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Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow
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courtesy of: The Sinniah Family

Our donors told us that this was taken in the 1950s, outside the Perak Education Department offices. Seated 4th from the left is Sinniah S/O Sinnathamby (Inspector of Indian Schools, Perak).

  1. Mike Blakeway says:

    It must have been a little later that Anthony Burgess (Malayan Trilogy) was with the Perak education dept. Any photos or information on him?

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Mike,

      Anthony Burgess does bring back some memories.

      If I am not mistaken, he was at some point at Brinsford or Kirkby Training College.

      He was posted to the Malay College at Kuala Kangsar, then Kelantan, Johore and latterly Brunei.

      Apparently, he was fluent in the Bahasa Malaysia but felt the Chinese was not interested in it when it was introduced by Razak.

      He did take a view on it.

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi

        The building is most likely long gone.

        It was situated along Kuala Kangsar Road or Douglas Road near to the then Guru Nanak School. I am not certain whether the school still exists.

        I am sure I did pay a visit to the Dept. at some point.

        Most government departments were clustered around this area at the time

        • IKA says:

          Ngai C O, I am sure the Guru Nanak Institution still exists and I am sure I have been there at some time.

          If I have the right place it is just along the road from today’s E#ducation Department in what is called Jalan Tun Abdul Razak today. The education department is in and behind the old and first custom-built Freemason Lodge. The latter being replaced by the new one in Tiger Lane, built in 1931.

          Or have I got it all wrong?

        • Ken Chan says:

          You are right, Ngai C O. The building was located at Douglas Road. Am not sure if there was a name change. As you know, street names that were associated with the country’s colonial past were eradicated and replaced with local names.

          • Ngai C O says:

            Hello Ken Chan,

            Great to hear from you again.

            Thank you for confirming the location as in Douglas Road.

            Most road names have been changed to words that are too long to remember.

    • IKA says:

      Felicia – He was a famous author and also taught at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar before Merdeka. A little before your time. I remember that was a lot of controversy about his writings about Malaya, but I don’t remember the details. {erhaps one of our readers could help us out.
      He is quite famous even although he has been dead for several years and if he worked in Ipoh we should certainly try to feature him on the database.

  2. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Mike Blakeway

    It must have been a little later that Anthony Burgess (Malayan Trilogy) was with the Perak education dept.

    Arriving via Singapore in 1954 with his wife, he taught English at the Malay College in KK for only about a year, and then, having got himself into trouble with the head-master, he was transferred to the East Coast (after which, as Ngai C O points out, he was in Johore and, famously, Brunei).

    He did return to Ipoh much later, but only as a visitor.

    ——

    Dear Ngai C O

    If I am not mistaken, he was at some point at Brinsford or Kirkby Training College.

    He was never trained as a teacher. He took a degree in English Lit. from one of the Red Bricks and then, the times being what they were, joined the Army. After the war he wanted to write, but in order to support himself he took a series of teaching jobs. At the last of these, in 1954 somewhere near Coventry, he got himself into trouble (a recurring pattern) by attempting an affair with one of the other teachers — whose husband was a threatening sort — and so he ran away and didn’t stop fleeing until he reached Malaya under the auspices of the Overseas Civil Service.

    Apparently, he was fluent in the Bahasa Malaysia

    He considered Malay a primitive language but, yes, he devoted a great deal of time to it — so much time to it, and other pursuits, in fact, that his wife felt rather neglected and took to decorating their front yard with empty gin bottles.

    And speaking of bottles … at the Ipoh Club there used to be a cabinet dedicated to him with a plaque on it. I wonder if it’s still there.

    ——

    And yes, if you detect that I did not much like the man, you’re quite right.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      A clarification regarding Brinsford.

      He lectured at Brinsford Lodge after the war to demobilised soldiers. It was attached to Birmingham University.

      Brinsford was turned to the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in 1955.

      He had already left for Malaya.

      Another famous chap, an author who wrote the Virgin Soldiers by the name of Lesley Thomas, appeared in the Malayan scene as a soldier during the emergency. He was an ex Barnado child that made it like the fashion designer, Bruce Oldfield.

  3. Ngai C O says:

    Hi IKA,

    When I visited the area last year, I was very confused by all the new buildings and the additional road intersections that I lost my bearings.

