An old Cambrian wrote to me once referring to a particular Principal during whose tenure ‘the college activities were allowed to be worsen due to assigning part of the Principal’s mundane duties to a peon named ( S……y). Seemingly, what had happened was the peon, who became like a cock on a brick wall, showing off his new powers was nick named as the ‘Vice Principal’! ‘Depressing indeed’ ! the old Cambrian recollected. It sounded very strange though that the during the final stages of the services as the Principal of the College, he had delegated the task of rubber stamping student reports to the peon as he had thought it was such a mundane and time consuming task to sign hundreds of student reports personally.
Another old Cambrian who became a member of staff for a short spell at the College after completing his studies at the Prince of Wales College recalled a hilarious incident, connected with this ‘peon narrative’. Apparently when a notice was circulated to all class teachers, through the peon, requesting class teachers submitted all students’ reports to the Principal for signature, ’our popular mathematics teacher had taken the pun out of it by reading the notice quite loudly so that the whole class could hear it by stating, “ All students’ reports must reach the peon for rubber stamping”!.
There were so many Tamil teachers during our time at PWC, their names ending with ….. …segaran;………..sundaram; ……ratnam to ……. thanam, who were all teaching Science subjects. The only lady teacher who taught us Chemistry was a young Tamil lady in sari whose name illustrated a famous middle eastern country. The legendary …….ratnamwho always walked leaning to a side was nicknamed and depicted in the College Magazine in a cartoon as “The Leaning Tower of PWC!”
Another Tamil master who taught Botany suffered from nasty coughing bouts. It rather became a distraction, apart from spreading germs when students became more interested in recording the number of times he coughed during a 45 minute period rather than concentrating on the Botany lesson. Poor master had been suffering from tuberculosis, I came to know quite late and he had been admitted to Ragama hospital for treatment, I had left college by that time.
Another respectable Zoology master …….. sundaram, whose hobby was photography flew off the handle when a student had his name on display on the blackboard in big capital letters with a prefix BALU ………. sundaram!. He lost his cool so much that Mr. Nobert Dias (deceased) had to cool him down saying, “after all you are teaching zoology………..,” which was followed by a row of laughter.
There were two eminent drawing masters at PWC who were equally outstanding and had been like part of the Prince of Wales College furniture. I can recall how my elder brother (the late M .R. Fernando – Former Director of Highways) telling me how he shared the office of one of these drawing master’s (during his time) to have his lunch.
The only difference between the two drawing masters had been that one was fluent in Sinhala, whereas the other one was a bit rusty in Sinhala. Once the son of the master who was proficient in Sinhala had drawn a picture of two cows (one without a tail) grazing. The student had given a poetic caption in Sinhala to suit the drawing: “Gon dedenek vel eliyake kaka uni” (Once upon a time there were two cows grazing grass in a paddy field).
The drawing master who was not skillful in Sinhala had admired the drawing but could not understand the poetic phrase that went with it. In the meanwhile, the ebullient teacher, who was eloquent in Sinhala had quipped in a good-humoured manner; “that’s meant for people like you”! Certainly such a statement had irked the other teacher in no small measure, but could not do anything to his colleague whose sense of humour was inimitable.
Looking at the progress or the regress of the College, and going back to three to four decades, the pulse felt by several old Cambrians today indicates that the reason why PWC could not retain teachers of par excellence and veracity in the Upper School was due to out-and-out mismanagement by the then Vice Principal, who was a famous (infamous) Brahmin bachelor who was always seen walking along the corridors from his room at the end of a long corridor and passing all the class rooms, on his heels, with feet wide apart as if to avoid some obstructions on his way. While he walked he used to dangle his bunch of room keys on his left palm. Whatever the obstacles he may have foreseen right in front of him at that time during his walks, it appears now that he had been the cause for many a student to leave Prince of Wales while he appeared as an obstacle !
The general consensus among some old boys is that if teachers of the calibre of the late Messrs. A.P.M. Peiris or Norbert Dias had been the Vice Principal at that time, rather than the Brahmin, the College would have acclaimed a much superior status than it earned then.