Rev.Fr.L.A.Singarayar (OMI)

                 1956 – 1963

In the nineteenth century, Mathagal was a home of those who ventured in the North
Seas, plying their fleet of ships conveying merchandise hither and thither Ceylon, India
and Burma. Prominent among them was their lettered leader Loppupillai
mirthanetherpillai. In a way, he was the Moses of his people, champion of the rights and
s community at Mathagal towards emancipation from the social
shine and bring glory in a different turf from that of his father.

In latter life, the turf his Superiors mapped out for
was education. He was the fifth in the family of eight children of five boys and three
girls. The eldest sister maintained discipline and order of the household, had inspired
young Singarayer to take to priesthood, so much so, Fr. Singarayer later used say quite
priest, because of my Mootha Acca”, says Mr. L. A. Joseph the last in
the family sharing his family recollections with this writer. Mr. Joseph hale and hearty at
3, living with his children at Dehiwela, himself was an old boy of St. Henry’s, footballer
and one time teacher at St. Henry’s under Fr. Jeevaratnam, is apparently the oldest Henrician living on the planet.

After primary studies at St. Joseph’s College, Mathagal he joined St. Martin
Seminary and did his secondary education St. Patrick’s College, then completing his
ecclesiastical studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary, Borella he was raised to priesthood on 20
f December 1931 at his Mathagal home parish by Rt.Revd. Dr/ J. Alfred Guyomar
O.M.I. then Bishop of Jaffina. Thereafter he went through a two year secondary Teacher’s
Training programme at St. Joseph’s Teachers’ Training College Colombogam. He was
then sent to England to read for B.A. Arts at King’s College. Back at home arming with
Diploma Education he embarked on directing the teacher aspirants at Teachers’ Training
College. Mr. Kulatunge, the Director of Training Colleges summed up Colombogam as
microcosm of a university so much so that Fr. L.A. Singarayer was at the helm of the
of Colombogam for a good run of 16 years (1939-55) accomplishing his task of
portals administrating the College with such an utmost efficiency and thoroughness.

In the long and unbroken tradition of St. Henry’s of lIlavalai in its 100 year old proud
history, the College had had Rectors who were essentially educationists cum
disciplinarians moulded into one. Following Rev. Dr. B. Deogupillai’s illustrious
stewardship as Rector of the College during 1954 to 1956-came, Rev. Fr. L.A. Singarayer
to Ilavalai as the next Rector of St. Henry’s, who was cast into this twin-mould so

An oblate by order, he had his Masters from the University of London and Diploma
in Education from the University of Ceylon and endowed with a wealth of 16 years
experience as the Principal of Teachers’ Training College at Colombogam. With this
imposing background, he soon began to elevate level of education at St. Henry’s from
secondary to University Entrance levels in Arts, Bio and Maths sections. He got around the
teachers to chip in extra hours of work and the teachers too responded ungrudgingly to
enhance activities in sports, elocution, drama and so forth. All these hard efforts of Father
Singarayer cumulated into bringing St. Henry’s in par with other front line “A” Grade
schools in the North. His yet another vital impetus was the home and school integration by
reinvigorating the Parent Teachers Association (PTA). He laid larger emphasis on children
growing into adulthood that character formation and intellectual education can only be
imparted best when home and the school have a shared responsibility. Due to Fr
Singarayer’s untiring efforts senior students Lourthu Anthony, Nicolas Lucas, Philip
Karaunakaran, Christy Emmanuel, Nicadamus Revel, M. Mary Joseph gained entrance to

Peradeniya and Colombo universities. Away from the school, an irate storm was
Singarayer began to sense an uneasy feeling of what was going to be in store for the in the
1956 marked the beginning of politics of estrangement imbued with conflict and
brewing in the political arena of the nation and with his customary missiona
ry zeal Fathher singarayar began to sence an nueasy feeling of what was giong to be in
store for the in the educational spheres and the future of the College