    I would need another visit sometime in the future to try to make some sense of the area I knew up to 1980.

  4. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear felicia

    Our database doesn’t seem to have anything on Anthony Burgess.

    Maybe you have it under his real name, John Burgess Wilson. He taught for about a year in Kuala Kangsar but never actually worked in Ipoh.

    If you want something for the database, feel free to use my comments, cleaning them up as you see fit. To be honest, in my previous comment (February 27, 2018 at 8:54 pm) I did not even mention his worst aspects, including what he did to local girls not yet in their teens. I could give you more information, some of it in John’s own words, but you may not want it.

    ——

    Dear IKA

    I remember that was a lot of controversy about his writings about Malaya, but I don’t remember the details

    Yes, there were several kinds of controversy related to his writing.

    The major (and obvious) one had to do with how he portrayed Malaya, particularly the way he characterized local ethnicities (one was “lazy,” another was “industrious,” the third was “intelligent and beautiful” — all the usual tropes). For some prominent place-names in his writing he used aliases that were quite offensive to locals (Lanchap for Perak, for example, and Kenching for Kota Bharu).

    And Kota Bharu is also where he got himself into legal trouble. In one of his novels — perhaps it was Enemy in the Blanket — there was a character he made to seem awful, and the problem was that everyone in Kelantan knew the real and innocent person he was scurrilously maligning. This person was a lawyer. John was sued for libel and the Supreme Court in Kota Bharu gave a libel judgment against him; and I believe the publisher had to withdraw the book from sale.

    So … “a lot of controversy”? Enough, anyway.

  5. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    A clarification regarding Brinsford. He lectured at Brinsford Lodge after the war to demobilised soldiers. It was attached to Birmingham University.

    Thank you for the clarification! I did wonder what you meant, but it did not occur to me — and obviously I had forgotten or never knew — that you meant he taught there.

    Thanks again.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      I stumbled upon this 2017 phd thesis in pdf. – British Colonial Violence in Perak, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

      It might be of interest to you since you seem to have an in depth knowledge of the annexation of Perak.

      Having glanced through the article quickly, it has opened my eyes to what had been written as opposed to how these events are seen today in the light of comparative studies by various people.

  6. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    Thank you. I have looked at Michelle Gordon’s dissertation. We can share her concluding remarks here:

    This thesis set out to demonstrate the nature of [British colonial] violence and the levels of destruction it entailed […] in contrast to claims that the British Empire was fundamentally a ‘good thing.’ It shows the inherent nature of the violence within the colonial relationship and the importance of racial prejudices to the outbreak of violence […]

    The existence of the British Empire was only possible because its politicians and military men were willing to utilise extreme methods of violence in the face of opposition. While maximum (genocidal) violence was not always used, neither was the minimum and […] the history of the British Empire is not one of restraint. Violence was fundamental to the British imperial project from the very beginning, both in establishing and maintaining British rule. Throughout its lifetime the British Empire consistently utilised extreme violence to extend its reach. […]

    We should emphasize that the three cases Ms. Gordon discusses — Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Perak — are not identical. And yet I find her conclusions haunting.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      Clearly, what was dished out to us in our study of the History of Great Britain and the Commonwealth many, many years ago was obviously slanted.

      I am now the more wiser and will not take anything for granted, especially articles written years ago.

  7. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear IKA

    If I have the right place it is just along the road from today’s Education Department in what is called Jalan Tun Abdul Razak today. The education department is in and behind the old and first custom-built Freemason Lodge. The latter being replaced by the new one in Tiger Lane, built in 1931. Or have I got it all wrong?

    The former Masonic Lodge building you’re talking about — the one opened in 1912 on Maxwell Road (today Jalan Tun Abdul Razak) — is still there — you’re right about that. (Anyone wanting to confirm this can take a look at the building on Maxwell Road and compare it to the photograph in database entry 7129.)

    And yes, when the Masons moved out in the early ’20s (they eventually moved into their Tiger Lane home in 1931), the building was leased to the government for use first as a temporary Supreme Court building; then as (2) additional classrooms for the old Anderson School; and finally as (3) the administrative office for the Perak Education Department, which is still its occupant today.

    So that’s an abbreviated history of the building on Maxwell Road.

    But that building is not the one shown in the photograph on this page.

    This building was on Douglas Road (first thought of as part of Kuala Kangsar Road and now called Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab.)

