I had the opportunity of meeting Dan Ratnam prior to the felicitation ceremony organized by Isipathana College OBA and Rugby Development Committee at the Waters Edge on September 7. The function was held to felicitate the Principal sponsor of College Rugby for 2015 “Entrust” and our College coaches of the yesteryears namely Maurice Silva, Y.C. Chang, Frankie David and Dan Ratnam (who have immensely assisted to fine tune the College rugby in the infancy years), as well as two past outstanding Old Ruggerites in Randy Pietersz and Hafi Abdeen.
Prior to meeting Daniel, (popularly known as Dan) my memory went back to good old days of ‘Club Rugby in the mid/end 60’s’ when I was still a kid. The Ratnam brothers Jeff and Dan were great childhood heroes to most of us. Outstanding players for Havelock SC, playing as centers combined extremely well, was a treat to watch. As young kids we were impatiently looking forward to watch the Ratnam brothers representing Havelocks. Especially when they played against other big teams such as CR & FC, CH & FC, Kandy SC, Police and Army.
When I met Dan at his residence in Kalubovila I was welcomed with a friendly greeting and when I introduced myself it was amazing how he remembered coming to Colombo University grounds to referee a friendly match and even confirmed the year that it was 1976. During the conversation I realized he is having a crystal clear memory of the past and not only about his playing days, but also names of persons, places and dates with ease.
Dan was first introduced to rugby when he was just 16 years old, played for NCC in the ‘B’ Division Inter-Club tournament. He represented NCC from 1964, to 1966.
He attended Carey College which did not have rugby but his father had been a stalwart playing for Havelocks in the 1930’s. Dan first played for Havelocks in 1967 at the age of 19.
Dan is from a great sporting family, born and bred in Thimbirigasyaya, Colombo 5. Apart from his father playing for Havelocks in the 1930’s his elder sister Loraine Ratnam and brother Jeff were well known sports personalities. Sister Loraine was a well known athlete in the 60’s in hurdles and 400 metres, was a product of Presbyterian Girls School.
Jeff first attended Thurstan and then switched over to Greenlands College (now Isipathana College) in 1960. In 1961 Jeff joined the Air Force and played rugby for Air Force from 1961 to 1965. Jeff is 6 years older to Dan. (Dan could remember some of Jeff’s friends at Greenlands for the one year his brother was in school, as Saleem, George Vanhoff, Aubrey Wijewardena.
Jeff joined Havelocks in 1966. Along with Dan combined as centres and became the famous Ratnam brothers who played for Havelocks, Low Country and the National Team for several years, which was considered as golden era of the past Club Rugby. Havelocks versus CR was a major social event apart from the rugger match attracting the rugby lovers to either Havelock Park or Longdon Place in large numbers. Those were the days when the double decker busses were full to capacity with passengers going to witness the Havelocks versus CR match played either at Longdon Place or Havelock Park.
Jeff and Dan captained Havelocks and Jeff also went on to captain the national team. Both Jeff and Dan first represented the national team as centres in 1967 in the All-India Tournament. Ratnam’s family third generation to represent Havelocks was Shane Pinder (sister’s son a Thomian who played for Havelocks in the 1990’s.
Dan Ratnam being a resident of Kirula Road from childhood and having a host of friends from Greenlands/Isipathana his dream was fulfilled when he had the opportunity to voluntarily take up the coaching of Isipathana rugby team in 1976. That year Dan remembers the captain was Ginigalgodage and others who played were H.K. Sisira, M.P.F. Sallay, K.D. Nanayakkara, Faizal Bongso, Gunatunga, two props Bhuhari and Noordeen, Ashantha de Mel, Gamini Gunawardena and Dias as fly half.
Incidentally Dan was proud to reminisce that in 1976 Isipathana played against Thurstan for the Abdul Jabbar Shield, he coached Isipathana while his brother Jeff coached Thurstan College.
Dan was extremely delighted meeting all his old and dear friends, associated with the club and a host of other friends who were present in the country to attend the Havelock SC Centenary Celebrations.
Dan Ratnam migrated to the United States in 1986 with his family, looking for greener pastures and the family has settled down in the beautiful residential area of Palm Springs of California. But at the same time, it was also realized that with his nostalgic memories of the past, he is still deeply rooted to his motherland in heart and soul.