Chapter 28 - Between World Wars

During the period 24th January to 12th February 1927 an important event for the motor vehicle industry and engineering in general took place in Colombo. The All Ceylon Motor and General Exhibition gave the fledgling industry the opportunity to show the people of Ceylon the vast strides that had been made in 20 years since first motor vehicles were exported to Ceylon and the professionalism of the companies in the industry. Rowlands Garages spared no expense to construct an exhibit that was the pride and joy of A.P Rowlands and his other Directors and staff who were more than happy to “Man” the stand.



Display of Rowlands Garages At The All Ceylon And General Engineering Exhibition In Colombo In 1927.
The descendants of Charles Benjamin Rowlands (referred to by Cecil Rowlands as “The Kandy Rowlands”) continued in primary industry and managed or owned tea estates.
In 1931 the Donoughmore Constitution was introduced, which foresaw the majority of seats in the new State Council (succeeding the Legislative Council) being contested in elections, based on universal franchise. These elections were boycotted by the JYC, a boycott successful on the Tamil majority Jaffna peninsula; 1934 by-elections were held in this region. General elections again were held in 1936.

The years of the Great Depression affected the economy of Ceylon as it did the rest of the world and Rowlands Motor Garage felt the effects of the reduction in spending on motor vehicles. The major export product was tea that had peaked in 1933 at 115,000 metric tons, which sank to 96,000 to 99,000 metric tons in 1934 to 1938, then to rise again to 120,000 metric tons during the Second World War. Total annual exports that had fallen to a low of 189 Million Rupees in 1932, averaged 260 Million Rupees in 1934 to 1936, then to rise to 680 Million Rupees in 1944 and on to 1,011 Million Rupees in 1948.

In 1937, Ceylon had a total of 1,530 kms of railroads and 28,500 kms of roads. In 1938, 20,181 cars, 2,571 buses and 3,924 trucks were registered.


Even though the elder children adored their new sister, life in a step-parent family was not easy and as the boys grew older they were sent to boarding school at St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia.

Cecil Wilford Rowlands (nicknamed “Podgy”) joined S.T.C. after the tenure of The Rev. Kenneth.C. McPherson as Warden of St Thomas’ College.

N.M.P.Billimoria in his book “75 Years at Mount” states, quote “The induction of Revd.K.C.McPherson as the new Warden took place on 6th May 1926 at 8.30am in the old thatched roof dining hall, in the presence of boys, staff and trustees of the College"

Warden McPherson

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote”The most important and significant event for the College in the first term of 1927 however was the Episcopal consecration of the new college chapel. The Times of Ceylon recorded ” The College Chapel which has been named “The Chapel of the Transfiguration” was consecrated on 13th and 15th February by the Rt.Rev.Dr.Mark.Carpenter-Garnier. The ceremony was most imposing, perhaps because it was the first time that the college had witnessed a service with full ritualistic observances. A large gathering of old boys and supporters of the school were present on the occasion and added no doubt to the interest and solemnity of the event… The first part of the service is recorded by Mr.Keble in his book “The History of St Thomas’ College, Colombo”. The second part of the consecration service followed on Monday 15th February 1927…After the two imposing and most solemn ceremonies the Bishop declared a holiday for the school.

The Chapel of the Transfiguration
in 1927

It must be noted that the College Chapel stands as fitting monument to the activities of Revd.G.M.Withers and so many old boys who gave ungrudgingly towards its construction, some of whom were not even Christians. Mention must also be made of the Warden at the time, Rev.K.C.McPherson, who took over from Revd.Withers, the arduous task of going around the Island collecting funds…Warden McPherson wrote: “My task was to complete the chapel, especially to put on its least beautiful but most necessary part – the roof”.. There was great improvement in the number of boys in 1927. 143 new boys joined the school and of this number not less than 28 were boarders”.

