Wellawatte, a suburb in Colombo, lies immediately south of Bambalapitiya and is classified as zone 6 within the Colombo Municipal region. The town begins at the old Dutch canal just before the Savoy Cinema and extends all the way south to the same canal that spills into the sea just before the Hospital Road junction where Dehiwela begins. It is bounded on the west by the magnificent waters of the Indian Ocean and extends to Pamankade where Havelock Road, forks and winds one of its ways to meet the Śrī Saranankara Road bridge that stretches over the waters of the Dutch canal extending towards Kohuwela-Hospital Road junction on Dutugemunu Street.
The Savoy Cinema
The Savoy Cinema, then owned and managed by C V de Silva, was an icon that no one could ever miss. The stature of the building itself combined with the many attractive movies that were shown there could never miss anyone's attention. Its location right next to the Dutch Canal on the seaside marks the beginning of the town. The Cinema, has, in recent times been bought over by the Edirisinghe Group owned and managed by EAP Edirisinghe and refurbished with a new and state of the art look and features.
The Rahumans lived a massive mansion on the right side of the street, almost three quarters of the way down to the beach. They belonged to the Memon community whose ancestors had arrived, long years ago, and settled as lucrative businessmen in Colombo. Their businesses were located mainly in the Pettah where they indulged in oilman stores, groceries, condiments, spices and other similar produce.
At the far end, on the left, lived Sulaiman Marikar-Bawa with his family in a massive house that had its semi circular bay windows facing the sea. The house had entrances from Charlemont Road and also the beach front. Sulaiman and his family used to provide night prayer facilities at his residence during the Islamic month of fasting (Ramadhan) and a large gathering of believers from the locality used to patronize this service. He was a businessman and owned and managed his family textile business in the Fort called “Marikar Bawa’s” who were very popular and famous for gentlemen’s suiting and tailoring establishment, consisting of the finest fabrics imported from Europe. It was a tradition and privilege, in the old times, to have ones wedding suit purchased and tailored by Marikar Bawa’s. Sulaiman was also a very charitable and philanthropic individual who was extremely generous to the poor and needy. A short, elderly man, sporting a spotless white beard he bore the personality and characteristics of a person who had seen some of the best times in life.
The Large House south of the Savoy was called Agincourt, it was occupied by the grandfather of Allister Bartholomeusz, Cecil Richard Lorensz Herft, retired Engineer PWD, Western or North Western Province.
C.R.L Herft was born on 13 Feb, 1860, in Manaar, and the name Lorensz was given to him in honor of the great burgher personality of old times, Charles Ambrose Lorensz.
He had several children, Doreen Meynert (1898), Chapman Lorensz Metnert (1899), Cecil Eldred Meynert (1900), Idona Elspeth Meynert (1900), Lorenza Neomi Meynert (Oct 11 1901), Audrey Miriam Meynert (1903), Thelma Lilian Meynert (1904), Esmee Bertha Susanna Meynert (1908), Swinburne Annesley Meynert (1910)Fenton Vyville Meynert (1911), & Orville Wesley Meynert (1914).
Lorenza Neomi passed away during childbirth. Her daughter, Margeaux Lillian LOURENSZ is an eminent musician, ballet dancer, and artiste, who, presently (2006), lives in the UK. Esmee Bertha Susanna is the mother of Allister Bartholomeusz.
The HERFT family was a distinguished Family of NEGOMBO. C R L Herft was involved with the inauguration of NEWSTEAD COLLEGE, Negombo, a great Negombo School. He, along with St John Pereira, a Negombo resident, was responsible for the erection of the Bells of St Mary’s in Negombo.
The Herft family home was named RIPPLEHURST and is now, the Kudapadu Police Station in Negombo. This was a haunted House, but the spirit was said to be a beautiful lady who tenderly sought the infants, if there were any. This is a well known legend and Annesley Herft, uncle of Allister Bartholomeusz, Excise Superintendent had to present offerings at a ceremony, as traditionally demanded by local custom, to end this incident. (courtesy Allister Bartholomeusz, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
The “Poly”, as it was affectionately known by the people, was a place where the youth of Colombo used to meet, with the intent of pursuing various vocations and careers, having left school and not having had the opportunity to enter into university education or even pursue other higher levels of learning elsewhere. The institution, founded by Lawrie Muthu Krishna, way back in 1901, was the pioneer training center in secretarial, typewriting, shorthand, book-keeping and other similar, basic, office management skills. Later on the institute added many other attractive courses including, journalism, advertising, public relations etc in order to cater to the massive demands that these professions were exerting on the community for expertise.
