The following aricle entitled “Sweet memories of Kirkby” written in conjunction with the Kirkby College Class of 1954 Reunion on March 8 2003 appeared in the Star of April 6 2003


 Sweet memories of Kirkby



True friendship, strong bonding and great camaraderie were   characteristics that stood out clearly at the reunion of the 4th batch (Class of 1954) of Kirkbyites on Saturday, March 8.

It was as though time had stood still for the 52 ex-students of Kirkby College, England and their spouses who got together for a ‘down-memory-lane’ reunion.   photo

                     FOND REUNION: The Kirkby Class of 1954 as they look today

For many, it was the first meeting in more than four decades. So the Chairman of the organizing committee Zainal Arshad Zainal Abidin had to introduce one by one as many of us had changed so much in appearance! Forty nine years ago, we were in our teens travelling overseas for the first time to study at a Malayan Teachers College 8,000 miles away.

Now, it was a gathering of cronies in their golden years, many of whom have become grandpas and grandmas. But the spirit was spontaneous and unrestrained, comparing receding hairlines, sagging jowls and spreading midriffs.

Was it the carnival mood which set the tone of merriment or was it the feeling that in our twilight years we should mingle as much as possible when our limbs are still strong ? Or was it the nostalgia of the good old days in good old England that made the trick?

 ‘We toil in a warm-hearted exile

       For our homeland in sun-haunted seas!

       And the song in our heart is forever

       Of the Golden Chersonese! ‘


Oh those unforgettable days of 1954-1956 at Kampong Kirkby in Liverpool ! We looked forward to the dawn of each new day

for in our hearts of hearts we knew there would always be some excitement and new experiences to be learned.

It was a time when students bonded regardless of race, religion or creed and a time when strong friendships formed during  lectures, on the playing field and through annual presentation of Malayan Medley watched in awe for its colours, rhythm and pulsating hits and beats by our orang putih guests.

It was a time when the noisy and restless English children around Lancashire were wondering how we could speak and teach them in their own mother tongue without much difficulty.

Numerous hearts however were won and friendships cemented. So were the hearts of their parents.

Summer time was our glorious days. In droves, we travelled on shoe-string budget to various parts of the United Kingdom and the continent.  Many of us took to hitch-hiking and stayed in youth hostels with the aim of widening our horizon. Places of interests from London, Paris, Copenhagen, Salsberg and Lucern had all borne our footprints. Not forgetting of course were the great cities of Renaissance-- Milan, Venice, Florence and the Eternal City of Rome.


We mingled with the locals and learnt their dialects. We admired their opera, their ballet, fine art, architecture and the spirit of Renaissance. Their relentless pursuit of freedom and individuality impressed very much our young minds. Upon our return, we rushed to the College darkroom to develop the photos, compare notes, pulling each others’

hair and reminisce.

As the groups travelling to the Continent were multi-racial in nature and all speaking in one language, English, these trips further strengthened and cemented our friendships.

Through these informal activities, we learned self-discipline, tolerance, compassion and adapted ourselves to different ways of life.

Though the College was multi-racial and multi-religious in nature, we treated each other as brothers and sisters, with no racial feeling at all in all our activities, be they in the lecture-room or outside it.

One thing was absolutely certain: we were all Malayans and owed our

allegiance and undivided loyalty to our country:


Yet Malaya is our mother

And she calls us from afar!’


For this particular occasion, the Kirkbyites of the Class of 1954 were thankful to the organiser Zainal and his co-organiser Cheong Koon Hoe for tracking the whereabouts of the ex-students and bringing us together. We have forged friendships that bind. And the friendship forged has become strengthened as clearly shown in the reunion.

Every Kirkbyite from the inception of the College in 1951 till 1962 is aware and proud of the fact that they have made significant contributions to practically every stratum of society. And the memory will linger on….. with nostalgia for good old Kirkby.


Chiam Tah Wen

Kirkby 1954-56 & 1962