Saint Joseph's College, Colombo

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St. Joseph's College
St. Joseph's College Colombo crest.png
St. Joseph's College is located in Central Colombo
St. Joseph's College
St. Joseph's College
Location in central Colombo
T. B. Jayah Mawatha, Colombo 10
Sri Lanka
Coordinates 6°55′29″N 79°51′37″E / 6.924822°N 79.860405°E / 6.924822; 79.860405Coordinates: 6°55′29″N 79°51′37″E / 6.924822°N 79.860405°E / 6.924822; 79.860405
Type Government-aided private school
Motto Latin: In Scientia et Virtute
(In Knowledge and Virtue)
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Established November 1896; 121 years ago (1896-11)
Rector Rev. Travis Gabriel
Staff 450
Grades 1–13
Gender Boys
Age 5 to 19

Blue & White


St. Joseph's College is a Catholic educational institution located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was established in 1896 by French missionaries led by Rev Christophe-Etienne Bonjean. The college enrolls over 4,500 students with a staff of over 400. Distinguished former students include Cardinal Thomas Cooray, the first Cardinal from Sri Lanka[1] and President Ranasinghe Premadasa. The (Latin) motto of the college is In Scientia et Virtute, meaning "In Knowledge and Virtue".

The school is a non-fee levying school, whereby it receives some state funding, relying mostly on funds from an extensive network of alumni worldwide.

School buildings cover 15 acres (61,000 m2) and include a sports complex, and an Olympic standard swimming pool which incidentally is perhaps the oldest swimming pool among Colleges dating back to the 1950s.


In 1892, the Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Fr. Christophe-Étienne Bonjean proposed the creation of a Catholic College.[citation needed]

On 6 January 1892, a pastoral letter was sent to local priests promoting the creation of a Catholic Private College to cater to Colombo's élite.[citation needed] In April 1892, St. Joseph's College received the support of other Catholic institutions, notably the administration of St. Benedict's College.[citation needed] The diocese bought a site at Maradana on Darley Road from wealthy Egyptian Arabi Pasha for the school.

On 12 December 1894 the foundation stone was laid by the Papal Delegate for South-Asia Rev. Msgr, Ladislaus Zaleski. On 2 March 1896, St. Joseph’s College Colombo was declared open with 211 students in the upper school and 96 students in the preparatory school with Very Rev. Fr. Charles Collin as the first rector. In November 1896, the college building was formally declared open by Governor of Ceylon West Redgeway and was blessed by Most Rev. Msgr, Zaleski, in the presence of the Archbishop Rt. Rev. Fr. Melizan OMI.[citation needed]

The Rector's office, the college office and the classrooms were all housed in the first building – the clock tower building. The College Magazine was first published in 1905.[citation needed] Bonjean Hall was the third building to be completed. Fr. Charles Lytton, the second rector, planned and supervised the building project of the Bonjean Hall.

Fr. Emil Nicholas OMI was the third rector, appointed in 1910.[citation needed] He began the primary work on the first Religious Association of the College – the Guild of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In 1914 came the appointment of the fourth rector, educationist, scientist and administrator Fr. Maurice J. Legoc OMI. In 1933 the present primary building – originally named “The Maurice Block” was constructed. The exterior facade was an exact copy of Bonjean Hall and was declared open by Most Rev. Fr. Marques.

The next building constructed was the south wing, a two-storey classroom building. During Fr. Maurice Legoc’s tenure, science subjects increased their prominence in the curriculum. His own publication Tropical Botany was used as a text book in O’ Level classes in India and Sri Lanka.[citation needed] In 1930, Legoc introduced a scheme of scholarships to benefit lower income children.[citation needed]

To extend the fruits of knowledge to the students in the outstations, Legoc commenced:

  • St. Joseph's College South, later St. Peter's College in 1922.
  • St. Paul’s College Waragoda (1935)
  • St. John’s College, Dematagoda (1939)

On 19 March 1929, the foundation stone for the College Chapel was laid by the Archbishop of Colombo. The College Chapel is a fitting memorial to Fr. Maurice Legoc.[citation needed]

At the southern end of the primary building an exact copy of the Grotto in Lourdes was built.[citation needed] In 1940, Very Rev. Fr. Peter A. Pillai (fifth Rector) was appointed. On 27 February 1947, due to World War II, the College buildings were taken over by the Army.[citation needed] While the College was in ‘exile’ from 1942 to 1946, branches were housed in Homagama, Kalaniya, Gampaha and later at Borella.

