Saturday, 6 August 2016

Let the aisles proclaim

I had a satisfying meeting with Rafique Abdul Karim and Gene Lim last Wednesday (3 Aug 2016) to discuss the Bicentenary book project. In the last 12 months, I haven't really written much in this blog about the progress of the book. Guess I was too busy to get myself distracted. But now that we are almost at the tail-end of the project, I do have a bit more time to disclose what's happening.

First, I have to introduce Rafique as the principal person in the Penang Free School Bicentenary celebrations as we move closer to the actual date itself, which is 21 October 2016. Rafique is the chairman of the Bicentenary Committee and he is also the chairman of the school's Board of Governors. He's pretty much hands-on with the preparatory work and can be available at short notice for meetings. I don't have any inkling of whatever's been going on in the main committee itself, but where the Editorial sub-committee is concerned, I can request for a meeting on any day after 5.30pm and he'll be there. Gene is an Old Free and she's the layout designer for the book. We've been working together on the production since around May or June.

Anyway, I had a satisfying meeting with Rafique and Gene on Wednesday. The layout for all the pages are more or less completed but there are still corrections to be made. Generally, little errors spotted here and there, and recommendations from Rafique to consider. All the photographs have been approved for inclusion, including a wonderful aerial view of the grounds given to us courtesy of David Wong who flew his drone over the school recently. Then there are the old, familiar pictures on the school which are all there, but we do have several pictures that haven't been seen for a very long time. These were taken from the old school magazines.

So at this stage, Rafique says that the book's title can now be safely disclosed to the general public but in particular, to the Old Frees. We don't have to keep it under wraps any longer.

Choosing an appropriate title proved to be difficult. Calling it Fidelis was out of the question since it had been used in 2012 in The Old Frees' Association's own publication. Strong and Faithful? Fortis atque Fidelis? For the Brave and for the True? Nah, they did not resonate well as a book title. For want of a suitable title, I was quite resigned to even accepting Rafique's suggestion of The Grand Old Lady. Until an inspiration struck me.

I looked back at the School Rally. Why not take something from there? After all, this was a stirring song and it really rallies the troops, which in this case means the Old Frees and the present Frees in the school. The line which inspired me came from the chorus of the School Rally: Let the aisles proclaim. Yes, why don't we use that?

Let the aisles proclaim. Proclaim what? Proclaim our heritage, proclaim our traditions, proclaim our long history, proclaim our successes, proclaim our allegiance to the School and nation. In fact, proclaim anything we want. and proclaim loudly too.

And so it came to pass that Let the Aisles Proclaim was agreed upon unanimously by the whole of the Editorial sub-committee and there were no objections as well from The Penang Free School Foundation when the title was presented to their committee in late June.

The cover of the book depicts a view from the far corner of the west quadrangle. While the main building and the hall can be seen from this angle, the school dome, resplendent in white on a most glorious day, is the most prominent feature of the photograph.

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