Prof Daphne Fautin, RIP

Prof Daphne Fautin was Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Curator, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center at the University of Kansas. She was a blessing on this earth, as a scientist, teacher, mentor, humanist and friend.

Here she in the middle of a search for mangrove anemones and taking time to tenderly free a mangrove horseshoe crab (?2009 photo by Ria Tan).

She made wonderful contributions to marine science in Singapore and touched many of us with her humility, good humour, brilliance and dedication.

R.I.P. Daphne, thanks for spending all that joyous time with us.159922377 10159163006605797 6588970470210461889 n

Daphne Gail Fautin, 25 Mar 1946 – 12 Mar 2021.

Jon Baldur Sigurdsson (formerly Department of Zoology, NUS),RIP

Jon Baldur Sigurdsson, formerly of the Department of Zoology at the National University of Singapore, passed away in Iceland today. Cynthia Lee who relayed the news said, “He went peacefully surrounded by his son and grand-daughters.”

He was such a story-teller, field biologist, academic and friend. RIP.

2015 04 29 09 48 12

Mrs Priscilla Krempl, RIP. Thanks for being part of my St. Andrew’s heritage.

This ST photo which The New Paper used online captures that image in the minds of many Saints. Thanks to Santokh Singh for the lovely tribute. Thanks to Chan Jan Ho for posting this image at The St. Andrew’s Family Facebook group.


It is with a heavy heart that I learnt that Mrs Priscilla Krempl passed away.

Mr Yee Teck Peng wrote to the SaintsDYK list on 1st December 2011 to say,


“I am sad to announce that


has passed away.

She was a student of St Margaret’s and St Andrew’s Pre-U,

a teacher and Principal of St Andrew’s Sec School.

RIP Priscilla.”

I can imagine her singing,

“Up Boys! Truest fame
Lies in high endea-vour
Play the game
Keep the flame
Burning brightly ever!”

At St. Andrew’s, we loved our teachers but they were demi-gods who ruled us boys with a strict hand. Just as well, I have to say!

Priscilla Krempl introduced me to the game of rugby in 1981 during PE. I was half-terrified and half-excited when we trotted out to the vast field next to the Kallang River that morning. I took to the game like duck to water and in that first game, I remember Mrs Krempl laughingly pull aside Samuel Chacko and myself, who were on the ground still earnestly wrestling each other for the ball, instead of releasing it like the rules require. My team won that day, despite the failure of both sides in scoring (that would take actual skill which we had not yet acquired!) but she awarded me a point for a low tackle I made on a hefty student. Yes, I remember that fondly!

She taught us the basics and refereed our games. It opened up a truly wonderful world to all of us which left an indelible mark. The next year, when were in secondary four, she organised inter-class games which reached high standards after all that coaching. She said she was impressed with our performance and said the final nearly reached the inter-school tournament (Police Cup) standards. We were giddy with pride and the winners from the combined side of 4 Sci I and 4 Sci II received a bag of hastily-made keychains, which my buddy Yew Chee Chien went up to collect during the end of year assembly.

It bore the school logo and that was very precious to us.

She urged the highest standards of ethics and behaviour on and off the field. Once, when driving out of school for a meeting, she noticed my classmates Stuart Soh and Benjamin Yap leaving school – they were playing hookey to go play badminton, I recall. They had informed me and I had updated the attendance on the blackboard to reflect their absence, as I was class monitor and responsible for this.

That day, Mrs Krempl appeared at our class door to demand, “Where is Benjamin and Stuart?!” Feigning ignorance, I pointed to blackboard which now indicated they were absent that day. Unimpressed, she left me standing and directed her gaze from the door to question other boys, including class chairman, Kwek Beng Siong, down the line to the prefects, to the last of the lot, the school Vice-Captain Jonathan Wong. The large number of us stood mutely and fairly shaken as we were keeping the truth from her. I remember her flashing eyes, honed after years of teaching boys at St. Andrew’s.

Later, to our surprise, our expatriate form teacher, and her good friend, Stuart MacPherson, shook his head at Stuart and Benjamin and said they should not have gotten caught!

