St. Sylvester’s College: The forgotten school that produced top sportsmen without anything | Sunday Observer

St. Sylvester’s College: The forgotten school that produced top sportsmen without anything

5 July, 2020
Malcolm Bulner (left) the winner  & Malcolm Bulner (right) in a fight
Malcolm Bulner (left) the winner & Malcolm Bulner (right) in a fight

St. Sylvester's College has produced some top class sportsmen. This is a school situated in the heart of the seat of ancient Sinhala kings and remains as the one and only school in the country, if not in the whole world, to have produced a sportsman who was selected to represent two different countries at two different Olympic Games. He is none other than Malcolm Bulner, the eldest of the famous Bulner brothers.  

He was born on July 9, 1944 and bloomed into a welterweight boxer who represented then Ceylon at the 1962 British Empire (Commonwealth) Games and at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He later went on to represent Australia in international boxing competitions just after participating in the 1964 Summer Olympics while representing Ceylon.  

He migrated to Australia where he was selected to represent them at the following Olympic Games, but he was deprived of achieving this feat for technical reasons.  

Bulner who became an Australian national later, qualified as a world class boxing judge and officiated at several meets in Australia. He also boxed for the country at the Empire Games in Perth and the Asian Games in Bangkok.  

He was a south paw pugilist and was moulded by Derrick Raymond the famous coach who migrated to England and passed away. Bulner’s three brothers Michael, Noel and Clifford too were good boxers in the lower weights.  

Derek Raymond is a famous name in the boxing world here in Sri Lanka and some of the boxers who climbed the ladder of success were Nimal Leweke - now a retired Police DIG. Lewke was also a stylish boxer and brought honor to the country at several meets locally and internationally and was adjudged the best boxer at national meets.  

He also hit the top in the rugby arena as a player, coach and referee. The others who come to mind are ACR Herathge, M. Reyal, SA Azwer, H. Gunasinghe, and N. Thirukumar.  

The first Sylvestrian to win a national boxing title was Donald G. Labrooy who won the bantam weight title in the early 1950s. He was followed by Malcolm Marshall, Milroy de Soysa, Annabel de Soysa, ME Marikar and John Gye. Boxing was synonymous with St.Sylvester's which was in the forefront of schools boxing, winning the coveted Stubbs Shield several times (within 14 years they won it on 12 occasions).  

The origin of St. Sylvester's College dates back to the early 1940s when the late Rev. Fr. Robert M. Perera, OSB founded the school. When the late SWRD Bandaranaike's government won the election, St. Sylvester’s College became a government school. Later principals like DJN Seneviratne, Bertie Nillegoda, W. Gopallawa and Asoka Herath gave their best to the school. The current principal is T. Methiyagoda who is playing his part well.  

St. Sylvester's did all its work producing boxers, cricketers, footballers, hockey players, athletes and rugby players with very little facilities. It is said that during the early years after the Second World War, St. Sylvester's was entitled to use the Police barracks. The pint-size ground was expanded with the help of Sylvestrian students and the principal of Trinity College permitted the Sylvestrians to use the Asgiriya ground for athletic practices and sports meets free of charge.  

In athletics, the Sylvestrians produced an athlete who broke a Public Schools record and was one of the country's crack sprinters in Felix Samarawickrema who later crossed over to St. Joseph's College. He lowered the Public Schools 440 yards sprint with a timing of 10.6 seconds.  

Samarawickrema was chosen to represent the country at the Empire Games in 1949 along with Trinity College's Duncan White, but had to pull out due to a muscle injury and Vivian Blaze took his place. Some top athletes did come out of this school. In the 1950s there was Cyril Ranatunge, P. Thangavelu, Ananda Daswatte, GS Fernando, ME Marikar, S.Wickremasuriya, Leslie and Malcolm Marshall, LSB Cabraal, Rodney David, WRP Dias, SB Pattapola and Erick B. Perera.  

Football was another popular sport from the 1940s to the 1960s. Some of them played for the country and others for Kandy, Up-Country and at their work Establishments. Mahinda Aluwihare was the first Sylvestrian to lead the country. The others who shone before Mahinda Aluvihare were NE Perera, IM Saheed, Edmund Samaraweera, AHM Jabbar, Jaya Aluvihare, RP Wijesiri, Tony Direckze, Percy Samaraweera, Rukman and Rajendra de Silva, ME Marikar who captained in 1953, Donald G. Labrooy, Abdul Razak, Gerard David, IM Anver, Hector Galuge and M. Ayub.  

In hockey too, they did well and some of the players were S. Adikaram, Mervyn Rodrigo, Maithri Rajapakse, Nihal Samarasekera, the Solomon brothers, S.Kumarlingam, TS Hasan, the David brothers Gerard, Kingsley, Sydney and Rodney, IM Anver, Malcolm Perera, S. Shanmugalingam, TE Badurdeen, M.Ayub, Sunil Perera, M.Razik, Ranjith Gunasekera, GMN Fernando, Trevor Melder, the Colombage brothers Edward and Ranjith, S. Saundranayagam, Ishak Shabdeen, Anton Perera, Chandra Mohan and M. Ashroff.  

At cricket it was ME Marikar who was the first to play in the Premier tournament without playing for the school as there was no cricket at St. Sylvester’s.

He was followed by Abdul Razak the famous Prisons cricketer, Nihal Samarasekera who became the first to play for the Ceylon team before Test status and Ishak Sahabdeen, the first to play for the country after Test status.  

Later St. Sylvester's produced a galaxy of cricketers and the man who reached the top in coaching was Malcolm Perera who hit the highest spot in coaching, though he did not play for the country. He went up as Sri Lanka Cricket's coaching director and later manager.  

In rugby some of the Sylvestrians who played for clubs without playing for the school were Malcolm Marshall, Cyril Aluwihare, Hector Galuge, Sarath Basnayake, Gerard David, Tony Direckez, Nimal Lewke, Hafiz Marikar, Anton Fernando, M. Jamilon, V. Ratnayake and Manjula Pathirana.