REV. ALEC A SNEATH, MA(MANCH) (1922 – 1939)
Rev. Alec Andrews Sneath M. A. (Manch), was born in 1890, Bowthorpe Park, Witham-on-the-Hill, Lincolnshire, and departed in 1948, Cape Coast, Ghana. He came from a farming family in south Lincolnshire. He was the principal of the college for 17 long years. Before coming to Sri Lanka in 1921 was a teacher at Mfantsipim College, Cape Coast, Ghana. Having come to Ceylon he was attached to the Peradeniya Training Colony before taking over the reins of Richmond on the 25th September 1922.
Rev. Sneath encouraged this sense of responsibility and this idea that everyone has some contribution to make to the life of the school, by a careful reorganisation of the House System. This policy carried out in the 17 years he was Principal involved the reorganisation of all school activities. The House system engaged his attention first. House competitions, which had been confined to cricket for the Ludowyk Cup and to sports for the E. M. Karunaratne Cup, were extended in 1923 to include school work and attendance and later, football, agriculture, singing, Physical Training, first aid and swimming.
Mr. Sneath next brought his practical mind to bear on the various societies and associations of the College. They had hitherto worked as separate units. In 1928 the College Union was formed with the following as its constituent societies: The Games Club, the Literary Association, the Christian Union, the Social Service League, the Scout Troop the Science Society, the Art Club, the Boarders’ Literary Association and the Musical and Dramatic Society (later the Apollo Club). To these was subsequently added the Farmers’ Club. In 1935 Mr. Sneath appointed a commission from the staff to report on the conditions of appointment to office in the school. As a result of its recommendations all appointments within the College were made more systematic. He next reorganised the Library. The reading of library books became a part of the school Time Table, and he, a keen reader himself, directed the boys’ choice of books.
Within two years of office he started an agricultural scheme in the College. Its aim was not to provide a technical training but to use Agricultural Science as a means of education and to lead the interests of the boys in this direction. A few years after he assumed charge of Richmond, a new scheme of salaries for teachers was adopted. With his customary attention to detail he kept a careful watch on the school finances, and in spite of difficulties he was prepared to undertake the burden of heavy Manager’s contributions towards an entire “A” grade staff. At this time the dealings with the Department increased and the Principal had to spend more hours in his office than he would have liked.
Among the school subjects Scripture was Mr. Sneath’s first choice. The literature and drama of the Old Testament stories and the Message of the Gospels were presented to the boys with a freshness that commanded their attention. There were Friday evening meetings of the “Sathya Visadhana Samithiya” where controversial subjects were discussed in a free and easy atmosphere. His Time Table was arranged to enable him to teach at least a period in every class in the upper school. He made full use of his time in the class to know his boys. Mr. Sneath also developed the individuality of the Kindergarten and the Primary Department. He arranged his programme to meet every child in the school and talk to him at least twice a term, and as a result he came to know every boy intimately. He would not miss his Tuesday Morning with the Kindergarten. He entered into the spirit of the kiddies’ games and lustily sang the nursery rhymes.
Mr. Sneath was a gifted singer. He used his rich tenor voice to advantage and at no time in her history did music and drama occupy such an important place in the life of the school. In many of the classes singing became a part of the curriculum and at this time founded the Musical and Dramatic Society.
Mr. Sneath was not as physically fit as he looked. In spite of this he took an eager interest in the sports of the school. Some of the best successes in Cricket and Football belong to this period. Swimming and First-Aid were introduced. Field and track athletics gained a new impetus with the organisation in 1929 of the Inter House Athletics Competition, and marked progress was recorded. Mr. Sneath followed and encouraged these developments with an intelligent interest and his advice was always valuable. Perhaps it is not generally known that he had won the Mile Race for Manchester University. He would follow a Cricket or Football match or watch an Athletics Meet, intent on every item and detail.
About 1937 the members of the Staff were divided into Faculties. Each Faculty was entrusted with the task of organising, supervising and testing the teaching of a subject. Mr. Sneath was widely known as an eloquent speaker and his Prize Day reports were particularly arresting. Large numbers would assemble to hear him whenever he spoke in public or participated in a YMCA debate. He was at his best however on the pulpit. His personality and measured tone of voice added to the richness of his thoughts and helped to make his Services truly impressive.
The history of Richmond during the Sneath period must record the school’s debt to Mrs. Sneath. She used her abundant energy in the service of the school. She enjoyed hard work. The Boarding House will remember her with affection. The school cannot forget the long hours of patient work she did in connection with the two Jubilees and the reorganisation of the Library.
Mr. & Mrs. Sneath left Ceylon at the end of February 1939 to be with their two sons, Peter and Frank. A few years after his return to England an urgent summons for an educational appointment took Mr. Sneath to Africa. It was here that he had begun his Ministry. In making his decision to return to Africa he had apparently not thought of the energy he had spent for Richmond. He died in harness in June 1947. It is to Richmond that he gave himself most, and nowhere else will he be more gratefully remembered.