Unique tale of George Jayaweera and his four sons
By Upali Obeyesekere Toronto, Canada
In April, each year, the big match season is heralded. It is the time when cricket takes pride of place over any other socio-political event in the island. Be it the Battle of the Saints, Battle of the Blues, Battle of the Maroons, Battle of the North, Hill Country Battle of the Blues, Battle of the Brothers, these big matches attract a diverse section of the population and provide a forum for adults to become kids again, without reservation.
It is interesting to see adults waving flags and walking alongside school children half their age dressed in their old-school tie and other paraphernalia signaling that it is carnival time in the big city. A few big matches are played over three days while most remain a two-day event. Absenteeism at work is common place during big match madness but after it all, it is back to work and life goes on! The beauty of one’s school life is that memories of a specific big match or the brilliance of some players linger in your mind and stories are written and re-written in the media, while history is recorded for posterity.
Having said this, it is important to look back on the history of the Josephian-Peterite series. Rev. Fr Nicholas Perera, Rector, St. Peter’s College, and that revered French missionary Rev. Fr Maurice J. Legoc, Rector, St. Joseph’s College, were the brains behind this great encounter. They were the founders of the Battle of the Saints. As we all know by now, St. Peter’s College had its humble beginnings in 1922 and its first rector, Fr Nicholas Perera (1922-1943) gave the new school a solid foundation. The Josephians had a head start in cricket when the first team donned the blue and white cap in 1898. Henry A. de Silva was the first cricket captain of St. Joseph’s College. Conversely, St. Peter’s College started cricket late in life when Norman Paternott was appointed captain of the first Peterite cricket team in 1927, a position he held with distinction until 1930.
The inaugural Josephian-Peterite cricket encounter was in 1933 and the honour of leading the Peterites into the field rested on George Jayaweera who took over from Paternott in 1931. For the record, the following represented St. Peter’s College in 1933 for the first encounter in the Joe-Pete series: George Jayaweera (Capt.), K. de Silva, D. Pereira, E. Bartholomeusz, P.S. Anthonis, G. Walles, J. Abeysekera, Shirley Illesinghe, T. Herat, Cyril Dias and W. Pietersz.
The story of George Jayaweera does not end in 1933. He left school, married and had a large family. The Jayaweeras had five sons and two daughters and let me update you on their current status in life – Upali (Dental Surgeon, Melbourne), Nelum (Medical Practitioner in Melbourne), Lakshman (deceased), Tissa (Melbourne), Irangani (New York, USA), Shanthi (Melbourne), Asitha (U.K.) and Ruwan. Four of his sons followed the father and two captained their respective schools while two others played for the team. This is a unique story for record books and it is my pleasure to chronicle the details. Let me recap their cricketing years.
George Jayaweera captained St. Peter’s College cricket team from 1931-33. Given below are the cricket pursuits of his four sons – Tissa, Shanthi, Asitha & Ruwan.
- His third son Tissa Jayaweera played for St. Peter’s in 1961 and 1962 as a batsman in the company of cricketers such as Richard Heyn (captain 1962), David Heyn (captain 1964), Tyrone Le Mercier (captain 1963), Maurice Decker, Didacus de Almeida (better known as a ruggerite), Rohan Abeysundera, Adiel Anghie (captain 1961), Travis Fernando (captain 1965), Adithiya de Silva, Ravi Fernando, Clifford Bartlett and others. Tissa emigrated to Australia and lives in Melbourne;
- Another son Asitha Jayaweera captained Royal College. With due respects to Tissa, Shanthi and Ruwan, I personally feel Asitha gained more fame as an all-rounder and leader after he moved to Royal College and enjoyed celebrity status playing from 1968-72, captaining twice in 1970 and 1972. He was a wily spinner and middle-order batsman but was best known for his astute leadership qualities. Asitha also captained a strong Sri Lanka Schools team in 1972 that included two former Test captains in Bandula Warnapura and Duleep Mendis. Soon after the school season he took wing to the U.K. for studies and this put paid to his chances of ever playing for his country. While in school he played alongside cricket stars like A.R. Gunasekara (captain 1968), S. Thalayasingham, Jayantha Kudahetty, Eardley Lieversz (captain 1969), A.R. Mudalige, C.R.L. Chitty, H.S. Yapa, Jagath Fernando (captain 1971), Beverly Paul, J. Thalayasingham, S.U. Samarage, B.N.R. Mendis, A.M. Pasqual, H.D. Caldera, N.D.P. Hettiarchchi, S.S.G. Lawton, S.A. de Silva, P.N.S. Kariyawasam, L. Paulusz, R.T. de Silva, and J. Amerasinghe. Asitha lives in England with his family;
- Fourth son Shanthi Jayaweera played First XI cricket for St. Peter’s in 1966 alongside Skipper Darrel Wimalaratne, Peter and Stephen de Niese, A. Asgerally, Tony Opatha, Denham Juriansz, Rodney Paternott, Mervyn Fernando and Ronnie Gunaratne.
- His youngest son Ruwan Jayaweera played for St. Peter’s College in 1973 and 1974, and like his great father captained in 1974. His teammates were Bernard Wijetunga, Gamini Goonasena (captain 1973), L. Jobsz, G. Solomons, E. Tavarayan, Nalyn Wiratunga, Lalith Obeysekara, Marlon Ranasinghe, Sunanda Jayasekara, R. Anandappa, Frankie Hubert, Charinde Perera, M. Paiva, S. Samaranayake, Ranjan Perera, M. Jayasekara, and R. de Niese.
Coming back to the 1933 game, George Jayaweera won the toss but elected to field. St. Joseph’s amassed a total of 225 runs with all but two batsmen entering double figures – Robert Fernando, 31, D. Moreira, 26, K.C. Pathmanathan, 31, Tommy Le Mercier, 32, Claude Wijesinghe, 10, J.P. Maloney, 36, H. Swaris, 19, and S.J. Cruse, 10 n.o. A feature of the Peterite bowling was the sensational spell of spin and googly bowling of Cyril Dias who bagged 9 wickets for 64 runs. In reply St. Peter’s were bundled out for 50 and 70, the Josephians winning by an innings and 105 runs. The Josephian bowlers ran through the opponents to give the Darley Road school an easy win. Pick of the bowlers were D. Moreira, P. Peiris, Claude Wijesinghe, and KLC Pathmanathan. Cyril Dias of St. Peter’s walked away with the Man of the Match award for his brilliant bowling performance.
Interesting bit of trivia –
- The first Joe-Pete encounter in 1933 saw the birth of the Jayaweera family cricket dynasty.
- The Jayaweera father and son (Ruwan, 1974) both captained the school by the Wellawatta Canal while another son Asitha captained Royal College twice (1970 & 1972) – a unique achievement probably unparalleled in Sri Lanka’s school cricket history.
- Tommy Le Mercier played for St. Joseph’s in 1933 and his two sons Tyrone 59-63 and Desmond 63/64 played for St. Peter’s College. Tyrone went on to captain St. Peter’s College in 1963.
- Claude Wijesinghe, who played in 1933 and captained St. Joseph’s College in 1934 and 1935, is my paternal grand-uncle.
- Claude Wijesinghe’s grand-nephew Brian Obeyesekere captained St. Joseph’s College in 1969.