The institution was located on the Galle Road, the second building from Charlemont Road, on the seaside and was monumental in its structure and echelon in that it portrayed a tremendous air of knowledge and camaraderie that was loved and cherished by many a young lad and lassie of that era.
The Muthu Krishna family belonged to the Colombo Chetty community, a group of people who originally migrated from Gujarat in India to the south and ended up on the western coastline of Sri Lanka, concentrating mainly in Colombo and its northern suburbs.
Kirthie Abeyesekera, a famous journalist who worked tirelessly for the Lake House Group of newspapers in Colombo, and who later taught journalism at the Poly, and subsequently migrated to Canada, where he spent his last days there until his demise a few years ago wrote about Poly in The Sunday Island of December 30, 2001 as follows:
Polytechnic celebrates 100 years of vocational and tertiary education in Sri Lanka
Reflections on the Polytechnic at Wellawatte from distant Toronto in Canada
Some of my own journalism students are doing well in life. Firoze Sameer is a successful businessman and a prolific writer who has authored books, including a documentary on the infamous Ossie Corea - ‘Dossier Corea.’ One of my brightest young sparks, Lalani, the daughter of a former Permanent Secretary, C. J. Serasinghe, is now a legal secretary at the Ministry of Justice. She tells me, "The journalistic skills acquired under your training at the Poly come in very useful in my research presentations, editing legal publications, etc..
In many parts of the world, Sri Lankan expatriates, loyal to their ‘Alma Mater,’ have formed associations of Old Boys and Old Girls - Anandians, Nalandians, Royalists, Thomians, Bridgetians, Visakhians, Josephians, Peterities - the list is endless.
At home and abroad, men and women who have passed the portals of the Poly have entered me outside world, armed with confidence. As a tribute to their second ‘Alma Mater’ - if you will - these alumni should band themselves together and proudly proclaim themselves as ‘Poly’s Past Pupils.’
When the sexes meet, the inevitable happens. Romance fills the air. Love blossoms. Hearts meet. Partings leave broken hearts.
From ten thousand miles away, I send greetings to the Polys centennial celebrations, and would wish to conclude this editorial contribution on a personal note that had a happy ending.
My daughter, Chitra, on completing her secondary schooling at the Devi Balika Vidyalaya at Borella, took a secretarial course at the Poly, which landed her, her first job at Heath & Co. While at the Poly, she met Dev, a fellow-student. Their friendship grew. Later, Dev left for Canada to start a new life. Chitra followed him to take him for her life’s partner.
Now, happily married for over a quarter century, and enjoying a stable family life, they have two university-educated daughters, Tamara and Dilani. Chitra herself has risen high in her profession as a banker.
In a real sense, the Poly is responsible for me and the rest of our family making our home in Canada. We followed Chitra instead of going to Australia which we had originally planned to make our home.
Noel Crusz also wrote an interesting account of the Poly in the Sunday Times of Jan 6,2002 as follows:
It is a hundred years since Lawrie Muthu Krishna brought business skills to the masses. The 'baby boomers' told their husbands, "We will not be dictated to, and then thanks to The Polytechnic went on to become stenographers!" It was in 1901 that a young man had a vision that would spell a silent saga for thousands of men and women. He founded the first private Business College. Lawrie Muthu Krishna was a selfmade man. He realised that in the narrow confines of academic education, the masses would be left out because they could not afford it, and neither had the inclination for university education.
As a teenager at St. Peter's College in 1939, I saw Lawrie enter the College gates with his sons Prabhakar and Dinkar. Lawrie was in his long white coat, trousers, waistcoat, winged collar and tie: almost a Dickensian character from a 19th century novel. He wore tortoise shell spectacles. His long hair ended in curls minus the sideburns. His black tightly furled umbrella, was the significant 'vade mecum' of the soft spoken Colombo Chetty community. The Rector of St. Peter's College, Fr. D.J. Nicholas Perera, and the Vice-Rector Fr. Basil Wiratunga informed Lawrie that his son Prabhakar had won the College "Open Essay Prize".