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “On 4th February 1928 which was Old Boys Day the college paid tribute to the former Warden Rev.W.A.Stone with a presentation being made to him at the OBA AGM… the school premises had changed considerably and a great development took place in the building scheme of the college. “The set of four class rooms facing the sea to the west of De Saram road were completed and the new Tuck Shop on the south of the cricket field was opened…Earlier, the cutting of the hillside into the small club grounds, according to Mr.L.W.Abeywardena had been done with the help of the masters and boys of S.T.C…. Boys and Masters met daily at 4pm and worked for the common good and here was instituted the first “Shramadana Movement”.
In March Warden McPherson left on leave to visit his wife and young son Keith, who he was to see for the first time and Sub-Warden R.S.de Saram was appointed as acting Warden.



Dr Hayman
N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote ‘The Warden returned at the beginning of the 3rd term 1928 with his wife and son. Along with him came two men who were to become the greatest assets to the future S.T.C; Dr.Rollo.Hayman – Dr of Science (Oxon) and Mr W.T.Keble B.A (Oxon), who joined the staff…Little did they know at the time that those two men were to become pillars of our institution and founding members of 4 branch schools between them.

Two men who in later years had a big influence on the life of Ed Rowlands.
When Dr Hayman and Mr Keble arrived at S.T.C. of the existing buildings there was Winchester and the comparatively new cricket pavilion, a temporary prep hall and a sick room which was little more than a corridor with two beds and little equipment.


The Chapel and Classrooms
The junior classrooms had to be completed. On the landward side of de Saram Road was the quadrangle with three sides completed; on the west the science laboratory, on the south the classrooms and on the east the Chapel. On the north work on the dormitories and the school hall was in early stages of construction".
While the dormitories were being built “Podgy” and his fellow senior boarders were housed in Thalasa and another neighbouring house.

The Science Block
In the classrooms teaching was difficult due to the noise of the pile driver which was being used to secure the foundations of the western wing of the dormitory block and the crashes of the pile driver became an accepted part of the lives of “Podgy” and his fellow students.

In 1929, the 50th annual cricket encounter in the series between S.T.C and Royal was played on the S.S.C. grounds and “Podgy” and the rest of the college were there to cheer on their cricketers, but unfortunately S.T.C. lost this Golden Jubilee match.

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “Thursday 27th was a red letter day in the history of S.T.C. Mount Lavinia…His Excellency the Governor Sir Herbert Stanley laid the foundation stone of the new assembly hall which was more than half complete…The college premises were gaily decorated with “a wealth of flags and bunting and an artistic pandal stood at the entrance”…The senior cadet platoon under the command of Lieutenants C.B.Paulicpulle and V.P.Cooke gave the Royal Salute and presented arms.
After inspecting the guard of honour His Excellency laid the corner stone of the assembly hall with a silver trowel presented to him by Mr.J.Mathews on behalf of the college. He exclaimed “I declared this stone well and truly laid”. The Governor and entourage next walked into the new hall where he unveiled “the stone that had stood at the Pediment of the old college at Mutwal”. The stone was draped with the college flag”.
In 1929 for the first time hockey established itself in the sporting activities of the college. We do not know whether “Podgy” played hockey, but his son Ed did play hockey when attending S.T.C. Gurutalawa and later for the C.R.& F.C.
Scouting had been suggested in 1928 and with the arrival of Dr Hayman and Mr Keble became reality in 1929 when the first scout troop was formed. Again, we do not know whether “Podgy” became a scout, but Ed was a scout when he was a student at S.T.C. Gurutalawa.
N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote”1929 also saw the completion of the college hospital with an attached dispensary which was an addition to the buildings. It looked quite plain from the outside next to the magnificent main block.

But inside was very well planned. It had two wards gifted by Mr & Mrs Lloyd Daniels in memory of Charles LaBrooy who died at the age of 9. The dispensary was the gift of Mrs Morris, aut of the Thiedeman brothers.


