St. Joseph's College, Colombo

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St. Joseph's College
Logo of Saint John's College in Colombo.jpg
T. B. Jayah Mawatha, Colombo
Sri Lanka
Type Government-aided private
Motto In Scientia et Virtute
(In Knowledge and Virtue)
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Established 1896
Rector Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel
Staff 450

1 to 13 Local Syllabus

London A/L's
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, with Rev Christophe-Etienne Bonjean playing a leading role. The college has 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 motto of the college is "In Scientia et Virtute", meaning "In Knowledge and Virtue" in Latin.


In 1892, the idea of a Catholic College emerges with the proposal of the Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Fr. Christophe-Étienne Bonjean.

On 6 January 1892, a pastoral letter was sent to all the priests espousing the desirability of building a Catholic Private College to cater to the Elite in Colombo.[citation needed] In April 1892, St. Joseph's College was provided the support of other catholic institutions, notably the administration of St. Benedict's College.[citation needed] From April 1892, it took four years until the great Catholic Institution started its functions. St Joseph's and the wider Catholic community is eternally grateful to all who assisted in making this a reality, including the administration of St Benedict's College for having provided their assistance in this act, in seeing the creation of what soon became the premier Catholic school in Sri Lanka[according to whom?] and continues to be to-date.

Thereafter 27 acres of Land called the ‘uplands’ was bought by the Archbishop for this project, from the government. Later however, this land was bought back by the government with compensation, and the Catholic Church bought a land at Maradana in Darley Road from a wealthy Egyptian called Arabi Pasha who owned horses.[citation needed]

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 of the college. The College Magazine was started in 1905.[citation needed] The 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] To Fr. Emil Nicholas goes the credit of primary work on the first Religious Association of the College – the Guild of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In 1914, there was the appointment of the great educationist, scientist and efficient administrator[according to whom?] Fr. Maurice J. Legoc OMI the fourth rector. In 1933 the present primary building – originally named “The Maurice Block” was constructed. The exterior facade of this building was an exact copy of the Bonjean Hall 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 of office, there was emphasis of the science subjects in the curriculum, Fr. Legoc’s favourite subject was Botany. His own publication “Tropical Botany” was used as a text book in O’ Level classes in India and Sri Lanka.[citation needed] In 1930, Fr. Maurice Legoc introduced a scheme of scholarships to the under privileged students.[citation needed]

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

(a) St. Joseph's College South, later St. Peter's College in 1922.
(b) St. Paul’s College Waragoda (1935)
(c) 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, the Very Rev. Fr. Peter A. Pillai (fifth Rector) was appointed. On 27 February 1947, due to the World War 2, the College buildings were taken over by the Army.[citation needed] The College was in ‘exile’ from 1942 to 1946, branches of the College were housed in Homagama, Kalaniya, Gampaha and later at Borella.

On 30 July 1952, the swimming pool, the largest pool in Colombo at the time, was declared open by Lord Soulbury, the Governor General of Sri Lanka.[citation needed] After the era of Fr. Peter A. Pillai, Rev. W.L.A. Don Peter (sixth Rector) was appointed as the Rector of St. Joseph’s College in 1959. Fr. Don Peter was the first diocesan priest to hold this responsible post.[citation needed]

In 1960, after the take over of the schools by the Government the financial support was stopped by the government. The College became a private, non fee levying school.

To uplift the financial situation of the College, Fr. W.L.A. Peter founded the Welfare Association, and also started a pre-school for St. Joseph’s. After the tenure of the Sinhala scholar, Fr. W.L.A. don Peter, Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weekakkody (seventh Rector) was given the task of being Chief Executive of St. Joseph’s. after a brief period, Fr. Weerakkody retired as Rector and in 1974, Rev. Fr. Quintus Fernando (eighth Rector) was appointed as rector. FR. Quintus Fernando was called the architect of the green revolution at St. Joseph’s.[citation needed] He gave pride of pace to agriculture. The agro 74 was a great exhibition which displayed agricultural plots and stressed the importance of agriculture in the school curriculum.[citation needed]

The ‘Open air stadium’ was constructed during the era of Fr. Quintus. The cricket ‘Tuft Pitch’ became a reality during Fr. Quintus’s tenure of office. On 19 September 1977, Ranasinghe Premdasa, the first old boy to become Prime Minister, was felicitated by the Josephian family.[citation needed] The work of the Premadasa Pavilion was directed by Fr. Quintus Fernando.