All of us were on the eve of World War II, and the commandeering of school buildings by the Allied Forces in Ceylon, faced new challenges. Lawrie Muthu Krishna was a pioneer in encouraging youth to learn business and media skills. He started in modest cramped buildings in San Sebastian Hill in Colombo 12. Maybe he saw the legal luminaries flocking to erect their offices near the Law Courts. Lawrie's vision worked overtime. It was founded on hign spiritual and moral values. He saw the cut- throat commercial world invading accepted values. Soon he persuaded his sisters Olive and Violet to return to Ceylon from Madras. These young women had excelled in the Madras Technical College in commercial and media skills. They were to be the driving force in his tutorial staff, and a great asset to this family venture. This has been the backbone of the Polytechnic saga.
It has been a century of achievement spanning two World Wars plus a Depression and witnessing the first Boer War prisoners entraining for Diyatalawa. E.G. Money brought the first automobile to Ceylon, while Lawrie had a say when the first Sinhalese typewriter was produced in 1912. Before long, thousands would be tapping away on heavy manual tupewriters. Colombo was bursting in the seams. There was an exodus from the over-populated city to the residential areas of the 'golden mile' from Colpetty to Wellawatte. The need for an established Business College, with a wide choice of vocational and tertiary education was part and parcel of Lawrie Muthu Krishna's vision. I still remember the clutter of the heavy old Remington Standard typewriters in the Polytechnic. It was known as the Charlemont Road symphony. The Galle Road had been widened, the Wellawatte bridge over the canal had been drained and re-built.
A generation of teenagers and school-leavers made a bee-line to the Polytechnic to hone their skills under Lawrie's supervision. It was the age of Pitman and Gregg where shorthand and typing were necessary skills for the employment market. There was a craze for commercial subjects, and business skills and accountancy. The Government education system lagged miserably in spite of Lawrie Muthu Krishna's call for a re-orientation of media and communication skills. With Wellawatte and Bambalapitiya and Colpetty South adding to the exodus into the 'Golden Mile', we saw crowds of young women, flocking to the Poly. The traditions of Holy Family Convent, St. Paul's Milagiriya, Lindsay Girls School were brought to the Poly classes. Parents felt safe in sending their daughters to learn shorthand, typing and accountancy under Lawrie and his professional staff, where the family was the backbone.
The branches at Fort and Wellawatte were a boon especially in a post-war world. Of course the 'Savoy Theatre' and the ice cream parlours of Alerics, Lion House, Paiva's and Dew Drop Inn added an element of romantic spice. When World War II broke out, hundreds of girls and young men, who learnt shorthand and typing were to be in clover on jobs with the Allied Command.
The Polytechnic Certificate was widely accepted, even in Australia and Canada. A Polytechnic product signified achievement and employers attested to this. The century of the Polytechnic Foundation is indeed an accolade to its founder. Lawrie Muthu Krishna had a heart of gold. He had a great love for his students. He was a pioneer in every sense. His firm of 'Public Accountants and Auditors' saw a wide clientele.
The Chatham Street offices at Negris Building (Fort) survived till the end of World War II. Lawrie did not stint in giving advice for a song and a cup of tea. Today accountants earn by the minute! I can still recall the day I saw Lawrie Muthu Krishna coming out of 'Collette Studio' in Bambalapitiya. We teenagers took our films for developing and printing and Mr. Collette (cartoonist Aubrey Collette's father) helped us. Lawrie too sought his help, to enlarge handwriting, when Lawrie was the only Private Examiner of Questioned Documents. No wonder handwritten legal documents and forgeries were grist for Lawrie's mill. The Poly was appointed to represent many UK examining bodies for recognised qualifications.
A hundred years for the Polytechnic are also a tribute to Olive and Violet, the Muthu Krishna sisters who were the real pioneers. Three generations have seen this Business University as alive and significant and up-to-date as ever. It has weathered political and economic storms. It brought in a new world of media and today with modern computer skills, there are giant strides. Prabhakar Muthu Krishna was in school at St. Peter's College with me. He was an athlete and a prolific reader. After his father's death he took over responsibilities with his equally talented brother Dinkar. Dinkar too inherited his father's skills, and also became an Examiner of Questioned Documents, besides being President of the Netball and Badminton Federation. Both brothers have passed away, Dinkar at 49 and Prabhakar at 50 and it was left to the sister Mano to bring the Institute to the stature of what it is today. The contribution of the siblings to the saga was significant.