    The caption provided above reads thus:

    Our donors told us that this was taken in the 1950s, outside the Perak Education Department offices. Seated 4th from the left is Sinniah S/O Sinnathamby (Inspector of Indian Schools, Perak).

    I’d say this caption needs revision because, in the 1950s, there was not one single building that housed “the Perak Education Department offices.” The main building was on Maxwell Road, just as you said, but it was a very small building, so an additional building on Douglas Road was used to house the administrators of the vernacular (Malay, Chinese, and Tamil) schools. It is this additional building on Douglas Road that is shown in the photograph (and mentioned above by Ngai C O and Ken Chan).

    Assuming the date in the original caption is correct, a revised caption might read as follows:

    This photograph was taken in the 1950s, outside a Perak Education Department building on Douglas Road. Seated 4th from the left is Sinniah s/o Sinnathamby (Inspector of Indian Schools, Perak).

    Now, going back to the Maxwell Road building for a minute: it was so congested that by the late ’60s an extension was built behind it — but the vernacular school administrators were left in their building on Douglas Road. (I don’t know when they might have been moved to newer premises.)

    ——

    Dear Ngai C O

    The building is most likely long gone. It was situated along Kuala Kangsar Road or Douglas Road near to the then Guru Nanak School. I am not certain whether the school still exists.

    I’m a little confused by what you say here because I thought the Guru Nanak School was on Maxwell Road, near Cherry Park, on the other side of the railway line from Douglas Road.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      You are right to be confused by what I said because of memory lapse over the years.

      I do not know the area as much as east of the Kinta River

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Well, to complete the circle then, we should note that the building IKA mentioned — the former Masonic temple, latterly the Department of Education headquarters — is right across the street from the Guru Nanak Institution.

  8. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear felicia

    A word about the gentleman in the photograph: In the database (entry 3151), it is mentioned (among other things) that in the early ’50s Mr. Sinniah helped organize the “Indian section of the Perak Library.” He did that as a private citizen, with the able assistance of his wife. What is not mentioned is his official Education Department campaign to improve literacy among impoverished Indian families, a campaign he kicked into gear around the time India returned to self-government in 1947.

    Which reminds me: He must have retired from his work at the Education Department around the time the photograph was taken.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      As far as I can recall, there was only one library in Ipoh, which was situated next to the Ipoh Club. The building is used for something else now.

      A brand new one was built in the mid 70s across the road

      I hope the reading material from when I used to visit in the 60s has survived or digitised.

      Recently, the library courted controversy when it arbitrarily decided when to open its doors. I paid a visit on two occasions last year and it was closed. There was no notification.

  9. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    As far as I can recall, there was only one library in Ipoh, which was situated next to the Ipoh Club.

    Yes, that’s the one I referred to, built in the early ’50s.

    It had predecessors, but these were not housed in their own buildings.

    The building is used for something else now.

    Yes, I believe it’s still there and being used by city government, but perhaps someone local will let us know better.

    A brand new one was built in the mid 70s across the road

    I knew a replacement was built but I did not know when. Thanks.

    I hope the reading material from when I used to visit in the 60s has survived or digitised. Recently, the library courted controversy when it arbitrarily decided when to open its doors. I paid a visit on two occasions last year and it was closed. There was no notification.

    In the 1950s there were local staff members as well as American volunteers from the Peace Corps. All were capable and generous with their own time (and some with their own money).

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      The old library was always crowded and open 7 days a week, if I was not mistaken, because I spent many Sunday afternoons there.

      Lots of people would read the many daily newspapers available at the time.

      It had a rich list of reading/reference material that I would say sufficient for the average needs of any visitor.

      When it moved to the new premises, I also followed likewise. It was of course very spacious with air conditioning.

      For me a good Concise Oxford Dictionery was good enough. At the time, one aspiration was to have our own copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica for the ‘book worm’. Well, my daughter did many years ago but it has hardly been touched. Multimedia is more convenient and constantly updated.

      I am not sure where the Britannica stands today. At one time, my daughter regularly received updates.

      And many new words, phrases, symbols and signs have been added to the standard dictionary.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear Leong … Thanks very much for the link. The article reminds us that we lose fragments of the past every day unless we struggle to retain them — but it also brings back some good memories.

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