A Period of Success. 1905 -1911.
In 1905 the College was considered to be one of the leading institutions in Jaffna. Its Staff at that time consisted of the Principal, the Head-master, and Messrs. S. Somasundaram, B. A., L. S. Ponniah, B. A., S. K. Ponniah, B. A.,
G. Philippiah, F. A., E. A. Niles, F. A., S. V. Chinniah, F. A., S. M. Thambyaiyah, F. A., M. Luther, A. Murukasoe and H. Schwartsz.
In 1906 the Sports Club was considerably strengthened by the arrival of Mr Fred Van Culyenberg, who himself a good bat and wicket-keeper, took charge of cricket. Thereupon the standard of cricket played in the College greatly improved. Besides the inter-Collegiate and club matches there were inter-form matches and an annual fixture between the boarders and day boys. The first match between the boarders and the day-boys was played in October, and it carried a good deal of interest and excitement. The day-boys won the match, but in large measure owed their victory to Mr. Van Culyenberg, who captained them and scored over fifty runs.
The Literary Association was reorganised this year and the boys now met in three groups-the Seniors, Intermediates. and Juniors. The Principal was the President of all the Associations and each Association had its own vice-presidents and Secretary. This change benefited every boy in the School, as every group was able to discuss subjects suitable to its members and so the work was carried on more efficiently.
The College Y. M. C. A. also was re-organised this year and more definite work was done. It was divided into four committees, Sunday-school committee, Reading-room committee, Gospel Meeting Committee, and Prayer Meeting committee, and all these were under the management of a General committee.
The only addition to the College activities this year was that of Hockey, the introduction of which game was due to Mr. A. J. R. Vethavanam, who had joined the Staff after graduating from Calcutta University. The game was played with much interest and enthusiasm by the senior boys, but there was no possibility of any match, as no other College in Jaffna had taken up the game.
In 1908 the Senior boys added Botany to their list of subjects. Their enthusiastic master, Mr. A. M. Nathaniel, B. A., who had joined the Staff from Trinity College, Kandv. after having made an attempt to but having found that the boys required to be taken to first in order to get a clear understanding of the subject, arranged for them to spend a very pleasant and profitable week at Peradeniya under the guidance of the Curator of the Botanical Gardens.
It was in 1908 that the College crest as it is to-day, was introduced. In it we have the Eagle of St. John, representing St. John's College. The Eagle carries in its talons a shield to symbolise the Christian's Shield of Faith are ernblazoned a palmyra tree, the chief characteristic feature of the Jaffna Peninsula, and a torch to represent the diffusion of light through the knowledge of Christ. Beneath, in Latin, are the words used by St. John of Jesus Christ, .Lux in Tenebris Lucet', 'The Light shineth in darkness'. The design of this was drawn by Horace Thompson, the oldest son of the Principal.
In May 1908 the College lost by death its Head-master, the Rev. C.C. Handy, B.A., who had devoted himself to the College work for nineteen years. The late Mr. William Wadsworth, while moving a resolution on Mr. Handy's death at a meeting of the College Old Boy's Association, Colombo branch, said: ,,If the sad event which occurred recently were only a private misfortune, 1 would hesitate to throw upon this meeting feelings of private friendships, and would have waited for some other opportunity of expressing my deep sense of gratitude and affection which must be due, ever due, from me to the memory of that excellent person who was my teacher and friend and whose loss gives occasion to the resolution 1 now bring forward. But 1 Consider it a calamity to my college, a calamity to the rising generation of Jaffna, that a life so young and of such great promise should be snatched away by the band of death. He had, on the one hand, lived long enough to have his character fully confirmed and established. The tree was old enough to enable us to ascertain the quality of the fruit it bore, but at the same time it was young enough to promise many more years of fruitfulness. Well do I remember the time Mr. Handy came from Kandy to the College, when the present boarding-house had only its foundation laid. It was about 1898 or 1889. He came as a young man full of energy and vigour. He impressed us all, however young we wore, as a man of excellent character and strong determination. When the Chundiculi Seminary-as the College was then known-was without a guiding hand, humanly speaking, he came to us as a friend. The respect and esteem he soon gained both among the students and his colleagues were evidenced when he was called to Holy Orders. He was then accorded such a welcome as was never witnessed in the College before or after. The whole College, masters and students, marched in long procession and met him about a mile away and accompanied him to the College. 1 well remember with pleasure and pride my stepping forward read the address of welcome, and to there 1 saw him in his usual mild, genial and pleasant way modestly receiving the tribute of respect and admiration. He as not only respected but was loved "Y all. Both masters and students loved him as a brother and a friend. He loved them all. He loved the College -not merely the College as a whole, but everyone in his individual capacity. All who came to learn at his feet, all who came to speak of the Love Divine, of all, both in and out of the College, who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing him, were objects of his great concern. To contribute to the welfare and advancement of the College was his constant pursuit. That was his great aim and ambition. His devotion to duty, his firm and commanding manner, his winning and pleasant ways, above all, his noble Christian life, marked him as one of the best sons of Jaffna. Never in anger, never in excitement, but always calm and resolute, mild yet authoritative, he commanded the respect and love of his students. As a man be was loved by all. He never gave offence to anyone in word or deed. He was a good man in the truest sense of the t.