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The Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira

Founder of Wesley College Colombo.

                                                                    In a Journey, back in time, to the environs   of the dusty noisy Pettah, we go over to the Wesleyan Mission premises in Dam Street, where we find a group of children at the feet of a benign Minister, the Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira. It certainly was no place for a school but in spite of the many difficulties, no doubt inspired by the Lords invitation "suffer the little children to come up to me" This man kept his grace. Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira, born (circa) 1826 was the eldest son of the Rev. Don Daniel Pereira who started life as a young school master and taught in a school built by the Rev. Benjamin Clough. On joining the Ministry he followed deep evangelistic trends.

He was called " the apostle of Kurana - Negombo ". The Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira had a younger brother, who was Rev. Peter Bartholomeusz Pereira. Young Daniel Henry was keenly interested in teaching and at a very early age took an equally great interest in the snakes which he studied identifying their species and habits under a famous South Indian Snake Specialist who reserved no secrets as he instructed his pupil. Daniel Henry was quick to absorb the life pattern of these ophidian reptiles. In fact, in later years, he had edited a catalogue in Sinhala and had contributed to journals. He submitted papers to the Ceylon friend a journal associated with the Wesleyian Church. His contribution to these many journals gave rise to research. He was also an authority on ants in Ceylon. He had great hopes of being a Scientist but in response to his dying mothers wish, he entered the Ministry, in 1851. In addition to his knowledge of reptiles, ants, snails and slugs as a nature scientist he was also proficient in English, Sinhala and Portuguese.

His fluency and masterly use of these languages kept this congregations spellbound. He had also a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. He had a brilliant mind displaying itself in lhe clarity of expression. Certainly he would have been on par with the Western Missionaries of evangelistic fervour. He was a pupil of the famed Oriental Scholar, the Rev. Don John Gogerley who was in charge of the Institute of Colombo which was an early "Divinity School". His interest in teaching combined with his parish work and his deep interest in natural science made him eminent. In his Parish work he served in many stations for over 25 years. Moratuwa, then a very large Parish, which he took over from the Rev. G. G. de Zilva saw him work with zest and vigour. He founded an English School at Gorakagaha in Mankada conducting cottage meetings in the homes of those Methodists whilst he resided at Rawattawatte. He contributed largely to the spiritual revival at Moratuwa. When he fell ill his work was taken over by the Rev. Robert Hardy. The school at Dam Street he conducted formed the beginning of Wesley College which was founded on the 2nd March 1874 of which he was the first ever vice Principal with the Rev. Samuel Rowse Wilkin its first Principal. (1874 -1879) who was followed by the Rev. Arthur Shipham (1880 - 1883) with whom Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira works till the latter's retirement.

The Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira's son, William H. D. Pereira, studied at Wesley. He was later an Assistant Accountant in the Colombo Port Commission. On his retirement as a Minister in 1882 he settled down in Hambantota. Though not in the best of health he visited homes and those persons who had surrendered their lives to Christ. They were greatly helped by this erudite, but simple, priest, with his life style, though plain, was rich in the -scriptures and its application. His was a life of deep prayer and faith of wide labour and concern ever with an alert mind. His old friend. Rev. Arthur Shipham who was stationed at Matara, no doubt, may have had communication with each other. The last few months of his life had been a challenge. His health was failing but his discipline and training, his deep reliance on his Saviour had increased his faith. He faced the storm yet on an even keel as he was confined to his home with restricted movement.

A large number of villagers visited him. It was on the 22nd November 1986 that death took him. His was a life that laboured and was well spent in the lords vineyard as 'answering the master's call 'come follow me'. Wesley commemorates the memory of her Founder, the Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira - annually on Founder's Day March 2nd. This is the most important event in the School's calendar. A three storeyed imposing building dedicated to his memory, the " D. H. Pereira Memorial Building" to accommodate the junior school was constructed during the Principalship of Dunstan Fernando No doubt the labours of the Rev. Daniel Henry Perera - servant of God - has accumulated a rich harvest of which we, in this present age, are beneficiaries and no doubt this harvest will be garnered by ages yet unborn.

By Shelton Peiris  

from the 125th Anniversary Souvenir