Last hurrah for Methodist old boys

Brothers for life: Masoba committee members celebrating their friendship at a recent gathering.

On a recent stormy Saturday, a band of septuagenarians and octogenarians made their way to a restaurant in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. Many strolled in merrily while a few shuffled in. Amazingly, no one arrived in a wheelchair.

They had gathered to commemorate the drawing of the final curtain on their beloved Methodist Afternoon School Old Boys Association (Masoba). In its heydays, the association boasted 238 members.

Since then, the number had dwindled to a mere 55 members. Still, the atmosphere on Oct 28 was warm and pleasant. There were handshakes and hugs as animated chatter filled the air. Aptly dubbed “The Last Hurrah”, it was Masoba’s swansong.

Little is known of the existence of the Methodist Afternoon School. It was founded immediately after the Second World War to cater for over-aged pupils who could not enrol in a regular school, for dropouts, as well as for ambitious parents who wanted their children to have the best of both worlds – a Chinese education in the morning followed by an English one in the afternoon. The school lasted for 26 years. It closed its doors in 1970 with the opening of the Methodist College.

It was the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj who had suggested to the old boys to form an association. He had never in his time as Prime Minister failed to grace the association’s annual reunion dinners. He even once came in a wheelchair.

The Tunku so loved Masoba that he regarded the association as “a gift which l shall carry to my grave”. At a time when private schools were not at all highly regarded, unlike today, the Tunku had chosen to befriend Masoba. It has been said that “Great men show their greatness by the way they treat little men”. The beloved Tunku was one such man.

Although many old boys associations have lasted longer than Masoba, few could have been as active. In its time, Masoba had organised various activities, such as the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial Golf Tournament and the Masoba/Anglo Chinese School Union Penang Goodwill Games, which lasted for 50 years until 2015, as well as several overseas vacations. On one occasion in 1979, Masobians were accorded the honour of an audience with Sir Robert Black, the then governor of Hong Kong.

Masobians owe their success and rich history to all its loyal members, as well as to the unstinting support and encouragement from its three patrons and 13 presidents.

Coincidentally, with the exception of V.G. Thalayasingam, the first patron, the other two patrons were extremely important members of the government. The late Tan Sri Mohd Khir Johari, a cabinet minister, was the second patron followed by Tan Sri Dr V. Ramon Navaratnam, a top civil servant.

Masoba would have been a typical, run-of-the mill association, had it not been for Peter Chua Lean Soon, who served as its honorary secretary for 40 years from its founding until his demise in 2014.

It has been said that all good things must come to an end. And so it had for Masobians after an afternoon of feasting and merry-making. As Wong Chee How, the president, rightly pointed out in his welcome address, “To meet, to know, to love and then to part is the sad tale of the human heart.” What remains are precious memories.

Just as it had begun, as members began to file out of the restaurant, there were smiles as well as the inevitable goodbyes. However, beneath the serenity was the irrepressible feeling that they will never be able to meet again in this manner.

Honorary secretary Chow Wai Choong spoke on behalf of every member when he remarked, “We shall look back with fondness to the many good years we have had. We shall also look forward with tranquility to the years ahead.”

It was truly a memorable commemoration, the last hurrah.


Petaling Jaya

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