Another Methodist layman we remember is Yong Ngim Djin who gave practically the whole of his adult life to the service of the Methodist Church and Anglo-Chinese School which had nurtured him in his youth.
A long and distinguished service
THE man with arguably the longest direct and continued association with Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) and The Methodist Church in Singapore in official and unofficial capacities was Mr Yong Ngim Djin.
For 60 years, from 1916 when he was admitted to ACS in Primary “O”, for “overaged,” until he officially resigned from the ACS Building Fund Committee, he was always a part of the institution, and even after he retired, his connection with the Methodist Church continued unbroken until he passed away on Aug 25, 1992.
His wife, Mdm Loh Siew Khim, passed away on Sept 6, 1985.
Mr Yong left behind his two sons, Professors Dr Yong Nen Khiong, Dr Yong Nen Yiu, and daughter Mrs Anna Tham, retired Principal of Methodist Girls’ School. Mrs Tham was named after Mrs Anna Zinn who was instrumental in his early and difficult years at Oldham Hall.
As a schoolboy and teacher in ACS before the war, he was a member of the Straits Chinese Methodist Church at Kampong Kapor, but transferred to Geylang Methodist Church, which later became Christ Methodist Church, where he served as Chairman of the Official Board (LCEC) for a total of 40 years.
His service and leadership is remembered in the “Yong Ngim Djin Education Building” at Christ Methodist Church dedicated in 1985 as a memorial to his generosity and contributions to the Church.
As a teacher all his professional life, his retirement in 1960 saw him performing voluntary service as Secretary of the Trustees of the Methodist Church at a time when the properties included those in Malaya and required close supervision, and was Comptroller of the finances of the Methodist Church until 1975.
Born on Dec 1, 1902 in a small mining village in Bangka, young Ngim Djin’s early education began in a Chinese school when he was five, interrupted at age 13 when he was sent to Singapore to study English. He joined Oldham Hall and was admitted to ACS in the afternoon session reserved for overaged boys. Proficient in Chinese, and knowing the Indonesian language, the bright young lad topped his class and gained a double promotion virtually every year.
In 1918, his grandfather discontinued financial support, and after a short, but unpleasant stay with an uncle, he re-joined Oldham Hall with the help of his class teacher, Mrs Anna Zinn, and the Hall Master, the Rev F. H. Sullivan, who gave him financial and moral support. Their combined influence had a profound effect on him leading him to become a Christian a few years later. .
Ranking top at the Senior Cambridge Examination, he joined the staff of his alma mater, and was kept very busy as an Oldham Hall House Master and a full-time teacher and Sports Secretary, as well as playing championship football for the Singapore Chinese Football Association.
In 1931, he was transferred to ACS Ipoh where he taught mathematics and English with excellent results, and was a successful school football coach and established strong rapport with the boys. Then, in 1933, he was transferred to ACS Kampar as Headmaster until 1939, when he was re-assigned to Singapore in 1939.
Re-joining Singapore ACS in April 1939, he headed Oldham Hall where the enrolment gradually increased until it reached near the maximum of 77, including six college undergraduates. On the outbreak of war in December 1941, the boarding school was forced to close until it re-opened for a few years in 1946.
When he was told to close Oldham Hall which had used the Principal, Mr T. W. Hinch’s pre-war bungalow at 42 Barker Road, he was fortunate enough to be able to accommodate the remaining dozen or so Malayan students in his new home close to the school. Their education therefore continued uninterrupted, although no new students were accepted.
For a number of years, Mr Yong was loaned to the Colonial Government as head of a primary school, but returned to ACS in 1954 when the Government converted Anglo-Chinese Continuation School to government-aided status (renamed Oldham Methodist School in 1959) and where he stayed as Headmaster until the end of January 1960.
A believer in voluntary service, he started in 1955 as Secretary of the ACS Board of Governors. In 1964, he was elected President of the ACS Old Boys’ Association – the first retired teacher to hold office – until 1975. In addition to his duties, he was a member of the ACS Building Fund Committee during its early life, and although he resigned in 1975, the committee kept him on. – Edited from The ACS Story, MM October 1992, and family notes.
Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.