Eddie Gray – Memorial Oration by HE. S.Skandakumara at RCOBAA AGM, Melbourne, Australia
HE S. Skandakumar recently delivered the Eddie Gray Memorial Oration in Melbourne before a distinguished audience of old Royalists of all vintages. The event was part of the Agenda of the AGM of the Royal College Old Boys’ Association of Australia, Melbourne branch, RCOBAA.
The speech as delivered by H.E. Skandakumar “President and members of the committee, let me congratulate you on your election to office of the Melbourne branch of the Royal College Old Boys’ Association of Australia, and commend you on the excellent work that you are doing on behalf of the school and students in need. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be among such a wide cross section of my fellow Royalists today and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to deliver the oration in memory of an outstanding product of our great school.
My association with Eddie began in 1985, when he served as a Trustee of the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation of Victoria along with my dear friend Dr. Quintus De Zylva. The Foundation did much to assist our aspiring young cricketers to gain experience in Australian conditions and as Assistant Secretary of the Cricket Board then I was privileged to interact with both of them.
My first meeting with Eddie took place at the Hotel Taj Samudra over breakfast. As he took his seat at the table with his charming wife Yvonne, Quintus mischievously said “I say Eddie I had a call to my room at 1 a.m. from a girl who asked for you!”
Yvonne without blinking said “If it had happened 30 years ago Quintus I may have been concerned”. Eddie not to be outdone responded with a grin ” Quintus, she got the room right, only the name was wrong”!!
The annual lecture at Lords in London in memory of Sir Colin Cowdrey is referred to as one representing the ” Spirit of Cricket ” as a tribute to what that gentleman cricketer stood for in his playing days. I would not hesitate to recommend that this Oration be referred to in future years as one representing the “Spirit of Royal,” given all that Eddie lived up to.
After touching briefly on his association with Eddie, the speaker focused on how the Spirit of Royal, was scrupulously followed by Eddie Gray, throughout his Life.
“When our first Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake fell off his horse and died in Eddie’s arms, the blame fell on the Mare. Eddie was quick to point out that it was a seizure that led to the fall which was confirmed later. In doing so Eddie adhered to our first lesson, “To distinguish between Right and Wrong and to stand up for what is Right.”
When he got off his Police vehicle to punch a man who was harassing a beggar on the street, he upheld our second lesson, viz to “Emulate the Strong but never forget to protect the weak “.
In his blessed and blissful 64 year marriage to Yvonne he lived up to our third that “Every Right implied a corresponding Responsibility.”
As Head Prefect and thereafter the first Ceylonese head of the Mounted Police and Officer in charge of the Fort Police he discharged his duties with impeccable Integrity, upholding our fourth lesson, viz “Greater the Authority, Greater then has to be the Accountability.”
When he stepped aside in the Boxing ring in a crucial International bout to allow his opponent to pick up his fallen gum guard and went on to lose the fight, he lived up to our next lesson, that ” It was not the winning that mattered but how one played the game.”
”Indeed he played the Game of Life as well to perfection and I have no doubt that the Greatest Scorer who called time on his Life, welcomed him to his heavenly abode with open arms.
“Finally Gentlemen, let us reflect on the portraits that adorn our sacred Hall of Fame. Those distinguished men are remembered even today for two things; Their Intellect and their Integrity. Yes there is no greater asset that a Man can cherish than his Integrity, and Eddie’s was impeccable.”
“As a further tribute to him, I like to mention that our lives are divided between needs and wants. Being human our wants will continue to change but basic needs will always remain the same, represented by Food, Water, Clothing, Shelter and Peace. Yes my friends Peace is indeed a Human Need.
Our Country invested in us in our early education and there could not be a better way to reciprocate that blessing than to make our own meaningful contribution to that process of Peace, because no nation can aspire to fulfil the true potential of its Independence unless that Independence embraces each of its citizens equally.
Our loyalty to our school is reflected in a crucial line in our College song, “We kept thy fame Inviolate”
Our National Anthem has the line “Eka Mawa Kage Daru” while our National flag has four Bo leaves representing Karuna, Metta, Muditha and Upeka, essentially Love and Compassion.
Loyalty to one’s Country must necessarily reflect commitment to these precious values as well, so let me conclude by quoting a very famous journalist Oliver Stone in his farewell address at the US Writers Guild Awards 2017,
“Find time to be by yourself to listen to your inner silences,
To find the true meaning to your Life on Earth, and,
Never give up on your struggle for Peace, Decency, and Telling the Truth “.