Saturday, January 28, 2012

An institution that has left so many fond memories

By Ivan Loh (The Star journalist)
A HUNDRED years is a long time and for SMK St Michael to withstand the test of time, especially with the ravages of the Second World War, it is indeed a great achievement.
Better known as St Michael’s Institution, the school now joins the likes of other prestigious schools like SMK Anderson, SM Convent and SM Methodist (ACS), which have passed the 100-year mark.
Being an old boy myself, I am happy to note that the school has undergone various infrastructure developments.
Visual story: A signboard detailing the celebration and the school’s dignitaries.
The dilapidated primary school block has been flattened and replaced with a four-storey building while the roof and the school chapel at the main building have been renovated.
All this is part of the centennial celebrations that will culminate with a reunion dinner in September.
At the same time, it is a bit sad to know that changes have also taken place in terms of the school culture.
During my interviews with former school Brother Director Datuk Brother Vincent Corkery and Old Michaelians Association president Adrian Tsen, I was told that the new breed of students are different from the ones before.
They had lamented that the younger generation of students tend to go home straight to their computer games or tuition classes after school rather than stay back for extra curricular activities or sports.
I do agree with them that students should spend more time in school to participate in school activities.
I understand that attending school is not just about studying.
Long history: The school will turn 100 and has begun celebrating its centennial celebration.
It is also about living out the life of a student, growing up and learning more about ourselves and self-improvement.
Isn’t that what holistic education is about?
I remember some of my “good old days” being part of the school’s military band where I spent most of my time practising on the trumpet after school hours.
I also recall spending a lot of my afternoons inside the Photography Club’s darkroom processing photographs. Till now, the smell of those pungent chemicals comes to mind whenever I think about school.
Those were also good times where all of us would rush to the school field to play “popiah” (a version of dodgeball which uses the tennis ball) after finishing our exams.
Such are the little things that make me cherish my childhood and these will definitely be the stories I would be telling my children, rather than say I grew up in front of the television or slain trolls and shot aliens on the computer all day.
I am proud to say that I have lived the life of what it means to be a true Michaelian and enjoyed every minute of it.
I feel truly blessed to have been a part of its long and illustrious journey.

Note: This article appeared in the Star dated 28, January 2012. Ivan Loh comes from the Class of 1998. Thank you Ivan for the wonderful article detailing your years as a pupil at St Michael's.  

Alma mater turns 100 (The Star, January 27, 2012)

By Ivan Loh

SMK St Michael Ipoh was more than just a school. It was “home” to some of those who studied there in the late 1960s.
Old Michaelian Association president Adrian Tsen, who completed his Form Six in 1969, said during his time, students would stay back at the school library until 10pm to study.
“We started our day at about 7am and stayed back until late in the evenings.
Memories: Tsen with a picture of the school taken back in the 1960s.

“We would then go home to take our bath and have dinner before heading back to the library at about 7pm,” Tsen said, adding that it was so much fun back then.
Reminiscing about school life as it geared up towards its centennial celebrations this year, Tsen told The Star that the La Salle Brothers would stay back late each night to tutor the weaker students.
“Some of these students, who excelled in sports but were poor in their studies, were told to come back to school at night.
“The Brothers made sure everyone got a holistic education, in both academic and co-curricular activities.
“We cried our eyes out when we finished Form Six and had to leave school,” he said.
Tsen, who had captained the school’s rugby team and represented Perak in water polo then, said the school had previously produced some very good athletes.
“We used to have good hockey and rugby teams and we were well known as a tennis school,” he said.
Tsen, however, noted that it was a completely different scenario these days.

Historic structure: The architecture of the St Michael’s Institution was designed by French La Sallean Brother Verniew Auguste in 1923.

“Students hardly stay back in school now.
“They head on straight for tuition classes after school or go home to their computer games,” he said.
He added that the bond between students was also not like it used to be.
“The students are no longer as close.
“The teachers are also less attached to the school and their students due to the fact that they are transferable after two years,” he said.
Nevertheless, Tsen said that the school’s turning 100 years was a great achievement.
“We are actually quite young compared to other notable schools like SMK Methodist (ACS), SMK Perempuan Methodist and SM Anderson.
“I am excited and looking forward to our grand reunion dinner in September.
“We are going to have it at the school field and it is going to be a blast when all the old faces step back into school!” he said.

School’s belief in integration proves a success as it turns 100

From The Star, January 6, 2012
By Ivan Loh

DOING away with streaming according to academic ability and mixing together brilliant and weak students is probably the best thing Datuk Brother Vincent Corkery has done for SMK St Michael Ipoh.
“In the last 40 years, I think our students have performed admirably well, unlike at schools with a rigid streaming system,” the 83-year-old former Brother Director said.
Speaking to The Star as the school celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, Brother Vincent said it is not the best idea to separate the good students from the weaker ones.
“We integrate them so that they can help each other. Through this, we also promote greater loyalty among them. Those who are good at their studies can assist those that are weaker while those who excel in games can teach their fellow friends a 
trick or two,” he said.

