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.

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