C.M.S. Ladies' College, Colombo

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C.M.S. Ladies’ College, Colombo
C M S Ladies' College Crest.jpg
Haec Victoria Nostra Fides
This is our victory, even our faith
Type Independent Private
Established 1900
Founder Lilian Nixon
Principal Mrs. Nirmali Wickramasinghe
Gender Girls
Age 2 1/2 to 19
Enrollment 1700
Colour(s) Red and White
C.M.S. Ladies’ College grounds

C.M.S Ladies' College is arguably one of the best private girls' school in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is located at 66, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha (formerly Flower Road), Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.


The college was founded by the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S) in 1900. Its Latin motto is "Haec Victoria Nostra Fides", which means "This is our victory, even our faith".


Lilian Nixon (Principal 1900-1914)[edit]

Ladies' College began with Lilian Nixon, an Irish woman of 26, fired with a belief in the importance of education for women, and with the courage and the vision to come out to a far-flung colony of the British Empire Ceylon to found a school for women. Ladies College was founded by her in 1900 in a large bungalow in Union Place, Slave Island, Colombo, with two students enrolled.

In 1914 Lilian Nixon resigned due to ill health and the college registered as a Grant in Aid school.

Gwen Opie (Principal 1917-1944)[edit]

The period 1917–1944 for Ladies College marked the stewardship of a new Principal, Miss Gwen Opie.

Once Ladies College was established as a Grant-in-Aid school, Miss Opie began new buildings for the school.

Miss Opie died in 1944 and was buried in General Cemetery Kanatte. Miss Rita Opie took over as Acting Principal.

Mabel E Simon (Principal 1946-1968)[edit]

In 1945 there was a push towards abolishment of tuition fees in state aided denominational schools. Facilities in terms of teachers and equipment would be determined by the state which would bear the cost of the running of the school.

“The efforts to mitigate the evils of division inherent in teaching in three languages in a multi racial school, have proved effective. The fellowship engendered in Ladies” College remained unbroken during the may riots: only friendliness, co-operation and helpfulness were shown among pupils, staff and servants.”

In 1964 Miss Hitchcock was appointed Acting Principal. Miss Simon pushed to set up pre-vocational guidance services that would lead on to vocational guidance and help students find new careers.

Olive Hitchcock (Principal 1964-1968)[edit]

Olive Hitchcock was appointed Acting Principal in 1964 on the retirement of Miss Simon. She was Miss Simon’s trusted lieutenant and advisor during the difficult years of shifting educational policy.

Mrs. Sirancee Gunawardena (Principal 1968-1998)[edit]

The decade that followed Mrs. Gunawardena’s appointment as Principal saw a further change of course in the country, to a policy of increasing State control. It was followed eight years later by an about turn to a liberalized economy that encouraged private enterprise.

Together with encouragement of sports activities there was the development of aesthetics. A rich tradition of music, drama and singing in English and more recently in the second half of the century in Sinhala and Tamil was encouraged. Whilst the need for English was downgraded in state schools, Ladies College saw fit to continue to view English as a modern living language. English therefore continued to be used as the medium of communication in the school.

"The most important fund raising project was in 1975 when the OGA collected money to establish the Department of Vocational Studies. This was to serve both the school and the community. It arose out of a need to cater to students who did not wish to continue at the universities. It also catered to a need in the wider community and society at large – equipping young people with the necessary skills to function effectively in their workplaces." [1]

Dr Sriyanie Miththapala (Principal 1998-2003)[edit]

In 1998 Dr. Sriyanie Miththapala was appointed to succeed Mrs. Gunawardena. The centenary Anniversary celebrations started on Founders day and continued throughout the year with various events.

It can be said that at Ladies College the Principal is required to entrench whatever changes she brings about within a deeply rooted tradition and customs. This is indeed a complex challenge, but the school needs to surmount this seemingly paradoxical situation if the institution is to continue to play its role it has for the past 100 years.

