Director proud of four-generation legacy at Penang Free School


Never forget: School prefects, teachers and alumni of Penang Free School and SMK Hutchings with representatives from St George’s Church during the annual memorial service in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Former student Lee Eu Beng was proud to be part of a four-generation legacy studying at Penang Free School.

“My grandfather and father studied in the school while I also completed my secondary education there from 1981 to 1987.

“I do not have a son but my daughter is doing her Form Six there now. It is a legacy and feels amazing to be following in my grandfather’s and father’s footsteps.

“It was not something I was told to do, but we lived near the school.

“When I was in primary school, most of us studied very hard, hoping to get into the school.

“I felt proud when I was admitted as we had to obtain good results in our Standard Five exams to get in, ” said the 51-year-old company director at the annual thanksgiving memorial service at Northam Road Protestant cemetery.

The annual service is held in honour of the late Rev Robert Sparke Hutchings, the school’s founder.

Lee, who is also the Old Frees’ Association president, said the school was extra special as his father met his mother there while in Form Six.

“My grandfather studied there in the 1930s, my father in the 1950s, myself in the 1980s and now, my daughter. Those were some of the best years of my life and it created a good foundation for me.

“The education there is not just academic but they teach you to be an all-rounder. We learnt leadership skills, life lessons, communication and teamwork.

“These were lessons that came to good use in the outside world, ” he added.

Lee said he would not have missed the thanksgiving ceremony, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We wore masks and observed physical distancing, ” he added.

Another alumnus, Ho Chu Hor, 42, said this year was special as former and current students turned up to pay their respects.

“It is a tradition and many turned up, which is amazing and beyond our expectations.

“It is their respect and acknowledgement of his contribution.

“Rev Hutchings’ influence can be felt all around Penang. This service is to pray and thank God for his life, as well as to bless the students, ” said the marketing and corporate communications director.

Those who attended comprised school prefects, teachers and alumni of the school and SMK Hutchings, along with representatives from St George’s Church.

The memorial service also saw attendees placing flowers on the tomb of Rev Hutchings.

Rev Hutchings was an Anglican chaplain of the Prince of Wales Island (Penang), whose inspiration led to the construction of St George’s Church in 1818.

The church is the oldest Anglican church in South-East Asia.

On Oct 21,1816, he founded Penang Free School, the first English-medium school in South-East Asia then.

He was also said to have compiled and written what were considered the first books on Malay grammar, in addition to several elementary textbooks and a dictionary for school use.

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

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