Hard at work: Brother Vincent working in his office at the La Salle Centre, Ipoh. 

He added that it was also the school’s policy to provide its students with a holistic education, a system that remains a practice to this day.
The school, on the other hand, has changed much since the first day he started teaching there in 1958, Brother Vincent recalled.
“We had about 500 pupils at both the primary and secondary levels.
“We now have about 5,000 students combined,” he said, adding that he used to teach English, Literature and History to Form Six students.
The school’s ground, added Brother Vincent, had changed tremendously since its humble beginnings of a small Malay-style bungalow to the current several blocks of buildings.
“As the population grew, we had to find ways to accommodate our students and to make them feel comfortable,” he said, attributing the school’s infrastructure development to the Old Michaelians’ Association.
“They really contributed in a huge way, managing to find funds without government assistance to build the four-storey primary school block back in 2006. They also refurbished the roof and the chapel in the main building last year,” he said.
Brother Vincent, however, noted some less positive changes at the school.
“The grass on the school field is very green. It shows that it is under-utilised.
“When school is over, the students go back home to their computers and television programmes unlike back in the days when students stayed back till late evening to play games or do their revision,” he said.
With the school’s centennial celebrations kicking into full gear this year, Brother Vincent said he was proud to be a part of the school.
“It has been an amazing journey for the school to be a 100 years old.
I hope we can continue to excel in our academics and co-curricular activities and for our students to continue carrying with them the Michaelian Spirit to great heights.
“Let’s not forget our late Brother Ultan Paul Rosario who is a true icon and symbol of the school.
“He was my good friend, mentor and companion,” Brother Vincent said of the late Brother Director, whom with other La Salle Brothers had left strong, lasting impressions on the students and teachers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year, remembering our Wushu boys

Happy Chinese New Year to all members of the Michaelian fraternity. It's time again for a little reflection and resolution. While writing this post, I remember the Wushu Club boys who have contributed much to the alma mater especially during the time their services are needed at functions. They have been making do with the only two lion heads for years which they really treasure.
Many of us had also noticed and thought to ourselves how the boys demonstrated impressively their drumming prowess at last year's Talentime with at least eight drums. Sad to say, many were borrowed from Chinese associations and schools. I will find out how many actually belong to SMI Wushu Club!
The boys, as I have observed for many years, are an enthusiastic lot, tirelessly learning new skills on weekdays and on many occasions, weekends. One thing I salute is Michaelians never complaint irrespective of whatever situations they are in.
As we celebrate our 100 years, why not do something for our boys by acquiring a pair of lion heads for them? Or perhaps a pair of drums. This gesture would certainly make all of them very happy. I can be contacted at
All contributors will be acknowledged on this blog.

A fruitful and wonderful year ahead.
Peter Khiew

Note: Images courtesy of Michaelian Photography Club.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

St Michael’s turns 100 (The Star, January 3, 2012)

By Ivan Loh

LOCATED in the heart of Ipoh city with its iconic beige building, SMK St Michael has produced generations of public figures and talented individuals.
Now, the institution — one of the oldest schools in Perak — is looking forward to its centennial celebrations.
Starting out with only 37 students in a Malay-style bungalow at its current location on Jalan S.P. Seenivasagam, the school established by Rev Father J.B. Coppin in 1912 has expanded its enrolment to over 2,000 students today.
Milestone: Preparations are under way for St Michael’s centennial celebration.

Now, along with buildings like the Ipoh High Court, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and the Birch Memorial clock tower, the school better known as St Michael’s Institution, is part of an educational Heritage Walk programme organised by the Perak Tourist Association.
Centennial Celebration committee member Peter Khiew said the school had undergone tremendous changes since the early days.
The main school building, which was accorded the status of a heritage site in 1986, was constructed in 1922 while further expansion works were carried out in 1951 and in the 1960s.
“History has it that the school was established to give those who did not manage to enrol themselves in secondary schools in Ipoh a chance at continuing their education.
Modest beginning: St Michael’s Institution started out in a rented bungalow in 1912.

