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Bambalapitiya Flats

Bamba Flats, a vast acreage of land containing several three storeyed apartment blocks spanning from the Galle Road all the way down to the beach. The Bamba Flats land was the Seminarywatte (Seminary Garden), in which novice priests were trained to the order of SJ. The Seminarywatte was also a favorite cricket ground of the Bamba lads – mainly Peterites, who started nurturing their cricketing talents here – names H. I. K. Fernando, Pat Kelly, Dion Walles, Jayantha Fernano, Bin Mohammed, The de Silva Brothers, Conrad Ephraims, Tony Fernando. M.S.M.Ghouse are some of the names that come to mind of great cricketers of that era who distinguished themselves at Cricket at various levels.

The Abhayasinghes, of whom the father was the Editor of a Sinhala Daily published by the Lake House Group, and his son Kumar, who attended Royal and daughter Kumudini, who attended Visakha Vidyalaya, lived in the first block on the left viewed from the Galle Road. Old man Abhayasinghe used to drive around in his white DKW which was usually seen parked outside the flat. He passed away in 1999. His son, Sunil Kumar, and daughter, Kumudini, have both migrated to LA in the USA.

The Amarasinghams comprising “papa” who was Director at Lever Brother Ceylon Ltd and sons Anton, Mano who went on to become a lawyer before migrating to Australia, and Gnanakumar, and daughters Evelyn & Edna, both migrating to and settling in the UK after the 83 riots.The Miskin family headed by Papa Miskin of the “Latiff Miskin Combo” fame and sons Farook who played drums and Ahmed a great crooner who died early in life. A row of shops sprouted up on the ground floor of the building parallel to and facing the Galle Road.

They comprised, from left to right, The Milk Board, Koffee House, a coffee shop where the Latiff Miskin Combo played nights, Woolworth, a department store, Anoma’s Hair Dressing Saloon, Femina, another department store, and a Cooperative Store managed and run by the people of the area.

Then there were the de Kretsers, on the third block on the left viewed from the Galle Road, of whom Nigel attended Royal and Rozanne & Rochelle attended St. Pauls Milagiriya. All of them have migrated to Australia.

In the same block lived the famous piano teacher, Ms Mignonne Kelaart, who used to shuttle between Rajasinghe Road at Wellawatte and the Bamba flats She too migrated to Australia where she died of old age. Many a young lady at bamba were her students who excelled in music in their latter years.

Further down towards the beach lived Loranjan Dias Abeygunawardena, who attended Royal, and his sister, Shiromi, who attended Visakha Vidyalaya. They both migrated to LA in the USA. Shiromi married Rifky Mackeen, also an ex Royalist, who excelled in the banking profession at Citibank in Colombo and later on in the USA.

Lakshman Kiriella, who also attended Royal and then went on to politics to become the Minister of Plantation Industries in the UNP Government, was boarded at the flat occupied by Ms Jayatilleke.

Raja Rajapakse, uncle of Prasanna Mendis of Melbourne, Australia, ran the tyre dept of Rowlands, and his wife, aunty Violet, was a well-liked matron at the General Hospital, in Colombo, were prominent dwellers at the flats. Their boys -Lalith a medical representative, passed away early in life; Sriyantha Rajapakse played cricket for St. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia and also for the Sri Lanka national team and was employed at The Maharajah Organization in Colombo. The other son is Ranil.

Shireen Deen, who married Furqan of Royal also lived at the flats in probably Block  K. Her sister, Dilhara, has since migrated to New Zealand with her family. 

Khazeena Cassim and her Mum also lived at the Flats. Susan Redlich, a beaut of sorts, was popular amongst the young lads in the vicinity.

Thahir Fuard, who married Mueeza Sheriff of Davidson Road, also lived with his parents and siblings in “M” Block. Ms Coomaraswamy, nee Sinnathurai, ex-teacher at St Pauls Milagiriya and Muslim Ladies’ College, also lived at the flats. In her latter years, after retirement, she spent most of her time giving private tuition, sometimes to children of her own past pupils.

The Solomons family, of whom Joan, Pamela and Kathy were very popular amongst the young lads of the area, also lived at the front section of the Flats parallel to and facing Galle Road. Their brother is David Solomons who married Zohara Uduman, who also lived in the Flats. The fair Dawn Martyn and family lived next door on their right.