By Sec 4, I realise she was nudging us towards talking to her like regular folk. It was nice to realise she was transitioning us towards accepting friendship with one our demi-gods. I asked her aspects of the school history then, and talked about rugby. She asked about me and my family and was glad I went to the junior college and continued playing. Years later, my cousin chatted with her on a plane journey to Sri Lanka once, eventually discovering I was their common link. I had trouble grappling with the image of my cousin casually chatting with her then!

When I was a wee lad of six years, I got a place in some academically well-regarded school, apparently not an easy thing even in those days. My mum, however, decided determinedly against this and ensured I was enrolled in St. Andrew’s. She wanted me to go to a place with soul, and knew it would be a rock on which I would stand on for rest of my life. St. Andrew’s was indeed such a place, filled not with overt messages or exhortations, but with teachers like Mrs Priscilla Krempl who would love us and become part of our lives, forever.

RIP Mrs Krempl.

We’ll keep the flame burning brightly ever.

The wake is at St Joseph’s Church, 143 Victoria Street, Singapore 188020 with nightly services at 8pm. The funeral is at Church of the Ascencion, 13 Francis Thomas Drive Singapore 359339 @ St. Andrew’s campus, Sun 04 Dec 2011: 2.00pm, thereafter to Mandai Crematorium at 3.45pm at Hall 3 – from Mr Yee Teck Peng via SaintsDYK

See Shamir Serajudeen Muhammad’s heartfelt blog post, “Mrs Priscilla Krempl… from me, on behalf of us AEDs.” [pdf]

Thanks to Christine Tan for alerting me today about my teacher. She said via facebook, “Your rugby coach, Ms Krempl passed away.” How apt, and this is how I remember her, on the pitch with a whistle, urging us on.

Ex-St Andrew’s principal dies at 66
Former school head studied and taught in school as well
The Straits Times, 03 Dec 2011


Mrs Krempl was perhaps best known as Singapore’s first qualified woman rugby referee and also coached national title-winning rugby teams. — ST FILE PHOTO

FORMER students and colleagues turned up yesterday at St Joseph’s Church in Victoria Street to pay their last respects to Mrs Priscilla Krempl, former principal of St Andrew’s Secondary School who had a long association with the school.

She died on Thursday at age 66, after being diagnosed with lung cancer a month ago, and later suffering a stroke.

The former St Andrew’s student became a geography teacher there in 1968 after graduating from the then University of Singapore. She became the school’s principal in 1996 but left in 2002 to head Bedok Town Secondary.

She retired in 2007, but until October, had taught part-time at the National Institute of Education (NIE), where she trained allied educators. Perhaps best known as Singapore’s first qualified woman rugby referee, Mrs Krempl coached St Andrew’s national title-winning rugby teams during the 1970s and 1980s.

Mrs Krempl was born in Malaysia to an Indian father and a Chinese mother, who have both died. The divorcee had no children. Her younger brother, a retiree in his early 60s, is her only surviving next of kin.

Close friend Lau Mui Lee, 73, said Mrs Krempl was a cheerful and energetic woman.

Mr Shamir Muhammad, 27, was her student at St Andrew’s in the 1990s and at NIE just two months ago. He said he got into serious disciplinary trouble in Secondary 3 because he was affected by family issues. Mrs Krempl counselled him for over a year and he completed his O levels and went on to a polytechnic.

At NIE, he said she was easily the most engaging teacher he had, as she often shared interesting anecdotes from her experience as a teacher and principal.

‘She was authoritative but not authoritarian. She’s part of the reason why I identify myself so closely with the school,’ he said. He is now an allied educator at St Andrew’s.

Mrs Krempl’s funeral will be held tomorrow.


Lin Zhaowei who write the article above for The Straits Times, blogged about Mrs Krempl further, read “The rugby-loving principal who changed lives” (ST Blogs, 03 Dec 2011) [pdf].

