Thursday, 31 March 2011


Monday, 28 March 2011

Memorial Meeting for Mike and Jean on 27/3

Check this link for photos and short excerpts of yesterday's meeting!/ofaklsel

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Tribute to Mr. JMB Hughes by Harris Beh

 I was in PFS from 1959 to 1965.

I remember much.

I can say with pride, Mr. JMB Hughes was from a pedigree of illustrious Headmasters of PFS.

JMB Hughes inspired and motivated thousands of PFS Students and his group of dedicated teachers.

I remember as Headmaster of PFS, ... his leadership, his presence and his stewardship brought the best out in many of us.

Headmasters make, shape and advance the school . Mr. JMB Hughes was a champion at that.

In an institution like PFS, the oldest English school in the region, JMB Hughes revered its tradition,
its quality and academic excellence, and the School's performance on the playing field.

He persisted and gave us some of the best and most unforgettable teachers and characters in PFS and ensured we benefited from the best school environment in the country.

I remember JMB Hughes was everywhere in the school.

He would make his rounds almost every other morning... almost always at a specific time going by every class in the school.
He was always at inter-school matches, at the rugby field, the football field, the hockey field, the badminton hall and the Saturday cricket matches., not just at the School's Annual Sports Day. He was always at our School Concerts and School Plays.

But what was inspiring to many,...  was his frequent presence at inter-house games and school practices. At the school field, the badminton hall, the basketball courts and the cricket nets.  And we knew it. His palpable presence engendered high energy, fantastic morale, pride, enthusiasm and commitment with us as students. 

I remember..JMB Hughes had a memory like an elephant. He called us by name in the class room and in the field. He seems to remember events past and people involved.

I remember…  the school assemblies in the hall on Monday mornings,... Mr. JMB Hughes in his brisk stride through the aisle on to the school stage in his favourite light brown suit .

I remember on one dreary Monday morning he made us sing the Negara-ku again. With passion. We rocked the school hall that morning.

Mr. JMB Hughes helped unleash the power of turned-on students, sportsmen and even the teachers. Quite simply, he gave us PRIDE.

I remember ... he came into my class after the results of one of the school exams. He not only mentioned the top 5 students, he picked out the bottom 5..and those who excelled in English and Maths. When he left the class we all felt good. We all got a pep talk and lots of encouragement..

I remember.,.... when I was appointed a School Prefect in Form Five together with Teng Kok Seng, he called all the new Prefects in to his office. There was Tan Cheng Keat, Fong Soo Hoi, Tang Hong Tatt., Lee Kim Siem, Lim Kwee Hiang, Jawhar Hassan... 

He made specific pointed observations of us individually including some shortcomings and his expectations of our leadership.
When we left his office, we knew he knew us individually.., our strengths and our challenges. He must have observed us.

I was not one of the fortunate many that Mrs. Jean Hughes taught  in Class. The many students that she taught,  loved her for her endearing qualities as a teacher. They speak of her refined, and  gentle manner ..and her compassion. They looked forward to her English and Literature classes. 

I remember,... Mrs Jean Hughes was at the helm of the Music & Drama society. I remember how she engaged the students.. They all speak fondly of her.

Somehow, I remember Mr. and Mrs Hughes are ..have been a great part of our history, of Penang Free School and the profound effect they had in the quality of our school life.., our education. We are grateful, we had the privilege of their time in PFS.
 I had the privilege of being there then.

Mr. JMB Hughes gave us Pride, not because we were the best students that got into PFS, but he got most of us to give our do our best in our studies and in the playing field. He imbued Character and discipline.

In my mind he made champions of us. But behind that..  Mr. JMB Hughes was the champion of the students, the teachers and the School. He was the Heroe that made heroes of the students.

He was proud of us. But more significantly, we were proud of him, as our Headmaster.

