Daniel Henry Pereira
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
from the 125th Anniversary Souvenir