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Old 04-08-20, 06:29 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default The Days of Warden Bacon

The Days of Warden Bacon

After the troubles that he had to face, Bishop Claughton determined to hold the title
of Warden himself, which he accordingly did until his departure from Ceylon in 1871.
He recalled Mr. Bacon, who had been acting Chaplain at Ratnapura for a time, and
made him Sub- Warden. It was not till the arrival of Bishop Jermyn in 1871, that Mr.
Bacon was officially appointed Warden. The new Warden described by one of his
pupils as restlessly energetic, severe, kind, exacting, and awe-inspiring, a man who
carried every thing before him. And St. Thomas' needed such a man, for it was at
that time at the very low est ebb of its fortunes. Not that the school was ever in
danger of collapse, but that it needed just that stimulus which Warden Bacon was to
give and his successor to carry to the highest achievement.
Meanwhile the school continued on its way. Mr.John Woodhose and the Rev.
F.J.Bateman and Mr. Seneviratne joined the staff, and the College form was revived
and had eight boys in it. Mr. Bacon divided the Collegiate School into Upper and
Lower Schools and appointed Mr. F.H.Pereira Headmaster of the Lower School. This
change led to an increase in the number of the boarders and day boys.
In 1869, Bishop Claughton wrote about the College:
"We have had the largest number of boarders ever yet admitted; and although
greatly hampered by the want of a tuition fund, and the consequent impossibility of
securing the services of a sufficient number of tutors from the English Universities,
we have competed, not unsuccessfully, with the Government College and its staff of
able teachers, and our pupils have passed the Calcutta Examination in such a
proportion as to reflect great credit on their instructors. The number of day pupils is
very large, and their fees go very far to meet the want of endowment as far as tuition
is concerned.
I am interested in watching the effects of the games in the playground of this
institution in a degree only second to those of the actual instruction imparted. Indeed,
so important is it to encourage manly exercises in the young men of this country (as
improving their moral tone, as well as developing their bodily strength and activity),
that I consider cricket and football to be of the highest services as parts of our
education. The boys whom we receive as boarders are required to attend the daily
services in the Cathedral, and a certain number of them constitute the choir, which is
by no means an inefficient one. I may mention that, as we receive in our number of
students, heathens as well as Christians, we merely stipulate with the parents of the
former that it shall be left to our judgement to decide what instruction they receive,
we on our part promising that they shall not be baptized, until of age, without the
consent of their parents. I need scarcely add that such consent is rarely refused, and
that the sons of native land-holders in some of the villages of Ceylon are now many
of them Christians, carrying with them the influence of their example and the
education they have received."
In 1870, every candidate entered from the College for the Calcutta University
Entrance Examination passed, with one, C.P.Marcus, in the first class.
In January, 1871 the first examination for the Duke of Edinburgh Scholarship was
held at the College. It was an open exhibition, and of the value of Rs. 480 a year,
tenable for three years. It was won by C.N.Edwards. The mention of this Scholarship
should bring to the mind of every Thomian the name of Mr. Sampson Rajapakse who
endowed the Scholarship and was one of the greatest benefactors of the College.
This time saw the final extinction of the School Commission which had for many
years supervised the education of the Island. A Director of Education was appointed
to replace it . As yet the school received practically no assitance from the State in the
way of a grant. St. Thomas' and the other English schools, although for the most part
of missionary foundation, had grown up quite spontaneously in response to the
wishes of the leading classes in the island, and they owed very little to official
Government aid at the outset.
In the schools at large payment by results, generally the results of a test by the
inspectors, was still the orders for Government grants in Ceylon as it was in England.
English education in Ceylon was in ill repute amongst Government officials, who
wished to promote vernacular education in the villages first. But there was a powerful
English-speaking element in the population, and the desire for English education
was very widespread and continually growing. The strong prejudice in pupils, parent
and teachers in favour of whatever was purely English tended to lower the standard
of vernacular teaching throughout the country. Very few schools taught the
vernaculars at all. In St. Thomas',although the teaching of Sinhalese and Tamil
formed a very definite part of Bishop Chapman's plan, for which he chose the best
teachers he could find, yet by 1871 there is no record of any vernacular teaching in
the school, and it was not until 1918 that Sinhalese and Tamil were once more
systematically taught.