Since the new dormitory block had been opened the dormitories adjoining the dining hall were vacant. These were converted into art and geography rooms…

In July of 1930, it was announced that Warden McPherson was to give up the post of Warden by the end of August. He had accepted the post of Vicar of St Andrews Cathedral in Singapore…

It was much later in 1968 that the reason for his early retirement were disclosed by him; “Why did I stay so short a time at S.Thomas’ you may ask. I could see well enough 38 years ago that the spirit of nationalism was strong in Ceylon and that it was time that the leadership of one of the country’s chief schools should be in the hands of a Ceylonese, and was there not the ideal man already to be found? There he was – Reggie de Saram – himself an old boy, an Oxford honours graduate (incidentally a half blue) and trained at Cuddesdon Theological College. So indeed it was not a chance to be missed”.

New Dormitory from Big School Grounds

When Warden K.C.Mcpherson resigned at the end of August 1930, Sub-Warden R.S. de Saram was appointed Acting Warden. This was the beginning of another new era, in the history of the college.

The boarding house had been completed in the previous Warden’s tenure and “the advantage of proper boarding accommodation was immediately felt and the discipline of the school improved”…”The old system of two junior and two senior houses disappeared and four house, Chapman, Claughton, Copleston and Miller, each with a senior and junior dormitory was established. The day houses Buck, Stone and Wood were allotted boys from the A,B and C Forms.

That same year same a deluge flooded the college grounds. The students would have had a good time wading through the flood waters on the Big School Grounds.



N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “In 1932 the Revd.Reginald de Saram, sub Warden and acting Warden was confirmed and appointed Warden of St Thomas’ College, Mout Lavinia….The Revd R.S.de Saram had received his early education at St Thomas’ College Mutwal under Warden Stone and had come to Mount Lavinia with the original “pioneers”. He was known as the most durable product of the “Stone Age”.
Cecil Rowlands (nicknamed “Podgy”) joined St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and the College records show the following:
Name: Cecil Percival Wilford Rowlands
Admission No: 3581
Date of Admission: 2nd May 1932.

Warden R.S.de Saram

He was a boarder in Miller House Senior. “Podgy” was present with all his fellow students when Warden de Saram was installed in the office on Friday 24th June 1932 in the College Chapel by the Rt.Rev.Mark Carpenter Garnier, assisted by his many chaplains. After the service, the first of its kind to be held in the new chapel the whole school assembled in the college hall.

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “The Bishop and the Warden were loudly applauded as they took their seats on the platform. Bishop Carpenter Garnier said ‘You have got your Warden – here he is’. This was greeted with loud applause. The Bishop continued ‘He is quite unique. He is the only one of his kind. There are other Wardens who loved the college with all their hearts but they were only Thomians by adoption. (laughter) Here is one who is a born Thomian (applause).

Warden de Saram replied in a moving speech spoke of the greatness and traditions of the college. He said “My only wish is that this school which we all love so much, which is our precious possession, will go on from strength to strength”. A holiday was declared by the Bishop and thus the new era began, with Warden de Saram at the helm”.


“Podgy” had joined S.T.C at the start of the days of Warden de Saram that was to continue until his son Edouard Rowlands transferred to S.T.C. Mount Lavinia from the branch school at Gurutalawa and he was at college when Warden de Saram left in 1958.

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “After a brief holiday in England Dr.R.L.Hayman returned to Ceylon and with renewed strength immersed himself in the activities of the college once more. He wwas to prove one of the most generous benefactors of the college and on his arrival presented the college with funds for two more five courts. (“Fives” was a game introduced to Sri Lanka by Dr.Hayman and first played to St Thomas’. It is played somewhat on the same lines as “Squash”, but using bare hands and not a racquet). Dr.Hayman’s generous and unselfish contributions to the college are still remembered with gratitude”.
As a boarder “Podgy” and his fellow dorm mates would have been regular “Fives” players.

