Some are born great.. some achieve greatness.. and others have greatness thrust upon them

Rev. J. McLeod Campbell

Rev. J. McLeod Campbell (1924 – 1935)

Rev. Campbell was nearly 40 years old when he came out as Principal, against Rev. Fraser’s 26. He came from aristocratic Scottish stock and had his schooling in Marlborough before entering Balliol in 1903. There he took a History Honours Degree in 1906 but continued reading Theology and he took holy orders in 1909. For his services as Army Captain during the War he won the Military Cross in 1918, and in the same year was elected a Fellow of Hertford, after his uncle’s death in 1919. For his services as Army Captain during the War he won the Military Cross in 1918, and in the same year was elected a Fellow of Hertford. After his uncle’s death in 1919 and until his coming out to Ceylon, he lived on the ancestral estate at Achnasie on the Gareloch in Dumbartonshire.

The Trinity to which Rev. Campbell succeeded in 1924 already flourished exceedingly both in the academic field as well as in sport. More important, it had developed a strong and virile tradition of its own. Yet there was more to come, an added dimension, for in the next ten years Rev. Campbell gave to Trinity a rounded wholeness, a mellowness, that finally completed the work that Rev. Fraser had begun.

That Rev. Campbell was able to add to Rev. Fraser’s impressive achievement is a result of his own special qualities. He was Rev. Fraser’s own choice as his successor, and the late Adigar Ratwatte is on record as having said that among the many good things Rev. Fraser had done the best was his choice of Rev. Campbell. Physically impressive, over six feet tall and broad of stature, he was soon to sport a totally silver head but the most striking thing about him was the twinkle in his eye and his radiant smile likened by a pupil, in an essay on the new Principal, to the glare of the sun on a silver bell. His was a demonstratively affectionate nature and he loved people with such simplicity and directness that it demanded reciprocation and emulation. In a very real sense the whole school was one large family united by ties of goodwill that emanated initially from him. This family feeling is in no way better exemplified than in the numerous School and House excursions that Rev. Campbell organized and encouraged and in which he so delighted.

Rev. Campbell’s real forte was his oratory – the ringing and compelling voice, the meticulous construction and balance of his speeches, the choice of words used not only for their own sake but for expressing himself more precisely, the gift of finding new and fresh ways of saying something worth saying. His Prize Day addresses were all masterpieces of the art and people came from all over the country chiefly to listen to him.

If as a person Rev. Campbell radiated kindliness and as a speaker inspired his listeners to the greatest heights as a Principal he helped create a liberal atmosphere, an undergraduate climate of freedom, scholarship and culture that surely must have been unique in any school in Ceylon at that time. In those days the school was still a small one and the Principal was free of all those administrative duties that today choke his existence and so it was possible for him to treat every senior pupil almost as a personal friend. To this the boys responded without reserve and there is no question that Rev. Campbell was the best loved of all the Principals of this school. Even after he left in 1935 he kept in touch with the school and no one in any way connected with it could go to Britain without being sought out, entertained and helped by him, even though, as Queen’s Chaplain, among other things, he was a busy and important man.

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