“Judging from the many stories shared by people who knew her, Mrs Krempl seemed to lived by her motto of “Do the right thing, and do it excellently”. It was a line she used to tell her St Andrew’s students whenever she addressed them, and something she still told her students at NIE.”

Clive Briffett, RIP

See Subaraj Rajathurai’s “A tribute to Clive Briffett: Birdwatcher and conservationist” on BESG

Ng Bee Choo just informed me this morning that she’d just received sad news that Clive Briffett passed away last Saturday.

His son, Philip, wrote,

“Last Saturday morning Clive very suddenly and tragically died from what is believed to be a heart attack that had no warning signs and up to that point he had been in perfect health.

His service will take place next Thursday 10th November in Teddy Hall in Oxford, UK.”

Clive Briffett at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, Jan 2010.
Thanks to Ng Bee Choo for the photo.

I didn’t know Clive well and am glad I got to chat with him a few times at least when he was still here with us. He had a twinkle in his eye and I thought he must have been a great mentor to students.

Clive Briffet was an active member of the natural history community with the Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) and an academic at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in the 80’s and 90’s.

In the mid-90’s there was an unusual (for the time) announcement in NUS about a walk on the ridge in conjunction with, I think, Earth Day. With no mention of the guide, I thought it was pretty neat that there were others in campus who were introducing nature to the community. Well, soon after, the lab phone rang with Andrew Tay from NSS activating me to help out as a guide – lots of people had signed up for the walk and Clive, who had volunteered and was the sole guide, needed help. It was a reminder that there was no army of naturalists out there, just the few stalwarts who persisted in public education.

So I roped in a few kakis (including Adrian Loo) and what a great time we had that Saturday morning on the ridge, with Clive and his umbrella. He regaled us with insights from his long interaction with the area and I was struck by how well he had appreciated his backyard – I still have not yet reached that measure of engagement even today.

Though I have made many walks on the ridge since, I still remember the walk that day, the effect Clive’s personality and spirit had on all of us and the sense of community and appreciation everyone felt.

Clive was an active contributor in NSS (who must miss him) and they harried the government over decades with conservation proposals. Those were tough engagements then, for few in the country had experienced or heard of these areas – certainly these days, many more are aware of and interested in the conservation of nature.

After Clive left NUS, I remember a morning, early last decade, discussing the future of Mandai mangrove and mudflats and strategies for conservation of this precious patch. That discussion is still ongoing today, albeit with many others over the years, and is all the more relevant in the present time.

Still talking, we hopped up an internal shuttle and accidentally ended up at the PGP terminal on the ridge. He was bewildered by what he saw and bemoaned the loss of green cover. Like Mandai, I suggested that it would be others, who might not have experienced the ridge in all its glory, who would have to step up to protect and enhance what was left of it. These kindred spirits would ensure we kept a place for nature in Singapore, like he and his friends had fought to do.

RIP Clive. Thanks for the memories.

Message of condolence from the Nature Society (Singapore), 01 Nov 2011

“Clive is a stalwart of the NSS Bird Group in the 80s & early 90s, providing committed and unwavering leadership to the Group.

On the conservation front in Singapore, he has provided invaluable and whole-hearted support and contribution to NSS’s conservation efforts and projects — such as the formulation of NSS’ Master Plan for the Conservation of Nature in Singapore (1990), organising NSS’s first big conservation conference (The State of the Natural Environment in Singapore), advocating tirelessly compulsory EIA, carrying out studies on urban nature and the planning and ecology of the green corridor systems in Singapore, and so on.

Clive is among the rare academics in Singapore who dared in the 80s & 90s to venture out of the ivory tower of academia to commit himself fearlessly and persistently to promote and advocate for nature conservation in the public arena.

His is a calm and steady voice that inspires and gives courage to the local conservation efforts in Singapore.

We have lost an invaluable pillar for the cause of nature conservation.

May he rest in peace.

We wish to give our heartfelt condolence to his wife Hilary and family.”

Ho Hua Chew
Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)
Alan Owyong
Chair, The Bird Group

From: Farid Hamid
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2011 at 11:38 PM
To: Philip Briffett
Cc: Ng Bee Choo, N. Sivasothi, Shawn Lum, Vilma D’Rozario and Ilsa Sharp

“Dear Philip

My heartfelt condolences to you and your family for the loss of your father, Clive.

