Wendy Whatmore Academy celebrates 75th Anniversary

Wendy Whatmore trained some of the outstanding broadcasters of Radio Ceylon. Although he wasn’t trained by her Vernon Core knew Wendy Whatmore very well – many of his close friends from Radio Ceylon were trained by Wendy. Here is an interesting article published in The Island newspaper in Colombo:

Great oaks from little acorns grow

Wendy Whatmore Academy celebrates 75th anniversary

By Steve A. Morrell

March 30 was a red letter day for the Wendy Whatmore Academy (WWA); it celebrated 75 years of continuous service.

Wendy Whatmore, daughter of Justice O. L. de Kretser, initiated the ‘Wendy Whatmore Academy’, in or about 1940, at her father’s home in Colombo.

At that time the British influence was strong and the establishment of an academy for elocution was not something sensational. Five youngsters formed the first group of students who were taught by Wendy Whatmore herself.

Gwendolen Leah (Wendy), the youngest of Justice O. L. de Kretser’s children, was born Dec. 13 1918, at the family home in Matara. Her mother, Leah de Kretser, taught her at home, till she turned 10.

A voracious reader, encouraged by her parents, she began writing poetry at age nine. She received her formal schooling at Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya. She hated Maths and needle work but loved English literature and history. She also played netball at that time.

Wendy was also responsible for the Holy Family Convent anthem. She wrote lyrics and her friend who later became a nun, the music.

Her poems were published by the Daily News in its ‘Poetry Corner’, edited by Grace Moraes, writing under the pseudonym, ‘Peter Pan’. She signed herself, ‘Wendy’. Reportedly, ‘Peter Pan’, and ‘Wendy’, had many fans.

The establishment of an academy dedicated to teaching English was not received with the enthusiasm it deserved.  In the post-1956 era characterised by ‘Sinhala only’ many thought English was not essential for them to succeed in life.

The WWA changed that concept and the number of its students increased.

In 1947, the Fellowship Diploma of the Trinity College London, was awarded to Wendy Whatmore, who was the only person from the Far East to achieve the honour.

She trained teachers in English and expanded the institution. Lindsay Girls School, Visakha, Holy Family Convent, St Bridget’s, Good Shepherd Convent, were city schools who sought her assistance in teaching the subject. Galle and Matara convents were the first outstations schools to introduce ‘elocution’ as a subject.

Wendy also evinced a keen interest in handling children with speech defects. Literally, hundreds were taught and such speech defects were corrected. When the ‘Hope’ ship called in at Colombo she was invited to speak to the surgeons and doctors on her experiences.

Some of the outstanding persons trained by her were Chris Greet, the famous programme presenter on Radio Ceylon, in the 1950s and 60s, Andrew David now a director in his own music company, with his wife, Maryanne, Barry Whitington, humorist, and compere with the Donovan Andree shows, Eustace Fonseka, noted for his stage performances, apart from his career in the army, Anthea Peiris, also with Radio Ceylon, with a velvety flow of language, Fleurette de Silva, Rosemary Dabrera, Anne Loos, Heloise Perera, Travis Perera and Tony Singaraya, Christine Thambimuthu, a TV personality. There were many others.

Wendy Whatmore passed away in March 1989.

Wendy Whatmore’s daughter, Wendy Holsinger, with her husband, Monte, is now training a new generation of students at 13th Lane, Colombo 3.

The academy has expanded to serve many parts of Sri Lanka such as Batticaloa, Matara, Galle, Anuradhapura, Vavuniya, Marawila, Kurunegala, Matale..

Wendy (affectionately known as Bundle), at the 75th anniversary celebrations, paid a tribute to about 200 teachers, both past and present, who were collectively responsible for developing the academy to the present level, a modern, vibrant organisation dedicated to imparting knowledge.

Director of the Academy, Monte Holsinger, said the expansion meant they now had to conduct courses for various professional bodies, especially the Business English Course.

Monte, a planter with academic qualifications is one of the pillars of the academy.

Its current Principal, Wendy II, is a source of inspiration to one and all.

An academic which came into being with just five youngsters now has more than 180 teaching centres countrywide with a countless number of students.

Rev. Marc Billimoria, Warden, S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, said, delivering his homily said he had no doubt that the current management of the academy would pass on the richness of the English language to the next generation.

Wendy Whatmore’s grandchildren are responsible youngsters with a clear mission and they will further develop the academy.


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