The very popular Ms Misso, whose sons attended St. Peters College also lived in the same block as the Solomons’ family, right behind the front block facing and parallel to the Galle Road. Aunty Misso’s hubby was Donny. They have a son and a daughter both migrated to Australia now. The daughter married Ralph D’Silva, a Thomian (cousin of Lorensz and Roger D’Silva, Thomian cricketers) and presently a leading car dealer in Melbourne.

The fun part of living within the flats or nearby was the daily morning meeting at the bus stop, waiting for the various school buses to take the young lads and lassies to their destinies. Life was a bustle at the flats where everything that could ever happen, happened, and life still moved on harmlessly.

The intrigues, relationships, events and other sinister going-on’s are voluminous in number and would make delicious reading if they could only be collected and compiled into a dossier.And then there was the Bamba Flats Welfare Society, housed in the far block by the seaside, which catered to the entertainment, amusement and general welfare of all its residents on special occasions, festivals, and holidays.

Another glamorous inhabitant of the Bambalapitiys flats was Gillian Thorne. She attended Vivil Ludowyk’s Academy for the Backward down 8th Lane, with the other students lounging around at the head of the lane, cigarettes dangling from their lips trying to make her acquaintance. Carl Fernando, last heard of in Switzerland, is another name that pops up at the Bamba Flats.

Penny White, who married Ravi Jayawardena, son of President JR Jayawardena, and her sister Melanie White, also lived at the flats. Elmo, Herman & Frank Gunasekera and their sister Helen who married the famous Rugby player Gamini Fernando also were flatters of great fame. 

Mr AHA Samad, rugby coach of Zahira which won the Schools Rugby Champiosnhip under his guidance, was another resident known and loved by all who lived at the flats. The Samads in Block J, the Udumans and the Hoffmans in Block F, all of which were located closer to and perpendicular to the sea. Delano Uduman is now chairman of Ssurvey Research Lanka Ltd at Skelton Road in Colombo-5; Lee Samad migrated with family to Toronto in Canada long years ago; Everard Hoffman and sisters too emigrated probably to Australia. 

Jan Vanden Driesen (the famous swimmer and Accountant) and his family also lived at the flats. His dad was in the Police. The Patternots were also another famous family in the Flats.

Roy Clogstoun and his family also lived at Block M. Roy migrated to Australia in 1969 and has taken up residence in Melbourbe. He joined the Australian Government Service. He has, recently, in June 2007, taken up an assignment as First Secretary at he Austraian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is married to Joan and has two lovely daughters, Isobella & Sophie.

Upali Obeysekera, reading the Bamba blog in Toronto, in Canada, states that many names came back to his mind as people from the 59 & 60s era. He states, “I lived at the Bamba Flats from 1956 – 1962, E Block. There are many other names of people worth mentioning. Starting with Maurice Wanigaratne who lived in the same E Block, ground floor. Maurice was a prolific opening batsman for St. Joseph’s College and later played for SSC. He became a diplomat and passed away a couple of years back. Maurice’s nephew Nihal Kodituwakka also stayed with him. Dimunitive Nihal ‘Kodda’ played for Royal in the 60s and also won his national cap in Cricket playing against a strong West Indies XI. Then there was the Ranchigoda family from I Block – Winston (now in LA), Nihal (Australia), Lucky (still at Bamba Flats), Maurice (Toronto) and a whole bunch of others. I believe Nimal Ranchigoda played Cricket for St. Joseph’s and NCC.

Larraine Graham (nee Hoffman) also lived at the Bamba Flats. She started singing at age 16 to sing at the “Little Hut”, at Mount Lavinia Hotel, with The Harold Seneviratne Combo, and later on with Gazali Amith’s Band at the Blue Leopard and also with Tony Felice Band at Ceylinco before joining Kumar Molligoda’s band  at “The Mascarilla”. Larraine migrated to Australia. She was in a class of her own as a nightclub singer and was stunningly attractive and very sophisticated. Never sang baila or Sinhala songs and only performed with the cream of Sri Lanka’s English musicians. Larraine passed away in 2014 in Australia. May she Rest in Peace!

Credit – F’s Place, Roar Media

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