I received the news through the nature conservation grapevine a few days ago.

Your father was loved and respected by many of us in the Nature and Conservation Scene in Singapore, especially those of us who were comrades in arms with the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) – later renamed Nature Society (Singapore). He is remembered very fondly by many here. He inspired and touched many of us with his deep passion, determination and wisdom – which he directed to care for the natural environment he loved so dearly. His quiet, gentle but firm & diplomatic manner personally taught me much.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not be for Clive and the elders at the Nature Society. At first, He taught me how to identify birds…but as the months and years went by, more importantly, he gave me the gift of love – love for the birds at first, but it gradually expanded to the other flora and fauna – all precious and all wonderful.

In my faith tradition, I know that he is in a better space, in a better place for so much of what he so generously gave of himself – he saved habitats – homes really – of many sentient beings, creations of God – plants, animals of all types ….some perhaps yet to be named – all deserving of a place to live and thrive. Endau Rompin, Pierce Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Sungai Buloh were just some of the nature areas he helped protect and preserve. And these were the successful stories. He led, supported and fought for many more…many we lost, some we won…but he never gave up. He never lost hope.

To me Clive was a man ahead of his time. He continually showed courage, humility and perseverance. Every time i a flash of brightly coloured feathered wings grabs my attention from among the trees..or i detect a flit of the magpie robin or hear a melodious call of the straw headed bulbul, i will remember Clive.

His spirit remains alive in the people and the many countless sentient beings he touched and loved.

I shall miss him dearly.

warmest regards

Thank you Morten, Bee Choo and Siva for helping to share the news.”

Farid Abdul Hamid
Ithaca Pte Ltd

Goodbye Steve, thanks for the wings

The Apple ][ computer entered my life in 1981 in secondary school and in 1988, out of the army and in NUS, I discovered the Macintosh. Eventually I owned a series of laptops from 1992 to the present, acquiring a new one about every five years.

Macs went from marginal to mainstream and enhanced everything I’ve been involved in.

So inspiring has the experience been that MacAddicts from my mailing list, ME@N, have gathered on and off since 1999 to talk. We meet again this Friday.

So it was tough to hear the inevitable this morning, which Macaddicts have been bracing ourselves for.

Steve Jobs has passed on, RIP. Twitter is flooded with memories now.

Thanks for the wings, Steve.

Twitter - Steve Jobs RIP

Obituaries – LA Times, MacWorld, NY Times.

RIP Daryl Karns, old friend

It is with great sadness that I was informed of the passing of Professor Daryl Karns of Hanover College, by his good friend and colleague, Harold Voris at the Field Museum of Natural History.

In 2001, I recruited naturalists to be eyes and hands for Daryl Karns, Harold Voris and Bruce Jayne who spent a summer in Singapore studying our aquatic snakes. The enthusiastic group was called the RMBR Snakehunters and project was highlighted in The Straits Times.

Daryl did a lot of work at Pasir Ris Park radio-tracking snakes and gave a public talk at the Ang Mo Kio Public Library on 4th April 2001 towards the end of his stay which was hosted by the Nature Society (Singapore).

Darul KArs-Pasir Ris Park 2001 [Harold Voris]
Click for pdf

It was such a delight to me that our paths had crossed. I enjoyed our time together and was struck by his humility, interest, camaraderie and respect for the volunteers, a true gentleman scientist, who contributed to my understanding of science and the world.

Chim Chee Kong, one of the snakehunters who would go on to study aquatic snakes for his MSc subsequently, emailed me this CNAH obituary this morning. I am posting this up here to share the sad news with the many enthusiastic RMBR Snakehunters who had the opoprtunity to work this fine gentleman.

Condolences may be sent by email to his family at morgan0109 (hotmail) or by post to:
Dr. Pam Middleton and family,
P.O. Box 83
Hanover, IN 47243

And you can share your memory of him at his obituary page here.

