The 1st Decade (1922 – 1931)
The opening of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo South was scheduled for Wednesday 18th January 1922, at 3.30 p.m. which, needless to say, was a happy day for Fr. Le Goc, the Rector of St. Joseph’s College. The newly built school was specially decorated for the occasion with flags and buntings. The Railways Department had made special arrangements for the conveyance of the students of St. Joseph’s College who were participating in the opening ceremony of St. Joseph’s Colombo South.
On the appointed day, 18th of January 1922, precisely at 2.00 o’clock in the afternoon, boys, masters and priests waving the college colours wended their way to the Maradana Railway Station to board a special train to Wellawatte where they were to detrain and walk to the new school beside the Wellawatte canal. The Railways Department obliged a request to halt the train opposite Ridgway Place (ahead of the Wellawatte station proper), just to discharge the travelers going on this special mission, a ceremony to open a brand new school.
The opening ceremony began at the scheduled time of 3.30 p.m. at the front lawn and Fr. Le Goc, followed by about forty priests, blessed the altar of the school chapel and then the building. The opening ceremony took place in the presence of a large gathering of distinguished guests which included His Grace the Archbishop, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Courdet and the Hon. Mr. E. Evans, Acting Director of Education. They were accompanied by Rev. Fr. Le Goc, Fr. D.J. Nicholas Perera, President of the new school, Rev. Frs. Meary, Le Jeune, Lannigan, Guglielmi and Giraux. After proceeding to a pavilion specially erected for the occasion, at the invitation of Fr. Le Goc, Mr. Evans declared open the school and thanked the Catholic Church for its interest in education and Fr. Le Goc himself thanked all those who had contributed to the building fund. A total number of 204 students were admitted on that day with classes from 1 to 7.
Fr. Maurice James Le Goc OMI a Frenchman, who can be described as an author, intellect, educationist, architect, astronomer, a scientist (a Botanist of renown to be more precise), a futurist and a priest of God all rolled into one, was the Rector of the new school by virtue of the fact that he was Rector of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo while Rev. Fr. D J Nicholas Perera OMI was appointed President of the fledgling school.
The academic staff who served the newly built school including the religious were Rev. Frs. D J Nicholas Perera (President) and E Morel and M/s. C F Fernando, L E Bertus, V Samaraweera, Stanley de S Wickrematillake, Mrs. A Razel and Misses D Arndt and M Jansen. By the end of the year the number of students had risen to 268 and even a Prize Day was accommodated in the first calendar year when on the 15th of December 1922 the prize distribution was held with Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc, the founder and Rector as the Chief Guest.
In 1923 on the 8th of May, Fr. Nicholas Perera, as President of the school, ensured the establishment of the Literary Association and presided at the inaugural meeting. During this period when Fr. Le Goc continued as Rector a Reading Room was added on 2nd September 1925, made possible through generous contributions by benefactors, which was opened by His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Coudert on 2nd September 1925.
The first sport to be introduced to St. Joseph’s College, Colombo South was Football and this was on the 15th of June 1925, under Fr. E Morel as the Prefect of Games. A Science Laboratory, a gift by Mr. W A S Karunaratne, was declared open by His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Coudert in 1926 on the 24th of February and in the same year on 10th December the Junior Cadet Platoon was recognised by Government Gazette.
On 11th February 1927 a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes gifted by Mr. & Mrs. A Gardiner was placed in a Grotto after being blessed by the principal. The present Grotto was erected much later in March 1955 and was opened after Mass celebrated by the Archbishop His Grace Dr. Thomas Benjamin Cooray.
In this year of very important changes – 1927, the College Anthem was changed to “Lend a Heart and Lend Hand” composed by Mr. T L Minor of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and set to music by Mr. George A de Niese, the Music and Art Master at St. Joseph’s College, South. A new Crest was introduced with “Virtus et Veritas” as the motto also designed by Mr. George A De Niese.
A very significant date in the history of St. Peter’s was the 8th of April 1927 as the College established its own identity that day. The Colombo south branch of St. Joseph ‘s College Colombo was registered as a separate Secondary school by Gazette notification No: 7575 of 2nd April, 1927 as St. Peter’s College.
The celebrations in connection with the renaming of the College were held on Wednesday, 29th June 1927, the feast day of St. Peter, with a high Mass sung by Very. Rev. Fr. M. J. Le Goc assisted by Rev. Frs. Morel and Theobald Silva. After Mass, at a colourful ceremony that took place on the lawn in front of the College, the new College Flag with the colours Blue, White and Gold was blessed by Rev. Fr. Le Goc and hoisted. Blue was to signify heaven, White purity of heart and Gold for achievement and high resolve. The colours of the flag also signified the connection to St. Joseph’s College, through Blue and White (the Josephian colours) and the connection to the Catholic Church through the Papal colours of White and Gold.
Rev. Fr. D J Nicholas Perera OMI who was President of the School up to the time of the name change was appointed Rector on 29th June 1927 when the school became St. Peter’s College and it was he who laid the foundation for the rapid progress St. Peter’s made, soon to be on par with older, more reputed schools.
His attempts to elevate St. Peter’s to be one of the leading educational institutes within a short space of time can be seen by the many facilities he introduced during his era. Prior to the name change, the year 1927 began with the opening of new classrooms in January and Cricket was also introduced to College in 1927, under the captaincy of Norman Patternot, a natural athlete. He also appointed Norman Patternot Head Prefect with the introduction of the Prefect System in the same year. Being a man of foresight he had the Old Boys’ form a Union and the inaugural meeting of the Old Boys’ Union was held on 1st October 1927 at which meeting he was elected President and Mr. Charles D de Silva elected Secretary.
The year 1929 saw Tennis introduced to St. Peter’s in February and a Tennis Club formed. A grand carnival was also held in 1929 on 29th June, opened by Lady Stanley and on the same day (29th June 1929), the Senior Cadet Platoon was Gazetted. This rang the curtain down on the 1920s but the indefatigable Fr. Nicholas Perera continued into the 1930s achieving much more for St. Peter’s College.
Though the Peterites did not boast of a Swimming Pool, swimming was introduced in 1930 on the 6th of February, with the formation of an Aquatic Sports Club. This paved the way for the swimming gala win in 1933.
On the 9th of February 1930 the St. Aloysius Altar Servers’ Association was inaugurated with Mr. E Jansz as Secretary. The Foundation stone for the Assembly Hall which could comfortably seat 1500, was laid by His Grace, Dr. Peter Marque OMI, Archbishop of Colombo on 6th March 1930.
And having added more acreage to the premises, on the 13th of September 1930 he had the College playground opened by Mr. H E Newnham, Mayor of Colombo. The opening ceremony was followed by a sports meet. November 19th of 1931 was the date on which the magnificent hall – the largest in Colombo at the time, was opened. This hall has staged performances by international stars such as the Blue Diamonds (a popular Dutch/Indonesian duo), Bill Forbes (a Peterite who made it even to the British Charts) and others like Des Kelley, Harold Seneviratne, the Menezis brothers and much later the Gypsies who cut their musical teeth in this hall.