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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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, December 21, 2008

4:4 Master
During our absence in England the old FMS Hostel on the hill behind the College (now Faculty) of Medicine had been torn down and replaced by two four-storey blocks of student accommodation plus a two-storey administrative block where the dining facilities were located. The new hostel was named King Edward Hall of Residence in remembrance of the former name of the King Edward VII College of Medicine that was built in 1927. The main function of K.E. Hall was to accommodate medical students, both men and women, in their clinical years so that they could be near their work-place when on night duty, or to study their cases in after-class hours. Thus, the top floors of the residential blocks were reserved for women students. Priority of accommodation was given to medical students but dental students were also admitted when there were rooms to spare.

The previous Master (administrator) of K.E.Hall was Professor Sandosham who had resigned to take up a WHO appointment in Malaria control. I was appointed to succeed him. The Master’s duty was to be a father-figure for the students in his charge, to discipline them if necessary, and to direct the work of the cooks, cleaners, and gardeners, with the assistance of a Domestic Manager. To help him mind the students, a number of Fellows were appointed from the university staff, including a woman staff member whose job it was to mind the students on the D floors. For the responsibility for the welfare of over 200 students the Master was paid the token sum of $100, but of more practical value was the free use of a large house at the upper end of College Road past the Faculty building.

To live near my work-place as Carleton would have loved to do was something I much appreciated. When we had settled down in the official Master’s residence at 18 College Road, I asked Amak to move in with us. Eu Jin, Rosie’s brother, and his wife Francis had been living in Oberon with Amak, but Eu Jin had built his own house in Newton and was about to move into it. 18 College Road was a large colonial type of compound house with three large bedrooms and a verandah upstairs, a large dining room and study downstairs, with kitchen and servant quarters in an annex.

Editor’s note: Actually Uncle Eu Jin moved into his new house in Newton in the mid fifties. Grandma lived alone in Oberon for a few years, then in a terrace house in Cairnhill Road for a few years, before joining the family in College Road.

The Master’s duties were not onerous and I cast myself not so much as a father-figure, but as an older brother. I had liberal ideas and I believed that I should treat my charges as adults and I tried to improve facilities for their extra-curricular activities. I improved the tennis-courts; for the high- brows I acquired a baby grand piano for the main lounge over the dining hall; for the low-brows, we had downstairs in the Games Room Iwo billiards tables. I also partitioned off one corner of the Games Room as a card room which was used for mahjong, not bridge as I had hoped, and which engendered some criticism that I was teaching the students how to gamble. I did not have to, they already knew how. My intention was to provide an alternative to mahjong in the bedrooms, which was prohibited, not because gambling in the bedrooms was prohibited, but because the all-night sessions disturbed the occupants of adjacent rooms. There were suites in each block for occupancy by Fellows and I assigned a vacant suite as the “Senior Lounge” for use by Final Year students to entertain their friends privately. My idea was that the Hall should be the students’ home from home and they should be able to entertain their friends in a private area other than their bedrooms where visitors were not allowed in the evenings.

I invited all students to visit me at Chinese New Year and to entertain them I set up a roulette table as I had heard Amak did in Oberon in the old days. This was probably not such a good idea, but we played for small stakes and I had the notion that if the students had any itch for gambling, they should have it eased when they did not have so much money to lose! I was Master of K.E. Hall for two three-year terms and I was succeeded by Professor Khoo Oon Teik who converted the card room into a prayer room, and guided the students along more sober paths than I had. In those days Oon Teik and I held almost diametrically opposing views on religion! It was possibly a good thing for students that their teachers had different ways of thinking.
How much Oon Teik and I differed was shown in an incident that took place when I was still a young lecturer. The students had organized a debate with the challenging proposition “Religion is an unnecessary institution” or some such theme. Being a free-thinker in those days, I made so free as to declare in favour of the proposition since the existence of God cannot be proven. I was astonished, when the debate was over, to be confronted by an agitated female who told me, “Dr. Lim, you are wrong, you are wrong!” The good lady was Mrs. Khoo Oon Teik who was troubled by the fact that an university lecturer was teaching young people such heresy.


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