The Poly reaped the business acumen of the Roches, Machados, Carvallios, Paivas, F.X. Pereiras, Davoodbhoys, Sankar Ayers and De Liveras: firms that employed Poly girls. Mano, a product of Holy Family Convent, with contemporaries like Myrle Swan, was already making a significant contribution to the emerging new woman's world. A fair skinned, softspoken woman, Mano scooped many interviews of leading personalities, organised fashion and beauty contests, and ran the Poly with clocklike precision, notwithstanding her active fox terriers! Her own communication and broadcasting skills were lavishly shared with her pupils at the Institute. Mano as a journalist worked with me at the 'Davasa' under that charismatic Editor D.B. Dhanapala. It was she who broke the ice on the 'Boonwaat murder scoops.'
The Polytechnic centenary is a simple acknowledgement that the future of a country lies in the vision of its teachers, of its pioneers, of men and women of vision who saw the full spectrum. Lawrie Muthu Krishna saw the intense need of tapping the talent of the young, of helping them to perfect those skills, that would help them in life. Little wonder that it was in the heart of his own family that he found his inspiration and achievement. There is no doubt that the Polytechnic has in a way moulded the social fabric of Colombo South. The feminist movement and the Victorian ideals that woman's place was merely in the home was given a jolt. No wonder women rushed to learn typing skills at the Poly. The Centenary is no doubt a deserving accolade to the man, who played no small part in the Polytechnic saga.
Naleem Hajiar, the famous gem merchant and pioneer of the Bairaha poultry farm and industry, from Beruwela, moved in to establish his Colombo home down Alexandra Road and still lives there with his family.
On the Beach stood the Original KS&LSC – established in 1940 . This great Club produced several Champions in Swimming & Aquatics. The Club produced several outstanding spear fishermen and introduced the sport of spear fishing to Ceylon. To name a few, the legendary Gerd Von Dincklage, Ralph Forbes, Tissa “Saigon “ Ariyaratne, Rodney Jonklaas, Hilmi Khalid, Turab Jafferjee, Langston Pereira, Ron Bartholomeusz, Hildon Bevan were all world class spear fishermen. Rodney Jonklaas was an authority on marine life. Rodney invited Sir Arthur C Clarke and his companions Mike Smith and Tony Buxton to explore the wrecks off the coast of Ceylon and film the magic of the sea and glorious reefs of this magic Isle. Rodney Jonklass was the Assistant Superintendent of the Colombo Zoo in the days when the Dehiwela Zoo was one of the best in the world, The Superintendent of the Zoo, the legendary Aubrey Weinman also had a close Bamba connection.
The Kinross bathing enclosure was situated opposite the site of the original KS&LSC. The enclosure was located in the sea. It consisted of two rafts and several orange barrels placed in a semi circle, a relatively safe bathing area for both bathers and swimmers. This was the idea of Mr. Guy Thiedeman, a champion athlete – Municipal Playground instructor and Lifesaver who resided in the area. However, several incidents of drowning did occur which prompted Mike Sirimanne, who was a regular swimmer, to decide that it was necessary for the presence of Life Guards. Mike with the help of his close friends, Herbert Pathiwela, Elmo and Lou Spittel, Anton Selvam, Ron Kellar, Basil Misso, Hugh Stewart were the first life savers, who received their training from Guy Thiedeman and later on Harry Nightingale, an Australian who introduced the Australian method of Surf Life Saving. This gave birth to the Kinross Life Saving Club in 1941. The club sought and obtained affiliation to the Royal Life Saving Society of U.K. and the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. In the course of time the club ventured into competitive swimming and other aquatic sports and was named the Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club with Guy Thiedeman the first President and Mike Sirimanne, the Legend of Kinross Club, General Secretary. The original HQ of the Club was a shack build by the founders on the beach opposite Kinross Avenue. The K.S & LSC soon became a byword in swimming and dominated the Two-Mile Sea Swims. Swim Champions Gerd Von Dincklage, Ralph Forbes, Hugh Stewart. Hilmi Khalid.Carlislie Chalon, Allister Bartholomeusz, Ian Kelly, Tony Williams (1960 Olympics ) Desmond Templar, Rattan Mangharam, Randy Gray, Henry Perera, are names that come to mind. Other names who made significant contribution to the Club, were Tissa Ariyaratne, Gunaseelam Kanakratnam. Aubrey Van Cuylenberg (Water Polo, Ceylon Soccer goalkeeper), Langston and Fred Pereira.
