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Founder Canagaratnam
January 1, 2000
Photo Album > Founder Canagaratnam
Mudaliyar Canagaratnam

The first landmark in the history of the School is its Registration as a government assisted School in February 1892. As Mudaliyar Canagaratnam had great influence with the government of the day, he was able to get the school registered. He must have had the support of that group of Saivites who founded Jaffna Hindu in 1890 and persuaded Saivites in other areas to open Hindu Schools. They would have given him all help. That is why an issue of the INTHUSATHANAM – of February 1892 announces the School Registration and calls out Parents of the area to send their children to Chulipuram Hindu School run by Canagaratnam Mudaliyar. It must be remembered no other Hindu English School not even Jaffna Hindu College was acceptable for Registration at that time. It may be said that the Chulipuram Hindu English School – later Victoria College was the first government assisted English School in the Island.

It was a very difficult task to run a Hindu English School in those days. But Mudaliyar Canagaratnam was able to do it. It speaks volumes of the man. Besides being helped by influential Hindus in Jaffna he must have had the backing of the liberal American Missionaries under whom he studied earlier. Also there must have been an efficient Principal, most probably Indian. Mudaliyar Canagaratnam had also the help of this brother Thuraiappah, his sons Chellappah and Rajasundram, and his very influential nephew M.N.Sinnappah who was a very successful contractor of works, bothe in the Straits Settlements and here.

The School progressed in all directions, including Sports, during the early years. A playground was acquired and Cricket was introduced. The Jaffna Hindu College centenary Magazine refers to a Cricket Match played in 1899 at the Victoria College grounds between Victoria College and Jaffna Hindu College. Victoria lost the match to Jaffna Hindu. By the end of the century the school came to be known as Victoria College. We do not know why and when the college was named Victoria College. It is probable when Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee took place in the 1890s, the School was named Victoria College. The popular belief that Queen Victoria visited the College is not correct, for the matter Queen Victoria never visited Ceylon. Two governors visited the College but that was after 1900. There is no doubt that Victoria College was the leading Hindu College in the Island during this period and catered for the entire Jaffna District. It was overtaken by Jaffna Hindu at the turn of the new century but remained as one of the leading Hindu Schools for a long time to come.

That Victoria was the leading Hindu School is proved by the fact that it produced a school magazine in 1898. John H.Martyn in his book “Notes on Jaffna” in the chapter “Journalism” says “Among magazines mention may be made of the Jaffna College miscellany started in 1887. The Victoria College magazine is a quarterly started in 1898. In 1900 was started the Central, the magazine of Jaffna Central College.” A big event of those days that needs mention was the Prize Giving of 1905 presided over by His Excellency Sir Henry Blake and Lady Blake. To have the governor of the country to preside over the prize giving at that time speaks very high of the school. This took place on August 24th 1905 and that day was a Red-letter day in the history of the school.

On the same day governor Sir Henry Blake opened the newly built RIDGEWAY HALL. RIDGEWAY HALL was the handiwork of C.M.CHELLAPPAH, son of Mudaliyar Canagaratnam, the founder and built out of his funds. But the contractor of the Building was Cellappah’s cousin M.N.SINNAPPAH of Moolai who built another hall on the same lines and with the same name in the Jaffna Esplanade later on. He was also the contractor for the Inuvil Hospital. Sinnappah was interested in the agitation for the Northern Railway and since Governor Ridgeway helped in opening the Railway he advised Cellappah to name the Hall as Ridgeway Hall.

The Hindu Organ of February 15, 1911 speaks of another event for which another governor came to Victoria. That is M.N.Sinnappah invited governor Macalym to Moolai and Victoria College where specimens of Jaffna workmanship, art and industry were exhibited. The square cut stones with holes in the middle still found at the college were some of the exhibits.

Till Ridgeway Memorial Hall – later the Town Hall, the other Hall built by Chinnappah – was opened in Jaffna Town, all important meetings and functions in Jaffna District were held at the Victoria College Ridgeway Hall. There is a reference of a lecture delivered on March 15, 1909 in the Ridgeway Hall of Victoria College Chulipuram by Mr A.Hoisington B.A., Cambridge, a native of Jaffna on his Experiences of life in London and New York.
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