Kirkby’s Nostalgic Home Coming

By Chan Bing Fai (Kirkby 1952-1954)



Kirkby College (KC) officially came home to Malaysia on 8.8.07. It was only a symbolic home-coming rather than an actual relocation. It was established in 1951 as a teacher training college (TTC) in Kirkby near Liverpool England. Trained teachers were in short supply immediately after WWII. Training teachers in Malaya then was on a part time basis under the normal class system. A trainee teacher had to teach full time in a school and attended weekend courses over a period of 3 years. The system was slow and the training was inadequate because of the lack of facilities and teacher trainers.


On the 8th August, 2007, two UPSI buses were waiting at the Wilayah Persekutuan Mosque in Jalan Duta, K.L. to take a group of 50 Kirkby trained teachers to Tanjong Malim to witness the official launch of the Tuanku Bainun Library and also the official opening of the Exhibition on Kirkby College in the Universiti Perdndikan Sultan Idris (UPSI). When the Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) was upgraded to a University in 1977, Tuanku Bainun was installed as her 1st Chancellor. She was a student in Kirkby from 1952-1954 and she was also our beloved Queen from 1977 to 1982. Riding in the bus reminded us of the many trips we travelled in Mr Bold’s bus to many places for our vacations. This bus ride was different. It was a sentimental journey down memory lane to trace our roots in kampong Kirkby.


Bringing Kirkby back home was a logical proposition because it should be where your heart is. Even making a pilgrimage back to the actual site where the College once stood would be meaningless and futile because the College had been demolished to make way for a new housing estate. Can anyone imagine that the place is now flourishing with shops, boutiques and restaurants? Visiting the location alone would not bring back those happy memories and feelings for the place. Kirkby was not about the place. It was about people and their interactions. Establishing a college in England was a noble idea.




The choice of UPSI formerly known as the Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) to house the Education Museum was a fitting one because SITC was the 1st TTC set up in this country in 1922. KC was the 1st TTC set up by Malaya in a foreign country in 1951. UPSI has strong links with Kirkby because one of the Pro Chancellors there is no other than Tan Sri Dato Dr Yahaya Ibrahim who was student in Kirkby from 1952-1954. Nuruddin Jamin and Ramli Shaari from the 2nd batch joined the academic staff of SITC in 1954. A year later 3 other Kirkby trained teachers were sent to teach there. They were Shaari Isa, Zainal Akbar and Ahmad Salleh who was later promoted to become the principal of SITC. Also in the same year Yasmin Hanoum Ariff, Zainab Hamidon and Shahrul Bariah were sent to teach in the “experimental school” of SITC. In this special school trainee teachers did their teaching practice.


As we grow older we yearned to return to our roots to trace our ancestry to meet old friends and visit old haunts. In the case of Kirkby there was no ancestry so to speak because its existence was only transitory. Therefore, it had not sufficient time for deep seated roots to establish. However, it was there long enough to have adventitious roots like that of a bamboo. These roots appeared only at the knots representing the different batches of students.


So balik kampong now is made so much simpler because you just need to make a visit to Gallery Kirkby in the Education Museum in UPSI. The many exhibits and memorabilia will surely bring back many happy memories of the place where we spent two happy years studying and getting a well rounded education.


What remained of Kirkby now is only a fading memory. I remember clearly the dreadful wintry mornings when I needed to drag myself out from bed after having tugged in for the very cold nights. Then dashing to the wash room to clean up and get dressed to begin another day. In winter the weather was often cheerless and dull. When it was 8.00 am it was still gloomy I hated it because it was cold, dreary and colourless. It was always damp and sloshy and I had to put on a heavy woollen overcoat to protect myself against the weather whenever I had to go out in the open. It was heavy and uncomfortable and also the absence of sunshine had a depressing effect on me.


I liked spring and it was worth remembering after enduring the harsh cold and gloomy winter. When crocuses appeared it was the 1st sign of spring. Then followed the daffodils and other spring flowers. I liked spring because it was young and refreshing. There was life, vitality and growth. Grass awakened from its sleep, tried to reach for the light. Buds everywhere learned to unfold and bloom into things of beauty. Birds came out of hibernation and soared high into the sky.


I liked summer too when flowers were in full bloom to display their many and varied colours It had the exuberance and vigour of youth. I like autumn best because leaves began to change colours from green, yellow into gold and red. It spoke of abundance, maturity and wisdom. And so the cycle of seasons came and went. When winter returned could spring be far away? The beauty of living in England was that there was always something to look forward to.


Despite Kirkby’s drab exterior it inspired me with a sense of tenacity and accomplishment. I hope every Kirkbian who passed through its postal will always be proud of being a true Kirkbian. Like every “emigrant” I long to return to my roots “Who am I?” when I returned to my “ancestral home” in Kampong Kirkby. “Whom do I identify with?” These questions are best left for future pundits to decide.