Reverend Canon Ivan Corea mentioned in ‘The Most Dangerous Moment of the War – Japan’s attack on the Indian Ocean’ book


Vernon and Ernest Corea’s late father, the Reverend Canon Ivan Corea has been mentioned in a book, ‘The Most Dangerous Moment of the War – Japan’s Attack on the Indian Ocean, 1942,’ by writer John Clancy. The book mentions that Reverend Canon Ivan Corea was preaching in a service at St. Luke’s Church Borella in Sri Lanka when the Japanese zero aircraft attacked Colombo on the 5th of April, 1942. RAF Hurricane Aircraft engaged the Japanese zero aircraft high above the church that morning.

Vernon Corea mentioned in a Sunday Times Sri Lanka article on the famous Galle Face Hotel in Colombo

Radio Ceylon broadcaster Vernon Corea was recently mentioned in a Sunday Times Sri Lanka feature on the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo:

From 1864, it has seen it all

With one of Colombo’s legendary landmarks, Galle Face Hotel reopening its doors after a facelift, Vinusha Paulraj walks down its corridors from a dim distant past to modern times.

Lined by Dutch cannons strategically placed to ward off returning Portuguese fleets, the mile-long promenade by Colombo’s sea front was the favoured spot for the colonial gentry ‘to take in the air’.

The way it was: Galle Face Hotel in its early days

It was British Governor Sir Henry Ward who commissioned the Galle Face Green, as we know it, in the late 1850s. Earlier the Green had sprawled over a much larger expanse with horse races being held there until they were moved to Colombo’s Race Course in the early 1800s.

Like the Green it overlooks, Galle Face Hotel’s stately façade is an integral part of Colombo’s landscape and one that has morphed with time.

As the historic hotel last month proudly unveiled its refurbished interiors with the management’s vision focused on restoring some lost grandeur, one of the hotel’s newly installed resident historians Sandali Matharage walked us through from past to present.

A team of British entrepreneurs constructed the Galle Face Hotel on the Green’s Southern end in 1864 where a Dutch building housing ammunition for their cannons and the soldiers manning them had once stood.

Vintage touch: Torch lamps light the con servatory. Pix by Indika Handuwala

The Dutch structure called “Galle Face House” was completely torn down, says Matharage, and rising in its place was “What we call the Hotel’s North Wing” designed by renowned architect Thomas Skinner.

Prior to the Suez Canal’s opening in 1869, the hotel had only consisted of the North Wing but shorter travel times saw a greater influx of visitors brought in by the ships calling at Colombo and the “South Wing” was built in 1890 to meet this demand.

The verandah runs across the building’s length, opening up to an arrestingly regal pillared porch which has seen the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Pope John Paul II and Steven Spielberg pass through.

Where once horse-drawn carriages bearing the Galle Face Hotel crest drew up, today taxis wait outside the same low walls hoping for a guest in need of a quick ride.

Vintage photographs of the main entrance show some notable changes during the 1960’s -70’s. Glass panelled doors were replaced by thick wooden ones with ornate oriental carvings.

If these walls could speak: The Coconut Room, now the Jubilee Room has witnessed many a rollicking party from yesteryear

The balustrade trimming a terrace over the porch was substituted by “something resembling tiles”.

“Originally there weren’t any majestic carved doors,” says Matharage explaining that in their place stood elegantly framed glass, with no local elaborations.

“There’s been significant streamlining of added frills which don’t seem evident in the few pictures of the hotel’s original interior. We have many pictures of the outside, but not as much of the inside.”

A colour photograph is how they discovered that the Galle Face Hotel was actually pink, Matharage says. The rosy hue owing to building materials used is now covered under layers of plaster.

Legendary parties are said to have been hosted in the “Coconut Room”. Famously known by that name in the early 1900s, the room had witnessed New Year’s Eve parties particularly during WWII that had even drowned out the sound of air raid sirens.

“Luckily it was just a drill and the band played on,” she smiles. In the 60’s the Coconut Room played host to talent searches like Radio Star Ceylon, hosted by Vernon Corea.

Local touch: Tissa Ranasinghe’s terracotta mural installed in 1970 now in full view at one end of the lounge

It was here that the Jetliners were discovered and the band went on to record their first album in the lobby. Minus dated tapestry trailing down from the skylight, today this space is called the Jubilee Ballroom.

No colonial hotel is complete without a grand ballroom. Before renovations guests could peer down into Galle Face Hotel’s grand ballroom from the balconies but these have now been sealed off to keep noise from echoing throughout the hotel.

