Malagalage Don Gunasena was a mere school boy at Wesley College when he first peered in fascination through the windows, as the rolling wheels of the huge Wharfdale machines were moving to churn out sheets of printed matter in the presses on Dam Street. Even while in school, he ran errands for the printers just to get a closer look at the printing presses.
His father Malagalage Don Carolis Peiris Appuhamy and mother Galpotte Kankanamalage Sophaya Perera Hamine belonged to a paddy farming family from Wewala, Salpiti Korale. Malagalage Don Gunasena, the youngest son in a family of three, began his education in Wewala Government School in the village. His parents sent him to Wesley College to learn English under British rule. Soon after, the family fortunes changed and the parents could not afford the extravagance of giving him, an, ‘English’ education. The boy was compelled to leave school when he was in forth standard and took up Ayurveda, under a Veda Mahattya in Grandpass.
At this time his elder brother was running a small grocery in Colombo. Seeing young Gunasena’s futile efforts over the study of ancient ‘Pali’ and ‘Sanskrit’, he suggested that it was time for his younger brother to learn a trade. It was then that Gunasena requested that he be sent to the Boys’ Industrial Home attached to the Wesley Press. Following his boyhood fascination, it is there that he mastered the art of printing. Destiny had been made and there was no turning back.
The young qualified printer, immediately, joined H.S. Perera to help the ‘Dinamina’ at the ‘Lanka Abhihawa Visrutha’ Press owned by Pundit, Robert Batuwanthudawa. Subsequently, the press was handed over to his Son-in-law Sir Baron Jayatilaka. Gunasena mastered the art of setting up type and further sharpened his printing skills, until he was forced to return to Wewala due to a bout of illness.
On his return to Colombo, he sought an opening at the Government Press with a letter of introduction from Pundit, Thomas Karunaratne, only to be told that the Government Printer – Mr. Cotton had left to England. With no job, he was at his boarding on Green Street, when a friend informed him of a vacancy for a compositor. He joined Sir Harry Van Cuylenberg’s Independent Newspaper at Hulftsdorp, where he earned his first salary. Ironically, thirty years later, he bought the same premises and it became home to Independent Newspapers Limited, an associate Company of M. D. Gunasena’s, which shut down in 1990.