By Dato Sidek Elamdin Pulau Pinang. (extracted from Kirkby Newsletter, June 2005 21st Series)
Dear Zainal, Allow me to congratulate you on your magnificent effort and dogged perseverance - all these years - in getting out the Kirkby Newsletter once every three months, 20 issues so far! In our old septuagenarian stage of life such an effort can be considered as being "beyond the call of duty", therefore your sacrifice of time, energy and money is extremely commendable. Only those who have the undying love for Kirkby, and hold close to their hearts the sacred bond of friendship and fellowship among Kirkbians will go to such lengths! Therefore, with all my heart, I say, Syabas Zainal !
I am deeply saddened to see that your pipe-line of articles from fellow Kirkbians is slowly drying up. If our Kirkbians brothers and sisters - irrespective of age, marital status, profession or health conditions (at this stage who is 100% healthy? ) - do not marshal their customary Kirkbian spirit and cast aside the prevailing mental and/or physical lethargy to sit down and to pen a few words to keep the Newsletter going, then I am afraid the inevitable will happen - you will have to close shop! That would be a sad day, very very sad indeed!
Let us hope what had happened to our first few Kirkby Newsletters ( 1953-1956), and also what happened to our Kirkby Guild, first set up in 1953, will not befall your Newsletter. Elsewhere I am briefly outlining these events as well as tracing the history of the first 7 Pan-Malayan Kirkby Reunions, culminating in the Home-Coming of Mr & Mrs G.H.Gurney in 1975.
In the 19th issue of your Newsletter you had mentioned that the 7th Kirkby Reunion was held in conjunction with the much awaited Home-coming of the Gurneys in 1975. Allow me now to briefly outline the sequence of the events leading to this 7th Reunion.
When members of the pioneering batch returned home in July/August 1953, the first AGM and Reunion Dinner and Dance were held at Melaka in December 1953, It was exceptionally well attended by almost all the members of the 1st Batch, including Stalwarts like Yusuf Mohamed (the 1st President at Kirkby who was a pre-war graduate of then Raffles College, Singapore, and was senior to Allahyarham Tun Hamdan Sheikh Tahir ( the second Mlaysian to become D-G of the Education Ministry who went on to become the 6th Governor of Penang.). Also present were the late P.D.Rajadurai, the 2nd President of Kirkby College, Dr John Augustin of Kedah, Mohan Singh (Secretary of Kirkby Students' Council) and other great names from all over the country.
At the IGM it was decided, among other things, to call ourselves "Kirkbians" and not "Kirkbyites" (that sounded more like members of a schoolboy dub) but someone from much later batch, ignorant of this resolution, repeatedly mentioned in the press that we like to call ourselves "Kirkbyites" - hence the name has stuck to this day.
But more importantly, it was unanimously decided at Melaka to (i) form a Kirkby Guild, duly registered in due course and KL would be its HQ. Subsequently, the Guild would rotate on a state to state basis; and (ii) to produce a Newsletter from time to time, so as to keep in touch with everyone, with news of marriages, promotions, transfers, deaths, etc. fully reported in such a Newsletter.
Giant figure like Albert Samuel (a scholar well known at Victoria Institution K.L , who later rose to a responsible position in the Ministry of Finance) and his indefatigable colleagues in K.L. saw to the healthy growth of the Guild in its infancy stages, as well as to the publication of the Newsletter. Contributions from a good cross-section of Kirkbians flowed in. This augured well for the future!
The 2nd Reunion also very well attended by the first two batches was held in December 1954 at the E & 0 Hotel in Penang, with John Augustin from Kedah as Chairman and Sidek Elamdin from Perak as M.C. The famous Albert Yeoh and his Band were in attendance till well past midnight. Both the first two reunions had the typical nostalgic "then days" atmosphere of Kirkby, a healthy sign that the Kirkbian fire was burning brightly and strong!
The K.L. group organised the 3rd Reunion in 1955 at Federal Hotel - again well attended by members of the first three batches. Again the nostalgic atmosphere made everyone ‘Kirkby-sick’. The tunes and songs of Kirkby came back lively and proudly and the bond of friendship became even yet stronger.
At the AGM held at Victoria Institution, it was decided that the Guild would go from the west to the east coast states.
Those from these east-coast states worked very hard. But circumstances were against them. There were no highways then! Transport difficulties included having to cross many rivers by awkward ferries aggravated further by some poor stretches of road and the cost of travelling to and fro etc. Many could not attend the Reunion. More batches returned from Kirkby. With a sad heart, we saw the Guild eventually breathing its last in the east.
After sometime, Penang worked hard and two Reunions were held. Special mention must be made of Mohan Singh (now ailing with health problems at age 83). As Secretary he worked exceptionally hard, day and night. He later became Vice Principal of Maktab Perguruan Sri Pinang, but this did not deter him working even harder. He was ably assisted by the Assistant Secretary, Khoo Yeoh Gan Hong (who later became Organiser of Primary Schools Penang) and also by N.S.G. Segaram who was Bursar of the Maktab Perguruan Persekutuan, Penang. The Committee gave them all the support. The success of the two reunions depended also on the naturally gifted Allahyarham Abdul Rahim Merican who as M.G. was the live-wire of the Reunion and his exuberance and bubbly spirit infected everyone. Both the two Reunions were a great success.
However a little of the 6th Reunion merits some mention here. N.S.G. Segaram organised the Dinner at the MTC Hall. Mohan Singh and Gan Hong managed to get more than 200 Kirkbians (including wives/husbands) from all states to attend and for only a cost of three Ringgit Malaysia (RM3/-) a sumptuous dinner was laid out. The Menu included rice, soup, senangin sweet-sour fish, fried chicken, mixed vegetables, fried prawns, ice cream, mixed fruits and tea/coffee. It was unbelievably cheap. Everyone enjoyed thoroughly.
The Pengarah Pendidikan, Mr Cheah Tat Huat, represented the Ministry of Education at this Reunion. The royal toast was proposed by Sidek Elamdin , the toast to H.E. Governor of Penang by Hashim Mydin, (now Dato , then Deputy Pengarah Pendidikan Penang) to Kirkby College by Albert Samuel (from Ministry of Finance) and to the guests by A.Y. Abdul Rahim Merican, who later on took over as M.C. to create a lively night full of Kirkbian memories. It was deeply nostalgic.
Elsewhere (or perhaps in the next issue of this Newsletter) we shall give some excerpts of the Chairman's speech which was relevant then, and is even relevant today - some food for thought! This is through the courtesy of Parrathy Ramasamy (2nd Batch ) who has kept the 30 year-old Newsletter as fresh as it was on the day it came out in Penang!
So much briefly of the first six Reunions; a few details of Gurney's visit, inevitably left out will be included in the next Newsletter.