“As time went by, the school became popular and more parents showed keen interests in sending their children to St Michael’s,” Khiew told The Star.
Relating the school’s illustrious past, Khiew said it was used as a British Army transit hospital camp during World War II in 1941.
“During that time, Japanese warplanes gunned the building and damaged the roof,” he said, adding that looters also stole furniture and books from the school.
The Japanese army later used the school as its headquarters, calling it the “Perak Shu Seicho”.
“The building served many purposes during the Japanese Occupation.
"It was used as a police department, treasury, air raid shelter, governor’s room and communication room,” he said, adding that the school reopened on Sept 24, 1945 after the Japanese surrendered.
In 1957, the school opened a primary school section, which was expanded two years later to accommodate its growing pupil population.
An entirely new four-storey building for the primary school section was put up in memory of late Brother Director Brother Ultan Paul Rosario in 2006 to replace its old single-storey building.
To commemorate its anniversary, Khiew said a few activities had started since 2010 and it would culminate with the 200-table Michaelian Centennial Reunion Dinner at the school on Sept 29 this year.
“It is going to be a grand occasion. We are expecting thousands of former students to be there.
“Some have already made arrangements to return to Ipoh from where they are in different parts of the world,” he said.
In preparation for the big day, the school has put up a 4.87m-high signboard outside the school.
The signboard carries the ideals of the school and honours outstanding and remarkable luminaries of the school.
Among them are its first headmaster P.J. Morsingh, Brother Paul, former Brother Director Datuk Brother Vincent J. Corkery and the building’s architect Brother Vernier Augustus.
“Work was also carried out to refurbish the termite-infested school chapel,” Khiew said.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Centennial Run- Curtain Raiser For 100 Years Celebration

A Sea Of Michaelians and the Majestic Grand Old Dame
The Centennial Run, the first of many other programmes organised to commemorate St Michael's 100 years, was successfully organised last Saturday. It was an event hugely anticipated by teachers and students even on the first week of school as it would be a day when St Michael's officially welcome the centennial celebration for the year. Banners were prepared, medals were designed, the sports personnels got busy and yes, words travelled. Old boys wrote to each other via e-mails, Twitter and Facebook about the  Run, which is considered legendary by many. A handful turned up to mingle and take part.
Form Six students with their signature attires 
Participated by some 1700 old and present Michaelians, including teachers and parents, the Run that day reflected an awesome spirit of comradeship among teachers whose combined efforts had brought about a very successful Michaelian gathering. The boys and girls, on the other hand, held their heads high in pride knowing well that their alma mater is celebrating 100. They could be seen in a very celebratory and festive mood throughout the day.
We Are Michaelians!!
Look At Their Determination- Brother Matthew Bay and Mr Andrew Leong completing the Run. 
We thank Brother Vincent Corkery for flagging off the Run and giving out the prizes. We also record our appreciation to Brother Matthew Bay, Master Timothy Chee and the dear old boys who made the occasion very meaningful. Despite their age and many other complaints, all of them managed to complete the Run with gusto!
Master Timothy Chee gestures after receiving his medal from Brother Vincent . Looking on is principal Mdm Loh.
Lastly, our congratulations to principal Mdm Loh Wei Seng and her team of dedicated teachers for making the Run a great success.
The Central Gable.  The Venue For Many More Events This Year   
We look forward to many more centennial events. Yes, we are Michaelians. That's Who We Are.

Signing off,
Peter Khiew
Green & White Unite!
Living Lives As Michaelians!

Worthy reflections via e-mails
From Thomas Wong (Class of 80')
After leaving school in 1981 - a distance of 31 years, my first walk along the "RiverBank" although it should be a cross country run, gave me peaceful feeling in reflections to the school days, teachers and friends!
Yes, we should be back more often to lift up the Michaelian spirit especially to the young ones, who will carry the touch of "Valiant and True Michaelians " for another 100 years!
Hope to see more of 1980's gathering in the school to the Centennial Celebration and please mark 4th Dec 2012 to your diary as it is the day St.Michael's was born!

The run today was refreshing for me after not having run along the particular riverbank for more than 30 years. It is quite nostalgic. Sadly the Kinta River is any clearer than our earlier days although a walking pavement is dine up.
I met Bro.Vincent this morning. He is getting old but still remember your kind and huge contribution (directed to Benjamin Lee) to the school chapel last year because I mentioned about your visit last year in April just before he went back to Ireland for his annual holidays. 

Sunday, January 08, 2012

First School Drama At SMI was NOT in 1955?

It is documented that the first play at St Michael's was in 1955 when it staged the "Poet of Ispaha", a show directed by the late Brother Ultan Paul. However, recent discoveries reveal that it might not be the case.

