The Nallur English Seminary was established in March 1823 by Rev. Joseph Knight the first CMS missionary in Jaffna belongs to the Church Mission Society of the Anglican Church (CMS). The school had only 7 students and was located in Knight's bungalow.
In 1845 the school was relocated to Chundikuli and renamed the “Chundikuli Seminary”, in the same year the Church Mission Society took over the Old Portuguese St. John the Baptist church. In 1846 school moved into a hall next to the church. The church was demolished in 1859 and replaced by the current church. Rev. Joseph Knight also helped in translating of the English – Tamil dictionary.
Due to the 2nd World WAR in 1939 – During the war, Japan bombed Colombo and Trincomalee. On O5th April, 1942, and a few weeks later several school buildings in Colombo were taken over by the British Military as barracks for their troops. School education in Colombo was severely disrupted. This resulted in a sudden exodus of school children from Colombo to the provinces. St. John’s responded by generously opening its doors to vast numbers of displaced students, from different Colombo schools, despite having very meagre facilities to accommodate all of them. These students had lived and been educated in environments, where the values, traditions, codes of conduct, and behaviour patterns were far removed from what prevailed in Jaffna.
The school was renamed St. John's College in 1891. The free education system was introduced by the government in 1945 but SJC chose to remain outside the system. Until then, students had to pay school fees. If there were two brothers from the same family, the younger brother paid only half the fee. If there were three brothers from the same family, the youngest studied free.
In 1951 SJC joined the free education system. Most private schools in Ceylon were taken over by the government in 1960 but SJC chose to remain as a private and non-fee levying school. In order to remain private Johnians did a door to door Donation campaign asking for donations and also sold the Mahogany trees inside the College premises.
1958 – Communal Disturbance: “Unfortunate communal disturbance of May and June sent a large number of Tamils from South to the North. SJC had to strain to the utmost in order to accommodate the possible. 251 pupils were admitted with the results that the number on roll shot up from 1174 to 1645”.
1983 July Pogrom – “St. John’s under the leader ship of Late Principal.C.E.Anandarajan rose up to the occasion, admitting about 400 displaced students by putting up five additional classrooms to accommodate them”
2005 – May 21st: St John’s had twinned two schools affected by Tsunami, Under the leader ship of Late Principal Mr.S Thanapalan, RCTM School Manalkadu Vadamaradchi and GTM School Kallapadu Mullaithivu by providing Education to the children and the essential facilities to the families in the affected areas.
2009 Civil War - The College admitted 548 school going Children released from the Welfare Centres of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Under the Leader ship of Rev.N.J.Ganaponraja , 236 Children were admitted to the Hostel They now enjoy free education, but free meals, accommodation and recreation facilities. In addition, they are provided with clothing for their everyday life, and appropriate materials for their Education and Sport.
1823-1825 Rev. Joseph Knight
1825-1839 Rev. W. Adley
1839-1841 Rev. F. W. Taylor
1841-1846 Rev. I. T. Johnstone
1846-1866 Rev. R. Pargiter
1866-1874 Rev. T. Good
1874-1878 Rev. D. Wood
1878-1879 Rev. E. Blackmore
1879-1889 Rev. G. T. Fleming
1889-1892 Rev. C. C. Handy (acting)
1892-1895 Rev. J. W. Fall
1895-1899 Rev. I. Carter
1899-1900 Rev. R. W. Ryde
1900-1919 Rev. Jacob Thomson
1919 Rev. K. C. McPherson (acting)
1920-40 Rev. Henry Peto
1940-1957 Rev. J. T. Arulanantham
1957-1959 Mr. P. T. Mathai
1959-1966 Mr.A. W. Rajasekeram
1967-1976 Mr.K. Pooranampillai
1976-1985 Mr.C. E. Anandarajah
1985-1987 Mr.T. Gunaseelan
1987 Mr. K. Pooranampillai
1988-1993 Dr. E. S. Thevasagayam
1993-2006 Mr. S. Thanapalan
2006- Rev. N. J. Gnanaponrajah
"Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond it's normal limitations..."