A tribute from Sri Sangabo Corea to his cousin Vernon Corea –
VERNON, my cousin, is worth remembering and talking or writing about because he was such a loveable personality with his winning ways !
To the Coreas, in particular he was like a breath of fresh air and where he was there was laughter, enjoyable conversation and above all the pleasure of listening to one whose fluency in the English language was impeccable. To crown it all he was also blessed with an unmistakable voice that was fine tuned for sheer listening pleasure !!
Vernon, was born in Kurana on September 11, 1927 and his parents were Canon Ivan S.Corea and Ouida. His father was a saintly servant of God and his mother, a gracious lady who was a tower of strength to her husband and two sons, Vernon and Ernest. Vernon, had a passion for broadcasting whilst Ernest was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the United States and later joined the World Bank. No matter where Canon Ivan S.Corea served as Vicar, he made it a point to visit his relatives in Chilaw at regular intervals adhering to a profound family obligation and loyalty towards his kith and kin.
When Vernon took to broadcasting he won the hearts of his listeners in next to no time and came to be known as Sri Lanka’s pioneering broadcaster. Every programme he handled had the stamp of class and before long he had a huge fan following of listeners whom Vernon had mesmerized with his unique style of reaching out to his listeners.
Vernon, started his broadcasting career as a Relief Announcer in 1956. In the following year he was appointed to the permanent staff as an Announcer by the Director of the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon, the distinguished Clifford R.Dodd, himself, a great Vernon Corea fan. Despite the stiff competition there was in the Commercial Service with ‘giants’ like Livy Wijemanne, Tim Horshington, Greg Roskowski and Chris Greet to name just a few, Vernon became the most popular because of the lively ‘ pulling power ‘ that he had mastered to win the hearts of his listeners.
His talent was such that he was picked to present the radio programmes with the highest listenership such as ‘ Two for the Money ‘, ‘ Kiddies Corner ‘ , ‘ Ponds Hit Parade ‘, ‘ Saturday Stars ‘, ‘ Take it or Leave it ‘, ‘ Maliban Band Wagon ‘, ‘ Dial a Disc ‘, ‘ Holiday ‘ and ‘ Sunday Choice ‘ and many others too numerous to mention.
Vernon, was also a much sought after Compere for dinners, dances, promotional events and musical shows. He was a maestro at striking the right balance between humour and sobriety which made him popular with his audiences. He had the matchless expertise of relating a spicy yarn without causing any embarrassment to his listeners. On stage, he was in complete command as the incomparable Master of Ceremonies with the Midas Touch … the One and Only Vernon Corea !!
My mind goes back to the 70s when I had discovered and groomed Clarence Wijewardena, Annesley Malawana & The Moonstones to go public. I telephoned Vernon and asked him for his help to feature them on radio. Being the perfectionist that he was his first question was ‘ Will they measure up to my Expectations ? ‘ . I had only to say ‘ yes ’ and my good cousin was ready, willing and able to do the needful. Vijaya was the third Corea who joined us to make it a three pronged family operation !! He featured The Moonstones on ‘ Saturday Stars ‘ and the launch, was too good to be true !
Vernon, his wife Monica and their children, Ivan, Vernon Junior and Ouida moved to England in 1975 and joined the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade as the first Asian Missionaries. They worked for Radio Worldwide. Later, Vernon joined BBC Radio London and created history by introducing interesting and novel programmes to bring into the spotlight Asian Culture tied up with Asian music and Asian personalities. BBC and the listeners in particular were impressed with the Corporation’s novel concept and the programmes which Vernon planned and aired were highly commended.
Vernon, had the distinction of covering Prince Charles’ wedding to Princess Diana for the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and he voiced news reports on the visits of President J. R. Jayewardene and Prime Minister R. Premadasa to the United Kingdom. He was invited to Buckingham Palace by Prince Charles to discuss matters connected with Asian Culture which the Prince was particularly interested in.
Vernon, was appointed Asian Programmes Officer at BBC and was responsible for training those from the minority ethnic communities which was a novel feature. His knowledge and experience in radio broadcasting propelled him to the top and was the first Sri Lankan to be appointed to senior management at BBC. In 1978, Vernon had the distinction of being the first Ethnic Minorities Adviser for the BBC and excelled in that department until his retirement. Vernon, played a major role in bringing about a fresh concept in keeping abreast with the times.
Vernon, will never be forgotten for the new dimension he gave to every aspect of life wherever he worked. He praised and thanked God for his achievements which were phenomenon and as a Sri Lankan he made a lasting impression with those he came in contact with.
Those who had the privilege of knowing Vernon enjoyed his company to the hilt and there was never a dull moment with him around. He was greatly influenced by his Creator and spent much of his time in bringing people closer to God. Vernon will always be remembered for the outstanding human being he was reaching unprecedented heights in broadcasting, in entertaining and winning souls for his creator.
Ten years ago, Vernon passed away and his tenth death anniversary falls on 23rd September 2012. We thank God for his exemplary life and for the immeasurable joy he gave to those who knew him and to the countless others who only heard his voice and had no chance to meet him. Vernon was and still is an inspiration to all of us who knew and loved him. Monica, Ivan, Vernon Junior and Ouida were indeed blessed to have had the good fortune of being a precious part of his life.’
SRI SANGABO COREA