The Center for North American Herpetology
Lawrence, Kansas
8 June 2011


Dr. Daryl Karns, well-known herpetologist and Professor of Biology at Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana, died at the age of 61 of a sudden heart attack on the morning of 7 June 2011 near his home in Madison. Daryl was an active and vibrant teacher. Since his arrival at Hanover in 1984, Daryl was a dedicated faculty member who brought his passion for research into the classroom. He will be remembered not only as an outstanding teacher and colleague, but also for his wide-ranging research and contributions to the Rivers Institute where he was associate director. His record of service to the Hanover College campus community was significant; he will be greatly missed.

Daryl received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin, his Master’s Degree from the University of Kansas, and his Doctorate from the University of Minnesota; his teaching areas at Hanover covered evolution, ecology, and zoology.

Daryl earned The Hanover College Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity, a new award first given this year to a member of the faculty in recognition of sustained scholarly or creative achievement.

Memorial contributions can be sent to the Hanover College Foundation for Student Travel or Research Development. Contributions can be sent to the Department of Biology, Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana 47243.

Update, 15 June 2011 from Harold Voris:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The memorial services for Daryl Karns were held outside at “The Point” on the campus of Hanover College last Sunday. The natural beauty of this sunny afternoon on a grassy knoll overlooking the great Ohio River was breathtaking. The tributes to Daryl were equally amazing.

The President of the College announced that the College was recognizing Daryl’s myriad contributions by naming the natural history trails adjacent to the campus after Daryl. A very appropriate tribute I think. I am attaching a pdf of the new trail map, so you can see it. Also, below is a link to a really nice story that appeared in the local newspaper regarding Daryl’s many contributions.

I know that we will all miss him in the coming years.

Harold K. Voris, Ph.D., Curator Emeritus, Department of Zoology, Field Museum of Natural History

Marjorie Doggett, RIP



SPCA founder fiercely protective of animals up till her last days

By Amresh Gunasingham

After arriving from England in 1947 with her husband, Victor, Mrs Doggett co-founded a voluntary service which rescued stray cats from Singapore's streets. That initiative later morphed into the SPCA. — ST FILE PHOTO

SHE was born thousands of kilometres away, in Britain.

But once she arrived here, Mrs Marjorie Doggett took up a cause that was closest to her heart – preventing human acts of cruelty against animals – and left a legacy for Singaporeans in the form of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

On Sunday night, Mrs Doggett died at her Toh Heights home of 33 years, after years of ill health.

She was 89.

Her key achievements after arriving here from England in 1947 include co-founding a voluntary service which rescued stray cats from Singapore's streets, which later morphed into the SPCA.

Thanks in large part to her efforts, the organisation has grown significantly, a far cry from its early days, when funding was scarce and supporters fluctuated due to a predominantly expatriate membership.

Mrs Doggett was so keen on protecting animals that in those days, she did much of the work herself. For example, qualified veterinarians were a rarity here, so she often resorted to rescuing cats from the streets and whisking them by car to the government's sole Animal Infirmary in Kampong Java.

'She started the ball rolling – and was still at it 60 years later,' said Ms Deidre Moss, SPCA's current executive officer, paying tribute to Mrs Doggett's passion, knowledge on animal issues and willingness to mentor younger volunteers.

'She was a walking encyclopedia, keeping so much literature on animal welfare,' added Ms Moss.

Policymakers also had the benefit of tapping into her knowledge on issues ranging from the wildlife trade to the use of animals in science laboratories, noted Mr Madhavan Kannan, former head of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control, who first worked with Mrs Doggett in the 1970s.

'She was one of the early pioneers among people who championed the cause of animals,' he said.

She also raised awareness of the issue by writing frequently to The Straits Times' Forum pages about the cruelty dealt to some animals here.

Mrs Doggett's relationship with animals started early. She grew up surrounded by them at her home in Sussex, England. By the time she was in secondary school, she was taking up the cause that would define her life, fighting for the rights of animals.

