"School where our fathers
learned the way before us"
Royal College, one of the oldest schools in the country, was founded in 1835 as the Colombo Academy. It is, today, the foremost school in Sri Lanka with a student population of over 7500.
Royal College is a boy’s school. It is situated in the heart of the uptown area of Colombo, surrounded by beautiful avenues lined with tall grand trees. The school is the best equipped in the country.
It is blessed with a dedicated and able staff of experienced teachers. They have over the years become much more than teachers to their young charges, which is a result of that special relationship that develops through years of relationship with the school. In addition the school is replete with modern laboratory facilities, computers, teaching aids etc.
It has many facilities for extra curricular activities including three large playgrounds and a swimming pool. These afford the students in participating in games such as Rugby, Cricket, Soccer, Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Swimming, Tennis, Chess, Table Tennis and Badminton.
Royal College also has over sixty societies and clubs catering to a wide variety of interests ranging from drama to computers.
Entrance to Royal College is fiercely competitive. About half of the student population consists of talented students from all over the country who have excelled at the national level examination held for grade 5 students. If in the final analysis, it is the quality of the output that matters, then Royal College does indeed have a proud record.
Former Presidents, Leaders of the Opposition, Prime Ministers, Chief Justice, Attorney General and many other men who have achieved successful professional and academic status is life have been from distinguished old Royalists.
Old Royalists hold key positions in the government service, industry and commercial establishments. The attachment to the school by its past students is more than adequately reflected by the Old Boys Union, which has the country’s former President as its Vice President. There are also Old Boys Unions in the United States, Australia, the U.K., U.A.E, Canada and a few other countries’ that contribute actively to the well being of the school.
Royal College has an unparalleled academic record. It records the best achievements in national level examinations year after year. Most of its students proceed to universities of the highest standing in Sri Lanka and abroad. In the sports arena, Royalists have always kept the Royal Blue & Gold flag flying. Royal teams excel at national level competitions and several teams represent Sri Lanka at international competitions annually. It is also to be noted that a significant proportion of the sports teams of the country as well as the captains of these teams have been past students of Royal College.
Royal College is an institution rich in tradition and characterized by over 150 years of hard work, dedication and achievement. It is an institution that imparts not only knowledge but also a capacity to formulate harmonious social relationships. To quote from the college anthem, “Learn of books and learn of men and learn to play the game.”
School of our fathers
Words by Late Maj. R. L. Reed
Thy spirit first to life awoke – In eighteen hundred and thirty five
Beneath the sway of Marsh and Boake – Thenceforth did Lanka’s learning thrive
School where our fathers, Learnt the way before us
Learnt of Books and Learnt of Men
Through thee we’ll do the same
True to our watchword “Disce Aut Discede”
We will learn of books and men and learn to play the game
Within thy shade our fathers trod – The path that leads to man’s estate
They have repaid the debt they owed – They kept thy fame inviolate
And we their loyal sons now bear – The torch with hearts as sound as oak
Our lusty throats now raise a cheer – For Hartley, Harward, Marsh and Boake
A look back
Royal College came into being in January 1835 as a private school christened “The Hill Street Academy” and was situated at Hill Street Wolfendhal. It is almost impossible to believe that this school, which to day accommodates close to 7,000 students and over 300 members on the staff, had in its infant stage just 20 students and one master, Rev. Joseph Marsh.
Shortly after the inception of Hill Street Academy, The Government decided to devote more time to the educational advancement of the colony, believing that –
“In the order of national development, the higher education of the few has usually preceded the elementary education of the many, and if a new education is to be artificially introduced the best course perhaps, is to begin by training a small section of the population very carefully under the best personal influence that can be brought to bear upon them.”
At the same time, recognizing the need of a liberal education for their children, the prominent citizens of Colombo appealed to His Excellency the Governor, in 1835, for an institute that could provide such an education.
As a result Hill Street Academy was abolished and in January 1835 the foundation stone was laid a new educational institute. The Colombo Academy came into existence with Rev. Marsh as its first Principal. Colombo Academy was first situated at Massenger Street and later shifted to San Sebastian in the heart of Colombo.
In 1859, the Colombo Academy was affiliated to the Calcutta University. The affiliated institutions were “Queen’s College and Colombo Academy.”
In 1881, August, the official, title of the Institution was changed to Royal College.
Owing to cramped buildings and playground it was decided to shift Royal College to new premises at Thurstan Road Colombo. Government sanctioned the construction of the new Building in 1906.
On May 31st, 1911, His Excellency Sir Henry McCallum laid the foundation stone of the New Royal College situated to the south of the Training College, (later University of Colombo) Colombo.
In the course of his speech following the above ceremony H. E. the Governor mentioned the educational policy of the Government –
“That Royal College should be maintained as a Government Institution and as a Pioneer of modern education. . . . . . . . .”
The new buildings were completed and the school was transferred to them at the beginning of the third term, 1913. The number on roll at this time was 152.
Plans for a new Royal College were drawn up in 1918 and were approved by the Government. The building when completed was to serve as a model building for a fully organized secondary school. The fruitful result in the present Royal College at Reid Avenue, Colombo. Construction of the new building was commenced in August 1919. Nine classes were moved into the new building at the beginning of second term, May 1923 before the ground floor was completed. His Excellency the Governor formally declared the new buildings open on October 10th, 1924.
Principals of Royal College
Rev. Joseph H. Marsh (1835 – 1838)
J. Brooke H. Bailey (acting) (1839 – 1842)
A. Kessen (1842 – 1842)
J.F. Haslam, BA(Cantab)(1839 – 1840)
Rev. Barcroft Boake (1842 – 1870)
George Todd (1870 – 1878)
John Barnabas Cull (1878 – 1890)
John H. Marsh (Jnr.) (1890 – 1892)
John H. Harward (1892 – 1902)
Charles Hartley (1903 – 1919)
Major H. L. Reed (1920 – 1932)
L. H. W. Sampson (1932 – 1938)
E. L. Bradby (1939 – 1945)
J. C. A. Corea (1946 – 1953)
Dudley K. G. De Silva (1954 – 1966)
Bogoda Premarathe (1967 – 1971)
D. G. Welikala (1971 – 1972)
D. J. N. Seneviratne (1972 – 1972)
L. D. H. Peiris (1972 – 1980)
C. T. M. Fernando (1981 – 1986)
B. Suriarachchi (1986 – 1994)
S. H. Kumarasingha (1994 – 1997)
H. L. B. Gomes (1997 – 2003 )
H.A. Upali Gunasekera (2003 – 2016)
B. A. Abeyrathna (Current)
Royal College Official Website
Royal College Alumni Associations
Royal College Old Boys Association of North America:
Royal College Alumni Association of Washington DC
Royal College Old Boys Association of Ontario – Canada:
Royal College Old Boys in Australia Association:
Old Boys of Royal College Colombo in NSW & ACT, Australia:
Old Royalists in the UAE:
Old Royalists Association United Kingdom
Other Royal College Links
Royal College Old Hostellers’ Association:
Royal College Computer Society:
Royal College Radio Club: