Literary Association – Debating
One of the liveliest and most important activities of the College from its inception has been the Literary Association. Debates and discussions were the normal fare. The Association went from strength to strength in Mr. Darrell’s time. It was made obligatory for all senior boys to take part in readings or debates.
There were no inter-school debates in those days. The most important event of the year was the debate between the Day scholars and the Boarders. Inter-school debates became popular in Mr. Sneath’s time. On July 24th, 1924 there was a debate against All Saints’ College, on the subject “That Sinhalese and Tamil should be taught in schools in preference to Latin and Greek.” Richmond’s thinking was a step ahead in making Sinhalese and Tamil teaching in schools.
Attendance at the ordinary meetings had been made optional, and sometimes interest flagged. About this time the Literary Association became a part of the larger College Union. The College Union took the responsibility for arranging the whole term’s work of all its constituent societies, and it became possible to avoid any overlapping or such flaws as the paying of too much attention to one society and too little to another. Debates against Wesley College were begun in the thirties. From 1939 onwards inter-school debates have been held in various years against Kingswood, Wesley and Mahinda, occasionally against Southlands, and once in 1944 against the R.A.F. In 1943 there was also a junior debate against Southlands.
With the rapid expansion of the school, the College Union has functioned in five groups—the H.S.C. Union, the Senior, the Intermediate, the Junior and the Primary sections. Each having its own Literary and Debating Society.
The Boarders’ Literary Association has been very active ever since its inception in Mr. Darrell’s time. The “Sathya Visandana Samithiya” and the Sinhalese Samitiya are two other vigorous bodies that fostered debates and discussions.
In or about the year 1901 or 1902 Mr. Darrell introduced certain innovations which were greatly appreciated. The debates were conducted in the real Parliamentary style and according to Parliamentary procedure. The proposer of a debate was called the Hon. the Proposer, or Leader of the Debate, and the opposer the Hon. the Leader of the Opposition. The Chairman was referred to as the Hon. Speaker. Each side had to decide overnight on the number of speakers, generally consisting of three or four. It is thought that rev. Darrell was following the methods and procedure of the Cambridge and the Oxford Unions. The meetings were held in the College Hall, the seats being arranged like those in Parliament. It is no wonder that Richmond produced many politicians from the grounding they received at Richmond.
In Sri Lanka it is the belief of many people that the British came to plunder the country. But to the contrary the country gained in many other ways. No one gives anything for nothing. At a time when Ceylon was agitating to get independence with some past Richmondites in the forefront, Principals’ of Richmond played a supporting role although they were Christian Missionaries and very much English men by birth. It is to the credit of Richmond the pioneering role played by the college in awakening the locals.
The Richmond National Association, formed to discuss national and political subjects at a time when, as in India, the tide of nationalism was rising, was the only society of its kind in any
Ceylon school. It was open to the masters, Old Boys and senior students. It was permitted here, for the national spirit always found fertile soil in Richmond, and the Principal accepted the Presidentship. The objects of the Association were “to foster patriotism, to develop national ideals, and to influence thought in every direction for the Uplifting oF The Ceylonese as a nation; also to discuss, study and adopt all possible measures that tend to secure the greatest and best results for the future generations of Ceylonese”. In order to benefit the public, the Association organised a series of public lectures in Galle by such eminent leaders as Sir James Peiris on “Social Service”, Mr. Arthur Alwis on “Political Agitation” and Armand de Souza, Editor of the ‘Morning Leader’ on ‘Our Place in the Empire’.