1956 marked the beginning of politics of estrangement imbued with conflict and
oil, which saw to appease the Sinhalese sentiments with Sinhala only advocacy and
moves to take over private schools. These political rumblings left Father Singarayera
deeply disturbed man. One can measure his tormented sentiments embodied in his Rector’s
Report of 1957-58, said he, “There is so much of talk in public platforms and political
coteries about State Education, that the very mention of it, changes the whole

atmosphere with tension” While he emphasized that the State had a duty to sce theat
through education the young should grow up in national ethos, but its influence must not
ride roughshod over the factors that contribute the welfare of education. Thus he summed
up his vision saying. “Hence, we believe that the secular State as representative of the
whole community should control, though control should not be mistaken for monopoly of
education or direct managementofschools”
In 1960. the fears dwelled with Fr. Singarayer began to unfold and we witnessed th
escalation of the conflicts in the processofappropriating the take over of private schools by
the Government. That was a stormy period during which the entire educational set up all
over the country received a rude shock with the schools takeover. There were
demonstrations, protest meetings, and satyagraha all over the country and the whole
educational system was disturbed and in total chaos. Fr. Rector resilient to the challenges
then sough to fight to change in the prevailing order of things. he commandeered the
support of the Henrician Old Boys’ Association of Colombo. Veteran OBA steward
Mr.A. Jesuthasan vividly recalls the fervent endeavours of Fr. Rector against the take over
of private schools, by sending his Vice Rector Rev. Fr. Anton T. Rajanayagam as his special
emissary to revive the then defunct Colombo OBA, to re-tool and shore up support against
the take over. He wanted the OBA to give its mind to the proposed take over of private
schools by the Govt. which move was detrimental and will have adverse effects on the system
and the standard of education in the country at large. Fr. Rector specifically
requested Fr. Anton to move a resolution against the take over of private schools at the
meeting of the OBA. But sadly enough, many top rungs of the then OBA were government
servants, who had been understandably disdainiul ofa forthright challenge because of their
positions they held, but sought to influence subtly for a fair play of the issue in question.
But the tide was too awesome for any onslaught by anyone. St. Henry’s and many a
Catholic and Christian schools were deprived of the State funding assistance. Lost in the
struggle against the take over, St. Henry’s had to saddle as a complete private school solely
sustained by the Bishop of Jaffna, who found the luxury of playing Cricket was no longer
manageable by him due to the financial constrains. So since 1960 playing cricket was
halted at St. Henry’s. That was the greatest pinch college experienced immediately after the
take over.

Father Singarayer was indeed an emblem Christian leadership, as an educationist himself,
he bore public responsibility on the ethos of education, on which he gave his concrete
expression to his vision against the take over of private schools during the transitional
phase of political upheaval in the post independent era of the nation.

Fr. L.A. Singarayer was truly revered persona, to whom spirituality was not an ethical
choice or a lofty idea rather an encounter with the Creator, these thoughts Fr. Rector had
instilled in us with pragmatic discipline guidelines all the time. His beaming influence
lasted at St. Henry’s until 1963, by then he became somewhat unwell to shoulder heavy
day to day responsibility of the College.Afterwards, he took up Professorship at National
Seminary, Ampitiya during 1964 69, there he held the chairs of Catechetics and
Education, and these were his forte. He was resident in the Oblate Scholasticate and was
the Magister Spiritus” of the house. He was very understanding, sympathetic and kind to
one and all. He was a gentleman to the core, and his sense of decorum left nothing to be
desired, recalls Fr. Louis Ponniah O.M.I. a student of his time. He came back to Jaffia as
Chaplain to the Holy Family Novitiate, Passaiyoor in 1969-72. IlI health forced
virtual retirement. He sought that his journey’s end be in the midst of the familiar
surroundings of his native village, Mathagal, at the presbytery of St. Thomas’ church f
close upon 15 years ebbing away his twilight years with bad health condition, yet in the
service to the Lord as Assistant Parish Priest. In 1977 he celebrated his Golden Jubilee and
he was called home on 20 December 1986 at Mathagal on the eve of his 55h anniversary
of his ordination.

The annals of Henrician history have no small measure to report to posterity of his
unswerving stance against the take over of private schools. The entirety of Henerician
fraternity here and abroad, will remember Fr. L.A. Singarayer fondly with gratitude at the
most opportune time of his birth centenary in 2006 and 2007 being the centenary year of
the founding of St. Henry’s College of Ilavalai, as a colossus Rector and champion of the
cause he choose to defend for the greater good of St. Henry’s and other schools alike in the