It is difficult to discern when Royal College first had a boarding. There is a view that a boarding existed in the late 1860s during the regime of Rev. Bancroft Boake. But it is certain that a boarding did exist in the early 1870s when Mr. Cull was Principal of the Colombo Academy. This initial boarding house comes with a very colourful history of its own. It is said to have been situated on the top floor of the Main College building at San Sebastian, and consisted of dormitories and some cubicles. The Principal himself, who lived on the premises, oversaw the institution and often sat to dinner with the boarders. It was also in the 1870s that Mr. Ashley Walker, the father of Cricket at Royal, joined the College as Assistant Master and Boarding Master.
Life at this Royal boarding is described vividly in the College Magazine of the Centenary year in an article written by an old boy and former boarder at San Sebastian. Writing under the pseudonym “KOS”, it depicts boarding life in the 1880s and early 1890s. In this article, this part of the College building has been described as most unsuitable for a boarding. With the building overlooking theBeiraLake, dinner during the season of lake flies has been difficult. An old boarder has described the lake flies that swarmed in and flew into the mouths, ears and noses, and settled into soups and stews.
This may have been the reason for the number of hostellers to dwindle down to 15 by 1904. Although a major need for a new building existed, there has been no positive response from the government of the day. So when the college was shifted to Reid Avenue, the boarding had to be closed down as there was no provision for such a space in the new premises.
It changed in 1935 when an Old Boys’ Cricket Match was played as part of the Centenary Celebrations. At a lunch that followed, Mr. D.W. Subasinghe, who captained the Outstation Old Boys in the match and himself a product of San Sebastian, pleaded for a new boarding for the college. This plea received the support of the captain of the opposing Colombo Old Boys’ team, Mr. Forrester Obeyesekere, The Principal Mr. L.H.W. Sampson, and all those present. It also stirred the heartstrings of Mr. H.J. Wijesinghe, an old Royalist who has also been a boarding master at San Sebastian.
When Mr. H.J. Wijesinghe assumed duties as principal after the retirement of Mr. Sampson, he used up all the energy he had to provide a boarding for the school. With the co-operation of the Old Boys’ Association and a Committee appointed for the purpose, Mr. Wijesinghe prevailed upon the Maha Mudaliyar, Sir James Obeyesekera, to place the stately mansion belonging to him across the road called The Maligawa at the disposal of the College for a boarding. He also requested to have all the old and valuable furniture and fittings. And so in May 1939 a long felt need of the College was at last met and The Maligawa opened its doors to the boarders. The College had a boarding again after almost thirty years, and all credit goes to Mr. Wijesinghe for this achievement.
Mr. Wjesingha took a great interest in the students at the Royal boarding and went to the extent of including a check up on the ‘study time’ into his evening walk. He, along with the boarding masters, instilled high standards in the boys.
The war made many changes to the Royal boarding. In December 1941, Japan entered the war and Ceylon, as the country was then known, came into the thick of things. The military took over the College and the Maligawa at short notice. The College continued at the University, at “Turret House” and adjacent buildings, but the boarding had to close down.
A wartime branch of the school was started in Bandarawela on May 1942, and a boarding was urgently needed by all. And so “Glendale” came into being with Mr. J.T.R. Perimpanayagam in charge of both the School and the boarding and Mrs. Perimpanayagam in charge of the housekeeping. Great credit must go to this couple for the success of “Glendale” in spite of many wartime difficulties and shortages.
When the war ended and the school was able to move back to Colombo, the Maligawa was not returned to the school as the military authorities did not release the building. Instead the Minister offered the College part of the oldTrainingCollege building for a boarding.
So once again the college had a boarding inColombo. Mr. B.C. Anghie was the Warden assisted by Mr. B. St. E. de Bruin and Mr. M.K.J. Cantlay as Boarding Masters. Later Mr. C.E. Belleth succeeded Mr. Anghie as Warden. Subsequently the building was shifted to theSiyawasaExhibitionLibraryBuilding, and later a section was added onReid Avenue.
To the boarders at the Royal College hostel, it is their home away from home. The vibrant community in the hostel include over 300 students from all over the country and 12 hostel prefects.
Due to the limited accommodation and facilities, the hostel could take in only about 40 students annually who gain admission to Grade Six as scholars. But due to the increasing demand for hostel facilities, the Principal recognized the need to accommodate more students. In 2004 and 2005 more than 100 students were provided with hostel facilities. The Royal College old Hostellers’ Association (ROCOHA), who felt the necessity of accommodating more students, has already taken steps to build a new complex. The estimated cost is Rs. 65 million and about 475 students are expected to be accommodated.
As a result of their efforts, the first phase of the new hostel complex, which accomodates 240 students, was opened by the then Prime Minister Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksha on the 12th of August.
The hostel management works day and night to provide the students with homely comforts. These tasks are met under the supervision of the Principal, Senior Deputy Principal, Warden and Sub-Warden while the Board of Prefects joins hands and perform their respective duties.
The Management always makes arrangements to provide the hostellers with a nutritious, balanced diet. The charges are reasonable when compared with the facilities they are provided with. The tutorial staff serves with a sense of dedication and commitment by imparting knowledge as well as promoting attitudes and skills of the hostellers.
Currently, Mr. K. M. Aruna de Silva, a member of the tutorial staff, is the Warden. Mr. Richard Perera, the Senior Master in charge of Games provides the necessary support as the Sub-Warden. Mrs. Chandra Weerakoon, the Supervisor and Mrs. K.M.S.A.Chithrani , the Matron perform their respective services efficiently.
A day at the Royal hostel is full of youthful activities. The hostellers excel in the field of sports and are involved in Hockey, Basketball, Volleyball, Baseball and Boxing, representing the College. They are active members of various societies in the school such as the Radio Club, Library Society, Red Cross Society and Buddhist Brotherhood.
Special programmes conducted by the Hostel add colour and life to it. Likewise, the “Hostel Day” is one of the most important days in the school calendar. This Special Evening provides the students chances to demonstrate their capabilities and talents. The skills and talents in educational as well as co-curricular activities are evaluated and rewarded in the presence of their parents.
Miyesi Meerawaya, the Annual Musical Pageant of the hostellers, is a refreshing evening and today, the hostel has its own orchestra that consists of several very talented instrumentalists.
These students are not only exposed to sports and entertainment, but also to religious and spiritual realms. The ‘Sil’ campaign on Poson and Sunday school are two events which draw the hostellers towards religion. Apart from all these, the organizers take steps to arrange two trips: the 2-day educational trip and the trip to Kandy to witness the Royal vs. Trinity, Bradby Shield Rugby Match.
Due to these exposures, a Royal College hosteller is shaped in to a balanced person who can co-exist with various kinds of people from all walks of life.