College History

A Brief History of our College

Ever since St. Peter’s College was founded in 1922, the school has been punching above its weight and even outshining its founders in many fields. The college has grown remarkably through its rich history with many famous personalities being moulded before going out to conquer the world. St. Peter’s has produced distinguished men in politics, academics, judiciary, defence, sports, literary and entertainment fields to name a few with many going on to head their respective areas. The college now boasts of excellent facilities and national champions in a wide range of activities which underline the amazing groundwork done by the people who established this institution. There are many special eras in the college history, with the legendary French.

In 1919, just after the end of World War I, Reverend Father M. J. Le Goc, the Rector of St. Joseph’s College had a vision of a college in the southern suburbs of Colombo. While he was travelling one day on his famous motor bicycle with this idea in mind, Fr. Le Goc spotted a block of cinnamon land in Bambalapitiya which belonged to Mr. E.C. De Fonseka. The construction began in July 1921 and was carried out under the supervision of Mr. J R J Jayesuria, an alumnus of St. Joseph’s College. In December

1921, Fr. Le Goc confidently announced at the Josephian awards ceremony that St Joseph’s College South would be opened in January 1922. Due to the indefatigable efforts of both Fr. Le Goc and Mr. Jayesuria, the dream became a reality with the inauguration taking place on Wednesday, 18th January 1922.

The buildings were designed by Rev. Fr. Le Goc himself and because of his enthusiasm, the buildings sprung up in six months. The quadrangle in front had an oval drive running around it. Fr. Le Goc also incorporated the concept of open-air classrooms. The inauguration took place on Wednesday, January 18, 1922. The Railway Department made special arrangements for the transportation of students from St. Joseph’s College who were participating in the ceremony. A total of 204 students were admitted on that day and by the end of the year the number had risen to 268. The First Rector was Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera.

The eighty seven year period of St. Peters’ College, beginning 1922, could conveniently be divided into six distinct eras. Firstly, The beginnings dominated by Very Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc; Secondly the era of the First Rector, Very Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera (1922 to 1943) who laid a solid foundation, a period which saw St. Peter’s making a big impact on the local educational scene in next to no time; Thirdly, the aftermath of World War II and the Rectorship of Very Rev. Fr. Basil A. Wiratunga O.M.I. from 1943 to 1955; Fourthly, an era spanning 21 years which take in the Rectorships of five Rectors all of whom had to grapple with financial constraints brought about by the daring and bold decision not to be vested with the State, but to function as a ‘Non fee levying private school’ – Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando (1956 to 1963), Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody (1963 to 1971), Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. (1971 to 1975), Rev. Fr. Claver Perera (1975 to 1976), and Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela (1976 to 1977); Fifthly, the enlightening and brilliant Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Joe E. Wickramasinghe (1978 to 1994) an era which could well be called ‘The Renaissance in Peterite History’; this was followed by the eleven year old Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Felician Perera on whose young shoulders fell the responsibility of guiding St. Peter’s into the early 21st Century, bringing us up to the present era – the era of Fr. Travis Gabriel, the 10th Rector of St. Peter’s College.

Events moved fast under the direction of Fr. Nicholas Perera and on 16th June 1926, it was sanctioned by His Grace the Archbishop and the Department of Education that St. Joseph’s College South be renamed St. Peter’s College with Fr. Nicholas Perera appointed as Rector. On the Feast of St. Peter 29th June 1927 the new College flag with the colours – Blue, White and Gold was blessed and hoisted by Rev. Fr. Le Goc, who in his speech that day mentioned that Blue signifies heaven, White Purity of Heart, and Gold Achievement and High Resolve and added that St. Peter’s would, at no distant date, be one of the greatest Educational Institutions in the island.

Under Fr. Nicholas Perera’s dynamic leadership St. Peter’s made great leaps forward. In 1930 Dr. P. R. Anthonis world famous Surgeon and Leslie J. D. Fernando entered the Medical College and the Science Faculty of the University College respectively. Messrs. A. O. Wirasinghe, A. M. S. Perera and A. L. Perera followed suit and later joined the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. In 1933 St. Peter’s challenged the mother institution, St. Joseph’s at cricket. Fr. Le Goc who was still Rector of St. Joseph’s insisted that the first ‘Big-Match’ should be played on the Peterite grounds which had been opened in 1930. The magnificent Hall was completed in 1931. The extension of the classrooms, a Science Block, Physics Theatre and the Priest’s Quarters followed in quick succession.