Harris Beh
PFS: 1959 to 1965

Friday, 25 March 2011

An Old Sea Salt from Kim Gooi’s blog

From Kim Gooi’s blog
March 21, 2011 · 8:01 pm
An Old Sea Salt
An Old Sea Salt
by Kim Gooi
1st published in Penang Club magazine 2002
[Author's note:  The most beloved headmaster of Penang Free School Mike Hughes passed away on 16 March 2011, six days after his wife Jean Hughes. Their joint funeral will be held on Tuesday 22 March at Chapel of Rest, Okehampton, Devon. Legions of old boys scattered around the world mourn their demise.
"They contributed greatly to enhance the school's already excellent academic, sports, arts performances...and made huge impacts on many of us personally. Stories of their generosity of their time, words and acts of support and encouragement, and in kind to the students are legendary, writes Chew Poh Soon, among tributes that poured through the internet.]
Feeling top of the world - Kim Gooi(left)and Tan Poay Lim with Mike Hughes on top Penang Hill in year 2000. Mike was 84 then. Photo by Kim Gooi
In early 1900s I have a pleasant surprise when the last English headmaster of Penang Free School, JMB Hughes who retired and went back to England in 1963, wrote to me in Bangkok.
“Are you Gooi Mong Kim, the one I taught geography in Form Two? I don’t know you are now known as Kim Gooi. Heard you are a journalist based in Bangkok. I got your address from one of the old boys.
Beach Boys, December 1961 - Photo by Mike Hughes who sent and wrote the caption: "Forty years ago Batu Ferringhi! The most cheerful bunch of kids I ever knew. As ever - Mike" Front row (L-R) Tan Poay Lim, Chan Weng Thim, Chor Hock Lye, Ahmad's (the fisherman) son. Back row Chuah Lye Heen and Gooi Mong Kim
“Remember our dunking days in the sea of Batu Ferringhi. (He used to take a bunch of us camping in front of ‘Silver Sand’, while the family stayed in the bungalow)
“How is Weng Thim, Say Kok, Lye Heen?” He said he is still in contact with Poay Lim and some of the old boys but among all the students he remembers us best and the liveliest. Must be due to the fact we were the last group taught by him and the one who dunked him in the sea.
“One good dunking deserves another,” he says. And Mike, as he now wants to be called, would dunk as back in return.
After a week of sun and surf, just as we were about to cycle home with our piles of ruck sacks and camping gears, I remember vividly, Mike coming towards me and dished out about fifteen dollars (ringgit, quite a lot of money in those days).  “Take this and have a meal in the coffee shop,” he said.
Those were the days – great school, great teachers! “I would always make it a point to take my students outdoor as part of the education,” he would say. Among the field trips he had taken were to Pulau Langkawi in the early remote days (Lim Chong Keat among the group), he said. And  the most memorable – when the whole school took a day off to hike up Penang Hill in 1962, the year I was in Form Two.
Penang Free School then was noted for its academic excellence and sports prowess nationally.  The teachers were a different breed compared to now.
Many of us Old Frees, now in our autumn years, would agree that the Penang Free School is special in many ways and hold fond memories of the alma mater. From its founding in 1816 until 1963 when the last English principal left for home, it has always been headed by a British headmaster.
When Old Frees meet, they would inevitably inquire: “Which year (were you in)?…..Todd?, Hargreaves?, Pinhorn?… and so on. For me the greatest headmaster will always be Michael (JMB) Hughes.
Already an octogenarian when I heard from him, Hughes has not lost his shine and humour. “We can stage the biggest dunking of all times if you come to England,” he wrote. “Except it won’t be as warm and sunny as Batu Ferringhi; yours Old Sea Salt,” he signed off.
Coincidentally at that time Old Frees of my year had just started email contacts; Lye Heen when informed of Hughes suggested we pooled resources and get him a laptop.
But it was OK. A few weeks later Mike emailed saying: “Thanks for your kind thoughts but it’s not necessary, my daughter and son-in-law, just got me a computer and ‘wired’ me up.
“Times have changed, what I understand as a mouse and hardware are no longer the four legged animal and tools I used to know,” he wrote amusingly.
We were in regular email contact. In year 2000, Hughes visited Penang at the invitation of Lim Chong Keat and company. I met up with Mike at Chong Keat’s Penang Hill Hotel. At 84, except for the cane he uses when walking, he was robust and healthy, his mind as sharp as ever, rattling off names of old students and events, to the amazement of all.
In 2001 I was the Southeast Asia editor for Outthere News, a London based news portal, actively reporting on the American attack of Afghanistan Taliban forces. My job was to get ordinary people to comment on the Afghan War, their fear, worry and so on.
Mike and I were in regular contact. Needless to say Afghanistan featured mostly in our exchanges. Being a newsman, I was amazed at the profound insight and knowledge Mike had of the Afghans and the region.
I sent his comments to london and sure enough the editor, Paul Eedle, was astonished. “This is great stuff!” the Editor commented.
Below is the commentary of Michael Hughes as it appears in OutthereNews. I am sure Old Frees who were with Hughes would be delighted to read about the Old Sea Salt’s vast experience, knowledge and empathy for the people.
megastories from
Wednesday 21 November 2001
Michael Huhges, now 84, is the former headmaster
of Penang Free School in Malaysia, the oldest English
school in southeast Asia (founded in1816). He served
in the British army in India, Ceylon and Burma in World
War II before his life as a teacher in Malaysia. he
retired to Britain in 1963.]
I am not surprised those reports were killed in Afghanistan. in 1942 I was stationed not far away from there. The road from Peshawar to Landi Kota (a frontier fort) had one role. Any British officer straying 50 yards from the track could be shot and several were. There was a guide book telling you this. British officers had to wear pagris like their men. It has always been a fierce area. Tribesmen could be feasting you and going overboard with hospitality one day and trying to put a bullet in your head the next. You never called them ‘Pushtuns’ then but ‘Pathans’ who spoke a language called Pusthu. My orderly was one such man and he was the salt of the earth.
When I left the army in Rangoon in 1946 and he left me, I wanted to give him 400 rupees to help create a better life for him and his family. At first he refused but I insisted and he took it. Six months later when I was back in the UK I got a letter from the village headman signed by every man in the village. He had gone home
and distributed the money between the whole community. this was a man who lived in a mud and wattle hut with one room divided from another by a rough partition. The animals on one side, the people on the other. Mostly they slept outside on a string bed called a charpoy.
With all respect you have to know these people well because robbery is common and westerners would be targets. I respected them and loved them. Allah was everything to them and Mohammad their guide. I know that there is no excuse for what happened in western eyes but in theirs there was nothing wrong. I could tell you more about them but it would take me half a book. One thing I do know. They do not fear death. Of course one cannot condone with murder but they live in a harsh climate where life is a constant struggle and death very common. Probably the infant mortality rate is higher than 60% and the death rate at about the age of 50. Of course I am talking about 60 years ago and things may have changed but I doubt very much whether attitudes have.
Mike Hughes

