Those Schoolgirl Days
Those Schoolgirl Days…
Celebrating 100 Years of Steadfast Growth
Mention BBGS and it will evoke a myriad of memories around the world in the minds of those associated with her. What better tribute than to compile all these memoirs into a magazine as we celebrate her 100th birthday.
The task of collecting materials to reflect a century of growth was not easy. As a BBGS archives doesn’t exist, the editorial committee had to resort to old magazines, newspaper cuttings, writing letters and interviewing ‘walking history books’.
Networking went beyond geographical and age differences for there were ex-BBGS girls and teachers in different parts of the world and from different generations. Press announcements were made, letters sent out, questionnaires distributed, overseas representatives ‘appointed’ and telephone pleas repeated.
In order to link the memoirs and to trace the growth of BBGS, we came up with the analogy of a tree. The foundation years of the school are recorded in Rooted in Love; the contributions of teachers, administrative staff, school captains and head librarians are acknowledged in Trunks of Support, Pillars of Strength; the world wide influence of BBGS girls is reflected in Branching Far and Wide; the memories of ex students are captured in Turning the Leaves of Time while Flowering and Bearing Fruits highlights the achievements of BBGS girls. Lastly, Today’s Seeds, Tomorrow’s Harvest looks into how we can pass the school values to future generations.
The editorial committee wishes to thank everyone who made the publication of this magazine possible – ex-BBGS girls, teachers and well-wishers.
It is impossible for us to pack a century of history in a magazine.
All we hope to do is to give a sampling of the BBGS heritage over the last 100 years.
We hope that you will enjoy reading this magazine as much as we have enjoyed putting it together for you!
Celebrating 100 Years of Steadfast Growth
BBGS. Pioneer in women’s education. A school steeped in the tradition of excellence, discipline and godliness. A school where the poor has as secure a place as the rich.
BBGS. Where so many of us spent so many of the best of our growing-up years. For ‘thoroughbreds’ who know no other school than BBGS, this year- 1993- the year in which our school turns 100 years old, must be extra-special.
But ‘thoroughbred’ or not, all 50,000 or more girls (plus a handful of privilege boys) who have walked the school’s corridors, cannot but stop to thank the headmistresses and teachers for unfailingly passing on the values and traditions that BBGS stands for, generation after generation.
The seed that was sown a hundred years ago by God-fearing missionaries was sown on good ground. Nurtured well, with love and dedication, it grew to be a strong tree, standing tall and proud, sprouting bountiful leaves and flowers, fruits and seeds. A familiar and well-loved tree, that has been the shade and shelter of all who have known it.
The principles on which the Bukit Bintang Girls’ School were founded – Nisi Dominus Frustra or ‘Without God, All is in Vain” – are like roots that have stood the tree on sure and firm ground. To make it unshakeable, immoveable.
The tree grows, drawing its manna from its custodians – the headmistresses and teachers, the parents, the school’s administrative staff, the jaga, the food sellers and all who have dedicated so much of their time and care to ensuring that the generations of students that pass through BBGS get only the very best to become only the very best of citizens of this country.
Their labour of love has not been in vain. One century of BBGS girls has grown and taken their place as loyal women with their race- far beyond the shores of Malaysia.. branching out each in her own way or profession, contributing to the enrichment of the society and country they have chosen to live in.
All BBGS girls – past and present – pay tribute to the school that holds an unending stream of memories. The school we are still proud to call our own.
Rooted in Love
Father in Heaven who lovest all
Oh, help thy children when they call..
A Tribute to Miss Betty Langlands
If not for this determined missionary lady, BBGS might never have existed.
She gathered a few women in Brickfields a hundred years ago in 1893. Her vision? To educate the women in this country, to raise their status in the eyes of society, in order that they might live fuller lives, having earned a worthier place in the world.
This missionary was Miss Betty Langlands, later known as Mrs J.W.Moore.