In 1955, the an improved clubhouse was built on the beach just opposite the Station. The club was built on the proceeds from the carnival, sponsored by Mr Thaha, which ran for about two months on vacant property owned by the William Pedris Family, free of Lease.. The Club was moderately damaged by the recent Tsunami and the present committee of management is hoping to restore the Club and improve the facilities for members. Unfortunately due to changing situations the Club is not in the forefront of aquatics any more. The fierce competition and the “Spirit of Kinross” for which the Club was renowned in the period 1941 – 75, no longer exists, sadly.
Without Rodney Jonklaas former Assistant Superintendent of the Colombo Zoological Gardens at Allen Avenue, Dehiwela, original Member of Kinross Swimming & Life Saving Club, founder member of the Reef combers Spear fishing Club, the exploits of Arthur C Clarke & Mike Wilson would not reached the heights of underwater exploration in Ceylon. Aubrey Weinman was the Superintendent of the Zoo at that time which boasted to be one of the best in the world.
Other great world class divers/spear fishermen of that era were Langston Pereira, Gerard von Dincklage, Hilmi Khalid, Turab Jafferjee, Ron Bartholomeusz, Tissa Ariyaratne, Hugh Stewart, all of the KS&LSC, and Carlyle Ranasinghe, Authokarale. There is another UK contribution from Jimmy Buxton whose wife was the Norwegian beauty Gunilla Buxton.
Mention must be also made of the annual spear fishing competition between The K&Slsc and Reeefcombers for the Donavan Andree Challenge Cup.
Ralph Forbes (Chanko), was killed in a plane crash in about 1957- He was with the RCAF and was trained by the RAF in Cranwell UK.
Hilmi Khalid was an all time Kinross great and without doubt a world class spearfishermen. He lived at the top of 5th Lane Kollupitiya. Hilmi now lives in LA, USA and deals in exports of tropical fish mainly from Sri Lanka.
Allister Bartholomeusz has known all the guys mentioned above including Dr Arthur C. Clarke. Allister is also refereed to as “The Scribe” relative to all Aquatic Sport including Swimming, Waterpolo, Spear Fishing, and Surf Life Saving in the period 1949 – 1965l.
Please see following link for some valuable information on Mike Wilson:
The Colombo Gas & Water Company stood facing the Galle Road between Frabces Road and Station Road. This enterprise supplied town gas for cooking to subscribed homes via gas pipelines laid underground on the street. Hameedia’s and Hong-Kong Store stood next door.
The Haniffa’s, Dr GR Muthumani’s Dispensary, The Nizar’s, DLM Faleels family, AC Noordeens family, MFA Marzook, Cook’s, Ariff’s, Ghouse Mahal and several other families lived down Station Road.
MHM Hussain, MHM Mueenudeen and MHM Ghouse are the three Haniffa brothers who have since moved out of the street except for Hussain who owns and lives in the ancestral home. Fareena Shahabdeen, the sister, married Ifham from Kandy and now live at Dehiwela.
Feizal Nizar, Dr. M Fazli Nizar and Faiz Nizar lived next door and have all moved to their own homes in other parts of Sri Lanka and the UK. Feizal passed away after a long illness while Fazli has now moved to Ward Place. Faiz and family live in the UK.
Ghouse Mahal was sold to Aloysious Mudalali, who converted the massive mansion into a gambling club. Subsequently the property has been sold to property development organization who have now constructed condominium apartment blocks on its facility.
Zuhair and Aziz Faleel lived with their parents before marrying and moving away to their spouses homes in Colombo. The old house was subsequently sold after the death of DLM Faleel, their father.
The Noordeens lived next door and their large home spanned the full width between Station Road and Lily Avenue. They too sold their home and moved to various other locations within the city of Colombo.
A long row of small adjacent houses came next leading all the way down the left side of Lily Avenue towards the sea.
The massive Ariff family home at No 10 has also now been blocked and divided amongst the children who have built theor own homes on their respective plots. Jazeem has moved to Dharmapala Mawatha while Jazeed lives down 5th lane at Kollupitiya. Hamid married the daughter of the Mahuroof family and moved to Ridgeway Place where he passed away after a brief illness. Jamshed, married the daughter of MH Mohamed and moved to Bullers Road where he too passed away. The sisters Mehfuza, who married Farid Abdel Cader, and Khaneeza still live down Station Road.
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