Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Sunday, November 05, 2006

1.4 My father Walter (Kho Leng)

All the above took place when my father was still studying abroad, and I must have been about three or four when he returned after taking a B.A. and a B.Com at Edinburgh University. It was my father’s misfortune that during his schooldays the Queen’s Scholarship was in abeyance and not restored until 1924, for it was quite likely that he would have won the scholarship had he had the chance, when his life would have been very different. He had wanted to be a doctor, but not having the funds to take the long medical course, had taken the shorter arts course. As an extra, and because he wanted to study under his older brother, my father studied Histology as an optional, a rare one for an Arts student. Grandma Yin sent my mother to Hong Kong to meet my father’s boat on his return and they returned together to live for a while at Aurora. We then moved to Amoy to stay in the staff quarters of the University, an apartment in a block of terrace houses about a kilometre behind the University.

My father’s dearest wish was to study medicine but he had to make do with the least amount of money he could get so he took an Arts course and graduated in three years with M.A. and B.Com. And on his return he served Amoy University for two or three years as Professor of English and Mathematics. I imagine he must have taught in English as a foreign lecturer would do. Before he left Edinburgh my father asked Grandma Yin to send him £300, a huge sum in those days. Thinking he was in some trouble, she wired him the money and later was chagrined to learn he used it to buy books. He kept these books in his own library and in later years I made some use of them when I was studying English Lit in school. One book that made a great impression on me was “The Tragedies of Shakespeare,” by Lafcado Hearn, professor of English at Tokyo University.

My father took the job at Amoy University partly out of a sense of gratitude towards Tan Kah Kee who had paid for his studies. He was an academic kind of person and might have remained at Amoy University and enjoyed life as a professor but for two things. The first was that it was being said that Boon Kong was making the University his own by urging that a medical faculty be established so that he could bring Robert Lim from Peking (Beijing) to Amoy, and he already had one son on the campus. The second was that my mother was harping (so I was told later) on the gold lying about in the streets of Singapore waiting to be picked up. My mother had not been comfortable living with a strong minded mother-in-law, with her son always running off to grandma, and she might have felt she wanted to put some distance between herself and her mother-in-law. I think I was closest to my mother when we lived at Amoy University, but I never reached any degree of intimacy with my father. I was rather wilful and not subject to discipline by my mother because I was getting protection from my grandmother. My father probably got caught in the middle between the two women and disciplined me rather severely when he felt I had to be controlled. Thus, I considered my father a stern parent and I don’t think he ever addressed me in terms of endearment, and neither did my mother, now I come to think of it. It was probable that both subconsciously thought of me as a burden to be borne, he, as the price of going abroad to study, and she, as the cost of being a women.


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