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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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"

Saturday, November 08, 2008

3.6 London, 1953
The Diploma in Bacteriology course had places for only 12 students, six of whom were nominees of the Public Health Laboratory Service. This was a branch of the British Ministry of Health that maintained regional laboratories serving the whole of the United Kingdom and was responsible for backing up local authorities with routine and specialized tests. The main business of the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was to run the course for the Diploma in Tropical Health and Medicine for doctors in the Public Health branch of the Colonial Medical Service. Such officers would be responsible for control of infectious diseases and the health aspects of sanitation, water works and so on, in the colonies. At the request of the PHLS the School of Hygiene organized a course to train staff for the PHLS but found that six which the PHLS required annually were rather too few to teach for the effort involved, so they offered another six places to academic and research institutions in the UK and abroad. Even so the staff-student ratio was about 1:2! It was an all round course that trained us to meet every known contingency that a Public Health laboratory might encounter, and possibly some hitherto unknown. To be taught by those who wrote my text-books was not a new experience for me for I had that in Edinburgh, but to learn from journals that reported new knowledge was exciting and at the same time frightening; to be at the cutting edge meant constantly asking oneself the question, “What if this new knowledge is wrong?”

The field of knowledge covered in the Dip Bact course was broad and many of my class-mates already had some years of service in public health bacteriology; they were taking the Dip Bact just to get their proficiency badges, so to speak. By dint of burning the midnight oil I made the grade but one of our twelve did not and had to take a re-exam six months later. It was the year of the coronation of Elizabeth II and the high point of my attending the School of Hygiene was seeing the Coronation Carriage Parade from the windows of the School. I even took a film shot of the royal couple as they passed by below in their open car.

The UCHMS where I was to spend six months with Hale’s old boss was also in Gower Street, just 200 metres up the road from the School of Hygiene. We had been nine months already in London and Amak decided to go home to avoid another English winter, taking Mei Kin with her. For our reduced household we moved from Morden to Regent’s Park, near Camden Town and 15 minutes by bus from the Medical School. Rosie quitted RADA so as to take care of the family and because the second year course was really for professionals. She did get a stage appearance from her RADA contact, a speaking part in an United Nation’s Day celebration at the Albert Hall. When she had time from house-hold duties Rosie would visit the British Museum just at the bottom of Gower Street, or take in a matinee performance at the theatre.

To fill in my spare time, I enrolled in a night-class of the London Polytechnic in Camden Town to learn workshop practice, that is, how to use machine tools and make machine drawings. The experience enabled me to talk authoritatively to our workshop technicians when I got back to Singapore and wanted some equipment made. It also made me buy a clock-maker’s lathe, the first of a series of expensive toys that I made little use of.


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