Although the Inaugural Meeting of the Centenary Group was held in June, 1986, its history goes back by at least another year and a half, The credit of kindling the first spark must go to my brother, the late Gamini (B.C.G.) and his good pal Visvalingam (Visva). They enjoyed watching STC at cricket on Saturdays. One day, whilst at a match, they had this bright idea of forming a 1951 Group.
This seedling that originated in them was passed on to me, as I was then very active in College affairs, being a member of the OBA Executive Committee. I discussed this idea with Lionel Gunawardena, who coined the name’ Centenary Group’, and the two of us got down to ‘business’. It was tedious, but proved to be fruitful.
The preliminary or formative meetings were held and hosted by Lionel Gunawardena at his residence. Many such meetings were held before that inaugural meeting in June, 1986. 1 could name the following as founder members who participated in these preliminary meetings. They are the late Amitha Abeysekera, late Edward Kurukulasuriya, late Jayasena Ellawala, late N.S. Perera (who volunteered to act as the first secretary), Ranjit Seneviratna, Nihal Samarasingha, Nanda Silva, Frank de Silva, ‘Patchy’ Bulankulame and Nimal Jayawardena, who was the resource man who helped to ‘unearth’ the names and addresses of the old boys of that era. (Pardon me, if I have missed any names).
After further rounds of preparatory meetings, the first official General Meeting and get-together was held in December, 1986, at the Police Park Grounds, Bambalapitiya, with the assistance and co-operation of Lakshman Siriwardena. We had about 40 to 45 old boys participating in the event and the following office bearers were unanimously agreed upon: President – Kingsley Goonesekara, Secretary- Ranjit Seneviratna, Treasurer -Jayasena Ellawala, Committee Members – L.V. Gunawardena, Edward Kurukulasuriya, N.S. Perera and Lakshman Siriwardena.
Decisions were made not to have a rigid constitution and not to levy a membership fee. It was meant to be a flexible group, meeting at least twice an year for fellowship, particularly before the Big Match. Invitations were to be sent by post, and media exposure was got through the good offices of Amita Abeysekera (Island) and Ian Jayasingha (Daily News).
The next do, a meeting and get-together was held at the Old Thomians Swimming Club; it was a huge success and a memorable occasion. In fact, this meeting irked the OBA, which thought it would clash with the interests of the OBA. This was just a figment of someone’s imagination. The Centenary Group was never intended to be so, and now it has been proved to be an asset, complementing the tasks of the OBA.
Since that first meeting and fellowship, we held several such functions. The Centenary Group offered three (3) Scholarships to deserving students and ran a food stall at the Thomian Fair, collecting as much as Rs. 75,000/-, which was donated to College.
So began what has now grown to become a huge oak tree, firmly rooted and bearing many a fruit, helping the Alma Mater in various ways and tasks that the original founder members never ever imagined. My only regret is that unlike old wine, this tree would be subject to decay and death. But then, that is the nature of things.
I wish to sign off wishing the Group further success and thanking all those who rallied round to make the Centenary Group what it is today.
Writer: Dr. Kingsley Goonesekara