Between the two renowned venues is what we’re told is “the Conservatory” which serves as an extended foyer to both ballrooms. Brass torch-like lamps resembling the original lamp-shades found in the dining room are new additions here.

Time has invariably muffled much that went on inside the Galle Face Hotel. Reports of a spa run by two sisters in one of the rooms, fail to mention where their establishment was in fact located.

Another shot in the dark for the staff was to assume records of a sport “enjoyed by both men and women” was a reference to croquet. Guests are soon to receive instructions on how to play the game as the hotel recently inaugurated its own “The Colombo Croquet Club.”

The South Wing: Wood panels and Otis elevator

The Sri Lankan touch is seen in the lobby where artist Tissa Ranasinghe’s large terracotta mural installed in 1970 depicting multi-ethnic worship in the country, previously visible over the former front desk, is now in full view at one end of the lounge.

The former smoking-lounge complete with wood panelled screen doors where Arthur C.Clarke is said to have penned the final chapters of his Space Odyssey trilogy isn’t included in the in-house tour.

But here behind the screen door is another ‘find’ from the 1940’s – an incomplete mural of brightly coloured dancers and fresh green foliage by Russian artist Alexander Sofronoff.

Connecting the North and South Wings is the black and white corridor synonymous with the Galle Face Terrace where countless cups of afternoon tea have been savoured.

Old photographs suggest that initially this was the restaurant itself, overlooking a larger lawn. Now the restaurant has grown, occupying more lawn-space.

The Southern Wing not used to capacity for the past 50 years has “a different feel to it” our guide shares. “We discovered that the elevators first installed in 1890 were manufactured by Otis, the same brand we use to date.”

Attention-grabbing exhibit in the museum: The cannon ball

Today its wood-toned interior houses guest rooms, a library featuring works of all celebrity guests and a museum in the conference area where plaques with familiar faces – former 007s, sportsmen, Olympic athletes, celebrated politicians, revolutionaries, clergy, royalty, explorers and authors who have visited the hotel stare back at you.

Next to the china “imported from the UK” imprinted with each modification of the hotel’s logo, a particular exhibit catches our attention.

The cannon ball sitting on a velvety bed has a curious tale. Misfired by a soldier in training, it had sailed through the hotel’s roof landing on the ground and rolling under a table around which a family was enjoying breakfast.

Thankfully it failed to detonate. It is a potent reminder that the Galle Face Hotel has seen it all and still stands strong.

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.

Maliban Biscuits, the Maliban Show on Radio Ceylon and Vernon Corea

Bathiya and Santhush, Brand Ambassadors for Maliban Biscuits - Vernon Corea devised and presented the iconic Maliban Show radio programme on Radio Ceylon in the 1960s. It was a huge success.

Bathiya and Santhush, Brand Ambassadors for Maliban Biscuits – Vernon Corea devised and presented the iconic Maliban Show radio programme on Radio Ceylon in the 1960s. It was a huge success.

Nowadays you can walk into a Sri Lankan shop in the London area and find boxes of Maliban biscuits for sale – it is available in the United Kingdom. The company was founded by Hinni Appuhamy and his family and has grown from strength to strength.

Vernon Corea at Radio Ceylon.

Vernon Corea at Radio Ceylon.

Vernon Corea was linked with Maliban biscuits when he presented the Maliban Show over the airwaves of Radio Ceylon in the 1960s. It was one of the top shows on Radio Ceylon. It was the X Factors of its day – a talent show which was extremely popular in South Asia. Vernon used to throw packets of biscuits to the audience in the hall and he travelled across the island of Sri Lanka with Radio Ceylon finding new talent. Vernon Corea pioneered the way with radio talent shows in the 1960s building up huge audiences for the station. We thank the Old Ceylon Facebook page for this information:

Maliban Biscuits

“Maliban Biscuits started off as a simple tea kiosk on First Cross Street in Colombo Fort.”

“When in 1935, its proprietor Mr. Angunugaha Gamage Hinni Appuhamy, who hailed from Akmeemana in the Galle District, opened the Maliban Hotel at No. 62 Maliban Street. had no idea at the time that it was Sri Lankan history in the making”

The first Maliban hotel and the 3 founders; Mr A.G.Hinni Appuhami, Mr A.G. Wickramapala, Mr A.G. Jinadasa and their accountant Mr. M.W. Abeynayake. Vernon Corea enhanced the Maliban brand with his hit radio programme - the Maliban Show on Radio Ceylon.