The Boarding establishment at the Academy, so says the record of this time, had
collapsed after Dr. Boake's departure, but that at St. Thomas' College was in full
swing, Mr.Seneviratne was a resident master, and so was Mr. Woodhouse. The
arrival of a new boarder is thus described by an old boy:
"I arrived by the morning train and drove up to the College and found the Warden
and Sub-Warden awaiting my arrival. They gave me a most cordial welcome and a
hearty hand shake; the squeeze of the Sub-Warden almost drew blood from my tiny
fingers, at which I winced. Breakfast was ordered to be sent to my room, which was
in what used to be known as the "Big Dormitory". Mr. Cull who was then an assistant
master of the Colombo Academy, was a neighbour of mine. He used to say "Good
morning" to us as he passed down the passage in his sleeping suit with a huge towel
in his hand on his way to the bathroom. "What a kind man he is", the boys used to
say, "He always says "Good morning" to boys in the passage, whereas our masters
would give us fifty lines from Virgil for congregating in the passage."
This time was the early heyday of the College choir, Warden Bacon himself was an
enthusiastic musician and singer, and he was Precentor in the Cathedral . The choir
had the support of many prominent people in Colombo who attended practices and
Church Services to help the school choir.
"For the five years I was in College" writes an enthusiastic chorister. "I was during
term, never one Sunday out of the choir, and am most grateful for the advantages I
obtained thereby?.. Austin Edwards was our leading treble, and possessed a voice
as I thought, of unearthly sweetness. In 1874, there came to us another like him,
whose voice, alas, is now stilled in death, dear Reginald Siebel. The choir boys had
an extra on Sunday mornings, "bulls eyes" served at early tea and they escaped Hall
on Fridays. The opportunities they had for cultivating their voices and becoming
acquainted with good music were none of the least of the advantages obtainable at
St. Thomas'. The organist was Mr. Sidney Edwards, who had grown up in the
school, and was trained by Mr.Bacon and Mr. Hancock."

Last edited by sriyanj; 23-09-20 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 04-08-20, 06:30 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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In 1871, there was an epidemic of Small Pox in Colombo from January to April. The
school therefore broke up in March and did not reassemble till May.
The departure of Bishop Claughton at the end of 1871 removed a firm friend and
strong ruler from the intimate life of the college. The Bishop?s interest in the work of
the College was very real, and he found time in the midst of his many duties to take
various periods of teaching. He was a man of great power, dignity and inspiring
piety. He became Metropolitan of India immediately after leaving Ceylon.
In 1872, there came to the College for a short time the Rev. Abbay, M.A., Fellow of
Wadham College. Oxford. He had been to Singapore to make observations upon a
total eclipse of the sun that took place on the 12th of December of the previous year,
and on his way back he was so delighted with Ceylon that he decided to stay there,
and he became a master in the College for a time. He occupied Winchester and says
his pupil, "the ease with which he solved a question after question in Algebra,
Trigonometry, Mechanics and Euclid simply took our breath away."
Mr. Bacon proceeded to England on leave in June, 1872, and left the College in the
charge of Mr. Woodhouse. He was sped on his way by what seems to have been the
first effort of the College Dramatic Society, scenes from George Coleman?s "Heir at
Law," acted in the Dining Hall. While he was on leave the degree of B.D. was
conferred upon him by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In England the Warden
enlisted the services of the Rev. T.F.Falkner, B.A., F.S.A. of Christ?s College,
Cambridge, as Sub-Warden, and sent him out before he himself returned.
"We cheered him hoarse" says a boy of the time, "as he drove into the College, and I
got the Church Appoo to ring the Cathedral bells as a welcome, for which I was
soundly rated by the Church warden."
