In the long and inspiring history of Hartley College the period of Charles Ponniah Thamotheram shines with an outstanding luster. He was the first Principal who put the college on the map by producing brilliant Hartleyites. He is also the one with the longest period of service from 1913 to 1943.
|C. P. Thamotheram
His record is amazing because when he assumed office the situation was not rosy to him. The Wesleyan Mission, which was in charge of the management, gave him a tight budget as they were reportedly pessimistic about the future of the school. But Thamotheram, undaunted by this restraint, enlisted the support of the community and launched a sound master plan that promised to put the college on the highway to a steady progress.
Thus when Rev Marshall Hartley, Foreign Secretary of the Methodist Mission in England, visited the college in 1917 he was so impressed by the Principal's prestige in the community as well as his dynamic dedication and clairvoyant vision, that he enhanced the Mission's grant and laid the foundation for a Science Laboratory.
And a grateful Principal christened the erstwhile Christ Church College as Hartley College in honor of the Reverend and carried forward his endeavors.
CPT soon completed the lab with the latest equipments and supplemented it with a library of up-to-date books. He built a number of spacious classrooms furnished with long benches. Himself an accomplished and versatile teacher, he recruited competent teachers for Science, Mathematics and Liberal Arts. In 1921, when the Colombo University College, affiliated to the University of London was established, he started the University Entrance classes for Science and Arts.
He put up a two-storey Hostel to accommodate students from distant places. Many pupils from far and wide came into occupation. One of them was K. B. Ratnayake (Member of Parliament, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Sports and Transport, Speaker of the Parliament and Governor of the Central Province). He was sent by his parents in Anurhadapura attracted by the fame of the college. He was in the hostel from 1936 to 1943 and had a very distinguished career.
A legendary fan of foot-ball Thamotheram bought a full-sized football field alongside the hostel and nurtured a football team that became the talk of the Jaffna town for its prowess. He also introduced cricket and volley-ball. He paid special attention to Sports, dividing the college into Houses in the names of former Principals -- Sherrad, Paulpillai, Kanapathyppillai and Abraham -- and held Annual Athletic Meets planned on Olympic standards.
He encouraged other extra-curricular activities like poetry, singing, and drama competitions. He was a lover of Shakespeare and he sponsored the staging of his plays that, especially the "The Tempest", brought fame to the College.
The growth of the College soon became exponential attracting many pupils in Vadamaradchy from going to schools in Jaffna. It is said that in the first twenty-two years of the Colombo University's existence several Hartleyites found easy admissions to it with eleven of them gaining scholarships to the University of London. Among them were many Science and Arts scholars who later became Lecturers, Professors, Doctors, Research Scientists and prominent members of the then prestigious Ceylon Civil Service.
Most notable among this galaxy were S. Nadarasar ( Reader in Mathematics -- University of Ceylon) K. Kanapathypillai (Professor of Tamil -- University of Ceylon) C. J. Eliezer (Professor of Mathematics -- University of Ceylon, Malaysia and Australia) Those who entered the CCS were K. Alvappillai ( Permanent Secretary -- Ministry of Food and Agriculture) , J. N. Arumugam, A. S. Navaratnarajah and M. Sinnathamby. The Science scholars were: Dr. P. Rajasingham (Deputy Director of Health Services Ceylon and Regional Director of the WHO -- New Delhi) and A. Sundaralingam, S. Shunmuganathan, A. Kandiah and R. K. Kandiah (Research Scholars abroad). Another notable Hartleyite was C. Loganathan, the first Manager of the Bank of Ceylon.
Mr. C.P.Thamotheram retired in 1943 having made Hartley College one of the brightest stars in the educational firmament in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He was succeeded by Mr. K. Pooranampillai who was a distinguished member of his staff from 1932. Mr. Pooranampillai carried the college to still greater heights. As a grateful and graceful tribute to his guru he created the Thamotheram House and laid the foundation for a two-storey Laboratory named after Thamotheram to perpetuate his memory.
|Author of this article: Mr. P. Balasingham
|Page last updated: May 17, 2011