S. Kathirgamathamby B. A., S.L.E.A.S (Retired)
A distinguished old boy of St Antony’s College, Kayts, Sri Lanka
Mr. S. Kathirgamathamby who hails from Thavadi in Jaffna joined St Antony’s college after passing fifth standard at Kokuvil Hindu English School (now a college). He was a student at St. Antony’s from first form to pre SSC. He completed the SSC (English) from Parameswara College, Thinnavelli. After passing the SSC he worked at Marketing Department, Colombo and at Co-operative Department as Sub-inspector of Co-operative Societies. He was not satisfied with these attainments. He decided to pursue his studies in India. He joined Scottish Church College - a college affiliated to Calcutta University. He completed his degree from Calcutta University and joined St. Antony’s College as a teacher. He taught at St. Antony’s for thirty years and got promoted as Principal, Karampon Shanmuganatha Vidyalaya. He was Principal for 11 years and retired from Navaly Maha Vidyalaya in 1988.
In addition to teaching he is a well known journalist. The Journalists’ Association in Jaffna retains him as the President of the Association for the last 8 years without contest. We are happy to meet him and have him in our midst. His activities were highlighted in G TV and Deepam.
In an interview with the secretary of the St Antony's College Kayts Alumni Association of Europe (SACKAAEU), he revealed about him thus “I am proud to be an old boy and an old teacher of St Antony’s. I am now 81 years old and it is difficult for me to narrate a reminiscence of my sweet lucid and unforgettable incidents during my school days and during the 30 years I was a teacher at St Antony’s. Somehow I would like to recollect that strikes my memory”. “Let me recollect the names of my gurus at St Antony’s in the forties. There were about fifteen teachers. The strength of the college was about 300. General Science was for the first time introduced as a subject in the forties. Mr. Arasan, a graduate of London University was in charge of the Science department. A science laboratory was opened and the students were given the chance of handling science apparatus. Latin was taught from first form to J.S.C class. Students who had intention to take to law, medicine, and priesthood studied Latin avidly. Book keeping was started as a subject from J. S.C to S. S. C. The school fulfilled the needs of the local students. Christianity and Moral science were taught in the school, Christianity for Catholics and moral science for Hindus.
My classmates were Messers N. Padmanathan (Radiologist, Gr 1 of Karampan now in Canada), L.E. Muthaiya (expired), Chelladurai a renowned teacher of Mathematics (Karampan), Cyril (a nephew of Naranthanai vidane), A. R. Alexander (senior to me, a good student and sportsman), J.F. Jagarajasingham a well known journalist in Colombo, Singarayar of East Street Kayts and K.Sothivel (Journalist and teacher from Paruththiadaippu).
I joined my old school as a teacher in 1955 and my co-teachers at that time were Messers George Manuelpillai, Phillipupillai, Ratnarajah, Nicholapillai master, Aloy Vedhanayagam, Rexi, Bastiampillai, Gerard Nicholas, Victor Phillips (Canada), J. F. Ferdinand (Canada), Sabaratnam, Vincent Rajaratnam, B. M. Master, T. S. Joseph (Canada), Nadaraja master and Arulanandam.
Every one of these intellectuals adorned the various departments at St Antony’s. Sabaratnam M.A. a multi faceted intellectual was an asset to the history department. He succeeded me as a Principal at Karampon Shanmuganatha Mahavidyalaya. The names of B.M, Alloy and Gerard run in the veins of those who were tutored the famous English rhymes in class rooms and Drama in the school prize giving. Nadaraja was a task master. His punishment was imposition. Students tread to step into his class without preparing their lessons. His examination result in Geography was always 100%.
Will you be surprised to know that Gerard knew Greek and Hebrew very well? He would always speak in Greek and Hebrew after a peck at the staff dinner. I rush to be his interpreter in English. He would speak about the Rector and staff. While speaking about Rector I the interpreter would touch on the school administration. I would take this as a chance to air out the grumblings of the teachers about administration. Speaking about teachers this was an opportunity to tell the good and bad side of some teacher’s behaviour. Gerard would jabber something incomprehensible and I would interpret it as an aspersion on some teachers conduct. The Father Rector put a halt to this interpretation. The following years Gerard spoke Hebrew without an interpreter. He received the applause of all.
I will be failing in expressing my gratitude and appreciation without a word about Ratnarajah. He was a gem inestimable. He was known among our staff as “Minister of Difficulties”. He was the one who always found a solution to the problems that confronted the teachers and school.
St. Antony’s was well known for the high standard in English and sports. She was the first school that vied for colours in soccer at the Jaffna Schools soccer competition. I still remember how Father Joseph took the competitors by boat via the Jaffna Lagoon to Jaffna. Rev. Fr. Stanislaus’s period was a golden era in the history of St. Antony’s. Antony’s for the first time won the first place for clearing 6 feet 2 inches in high jump at the public school competition in Colombo. “Barefooted” Stanley won the Laurels for us. I could not meet him after leaving St. Antony’s. How anxious and joyous I would be if I meet him before I die.
I wait for a chance to meet the Antonians in London before I leave for Srilanka at the end of November.
I have inadvertently failed to mention those who heaped honours to Anthony’s Soccer competition. The Manuelpillai brothers Soosaipillai and Xavier amassed a stream of victories to school. Xavier was an impenetrable and vigilant goalkeeper. His stature and the art of angling the ball outside the net were excitable. Vincent Thuraiaiya of Karampon captained the team and was the cock of the show. Jesuthasan, son of police Anthonypillai of Middle Street, Kayts was a defence player and kicked the ball often in the air to reach the mouth of the opponent’s goal post. His dazzling kicks thrilled the spectators emanating thunderous ovation.
There would have been many more worthy of mention but as my memory is short I beg their pardon for omitting their names.