The existence of an institution for over a century in itself demonstrates its ability to survive. To go a step further, and thrive within a turbulent period indicates a remarkable ability to adapt. Ladies College similar to other institutions could not escape the shifting patterns of time. "In the year 2000 we look back with pride and see an institution so deeply rooted, that it was able to weather the storms of a century. The effects of the changes that are being introduced at present can only be judged by future generations." [1]

Mrs. Nirmali Wickremasinghe (Principal 2003-2013)[edit]

A wealth of experience gathered both in government schools and abroad which enriched her vision of education has helped Nirmali Wickremesinghe to make a notable contribution towards the all round development of the school. She faced many difficulties, particularly at the beginning of her tenure as principal when she had to make certain decisions regarding the administration of the school, due to changes in educational policy at a national level. Overcoming these initial problems, she has been able to harness the active engagement not only of the students and teachers but also of parents and old girls in the activities of the school.

She firmly believes in a multicultural education. Tolerance of others’ thoughts, culture, religion and language which has always been the ethos of Ladies’ College and Nirmali continues to emphasize and actively encourage this liberal and open environment. It is her view that a Ladies’ College student should not only excel academically but should also participate in other spheres of school life which would develop her personality and talents.

During her tenure years as principal of Ladies’ College, the school has produced excellent theatre productions in all three languages, including the particularly memorable "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"& "sister act 2" in English, an outstanding dance drama "Draupadi Sabatham", in Tamil and an enjoyable Street Theatre in Sinhalese. Students have travelled abroad to take part in international competitions and exchangeme With a view to developing the social consciousness of the students she has encouraged their active involvement in a variety of social service projects so that they gain an awareness of the needs of those less privileged than they, in the wider community outside the world of the school.

IT facilities were introduced for teachers to make the classroom experience more interesting for the students. She also introduced many annual events, as diverse as sports encounters, such as water polo with Visakha Vidyalaya, hockey with Bishops College, the regatta with Museaus College, the Lilian Nixon Interschool Debating Competition, Serendipity, Sinhala Day and Tamil Day. A thematic Wednesday was introduced which exhibited a high degree of student participation. Religious societies in the school also make presentations, fostering a better understanding of each other’s religions.

Ladies’ College students have excelled in sports, which has always been an integral part of the school’s activities, at both national and international levels. During her tenure as Principal the standard of sports has improved greatly due to improved facilities. The ambitious building project envisaged for the future – the new sports complex to house the badminton, squash courts and gym - will, when accomplished, complete the school’s requirements. The LC Walk was organized to help to fund the Sports Complex. The building programme has been enlarged to meet the constantly growing needs of the school. The old Willis Hall is now a three storey block of classrooms for the Primary School; the new block of classrooms for the London A Levels includes a large cafeteria and rooms for an office, and an infirmary downstairs. The new building which houses the college archives also accommodates the junior library, the bookshop and the table tennis room. Several buildings were refurbished: the Hall, Green Room, the Hostel, the Day Care Centre and the Domestic Science rooms. During this time the Boxford Building was renovated and transformed to a child friendly Nursery. To encourage thrift among the students a Savings Bank was opened. She also built the state of the art sports complex. During her last year the students of grade 5&6put on an incredible musical-Scheherazade,sakunthala a Sinhala dance drama was done by the seniors. Nirmali Wickremesinghe’s distinctive contribution to Ladies’ College has been the innovative ideas and inspiration she conveys to her staff and students, equipping them with a sense of confidence while instilling qualities of leadership and stimulating freedom of thought in the school. Her presence will be greatly missed throuout the school.

The College Today[edit]

C.M.S. Ladies' College today has established itself as one of Sri Lanka's leading schools with a multi-etchnic and multi-religious student population. It has a long tradition of empowering girls, of all races and creeds, through education. Currently, the school has about 1700 students on its roll, almost 200 staff. It offers education from pre-school through to the G.C.E. Advanced Level (local and London exams).[2]


Its founder, Ms Lilian Nixon, stated that the school must be a place for three things:

"A place for sound learning, a place for a full, varied and natural life and a place for spiritual growth within the life of the church."[1]

School Hymn[edit]

Our Father, by whose servants
Our house was built of old,
Whose hand hath crowned Her children
With blessings manifold,
For Thine unfailing mercies
Far- strewn along our way,
With all who passed before us,
We praise Thy name to-day.

The changeful years unresting
Their silent course have sped,
New comrades ever bringing
In comrades steps to tread;
And some are long forgotten,
Long spent their hopes and fears;
Safe rest they in Thy keeping,
Who changest not with years.

