Many people have contributed to development of Badminton at Richmond and some have been ‘unsung heroes’. It is in the correct ‘Richmond spirit, that we as ‘true blooded Richmondites’ make note of all those who contributed for development of Badminton at Richmond. Badminton at Richmond started more as a lesiure game when hostellers in 1958 cleared and levelled a site close to the sick room behind the hostel, where they laid the first badminton court (out-door). With Mr. J. M. V. L. Peiris as the Master-in-charge when serious badminton commenced.
When speaking of Badminton at Richmond Mr. Ariyadasa de Silva is always remembered and spoken of. He was a legend in his own lifetime – a rare feat. However there are few others who did a tremendous service, and their names also must be recorded in history. Dr. A. D. John, Mr. G. K. Haththotuwegama de Silva, Mr. P. H. S. S. Ariyapala, Mr. Samarawardene, Mr. Jayasuriya, Mr. U. De A. Panditha, Mr. L. R. S. Gunaratne, Mr. G. Daluwatte must be mentioned as they were the teachers who took upon themselves the responsibility of propagating Badminton along with the respective Masters in Charge, purely in an honourary capacity foregoing their leisure. Messers. G. K. Haththotuwegama de Silva, P. H. S. S. Ariyapala, U. De A. Panditha and L. R. S. Gunaratne were old boys of Richmond.
Mr. G. K. Haththotuwegama de Silva who was on the staff took great interest in the game and wanted to develop it to a competitive level and the College Badminton Club was formed. The tennis court adjoining the Library and opposite the Senior lab which was in disuse was converted to two outdoor courts in 1961. With Dr. A. D. John’s, association with the College, Mr. G. K. Haththotuwegama elevated the Game to a much serious level. Playing Badminton in the outdoor was very difficult due to the constant breeze across the former tennis court. Dr. John, was the pioneer and his name is synonymous with Badminton in Ceylon, who, along with the likes of P. Sivalingam et al picked up the game when they had their early education in Malaya, today’s Malaysia, and returned to Ceylon in the late 1940’s.
Richmond shuttlers were in dire need of an indoor court and the main hall suited the purpose. The space that was used earleir, the disused Tennis Court later later became the ‘Basketball Court’ with the arrival of Mr. John Poore, an American national to Richmond. With Mr. Welikala taking over the reins of Richmond a new indoor court was laid inside the main hall. It was only Richmond that had an indoor court after Royal College, at that time. The newly installed ceiling fans that were hanging from the girders proved to be a hindrance and was pulled towards the sides and secured thus removing an obstruction. However there were many times the shuttle-cocks would get lodged in the girders. The players and spectators inside the hall would aim slippers. shoes or whatever they could lay their hands on so as to dislodge the shuttle-cocks, most times with success. Today the indoor courts have seen many national tournaments being worked out.
Organised Badminton, was introduced to Richmond College, only in the year 1962 by Mr. G. K. Haththotuwegama with the assistance of Dr. A. D. John, when he came on transfer to Galle from the Polwatte Hospital, in Amabalangoda. This was a significant development from the standpoint of the game, which needed proper indoor playing facilities for its progress and now found. The standard of the players improved considerably, and the first inter-school match was played in the latter part of the year against Sri Sumangala College, Panadura. Mr. G. K. Haththotuwegama, the Master-in-Charge, was a source of inspiration to the players, and Richmond entered the Inter-schools Junior League (Under 16) Badminton Tournament in 1963. N. D. A. Gunasekera was elected the first Captain and there were many enthusiastic players.
In the latter part of 1964, Mr. Haththotuwegama left the School to join the Unversity as a lecturer, and Mr. P. H. S. S. Ariyapala who was on the staff took over as Master-in-charge. It was the time that Richmond players made every effort to win their tournaments. There were players like Gregory Gilbert a hefty boy for his age who used intimidatory tactics by running at the net while stamping the feet to make a great noise hoping that the other player would move away so that the shuttle could be simply dropped over the net.
The earliest players were N. D. A. Gunasekera, Lakshman Jayasekera, Kamal Jayasekera, Gregory Gilbert, , Justin Gunawardene, P. H. S. S. Ariyapala, Waidyaratne, Sarath, Micheal, who formed the Senior squad while Buddhadasa ‘Buddhi’ Weerasinghe, Ranjan Thenuwara, J. L. W Fernando, L. L. Gunawardene, K. H. D. Leelananda, Ananda. D. Jayasinha, M. S. I. K. Perera who were the Junior squad. The first success came in the 1964 at the Junior League Schools Tournament when then dimunitive M. S. I. K. Perera beat a reputed Anandian. That was the begining of Richmond’s success but it had to wait a while. In this series Richmond played against the best Colombo schools, and lost to Dharmasoka College, narrowly by 3 matches to 2.
Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda were the Champion school in the whole country during that era. They have produced many National players by that time. Mr. A. T. Ariyadasa de Silva, an English and Civics Teacher at Dharmasoka and the live wire behind Dharmasoka Badminton was transferred to Richmond at the beginning of the second term, as a political fallout from Amabalangoda, soon after the General Elections of March 1965.