Saluting an honourable man

A section of the students, teachers and church parishioners showing their great respect for Rev Hutchings.

THE ongoing pandemic did not deter past and present students from coming together once again for the annual thanksgiving memorial service for Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, the founder of Penang Free School (PFS).

Some 25 people turned up at the Northam Road Protestant cemetery to honour the founder of the first English-medium school in South-East Asia established on Oct 21, 1816.

Among them was PFS head boy Harish Jeyarishi, 19, who attended the memorial service for the fourth year in a row.

“I am honoured and grateful to be given the opportunity to pay my respects to my school’s founder.

“Because of this school, I am able to enjoy a conducive learning environment, meet good friends and collect good memories,” he said when met at the cemetery in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang, recently.

Harish said he hoped to grow into a warm and successful person like his uncle, M.S. Rajendren Sandanam, who studied in PFS in the 1980s.

“My uncle went on to become a lawyer and later in 2012, became one of the members in the Old Frees Association (OFA) management committee.

“As a PFS student, I hope I can always carry the legacy of the school in me after I graduate and remain steadfast in everything I do,” he added.

During the service, attendees placed flower wreaths near Rev Hutchings’ tomb.

The memorial service was led by St George’s Church Bishop Dr Stephen Soe and Rev Ho Kong Eng.

PFS alumni member Ho Chu Hor said the memorial service had been held for over 100 years to commemorate Rev Hutchings’ life and service to the school.

“His legacy continues in the development of the state and the nation through countless students whose lives were enriched through the school.

“Back then, he was the Anglican colonial chaplain of our then Prince of Wales Island (Penang).

“While he was here, his inspiration led to the construction of the St George’s Church, now the oldest Anglican church in South-East Asia that was completed in 1818,” he said.

Ho said Rev Hutchings’ founding of PFS back then saw the school progress into present times as a school with rich history and tradition.

“The school was founded on Oct 21, 1816, which is why we hold the service each year on Oct 21.”

Rev Hutchings was also said to have compiled and written what were considered the first books on Malay grammar in addition to several elementary textbooks.

He died of malaria in Penang on April 20,1827.

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