Sunday, 11 December 2011

PFS School Rally, part 2

A lot has happened in the last three weeks or so since I last wrote about the PFS School Rally. Some fellow Old Frees had wandered into my blog and picked up that story as a point for email exchanges. That led to one thing after another, but it culminated in two main results.

One, I managed to contact Esther Reutens who is the daughter of GS Reutens, the man who wrote the School Rally for the Penang Free School. Two, I managed to touch base with Tan Boon Lin (whom I still respectfully call "Headmaster" in my conversations with him) who confirmed several aspects of the School Rally.

Reutens was one of those Old World teachers who was entirely dedicated to the Penang Free School. He spent 17 years of his life teaching in PFS before his transfer to the Hutchings School as the latter's headmaster in 1969.

I've often wondered why he was always called GS Reutens in the school magazines and elsewhere. In these publications, his name never appeared as Gerard S Reutens or if it did, it must have missed my notice. Well, apparently it must have been the vogue in the early part of the last century because many of those Europeans and Eurasians just simply adopted initials in their names, never disclosing their full names. For examples, W Hargreaves, RH Pinhorn, DR Swaine, JMB Hughes, etc. Only after some digging through did I uncover that Hargreaves was a William and Pinhorn was a Ralph (the aitch in his name remains a mystery, though). But DR is just one of the many initials that has flummoxed me until today.

But back to the School Rally. When I visited Esther, she showed me her father's original music score. She had kept this treasure all these years! The pages were yellowed but there was the unmistakably neat handwriting of GS Reutens. Apart from the version we all know and love today, there was also a version solely for the piano and a version for four voices. There in a corner of the music score, the year 1966 was written. So I was correct after all, the School Rally was written in 1966 in celebration of the Sesquicentenary Jubilee.

In one of the email exchanges I mentioned earlier, someone referred to the 1968 school magazine. I scoured through my own copy and read that this School Rally was first unveiled officially at the Speech Day in 1967. Headmaster confirmed it when I talked with him later. He said that it was never sung during the Sesquicentenary Speech Day in 1966 but only on 21 Oct 1967. But of course, there would have been practices and the singing of the School Rally during the school assemblies earlier in 1967.

I would think that this is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle. We now know for certainty that the School Rally was written in 1966 and first sung at the Speech day in 1967. So if anyone were to suggest that he or she had heard of this stirring marching tune much earlier, well, that's wrong indeed.

One final word: on behalf of my fellow Old Frees, I congratulate Headmaster for getting his Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri (DSPN) Datukship award from the Penang Governor this year. Finally after all these years, he has been recognised for his role in Penang's society.


Matthew Goh said...

Dear SS Quah, Thank you very much for your insightful posts on the PFS School Rally! As an Old Free, son of a previous PFS headmaster and previous vice-president of the PFS Board of School Archives, I would love to contact you to get more information regarding your hunt for the truth about the School Rally!

SS Quah said...

Matthew, you can contact me at my email address (just change the -at- to @)