Prolific ST Forum letter writer dies at age 85

Between 1982 and last year, Mr Au (above) had more than 230 letters, some seen here (right), published in the Forum pages.
Between 1982 and last year, Mr Au (above) had more than 230 letters, some seen here, published in the Forum pages.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHARANNE AU

Over the course of 34 years, he penned more than 230 letters, which were published in The Straits Times (ST) Forum pages, on topics ranging from regional politics to Singapore's education system.

Mr Dudley Au's broad knowledge and sharp writing style even led a stranger to moot the idea of nominating him as a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP).

But sadly, the 85-year-old's voice will no longer grace the Forum pages. He died on Sunday of pneumonia. His prolific contribution to ST prompted another reader to pay tribute to the former businessman in a Forum letter yesterday.

Mr Ronald Lee, 76, a retiree, wrote: "I will miss Mr Au and am sure that most readers of the Forum page would likewise miss his stimulating articles too."

Mr Au's funeral was held yesterday. The retiree died after his health saw a steep decline last year owing to several health problems, including with his heart, said his daughter Sharanne Au.

Between 1982 and last year, Mr Au had more than 230 letters, some seen here (above), published in the Forum pages. PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Ms Au, 41, said of his writing: "Apart from family, it was a hobby that took up a lot of time. He would spend many hours researching before writing." His passion led to Mr Au being invited to be a panellist on "i On The News" in 2003, a programme on the now defunct Channel i.

Mr Au started small, with his first contribution being one playful paragraph on May 29, 1982, about the Singaporean habit of slapping seats on the bus before sitting down. He wrote: "It is a compulsive neurotic gesture left over from primitive times when it was dangerous to sit before making certain that the area contained no predators harmful to one's posterior."

He told The New Paper in an interview in 1992 that he penned that letter for "fun". Later, he wrote because he had a grouse, for example, with what the Government was doing, and writing helped him "relieve his frustration at bureaucracy".

His last published letter, against Singlish, saw print on June 11 last year. He wrote: "We should not elevate a fractured language that corrupts grammar rules into a national heritage to be revered."

Mr Lee, who also writes to the Forum pages, said he was inspired by Mr Au. "He was very knowledgeable and had a sharp writing style. He spoke his mind when he felt there were injustices ," he said.

In 2009, Mr Lee had the idea of nominating Mr Au as an NMP and wrote a letter to him. Ms Au said her father was flattered but turned it down, as he was not into politics and wrote to the Forum pages to express his views and encourage a lively civil discussion.

He also debated current affairs with her. "They were very stimulating conversations and I learnt a lot from him. They helped in the development of my thought process," she said.

He was quite prolific in the 1990s, said ST's Forum editor Mathew Pereira. "I remember him for being a stout defender of the English language. Singlish and the way English is mutilated online bothered him and he wrote about it."

Mr Au was a loving and protective father, said Ms Au. He also took pride in his letters. "Many years ago, I read his letters and told him he should use simpler words. He didn't take it too well. He had his own writing style," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Prolific ST Forum letter writer dies at age 85'. Print Edition | Subscribe