In 1979, Fr. Neville Emmanuel (ninth Rector) was appointed as rector. During the era of Fr. Neville he tried his best to re-introduce the Catholic atmosphere in the College. Fr. Neville started the scheme of granting incentives to teachers based on punctuality, attendance, good teaching etc. Fr. Neville initiated the sports council, to improve standards in the sports arena.[citation needed] In May 1983, Rev. Fr. B. Stanley Abeysekara was appointed as the 10th Rector of St. Joseph’s College.

To provide an opportunity for deserving under-privileged students to study at St. Joseph’s, a grade 5 scholarship examination was inaugurated in the College.[when?] On the results of this examination these students were give an opportunity to study at St. Joseph’s College. In 1987 Thomas Cardinal Cooray, a past student of the College was conferred a very special honour – ‘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 Old Boys.

(a) A two storied building was completed. The top-story for the classrooms, and the ground floor for the sick room, boarders’ refectory and modern kitchen.

(b) An auditorium was built where the Chemistry labs were housed.

(c) In 1991, a three storied building was constructed for class-rooms and laboratories for the advanced level students.

(d) The Enderamulla Branch school was inaugurated.

(e) A sports complex cum auditorium was declared open by Nicholas Marcus Fernando on 19 March 1996, funded mainly by Old Boys worldwide.

The College centenary year was inaugurated.

On 30 March 1996, Rev. Fr. Victor Silva (11th Rector) was appointed as Rector of St. Joseph’s College. The Choral singing at St. Joseph’s College reached very high standards, with Mr. Francis Almeida as music director.[according to whom?] The Bonjean Hall and the College swimming pool were renovated with funds from Old Boys from the country and overseas.[when?] The introduction of the boating facilities were a valuable addition to St. Joseph’s College during the era of Fr. Victor Silva, three classroom buildings were constructed for the Enderamulla branch school.[citation needed] The branch-school of St. Joseph’s at Kadolkelle – Negombo was inaugurated during the latter days of Fr. Victor Silva.

On 3 October 2005, Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe was appointed as 12th Rector of St. Joseph’s College. A systematic staff development programme was introduced at St. Joseph’s by the rector. He introduced "Rhythm of Joes" concert in school, with the talents of students in College, which was the first time in Sri Lankan schools, a competition with such high standards were done. Though he was a strict character to see, yet the Teachers and the Students liked him very much.[according to whom?] At his final speech as the rector of St. Joseph's College, he reminded the song "I did it my way", ended with standing ovation.[citation needed] During Fr. Ranasinghe’s era, different age groups of past students started undertaking different projects for the welfare of the College – innovations and refurbishment of the different buildings were undertaken by the old boys under the direction of the rector. One significant restoration was the Bonjean Hall undertaken by the Old Boys' Union at a cost of over Rs. 12 m.[citation needed] The dormitory, classrooms were restored and renovated by old boys. The improvement of the college is proven by the student in this era and many old boys.

Computerising different aspects of school administration and curriculum has been completed.[when?]

The present college[edit]

The school is an "assisted school", which means it receives some government aid, but its funding largely comes from extensive network of old boys worldwide.

Situated in the heart of the city, its set of buildings cover 12 acres (49,000 m2) and comprise a sports complex, and a swimming pool that is built to Olympic Standards.

In 1996 the latest branch School of St. Joseph's College was opened in Enderamulla, Wattala, 15 km from Colombo. Another branch school that has become a leading Catholic school in the country is St Peter's College, Colombo, previously known as St. Joseph's South.


St. Joseph's College comprises a primary school, middle school and upper school, educating boys from ages 5 to 18/19.

The school prepares students for local Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations in Sinhalese, Tamil and English Mediums.

The school also prepares students to sit for the London A/L (pearson edexcel) examinations.[citation needed]


Cricket has been played at the school since its foundation. 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 Old Josephians have gone to represent the national team.

St. Joseph's oldest cricket rival is St. Anthony's College, Kandy, which was founded by Franciscan missionaries over four decades before St. Joseph's and is now overseen by the Benedictine friars. 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 in the southern suburbs of Colombo 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 as well as Blue colored short-Pants with White socks and Black Shoes.