-rm. He was respected not alone by Christians but by the non-Christians too in Jaffna. His consideration to the needy and the poor, his sympathy with the sick and the suffering, above all his great kindly spirit marked him as -in ideal man. Of him as a Head-master of the College I could say a great deal, but time will not permit. You know as 1 do; some of you perhaps know him better. When he came to the College, young as ht was, he had high aims and aspirations. It was due to him that Jaffna began sending her sons and daughters to compete for the Calcutta University examinations. Following his lead at St. John's, almost all the leading educational institutions in Jaffna came to be affiliated to the Calcutta University. Then it was Mr. Handy, who in 1891 thought that the old must give way to the new and that it was time that the name of Seminary' should be done away with and we gather under the Eagle wings of St. John. The Church Missionary Society found out the true ability of our friend. On two occasions when the Principal was away, the administration of the College was left to him; and the College did not suffer. Successive Principals bore eloquent testimony to his administrative skill and tact, and admitted that they never acted without his counsel in matters of any moment. As a Minister of the Word, he spoke in season and out of season. He was not one of those who try to excite people's feelings by sensational sermons and threats of danger to Come. He had a quiet but far-reaching method of speech. He spoke plainly but forcibly and carried conviction to his hearers. He above all, practised what he preached. His noble, God-fearing, Christ-like life will always stand out clearly in the annals of unwritten History. His series of addresses on the Evidences of Christianity, when 1 was at College, was a master-piece, and 1 have good reason to think that the addresses produced great results. His life was a sermon in itself, He always had that greatest ideal-the ideal of Christ, and both by his life and words he brought this home both to his Christian and non-Christian friends
During Mr. Handy's illness, Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Walmsley from Trinity College, Kandy, were lent to St. John's where they entered on their temporary duties as though they were to form their life-work.' Mr. Walmsley was a strict disciplinarian, and the College was greatly benefited by his short stay in Jaffna.
In May 1908 Mr. T. H. Crossette, M. A., F. R. HIST. S (Calcutta and Allahabad Universities), was appointed Head-master of the College. Mr. Crossette had been for some time Head-master of a Canadian Mission College at Indore, and later had been on the Staff of Trinity College, Kandy. With the experience gained in those two colleges, he started on his work at St. John's with great vigour and enthusiasm ; and it was not long before the fruits of his coming began to be seen.
A very important factor introduced into the College life in 1909 was that of the Prefect System. The purpose of this was to train the senior boys of the School in leadership, and to advance the cause of discipline in the School. The prefects had certain definite duties and were allotted certain privileges. The boarding house prefects were each given a room, were allowed to study in their rooms during study hours, and were allowed to leave the College premises without exeats. The first Senior Prefect of the College was E. J. Rajaratnam. The following are the names of those who have been Senior Prefects since 1909:- J. C. Chinnappah, J. C. Eliathamby, A. S. Abraham, S. Selladurai, V. Ponnusamy, J. C. Handy, C. C. B. Kumarakulasinghe, Samuel Sabapathy, C.E. Gunaratnam, A. Alagaratnarn, E. M. Ponnudurai, P. W. Ratnam, and J.M. Singanayagam.
The year 1909 is marked as a Shakespearean year for the College, because it was in that year that for the first time College students acted a full play of the Shakespeare. The Principal writing it in his annual report says : "Mr. W.A. Walton B. A., took the lead in conducting a very effective representation of Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar", rather too effective for the mother of Julius Caesar, who happened to be present. The various characters had been carefully studied and were reproduced splendidly. The Hall was crowded out three nights in succession." From this time onwards Mr. Walton was known as the Shakespeare of Jaffna, and almost every year he staged one of Shakespeare's plays in the College Hall as long as he was connected with the College.
On the death of Mr. Handy, the Old Boys' Association had decided to link his name with the extension of the College premises and the erection of a College Library. Since one of Mr. Handy's great ambitions was to provide the boys with an adequate playground, the Old Boys thought that the best way of keeping his name. alive in the College was to purchase a new playground. The necessary funds were raised from Old Boys and friends, and on the 21st of May, 19097 the grounds were declared open for use. and a brass plate with the inscription, "The grounds of St. John's College were extended in the year 1909 in memory of the Rev, C. C. Handy, B. A. Head-master from 1889-1908 was fixed to the post of the gate opening on to the new football field.
