Zahira College had its own rifle club namely, Zahira College Miniature Rifle Club (ZCMRC).The only outside member was the ADC to the Queen, Brig. C.P. Jayawardene. Zahira was the only school that had a 100 yards four point rifle range. All members were adept with both .22 (small bore) and .303 (big bore) rifles. Almost all members won their national (Ceylon) colours and they represented Ceylon in international matches (vide Principal’s Prize Day Report of 1956 at the beginning of the above proposal).

After 1956 Zahira continued to excel in cadeting and rifle shooting.

In rifle shooting they proved themselves as the best marksmen by competing with the best in the country, including those from the armed services, and received many awards as a team and individually. In 1957 M.H. Ameen won the coveted Queens Cup of the Ceylon Rifle Association for the best marksman in Ceylon of all age groups. He was the first schoolboy to win this award. He was carried high on a sort of open ‘palanquin’ after his victory, a photo of which appeared in the newspapers and was proudly displayed in the Principal’s office, of course with the Queens Cup itself. At the following Monday morning assembly, Ameen was carried on this ‘palanquin’ along the aisle of the Ghaffoor Hall from the Principal’s office to the stage with thunderous applause and cheers. This feat was repeated by another Zahirian A.K.M. ‘Kattan’ Mohideen in 1960.

In 1951 my father, A.M.A. Azeez, as Zahira’s Principal and I attended the Senior Cadets camp in Diyatalawa. We stayed for about three days at a friend’s house. We saw practically all the events and met the senior officers of the Ceylon Cadet Corps every evening, where my father was well received. Zahira won the Herman Loos Cup and Zahira’s reputation was very high. I vividly remember the cross-country race and the concert where Shabir Ahmed performed a scintillating dance and won the event. The Senior Cadets were in the charge of Lt. A.M. Omar Muhlar and T.S.J. Cuttilan was the Company Sergeant Major.

Among the Junior Cadets was Rufin Saldin who performed dances in a professional manner, after his father, and later became a professional limbo dancer as well. Whenever the cadets won, a banquet was held at ‘Meadow Sweet’ and the dancers performed in the sprawling hall which were a treat to watch.

In 1957 I was Lance Corporal in a Junior Cadet Platoon at Royal College which had two platoons. The camp was held in Diyatalawa for the first time, hitherto they were held in Boosa. The Zahira platoon was under the charge of M.M. Mansoor and the Royal platoons were under the charge of P.H.S. Mendis, B.G.N. Sariffodeen and L. Samararatne. Zahira came ninth in the overall championship and Royal were 21st and 23rd out of 28 schools which took part. The Royalists included Vijay Wimalaratne, Salih Kulathunge and T.N. de Silva who joined the Army and rose to high ranks.

Ali Azeez

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