The principalship of Rev. Alec A. Sneath at Richmond was notable chiefly for two reasons.
Firstly, he was the missionary principal who served the longest period at Richmond.
Secondly, being a trained and qualified educationist, he brought theories of scientific education into practical application at Richmond.
Alec Sneath was born on 10th January, 1890. His versatility as a student is demonstrated by the fact that he obtained an Honours Degree in History from Manchester University, a Degree in Theology from Didsbury Theological College and later a Teachers Diploma with Distinction from Manchester University. After doing a stint in one of the remotest districts of the Gold Coast in Africa, he first came to Ceylon in 1920, taking up the position of Vice Principal of the Teachers’ Colony at Peradeniya. In 1992, he was chosen to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Rev. Small.
During his stay at Peradeniya, Sneath keenly studied the social and cultural background, customs and beliefs of the Sinhalese.
He was one of the pioneers in the teaching of Agriculture in Ceylon. He was instrumental in forming a Farmers’ club at Richmond through which the students were able to gain practical knowledge in Agriculture and Botany. He was ably assisted in this work by Mr. M. S. Bandara, an old boy of the school, and a trained Agriculture teacher.
Sneath was always a very popular teacher and principal among the students. He did not believe in imposing discipline through punishment, but used child psychology instead.
He was also a lover of music and nature. At the beginning of each school day, religious observances were followed by a musical recital.
With his specialist knowledge on Education, he frequently contributed articles on the subject to newspapers and journals.
A great believer in the principle of equity, Sneath treated everyone alike, both in respect of the staff as well as the students.
Sneath held the view that a teacher should attempt to understand the personal character of his students and that they should always be treated with care and gentleness.
During his school and university days, Sneath was an athlete and soccer player of no mean ability. As principal, he took care to maintain and improve the standards in sports built up by his predecessor Rev. Small.
Richmond reached her 50th and 60th anniversaries during Rev. Sneath’s period. Both these occasions were celebrated in grand style, with the OBA playing a major role. These activities were coordinated by Sneath’s energetic Vice Principal Mr. R. J. Seal.
Many new buildings were put up during his period. A fully equipped science laboratory (named the Small Laboratory) and a library (the Derrell Memorial Library) were built through donations received for the Golden Jubilee. The Sneath Playground was constructed during the Diamond Jubilee (60th anniversary)
Under Sneath, extra curricular activities received an important place. The Sinhalese Literary Association, the Science Society and the Farmers’ Club came into being during his time. The Swimming Club which had become defunct, was reactivated.
Great emphasis was given to the teaching of Sinhala Language and Literature.
Rev. Sneath left his post at Richmond in 1939 and returned to England due to deteriorating health. He died in 1948 at the age of 58.
Rev Sneath, together with Rev Darrell and Rev Small , formed a triumvirate of great principals who made Richmond College an institution of excellence, not second to any other school in the island.