Another of the chief events of this year was the laying of the foundation Stone of the Principal's bungalow in the College promises. The Principal had been living outside, very often away in Beach Road, from the time that the Principal's old bungalow had been handed over to the C M. S. Girls' School. lie always felt that he was not in a position to do his best till he came within the premises, and he made a constant appeal to the Old Boys of the College to erect a bungalow in the compound. The Old Boys had taken the matter in hand and had decided to raise the necessary funds,' when the authorities of the Girls' School said that it was their duty to replace the Principal's bungalow; and succeeded in getting the Church Missionary Society to pay the cost of the building. The bungalow was completed in 1911, and the College felt the great advantage of having the Principal in the compound ;the boys only then realised what a great friend to all the Principal was outside school hours, and the Principal too was in a better position to study the boys and the conditions of the College.
The number of boarders in the College had increased to such an extent that the Principal was compelled to rent out a house close by. The smaller boys were separated from the bigger ones and were lodged in this house under the guardianship of another house-master. The boarders now organised the Boarders' Union in September 1909 with Mr. S.V. Chinniah as the President and 5.T. Aiyadurai as the Secretary. Six committees were formed to direct the activities of the members, namely, the Literary, the Social, the Athletic, the Garden, the Sunday-school, and the Scripture Union committees. One of the special undertakings of the Union was the organisation of national games, entirely under the supervision of the Union, which soon became a strong and useful body.
In March 1910 the Principal went on furlough, handing over the management of the School to the Head-master. The School had now reached a high standard of efficiency, and the Acting Principal had no difficulty in carrying on the work of the School without the assistance of any European missionary. 1910 was, in fact, a year of distinct advance and progress, more or less a record year. The number on the roll had increased to 391, and the College was able to present 44 candidates for the Cambridge Local examinations, a record number for St. John's and the largest number from any school in Jaffna. Of these 38 passed, A. M. K. Cumaraswamy obtaining 3rd class honours among the Seniors, an R. G. Leembruggen distinction in English and R. R. Crossette distinction in Religious knowledge among the juniors. The results of Government examinations were very satisfactory, and the Government grant for the year was the largest earned so far, being four times the amount earned in 1900.
There were two important alterations in the curriculum of the School. The first was the introduction of Chemistry and Physics. Mr. N. P. Campbell, Lecturer in Science at Trinity College, Kandy came over to the College in May and fitted up a small room with a fair supply of apparatus and chemicals ,just sufficient for elementary classes. Mr. Campbell himself gave the first lesson, and the work was satisfactorily maintained by Mr. A. M. Nathaniel, B. A. The other change was the formation of two separate divisions In the upper forms. The first division was meant for students preparing for a University career, and included Latin, Higher Mathematics and Science. The other division was meant for students who could not afford a University career, Their course' included, besides the ordinary subjects, Book-keeping, Shorthand, Typewriting, Précis and Commercial Arithmetic.
In 1910 the late Dr. S. V. Vairakiam offered to present annually a medal, in memory of the late Rev. R. W. Ryde, M. A., who was Principal of the College in 1889, to the boy who stood first in order of merit in the College in the Cambridge Senior Local examination. The medal was called the "Ryde Medal" and bore a splendid impress of the likeness of Mr. Ryde. The first winner of the medal was S. Nagalingam, and the later winners were A. M. K. Cumaraswamy, L. R. Danforth, M.M. Kulasegaram, J. C. Handy, C. C. B. Kumarakulasinghe. R. Jeremiah, V. Narayanapil!ai, A. Somasundaram, G. R. Handy and D. R. Gunasegaram.
In the sphere of Sports too the College had made rapid progress. Though the Eleven had not yet won either the Foot-ball Cup or the Cricket Shield contested by the Colleges in Jaffna, in 1910 it stood second in order of merit in both cricket and football.
In 1911 Mr. T. H. Crossette, the Headmaster, was appointed Vice-Principal of the College by the Home Committee of the Church Missionary Society. This was the first instance of a Tamil being appointed Vice-Principal of any of the Mission Colleges in Jaffna.
In the Senior branch of the Literary Association a change was made this year in the programme of the weekly meetings, by the introduction of a paper called 'The Eagle', which was edited once a month by one of the members of the Association elected annually. The paper was first edited only in English, but later it was edited both in English and Tamil.
In 1911, at Ururnpirai, five miles away from Chundiculi, the Urumpirai C.M.S. English School was opened as a second branch school of the College, under the management of the College Principal. This school has made rapid progress, in spite of the opposition of another school in the immediate neighbourhood, and is now a First-Grade English Elementary School, with 140 boys preparing for the Elementary School Leaving Certificate Examination.