Burgher Recreation Club: A historic haven of relaxation | Sunday Observer

Burgher Recreation Club: A historic haven of relaxation

1 January, 2017

 It all began on a balmy evening on 26 December (Boxing Day) in 1896, exactly 120 years ago.

A few enterprising gentlemen in Colombo were inspired to form an exclusive club with the intention of providing male residents of that suburb with a host of recreational and sporting facilities. F.J. Lucas Fernando of Havelock Town most generously lent his house, “Ardgowan” in the heart of Bambalapitiya to these resourceful gentlemen to hold their inaugural meeting. The Bambalapitiya Recreational Club was formed with A.W. Raffel as President, and O.H. Poppenbeck as Hony. Secretary.

On 31 May 1915, the club changed its name to Burgher Recreation Club and its colours were changed to Black, Red and Champagne from the previous Black, Red and Gold, to closely match its name B.R.C. The Proprietary Members’ scheme was introduced in 1921. These funds were used for constructing a pavilion, opened by the Mayor of Colombo in 1922, as well as for furniture and equipment for the club house.

The Club has preserved its colonial architecture while introducing modern facilities to the interior. During World War II in 1942, the BRC served as a naval base. Four years later, in 1946, the Club celebrated its Golden Jubilee at the Colombo Town Hall. In 1956, the BRC celebrated its Diamond Jubilee at the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

The BRC has been a pioneer in introducing many novel concepts to Sri Lanka, such as, the BRC Ladies’ Hockey section, the Burgher Education Fund, the Students Section in Hockey and Cricket and the annual Seven-a-Side Ladies Hockey Tournament. The BRC has also produced several excellent sportsmen and personalities including, Major General B. Russell Heyn, Commander of the Army, Sri Lanka Cricket Board President and Captain of National Cricket, and Dr. V.R. Schokman, member of the Senate under the Soulbury Commission, Jayantha Paranathala, Senior DIG and former President of the Club, and national cricketers, such as, Brendon Kuruppu, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanjeeva Weerakkody.

Members have to be introduced, proposed and seconded. They are also interviewed and approved by a Committee. The membership consists mainly, of professionals and executives. The Club has evolved with the times, while at the same time maintaining its old world charm and simple traditions. The BRC is a friendly Club, and during the day the dress code is relaxed, and members are allowed to wear T-shirts and shorts. However, after 7 p.m. members are expected to adhere to the dress code and wear smart casual.

The BRC is located in a prime location in Bambalapitiya/Havelock Town. In the recent past, the Governing Body of the Club renovated the interior by introducing facilities such as, an air-conditioned Members’ Lounge and Centenary Bar, high quality rest rooms and restaurants which provide Sri Lankan and East Asian cuisines and a variety of beverages. The Club has a friendly atmosphere, and encourages women to become members to ensure that the Club is appealing to families.

The Club is constructing a high quality gymnasium which will be completed in a couple of months, and a renovated open lounge upstairs. It will enable members to celebrate their special occasions. The BRC has loyal members who come forward to assist the Club, with a diverse membership that represents all professions, such as, civil servants, journalists, artists, academics and professionals.

The main objective of the Club is to be one of the leading clubs in Colombo. The BRC has not deviated from that vision and continues to introduce new facilities, events and family oriented activities to cater to a premier society in Colombo. The current President of the BRC, Rahula Dassenaike has been a member since 1992, and was Vice President for five years. He says, he is fortunate to work with a fantastic team of Vice Presidents and Secretaries who are dedicated, and is very satisfied with their progress.

His message to aspiring members is to preserve the culture and traditions of this family friendly Club.

Pix:Thushara Fernando