The first Maliban hotel and the 3 founders; Mr A.G.Hinni Appuhami, Mr A.G. Wickramapala, Mr A.G. Jinadasa and their accountant Mr. M.W. Abeynayake. Vernon Corea enhanced the Maliban brand with his hit radio programme – the Maliban Show on Radio Ceylon.

The first Maliban hotel and the 3 founders; Mr A.G.Hinni Appuhami, Mr A.G. Wickramapala, Mr A.G. Jinadasa and their accountant Mr. M.W. Abeynayake.

The Listener mentions Vernon Corea and the BBC Radio London programme London Sounds Eastern

The BBC Publication The Listener wrote about Vernon Corea.

The BBC Publication The Listener wrote about Vernon Corea.

The BBC publication, The Listener mentioned Vernon Corea and his iconic radio programme ‘London Sounds Eastern,’ aired over BBC Radio London.

Talk by Vernon Corea mentioned in Language Monthly London Publication of 1983

The Language Monthly publication mentions BBC broadcaster Vernon Corea.

The Language Monthly publication mentions BBC broadcaster Vernon Corea.

Vernon Corea has been mentioned in the Language Monthly London Publication – the publication of 1983 gives details of a talk by Vernon to the London Regional Society of the Institute of Linguists. Vernon was the BBC’s Ethnic Minorities Adviser at the time.

Legendary Radio Ceylon Broadcaster Vernon Corea mentioned thrice in ‘Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta,’ a novel by Indian writer Glen Peters

Vernon Corea - The dashing Radio Ceylon broadcaster in the late 1950s

Vernon Corea – The dashing Radio Ceylon broadcaster in the late 1950s

Vernon Corea has been mentioned in 'Mrs D'Silva's Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta' a novel by Glen Peters.

Vernon Corea has been mentioned in ‘Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta’ a novel by Glen Peters.

Indian novelist Glen Peters

Indian novelist Glen Peters

Legendary Radio Ceylon broadcaster, Vernon Corea has been mentioned thrice by Indian author Glen Peters, in his novel ‘Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta.’ Glen Peters was born in Allahabad India and spent most of his school years in a suburb of Calcutta. His family emigrated to the UK in the late 60 s where he completed his university education. He was President of his Student s Union for a year and then worked as an engineer with British Gas for a number of years before he joined Price Waterhouse in London. He has been with the firm for 25 years and was made a partner in 1988. In 1995 he and his wife purchased a rundown mansion in Pembrokeshire which started a love affair with West Wales. He founded Project Rhosygilwen in 2006 which aims to use the arts as an engine of rural regeneration.

Mrs D Silva s Detective Instincts and the Saitan of Calcutta In a hugely enjoyable read, Glen Peters recaptures the tastes and atmospheres of 1960s India with a vivid and engaging novel of recipes and murder, intrigue and romance. Mrs D Silva teaches at Don Bosco s Catholic school in Calcutta. She was brought up by the nuns of St Mary s when her mother died and now only thirty two years of age is already a young widow with a son to care for. Life has a lot in store for Mrs D Silva. Calcutta in 1960 is a city striving to change. The old rulers have gone home but India is still trying to find its own way towards a peaceful, prosperous future. But the world is changing and pressing in on the new country. Mrs D Silva wants to be part of the New India, the new Kolkata. She likes the coffee houses of Chowringhee Road and the dances at the Grand Hotel. She likes her work at Don Bosco s, especially the new maths teacher from Darjeeling. She even likes her students. Which is why she is so shocked when the body of Agnes Lal, a young woman brought up by the nuns of the Loreto convent, is washed up on the marshes of the Hooghly river. Has Agnes been murdered? Does anyone care in a city where young girls go missing every day? And then Anil Sen, a former student of Mrs Dilva s and a close friend of Agnes Lal, is charged with the murder of a factory manager during a riot. A riot started by The Workers Revolutionary Movement of Bengal, and what a group of goondas they are, led by that shaitan, Dutta. The same Dutta running rings around Inspector Basu, who has been forced into investigating both cases and is getting nowhere fast. The same Inspector Basu who has a son at Don Bosco’s School. It s all a bit of a tamasha until Mrs D Silva discovers her detective instincts. In a hugely enjoyable read, Glen Peters recaptures the tastes and atmospheres of 1960s India with a vivid and engaging novel of recipes and murder, intrigue and romance.