Rupert Dias Abeygunawardena
A Tribute from The Richmond 60 Club
Rupert Dias Abeygunawardena, born on 19th August, 1921, popularly known as ‘RD’, a founder member of the Richmond 60 Club, was a Richmondite of an age now fast disappearing leaving only a handful of contemporaries. From the age of four he was at Richmond for the next 17 years till 1942, which is from the Kindergarten till he passed the London Matriculation Examination in 1942. These would have in a sense been the most successful years of his life. He represented Richmond in Cricket, Football and Athletics and won Cricket Colours in 1940.
I have a personal recollection of his playing cricket and in one match scoring the highest number of runs, and many years later explaining to me and my brothers that the most difficult to score were the first ten runs, and once you get your eye in the next ten runs are less difficult and then the runs come much easier.
This comment has a vital lesson for us all – the need to concentrate on what you are doing and give of your best to take the first tentative steps and then gain confidence of your capacity to go beyond. From then on it is a steady assiduous application which will bring you success beyond your expectation. This is true of RD’s life.
His qualities of leadership are exemplified by his appointment as the Senior Prefect and also being the Cricket Captain, both of which are uncommon achievements not many of whom are blessed with the capacity to achieve.
This was the time when there were no A-Levels and so RD joined the General Clerical Service, having passed the entrance examination in 1942 – as soon as he left College. Sometime later in 1967 he passed the Sri Lanka Administrative Service Examination and was there for the next 15 years.
What is of particular interest is that he was seconded to the Sri Lanka Overseas Service and from 1961-62 he served in the office of the High Commission in Singapore; from 1962-63 he was attached to the Sri Lanka Embassy in the People’s Republic of China, and from 1963-67 he was the Secretary to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Japan.
Returning to Sri Lanka he occupied several prestigious positions such as Asst. Port Commissioner (1970-72), Asst. Director-Machinery & Equipment Dept (1973-75), Asst. Food Commissioner (1975-78), Deputy Food Commissioner (1978-81) in which year (1981) he retired from Public Service after a varied and eventful period of service both here and abroad, which is not the good fortune of most Public Servants.
His interest in sport continued even after leaving college for he played first class cricket for Galle from 1940-1948, for Kalutara from 1948-1950, for the SSC from 1942 onwards, and the Sara Trophy and the Daily News Trophy in later years. He captained the SSC team for the Daily News Trophy in 1969. He even played against foreign teams such as the All India team under Vijay Merchant. His love for cricket is exemplified by being responsible for forming the first cricket club in Japan in 1964 and played matches with British, Indian and Australian Clubs.
These indeed are great achievements anyone can be proud of. Besides, he was awarded the Colombo Old Boys Prize in 1940, and was a past President of the Rotary Club of Mt. Lavinia.
His achievements extend to the field of Social Service as well when as Chairman of the Children’s Library Project of Mt. Lavinia he was responsible for an educational project which today has over 1000 students reading English, so vital in this day and age.
His achievements were many. Many of us would be proud if we had achieved some of what the late RD, as he was popularly called, had achieved. Yet, throughout he remained a very simple man. Humility was the hallmark of his life.
That he was much loved by his family is beyond doubt. We of the Richmond 60 Club join them in bemoaning his loss, but find solace in the thought that it is the fate of all men and all man’s creations. We at the Richmond 60 Club join all his family members to salute his achievements and bid him goodbye and wish him well on his Sansaric journey, ever conscious that he whose ritual is unshaken by the vicissitudes of the world dwells free from sorrow and always serene. This is the highest blessing.