It is with profound grief that I heard of the demise of my good friend Mervyn. In fact, we had a lunch date on May 7. Mervyn, Doris and I had planned to go to Uswetakeiyawa for a drive and have lunch there. I had booked lunch and waited for Doris to ring me. She rang only to say Mervyn had passed away.
I first met Mervyn in 1966 when he was the Branch Engineer of Browns at Lindula and I was appointed his assistant. He was never the boss as such, never threw his weight around, but did his job conscientiously and in a very responsible manner. The manner in which he worked commanded the respect of all of us. He worked tirelessly right throughout the day. His technical prowess and managerial acumen were manifested in abundance from the way he worked.
He managed to lift our spirits and was such good company. But everything changed about a year ago consequent to the demise of his only daughter Shamalee
Mervyn had his initial training at Ruston Hornsby in England before he took up this assignment at Lindula. He was so good that he got rapid promotions that culminated with his appointment as Chief Engineer of Browns overtaking several engineers senior to him. Usually in situations as such, many associates become envious and jealous. But not so in this case where everyone respected Mervyn for the way he conducted himself and extended their fullest cooperation to him. He rose to that position on sheer merit and was never after promotions or glory. He was not interested in making money and was only content in doing a good job. That was his reward.
Well, I left Browns and we parted company. After about 30 something years, I met Mervyn again. It so happened that I was offered a job as Engineering Manager for a subsidiary of Free Lanka, managing Pussellawa and Maturata Plantations where Mervyn was Director Engineering. Mervyn became my boss again, but this time we were more like friends. We had a rollicking time meeting practically everyday in his office, travelling to distant estates together, exchanging anecdotes on our way in the car. We had meals on the way and the occasional drink and had such a nice time.
I left the job and we parted company to meet again in retirement, Mervyn at his ancestral bungalow at Wellawaya and I at a house in Diyatalawa. We were only less than one hour away and we used to visit each other quite often.
Whilst working, Mervyn was so dedicated to his job, he neglected his ancestral land at Wellawaya. This caused many problems that required litigation to resolve. So he was involved in protracted litigation for most of his retired life. We have had many a conversation about the progress of this litigation. He had to travel back and forth from various courts of law, driving long distances at his age. This went on for many years.
Anyway, we found time to travel around locally, have meals and indulge in small talk. In the evenings, we had a drink and talked politics and world affairs, listened to music as Mervyn had a repertoire of golden oldies in his set up.
We also visited each other on our birthdays, and the last party we had was on his 80th. We also went on a cruise to Europe and had a wonderful time despite our inability to walk on some rough terrain. I am very glad that we did it as that was not something Mervyn had experienced despite many sojourns overseas.
Mervyn was always jovial and his good moods were infectious. He managed to lift our spirits and was such good company. But everything changed about a year ago consequent to the demise of his only daughter Shamalee. After Shamalee’s funeral, Mervyn said to me that he at the age of 82 had to watch his young daughter being lowered to her grave. He never recovered from this tragedy and his jovial personality vanished. He started to lose interest in worldly things. He spent most of his time sleeping and was not the Mervyn we used to know.
Mervyn was lucky to have had Doris as his wife. I would say, behind the success of Mervyn was Doris. She was there for him for nearly 55 years of married life, supporting him in all his endeavours. His children too rallied around him at all times. As they say, the legend a man leaves behind is his children. They have done him proud and all of them are on their feet doing very well. So Mervyn not only had a successful professional life, he also had a happy family life.
At the latter stages, Doris saw to his comfort, made sure he had his medicine and took him to hospital kicking and screaming as he did not like to sight hospitals. Doris was by his side till the last minute and when he died, she did not carry on and go to pieces like most women do. She kept her cool and did what she had to. Mervyn will be very pleased with her.
With Mervyn’s demise, one whole chapter of our life ended. Life will never be the same. We are going to miss you so terribly. Wherever you are, I know it is a good place as you lived such a good life and expended your talents for the benefit of others.
Ananda M.N. Perera