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APPRECIATION: MR CJT Thamotheram – A leading light of the Tamil Community has been extinguished but his memory will live on in our hearts forever

By : Ivan Pedropillai
Location & Time : London 18.00 GMT - November 4, 2005
Source : TWG

The mortal remains of Jeyam Thamotheram were laid to rest in London , England on 4 th November 2005 . He passed away on 27 th October at 87 years of age after a lifetime of service to the Tamil community. He was loving a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a counsellor and above all the conscience and the motivating force that unceasingly mustered and rallied the intellectual and professional classes of expatriate Tamils to uphold and advance the cause of the oppressed Tamils of Sri Lanka in their struggle for freedom. The institutions he created and the network of friends that he made by his immense capacity of persuasiveness and his infectious energy will remain as edifices to his selfless devotion to the cause of justice and self-determination for Tamils in the northeast of Sri Lanka .

But before we paint a picture of a man who fought for justice and liberation for his own people, we must thank God for creating in him a man endowed with great moral and intellectual courage and an unwavering love of his homeland. The hallmarks of his character were formed in childhood in a family in which his father, Mr C. P. Thamotheram, was the eminent Principal of Hartley College, Point Pedro; a leading Christian College in the country which has established a reputation for producing brilliant scholars especially in mathematics.

Jeyam Thamotheram went on to study in other leading Christian Colleges , such as St John's College , Jaffna and St Joseph 's College, Colombo . He was an outstanding student and entered the University College , Colombo on an illustrious exhibition award. He obtained a First class honours degree in mathematics from University College and went back to teach in his old school, Hartley College , from 1939 to 1942. Although he left teaching for a short period of two years to join the Ceylon Government Supplies Department, his love of teaching saw him return as a teacher to St Patrick's College, Jaffna for a couple of years and from there he left to join Wesley College , Colombo where he taught for over 10 years.

In 1944 he married Florence Thiviamalar Nalliah. She too comes from a leading Christian family, in which her father - Rev N. K. Nalliah was a prominent pastor in Jaffna . They were to have six children, three boys and three girls who have themselves gone on to become well-qualified and upright persons of whom Jeyam and Florence can be rightly proud. Jeyam was a loving husband and a caring father, and in turn the devotion of the children to their parents is a joy to behold. It has been a very moving experience for me to see how they have looked after him in his illness and have worked together with their own children to organise the final valediction for him.

While teaching at Wesley College he won a Fulbright scholarship for one year to the University of Pennsylvania , Philadelphia , after which he again returned to Wesley College to teach. His interest in serving the rights of teachers as a profession was to come to the fore at about this time. In 1954-55 he took on the mantle of President of the Colombo Teachers Association and led them ably to become a force for good in the teaching profession. He was also starting to prove his keenness in expanding the interests of teachers by founding the Ceylon Teachers Travel Club.

From Wesley College , he joined the British Council in Colombo as the First Administrative Assistant in 1959 and afterwards in 1961 he arrived in the UK to teach at a school in Luton . However, his longest service as a teacher was from 1965 to 1983 at Latymer Upper School , Hammersmith - one of the leading public schools in London .

He was a man of phenomenal vision and capability and took on the tasks of building the different pillars that would form an infrastructure for the Tamils in the UK . While teaching at Latymer, he also inaugurated the Association of Commonwealth Teachers (1966); founded the Tamil Times (1977); founded the West London Tamil School (1978); and founded the International Tamil Foundation (1988). We could have thought that Jeyam would rest on his laurels after creating these organisations. But, even in his advancing age and with his failing health, he felt strongly that there existed another void amongst us, which was to represent the Tamil cause with intellectual vigour in the English media. Towards this goal, he was inspired again, in March this year to enlist with his customary tenacity some of us as writers to found the Tamil Writers' Guild of which I am the first President. In his declining months, with both his legs giving way, he still came to our meetings as our Patron and contributed with his wisdom and experience to get TWG functioning. This was his swan song and we wish to invite more of you to join it as a lasting memorial to his irrepressible and indomitable spirit.

It would have been impossible for anyone else to start even one or two of these organisations and involve so many leading Tamil academic and professional figures in them. The vibrancy and growth of some of these organisations even to this day is a testimony to Jeyam Thamotheram's powers of persuasion, dedication, organisation and intellectual ability. He would be on the telephone from morning to evening, calling people and exhorting them or cajoling them to do something for the good of the Tamil people and their cause. Countless are the times that Jeyam has worked the telephones relentlessly to raise substantial monies to save Tamil newspapers and journals from financial insolvency.

He was respected and loved by the people that he knew - and there were many of them - and they trusted him and gave willingly for the causes that he sponsored. He was a true friend and a soul mate to a number of people and would instantly rally to their support in their illnesses and in their hour of need. He was truly a great man, a giant among men for he thought not of himself but of the community and others who were more in need. He was an old-fashioned gentleman, courteous and well mannered but also doughty and courageous and prepared to stand firm for his principles. We are all better for having known him.

Throughout his life he embraced students and people of all religions and backgrounds and he did this from the strength of his own Christian upbringing and values. Some of these friendships that were formed as a teacher in the 1950s have lasted for over 50 years and even to this day there are some of his former students and associates who have maintained their close friendship with him. Their love for him and his love for them has been undiminished over these many long years.

He was one of the founders of the London Tamil Christian Congregational church in Putney and in the moving service of prayer and thanksgiving in that very church on 4 th November 2005 attended by many hundreds, our prayers have joined those of his family to wish him our fondest farewell when we know he has gone to join his loving God and creator in heaven. We wish to convey our love and deepest sympathy to his sorrowing wife and children and their families and pray that the good Lord will grant them peace of mind and his blessings. We grieve the loss of this colossus among us but we also celebrate the life of one so special and touched by God. May his soul rest in peace.

“Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale” - ( and forever, brother, hail and farewell).

Ivan Pedropillai, BSc., M.Sc., FCCA, FCMA
President Tamil Writers Guild, UK .

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