Tag Archives: radio station

Ceylon Independence Day, February 4, 1948: A Story, Pictures And Even ‘The Film’.

Dec2013x125

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by
Anura Guruge


Two Related posts:
>> Google Doodle For Sri Lanka Independence Day … — Jan. 26, 2012.
>> Radio Ceylon: The Radio Station Sir Hillary Listened To While
>> On Mt. Everest …– Jan. 30, 2013.


This is a story that over the years I heard my adoptive father tell at least 20 to 30 times, mainly to foreigners, either those visiting Ceylon or when we lived abroad in Buffalo (U.S.), Paris, New Delhi and Bangkok.

I am not sure whether it is true. I was 5.5 years from being born. My adoptive father would have been 19 and attending university. So he was the perfect age to savor this moment. My adoptive father was a born storyteller (as befits an author of his prolificity). Typically his stories that deal with historical events usually have some basis, though my father does like to embellish. I wanted to make sure that I captured this story, on the Web, for posterity because it is cute.

So those are the caveats.

Though my adoptive father always referred to it as the ‘National Anthem‘, I, after some Web research, realize that it, i.e., Sri Lanka Matha (Mother Sri Lanka), though written in 1940 did NOT become the national anthem until 1951. It was, however, very popular in the 1940s and most likely was played on Independence Day as the de facto National Anthem. It never also occurred to me to ask why it was not sung as part of the flag raising by a group of young ladies dressed in white, as became the norm. The first few times I heard the story I would have been about 6 or 7. After that I didn’t pay that much attention to it. I had heard it before.


Actual ‘British Pate’ News coverage film (movie)
of that historic day, 65 years ago.

Click to access 'British Pate' for this newsreel and at least one more related film ... on that same page. Yes, in Ceylon they were called 'films'. We went to the films, not the movies.

Click to access ‘British Pate’ for this newsreel and at least one more related film … on that same page. Yes, in Ceylon they were called ‘films’. We went to the films, not the movies.


The formal Independence ceremony at ‘Independence Square’. This was the setting for the story. Click to ENLARGE.


Click for Ceylon/Sri Lanka National Anthem from YouTube. There are other versions too. The Anthem has been slightly altered over the years for reasons of political correctness.

Click for Ceylon/Sri Lanka National Anthem from YouTube. There are other versions too. The Anthem has been slightly altered over the years for reasons of political correctness.


Independence Commemoration Hall built on the site of the original 1948 ceremony. I remember it well from my childhood. We would go and play on and around it. Click to ENLARGE.


The Independence Day 1948 Story

The Ceylon Independence Ceremony was held during the day (unlike the Indian one in 1947 which took place, quite correctly, at midnight, the Indians counting the minutes). Duke of Gloucester (Prince Henry, the 3rd son of King George V) and Duchess of Gloucester attend the official flag-raising ceremony in Colombo. Per my father the flag raising was to occur sharp at noon. The National Anthem was going to be played on Radio Ceylon as the flag was raised. This would be the first time the National Anthem,  Sri Lanka Matha, had been played on the radio — British rule not permitting it previously. There was, as was to be expected, much anticipation. Much of the population, which was probably around 8 million at the time (I am guessing), would have been listening to the radio. There was no TV or Internet. This was 1948.

It is just before noon. The Union Jack is hauled down for the last time.

The new Ceylon flag, resplendent with the lion rampant, is ready to be hoisted aloft for the first time.

Anticipation builds.

It is noon.

Radio Ceylon plays the (BBC) Big Ben chimes for the hour.

Ceylon is independent.

There is no cheering. Just silence. The crowds are waiting for the national anthem to be played so that the flag can be raised to it.

There is a pause. It soon becomes pregnant.

Still nothing. Just silence on Radio Ceylon. People check their radios to make sure that power is still on.

Suddenly, a British voice is heard:
where is that bloody record?

……..
Those were the first words broadcast to the newly independent Ceylon by Radio Ceylon.


That concludes the story. Though there were Ceylonese working for Radio Ceylon by then, it was still British run at the time of independence.

This was just 65 years ago. So there will be quite a few people, in Ceylon, Britain and other parts, who were there on the day and can remember the ceremony. Did this really happen?

