Till The Mountains Disappear
Josephian Scouting : A Retrospect by Jeremy De Lima
The Scouting movement which now spans 216 countries with over 38 million members was started in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell, (later Lord) a British Military hero in the 1900 South African war.
Under the aegis of one of our greatest Rectors, Rev Fr Peter Pillai OMI, the first Catholic Scout troop in Sri Lanka, began at Darley Road in 1949. Using his good-given second-sight, he was appointed as our first Group Scout Leader, the Rev. Fr Henk Schram OMI, a Rover scout back in his home town was in Holland. Our fledgling group starts to take wing, ably assisted by Mr Francis Naidu (alias the “Black Panther”), seconded from 1st Port of Colombo. In August 1949 we made our public debut at the Group Scout Camporee and Pageant, held at the Royal Primary Oval in Colombo. The same year we had our first annual camp at Pedro, Nuwara Eliya, accompanied by 8 Rovers from 1st Port of Colombo. On 15th December 1950, we had our first Investiture ceremony in our brand new scout den. Numerous other events followed and in 1955 history was created when Mr Quintus Cooray was made our first Queen scout.
This is the highest achievement in scouting and required you to progress from Tender-foot, to Second Class and then to First Class where you were awarded the Scout cord. Much later, after more strenuous leadership tasks, you reached the pinnacle – QUEEN SCOUT. In-between this, you learnt to hike great distances, tie numerous knots, set up tents, sweep the ground, kindle fires and cook, and generally fend for yourself. This is where boys become men and learnt to stand on their own two feet. A previous president of the Old Joes Club of Victoria, Mr Ajit Jayetileke was one of these, together with two classmates of mine, Captain Mohan Pragasam and Mr Nanda Corea.
Nanda was Assistant Special Commissioner in Scouting for many years and is now Special Commissioner in Colombo. Another notable Queen Scout is Mr Claude Halpe, whom I was privileged to meet again after 30 years at the AGM in Colombo. Claude visited Australia earlier this year and was suitably hosted by his Scout mates, both in Melbourne and Sydney. Claude and Nanda, since their investiture in 1964 and 1966 respectively, have been very prominent in keeping the College campfires light. Claude travels from the USA for every significant scouting event and is shown here in the 50th Jubilee celebration in Colombo in December 1999, flanking Nanda with the Rector at the time, Rev. Fr Victor Silva. On the right of Claude is another Queen Scout – Mr Patrick Perera, Scout Master of the year.
In 1959 Josephian scouting took on a new leaf when our Mathematics teacher, Mr Siva Loganathan was appointed as scoutmaster. Mr “Big Fat Tarzan” or Loga, as he is known to all of us, really took his duties to heart. Although, not a scout himself, Mr Lokanathan took to scouting as a fish takes to water. A Hindu by birth, he began to attend our Chapel Catholic services so that he could relate more to his charges. I have had numerous phone conversations with him in researching this article and his joy de vivre scouting is still very evident. During his overseas teaching career in Karachi, he continued his devotion to scouting as Scout Master at St Patrick’s serving the Scout movement in Pakistan. He attributes his method of bringing out the best in everyone while staying in the background as a leader. This seed of thought appears to have borne fruit as 21st Colombo won the Mayor’s flag for 4 consecutive years, starting in 1966. This record still holds for Scouting in Sri Lanka.
Jeremy De Lima was a student of Fr. Don Peter from 1960 to 1970. He migrated to Australia in 1984 and has been an active Josephian in Melbourne. He is a former Editor of the Old Josephians Club in Melbourne, Australia. He counts as a happy memory being reuniting with his class of 1970 after almost 40 years. (AMS, Editor)