Chapter 9 - Extra Curricular Activities

After College I would usually come home, have a drink and a sandwich, get changed and hop on my bike and head for a friends home. The destination would depend on what was going on at the time.

I recall many a day sitting on the fence between Frankie David’s parents house and Jill Duncan’s parents house and discussing the rugby games or just watching the girls who strolled done School Lane. Frank at that time was courting his wife and Warren Dickson’s girl friend was Denise D’Silva and I was making a hash of trying to have a relationship with her sister Hans. We would meet at various school activities and once I remember cycling as a group to Kotahena to meet the girls.

Later, Ashmore Gomes and some others started the Winged Wheels Cycling Club and we all became members and met regularly at Ashmore’s parents house that was the club house.

This was the time that I became good friends with others who were mad on racing cycles. We all bought ourselves racing cycles and removed mudguards and other un-necessary adornments that caused wind drag. There was only one of us who was any good and so we gave all the support that Allan Brace need to become one of Sri Lanka’s cycling squad. Allan was Ashmore’s cousin and lived in the adjoining house on the same property. He therefore had the support of the family as well as his friends.

David Silva and his Ducati

Members of the club who I can remember were:-

  • Ashmore Gomes

  • Allan Brace

  • Previn Jansz

  • Nigel (Chopper) Joseph

  • Dennis Ingleton

  • Christopher (Christo) Fernando

  • Warren Dickson

  • Susantha Karunatilleke

  • Ed Rowlands

  • David Mangan

  • Fred de Silva

  • Brian Ebell

  • Shirley Fernando

  • Adriaan Ebell

  • Misso Brothers

and others who I cannot recall to memory. It was great to get an email from Brian Ebell after he read my blog and he reminded me of some others whom I had forgotten about. It was interesting to find that Brian had shared a flat with Susantha in London in 1962 and that he had lost contact with Allan Brace when he left for the UK in 1961 and was looking to meet up with him again, but did not know his current address.

Later when we got driving licences and graduated to motor cycles, David Mangan, Warren Dickson and I joined and helped others such as Mike Silva who raced a Ducati and Warwick de Kretser and his brother Ronnie who also had motor bikes.

Motor Cycle Road Racing

When the motor cycle and car races were held at the old Katukurunda Airstrip, we would pile into Johnny Ascough’s Vanguard and with Johnny driving like a maniac there and back, meet up with our other friends to attend as a group.

Later, when I got my drivers licence, we would pile into my fathers’s old Hillman Station Wagon and make the trip to cheer them on. These were interesting times as the camaraderie and the friendships formed during this period have lasted the tests of time.

Friends at Katukunda Races

Seated on the Hillman are Indiran, Frankie David and Christo Fernando, standing beside the car are myself and person whose name I cannot remember and seated inside are Nigel (Chopper) Joseph and Susantha Jansz. Note the Peugeot 203 (the first car that I bought in Australia), beside us.
As a recent photograph shows, motor racing is still held at Katukurunda.

The last year in Sri Lanka was one in which we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. Dennis Ingleton and I knew that we were going to Australia and when ever possible, we spent the rest of our time in seeing the countryside.

One trip was to Indran’s parents house on a coconut estate in Katana. This was day trip and we went swimming in the nearby river, I think we also tried our hand at shooting, but in general a relaxing day was had by all, as the following photographs show.

Present that day were, Christo Fernando, Indran, his brother, Dennis Ingleton, Susantha Karunatilleke and myself.
Nigel Joseph and I became good friends when we were members of the Winged Wheels Cycle Club and also enjoyed ourselves, spear-fishing along the reefs at Colpetty, Bamabalapitiya and Wellawatte or lobster fishing in the ledges along the shore. I recall that we used an old canvas covered canoe that we made water proof by painting with a tar like substance and used to use this as a base by anchoring it on the reef at “low tide”. How we survived those hair raising swims in the ocean, especially when one went over the reef on the ocean side and felt the tug of the strong tides, but managed to return over to the land side by sheer grit and determination.

At other times Nigel and I would “borrow” his father’s wooden boat that was built in three pieces. Each piece of this boat was built of timber and about a metre in length. For transport the pieces fitted into each other. Each part could be joined together with strong bolts and wing nuts into a boat of about 3 metres. Where the pieces joined were seats and oar locks and the two of us would on a Sunday launch the boat into the Wellawatte Canal near where the canal finished at the beach and row as far as Kotte and back. The people who lived on the banks of the canal must of thought we were lunatics, rowing this boat on a stinking hot day.

Nigel, whose father jointly owned “Hently Garments”, then went to England and when he came back brought back the first pair of shoes that we has seen with extended toes and slim ties that were square at the bottom.

Jill Duncan who was Frankie David’s neighbor held a party at their School Lane house, to celebrate her 18th birthday and Nigel and the others were there in all their finery.