Mrs Doggett moved to Singapore with her husband, Victor, who was posted here by the Royal Air Force. They subsequently decided to settle here permanently, becoming Singapore citizens in 1960.

Mr Doggett died five years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Besides animals, Mrs Doggett also had a passion for photography, and particularly liked capturing historical buildings, many of which have since been demolished. In 1957, a book entitled Characters Of Light was published, showing some of her collection.

But animals were far and away her first love. The couple's only son, Nicholas, 52, told The Straits Times that even as the end drew near, his mother maintained her fondness for critters, often surrounding herself with the family's seven pet cats.

He said that she had remained fiercely protective of them, even when her capacity to walk was hampered.

'We had a cat who would bully the other cats. She took me aside one night and said, 'you'd better stop that cat from terrorising the others. Otherwise, I will do it, even if I have to crawl out of my bed on all fours'.'

He added: 'She was strong willed in the things she believed in.'

'We had a cat who would bully the other cats. She took me aside one night and said, 'you'd better stop that cat from terrorising the others. Otherwise, I will do it, even if I have to crawl out of my bed on all fours'.'

Mrs Doggett's only son, Nicholas, on his mother's fondness for animals up till her last days

Thanks to Singapore Heritage Mailing LIst members Chua Ai LIn and Lai Chee Kien for the alert.

April’s article on Mr Harry Tan

Biology graduate April Chong, now in The Straits Times, joined us at the wake yesterday to pen a remembrance for Mr Harry Tan. We’re hoping the news will reach more old boys now.

The Straits Times is sporting a new look and subscription is free for two weeks now so the link is available to all: Link

“Tough principal had a soft side,” by April Chong. The Straits Times, 08 Aug 2008.

MR HARRY Tan was a throwback principal. He was a strict disciplinarian who pulled schools up by their bootstraps.

But the 67-year-old, who died on Wednesday from stomach cancer, had a softer side, teaching maths – to some of his weakest charges.

It was that passion, along with his brilliance as a teacher, that colleagues and former students remembered most yesterday.

‘He wanted to value-add to those who didn’t give two hoots about (maths) and he chose to spend time with the weakest,’ said Mr Noel Tan, a 38-year-old former student who is now a director of a consulting firm.

Mr Tan spent more than 35 years in education, including 18 as principal of St Andrew’s Secondary School, his alma mater, and three at Whitley Secondary.

His father died when he was young and his mother had to raise five children single-handedly. But that did not stop him from doing well as a student. He went to university on a teaching scholarship, and later became a maths teacher in schools such as Raffles Institution.

But his support and encouragement went beyond the academic; he helped turn St Andrew’s into a powerhouse in rugby and band.

Mr Tan even devoted time to sports that were not very popular. He used to quip that St Andrew’s was the best swimming school without a pool, said former student N.Sivasothi, a 42-year-old biology lecturer.

While he was usually staid, Mr Tan sometimes let slip his softer side.

Former student Yew Chee Chien, a 42-year-old airport emergency officer, caught a rare glimpse of that years ago. When he ran into the principal in a supermarket with his brother and father, Mr Tan told his dad: ‘Those are good boys. Take good care of them.’

While he had his career to take care of, Mr Tan never forgot to give time to the Boys’ Brigade, of which he had been a member since his school days, and turned to a long-time Boys’ Brigade buddy last week when he sensed the end was near.

Building contractor Ong Keng Tian, who has known Mr Tan for more than 50 years, said at his wake: ‘Last week, he called me to help make funeral arrangements. Even now, when I talk about him, I want to cry.’

No matter how busy he was, Mr Tan always made time for his family, taking them out for meals and on holidays, said his wife, Mrs Tan Hoon Hwee, 62.

He died in his sleep on Wednesday afternoon in hospital, leaving behind two sons, aged 29 and 34.

His funeral tomorrow at the Church of the Ascension (St Andrew’s Village) will be attended by more than 200 students from the Boys’ Brigade, school band and prefectorial board from St Andrew’s Secondary School.

