Chin Yoong Fee ~ Chapter 4
Of Cabbages, Captains And Kings
“ Remember ……… there are no SMALL ACTORS , only small parts “ ( Henry, in The Fantastiks, a musical play by Tom Jones ).
I write this chapter in nostalgia, of fond memories and with a touch of poetic romance. Pray indulge the prattles. I read a newspaper report that the city of Orleans in France is celebrating the 600th anniversary of the birth of St Joan of Arc this year. What does this have to do with moi? Well, dear ACS contemporaries who started school in 1959 aged 7 years, this means St Joan, like us, was born in a Year of the Dragon!
I heard that a group of my old classmates had recently organised a reunion in KL to celebrate, amongst other things, our joint 60th birthdays. What a gathering, especially the “old Dragon ladies” whom I am sure now have snow on the roof but with fire still in the basement.
Recently, I had thoughts for my dear friend and companion, John Lam Weng Choong, who lost his courageous fight with cancer a couple of years ago. We started together in Std 1. John then went on to the Royal Military College after From 3, subsequently trained and received his Officer’s Commission from the Royal Sandhurst Military Academy. Upon commission, he served in the Royal Malaysian Rangers retiring honourably with the rank of Major. Later he qualified to practice as a lawyer. This made me reflect on a poem I had read — “THE DASH” by Linda Evans, which I would recommend for your reading. My continuing affection for Alex, John’s Mum, elder sister Lai Meng, and younger siblings.
In this context, I am reminded of ALL the other ACSians of my years, who started with me in 1959 but with only a small band of brothers remaining in 1971. What has become of the OTHER STUDENTS from all of those long years, 1959 – 1971? Those of the “dash”? We, who have managed to keep in touch with our own discrete groups all these years, are but a token few. We take stock of those who have risen to prominence in their careers, achieved fame, acquired wealth and public acclaim (or notoriety). But what of those who left school before completing the requisite school years? We lay claim to be from “Class of 1969”, “Class of 1971”. How about a Class of 1959 – 1971, for the “Dashers”. Surely they also deserve to be acknowledged and accounted for in the all embracing alumni spirit.
What of those who left school because of the harshness of life’s circumstances, of those who dropped out because they were academically disadvantaged by the selective process of the education system. or those whose young lives were tragically cut short by death. Or those who did not attain their Std 6 Pass, LCE, Senior Cambridge/MCE, HSC/STP qualifications: are they any lesser actors in Life? Surely not!
I remember some of my school mates who stopped attending school because they had to seek work to support themselves and their families. I acknowledge those of my classmates whose further education was frustrated by the quirk of examinations. Or of the few that succumbed, consequently to become the ignominy of society. The reality of Life is such that most fade into obscurity because of social aspersions. Although some may choose to remain thus for personal reasons. I will not mention names to respect their privacy. Be that as it may, I now sing to them the refrain from Rudyard Kipling’s “Outsong in the Jungle” :-
Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,
Wisdom, Strength, and Courtesy,
Jungle-Favour go with Thee!
So may I suggest that at formal ACS reunion gatherings “A Toast to Absent Friends” (followed by the recital of the above refrain) be added to the ritual of “Toasts to King and Country and to The School”
Success in Life ought never be measured by the mitre of one’s academic achievement, or by the accumulation of wealth, or the kudos of public acclaim. Is it not the wise teacher who inspires a student to obtain the highest doctorate? And who is a rich man? The big time entrepreneur with massive corporations servicing huge loans and dependant on shareholders’ monies? Or is he the man who left school after Form 3 who worked to support himself and family from his modest earnings but yet does not live beyond his means.
I remember a classmate from a disadvantaged family who lived in (then called) Labour Lines. The eldest in the family, he had to leave school after Form 5. He began work as a field technician, saved to finance his overseas studies, and now is a successful lawyer in Brunei. He is but one of my many ACS chums pressed ganged into the “University of Life”, who not only survived but flourished. Proud to say that whenever our group of old ACSians get together it is indeed a motley crew of captains, cabbages and kings.
Perhaps, it is because I have been living these past 20 years in an egalitarian society here in Australia that I speak thus. I have always attributed my ideal that Life is what you choose to make of it, as of one having emanated from my old school . It is unlikely that I will be able to participate in the August Joint Reunion with the MGS, and I take this opportunity to wish all the Very Good Things.
Chin Yoong Fee (Cohort 1971 Form 6 Upper Arts A)
10 May 2012.