By the end of the 19th century, only a few schools in Sri Lanka offered higher education and most of them were limited to Colombo. The inception of Prince of Wales' and Princess of Wales' schools can be considered as a special reward to the children of Moratuwa area. The founder of the school was the great philanthropist, Sir Charles Henry De Soysa. Following the arrival of the then Prince of Wales (Edward VII) in Colombo in 1875, Sir Charles Henry De Soysa felt like naming the two schools he intended to build as Prince of Wales’ and Princess of Wales’. As a result of a letter sent on 27th of November 1875, he received permission to name the two schools as Prince of Wales’ and Princess of Wales’.
14th of September 1876 was a memorable day for the Moratuwa community; the school, which was built on a picturesque 15 acre land facing the Galle Road and bordered by the Lunawa lagoon, was ceremonially opened. The then governor of Sri Lanka, Sir William Gregory, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest.
The plan of the school was drawn by Mr. Muhandiram Mendis Jayawardena and about Rs. 300,000/= was spent on the construction of the school. This school building was one of the most elegant school buildings of the country in that era.
Sir Charles Henry De Soysa completed 5 school buildings at first (along with all the necessary equipment) and opened the school to the public. He also carefully looked over the administration, management and maintenance of the school till his death. In his last will, he requested that his eldest son take over the responsibilities of the school and also asked his wife to pay Rs. 3000/= to the school annually, for maintenance work.
Mr. W.S. Gunawardena (B.A. Calcutta) was the first principal of the school and served the school from 1876 till 1891. At first, this was not operated as one school, but as 4 educational institutes. That is,
There were only 40 teachers for all of the above mentioned schools.
The first prize giving of the school was held in 1883 with Sir John Douglas as the chief guest. There were prize records of all 4 schools in it. Prince of Wales’ College and Prince of Wales’ College (native) only had classes up to Grade 7. Prince of Wales’ College was the higher school and it had two divisions named Upper and Lower. Apart from this, there were 2 classes for undergraduates.
Satisfactory results were emerging from the school in no time. The school hostel was started in 1882 and cricket was also introduced to the school during this time.
On 29th of September 1890, the founder of the school, Sir Charles Henry De Soysa, passed away. Although the whole country and all of Moratuwa were grieving over this tragic loss, none of it was comparable to the grievance of Prince and Princess of Wales’ Colleges. In 1891, the first principal of the school, Mr. W.S. Gunawardena bid adieu to Prince of Wales’ College.
Mr. Philip Lewis became the second principal of the school and served the school from 1892 till 1896. Although amongst many difficulties, a rapid development of the school could be seen during this period. Mr. J.P.C. Mendis (B.A. Cambridge) rendered a valuable service to the school for two decades, from 1896 to 1917. During his reign a Cricket Society was formed in the school and the school ground was further developed. The school magazine: “The Cambrian”(first issued in 1897), Debating Team, Cadet Corps(1903), library, laboratory, Commerce Section, tennis and soccer teams, a kid’s park were some of the elements which were added to the school in this era. Another important milestone was the formation of the Old Boys’ Association (the best friend and an integral part of the school) in 1904. While the school was on its course for a rapid development, the number of students increased and the facilities were enhanced accordingly.
On 14th of September 1901, the 25th anniversary of the school was celebrated while the first Old Boys’ Dinner was held in 1907. On that day, the principal decided that purple, gold and maroon were suitable as school colours and it was also decided to use “Nihil Per Saltum” as a secondary motto(the school already had a motto, "Ich Dien"). Because of this, Prince of Wales’ College became the only school to have two mottos.
After Mrs. De Soysa passed away, the seven sons of Sir Charles Henry De Soysa received the stewardship of the school. They also received their education from Prince of Wales’ College and their aid was vital for the school.
3rd of March was selected as the Founder’s Day. Students attended the service at the Emmanuel church and also paid respect to the tomb of Sir Charles Henry De Soysa. And since 1960s, Buddhist students have commemorated the Founder's Day by engaging in Buddhist rituals.
After 21 years of service, Mr. Mendis had to retire from his post as Principal due to his bad health condition.
Mr. P.T. Jayasuriya [B.A. Hon.(Lond)] became the successor of Mr. Mendis. During his time at Prince of Wales’ College, the academic aspect of the school improved significantly, with students bringing up great results. Furthermore, the Science section and the school cricket ground were developed further and a separate kids' park for the school was built. In 1922, "The Cambrian" was published again and the infrastructure of the school was also enhanced by adding 3 more class rooms. A house system was initiated and 4 houses were named, after the founder and the first three of the principals (namely, Founder’s, Gunawardena, Lewis, Mendis) and a sports meet was held on the Founder’s Day under these houses.
In 1926, Mr. L.E. Blaze (B.A. Cantab) was appointed as the principal. He was a very dynamic person and the Golden Jubilee Prize Giving was held in his period. The English College anthem was also created during this period.
Mr. L.G. Crease (M.A. Oxen) headed the school from 1927 to 1931. He was an European and was very strict when it came to student discipline. He was a competent administrator and there was a marked development in cadetting and sports.
Rev. F.R.E. Mendis (M.A. Cantab) served as the principal from 1931-1932. The separation of the native language school was a highlight during this period. Starting of a library fund, re-publishing “The Cambrian” after 10 years, re-organizing the houses, developing sports such as cricket, soccer, boxing, athletics were some of the notable achievements in this short period.
Mr. H. Samaranayake (B.A. [Lond.]) who was appointed as the principal in 1932 was the first Buddhist principal. During this period, the standard and quality of academics and academic results were high.
