REV. SAMUEL LANGDON (1847 TO 1908)
Rev Samuel Langdon was born in Gunnis Lake, Cornwall, on Christmas Day 1847. Langdon was accepted as a candidate for the ministry in 1870 at the age of 23 and trained at Richmond College, Surrey.
In 1870 he came to Ceylon as a missionary . Initially he served in the Uva Province among the poor Estate workers and he earned the name ‘Apostle of Uva’. With the decision taken during the early months of 1876 to establish a ‘Superior School’ for Boys at Galle the Mission appointed Rev. Langdon as the Principal.
Mr. and Mrs. Langdon arrived at Richmond Hill on 6th April 1876. Another new school was established on Richmond Hill exactly one month to the date of his arrival on 6th may 1876 and named ‘Galle High School’ which was one more among several other schools already operating on the hill.
Mr. Langdon’s first task in the Galle High School was to draw up a suitable curriculum. In addition to the usual subjects – English, Latin, Arithmetic and Mathematics, Scripture, History and Geography – he introduced what was then a new subject to schools in Ceylon, Science. At the beginning, the school was divided into an Upper and a Lower Division, and had a Staff of eight teachers to assist the Principal. Rev. Baugh was in charge of Scripture. Valuable scholarships were founded and special prizes were offered for annual competition. Sir Muttu Cumaraswamy offered a prize for Science, Mr. J. H. Eaton, the Kandy Advocate, a prize for Mathematics, and Mr. H. D. Andrea of Colombo two prizes for all-round efficiency.
The Park Scholarship was started by Mr. Langdon having received from Mr. T. B. Parke of Whitwelford, Chorley, Lancashire, a gift of £. 100 (Rs. 1250/- then) to endow a scholarship for Religious Knowledge. The first library of the college was secured by Mr. Rippon, who had now returned to England. He collected over 500 books from friends in England and sent them over to Richmond. Mr. Langdon also obtained from the Foreign Missions Committee of the Church science equipment to the value of £. 60/-.
The school began to gain recognition by the successes of its pupils. The impression the new school created in its first year is reflected in the Annual Report of the Director of Public Instruction for 1877. In it Mr. Colson the Director of Public Instruction, after referring to Wesley College, went on to say: “The same Mission has in the Galle District established a school, and which, if carried on as it has been begun, is likely to take its position as one of the first educational establishments in the Colony. I refer to the Richmond Hill High School which, under an European Principal and (as far as I can judge from one examination) a very efficient staff of native assistants, displays very great intellectual activity. The old routine of the grant Examination is not set aside, but is supplemented by other useful studies, such as Chemistry and Botany. The newest and most approved methods of instruction have been introduced and have rendered the school very attractive.”
Mr. & Mrs. Langdon were interested in the religious life of the school and the community round about. Scripture was taught as a subject in the entire school. Mrs. Langdon conducted the Circuit Sunday School and also held weekly Bible Classes. The number on roll gradually doubled itself.
In March 1879 Mr. Langdon was transferred to Kandy, but he is best remembered in Mission Circles as the “Apostle of Uva” for his work among the poor Estate workers in the Uva Province. Ten years after he left Richmond he wrote: “The College will always have a green place in my memory and a warm place in my heart. It was established amidst great difficulty and, under God’s blessing, the merit of surmounting the difficulties is due mainly to the excellent colleagues who were with me at the time.”
In March 1879 Rev. Langdon was transferred to Kandy. Hhaving served as the Chairman & Superintendent of the Kandy Districts he returned to his spiritual work in the Uva Province. He was also involved in the founding of orphanages, industrial schools and day schools. Rev. Langdon had many of the great qualifications which go to make the successful Missionary, and of these two were conspicuous. He had a ready and genuine sympathy with young people, and he was a great believer in the religious value of work. He brought these two into a happy coordination by setting up industrial schools wherever he found it possible to do so.
Industry and education were the two great planks in his missionary platform. It was not very long before he had a girls high school and industrial schools for both boys and girls in Kandy. The ‘Girl’s High School’ in Kandy is a Wesleyan Mission school that was started by him. The school was opened in May 1879 at the Wesleyan School Chapel adjoining the Girls’ Boarding School, Katukelle. Later on he established a boys reformatory and a hospital in the Uva extension of his District, and many vernacular day schools in both sections of his District. In 1893 there were nearly three thousand five hundred scholars in the different schools of this District, and conversions among the young people were of frequent occurrence. In the Kandy District, as in other parts of Ceylon, the schools proved to be the most fruitful part of the Mission Garden. In 1882 Langdon was in England for furlough, but he returned in 1884, bringing with him the Rev. W. H. Rigby, and in the following year these two proceeded to reclaim the wilderness of Uva. In 1897 he returned permanently to England due to a combination of impaired health and family reasons. He died on 17th March 1908 in Wellington, Shropshire.