I consider it a privilege to write an appreciation on the life and times of my departed elder brother – the late Rajakarunadasa Dharma Kirthi Ekanayake Wasala Panditha Mudalige Stanley Jayampathy Millawa Dunuwille on his 42nd death anniversary which falls on May 29, 2015, for he has been an inspiration, a pathfinder and a brilliant personality for the entire Dunuwille family. Yet, this long name was not used to identify him, but confined to the last three names, i.e., SJM for the reason that he was born on a Vesak Day. Whilst the observation of sky and planetary influence annulled the casting of a horoscope for the newborn, the adoption of the alternative name Dickie was the option of the late Mr E G Dunuwille and the late Mrs Soma Kumari Bakmeewewa – father and mother of SJM to prevent a calamity of intense magnitude.
What an owe-inspiring change of status did this additional new name bring about to Dickie is what the writer wants to convey through this appreciative article. However, Dickie departed from this world before his parents and elders and was unfortunate not to see his offspring blossom in life. Dickie started and ended his school career in style at St Anthony’s College, Katugastota (SACK), overlooking the banks of the mighty Mahaweli, his one time ancestral Walawwa premises.
During his greenhorn days at SACK late Dickie did quite a few sensational things to warrant the personal attention of the College Principal, the late Fr Lawrence Hyde, a strict disciplinarian yet a Rector with a golden heart who eased on Dickie. In the lower school Dickie was lord of all he surveyed and the marble champion. His life and times in the upper school and later in public service was power packed with anecdotes till his demise. He was daring as young man who came to the rescue of the innocent and the underprivileged often looking after the sick in hospital during nights. Leadership was thrust on him as he was fearless and forthright who had the inborn capability to command in a given situation with his acumen in militarism.
He took to sports in a big way at SACK and as a loyal public servant deeply participating in public service sporting activities. He forced his entry as an ace swimmer, crossing the mighty Mahaweli River bordering SACK, often coming to the rescue of learners and newcomers in tight situations enjoying water bouts with his school friends in the small islet within the Mahaweli which is no more today.
During his hectic but stormy sojourn in sansara late Dickie achieved greatness in his own inimitable style. What is more he achieved greatness by making others great, a rare phenomenon in terms of today’s topsy-turvy raucous life. Exploitation of this famed name by a usurper with a heritage of shortcomings is a matter to be regretted. Many are the stories interwoven with this gallant man who was daring and equally loveable in times of stress and need, a companion par excellence and one who had come to the rescue of the innocent and the underprivileged many a time that it is possible to produce a storybook relating to his incident-filled escapades both at SACK and later as a Post Master at Kandy and elsewhere.
It is not an exaggeration to state that late Dickie had rendered yeomen service several times to save persons from drowning whilst bathing in the Mahaweli River. He was a popular guy respected and feared by friend and foe. He was quick to befriend unknown persons in times of peril. Many are the days and weeks he was on vigil looking after his father, brother, uncles and friends receiving hospital medial treatment after surgery, etc.
The war years forced the British to requisition the college to locate the Headquarters of the South East Asia Command at Katugastota. This move brought late Dickie closer to the affinity of the allied forces stationed in the college grounds. Having endeared the heroics of the South East Asia Command late Dickie was imbibed with a sense of loyalty to fight in the war. As a young man he wanted to join the Army, because his inner conscience told him his place was in the forces. It was not to be due to the intervention of the Principal, the late father Fr. Hyde, who permitted late Dickie to join The Ceylon Cadet Battalion at the tender age of 14 years. He never missed a parade and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant Major by about 1947. Cadetting was Dickie’s forte during the war years attending the Diyathalawa Camp and before long was the SACK Sergeant Major with the enduring ability and affinity within the allied forces stationed in the college grounds. Simultaneously, he served his Alma Mater astounding critics and beating seniors at will to bag prizes and trophies offered by the British forces. He entered the playing fields of Katugastota with a bang as an ace all-rounder. He was adept at everything and anything he pursued brought credit, merit and success both to himself and the team he represented.
Simultaneous with his acumen in military matters, Dickie was a grand all-round sportsman who participated and excelled in every type of sporting activity provided by the College. He was a mystery spin bowler for SACK and later for the Postal Department who moved the ball both ways in the air to bamboozle top-notch bats, a champion boxer in the light heavy weight class who outclassed a strapper opponent, a product from St Peters, a fearless barefoot footballer, a senior prefect and a stalwart trade unionist of the Union of Post Masters. In a show of solidarity he cut his forearm up to the wrist with a blade to show his sincerity with the union. He was extremely lucky as a punter who repeatedly backed and won, placing bets on Garibaldi.
Late Dickie’s achievements are incomplete if not amalgamated with Cricket, for he is the pathfinder who started the winning trend turning tables on Trinity College on the 18th and 19th of March 1948 at Katugastota. In the two season of 1947 and 1948 the Antonian off-spinner Dunuwille bagged 44 wickets. (5 or 6 matches a season) crowning himself with glory in the final match against Trinity College thus breaking the hoodoo and Trinity’s invincibility.
Late Dickie Dunuwille’s crowning glory came in 1948 at the 1st Independence Day Parade and celebrations held at Bogambara on February 4, 1948. He had the honorary distinction of commandeering the entire might of the all-island school battalion and the single high profile achievement of taking the salute from Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake – the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon. The Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police did not participate as they do now.
Late Dickie was such an admirer of the late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, that against heavy odds he had the bravery to restore the fallen photograph of the late Mr Dudley Senanayake back in position at the expense of kicks, slaps, brickbats and what not from a storm of United Front supporters. This humiliating setback set him in motion a string of transfers to Ampara, Ratnapura, Matale and finally to Badulla where he passed off, a month or so after his mentor left this world.
May he attain nibbana!