The principal from 1933-1959, Mr. J.B.C. Rodrigo (M.A. [Oxen] J.P.U.M.), was a very capable administrator. Blessed with a great personality, he carried on his duties in an organized manner, even amongst many obstacles. Although 1939-40 was the time of the World War II, academics were of high standard. The school cricket ground was further developed through a massive shramadaana and was opened to the students in 1937. The pavilion was also developed. A few carnivals were held in order to raise the funds needed to develop the school. School cricket was brought on to a a whole new level and a Cricket Association was formed. Hockey was introduced to the school in 1938 and many other sports were developed. Apart from these, clubs and societies like The Teachers’ Guild, Cinema Association, Science Association, Drama Association, Red Cross branch, Sinhala and English Literary Associations, Debating Team, Co-operative Association were initiated for the benefit of the students. A few new buildings and class rooms were built and the College Main Hall was refurbished during this time.
In 1933, the inaugural Battle of the Golds (Prince of Wales’ College vs. St. Sebastian's College) was held at the school ground.
In 1951, Prince and Princess of Wales’ Colleges celebrated the 75th anniversary of the 2 schools.
Another highlight during this time was the introduction of Free Education to the school on 1st of April in 1951.
Since the Founder’s Day in 1952, the memorial service was arranged to be held in Sinhala.
In order to appreciate the services rendered by Mr. J.B.C. Rodrigo during his 27 year reign(the longest reign ever in the school’s history), a special meeting was held on 5th of July in 1959.
Mr. S.C.H. De Silva (B.A., Dip. in School Admst) served the school for 14 years and there was a notable progression in the development of the school. The school, which was under the administration of the Soysa family, was taken under the administration of the government on the 15th of December in 1961. Badminton and Chess clubs were formed during this time along with the introduction of Scouting. For the first time in the history of the school, a Buddhist Association was formed in 1961 and a Buddhist monk, Hagoda Khemananda thero, joined the staff for the first time. Under his guidance, Amadyapa Adhumapa Sangamaya was initiated and construction of the school shrine began on 24th of October 1967. It was opened by the then Chief Governor, Mr. William Gopallawa. Christian Association was also started during Mr. Silva’s time as the principal and in 1964, a Christmas Carol Service was held and the magazine "Sisu Kithu Hada" was published.
The Sinhala college anthem was written by Mr. B. Godahewa in 1967 and it was sung at that year’s prize giving for the first time.
Mr. Tissa Gunawardena joined the Prince of Wales’ staff during this time. It was a blessing to have the services of an individual with expertise on fields ranging from art, sculpture to drama. Art Society and the Drama Club showed remarkable progress under his guidance. Mr. Gunawardena presented many stage plays, bringing out the hidden talents of the students.
A solid Parent-Teacher Association was formed during this period. The native language school(which was shifted to the Holy Emmanuel Church in 1965) was reunited with the school after the construction of two new buildings near the lagoon. Out of the students who were in the native language school, the 187 male students and the 5 teachers were taken in to Prince of Wales' College while the 180 female students were taken in to Princess of Wales' College.
According to the new education reforms in 1968, the primary school was started. Classes from grade 1 up to grade 7 belonged to this.
Mr. L. H. Gunapala (1973-1977), who had served as a school inspector and as a district education inspector previously, was the principal during the centennial anniversary of the school. Bringing back the official residence of the principal to school premises, carefully monitoring the discipline of the students, enhancing and repairing the school buildings and laboratories were some of the highlights during his time. Separate classrooms were allocated to Scouting, Social Studies, Eastern Music, Art, Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Apart from these a branch of the National Savings Bank was opened and the Hevisi and Western bands were formed during this time. Soon the school was amongst the top schools in the island. A new house (Rodrigo) was added and in 1975, a Sil observation programme was held for the first time. Sectional Heads were appointed to all sections from grade 4 to grade 12 and Teachers-in-Charge were appointed for the houses and main subjects.
Mr. M. E. C. Fernando (1977-1988) succeeded Mr. Gunapala as the principal. During his time, various novelties were added to the school. H. R. Fernando pavilion, cricket score board, library buildings, Science and Commerce buildings were some of these new additions. The sculpture of Sir Charles Henry De Soysa (sculpted by Mr. Tissa Gunawardena) was unveiled during this time. The venue of the annual Big Match was changed and was arranged to be held at Tyronne Fernando Stadium. The limited over encounter was also introduced during this era.
Mr. H.L.B. Gomes (M.A.), who was an old boy, a teacher and vice principal (during Mr. M. E. C. Fernando’s reign as principal), was appointed as the principal in 1989. In his time, the school became one of the 15 National Schools in Sri Lanka. The primary section was reopened during this time. Amongst other developments which were seen in the school during his reign are,
Apart from these, the Western and Eastern bands, Pahatharata and Udarata dancing groups, Drama team and various other sport teams of the school managed to record many victories at the national level which helped to spread the reputation of the school, island wide.
In 1998, the Western Band of the school had the rare privilege of welcoming the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, who visited Sri Lanka in order to be part of the 50th Independence Day celebration of Sri Lanka. The school’s cricket showed tremendous growth during this period and this was reflected with the captain Suranga Wijenayake representing the National team.
There was a growth to be seen in the results of Grade 5 scholarship exam, O/L and A/L exams. A gradual increase could also be seen in the number of students who qualified for University education after the A/L exam.
Mr. H.L.B. Gomes’s time as the Principal is prominent in the history of the school as there were notable developments in infrastructure, education, extracurricular activities and sports. It should also be noted that he received the full support dedication of the staff, past pupils and parents.
- Adapted to English from an an article written by Mrs. S. Balagalla, a teacher at Prince of Wales' College, to the school magazine -
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