Direction to Venue of Event to commemorate Mr. & Mrs. Hughes at 4-00 pm on Sunday, 27 March 2011


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Penang event on Sunday 17th April: "Remembering Mike & Jean Hughes",

Thanks, Syed for forwarding this email from Dato Lim Chong Keat. Hope many can attend that event too.

Sent: Thursday, March 24, 2011 10:46
Subject: Re: Memorial Tribute to the Hughes, Plus Expressway Headquarters, Subang Interchange

Dear Abdullah
Please note and inform others attending the 27th gathering at Subang (ahead of the circular to be finalised) that we shall,be organising another event in Penang on Sunday the 17th April: "Remembering Mike & Jean Hughes", from 4pm onwards, at Alpha Utara Gallery, China Street. Will circulate those on email.
Lim Chong Keat

Exemplary HM - Letter from Shukor Rahman in the NST today

Syed Abdullah sent me this nice tribute to Mike and Jean in the New Straits Times this morning. Many thanks,  Syed for sharing with us.


J.M.B. HUGHES (or Michael to those close to him), one of the most popular headmasters of Penang Free School, died in England on March 16. His wife Jean, who also taught at the school, had passed away five days earlier.
Both had been in poor health for some time. Their joint funeral was held on Tuesday in Exeter.

What made Hughes, who was headmaster from 1957 to 1963, so highly popular and respected among students and staff?

I entered Penang Free School as a Form One student in 1962, which it happened to be Hughes' final year as headmaster. For one year, I had the opportunity to experience his style of "hands-on" administration.
He treated everyone fairly and decently irrespective of whether you were a teacher, a student, the office boy or the school gardener.

He engaged everyone as a friend and an equal. He would make the class rounds when the end-of-term examination results were out.

Apart from picking out the top two in each class for mention, he would also call up the bottom two, and try to find out why they had not done well. Instead of harsh words, he always tried to encourage them to do better the next time.

He joined Penang Free School in 1949 as the senior Geography teacher. As chairman of the Geographical Society, he would organise numerous activities, such as making excursions to (the yet undeveloped) Pulau Langkawi.

Hughes and Jean had no airs about them. Jean taught English Literature and was active in the Music and Drama Society. They were humble, warm and friendly, and never threw their weight around.

Former students were warmly welcomed when they visited the Hughes in England. He considered former students who kept in touch with him as members of his extended family. On several occasions, some successful former students even sponsored Hughes' visit to Malaysia to meet up with Old Frees. This showed how highly they regarded him.

Almost to the end, Hughes was in touch with a group of Old Frees, exchanging views, banter and memories via email.

If only some of our headmasters would take a leaf out of his book, I am sure there would be less problems in our schools today.

Thank you, Mr Hughes, for your warmth and kindness and for being a friend to all. And thank you for making the sun shine even on bleak, gloomy days

Read more: Exemplary HM: Take a leaf out of Hughes' book

Mike's visit and school speech in 1983 in Quah SS's blog

I think this visit by Mike was his first to Malaysia since he left school in 1963 and if I am not mistaken was mainly organised by Dato Rahim, It's the first time I have seen this inspiring speech which says so much about the man. Seng Sun has also captured well how the old boys and girls, and teachers under his charge, feel about him and Jean in his article. Enjoy it.   

