Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Penang Free School's relocation to Green Lane

I'm attempting to revisit the history of the Penang Free School's relocation from Farquhar Street to Green Lane.

This has been something that has been bothering me for quite a while because there are a number of anomalies that do not add up. The accepted stance, taken from the School Magazine 1966 which was compiled by Mr Leong Yee Foong and edited by the History Sub-Committee, was that:
"Construction of the new building commenced in 1924 with the quarters for the senior staff. Meanwhile, at the request of the Board of Trustees, the member of the Old Frees Association convened a meeting during which it was decided to rename the old buildings of the School in Farquhar Street as Hutchings' School and this was to serve as a feeder school. The new Free School buildings in Green Lane were officially declared open by the Resident Councillor, Penang Mr Ralph Scott on 9th January 1925 during the Headmastership of Mr DR Swaine." 
However, I do doubt the accuracy of the facts here for three reasons:
  1. DR Swaine was not the headmaster of the school in January 1925. At about this time, with RH Pinhorn sick, the school was in transition and the acting headmaster's role could already have been taken over by W Hamilton (Headmaster 1925-1926). The school magazines specifically stated that Swaine was Headmaster in 1927-1928. 
  2. Ralph Scott was Resident Councillor in Penang only from June 1926 to 1928. In January 1925, the Resident Councillor's position in Penang was vacant. Stewart Codrington was Acting RC until October 1924 and William Peel was appointed RC from July 1925. So there was a period of eight months where Penang did not have an RC, acting or otherwise. 
  3. It was also peculiar to me that the buildings in Green Lane would be officially declared open at the end of a week. The date "9 January 1925" was a Friday. I would assume that if any function was held it should be on a Monday which is the start of any school week. A bit more checking showed that "9 January 1928" was indeed a Monday. It was also possibly the first day of the new school year. 

With these three reasons, my educated guess is that the school only moved to the present premises in Green Lane in January 1928 and not in January 1925. This is more than a hunch and definitely will need to be verified, which I shall intend to do so very soon.

As a final comment, we all know that it is quite easy for anyone to misinterpret the numbers "3", "5" and "8" when writing or typing. Could have happened when the History Sub-Committee was trying to edit the compilation of the school's history. A typographical error since accepted as "fact", I would say.

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