“KINROSS KATASTROPHE”.- Des Kelly
While feeling a bit sad about it, I would like to thank Maxie Gerreyn for sending me the story and disastrous photographs of the old Kinross Swimming and Life-saving Club, because my brother Ian, who has been re-christened by Max, and named Mala-Kelly, was once the Captain of Kinross, as I remember it, and did his share of life-saving there, including this writer himself, who is, by all accounts, a much better singer than a swimmer, and once (or twice, to be exact), swam out to the reef, over there, about 500 yards away from the shore in Wellawatte, because the waves of the Indian Ocean practically carried me to my destination, and then, much to my consternation, found that I could not swim back to the shore, which, for some reason, seemed to be miles away. I swam and swam, finally trying to walk back when I thought I was close enough, only to find that I was sinking, when I raised both my tired arms above my head, yelling “HELP” and swallowing about a quart of sea water into the bargain. I don’t know where Mala-Kelly was, but suddenly he was there, and being a much better swimmer than he was a singer, towed me bodily back to shore.
Did I learn a lesson ?, of course not. My ambition during the old days was to try and try again, and so I did, about six months later, only to find myself in the same predicament, yelling HELP, a second time. Mala-Kelly had already done his share of saving for the day, and was courting a pretty female swimmer behind some rocks, when this exasperating call reached his ears and once more, he swam up to me, and as he was dragging a hopeless swimmer back to shore, he said to me-“what the hell are you doing, trying to swim, even before you learn to float, you are disturbing me when I am off-duty, and next time, I will let you bloody drown before having to leave ANY GIRL to save YOU !! . This was my own brother speaking, and I could hardly believe it. Still, I never did try to swim to that reef again.
Besides this true story, there is another, where, in this self same Kinross Club, which was quite empty at the time, I was trying to help a pretty young lady to get into the upper part of her two-piece swimming costume, and got into trouble again. My hands were shaking so much, I just could not get the hook into the eye of that bra for a couple of minutes, but of course, I did not yell for help again. Finally I managed to accomplish this task, and I will refrain from naming the lady concerned, for obvious reasons. As teenagers, we were pretty close, but although hardly anyone knew her at the time, there would not be even one Sri Lankan who would not know who she became, just a few years later.
I will leave it at that, and thank Max for sending out this news about the Kinross Swimming and Lifesaving Club, sad, though it is. Maxie, time passes, but memories remain. I hope that I have been able to bring a little joy into a sad situation. Farewell, Kinross.