Very little is known of the early history of the Wesley College Old Boys' Union. The earliest available records date from 1928. and whatever information has been gathered - about the period prior to this it from tradition, from the memory of the older Old Boys, or from old Magazines of the school. Tradition has it that the Old Boys' Union of the school was inaugurated on the 1st December 1874, which is the same year as that in which he school was founded. This may appear strange, but it can be explained by the fact that when Wesley College was opened, it took students from the Pettah Methodist School, which would have had students in the highest form and new students would also have been admitted to that form in that year, so that a fair number of students would have left school at the end of that year. Also, the Methodist Church is well known as pioneers in the idea of involving all its members in Church activities, and it is possible that this idea was extended to students in relation to school activities It could, therefore, be surmised that the Methodist Principal, Rev. S. R. Wilkin, who was the first Principal of Wesley College, would have conceived the idea of summoning a meeting of the students who left in the first year to form an Old Boys' Union.
Recently, this claim was challenged by a senior Old Boy who stated that- the Old Boys' Union was formed only in 1910, when the' Rules were passed.; It is possible that both statements arc correct, i.e. that the 'Old boys Union was actually inaugurated in 1874 in an informal ,way, with the school authorities acting' as office bearers to get together Old Boys when occasion demanded it,~ and that' the Union -was formalized only in 1910 when the Rules of the Union were adopted and the. Union elected its own office-bearers. The Old Boys' Union of Wesley College followed the' tradition of all Old Boys' Unions of schools of having the Principal of the school as its President irrespective of whether he was on Old Boy or not.' The Union broke with the tradition in 1935 when a resolution- moved by Mr. V. E. Charavanamuttu was passed at the Annual General Meeting to the effect that the Principal should ex-officio be the Patron of the Union and that the President should be an, Old Boy of the school elected at 'each Annual General Meeting.
The membership of the Union stood at About 300 in 1927 and is about 900 today. Which is perhaps less than 20% of the I number of Old Boys who arc living today. This is admittedly disappointing' and steps are being taken by the present. Members of the Union to increase the membership. The low membership is, however, not an index of the loyalty of Old Boys to their Alma Mater. Old Boys who are nonmembers of the Union have always rallied to calls for assistance to, the school when such calls were made, thus proving 'that the following lines of the school song are not a mere sentiment - "And when Wesley's call shall sound Ready, aye! .shall all be found, In duty and in honour bound One instance of this is the response to the call made in 1951 for contributions towards constructing a new block known as the High field Block" to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the birthday of the late Rev. Henry Highfield who did so much 'for the school, which brought in about Rs. 75,000 from Old Boys. This block of 12 classrooms was completed~ in 1959. We hope and trust that a further example on this will be provided- by the response to the call for contributions to the Centenary Fund and that the response would enable us to reach the target of Rs. I million 'set for the Fund.
The O B. U. owes a debt of gratitude to the many Old Boys who gave their time to serve as office-bearers of the Union. Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, served as 'President Of the Union for the longest period- 19 years -from mid 1940 to 1948, and 1953 to 1963. Mention must. also be made of Mr. P. H. Nonis, our present President, who was the first Old boy Principal of the school, in fact the only one up to now. Mr. J. S Ratnayake Was the first elected Hony. Secretary of the Union after the Rules ~f the Union were adopted in. 1910, and served for a number of years in that capacity. Mr. Terrence de Zylwa had the longest tenure of office as Hony. Secretary-8 years' from 1952 to 1959. The writer himself served in this capacity for' 7 years from 1960 to 1966. - Mr. Edmund Dissanayake served longest as Hony, Treasurer-12 years from 1953 to 1964. Among those who served as Hony. Auditor were Mr. B. L. W. Fernando who later served as Auditor General -of the Island Mention must be made of the benefactors of the O B. U. Among these are Mr. W.H. I ' de Kretser. Who was always ready to contribute most generously towards any activity of the school or the O. B. U. Mr. F. V. H. Labrooy was another. He chose to keep himself aloof but was always interested in tile affairs of the school as of the OBU and was ready to help generously One of his contributions was a payment Of Rs. 100/-to meet the cost of 'entertaining the School Cricket Team and OBU lunch , which he made many times. Mention must also be made of a contribution of Rs. 10,000 to meet the cost of repairs to the school buildings by Dr. N. J. A. Cooray, who served as President of the Union, in 1965, which as the first year in which he served as ~'resident.
The Union has its annual celebrations in the first weekend of March each year. As from 1963 a Founder's Day Service was held in the School Hall on 2nd March each year as part of the celebrations, in !place of the "Re-union" Service which we held in the Wesleyan. Church, Maradana on The Sunday of the week-end up to then. The celebrations include 'Past vs. Present' encounters., at Cricket, Soccer, Hockey and Rugger, 'Old Boys Vs Staff, encounters at Tennis and Bridge, and a lunch in the School and -the Other events are O.B.U. Dinners which are held in one or other of the leading hotels in Colombo and to which eminent persons arc invited. About 15 O.B.U. Dinners have been held. In recent years, a 'Dinner Dance' has taken the place of these Dinners. 3 Dinner Dances have been held. A 'Club Nite' to enable Old Boys to get together more frequently and in a more informal atmosphere was inaugurated -in 1964. This'' activity was given new life in 1968 by the younger Old Boys' and made a regular event on the 1st Saturday or each month. Special events organised 'by the 0. B. U included the construction of the, Highfield Memorial Building in l959, which has been referred to earlier, mainly through the efforts of the late Mr. Terrence de Zylwa who was the then Hony. Secretary~ who almost re-enacted in 1950 what the late Rev. Highfield did in the first decade of the century when he collected almost single-handed a considerable sum of money towards the cost of constructing the main buildings which 'houses the school. Other activities were receptions to old boys or the unveiling of photographs of old boys who achieved some notable success or gained distinction in the various' walks of life, which brought honour to the o school, the feting of teachers who have served 'the school for long periods) and farewells to Principals on their relinquishing their posts. Old Boys gather in strength to watch and encourage present boys at games, especially.
At cricket matches Many Old Boys have been generous 'with gifts of items of equipment for the various sports and feted teams which have achieved marked success in any year. They also help boys who come from less, affluent homes to get The necessary gear for the sport in which they participate. In recent years Old Boys' have provided funds to meet the cost of refreshments served, at Athletics Meets. Old Boys have also donated trophies and prizes at the annual Prize-Giving and Athletic meets. They have also given generous contributions and other assistance whenever calls were made by the school, and have actively supported the school in all fundraising events. A most encouraging feature in recent years is the interest' taken by the younger Old Boys in the affairs of the Union. I close this with .an appeal to the present boys, especially to The more senior among them, to -note that they must consider it their duty, and in fact a privilege to join the OBU. As soon as they find, their feet after they leave' school without waiting to be invited to do so. The Union belongs to Old Boys and 'is run by Old Boys and the influx of younger Old Boys is necessary to keep-it alive and to infuse, new life into it, which is necessary to keep it going as a live force; worthy of the high reputation and standing' ,of the school. There' can be no excuse for not joining the Union as one can always get an application form whatever information one requires from the College.
Mr. JCP Wickramanayake