In case anyone is wondering why some of my stories lately are kind of steeped with nostalgia and reminiscences lately, it is because I am now in the midst of a project that's allowing me to rediscover the roots of my secondary school education. Putting together all this information is not easy but each piece of new information brings with it certain fascinating facets of the Penang Free School's long history.
Of course, we all know that the old school will be celebrating the 200th year of its existence in 2016. Two hundred years is a very long time and no other original English school in Malaysia - or even South-east Asia - can claim to have existed continuously for so long.
My only regret is that the PFS used to be one among three top schools in Malaya and Singapore during the 20th century but unfortunately, due to the sorry debasement or deliberate mismanagement of the Malaysian education system and policy, we are left with a fraction of the school's original academic achievements.
But I'm not going to discuss all of this here. Back to my reminiscences for the moment. The date for the school's founding by the Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings is 21 October 1816. It could not be a coincidence that 21 October is the same date that Captain Francis Light died. Light was the person who established Penang as England's first trading post in George Town on the Prince of Wales Island, Malaya on 11 August 1786. He was the first superintendent of the island until he died from malaria on 21 October 1794, a mere eight years after settling down here. The graves of Light and Hutchings are found in the Protestant cemetery along Farquhar Street.
So it could very well be that this date for the school's actual founding, 21 October, was chosen to coincide with Light's 22nd death anniversary. The year 1816 itself was the 30th anniversary of Penang's formal establishment by Light. Speculation? Maybe. Fact? Maybe, too.