On 30 July 1952, the College swimming pool, the largest pool in Colombo at the time, was declared open by Governor General Lord Soulbury.[citation needed]

Rev. W.L.A. Don Peter (sixth Rector) was appointed in 1959. Sinhala scholar Fr. Peter was the first diocesan priest to hold this post.[citation needed] In 1960, after the takeover of the schools by the Government, it ended financial support and the College became a private, non-fee school. To address the College's financial situation, Fr. Peter founded the Welfare Association, and also started a pre-school.

Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weekakkody (seventh Rector) was given the task of being Chief Executive of St. Joseph’s.

In 1974, Rev. Fr. Quintus Fernando (eighth Rector) was appointed. Fr. Fernando was called the architect of the green revolution at St. Joseph’s.[citation needed] He increased the study of agriculture. Agro 74 was an exhibition that displayed agricultural plots and stressed the importance of agriculture in the school curriculum.[citation needed] During his administration the ‘Open air stadium’ was constructed and the cricket ‘Tuft Pitch’ became a reality. On 19 September 1977, alumnus Ranasinghe Premadasa became Prime Minister.[citation needed] The creation of the Premadasa Pavilion was directed by Fr. Fernando.

In 1979, Fr. Neville Emmanuel (ninth Rector) was appointed. During his era he re-introduced emphasis on Catholic teachings. Fr. Emmanuel started granting incentives to teachers based on punctuality, attendance and good teaching. Fr. Neville initiated the sports council, to improve standards in that domain.[citation needed]

In May 1983, Rev. Fr. B. Stanley Abeysekara was appointed as the 10th Rector. To provide an opportunity for low income students to enroll, a grade 5 scholarship examination was inaugurated,[when?] allowing high-scoring students to study at the school. In 1987 Thomas Cardinal Cooray, a past student of the College was honoured as ‘Deva Dharma Keethisiri Uttunga Vidyala Puthra’.[citation needed] During the era of Fr. Stanley Abeysekara, the following additions and renovations to the college buildings were completed with funds provided by the Welfare Association and alumnae:

  • A two story building: with one story for classrooms, and one for the sick room, boarders’ refectory and kitchen
  • An auditorium and home for chemistry labs
  • A three story building (1991): class-rooms and laboratories for the advanced level students.
  • Enderamulla Branch school
  • Sports complex/auditorium (1996)

The College centenary year was inaugurated.

On 30 March 1996, Rev. Fr. Victor Silva (11th Rector) took office. Bonjean Hall and the pool were renovated with alumnae funds.[when?] Boating facilities were constructed. Three classroom buildings were constructed for the Enderamulla branch school.[citation needed] The branch-school of St. Joseph’s at Kadolkelle – Negombo was inaugurated.

On 3 October 2005, Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe (12th Rector) was appointed. He introduced a systematic staff development programme. He introduced the "Rhythm of Joes" talent show. During this period, past students undertook projects for the welfare of the College, including innovations and refurbishment of the different buildings. One significant restoration was Bonjean Hall at a cost of over Rs. 12 m.[citation needed] The dormitory, classrooms were restored and renovated by old boys.

In 1996 the latest branch of the College was opened in Enderamulla, Wattala, 15 km from Colombo.


Cricket has been played at the school since its founding. At that time it was the only Catholic school in a group of elite, mainly secular or Protestant Christian, private boys' schools which often played against one another.[2] Many alumnae played on the national team.