"Mr. Falkner gave great impetus to cricket, but though a Cambridge man, and one
who had taken his degree in Mathematics, he candidly confessed that he hated
Mathematics like poison. He was a nice, pleasant, sociable man. He had a keen
sense of humour, and much enjoyed "Horace at the University of Athens," Dickens,
and such like books.
At the end of this year Mr. Woodhouse retired and early in 1874 Warden Bacon
returned bringing with him the Rev. H.D.Meyrick as Divinity Lecturer. Mr. T. Maffett
of Trinity College, Dublin also joined the staff in this year, a splendid Mathematician
and a great lover of music. Music was a great feature at this time. Mr. Meyrick had a
beautiful tenor voice and intoned beautifully. School concerts became frequent."
"Now for the first time" says the records, "Masters and boys fraternised with each
This is a significant remark which shows the new direction that education was taking.
The idea that boys should be seen and not heard, and that masters should maintain
a dignified aloofness, was giving place to mutual sympathy and understanding.
School games were among the first means of bringing masters off their pedestals.
Bishop Claughton?s appreciation of the Collage games has already been recorded.
But the value of games was becoming universally recognised. In England, Butler of
Shrewsbury (1798) punished boys for not playing football; Arnold of Rugby (1827)
"stood on the touch line and looked pleased;" Thring of Uppingham (1853) played
football and cricket and fives with his boys.
In this year the Dramatic Society performed scenes from the Merchant of Venice and
a farce called "Ticklish Times."
In 1875, a very important step was taken for which the credit was chiefly due to Mr.
Falkner: that was the starting of the College Magazine. At. first the little publication
was not strictly a school magazine, the majority of the contributions coming from
outside the College. Mr. Falkner himself was the first editor, and he was followed by
A.W.de Mel, then still a school boy. The first number contained " ?Walter Lee,?that
first rate novel" by Mr. H.W.Green; The Calendar for the month of January 1875; an
introduction by the Editor, an article on Public School by Mr. W.H.Solomons; The Old
Captain?s Ghost Story by Mr. H.Drew, and two terse school notices by the Warden A
local writer, noting Mr. Greens?s contribution, produced the following happy little
satire upon the new magazine*:-
Esto Perpetua ! Flourish for ever!
Green was the cover, and green the endeavour,
Green was the scribbler who set it agoing,
And green as the Cam, where the willows are growing,
Were the wretched subscribers who paid without knowing
The magazine started in this way has gone on without a break, save for the single
year 1876, upto the present time.
Warden Bacon retired in 1877, "A clever teacher, a man of iron will and constitution
though he was, yet energy, executive ability, sternness, and severity carried to
excess must end in a premature breakdown." Such is the estimate of his character
by one who was a small boy in the school at the time of his departure. The writer
continues, "his health soon giving way, he was ordered home, but he never reached
it, having died at sea near Aden. Thus ended a memorable career of a remarkable
man, struck down in the prime of life, and in the midst of a growing family."
In a letter dated 28th September, 1877, Bishop R.S. Copleston who had succeeded
Bishop Jermyn in 1875 alluded in high terms to the work and character of Warden
Bacon: "He (Mr. Bacon) returned to us, from a six months stay in England only last
Easter. During the time that elapsed between his return and the fatal increase of his
malady he was able to complete the arrangements by which the discipline and
financial system of the College are now on a firm and orderly footing, and to inspire
all his subordinates with a large increase of energy and diligence. We cannot,
therefore, feel that he returned to no purpose. Had he not returned, it would have
been most difficult for a successor to enter into his work; now it will be comparatively
easy. The disease (dropsy), which had appeared to be overcome, returned with
rapidity in July and August. With only ten days? notice, Mr. Bacon started for England
on the 5th of September, and on the 11th died at sea."
The school owes a great deal to Warden Bacon for he guided it through a most
difficult time and though he never saw it brought to its full strength his work helped to
make possible the great days that were to follow.
The College having thus lost the strong arm that guided its destinies, the onerous
duties of Warden devolved on Mr. Falkner. The post was offered to him by the
Bishop, but he was such a diffident man that he did not feel able to accept the offer.
Perhaps it was just as well for a greater man was at hand.
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