Categorized | In Memoriam

Tribute to Neville N. de Silva – An Officer and Gentleman!

Posted on 10 August 2013 by admin


By Upali Obeyesekere – President, JPAA Canada


Neville de Silva

Neville de Silva

The Sri Lankan community in Toronto lost one of its beloved personalities last month. Neville N. de Silva – former Sri Lanka Police Officer, schoolboy cricketer and community leader passed away on June 23rd in Mississauga. A Memorial Service was later held for the repose of Neville’s soul, on July 15th at St. Catherine of Sienna Roman Catholic Church in Mississauga attended by a large crowd of Sri Lankans and Canadians who befriended this gentleman over the years. The Life & Times of Neville de Silva from 1927 – 2013, could be captured in three awesome chapters lived through 86 years. First as a schoolboy who excelled in sports at his Alma Mater – St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya. Second as a young Sub-Inspector who joined the Ceylon Police and rose in rank until he left the shores of his beloved country of birth and the third and final chapter captures his arrival in Canada over forty years back and his personal contribution to society.

One of the oldest living Peterite cricketers until his demise last month, Neville de Silva played alongside the great Dion Walles and was known to be a splendid all-rounder. Neville de Silva played for St. Peter`s College for 3 years – from 1945-1947, under the captaincy of Anton Perera (1945); and Dion Walles (1946 & 1947). 1946 and 1947 were two of St. Peter`s greatest years, with legendary Dion Walles leading the school. His team mates were Mike Chanmugam, Harold de Silva, Shelley Wickramasinghe, Darrel Weinman, Hugh Fernando, Bernard Wijetunga (Sr), Ossie Peiris, Maurice Perera, Ian Lappen and Mark Perera among others. These two years also registered the first two victories for St. Peter`s in the Joe-Pete series and this invincible team were declared the official Champions of School Cricket.

Let me capture highlights of Neville de Silva`s performances for his Alma Mater from 1945-1947.

1945 – St. Joseph`s College beat St. Peter`s College by 149 runs. Peterites were led by Anton Perera and Josephian were led by Hubert Bagot. St. Joseph`s scored 240 and 176 for 6 declared. St. Peter replied with 163 and 102 conceding to Josephian win. All-rounder Neville de Silva who was a fresher in the side captured 1 for 16 and 1 for 7 in the two innings. As a No.8 batsman, Neville scored 2 and was unbeaten with 20 runs in the 2nd innings.

1946 – St. Peter`s College won by 7 wickets and registered the first win in the series. Dion Walles and Neil Weerasinghe captained St. Peter`s and St. Joseph`s respectively. The Josephians scored 109 and 212 runs. Peterites scored 269 runs in the 1st innings and lost 3 wickets in making the required 56 runs. Going in at No.6  – Neville de Silva scored 23 and was unbeaten with 5 runs in the 2nd innings and saw his side make the required runs. In the bowling department, Neville did not  take any wickets in the 1st innings but 1 for 26 in the 2nd.

1947 – St. Peter`s College won by an innings and 19 runs. The Peterites won the toss and amassed 317 runs with Mike Chanmugam hitting 85 runs. Neville de Silva going in at No.3, scored 20 runs. The Josephians scored 141 and 157 runs respectively in the two innings. Neville had a match bag of 2 wkts for 39 runs in 12 overs.

Later, he joined the Ceylon Police and played for the Police team for a number of years. Neville served in many stations in the Northern, North Western and Colombo Regions. His many Police friends and subordinates who worked with him including popular ruggerite S. Sivendran talks of Neville with fondness and there is one conclusion – that he was a Gentleman and Officer! He was Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) when he left Ceylon for Canada.

Neville immigrated to Canada over 40 years back and lived in Mississauga, Ontario all his life. He leaves behind his beloved wife Belle, two sons Rohantha & Joe (Dinali); two daughters Shehara (Elliott) and Marianne (Peter) and seven grandchildren

Neville will be remembered in the final chapter for his commitment and contribution to the Sri Lankan Community in Toronto for over forty years. Upon arrival in Canada (Toronto), Neville was fortunate in securing employment with the Metro Toronto Police and worked alongside another committed Sri Lankan, Benito de Silva – for more than thirty years, until his retirement. Neville and his beloved wife Belle brought up four children who have all branched off into various meaningful professions and live in Toronto, U.S.A., and Germany. One of the proudest moments in Neville’s life was when his daughter Shehara joined the Metro Toronto Police Service and followed his chosen profession in Sri Lanka. He was so proud of this fact.

Despite the challenges that face a new immigrant, Neville made his presence felt with his undivided attention to make this world a better to place to live. Despite severe time constraints in his personal life, he still devoted time to build the Canada-Sri Lanka Association (CSLA) in the 70s along with some pioneers who envisioned a better and informed Sri Lankan Community in Canada. Once the CSLA was strong and running well, Neville joined a few visionaries like Gamini Cooray, Para Jayasuriya and Nihal Perera and filled a void by forming the Sri Lanka Club – Peel in 1982, to cater to the Sri Lankans domiciled in the west end of Toronto. With Neville’s astute leadership the Sri Lanka Club – Peel went from strength to strength. The dances organised by this club with Neville’s stewardship were amazing. They were the best, and the small community of Sri Lankans at the time had one whale of a time. Been a cricketer of repute in Sri Lanka, Neville provided leadership to form the first structured Sri Lanka Cricket XI in Canada. Two of his closest friends Ismuth Cassim and Nihal Perera helped him to make this happen. Ismuth was the first captain of this team in the first few years and I had the pleasure of taking over from 1984-1989. The team included amongst others Darrel Lieversz (former Royal & Ceylon cricketer); Priya Fernando & H.B. Tamitegama (Wesley cricketers) and several other well known cricketers of yesteryear. Neville took the Sri Lanka Club – Peel to its full potential in those formative years for the Sri Lanka Community in Canada. Along with Tina (Pushpa) Perera, the late Lionel Fernando, Lyall & Sriya Perera – Neville organized the first Sri Lanka Tennis Tournament to be conducted in Canada. Neville was a good Tennis player and a willing participant with the younger players. The tournament grew in stature and attracted the ‘cream of the crop’ among Tennis players  from the community.

More than all this, Neville was a benefactor to many a Sri Lankan who were new immigrants to Canada in the 70s and 80s. His advocacy was sought by many and he always had time to help others. He was kind, generous, compassionate and thoughtful. His humanitarian deeds, contributions to society are numerous and speaks volumes. He is acknowledged as one of the greatest Sri Lankans to have lived in Canada. Neville never lost his sense of humour throughout his ordeal. He welcomed all to his private room in the Nursing Home with open arms and a joke, much as he would at home with Belle and the children. Reminds me of a quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Don’t wish me happiness – I don’t expect to be happy….it’s gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humour – I will need them all!”

Dear Neville – The Sri Lankan Community in Toronto salutes you! Though you came from a privileged background, you never lost the common touch. Your generosity of time to help the needy will not be easily forgotten. Your contribution to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Mississauga is legendary. You are one person (in my mind) who came to Canada to make others happy. Material things mattered little to you. In fact, I believe you donated your real estate assets in Sri Lanka to the Church hierarchy of our country of birth. Borrowing the words of my friend Victor Melder of Australia, I can almost see you say with your generous smile,“The Service I Render Others is The Rent I Pay For My Space On Earth”.

Our sympathy and heartfelt condolences go out to Neville’s beloved wife Belle, Sons Rohantha & Joe (Dinali); daughters Shehara (Elliott) and Marianne (Peter) and seven grandchildren.

May Neville’s Soul Rest In Peace!


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