As the school celebrates its 100 years of existence and as we go back to our roots, we want to pay tribute to this first headmistress of the Bukit Bintang Girls’ School. For her foresight, her commitment and her belief in the worth of Malaysian women, we thank Miss Langlands.
A Headmistress Looks Back….
By Miss Mary Glasgow
It is a great privilege and pleasure to be able to speak to you today and give you my warmest greetings and congratulations on this auspicious occasion.
It reminds me of my first arrival in 1930 and the welcome I received. From then on I have had the happiest possible memories of those 31 years with BBGS and I thank God for such wonderful experience. You made teaching a real pleasure and you taught me more valuable lessons than I gave you. I shall never forget the sincerity and warmth of your approach and the help that was always available in any kind of need. Indeed, after 22 years of absence I still find myself referring to Malaysia and BBGS as home.
The 90th anniversary! What a long way we have come from that little gathering I remember in the Fook Yam Tong (Gospel Hall) on Davidson Road to your marvelous buildings and playing fields in Bukit Bintang today.
Then the pupils were rather shy and were accompanied to and from school, often by rickshaw. Many parents preferred to keep their daughters at home. So numbers were small. However time marches on and after the war there was tremendous pressure to get girls admitted. The buildings could not rise fast enough and yet I hear the enrolments continued to soar.
It is delightful to see how the school maintains its character and high standards. May it ever be so and continue to grow from strength and strength in humility and trust in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy!
We must make sure we are responsive to His wonderful love and boundless blessings and show something of that love and compassion to others whoever they may be.
Are we aware of Satan’s greatest weapon – self-pity? Never succumb to that or you are lost! Forget self, put others first, avoid hasty words and criticism, grumbling and complaining.
Dwell deep! There is depth in life which is too seldom used. We live too much on the surface and don’t dig down to the riches beneath.
Let us take a look at the verse of Amy Carmichael:
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds tat beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointment tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God .
This letter was written by Miss Glasgow on the occasion of the school’s 90th anniversary, Miss Glasgow was 93 years old and is currently in a nursing home in Ireland.
Seeking Nothing But the Best
By Miss Elena M. Cooke Ex-girl, ex-teacher and ex-headmistress (1958-77)
Teach us delight in simple things…
As I look back to the days when I was a pupil of the Chinese Girls’ School in Davidson Road, which later in 1930 moved to Bukit Bintang and became known as Bukit Bintang Girls’ School, I realise more and more that those happy days were truly filled with delight in simple things. Miss Prouse and those early teachers enriched our lives by their dedication to their profession. While there was strict discipline, there was also real care and love. A cane was to be found in every classroom and I had my full share of its use. Today as I think back on those times I realise just how beneficial they proved to be.
But intermixed with learning were those carefree times dancing round the May Pole to music on Sports Day, picnics by the sea, badminton tournaments with other schools and the making of wonderful friendships which have lasted to this day.
Miss Prouse must have known what an over-active little pupil she had in Elena Cooke and I remember how thrilled I was when, one day, she singled me out and asked me whether I would like to read an interesting book she had. Furthermore, she said she had other books she would lend me when I had completed the one she was lending me. And so began a life-long love of books.
There was Mrs Lim, my primary teacher, who constantly gave two cents and sometimes the princely amount of five cents to spend at interval because I had lost my pocket money! There was Miss Too whose art lessons I found a delight because I could spin all kinds of stories for her and thus help her forget that she was almost completing my drawing for me.
Miss Ma will never forget my piece of embroidery which she and many others had a hand in finishing! Miss Glasglow introduced us to the wonderful world of English Literature and held us enthralled. She transported us to far-distant and fascinating places but at the same time was always-on the ready to catch any mischievous imp seated right in front of her! I think of her deep concern for me when I lost all interest in living when my father suddenly passed away. I think of the challenge she put to me: “Your father was so proud of you. Do you think he would be happy if he saw your total lack of interest in anything, especially your studies?” That made me sit up and get on with my preparations for my School Certificate Examination.
