Chapter 4 - No: 16 Palmyrah Avenue, Colpetty & St Thomas' Preparatory School

My earliest memory of this house was the morning that I started Kindergarten at St Thomas’ Prep School, Colpetty. I remember being driven to school with Dad and Mum and walking through the gate on Galle Road to the second floor classrooms of the block next to the road and being introduced to the teacher and my class mates.

Jacqueline with Original Prep School Building in 2002





Ed on the Kindergarten steps in 2002






After this I was picked up and taken to kindergarten by rickshaw.

Francis Rodrigues with Elephant Kill



I also remember when my God-father, Mr Francis Rodriguesz (who we called Uncle Tapsy) lived with us at this house and the stories that he told me of his life and the elephant hunts that he had been on and the pictures of these hunts that he had. He had a glass fronted gun case in which he kept his rifles and double barreled shot guns that fascinated me. He also had an extensive library of books that I loved to read.

Francis Rodrigues (Uncle Tapsy) with Trophies of the hunt




When he died he left me his stamp collection that I still have today. The old man used to like to go for long walks along the railway lines that ran along the coast at the end of Palmyrah Avenue. I believe that he read a book while he walked. It was on one of these walks that he met his death when he stepped from the railway line on which he was walking, to avoid an oncoming train and was killed when he stepped into the path of a passing train. His coffin was brought to the home and the cortege left for Kanatte Cemetery from our house. We kids were not allowed into the house during this period and I remember sitting on the wall between us and Number 14 where our neighbours, Mr & Mrs De Kretser lived, to watch the proceedings and the hearse leave. This was a tragic death. Thanks to my God-father who left me some money that my parents invested, when we decided to migrate, we used this inheritance to pay for my passage to Australia.

Muriel and Marie in front of No 14 Palmyrah Avenue

Life at Palmyrah Avenue was a constant adventure. During the war the army had built a number a concrete gun emplacements on the land by the beach at the end of the street. The cavenous structures were a young boy’s delight. The smells of damp sea spray combined with all sorts of items that had been left behind was something that had to be explored. The “Dhoby’s” (Clothes Washers) used the vacant land beside Palmyrah Avenue and running in between the bed sheets until we were caught was and reprimanded and reported to our parents was the occasional distraction. We used to visit Mum’s Aunt Ruth Kelaart (Mother of Mauve Outschoon (nee Kelaart ) and Ernie Kelaart) and her sister “Girla” who was an invalid (Mother of Yvonne ) and lived down 8th Lane that was the next street to Palmyrah Avenue and to take a short cut through the Dhoby’s land was another challenge. Rowlands Family watching the sun set over the sea on the horizon was also something that the family enjoyed and I recall many an evening where we all would go down to the vacant land at the end of Palmyrah Avenue to feel the sea breezes and watch the sun set.

In the meantime, after the war, Dad had started a refrigeration business of his own in Turret Road, Colpetty and I would walk to his workshop after school and wait for him to finish and take me home. One day when I got to the workshop my Dad was in a lather as his Accountant had fled with the company funds. I am told that the months after this were difficult financially and when Mum got the opportunity, she started taking in Englishmen who worked for “Cable & Wireless”, as boarders.

Gallery of pictures of our English Boarders.
Mr Gibbs

Mr Phillips

Mr Broadhead

Mr Potter in England

Mr Gibbons
Mr Walton
These were exciting times as these men treated us kids with all kinds of “Goodies”. The pictures of some of them were taken at 16 Palmyrah Avenue. This was during the period of food rationing and I recall as a eleven year old being sent on my bicycle to the “NAAFI” (Navy Air Force Army Institute) with vouchers from our English Boarders to get tinned food, meat, biscuits and other delicacies that were not available to the general public.

Bevis Pieris and Ed


I became good friends with Bevis Pieris who lived at 22 Palmyrah Avenue. We spent all our spare time at each others house and many a time Mum would send the servants to look for me at Lunch and Dinner time. We played with our model cars and loved to build models of “villages” in which to drive our Dinky toy cars, trucks, planes, etc. I also remember that Bevis had a battery operated scale model car that could be steered and had head and tail lights and it was a delight to play with this toy. We were given bikes one Christmas and this made commuting between houses much easier. Bevis now lives in the USA and we are still in contact with each other.
St Thomas' Prep School, Colpetty, Shield and Motto

Before school and during the lunch break we would play cricket with base of a coconut tree as our batting wicket. I also recall playing marbles at school. I used to walk home after school and a visit to the “Marble shop” on the way was a necessity. During this period I became good friends with Warren Dickson who also lived in Colpetty. We used to walk to his parent’s house after school and spend hours playing in the street with other children, until it was time to go home. This friendship lasted until Warren’s death in Brisbane, Australia.

Another school friend was Ben Eliyathamby. I looked forward to going to Ben’s parent’s house to play as he had a fabulous train set and other toys.

The beach at the end of our street was a constant attraction to us kids who loved to play in the sand and swim when allowed, but to get to the beach one had to cross the railway line and then clamber down to rock that prevented erosion of the land. We were therefore forbidden to go to the beach without an adult being present. During my teens I spent many a day swimming and spear fishing in the ocean.

At the front entrance of 16 Palmyrah Avenue



I recall that there was a French family who rented the big house at the top of Palmyrah Avenue in 1950 for a year and we became good friends with the daughters who were a couple of year older than us. They taught us a game named “Kick the Can”, where one person was nominated to look after the can and the others hid nearby with a view to kicking the can away from the person if an opportunity arose. The person looking after the can could take you out of the game by saying “I spy” when he or she discovered your hiding place and the game ended when all the hiding places had been discovered. It was a sad day when they left to go back to France.

Muriel, Marie and Gail Weiman who lived at No 12 Palmyrah Avenue


I was not a gifted student, but tried hard and my studies progressed satisfactorily until the time came for me to sit for the entrance exams for St Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia. I was trying for a scholarship in music with a view to becoming a Chorister in the College Chapel. I recall singing for Reverend Boyer Yin at “Thalasa”, the house by the sea. I was not successful in getting into Mt Lavinia, but was awarded a scholarship to St Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa. This was the temporary end of a fabulous life style.

2 comments:

  1. Good to see photos of my old school in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Golden memories! Those wonderful years will never come back again!

    ReplyDelete