This picture that I saw in the archives room of the Penang Free School recently brought back some memories of my physical education (P.E.) training during my days in school. The person seated in the centre was my P.E. teacher and, oh boy, was he the fiercest teacher on the field and the courts. If you do not know how big the field is at the Penang Free School, I can tell you that you can safely place four football fields into it and still have space left for some other activities! That's how big it is.
And Quah Seng Chye, my P.E. teacher who, by the way, was not related to me, in his inspired moments would require his classes to run around the perimeter of this field. The route would take us from behind the main school buildings - that was where the basketball and volleyball courts were located then when I was still at school - to join up with the road around the field and then back to the courts behind the buildings. A distance of about 1.2 kilometers, I would estimate. Not only that, as we panted around the route, he would follow us on his trusty old motorcycle to make sure that we did not slacken and, um, cut corners. He would stand at one corner of the field and holler at anyone at the opposite diagonal, and he could still be heard. Robert Plant would have been impressed!
On the field, we were taught the basics of rugby by this man. In fact, he was senior coach of the school's rugby squad, a throwback to the time when not only was he the Hargreaves House captain in 1953, but also the House games captain for rugby. Yes, this guy was an Old Free too but he never let on his past to any of us, not even to his fellow teachers, so I gathered.
He also taught us court skills and volleyball was one of his forte. And this was about the only court game that I really enjoyed in school although I wasn't any good at it. Again in his moments, we would be asked to go down on the ground and put do our pumping exercises, squats and what not. For umpteen times in a row. That, I did not enjoy.
But if anyone thinks that this was all there was to this man, let me add that there was also a more academic and less physical side to this man. In the upper forms, he would also teach us health science. I heard many decades ago, not reliably confirmed though, that he had resigned from the school to take up a teaching post in Brunei, and that was where he could have passed away later.
Quah Seng Chye, he was such an interesting man. In his memory, perhaps the Free School could remember him and dedicate one of the school's two quadrangles, the one next to the Sixth Form Block, as the Quah Seng Chye Quadrangle. What with the parallel bars there, it would be a fitting memorial to him.