the loutish act. Dead silence of unity prevailed, as usual , and the final result being we all received three cane lashings on our buttocks.

In the midst of this hullaballoo, the final bell to dismiss the college went off and we were detained for 45 minutes after school, for which  the poor teacher too had to hang around with us.

As much as fun and disorderly behaviour, we experienced the most tragic moment in our time when one of our beloved teachers committed suicide inside the laboratory by swallowing a concentrated concoction of acid. That morning the teacher was spotted walking up and down across the classroom in a pensive mood. At 2.45 pm there was pandemonium, and everyone rushed towards the laboratory with the news of a suicidal incident.

Frightful scene

Later we learnt that our master had befriended the lab technician in advance, and diplomatically done his homework. On this particular afternoon, he had sent the lab technician out to buy some cigarettes in order that  he could  swallow a concoction of noxious acid.

It was a frightful scene to watch.  A senior prefect (the late Ronnie Abeysinghe) carried the dying teacher on his arms like a child. Some antidote had been administered immediately inside the lab, but his tongue had completely dissolved along with part of the clothes he was wearing.  He was rushed  immediately to Lunawa hospital  where he died, but such madness and sadness is ingrained in our memory as the worst experience at PWC.

It gives me the shivers, even today, when I evoke that horrible scene. The feeling that remains with me is that despite this misfortune, he was a great teacher even though he may have had his own reasons for doing what he did….something like taking his own life! I wish we were old enough for him to have been able to talk to us. Or we could have been there to help him out.

Courtecy of series published in the Daily News in 2012

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