The year 1876 is the most significant year in the annals of the school. The old school was upgraded to a superior school paving the way for higher education which was hitherto confined to Anglo-vernacular education. The Rev. Samuel Langdon was appointed to take over the superintendence of the superior school and designated the Principal. The Rev. Langdon and Mrs. Langdon arrived on Richmond Hill on 6th April 1876.
On 26th April 1876 an advertisement appeared in the Ceylon observer announcing that an institution named Galle High School would commence from 1st May, 1876 on Richmond Hill. Prior to the decision to upgrade the old Anglo-vernacular school was made the mission had to take into account the Galle Central School (later named All Saints College) that has been in existence for many years.
In 1829 the British Colonial Office sent a Royal Commission of Eastern Inquiry better known as the the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission, to assess the administration of the island. The commission reported and submitted their proposals 1831.These recommendations among other subjects touched on the education as well. Under the Charter of Justice in 1833 these proposals and recomendations were implemented resulting in the Government taking over all schools. Under these proposals of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission emphasis was placed on the standardisation of educational curriculum and advocated the substitution of English for local languages. Local English schools were established, and the missionary schools that had previously taught in the vernacular also adopted English. Thus the Galle English school too was taken over.
Taking over the school did not mean its closure. Unlike taking over a book that can be tucked under ones armpit and taken away, it would not apply to schools. What really took place was that the schools came under Government administration as it is today. This arrangement did not last long and faced with many problems in 1843 the Government handed back the schools to the respective missions with only a stipulation that the Government will inspect the schools by School inspectors appointed by the Government.
The Central School was superintended by the Government which was earlier done by the Church of England. This change saw the appointment of Principal or the head of the school by the Government. When the decision to upgrade the Wesleyan School was made the mission was mindful of the fact that the Central School was headed by a Wesleyan Methodist cleric. Thus it became imperative that the upgraded school will not be in direct conflict with the Central School which was Government sponsored.
It is important to understand the nature of the Anglo-vernacular school. According to a study made by the “Bureau of Education of India” in 1918 and published as “Phamplet No. 5 – Notes on Vernacular Education in Ceylon by H. Sharp, C.S.I., C.I.E.” an Anglo-vernacular school instructions were bilingual; either English or Singhalese or both English being the optional second language (reading, writing and conversation) from the third standard. As an elementary school when it was first started in 1814 the school would have had classes up to the fifth standard. During the period Rev. Rippon and Rev. Baugh made representation to upgrade the school, the nature of the school was a middle or a secondary school. This is proved from the fact that both missionaries lamented that students of the school were leaving to join schools elsewhere for higher studies.
In a correspondence Rev. Samuel Langdon sent to the Mission Secretaries in early 1877 states that the school that was on Richmond Hill was an Anglo-vernacular school. This mean it was a secondary 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.
If the school was an elementary or a primary school at this point of time then those who were absorbed from the old school would not have been matured enough to understand subjects like Euclid (Geometry), Algebra, Chemistry and other subjects that were taught. When the school was made an Anglo-vernacular or a secondary school could not be found but it could be in early 1820’s (see the period between 1814 to 1850 and the letter by Rev. Callaway).
In early 1877 the Galle High School started 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. Those fourty plus some students that were absorbed from the old school were not primary school students but students who would sit the University entrance examination in a year or two. Thus 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. However it is now clear how the first school progressed and became a superior school. What has been referred as Galle schools in Missionary records could not have been different schools but a single school operating from different locations.
The Galle High School continued to progress and at the District Meeting of 1881 it was resolved to rename the school as Richmond College on the recommendation of Rev. Samuel Hill.
All these years 1876 has been taken as the date that Richmond started but erroneously. In the year 1876 the Galle High School came into being with the upgrading of the first school. It took six (6) more years before Galle High School was renamed Richmond College. A school differs from a College by the fact that a College will have boarding facilities for students where as a school is merely an education institution patronised by day scholars. We say Richmond is so many years old, including the six years when the school was known as Galle High School. If the historians counted those six years too, then why not count the sixty two (62) years before 1876? Except for few schools of recent origins all the older schools rightly counted their birthday as the day the school started irrespective of the population of the school, the category or class of the school or how it was known at different times.
Those of other school histories included even the times when they were closed down for several years before restarting, whilst others took into account the years that a Catholic scripture class existed conducted by non Methodist missionaries as a part of their history simply because it was on the same spot that the Methodist mission School started many years later. All because it was part of the heritage. Richmond had no such issues (except the first school operated in parts from several places but finally moved to one location), but yet ignored 62 years of her heritage. Richmond hitherto has been incorrectly identifying as the date of birth of the school when it was elevated to a superior school. As of today all those schools that were moved to the hill has become one great school except Rippon Girls School that was separated from the boys school in 1871.
Speaking of the Rippon Girls School one should not forget that she too was part of the first school until it was separated. It was the girls school and the boarding of the first school. Earlier on when she was part of the Anglo-vernacular school it was the boarding for the girls. In 1871 the Rev. Baugh seperated it and it was named the “Whitfield Road Girls School” in honour of the sabbath school, with the same name in Liverpool, England who collected funds for the school in Galle. Later on it was raised to the status of a superior school with the upgrading of the Anglo Vernacular school in 1876 and renamed Rippon Girls School.
Although Royal College has nothing to do with the history of Richmond, it is interesting to note how the school’s birth date has been identified, quite rightly. The following is the entry in Wikipedia for Royal College.
“The school was founded by the Rev. Joseph Marsh, the acting Colonial Chaplain at St. Paul’s Church as the Hill Street Academy in 1835, as a private institution with 20 students, mainly from the upper class community situated at Hill Street, Pettah. It was in 1836, Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, the British Governor of Ceylon, based on the recommendations of the Colebrooke Commission converted it, as the Colombo Academy, into an English public school with Marsh continuing as Head master. Even though the college had close ties to Anglicanism at its early years, since 1936 it has remained a secular school. In 1859 it was renamed Colombo Academy and Queens College and affiliated to the University of Calcutta. In 1865 the Morgan Committee of inquiry into education recommended that it be reorganised and that scholarships should be awarded to study in University of Oxford. It became the Colombo Academy once again in 1869. In 1881 it was renamed Royal College Colombo with the royal consent from Her Majesty Queen Victoria. The Gazette Notification giving Her Majesty’s approval to change the name of the school appeared on July 31, 1881.”
Finding exact dates from Mission records were one of the biggest problems. The Missionaries when sending their reports have given pride of place to their achievements like who they converted etc., which were not relevant to school history. We made several enquiries from various universities, the Mission Secretariat in England to find exact dates. None has been able to provide exact dates. We had to be satisfied with the year or with the month and year as published. That brings us to the end of the journey of sixty two forgotten years of our history.
Have we lost an important part of our identity by not representing the years from 1814 to 1876? Did we choose to ignore that part of the history? or was it ignorance? Whatever the answer is the period 1814 to 1876 too is important because the beginnings of the school was 1814. For generations we believed the year the school was formed as 1876 which is the year the school became a superior school and lived with this wrong notion. Sadly that part of the history from our inception by our founding fathers has been lost and it is a terrible oversight that must be rectified even at this stage. It is not too late to correct and maintain our heritage.
Richmond will be 200 years in 2014 (perhaps by the last week of July 2014) so will the Methodist Mission (by 29th June) and the school in Batticaloa (sometime during the second week of August). Isn’t it an occasion to celebrate and rejoice?