This must have been the time for parties as another good friend Fazi had his birthday next and the boys had a great time playing air trumpet, double base, etc, with Ed Rowlands on air drums.

A few months before I left for Australia, my Grand-father offered me the MG that my Uncle George Rowlands used to race. We towed the car to No 16 Palmyrah Avenue and set about getting it into working order. We replaced the floor and various parts of the engine, such as the carburetor, battery and alternator and finally had it road worthy. The registration had not expired and this was a blessing.

I drove the car to all my friends’ houses and took them for a ride, but the most outstanding journey was driving to the Rugby to impress the girls. John Rodie remembers us taking the car to “Independence Square” and doing wheelies with every one hanging on in the back. Unfortunately, because the car had been modified to racing car standard and the inlet ports had been polished to such an extent that it took a lot of fuel to keep it on the road. Being young men with no jobs and having to depend on our parents for “Petrol Money” meant that the outings became fewer and fewer as time went on. Anyway, it was great while it lasted.

The Red MG TC

I was regular church goer and every Sunday would take the morning bus to the Colpetty Junction and walk to St Michael’s Church. One of the attractions of going to this church was that the girls who were boarders at Bishop’s College, also attended this church. One day in a fit of madness, I decided to “borrow” Dad’s Hillman Station Wagon, without asking his permission and drive to church, hoping to get back at a reasonable time. When walking back to the car after the service, I noticed someone sitting in the driver’s seat. It was Dad who had needed the car that morning (Dad had another set of keys). I was glad that he had not taken the car and driven off as this would have caused a great deal of consternation as I would have assumed that the car had been stolen. When we got home a few words were spoken about the event.
Dad's 1948 Hillman Estate Car

Nigel (Chopper) Joseph and I later were regular attendees at Sunday services at St Paul's Milagriya when our interests turned to girl friends who attended the College nearby.

I attended an interview at Hayleys PLC, (a company in which my Grand-father had a substantial share portfolio) together with Dad for an interview to obtain a position with the company as a “Trainee Tea Planter”. I was not successful and this confirmed that migration to Australia to complete my studies was the only option.

The last few months in Sri Lanka was one of endless visits to friends houses. In order to continue my studies and sit for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level, I attended classes at the Polytechnic, near Royal College. I regularly visited Trevor Laurence and remember clearly having to stay well away from the house gate and call until we were heard, to make sure that Trevor had his large Alsatian under control. At this time the other person that Bevis Peries and I visited was David Van Dort.

My second cousins, David and Derrick Janze lived down Lauries Road in Bambalapitiya and together with their cousins Rudolph and Ronnie Jayathileka, we would meet to discus the various happenings of the day. Their cousin Malcolm Janze, who was studying to become a doctor at the University of Ceylon was also present, as he was boarding with the Janze’s at that time.

Later Model of Vespa Scooter

On week-end Ronnie and I had an idea to go up for the last time to Nuwara Eliya. I borrowed a Vespa scooter from one of the Tamil medical students who were boarding with us at 16 Palmyrah Avenue. We filled the tank with the two stroke petrol mixture that these scooters used, stuffed a change of clothes into the small luggage compartment and took off on our journey on the Friday morning. I was confident of the route as I had travelled many a time to Nuwara Eliya with my parents. Every thing was going smoothly and we were making good time until we had a close call with petrol tanker on the Kandy Road. These scooter had a 1,200cc engine and carrying two adults, was finding it hard going up the mountain pass. I was riding in front and when trying to over take the tanker found that the scooter just did not have the power to climb the hill and also pass the tanker. We traveled beside the tanker for a while and when I saw a truck coming the opposite way, but could not get behind the tanker. I rubbed the apron of the scooter against the rear wheel of the tanker and the truck passed on the other side with millimeters to spare. This nerve wracking experience was the start of further misfortune.

Just before Kegalle we had a puncture of the rear wheel. We knew that Roger Wanigasekera’s parents lived in Kegalle at that time, so we left the scooter at the puncture repair shop and made our way the Mr & Mrs Wanigasekra’s house. We asked to borrow some money for the repairs and as it was now getting late in the afternoon, whether we could stay the night at their house. Being good friends of their son Roger, both requests were granted without hesitation. Mr Wanigasekera drove us to the repair shop and paid for the repairs and we rode the scooter back to his house.

We had a scrumptious dinner and slept like babies after our ordeals of the day. The next morning we woke up early and after a stomach filling breakfast continued our journey up the mountains to Nuwara.Eliya. We stayed the night at Peach Cottage and after a tour of the town and the customary drink at the Nuwara Eliya Hotel, left for Colombo, I think, on the same route that we had previously taken. We were back home by the Sunday evening, without any further problems. We must have had rocks in our heads to do undertake such a crazy journey, with minimal preparation.

This was a year for filling in time until the day came to depart for Australia.

The day finally came when I received the letter from the Australian High Commission to say that my application to migrate to Australia had been accepted.

Letter from Australian High Commission.

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