I can ask my father, but this story is part of his lore and by now he probably can’t remember its true origins. He likes to tell a lot of stories about me that I have no idea what he is talking about. So, I am looking for independent verification. It is a great story. If it is indeed 100% true it needs to be cherished and preserved. Even if it is an anecdote, it is a good one and worth repeating. I can see it happen. Open mikes are so much fun. To be honest, I can’t remember whether it was ‘bloody’ or ‘damn’. But, a good Brit would always opt for bloody ahead of damn. It was not any other swear word. ‘Bloody’ really is not even a swear word.


Check Category ‘Sri Lanka’, on this blog, in the sidebar (to your right or BELOW),
for many other posts on Independence.


Radio Ceylon: The Radio Station Sir Edmund Hillary Listened To While Making The 1st Known Successful Summit Of Mt. Everest.

Dec2013x125

..
.
by
Anura Guruge


Two Related posts:
>> Google Doodle For Sri Lanka Independence Day … — Jan. 26, 2012.
>> I Went To A ‘Montessori’, in Ceylon, In 1958 — Aug. 31, 2012.


This is a precursor article to one that I want to write on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Independence Day on February 4.


The ‘old’ Radio Ceylon building in the 1950s and 1960s. I remember it well. Visited it a few times with my father. Click IF you are interested to read a British-bashing article related to Radio Ceylon.

The ‘old’ Radio Ceylon building in the 1950s and 1960s. I remember it well. Visited it a few times with my adoptive father. Click IF you are interested to read a British-bashing article related to Radio Ceylon.


Note the claim, said boldly, ‘most powerful Commercial Radio Station in Asia’. Quite a claim for a small country, albeit with a big heart. But, this explains the Mount Everest connection. Only English broadcast that reached that far — all the way across India. Click to ENLARGE.


Another confirmation of its transmitting power, its radio waves making it to the U.S.A. in 1959.


Radio Ceylon, originally known as Colombo Radio, is the oldest radio station in Asia.

It was started on an experimental basis, within the Telegraph Department, in 1923.
The original transmitting equipment came from a captured German submarine.
The 1923 inception puts it just 3 years behind the start of radio broadcasting in Europe!

As the above images attest, it claimed to be the most powerful Commercial Radio Station in Asia.

My goal here is just to provide a head’s up on this historic radio station, the only one that I had access to until I got my hands on a shortwave radio when I was about 8.


Over the last few years I have met two young Americans, both with degrees, that had spent 3 months or more in New Zealand, one of them a member of the U.S. Ski Team had gone there to ski. I had asked both of them as to who was the most famous New Zealander. Neither could give me a name. That surprised me. They had never heard of Sir Edmund Hillary, though as far as I know he still appears on their $5 bill. I would have also accepted Richard Hadlee, Glenn Turner or Bev Congdon.


Edmund Hillary, on May 29, 1953, became the first CONFIRMED person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, with and Tenzing Norgay (as he has later stated) a few steps behind. The reason that the first ‘confirmed’ has to be used is that it is possible that the British George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, who both perished on the mountain in 1934 trying to summit, might have succeeded individually or together before their deaths. Edmund and Tenzing were well aware of it and it has never been an issue.

In my mid-20s, i.e., mid-1970s, I was totally fascinated by Mt. Everest. My father tells me that I have seen it, from the air, in 1956 when he took us all on an extended jaunt around India. But, I was only 3. I do remember getting on the first plane from Colombo to India. It is my first real memory. I remember bits, but not Mt. Everest (assuming we actually went that far North, i.e., to the Nepal border). I think I have read every major book, written in English, about Everest. I still have a few Everest books, three of which, one by Edmund, the other by the team leader Colonel Hunt and another about Tenzing, are quite old, and I assume are rare by now.

In my readings I remember reading that Edmund listened to Radio Ceylon while he was camping, atop the mountain, close to the summit. I wanted to make sure I captured that. But, I didn’t have to worry. Somebody else had also made sure that it would be captured and stored on the Web for posterity.

So I can conclude this post. I will refer to it, with luck, in the next few days.

EdmundRC