Dr.Hayman would become the Head Master of St Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa and it was during his tenure that Ed Rowlands joined the school in 1951.
N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “Under the able leadership of Warden de Saram there were many significant changes in the education system - Mr.D.Spendewinde has written, quote “ The wisdom of Warden de Saram was such that he extended the education of young Thomians beyond the bounds of the 3 R’s to more practical fields. Carpentry as a regular subject on the curriculum in the Lower Fourth and continued into the Upper Fourth. Twice a week we had to trek from the main classrooms to the carpentry shed above the small club ground and adjoining the Galle Road. Mr.E.S.Scott Master Carpenter was in charge of the workshop and under his guidance we fashioned quite a few utility articles. We learned the basic principles of carpentry which well may have helped in later life to make some of us handymen in our homes”.
“Podgy” would have been in this group and in later years when Mr Scott transferred to S.T.C. Gurutalawa and started a Carpentry Shed there, Ed Rowlands (Podgy’s son), under the guidance of Mr Scott made a stool and lamp stand for the family.

In December 1932, Revd.A.John.Foster a graduate of Oxford University, succeeded Revd.Wright as permanent chaplain of St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Father Foster later also transferred to S.T.C Gurutalawa and was another person who had a large influence on Ed Rowlands. On 6th August 1933 Revd.Foster officiated at both the Holy Communion Service and Evensong to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration and “Podgy” would have been present to participate in the event.

A.P.Rowlands was also a member of the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club and played there whenever he could find the time do so. In 1933 he played in a competition and won first prize in the second division of the “Bogey Competition” as the picture of the cup that he won shows.
N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “The swimming bath gifted by Dr.Hayman was reaching completion…His gift of a swimming pool was welcome and was planned to measure 100 by 40 and be the best in the island – which it was. It was also the first school pool in this country…On the 14th December 1933 it was finally declared open thus ushering in a new era of the school life…The Warden informally declared the pool opened when he took the first plunge from the second board and was loudly applauded. Three of the heartiest cheers that ever echoed through the school greeted Dr.Hayman’s dive”.

“Podgy” together with his school mates would have been present on this memorable occasion and as a boarder, would have used the pool on a regular basis, thereafter.

Nuwara Eliya Golf Club

1934 was Cecil Rowlands’ final year in college and he would have taken part in the following activities.

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “In referring to funds, 1934 was a significant year for raising funds. It was probably the first time that the boys of the school themselves participated in collecting funds. This was the inauguration of the Million Sixpence Fund at St Thomas’ by Warden de Saram. This was an appeal to all Thomians past and present and to friends of STC to rally around. The Warden himself wrote an appeal in the May issue of the college magazine…..The magazine editors said of this…”The Warden has launched the Million Sixpence Fund appealing to all Thomians friends and well wishes to do their part. St Thomas’ has a right to ask this favour from her sons who stand by her again for all they have and are”.
A.P.Rowlands was a generous contributor to this fund and we are sure that Cecil Rowlands would have been involved in some sort of fund raising activity to support his Alma Mater.

N.M.P.Billimoria also states quote “On 1st February 1934 the Bishop of Colombo officially declared open the new swimming bath. It was on this day that the Million Sixpence Fund was fittingly launched by the Bishop…. In 1934 after several years, Thomian interest in soccer was revived. Success after success followed the Thomian team so ably coached by the Warden himself and the Chaplain who appeared so versatile on the sportsfield whether it was cricket or soccer or any other sport".
Cecil Rowlands played soccer at STC Mount and his son Ed Rowlands played soccer at STC Gurutalawa.
When Dr Hayman, Father Foster and Mr Scott transferred to STC Gurutalawa and Ed Rowlands joined to school in 1951, they recalled the time that Cecil Rowlands was at STC Mount Lavinia.

When Cecil Rowlands left college at the end of 1934 he joined his father’s business and was an apprentice refrigeration engineer until he finished his course.

In the 1931 Census, Ceylon had 5,312,548 inhabitants,
· 2,928,000 were listed as Lowland Sinhalese,
· 1,089,000 Kandy Sinhalese,
· 518,000 as Ceylon Tamils,
· 603,000 Indian Tamils,
· 28,000 as Burghers

Referring to Ceylon residents of European descent - these were the people who formed the first mass exodus from the island, following communal riots of 1958 and the relaxation of the “White Australia” policy by the Australian Government, in the 1950’s. Others migrated to England, Europe, Canada and the United States of America.

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