Mr Harry Tan, fellow Saint, RIP

Heavy heart this evening. My buddy Chien forwarded me Mr Yee Teck Peng’s SaintsDYK newsletter which announced that Mr Harry Tan, our principal and Additional Mathematics teacher from St. Andrew’s Secondary passed away this afternoon (Harry Tan Ho Swee, 1941 – 2008).

A boy’s school is a tough setting to teach in with most of us boisterous. The school had many big-hearted teachers who also knew to wield the strong arm of discipline. The important backbone of that discipline was wielded by ol’ Harry. Even the scent of his distant approach would quieten a rowdy class!

His sermons were as fiery as his speeches and I enjoyed them all. I also loved his exhortatory Founder’s Day reports. So much so I came back while in the army to listen to him speak and to soak in the ambience of the school’s quadrangle. The unappreciative boys would only simply groan in embarrassment at part of the talk – like his pet statement that e were the “best swimming school amongst schools without swimming pools!”

The school achievements were highlighted in such occasions – and held up with great significance were things like service to the community. Events from the past like the help offered to Potong Pasir residents during the flood were still recalled, decades after it happened. Fiercely proud of our traditions, he also reflected a strong, independent spirit – probably why he always mentioned JBJ amongst the luminaries amongst our old boys!

Imagine the impact such a strong figure had on a cohort of boys – his reminders of the the significance of the school, its spirit and history certainly got to us. It did great things for our esteem, producing a bunch of confident boys aware of the need of service to the community. And will last us a life time.

One afternoon, I saw him holding fort at school entrance. In response to a query from a passing staff member, he said he was waiting to greet his Dunman High students. They were spending time in St. Andrew’s under the immersion programme, and were leaving early that day as it was Chinese New Year’s eve.

The school had a wide diversity of academic ability and Harry and his teaching staff were yanking up ‘O’ level passes dramatically from the doldrums in the late 70’s and early 80’s – while each percentage point was a dramatic victory, somehow we never felt any unpleasantness but only to be as good as we possibly could. “My university classmates and I played snooker the night before our exams and still aced them,” he’d roar in an anecdote about preparedness. I recalled his boast years later when I too prepared for my exams. I still needed the nights before the exams for study but consoled myself by ensuring my walk into the exam hall was calm and dignified!

We were blesssed with many extraordinary teachers in St. Andrew’s and Harry ranked amongst them. We had little direct contact with our principal, the dreaded Harry Tan until Additional Mathematics in Secondary 4. We greeted that class with great trepidation of course, but when the session began, we realised that he was a very good maths teacher! I can see scenes of him poised at the head of the class, lit by the morning light streaming in through the large open windows of the old school building. He’d attack the problem vigorously, delighting in the short cuts that were exposed and finally striking the board with a triumphant air. He’d scribble QED with a flourish at the end and he’d announce “Quite Easily Done,” with a vengeance, often breaking the chalk in the process! Heady stuff for us boys.

His strong-headededness got him into trouble, I believe, more than once. Long after we left, news trickled down that he had left too. So I was glad to see him in May 2003 at the cutting of the Stamford Fig. For the boys of my time at least, the memory of St. Andrew’s is well entwined with that of ol’Harry.

RIP Mr Tan!

See also (with updates):

29 May 2003 – Mr Harry Tan (grey shirt) at the ceremony to make
a cutting of one of the Stamford Figs to plant in the new school campus,
as had been done after the shift to Woodsville in 1940.
Canon Wong (white shirt, collar) is on his left.

The Saints Alumni webpage posts:



I am sad to announce that

our fellow SAINT,


former student and Principal


St. Andrew’s School,

passed away peacefully today,

Wednesday 6 August 2008

in the early afternoon.

Our deepest sympathy to his family,


and his 2 sons.

The wake will be held at Mt Vernon Funeral Parlour 1. Services will held on Thursday & Friday at 8:00 pm

Funeral Service on Saturday at 11:00 am.
The Cremation at 1pm , Mandai Hall 1.

I went down to his wake today (Thu 7th August 2008) with Chien and Shahiran in the afternoon, talked to Mrs Tan and several of our secondary school teachers.