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

For Special Occasions : White collared long sleeved shirt with white colored pants plus the college tie and also white socks with 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

Past Rectors[edit]

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

The College Anthem[edit]

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


Fruits of Virtue and of Knowledge, here we gather Peace and Power,
Symbolised in yonder banner floating o'er St. Joseph's Tower,
White and Blue its mystic colours, harmonising strong and clear,
Stolen from the distant mountains, from the wild waves breaking near.
From the wild waves breaking near, Harmonising, strong and clear,
White and Blue our mystic colours, 'til the mountains disappear.
From the wild waves breaking near, Harmonising, strong and clear,
White and Blue our mystic colours, 'til the mountains disappear.

Where the peerless Pearl of Indies hides its glow on ocean's breast,
White and Blue is nature's setting, To the gem she loves the best;
Closely clasped by silv'ry breakers, Fretted from the flowing tide,
Round it heave the swelling billows - Rolling blue o'er waters wide.
Fretted from the flowing tide, Rolling blue o'er waters wide,
Fretted breakers, swelling billows - White and Blue, the Ocean's pride.

Where the Ard-righ of the mountains, Gaurisanker, proudly reigns,
Round his throne a thousand vassals, Fearless guardians of the plains,
Thunder back their monarch's greeting, 'neath his canopy of blue -
Lightning-darts their quivers keeping, Shining white their armours hue.
'Neath his canopy of blue, shining white their armours hue;
Snow-clad peak and bended heavens, Keep aloft the White and Blue.

Where Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, deigned on earth to reappear,
In the grotto o'er the torrent from the mountains rising near,
White and Blue her robe and girdle, Lily white her mantle too -
Then we'll wear Our Lady's colours, Dear St. Joseph's White and Blue.
Then Hurrah for White and Blue, Then Hurrah for White and Blue,
Still we'll wear Our Lady's colours - Dear St. Joseph's White and Blue.

Click here to listen to the College Anthem

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Notability Reference
Premadasa, RanasingheRanasinghe Premadasa President of Sri Lanka (1989–1993), Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (1978–1979), member parliament - Colombo Central (1965–1985)
Ponnambalam, G. G.G. G. Ponnambalam member State Council of Ceylon (1934–1947), member parliament - Jaffna (1947–1960, 1965–1970)
Peiris, MohanMohan Peiris Chief Justice (2013–2015),[note 1] Attorney General (2008–2011)
Dep, PriyasathPriyasath Dep Solicitor General (2007–2011), Justice of the Supreme Court (2011–present), Chief Justice (2017–present)
Cooray, ThomasThomas Cooray Cardinal (1965–1988), Archbishop of Colombo (1947–1976)
Gomis, OswaldOswald Gomis Archbishop of Colombo (2002–2009), Chancellor University of Colombo (2002–present)
Wijeyeratne, EdwinEdwin Wijeyeratne member Senate of Ceylon (1947–1951),
Deva, NirjNirj Deva Member of the European Parliament - South East England (1999–present), member parliament - Brentford and Isleworth (1992–1997)
de Fonseka, J. P.J. P. de Fonseka essayist, editor
Muttukumaru, AntonAnton Muttukumaru Major General Commander of the Army (1955–1959)
Wijeyekoon, H. W. G.H. W. G. Wijeyekoon Major General Commander of the Army (1960–1963)
Perera, JanakaJanaka Perera Major General Chief of Staff (2000–2001)
Fernando, MarkMark Fernando Supreme Court Judge (1988–2005)
Gunawardena, Don CarlinDon Carlin Gunawardena botanist
Perera, RoshanRoshan Perera entrepreneur, business magnate, investor, philanthropist
Malewana, AnnesleyAnnesley Malewana musician
de Silva, AshleyAshley de Silva international cricket player (1993)
Vaas, ChamindaChaminda Vaas international cricket player (1994–2009)
Mathews, AngeloAngelo Mathews international cricket player (2009–present)
Perera, ThisaraThisara Perera international cricket player (2001–2012)
Karunaratne, DimuthDimuth Karunaratne international cricket player (2012–present)
Fredrick, NortonNorton Fredrick first-class cricket player[note 2]
Chandrababu, J. P.J. P. Chandrababu actor
Jayatilleka, DayanDayan Jayatilleka academic, diplomat, author
Ranawana, RoshanRoshan Ranawana actor
Devanayagam, K. W.K. W. Devanayagam member parliament - Kalkudah (1965–1989)
Fernando, HarinHarin Fernando member parliament - Badulla (2010–2014, 2015–present), Chief Minister of Uva Province (2015)


  1. ^ 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]