Yes, those were the days when a good foundation for life was laid- days when I was taught by example simple kindnesses which meant so much, when I was taught true delight in simple things and mirth that has no bitter springs.
Teach us to bear the yoke in youth
with steadfastness and careful truth
I never thought I would be a teacher but that was God’s plan for my life and once I got into the profession I found great delight in opening up new worlds to my pupils. But it was not always easy. Taught from early childhood ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, verily do it with all your might’, there was this keen determination to bear the yoke with steadfastness and careful truth.
Late nights became the order of my day as I prepared the next day’s lessons and marked piles of exercise books. That did not mean I had to lose delight in simple things. With great enthusiasm I began the school choir when all I had in qualifications was a love of music!
It was soon after the war. Our library was non-existent. I remember visiting friends and suggesting that they should let me have some of their collection to begin a school library again. All contributions were carefully scrutinized and thus began a lending library on the verandah outside the Fifth Form classroom. Every interval found me sitting on a low stool advertising my books and telling the girls they did not know what they would be missing if they did not stop by and borrow one of my best sellers all neatly packed in cardboard boxes on the floor beside me.
I was soon to find myself spending nearly every afternoon in school looking after such extramural activities as the Literary and Debating Society, the Geographical Society, St John Ambulance Brigade and the Christian Union. Those were the times I really got to know my pupils especially when we went on excursions and debated with other schools. They were fun times too.
Yes, there surely were hard times too, when difficult pupils could make life unbearable and when I had to learn to win them over – to break through long standing barriers. Then there were the not-so-academically-minded pupils who had a defeatist attitude to learning. They had to be helped out of that sad state and made to realise that they had their talents too. Yes, there were those from broken homes, those from poverty-stricken backgrounds. Knowing and appreciating the care and concern of my teachers when I was at school. I prayed for special strength and understanding to help my many pupils.
Early years of teaching were a time of learning and teaching. There were the special training classes every Saturday and sometimes, during the week, speech-training and singing. And when those exams were all over then came my private studies for entrance to a university in the UK. An activity-orientated life intermixed with much fun and laughter and sometimes tears as well.
Father in heaven who lovest all
O help Thy children when they call
That they may build from age to age
An undefiled heritage.
That became my prayer when I was appointed Principal of BBGS- a position which I never wanted and which filled me with fear. But one never cries to God in vain- His ear is ever bent low to hear our feeblest cry and He enabled me through those difficult early years and then the challenging years that followed. Mistakes were made and hard lessons learnt.
From an enrolment of 500 the school was to grow to over 2000! School extensions became a necessity every time there was yet a further increase in numbers. Fun-fairs and food sales became the order of the day- hard work but so challenging one could not resist it! They were truly fun times too as the whole school- head, deputy head, staff and pupils (both old and present) all worked as a team. There was such a tremendous sense of achievement when all the necessary funds came in time for the various building projects.
The policy of the school from its inception was to build only when funds were in hand. I remember being told by the Board that we could not build a hall the size I planned as we did not have the funds for such a large building. I felt strongly we had to build it according to the original plans and hence prayed much. God answered in a wonderful way when the Lee Foundation contributed RM40,000 and made our dream come true. Yes, those were challenging years and I am always thankful that Mrs Tan Lai Kuen, our deputy head, was always there to support and be fully involved in all our dreams. Together, two very different personalities worked as a team both seeking nothing but the best for BBGS.
We aimed at excellence n every aspect of school life. We were anxious that each BBGS pupil should give of her best, and so towards that end we worked. Cleanliness, a sense of order, a love of beauty had to be inculcated and so began competitions in class cleanliness, toilet cleanliness and floral arrangements in every classroom. Discipline had to be maintained and a sense of dignity instilled and total loyalty practiced. Above all our sincere desire was that every pupil should know without a doubt that without God in their lives all would be in vain. And hence our school motto- Nisi Dominus Frustra- has been and, I hope, will continue to be a guide to right and wholesome living to every BBGS pupil.
