Family's links to MGS span six generations

Astrid Natalya Virk, a pupil at Methodist Girls' School, with (from left) her mother Joy-Marie Toh, her grandmother Victorine Chen and her great- grandmother Happy Chen, all former students of MGS. Maintaining ties with the school is part of our heritage,
Astrid Natalya Virk, a pupil at Methodist Girls' School, with (from left) her mother Joy-Marie Toh, her grandmother Victorine Chen and her great- grandmother Happy Chen, all former students of MGS. Maintaining ties with the school is part of our heritage, says Ms Toh.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Mrs Victorine Chen's coconut candy is based on a recipe written by Mrs Ellice Handy, MGS' first Asian principal.
Mrs Victorine Chen's coconut candy is based on a recipe written by Mrs Ellice Handy, MGS' first Asian principal.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Ex-pupil of Methodist Girls' shares memories as school opens renovated heritage centre

It has been 28 years since Ms Joy-Marie Toh last donned the white and navy blue uniform. Yet it feels like she has never left Methodist Girls' School (MGS).

The school has been home to six generations of the 44-year-old's family, all the way back to her great-great-grandmother Siauw Mah Li, the school's first Chinese pupil.

Ms Siauw started attending the school in 1887, along with nine other pupils, who were all Indians.

The school had been founded that same year as the Tamil Girls' School by missionary Sophia Blackmore.

It was the first educational institution for girls established here by the Methodists.

The school's history was highlighted at its newly renovated heritage centre, which was officially opened last week at its campus in Blackmore Drive.

The centre displays artefacts, including old building plans and a bell, windows and bricks salvaged from the school's old campus in Mount Sophia.

When Ms Toh gets together with her grandmother Happy Chen, 94, and her mother Victorine Chen, 71, they often share memories of their days at the former MGS campus.

Ms Toh's daughter, Astrid Natalya Virk, nine, has followed the family tradition by going to MGS.

Ms Toh, general manager of the Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Foundation, an umbrella body for the ACS schools, said she and her mother had some teachers in common. "Mrs Anna Tham was my principal for 10 years and my mom's maths teacher," she said.

She also recalled how her grandmother used to make coconut candy for MGS funfairs when her mother was growing up. The candy was made based on a recipe written by Mrs Ellice Handy, MGS' first Asian principal.

Ms Toh mother, Mrs Chen, said patience is needed to make the candy.

"You need to keep stirring the candy in a huge pot over low heat for a long time, before it slowly thickens. Then you have to leave it to cool and harden before cutting it up," said Mrs Chen, who made four batches over two days for the opening of the heritage centre.

Ms Toh, a former head prefect at MGS, is very active in the MGS Alumnae Association committee.

On why her daughter Astrid is also studying in the school, Ms Toh said: "MGS was a very natural choice. No questions were asked, Astrid expected herself to be here.

"It is very important for us to keep our ties with the school and close friends. This is part of our heritage. School was never a chore for any of us, we loved it."

Asked if she ever misses her school days, Ms Toh said: "I don't miss them, I am still here!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Family's links to MGS span six generations'. Print Edition | Subscribe