Rev. Joseph Rippon who came to Galle in 1850 with daring foresight persuaded the mission to purchase a property named Mount Seymour (*) or Seymour Hill (*) in 1857 on behalf of the Mission. What influenced his decision to persuade the Mission to purchase this neglected and abandoned hillock about two miles from the Galle Fort was to start educational institutions. This is evident from Rev. Hardy’s “Jubilee Memorials”. Page 214 has this narrative:
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From the time the school was started in 1814 and moved to the hill which happened in late 1850’s and up until the 1876 when it was elevated to a superior school they have had as their principals as the superintending reverends (See past principals). There is no record anywhere to state the schools were closed even for a short period and then again restarted during the 62 year period from 1814 to 1876.
In 1864 a “RAGGED SCHOOL” was also established on Richmond Hill. By definition a Ragged Schools were charitable schools dedicated to the free education of destitute children in 19th century. In 1864, the Ragged Schools was established on the hill with the liberal aid of the local residents. Provided free education, food, clothing, lodging and other home missionary services for children and the Ragged School on the hill taught many trades like shoe making and tailoring to boys, and sewing to girls. Rev. James Nicholson writing to the Mission Secretariat in England on 20th November, 1867 speaks of this school. It is quite possible that the “Charity School” or the “Ping Isskole” that most Richmondites prior 1962 knew could be this Ragged School.
The population was predominantly the the local elite of Galle who lived in the village Kumbalwella where Mount Seymour was located. This is contrary to what some writers in the past has tried to make out about the residents of the Kumbalwella village. As claimed by Rev. Nicholson if the residents could have contributed liberally to start a Ragged School then they must be people with means and not poor people. No doubt poor people too lived in Kumbalwella Village but to refer to is as a poor non affluent village is a misnomer. Perhaps it was thought that by gaining influence among the local elites it would be easy to propagate Methodism. This is confirmed by what Rev. Spence Hardy has to say on page 215 of the “Wesleyan Jubilee Memorials“.
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The Rev. Rippon had grandiose plans for the hill which by this time has been renamed Richmond Hill by him. During the eleven year period Rev. Joseph Rippon lived on Richmond Hill he tried his utmost to upgrade the existing Anglo-vernacular school to a superior high school without success. It was left to his successor Rev. George Baugh to put them in to action and the end result was the elevation of the existing school to a superior school named Galle High School. Six years later the Galle High School was renamed Richmond College. The Rev. George Baugh is thus rightly credited as the father of Richmond and more detailed information about his efforts can be found here. However both Rev. Rippon and Rev. Baugh had the strong support of their immediate superiors and many other missionaries in the South and those stationed in far flung places, especially when there was a ‘tug-of-war’ between the missionaries stationed in Colombo and Galle. The result of which was, the Colombo school started by the missionaries, although much later than the Galle school, was upgraded before. It is now known as Wesley College.
* Some information about Mount Seymour now Richmond Hill can be found under ‘Richmond Hill’
The fact that there existed a school is proven from a correspondence Rev. Samuel Langdon sent to the Mission Secretaries in early 1877. He says that the school that was on Richmond Hill was an Anglo-vernacular school. Rev. Langdon also states that the Galle High School was started by taking several students of the old school that stood on the same spot.
It is also clear from the same letter that the Galle High School’s Lower School was the former Richmond Hill Anglo-Vernacular school that was now enlarged.
In some documents this school is referred to as Richmond Hill Anglo-Vernacular School. Perhaps this reference that influenced Rev. Samuel Hill to recommend the renaming of the Galle High School to Richmond in later years. By virtue of the fact that the school stood on Richmond Hill too would have added weight to this recommendation. This alone is irrefutable proof that there was a school before 1876 that was upgraded as a superior or a high school in 1876. This is the same school that continued to function from 1814.
Although we could not find about what subjects were taught in the school, going by some other mission schools that were operating during this time (1858) an assumption could be made that the school taught Elements of Geography, Modern History, Algebra, Euclid, Mechanics, Arithmetic, English Grammar and Latin. This is strong proof that the school that was upgraded from an Anglo-vernacular to a superior school in 1876 could not have been an entirely a new school or an elementary school. It is on record that the first Prize Giving was held in 1876 the year the school became Galle High School. By 1877 the Galle High School had a Matriculation Class. “Matriculation”, often shortened to “matric”, was used to refer to the successful completion of former Form 6 (current Year 12), the final year of a high school; in current standard the GCE (AL) class. As such it was a prerequisite for entry into tertiary or University education. It is not possible that the school on the hill was an elementary school all these years but a school that had students who could sit the Matriculation examination within a year of its upgrading. This also defeats the argument that the school on the hill was purely a Theology School.
It has been documented that Galle had several schools in operation throughout this period. However a closer scrutiny of the mission records and the events that took place after 1857 shed more light on what they were. Although they are referred to as schools which can give rise to the belief that they were different schools but we find that after 1857 none of them continued to exist. For want of space these so called schools operated from different locations in Galle although it was just a single school. However there were two or three schools started later on independent of the first school and they continued to operate even after the takeover by the government in 1962.
It is clear that a school was started in 1814. How it was named or identified is not clear but had many sections or branches that were referred by different names by the historians and even by the missionaries and the mission. Until the hill was purchased, these institutions have operated out of many buildings or houses in Galle town either owned or given to the mission without any rent.
It is on record that a Theology Institution and the Vernacular School functioned on the hill.