A historic day for Ceylon

My dear Sam,
Thought of  sharing a news to  uplift  heart

And banish the gloom a pandemic brought

 We were too small to comprehend the great

Performance of our lads, 

 To  forget the  mayhem  caused by a puny virus  

And brighten your hearts in gloomy Covid days,
  During golden era of  the Pearl of Indian Ocean

  Four guysof blessed a island uplifted every heart 


An article which appeared in the Island of 3 January 2021 is appended belowA historic day!

After 400 years of Western domination Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known gained Independence on the 4th of February 1948. Heralding the occasion four athletes from the four corners of the Island brought four scrolls to the Independence square to be handed over to the Prime Minister  D.S. Senanayake to be read for the public to hear.
The four reputed athletes represented the four communities. They were Oscar Wijesinghe (Sinhalese), Lakshman Kadirgamar (Tamil), Mohamed A Sherrif (Muslim) and Duncan White (Burgher). Arriving at the Independence Square they handed over the scrolls to young females representing the four communities. Swarna Amarasuriya (Sinhalese), Srimani Ramachandran (Tamil), Ayesha Zally (Muslim) and Phyllis de Kretser (Burgher). In turn the four damsels handed over the scrolls to the Prime Minister who read them over the public address system.
It was indeed a happy coincidence that in the very same year Sri Lanka made her debut at the greatest sporting spectacle in the world, as an independent nation. A team comprising of three athletes and three boxers represented the country at the XIV Olympic Games in London 1948. No one ever dreamt that any of the participants would ever win a medal at the greatest sports festival after the Second World War. In the final of the 400m Hurdles event Duncan White of Sri Lanka though beaten by Roy Chocran, USA to second place lowered the existing Olympic record skimming over the hurdles in 51.8 secs. Thus getting the first medal to Independent Sri Lanka at an international sporting event. Commenting on the breath taking performance, the President of the Sri Lanka Olympic Association said that “White has done more for Sri Lanka in 51.8secs than all the propaganda over 100 years”. This athlete was none other than one of the athletes who brought the scroll to the Independence Square on 4th February 1948.
Duncan White proved that his performance at the London Olympics was not a flash in the pan at the British Empire Games in Auckland New Zealand in 1950 (now known as the Commonwealth Games). His noteworthy performance of 52.5secs not only won the gold medal and the Empire Games record, but was just outside the world record for the event by one fifth of a second.
Subsequently the other three athletes too performed well for the country. Oscar Wijesinghe and M.A.M. Sherrif represented the country at the British Empire Games along with Duncan White. Oscar Wijesinghe a Public Schools athlete, representing the University of Ceylon won the 100m at the All India and Ceylon Inter University Championships. He established a Sri Lanka record in the 100m in 11.0 seconds in 1949 (The writer too equalled this record in 1955).
Lakshman Kadirgamar won the 110m Hurdles event at the Public Schools Meet and later won the Nationals in 1951. At the All India and Ceylon Inter University Athletic Meet too he won the above event.He finally became the Foreign Ministers of Sri Lanka.
K.L.F. Wijedasa

4 thoughts on “A historic day for Ceylon”

  1. Thanks Ariya & Sam for posting this article recalling the glory days of Srilanka’s athletics. One other athlete of international fame I recall is Nagalingam Edirveerasingham who excelled in High Jump event. Those who attended Ananda College in the 50’s would remember the writer, Mr KLF Wijedasa (Ceylon record holder in 100 meters sprint) was the coach & master-in-charge of Athletics at the school.


  2. While on the topic of athletes, many of you may not be aware that our own batch mate Mahesan Selliah, who met with an untimely demise while a 3rd year medical student, was a top notch sprinter while a student at Royal College, winning the Public schools 110 and 220 yards sprints in consecutive years, if my memory serves me right, prior to admission to medical school

    Nihal Goonetilleke


  3. Thanks Ariya.
    Very heartening to read. We had a past worth remembering and talking about..
    I wonder about the present and the future.


  4. Very interesting information. Thanks Ariya for the article and Sam for posting it. Growing up everyone knew about Duncan White , the Olympic silver medalist. I never knew about the other three athletes Oscar Wijesinghe , Laksman Kadiragamar and Mohamed Sheriff.

    We cannot forget Susanthika Jayasinghe winning the Silver medal in the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney Australia. She was the first Asian to win an Olympic medal in a sprint event.



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