They reap not where they laboured,
We reap what they have sown
Our harvest may be garnered
By ages yet unknown
The days of old have dowered us
With gifts beyond all praise:
Our Father, make us faithful
To serve the coming days.

Before us and beside us
Still holden in Thine hand,
A cloud unseen of witness,
Our elder comrades stand:
One family unbroken,
We join, with one acclaim,
One heart, one voice uplifting,
To glorify Thy name.

Houses at C.M.S. Ladies' College[edit]

1. Loos House - Motto: 'The utmost for the highest'

2. Whitney House - Motto: 'Nothing less than the best'

3. Nixon House - Motto: 'Excelsior'

4. Dale House - Motto: 'No attainment without effort'


The school uniform of Ladies' College is a white, square-neck sleeveless dress.

College Hall[edit]

The Ladies' College Hall is used for assemblies and school concerts, assemblies are held without fail every Wednesday. It is also the regular concert venue of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, since 1958.[3]

College Chapel[edit]

The College Chapel, called the Chapel of the Hope of the World, was begun in 1933. It stands where the Hanover Villa (bought in 1928) was situated. The first prayer service was held on 7 September 1933.[4] It is in use for choir performances by present and past pupils, and is also used by the best choirs in Colombo for prayer services.

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Professor Indira Samarasekera (née Arulpragasam), OC - President of the University of Alberta
  • Professor Savitri Goonesekere - Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo.
  • Sivagami Dassanaike - former Minister of Health
  • Srimathi Dissanayake - UNP Presidential Candidate 1994
  • Justice Dara Wijetilleke - former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Sri Lanka;[5] currently Secretary to the Ministry of Policy Planning and Implementation
  • Dr Gladys Jayawardene - former Chairperson, State Pharmaceuticals Corporation and Director, Medical Research Institute
  • Dr Anila Dias Bandaranaike - former Assistant Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka [6][7]
  • Prof Ryhana Raheem - Professor of English at the Open University of Sri Lanka,[8][9] Former Chairperson of Sri Lanka English Language Teachers Association (SLELTA)[10]
  • Madhubahashini Disanayaka Ratnayaka - academic and author
  • Tamara Kunanayakam - Former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Sri Lankan Ambassador to Holy See
  • Aruni Wijewardene - Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Austria, Former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva); currently the Director-General of the United Nations and Multilateral Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [2]
  • Isankya Kodithuwakku - writer, winner of the Gratiaen Prize for Creative Writing (2006); winner of the State Literary Award (English, Short Story) 2006 [11]*
  • Otara Gunewardene - Founder of ODEL [12]
  • Varuni Amunugama Fernando - Founder of Derana and Triad Advertising


  1. ^ a b c Obeyesekere, Ranjini (ed); Ladies’ College, A Centennial Narrative 1900–2000
  2. ^ a b The CMS Ladies' College Website, "The Principal's Report 2008"[1] Retrieved on 22 Nov 2009
  3. ^ Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka
  4. ^ Ladies’ College OGA - Chapel Trust
  5. ^ Malalasekera, Sarath, "Ceremonial sitting to welcome President, Judge of Appeal Court"[2] Daily News (Online Edition, 28 April 2004, Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  6. ^ The Ladies' College Old Girls Website, "Board of Trustees"[3] Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  7. ^ De Silva, Harsh Dr, "Cabral The Joker Who Is Not Funny"[4] LankaNewspapers.com, 20 April 2009, Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  8. ^ Raheem, Ryhana and Dr Dushy Mendis, "Researching Sri Lankan English through a corpus"[5] The Sunday Observer (Impact), 10 Feb 2008, Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  9. ^ Raheem, Ryhana, "Ladies' College 1900-2000: a centennial narrative"[6] The Daily News (Online Edition) (Book Review), 5 Jan 2004, Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  10. ^ SLELTA, "SLELTA Committee"[7] Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  11. ^ Eye-Features, "Isankya Wins Gratiaen Award 2006"[8] The Nation, 1 April 2008, Retrieved on 23 Nov 2009
  12. ^ http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lkawgw/odelg.htm Personality Plus - Otara Chandiram : A trend-setter

External links[edit]