REV. W. J. T. SMALL (1906 TO 1922)
samuelWalter Joseph Tombleson Small MA (Cantab), BSc (London), was born on 4th July, 1883, at Boston, Lincolnshire in England, the son of a merchant and he began his education in the local Grammar School. Very early in life he gave promise of his scholastic ability. At the age of twelve he gained Second Class Honours at the Junior Oxford Local. At the Senior Oxford Local he came out first in the United Kingdom and repeated this achievement in the London Matric as well as in the London Intermediate Science. He won an open Mathematical Scholarship to Caius and Gonville College, Cambridge, and entered the University in October 1901. He secured a First Class in the Mathematical Tripos and was bracketed Seventh Wrangler in his year. Mathematics was not his exclusive preoccupation. He was much attracted by Theology and gained a First Class in the Theological Tripos in 1906 winning the Masou University Prize for Hebrew. He also had a love for the study of languages.
When the Methodist Missionary Society was faced with the responsibility of selecting a suitable successor to the Rev. J. H. Darrell, the choice happily fell on this young and brilliant scholar who was in his last year at Cambridge.
Immediately after the death of Mr. Darrell the authorities in England appointed the Rev. W. J. T. Small to succeed him. A young man of 23 and fresh from the University, Mr. Small had to learn things for himself. When he assumed duties the Boarding Houses have been visited by a severe attack of enteric fever resulting in the death of several students. No Principal of Richmond College ever entered on his duties in circumstances so tragic and with prospects so bleak as did Mr. Small. The fever had not yet been completely stamped out. The building of the new Boarding Houses had to be taken in hand at once, the staff nursed back to its full strength and the confidence of the general public restored.
Mr. Small’s reputation as a scholar and sportsman had not preceded him. Yet before long it became clear that at the helm of Richmond was a man out of the ordinary. At his first Prize Giving Mr. Small said: “Many of the older boys left after the death of Mr. Darrell, including some of the best. But there is now growing up a new generation of boys who will worthily fill their places.” He followed, to use his own words, “a policy of moderate and gradual change.” He never shrank from taking decisions which he knew were right though at the time unpopular. His actions seemed to obey the dictates of an inner voice. Speaking in 1907 about Scholarships to children, he observed: “Probably some people have thought me hard-hearted. I may be, but I have a reason for it. I hold that no boy should be made free unless he is both poor and bright. To make a dull boy free is no true kindness.” Again, in 1916, when the Richmond Cricket Team was particularly strong, he decided to cancel all the matches and announced his decision to the school thus:
“In consequence of the strong party feeling shown in the elections at the Games Club meeting yesterday, I have decided to cancel all school matches for the term …I am fond of sports, specially cricket. I believe in them for boys: but only if they promote healthy rivalry and loyalty to the school. In any case sports are only of secondary importance…. It is a painful step to take, but I believe that good will come out of evil. If we of Richmond College learn the lesson that there are matters more important than games, and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the task of reconstruction in which we are engaged, with the object of making ourselves thoroughly efficient educationally, and above all if we learn to shun the person of party spirit and faction, these lessons will have been well worth learning at any price.”
Soon after his arrival in 1907 the Science Hall came to its own, and the teaching of Science was reintroduced. It was, however, in 1914 that Science received a stable place in the curriculum.
Mr. Small’s interests were many. He was Minister, teacher and sportsman and an amateur astronomer. The Richmond Masters’ Cricket Club under his leadership reached great heights and a good score from him was not uncommon. He excelled as a teacher of Mathematics. He led the Christian boarders in the early morning watch, and the boarders in daily worship, regularly visited the sick and taught in the Sunday School in addition to his Sunday preaching and almost five hours daily work as a teacher in the school. Every moment of his time seemed set apart for the service of those in his charge.
From his young days Mr. Small was interested in sports and perhaps his Cricket helped him at Richmond as much as any of his other gifts. He made his first century for his own School in 1900 and the next in 1910 for the Masters Club versus Galle CC, a “First class” cricket, fixture then. He was also a familiar figure on the football ground and the tennis court. His tastes and habits were simple. He was always fond of exercise whether it was, a game with the boys, gardening or swimming. His chief hobby was stamp collecting; he had an abundant knowledge of stamps which he maintained until his demise and had perhaps every stamp in the world worth having. He was also a keen amateur astronomer and spent many an evenings gazing at the sky through his telescope.
The greatest successes of the period were recorded by tire Cadets and Scouts. In 1918 the Junior Cadets under Clr. Sgt. P.O. R. Perera won the All-Ceylon Challenge Shield for Physical Training, and three years later led by Clr. Sgt. G. W. Goonewardana won both the Shield for P. T. and the De Soysa Cup for Squad-Drill. At Diyatalawa in 1918 the Senior Cadets carried off the All Ceylon Shooting Cup.
The influenza epidemic of 1918, which took a heavy toll of life all through the country, swept the Hill and almost all the boarders suffered from it. Mrs. Small’s care of the boarders was so devoted that Richmond escaped without a serious casualty. From the 2nd of August 1910, the day of her marriage, the school, the church and the neighbourhood had her kind ministrations. Till the time of her death in February 1950, she continued to be the true helpmate of Mr. Small.
In 1922 Rev. Small resigned from the post of principal due to some family difficulties and the wishes of the Mission forced him take this step. He did so with a heavy heart. He was appointed the Principal of the Training Colony Peradeniya and served until 1925. From 1926 to 1953 he was engaged in missionary work in other countries. In 1951, he came back specially to participate in the 75th anniversary celebrations of the College.
Rev. W. J. T Small and Mrs. Small at the Training Colony, Peradeniya in December 1924 with the trainees
Finally having retired from active service in the Methodist Mission, Rev. Small once again returned to Sri Lanka in 1953, and he spent the evening of his life on his beloved Richmond Hill as an honoured guest of Richmond College daily taking a walk in the evening down the hill. Rev. Small died after a fall from a SLTB bus in Colombo on 28th December, 1978, at the age of 95, and was buried at the Dadalla cemetery, alongside the grave of that other great principal of Richmond, Rev. J. H. Darrell.