The British Battalion Plaque Is BACK at St Michael's

War historian Mr Chye (centre) with the Heritage team from SMI
After decades of safe-keeping by war historian Mr Chye Kooi Loong, the bronze plaque bearing the historic British Battalion was finally returned to the place it was born - St Michael's Institution, Ipoh. The Michaelian Heritage team made a journey to Kampar in the morning of Friday, January 6, 2012 to ceremoniously receive the plaque from Mr Chye for the alma mater.
It was a very significant occasion because the formation of the British Battalion at SMI to fight against the invading Japanese was witnessed personally by Brother Ultan Paul. In fact, during the arrival of the British soldiers at St Michael's on either 18/19 December 1941, Brother Paul was there to welcome the soldiers. 
"I was here at that time and I remember it well", he said. "The Surreys came here first - 18th December and the Leicestershire arrived later in the evening. They were put into the classrooms on the ground and first floors and the school hall. They stayed for three days before leaving the school in the early morning of 23rd December 1941", recalled Brother Paul.
Source: Chye Kooi Loong, The British Battalion in the Malayan Campaign 1941-1942 (revised edition), Published by Dept. of Museums and Antiquities, Kuala Lumpur. 

The British Battalion was an ad hoc formation created on 20 December 1941 during the Battle of Malaya.It was amalgamated from two regular British Army battalions, 2nd Bn, East Surreys Regiment under Lieut. Col. G E Swinton MC and 1st Bn, The Leicestershire Regiment under Lieut. Col. Charles Esmond Morrison, OBE.
Both battalions suffered heavy casualties in North West Malaya during the early stages of the Japanese invasion so it was decided to amalgamate the two battalions.The British Battalion was commanded by Lieut. Col. Morrison; Lieut. Col. Swinton was badly wounded during the Battle of Jitra. The battalion fought with great courage, taking many casualties and earning much respect from other units. They were involved in fierce fighting during the Battle of Kampar (30 December 1941–2 January 1942), before joining in the fighting retreat back to Singapore. The Battalion was also involved in the short but fierce battle for Singapore. They surrendered to the Japanese along with other units of the British Army under General Arthur Percival in February 1942. Many of the British battalion died in Japanese P.O.W. camps. Of the estimated 500 soldiers at the amalgamation, barely 130 survived the war.
Sourced from Wikipedia

Some comments posted last year
It will be 70th Anniversary of the formation of British Battalion this December. The question now is are we going to celebrate this historic formation at SMI? It means a lot to us, Michaelians, as this historical moment took place on our home field. We have spoken to historian Chye Kooi Loong and he is willing to help us to organise the celebration. He is even willing to loan us photographs and other apparels related to this historical event. So Michaelians, need your feedback fast. Harneak Singh, 5A3 1980.
Good start.History should be recorded if not it will be forgotten. We should also make an effort to contact the Japanese embassy and get the details of the Japanese Battalions who were occupying St Michael's. Maybe some old photographs of Japanese soldiers in the school - Lawrence Brindes

Note from the Editor: The SMI Centennial Celebration committee during the previous meeting had given the nod for the plaque to be fixed to a wall at St Michael's Institution. We are currently working on the special day and the guests to be invited. To start with, the British High Commissioner, officials from the British Council and perhaps the spouses or children of members of the British Battalion be invited to witness the historic moment when the plaque is mounted at St Michael's Ipoh
I believe there are still regiments, local and abroad, who hold these members and their outstanding sacrifices vividly in their mind.
"Happy Centennial"
"Cherishing Our Past, Embracing The Future"
Signing off,
Peter Khiew

Form One students - Full of Determination

Eager To Learn.. The boys on the first day of school
More than 260 Form One students reported for "duty" at St Michael's Institution, Ipoh on the first day of 2012 academic year. We have a total of 279 students on our list of those coming in for Form One this year. Applications are still being processed at the department for more boys to be admitted into St Michael's.
SMI is still under the controlled schools catergory, therefore all applications have to be made through the department. We are pleased that Form One still has 9 classes, all occupying the first floor at the main block.
The batch this year is very determined, just like their parents who accompanied their charges on the first day. Orientation is still on-going (until Monday, Jan 9) as it allows the young boys to familiarise themselves with the secondary school life, the school culture and its great tradition. Induction sessions from uniformed units and clubs are held during the orientation session to expose the boys to what St Michael's actually stands for. Most importantly, we told them they are of a special batch to be in St Michael's as it coincides with the school's centennial celebration this year.
Come To Learn, Leave To Serve ... 
Rest assured, we at St Michael's are working hard to groom and nurture these young boys, just like their seniors who had undergone similar teaching and guidance at SMI.
Welcome to St Michael's.
Quis Ut Deus

Group Photo Of PMR 2011 High Achievers

The impact of the Michaelian spirit- The boys with principal Mdm Loh Wei Seng and senior assistant En Zahir. 
St Michael's sets a steady footing in our centennial celebration this year when 59 boys scored all As' for their PMR 2011. This could well be an excellent gift for the alma mater in its preparations which are already going into full gear. When the other two public examination results are released in February or March this year, we aim for more goodies from our young Michaelians. With a combination of right coaching and motivation, mental preparation and the right attitude, we can soar in the fields we undertake.
Congratulations and well done!
Picture courtesy of Cikgu Azhar.