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Old 11-10-20, 04:31 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Our humble beginnings?..

Our humble beginnings?..

The year was 1986; the security situation in Mother Lanka had deteriorated significantly. The battle lines between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities had begun to rear its ugly head in Sydney society. Against this dark backdrop a small group of old Royalists and Thomians decided to organize a dance to bring the two communities together. Siva Ramanathan, Rajan Saravanamuttu, Lalith Senaratne and Daman Panditheratna spear-headed a discussion with a few Royalist mates and the stage was set. This was the catalyst for the first ever, joint Royal Thomian dance in Sydney. In fact it was the first ever Sri Lankan school dance in Sydney. In the early nineties other schools would follow, to enrich Sri Lankan community life. Identifying and attending to the tasks that needed to be done, within a given time frame was not easy. Today formal operating structures underpin community organizations; back then we traveled, on tons of hope, a smattering of good luck and whatever good will that we could find in the community. Volunteers took on risks and responsibilities that committee members, today, would find quite daunting. The Thinking was simple, ?Machang, it has to be done, go out and do it.?

Preparation for the dance was always a lot of fun and in those days we only had the use of the Ryde Civic Centre two hours prior to the event but this was sufficient time for setting up and having an ?oxford bath? boarding style with the reluctant Royalists under the watchful eye of the caretaker Bill. Massa?s cabbage shorts and Praba Vanni running around arranging tables provided much laughter.

Thomian spirit was outweighed by Thomian hopes, since the odds always seemed to be so formidable in the early days. The informal committees had to make extensive use of their own social networks to open doors and cash resources to make things happen. Like today, profits from the various dances were channeled back to S Thomas? College in various forms:

Excerpt from the original correspondence:

1. OUR FIRST COMMITMENT WAS TO HELP CRICKET-WE REGULARLY SENT KOOKABURRA PRACTICE BALLS AND IN 1988 OFFERED A SCHOLARSHIP FOR THE BEST PERFORMANCE AT THE ROYAL THOMIAN TO PLAY A SEASON OF CRICKET FOR THE UNI OF NSW. THE RECIPIENT PLAYED FOUR MONTHS OF CRICKET IN SYDNEY WITH BOARD,LODGING AND CRICKET GEAR PAID FOR

2. WE ALSO MANAGED TO RAISE A PURSE FOR OLD WAR HORSE THE LATE LASSIE ABEYWARDENES RETIREMENT AND HANDED IT OVER TO HIM AT A DINNER HOSTED IN HIS HONOUR AT THE NSW CRICKETERS CLUB 1948 DINING ROOM.

3. QUINTIN ISRAEL LONG TIME RUGBY COACH WAS HOSTED BY STEFAN D?SILVA. THE OBA SPONSORED AN ARFU LEVEL 1 COACHING CAMP IN BRISBANE AND WE ALSO SENT SENT RUGBY EQUIPMENT TO STC.

4. SPONSORED THE VISIT OF FORMER WALLABY ROBERT EGERTON TO COACH THE COLLEGE UNDER 17 AND FIRST XV. THIS WAS A VERY SUCCESSFUL PROJECT. ALONG WITH STEFAN THEY RAN A SERIES OF CLINICS EDUCATING THE BOYS ON DIET,SPORTS MEDICINES AND INJURIES ETC AND ALSO THE PROPER USE OF WEIGHTS.

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _______________________________

In 1992 the unofficial committee disbanded and we had a lull until 1997 when a push was made to try to revive OBA activities. The stalwarts behind this move were:

Graham Masefield (Massa), Prabha Vannithamby, Roshan Rupersinghe and Stefan D?Silva. They eagerly gave off their time for a period of 2 to 3 years; some beyond as Graham and Roshan served in the committee till 2001. Stefan proved to be a very popular compere at our dances. Our guest of honor was Alan Crompton the Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board. All dance tickets were sold out by Christmas, which is a record that stands to this day.

Shortly after Ananda Amaranath, Jimmy Buultjens and Lucky Velupillai joined the troops. Ananda was the voice of reason. He was able to guide us in the subtle art of how to negotiate practical outcomes that made business sense. At committee meetings he would open our eyes to a range of risks that were often not seen or appreciated by the majority. It was largely due to his leadership that we eventually moved in 1999 to adopt a formal constitution. By doing so the OBA made sure that Committee Members would be protected when organizing public events. In addition Ananda helped the OBA financially by advancing funds when needed. Jimmy?s contribution during this period was invaluable along with Lucky who would drive to the southern highlands to pick up cheques so that we would have them cleared in time. There were others such as Dammika Wicks, Gihan Ratnayake, Gamini Idda and Suan De Soysa who have over the years given financial and moral support. It was during this period that Imtiaz Issadeen (Imty) planted the initial seeds in setting up the first Sydney OBA website. Given his technical skills we relied on him for quite a number of years and he continued to give us the exposure we needed through ozlanka which we ran successfully for many years to come.

In 2000 Asoka Perera and Panchan Ratneser played a prominent role making sure that we kept track of our cash flows and the wives of the whole dance committee did a great job by ensuring we had a good quality setting at a reasonable price. The 2000 joint dance with Royal under these formalized settings resulted in 600 tickets being sold! Despite the success it proved to be a logistical challenge and from that point on wards both schools felt it best we conduct separate dances.

The 2001 Thomian dance was a huge success and costs were rigorously monitored and cash flows were constantly balanced to ensure that there was no slippage. Under Ananda?s presidential guidance that year the committee decided to produce a new type of dance souvenir that gave Old Thomians an opportunity to write for other Thomians. Literary giants David Sansoni and Milroy Berenger as joint editors did an outstanding job at producing a quality souvenir and set the benchmark for subsequent years. It gave the advertising campaign (Niranjan Duraisamy, Kumar Rasiah and Vijay Watson) a much needed shot in the arm and also brought out a fair amount of Thomian literary talent as well. The dance profit that amounted to A$ 5,000.00 was donated to the STC library. From that point onward we knew the years of handwork and networking had paid off! El Presidente Lal Wimalaratna too over the following year and we experienced the changing of the guard with the likes of Imty & Rajan Sara moving on ; it was around this time that Duke Ramachandran efficiently took over as our mainstay emcee.

So it began??..above recollections and excepts compiled with Thanks to:

Lalith Senaratne (1962-1970 Buck, 1970-1973 Copleston Claughton) - our ?unofficial founder?!

Rajan Saravanmuttu (1960-1971 Miller Chapman & De Saram)

Daman Panditharatna (1953-1963 Wood)

Milroy Berenger (Winchester, Miller-Chapman 1960-1971)

Imtiaz Issadeen (Prep 1954-59 & Stone 1960 - 1968)

*having read above you will appreciate how an informal group of Thomians banded together. Apologies therefore if certain names have been inadvertently missed out from those early days. We can only put that down to fading memories!

https://www.stcobasydney.org/2020-articles/ourhumble
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