BBGS we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be
Yes, that was what challenged me to accept the post of Chairman of the Board of Governors of my alma mater- an interesting and challenging post though sometimes fraught with many problems.
Yes, BBGS gave me a storehouse of rich and happy memories and introduced me to a full and satisfying life. May we never forget the way our God has so richly blessed the school and made it such a blessing to so many of our lives. I can truly say I praise Him for all that is past and know assuredly we can trust Him for all the years that lie ahead.
Down Memory Lane
By Miss Ma Tak Yan, Ex-student, ex-teacher & first Headmistress of BBGS Primary 2
I treasure the earliest memories of my old school where I spent 55 years of my life, first as a pupil, then a teacher and finally as headmistress. It is also the school where two brothers, six sisters, my adopted daughter and eleven nieces received their education.
I joined BBGS in 1922 when I was five years old (at that time there was no fixed age for admission). Although it was called a girls’ school, boys were also admitted. However, they had to leave and join a boys’ school after completing Standard 2.
During my student days, BBGS was under four fine Christian headmistresses who endeavoured to live and teach the faith which they professed. The first was Miss Luke and when she went on leave, Miss O’Connor took over the helm. Then came Miss E. Prouse, a disciplinarian who instilled a healthy fear of authority in students but was much respected by everyone. She is also fondly remembered as the person from whom we learned to do fine embroidery. When she went on furlough, our dear Miss M. Glasgow became our headmistress.
The early Davidson Road days
In those early days, BBGS operated from the Chinese Gospel Hall. This was a small wooden building in Davidson Road. Four classes were held in the main building, each occupying one corner of the Hall with the headmistress’ desk beside the main door. Two other classes were held in the vestry.
Lack of space and facilities did not dampen the enthusiasm displayed by Miss Prouse. As there was no playing filed, she made full use of whatever space there was in front of the church building to teach us folk dancing, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and club drill. These activities made up for the interesting sports which we were deprived.
There was great fun when the school broke up at the end of the year. We always had a very interesting concert which was held in the church building. A wooden stage was erected in the vestry by my father, Mr Ma Tham Shun, who was the pastor of the Chinese Gospel Hall. There were singing items and plays and parents were also treated to Christmas carols and hymns which students sang with gusto.
BBGS was established as a mission school by the Brethren Assembly. Its aim was not only to provide much needed education, particularly for young girls, but also to give them the opportunity to learn about the love of God and to acquire good values. Scripture was taught the first thing in the morning from 8am to 8.30am. I enjoyed the Bible lessons given by some of our missionaries like Miss Shirtliff, Miss Falconer and Miss Daws. Students were encouraged to memorise Bible passages such as Psalm 23, Isaiah 53 and John 14. The teaching of the Word of God has certainly not been in vain and many students have gone on to make valuable contributions to society.
Moving to Bukit Bintang Road
It was a red-letter day when we moved into our own school building on Bukit Bintang Road in 1929. It was still called the Chinese Girls’ School for some time after that. I clearly remember scrubbing the floors of the classrooms and painting our desks. Standards 7,8 and 9 ((Forms 3, 4 and 5) occupied the classroom next to the headmistress’ office. Woe betide us when we made noise which was immediately silenced by the sound of the press-bell in Miss Prouse’s office.
When I entered Form 5, there were only two pupils – Lizzie Tan and myself. When my classmate fell ill (which she often did), poor me was the only one answering Miss Glasgow’s Literature and Bible Knowledge questions. There were terrifying moments when I failed to answer any of them correctly. This made me more or less memorise every word in the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles so that I could perform well.
