Founders' stories etch out school's history

The school in Chinatown in the 1950s. Above: Dr Ho Nai Kiong, a retired paediatrician and former student of Yeung Ching School, started researching for his book, Records Of Old Yeung Ching, in 2005.
Above: Dr Ho Nai Kiong, a retired paediatrician and former student of Yeung Ching School, started researching for his book, Records Of Old Yeung Ching, in 2005.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
The school in Chinatown in the 1950s. Above: Dr Ho Nai Kiong, a retired paediatrician and former student of Yeung Ching School, started researching for his book, Records Of Old Yeung Ching, in 2005.
The school in Chinatown in the 1950s. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR HO NAI KIONG

Yeung Ching School old boy zooms in on over 40 community leaders

Pioneer dentist Look Yan Kit was a wealthy man and philanthropist from 19th-century Singapore who had a road and even a former public swimming pool named after him.

Journalist Ye Jiyun worked at Singapore's first Chinese daily newspaper Lat Pau as editor and chief writer for 40 years until he died in 1921. The paper, which was founded in 1881, folded 11 years after his death.

English-Chinese translator Ho Siak Kuan was chief translator for the British colonial government in the 1880s, and rose to be assistant secretary for Chinese affairs before retiring in 1926 after 42 years as a civil servant.

The trio were among the founders of the former Yeung Ching School, which was set up in Chinatown 111 years ago. The school was renamed Yangzheng Primary School in 1988 after the Education Ministry took over its management and relocated it to Serangoon.

Their life stories are retold in a new book, Records Of Old Yeung Ching, launched at the school's Old Boys' Association anniversary lunch at the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant in Liang Court on Sunday.

Written in Chinese by retired paediatrician Ho Nai Kiong, 79, the 280-page book features more than 40 Chinese community leaders who founded the school, including Lim Chwee Chian, Khoo Hun Yeung and Ng Sen Choy; former school principals; teachers and prominent old boys, such as the late oil painter Lee Man Fong.

"I chose to tell the history of the school this way because it is more interesting and readable," said Dr Ho, who studied in the school between 1945 and 1950.

It is his second book on the school, set up mostly by Cantonese-speaking community leaders in 1906. Two years ago, he published the first, Xian Xinghai's 10 Years In Singapore: 1911 - 1921, about the famous Chinese composer who was another old boy of the school.

Other interesting snippets on the school's history up to 1987 in the book include its days during the Japanese Occupation, stories behind the school song composed by the late Madam Lucien Wong and the school basketball team's glory days in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Dr Ho said he started researching his alma mater's history in 2005 when the school celebrated its centenary and found many inaccuracies and untruths, some found in the school's earlier publications and, more recently, on its website.

"I hope my book can help to set the record right," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Founders' stories etch out school's history'. Print Edition | Subscribe