As early as 1934, St. Peter’s under the captaincy of Shirley Illesinghe and ably coached by Mr. Herbert Wittachy, won the Tarbat and Jefferson Cups at the Public Schools Athletic Meet. In 1935, again under Shirley Illesinghe, St. Peter’s were Rugby Champions repeating it in 1936 under Archibald Perera. In a matter of a decade St. Peter’s had made its mark in no uncertain terms. From 1922 to 1943 Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera had laid a solid foundation at St. Peter’s and he brought lustre to the College with his geniality, experience and scholarship. On 9th November 1943 Fr. Nicholas Perera handed over the reins of Rectorship to Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga.

Fr. Basil Wiratunga took a tight control of the main administration branches of the school and helped produce the successes in studies and games which quickly brought St. Peter’s to the forefront of Public Schools of this period. Fr. Basil assumed duties as Rector at a time when he not merely had to follow a policy of consolidation and expansion, but first he had to re-build, resuscitate, and reorganise the College after the travails of World War II.

His first task was to convert a war time military hospital that the College had become during the evacuation period of 1942 to 1946 into the school that had been St. Peter’s. Nothing could un-ruffle Fr. Basil. At times of stress and difficulty there was Fr. Basil with his calmness and his implicit trust in Providence. Whatever the magnitude of his problems he radiated that calmness amongst all.

No wonder then that St. Peter’s College reached its zenith during the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga from 1943 to 1955. Admissions to the University increased. In Sports, St. Peter’s excelled during his Rectorship. For two successive years St. Peter’s were invincible schools cricket champions in 1946 and 1947. The Primary School block and the College Pavilion bear testimony to his efforts to provide better facilities for the students.

Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando who succeeded Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga as the Third Rector of St. Peter’s from 1956 to 1963 will be remembered for the encouragement and support he gave to the development of Aesthetic Studies. He it was who started the first schools Fife and Drum band on June 30th 1956. A Cultural Centre to promote Music, Drama, Dancing and Art was started in November 1956 with the help of Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. Kandyan Dancing, Oriental Singing and the formation of

Western and Oriental Orchestras came about. Rowing was introduced to St. Peter’s in 1959, as also an unit of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. It was Fr. Arthur who first had to beat the direct impact of the Schools take over from December 1st 1960 when St. Peter’s decided to remain as a Private Non Fee Levying institution. The Welfare Society came into being under his astute leadership. A fine organiser and administrator, he installed a modern Canteen to supplement the much needed finances. He also set up the College Boarding.

Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody succeeded Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando and was the Fourth Rector from 1963 to 1971. Fr. Weerakkody took office at a most turbulent period but his genial qualities helped him to attract benefactors to help the College. He encouraged the Old Boys’ Union and the Old Peterites Sports Club to invite more members. Perhaps his greatest contribution to St. Peter’s was the formation of the Parent Teacher Association which brought both parents and teachers together in the interests of the students. More authority and responsibility was passed on to the lay teaching staff with the formation of Boards of Discipline, Studies and Sports. He established the Employees Provident Fund for the Teaching Staff. On the 24th July 1971 he left St. Peter’s to take up the Rectorship of St. Joseph’s. He will be best remembered for his efforts to inculcate the appreciation of Music, both as Teacher and Rector. Many have been the Peterites who chose Music as a career as a result.

Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. who had been on the Tutorial Staff of St. Peter’s in the 1940’s succeeded Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and was Rector from 1971 to 1975. To him fell the honour of presiding at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the College on 18th January 1972. Even though the College still had a struggle on its hands where finances were concerned Fr. Theodore was able to muster support for the celebrations, which continued throughout the year.

The Sixth Rector of St. Peter’s Rev. Fr. Claver Perera was welcomed with much jubilation being the first fully fledged Peterite to adorn the Rectorial Chair. His stay lasted two years from 1975 to 1976. However within that short period he decentralised the administration with the appointment of Sectional Heads from Grade 6 to the Advanced Level. Under his guidance and training the Peterite Choir reached great heights, a trend which exists up to today. Fr. Claver was instrumental in enlarging and renovating the College Chapel for the first time in 50 years.

Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela took over the reins of office from Fr. Claver Perera and his stay also lasted two years from 1976 to 1977. Yet in the short time he was Rector he organised a number of Seminars for the Teachers to help them refresh their minds in all aspects of teaching. Fr. Francis Madiwela will best be remembered by the Old Boys’ Union because of his conviction that the Old Boys should have their own President, with the Rector who was President since 1927 being Patron. This change came into effect on 4th December 1977, shortly before his transfer to St. Thomas’ Kotte as Principal.

When the history of St. Peter’s College, comes to be written, the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickramasinghe will loom large. Indeed his life and work at St. Peter’s, bids fair to be ranked as one of the best performances of any Rector of St. Peter’s since its inception. Father Joe’s crowning efforts as an educationist par excellence reached its peak as Rector of St. Peter’s College from 1978 to 1994. From the doldrums in 1978, Father Joe steered St. Peter’s to great heights of excellence in studies, sports and discipline.
Father Joe’s greatest strength lay in his ability to harness the human resources at his disposal – in particular, students, teachers, old boys, parents and well-wishers – in all his endeavours. He made St. Peter’s financially viable very early in his Rectorship. A master builder, he was able to generate nearly Rs. 20 million within 16 years to bring the College infrastructure to what it is today – the new 3 storeyed Science Block and Laboratory; the new Canteen and Vocational Centre; the 3 storeyed Primary School Extension; the elegant and tasteful Swimming Pool – a dream come true for Peterites; the 3 storeyed Block at St. Peter’s College, Gampaha, which was launched by his as the first ever branch of any school in sri Lanka; the new Dental Clinic; the Badminton and Basketball Courts; the TV Room; the Computer Room; the Junior Science Room and the new Office Block. To cap it all, in readiness for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter’s in 1997, Fr. Joe has collected enough funds to get started with yet another 4 storeyed Block of classrooms, Library and Auditorium, atop the Canal Side block of classrooms.
No wonder then that St. Peter’s College reached its zenith during the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga from 1943 to 1955. Admissions to the University increased. In Sports, St. Peter’s excelled during his Rectorship. For two successive years St. Peter’s were invincible schools cricket champions in 1946 and 1947. The Primary School block and the College Pavilion bear testimony to his efforts to provide better facilities for the students.

With the retirement of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe the mantle of the office of Rector was passed on to the youthful 9th Rector of St. Peter’s, Rev. Fr. Felician R. Perera. He guided St. Peter’s for eleven years with acceptance from Old Boys, Parents the Tutorial Staff and students and helped to maintain the high standards achieved during the term of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe.

On his shoulders fell the responsibility of organising the Celebration programme for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter’s and the completion of the new 4 storey Middle School Block. He has also built a new library and a very tasteful reading pavilion for the students and a gymnasium. The primary school has also got a new look with class rooms being done up and the garden turfed & paved, plus a new play area. The boarding which was closed has been re-opened and with the assistance of the OBU a very modern computer laboratory was set up.

Fr. Felician would be most remembered as the Rector who founded the branch school in Udugampola, thus relieving much pressure from the mother school in providing a Catholic education to the boys of the area. He also further developed the branch at Gampaha, making it a much sought after school of the area. He managed to further build upon the great heights achieved in Studies, Discipline and Sports during this period with St; Peter’s dominating popular sports such as Rugby, Cricket and Tennis, while also being in the forefront in Basketball, Hockey, Football and Track & Field.

Current Rector of the school is Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel. Under his able guidance, St. Peter’s has further enhanced it’s reputation as a school of excellence, taking the standards of education, discipline and sports to an even higher plain. Apart from maintaining high standards in education and discipline, St. Peter’s also continues to excel in all forms of sports, now adding badminton to the already wide range of sports, St. Peter’s has reached championship standards in. Currently, St. Peter’s holds All-Island championships in Rugby, Basketball and Tennis – perhaps the only school in Sri Lanka to hold more than one title at a given time.
Fr. Travis has also given priority to raising the academic standards at college. Teachers’ knowledge and techniques have been enhanced through many seminars and training courses being conducted on a regular basis. Regular seminars and revision classes are also conducted for the students as a means of preparation for public examinations.

We can rest assured that St. Peter’s College is in very capable hands and that it is on its way to becoming a true ‘School of Excellence’