He who enters this noble land shalt walk out pure and enriched 14 years after

Mr. Lionel Fernando

Mr. Lionel Fernando (1968 – 1977)

Having served 10 years Mr. C. J. Oorloff informed the Board of Governors that he would be reaching retirement age and that he would stand down to any adequate person. Apparently the Board had not given serious thought of the matter of his successor and not being prepared invited him to carry on for the next three years in order that the selection committee would have enough time to find a person. After two years of search the choice fell on Mr. Fernando an old boy of the college in the days of Canon McLeod Campbell and Rev. Robert Stopford even though he had no previous experience in education. Having started off his school career here he had a short spell in Ananda College Colombo and entered the University. Like so many in his day he too could not resist the lure for government service and joined the Department of Prisons where he rose in rank. Subsequently he obtained a degree in Arts. Even though his career in the Department was one of excellence he went into pre mature retirement and joined the Hayleys Group of Companies where he gained valuable experience in financial administration.

In some ways his appointment broke fresh grounds in the Religious policy of the school for he was a Methodist and distinctly the first non Anglican to be appointed as Principal. He was always humble about his own convictions and was rather intolerant with those who looked for mere outward distinction. He believed that the school must retain its identity as a leading Christian institution, but accepted that religious rights of others must be recognized. He allowed Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus to have their religious functions within the premises of the school in anticipation of it being made compulsory with the new educational policy of the state. A difficult task it was at a time people were still clinging to non-emancipated ideas. That which followed was amazing-perfect religious harmony. Nobody predicted that Christians, Muslims and Hindus would participate in the alms giving of the Buddhists and at the end of it, share a meal together. That was the way in those days. In turn all irrespective of their religion worked together to prepare for the Annual Carol Service and most of them became a part of the congregation.

The prelate of the Asgiriya Buddhist Chapter the most Venerable Godamunne Nagasena came to the school in response to an invitation from the Principal. That paid rich dividends later. When the ownership of Asgiriya grounds became a sinister question the chapter was firm in their decision that though Trinity is a Christian school it must be its rightful owner. That he broke all narrow domestic walls is a matter worthy of record.

Besides he was not a man who merely paid lip service in standing up to ideals. When the Racial Riots broke and many were made destitute and refugees he was magnanimous in opening the gates of Trinity to those affected. Again his concern for the mentally sick is noteworthy. He was the friend of those in trouble. With knowledge of Psychology he rehabilitated them and today some of them are holding responsible positions even in the Medical Field. He visited the sick boys, teachers and minor employees and consoled them in times of bereavements. He was personally present at most of the funerals of people connected to the school.

The period he held sway can be distinctly divided into two parts. The first period from 1968 – 1974 was when he partnered Hilary Abeyratne both being old boys in improving the school. It was a period of hard work with the educational reforms. It was a period of Colour and glamour with the Centenary Celebrations. The second ending in 1977 was one of quiet stabilization.

Improvement of the Matron’s Dormitory and the beautiful building now known as the Centenary Building belong to his period. Worthy of greater merit is the swimming pool project he initiated despite all obstacles and financial difficulties. That is recorded in the section on the swimming pool.

He like his predecessor was for non commercialization of education and firmly believed that when school fees were raised he was most apologetic about it. The problem of instability of the staff which vexed his predecessor was considerably eased with the recruitment of more lady teachers, who were more prone to be with the school rather than look for more promising jobs. In his times the staff was considerably happy with the Staff Advisory Committee he put into operation. With that it was possible to bridge the gap between the principal and the staff. Grievances were registered and speedy remedies were always found. At the same time he established the student counselling to attend on those with problems.

Significantly among his manifold objectives was the belief to which he firmly stuck that Trinity must make the kind of citizen who could appreciate the cultural heritage. It was with this in mind that he gave a boost to Kandyan Dancing which was brought up to be a first class activity in the school. Above all he believed that education must also be to meet the needs of the country.

In giving the farm all encouragement and patronage he reaped ample benefits and when the food crisis came in 1971 not only did the farm subsidise much of school needs, but also offered solutions to the country and even other third world countries. Amazingly when all hostels in the country closed, Trinity kept it going.

His resignation came somewhat abruptly making it necessary to appoint an acting Principal to officiate during the interim period. After a holiday in the Middle East he announced that he would be resigning in September 1977 and that the Board of Governors was intimated. He also made the announcement that Mr. Hilary Abeyratne was also contacted in considering a successor.

As a speaker he was always eloquent with a rare ability to hold any audience spellbound. But his farewell addresses were marked with a melancholy note. He felt that he was leaving a place that was second home. That it was genuine there is little doubt. In accordance with his wishes he spent that last year of his life in the premises of the school.


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