Our school was in the limelight when our Badminton Team won the coveted Silver Trophy for four consecutive years in the Selangor Inter-School Badminton Tournament held at the Victoria Institution hall. There were three singles players (I was one of them) and two doubles players. Miss Prouse was very concerned that we should not only perform well but also set an example in sportsmanship. Students, therefore, were strictly instructed not to show their delight when our opponents lost a point!
When I became a teacher in 1934, the importance of maintaining strict discipline was impressed on me by Miss Prouse with whom I shared a classroom. My class occupied half the room while her class the other half. I used to call that classroom my “ Torture Chamber” for while I was teaching my class, I had a pair of blue eyes focused on me from the other end of the room.
In 1936, our school participated in the King George V’s Silver Jubilee celebrations held at the former Stadium on Circular Road (now known as Jalan Pekeliling). I was given the task of training the participants for the Maypole Dancing. Imagine my relief when the performers received loud applause from the audience.
Then came the Japanese
During the Japanese Occupation in 1942, we had to study Japanese. I cannot imagine now how I managed to teach Algebra (Dai-su) in Japanese! The classes were small and were made up of girls from St. Mary’s and Pudu English schools which amalgamated with BBGS and operated at our school, then called Bukit Bintang Gakko (meaning school in Japanese).
Mrs de Silva from the Pudu English School was the headmistress and we worked in harmony with the teachers from these two schools. However, Miss Prouse and Miss Glasgow, who served the school until the last possible moment, were captured by the Japanese army and interned in Palembang. Miss Prouse did not survive the internment and passed away from malaria six months before the war ended. The school certainly will not forget the courage and sacrifice of people such as these. Miss Glasgow returned to BBGS as the headmistress until 1957.
After the Japanese surrender on August 15,1945, it was a day of great rejoicing when we returned BBGS in September 1945 to teach in English again. The school was denuded of furniture because the Japanese soldiers who camped there had used our chairs and desks for firewood. They had also converted the School Hall into a kitchen. Anyone who joined the school had to bring her own desk and chair and we had an interesting assortment of classroom furniture.
The call to be headmistress
I was appointed headmistress of Primary School 2 in 1958, and there were about 1,000 pupils under my care. It was a huge responsibility and I recalled the lessons of those years as a class teacher under Miss Prouse and later under Miss Glasgow. Miss Glasgow, in particular, taught me the importance of applying Christian principles and values in discharging my responsibilities. I was privileged to have their shining examples to follow – how to be caring, dedicated but at the same time, to be strict.
I also had the help and support of a very efficient senior assistant Mrs Bux (nee Wong Sau Lan), a conscientious senior teacher, Mrs Lim Peng Nyun (who succeeded me when I retired) and a very capable and industrious school clerk, Mrs Lim Ngoh Moi. These factors enabled me to cope with the challenge and difficulties of the job until my retirement in January 1977.
It has been a pleasure to work with a team of hardworking and conscientious teachers, most of whom were my former students. Together, we saw our dreams realised when our School Hall was officially opened in 1968 by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Chairman of the School Building Fund Committee. The school owes its gratitude to parents like Mr Lee who worked hard and gave us every encouragement to reach our goal when we found it difficult to raise the funds needed for the building.
With the keen cooperation of school parents, my staff of dedicated teachers and enthusiastic pupils, we were able to provide core facilities for the school. We held food and fun-fairs and class food sales in order to raise funds for the construction of a library and a sick bay. To Mr John Ho, President of the Parent-Teacher Association and Mr Chin Kah Tow, we also owe a great debt of thanks for their untiring efforts and encouragement which enabled our pupils to widen their knowledge in the comfortable air-conditioned library.
My retirement in January 1977 marked the end of my teaching career. It was a sad day for me to leave the school and to hand over the reins to others. However, I am thankful for the precious memories I have of BBGS and am always delighted when I hear of the successes achieved by my former students and their contributions to society. BBGS has produced generations of students of fine caliber. I am very proud that three of my students, Miss E. M. Cooke, Mrs Lim Peng Nyun and Mrs Siew Pick Yoke, who became headmistresses of BBGS.