St. Joseph's oldest cricket rival is St. Anthony's College, Kandy. They compete for the Murali-Vaas Trophy, which was inaugurated in 2007 and named after St. Anthony's alumnus Muttiah Muralitharan and St. Joseph's alumnus Chaminda Vaas. In 2012 the two schools celebrated their historic 100th encounter.[3] The most high-profile rivalry is with St. Peter's College, a brother school founded as its satellite campus. Its annual match-up is known locally as the "Battle of the Saints" or "Joe–Pete".[4]


Grade 1 to 9: white, collared shirt with the school badge and blue shorts with white socks and black shoes

Grade 10 to 13: white, collared shirt with the school badge and white long-pants with white socks and black shoes.

Special occasions: White, collared long sleeve shirt with white colored pants plus the college tie, white socks and black shoes


The 4 houses at St. Joseph's were named in honour of the 4 archbishops who were influential in running this great institution in its early years.

     - Bonjean

     - Coudert

     - Melizan

     - Marque


Founded by. Rev. Fr. Bonjean the Archbishop of Colombo.

Rev Fr Charles Collin OMI 1896–1910
Rev Fr Charles Lytton OMI 1910–1912
Rev Fr Emile Nicholas OMI 1912–1919
Rev Fr Maurice Legoc OMI 1919–1940
Rev Fr Peter A. Pillai OMI 1940–1961
Rev Fr W. L. A. Don Peter 1961–1971
Rev Fr Mervyn Weerakkody 1971–1974
Rev Fr Quintus Fernando 1974–1979
Rev Fr Neville Emmanuel 1979–1983
Rev Fr Stanley Abeysekara 1983–1996
Rev Fr Victor Silva 1996–2005
Rev Fr Sylvester Ranasinghe 2005-2014
Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel 2014– to date

College anthem[edit]

The College anthem was composed by Edgar and J. M. L. Neydorff. The original manuscript is dated 25 November 1920. The words are by J. M. Lanigan, OMI.

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Notability Reference
Ranasinghe Premadasa President of Sri Lanka (1989–1993), Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (1978–1979), member parliament - Colombo Central (1965–1985)
G. G. Ponnambalam member State Council of Ceylon (1934–1947), member parliament - Jaffna (1947–1960, 1965–1970)
Mohan Peiris Chief Justice (2013–2015),[note 1] Attorney General (2008–2011)
Priyasath Dep Solicitor General (2007–2011), Justice of the Supreme Court (2011–present), Chief Justice (2017–present)
Thomas Cooray Cardinal (1965–1988), Archbishop of Colombo (1947–1976)
Oswald Gomis Archbishop of Colombo (2002–2009), Chancellor University of Colombo (2002–present)
Edwin Wijeyeratne member Senate of Ceylon (1947–1951),
Nirj Deva Member of the European Parliament - South East England (1999–present), member parliament - Brentford and Isleworth (1992–1997)
J. P. de Fonseka essayist, editor
Anton Muttukumaru Major General Commander of the Army (1955–1959)
H. W. G. Wijeyekoon Major General Commander of the Army (1960–1963)
Janaka Perera Major General Chief of Staff (2000–2001)
Mark Fernando Supreme Court Judge (1988–2005)
Don Carlin Gunawardena botanist
Roshan Perera entrepreneur, business magnate, investor, philanthropist
Annesley Malewana musician
Ashley de Silva international cricket player (1993)
Chaminda Vaas international cricket player (1994–2009)
Angelo Mathews international cricket player (2009–present)
Thisara Perera international cricket player (2001–2012)
Dimuth Karunaratne international cricket player (2012–present)
Norton Fredrick first-class cricket player[note 2]
J. P. Chandrababu actor
Dayan Jayatilleka academic, diplomat, author
Roshan Ranawana actor
K. W. Devanayagam member parliament - Kalkudah (1965–1989)
Harin Fernando member parliament - Badulla (2010–2014, 2015–present), Chief Minister of Uva Province (2015)


  1. ^ Mr. Peiris though studied partially at St. Joseph's College is not a member of the Old Boys Union. In January 2015 Peiris' appointment was declared void by government of Sri Lanka
  2. ^ Fredrick played for the All Ceylon team before Sri Lanka obtained Test status


External links[edit]