Wendy Whatmore’s Centenary Memorial

Our founder, Mrs. Wendy Whatmore, was born as Gwendolen Leah De Kretser on the 13th of December 1918. She passed away in March 1989 at the age of 70. This year marks her 100th birth anniversary.

In commemoration of her life and work, we will be sharing stories, articles and previously unpublished work as we draw closer to her centenary birthday.

Our first instalment consists of transcribed snippets from an audio interview between her daughter Wendy Holsinger (WWA Principal since 1989) and her grand daughter Tracy Holsinger.

In this segment, Wendy Holsinger shares a few stories about her mother’s early life, including how she became known as Wendy Whatmore.

Interview: The History Behind The Name


Wendy Holsinger (WH)

Tracy Holsinger (TH)


WH: …she was born on the 13th of December in the Matara house and delivered at home.

TH: What was the name of the house?

WH: The Terraces, on Brown’s Hill, Matara. Then…she was taught at home because – about a week after she was born, she developed infantile diarrhea. So there was a question mark as to whether she was going to live. And then, most of the time, she was brought up on goat’s milk.

TH: Oh?

WH: Yes. Couldn’t manage anything else…because she was frail. And lonely, I think, being at home and the youngest of five. As a child she was… very dreamy, in her fanciful little world. You know, writing poetry to the King and Queen, and writing sonnets to them…and then she wrote a lot of little stories…Wendy is just her pen name and Gwendolen Leah is her real name but she took on the name of Wendy when she started writing to the papers at the age of about …14? But she was writing poetry from the age of 9. You know, she couldn’t go to school until she was about 10. So she was schooled at home by her mother.

TH: So when she was 10 and went to school, she came here (Colombo)? Or she went to school in Matara?

WH: No, she came to Holy Family…and of course by the time she was about 15, she loved her sports. So she used to play Centre position on the netball team, Holy Family Convent. Then of course, she wrote the school song…

By this time, she had decided that Drama and Speech was to be her life. And then I don’t know at what age she married Davenall Whatmore. We have to calculate because… maybe 20, 21?  If she was born in 1918, so when would that be?

TH: 1938…

WH: …because she established the school as Wendy Whatmore.

TH: So, before 1940…

WH: Yes. The marriage didn’t last very long because…I think…he didn’t know how to handle this …very effervescent, bubbly creature who wanted to do Drama. He was a lovely person, a lovely man. So they divorced, much to the horror of my grandparents, and he allowed her…to keep the name of Whatmore, because she had already established the school in that name. Then of course in 1947, she went ahead and got her FTCL from Trinity College. She was the first in South East Asia to do that, in Speech and Drama.