When I was a Form 3 teacher, one of my students named Wong Chi Ying designed the school crest. She was a very talented artist and the crest remains as a symbol of the school to this day. BBGS will always be very close to my heart and I wish her many more golden years ahead as the Star (Bintang) on a Hill (Bukit).
Miss Ma Tak Yan is retired and now resides in Melbourne, Australia.
A Lasting Impression
By Mrs Siew Pick Yoke, Ex-student, ex-teacher and Ex-headmistress of BBGS Primary 1
My association with BBGS began in 1936 when I was a Standard 5 pupil (equivalent of the current Form 1). The school then had two very strict but kind and understanding teachers, Miss Eva Prouse and Miss Mary Glasgow. These two and Miss T. M.Too, the first Chinese girl trained as a teacher, made a lasting impression on my life.
I took my Senior Cambridge in 1941. During one of my papers, there was an air raid. We were told to stop and sit under our desks as there were no air raid shelters. We resumed when we heard the all-clear signal. We were fortunate. We received our results when the war was over in 1945.
I adored Miss Prouse, my principal. She used to visit us to give us personal attention.
Miss Glasgow was my English teacher and I had the privilege to be on her staff when she returned to Malaya in August 1946. She was a very strict disciplinarian but understanding and thoughtful.
Miss Too, my Art teacher, was responsible for restarting the school after the war. She was instrumental to my teaching career.
A teacher has many heartaches and rewards. The greatest reward is when you see improvement in your students and when parents appreciate your work. I love my work and I have no regrets.
Mrs Siew Pick Yoke presently heads a private school in Subang Jaya.
Mr David Angus
By Miss Elena M. Cooke
The Angus family has had connections with BBGS since 1897 when Mr and Mrs T. R. Angus, missionaries from Scotland, joined the Brethren work in Kuala Lumpur. David Angus, their son, was born in Kuala Lumpur and BBGS, then known as the Chinese Girls’ School in Davidson Road, was his first school. (Many can lay claim to being ‘old boys’ of BBGS!)
In 1931, as a young man, David Angus was to join his parents on the mission field and in 1963 he took on the Governorship of the school. As the school expanded both in numbers and enrolment, he became Chairman of the Board of Governors of the six Bukit Bintang schools – three schools in Kuala Lumpur and three in Petaling Jaya.
Those of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with this great man of God had our lives much enriched by the wonderful example he set. Someone has written, “Few men have had such deep understanding of the people with whom they worked as had David Angus. His early upbringing in Malaya gave him a ready affinity with the people when he returned as a missionary. His involvement with the school work over the years gave him particular perception of the problems of young people in a multi-racial country.”
He was always ready to listen and to advise. His great talent lay in personal work and only heaven will truly reveal how many, many lives were touched by his faithful, unstinting labour of love amongst them. His was a gentle strength and in his quiet, unobtrusive way he accomplished great things for His Master.
In 1931, he married Miss M.Milln and together they served in Kuala Lumpur till 1980 when God called him Home – his term of service on earth completed. We are sure his Master’s greeting would have been “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
At his funeral service, Mr H. V. Cooke, an elder of Jalan Imbi Chapel, was to say this of him:
His was God-fearing life
His was a good life – goodness an inner quality belonging to those who trust God
His was a gentle, gracious life
In a world filled with roughness and rudeness he was gracious and gentle – a GENTLEMAN
His was a glory-bound life- his destination was heaven.
Surely his message to us would be: ‘Be steadfast unmovable always abounding in the work of the Lord’.
Mr Angus passed away in 1980. Mrs Angus is stayed with her daughter, Catherine, in Syracuse, New York State, United States of America, till she was called to heaven on 18 March 1998. Catherine Angus was the School Captain in 1952.