Author researching lesser known Malayan plague expert


Medically inclined: Dr Ng (left) and Dr Wu

IPOH: When we talk about plague, Penang-born epidemiologist Dr Wu Lien-Teh’s name always comes to mind.

However, there is yet another expert on the plague from these shores who has been forgotten over the years: Dr Ng Cheong Yew.

Dr Ng, also known as Dr Ng Chong Yew or Dr CY Wu, was a nephew of Dr Wu’s, who like the latter, had also travelled extensively across continents on the League of Nations’ Travelling Fellowship.

Chan Sue Meng, founder and chief executive officer of Sue Meng Heritage Sdn Bhd, said Dr Ng also had as high and illustrious a profile as Dr Wu, going around the world on work with the latter.

“He had earlier spent time in China, initially as Dr Wu’s protege.

“He had visited all key ports and health centres and also engaged in discussions with Chinese ministers in various cities,” she said.

Chan said Dr Ng also held some leading roles with the Chinese government, and by 1937, was described as an expert on plague.

“At the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese conflict, he was appointed director of the China Red Cross in Hong Kong and was also director of China’s transport and supplies department then.

“He was a prominent and influential figure and was followed and frequently quoted by the media,” she added.

Chan said she became interested to learn more about Dr Ng after chancing upon an old newspaper announcement of his engagement to Wong Siong Bing, the daughter of Dr Wong I Ek.

She has been gathering information on Dr Wong, a core supporter of Chinese revolutionist Dr Sun Yat Sen in Perak, for her second book on Dr Sun’s journey here and found Dr Ng’s name.

“Born in Penang in 1899, Dr Ng is the son of Dr Wu’s third brother, Ng Lean Fatt. He also went to Penang Free School,” she said, adding that Dr Ng also practised as a doctor here (note: Wu and Ng refers to the same Chinese surname).

“He went to a medical school in Hong Kong University, before furthering his studies in England and the United States.

“He was a prolific writer, editor, actor (Shakespearean plays), sportsman, researcher into anthropology and authored a book about China through the lens of a Malayan. Like Dr Wu, Dr Ng was regarded as a ‘credit to Malaya’,” she said.

She said Dr Ng was also described by the media as a leading member of the Perak Chinese community.

“He had contributed to many social causes in Perak, served in various committees and philanthropic bodies, including the Kinta Sanitary Board, Town Planning Committee and Tanjung Rambutan Central Mental Hospital,” she said.

Chan said she sourced much of the information on Dr Ng from old newspapers.

“I have also reached out to the descendants of Dr Wong but not many have information about Dr Ng.

“It is an ongoing research. I’ve been researching Dr Ng periodically for about 12 months as he goes by several monikers,” she said.

“I’m still sorting out my findings about his contributions outside Malaya and in China,” said Chan, who is the author of Road to Revolution: Dr Sun Yat Sen and His Comrades in Ipoh.

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