And thanks to Seng Sun for permission to reproduce his article on our blog.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011
It was quite obvious that JMB (Mike) Hughes had a tremendous attachment for the Penang Free School. Though he was the headmaster for only seven years, his tenure meant a great deal to him. It was just about the best years of his life. He touched the lives of the boys and girls who had studied in the school from 1957 to 1963 and left an indelible impression on them. Even after retirement, he returned to Penang several times for holidays and never once could he say that he was not the centre of attention.

I never got to meet him but having heard some stories about him, it felt as if I had. When my batch of schoolmates held our reunion last month and we had invited some of our own old teachers to the function, one of them even asked me whether I had any news about Hughes. She was mighty worried, she said, because she hadn't heard from him for a very long time. was the guest of honour of the Old Frees' Association when he visited Penang in October 1983. As his trip would coincide with the School's Speech Day, it was proposed - and readily accepted by Hughes - that he should speak as the official OFA representative. Thus, it was a proud moment for him to return to the school on 21 Oct 1983, walk along the corridors, enter the hall and walk down the aisle, mount the steps onto the old stage, listen fervently to the School Rally and beam down on the expectant faces before him.

Someone emailed me a scanned article on the address that Hughes made during that Speech Day. I would like reproduce an excerpt from it here:

"From the time I first knew the Free School, it had a tradition - it looked back with reverence to its past: concentrated upon its present and anticipated its future. The quality and academic excellence it aspired to was the key to all three, linked closely to its pride in its performance on the playing field. This spirit built up over generations had made it a wonderful place to be in 20 years ago. It is still with you today.

"All of you are now on the threshold of adulthood and may look forward to positions of responsibility and trust. You will be thinking about freedom and you may realise that this is impossible without order. You may also seek liberty but you will find out that only through discipline can you have all three. Order is the key to freedom and liberty so that your fellow citizens may go about their daily tasks unimpared. But it is the kind of discipline which means self control to which I refer. A self control which will both enable you to succeed in your studies and also to take responsibility for others when that responsibility is given to you. Always be the master of yourself and others will respect you for it. However high you may rise in status and authority, never forget the problems of others less fortunate. Only then can you be complete, educated, men and women.

"It seems to me that Malaysia has progressed in an astonishing fashion. Ever since I arrived, people have swarmed around me eager and willing to take me in their latest Mercedes to see the latest development either soaring into the sky or stretching along the beach until former familiar places seem entirely new. With all these gains around you, you may be tempted to look for wealth first and seek knowledge second. Perhaps it might be advisable to pursue knowledge to its utmost and then it may not be necessary to look for wealth. I am sure the many men and women who have graduated from here may agree with me. The PFS Spirit implies this - perhaps it might help you also."

Note: The joint funeral of JMB Hughes and his wife Jean will be held today in Okehampton, England. Hughes died on 16 mar 2011 and his wife passed away five days earlier. Both had been sick for quite a while. A condolence book was opened at the Old Frees' Association, Penang last week.
Posted by Quah, Seng-Sun at 09:58:00 0 comments

JMB (Mike) Hughes by Quah Seng Sun '66

Many thanks, Syed Abdullah for  drawing our attention this post of Seng Sun's on his blog

Thursday, 17 March 2011

JMB (Mike) Hughes

It is with regret that I mention here of the death of J.M.B. (Mike) Hughes who was the last European headmaster of the Penang Free School from 1957 to 1963. He died on 16 Mar 2011 in Okehampton near Exeter in the United Kingdom. His death came five days after the passing of his wife, Jean Hughes. Both had been sick since Christmas with Hughes reportedly having suffered a stroke very recently.

Hughes was before my time as I only entered the School in 1966 but from what I've been learning from the Old Frees who passed through the School during Hughes' tenure, he was a well-liked headmaster. His old students held him in high esteem and the feeling was mutual.

He returned to visit the School many times after he went back to England and his last visit was in the 1990s when he entered the school hall with the headmaster of the day during the usual Monday morning assembly, walking stick in his hand, looking very healthy and strong, and beaming with pride. He spoke to remind the students about the importance of good education and of course, about the School itself.
Posted by Quah, Seng-Sun at 14:57:00

Mail from Jimmy Yeoh  

Memorial Tribute to the Hughes, Plus Expressway Headquarters, Subang Interchange, Sunday,27th March, 4.00pm

Tan Sri Dato' Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Past President of OFA, KL and Selangor has risen to the occasion and kindly stepped up to support our planned Memorial Tribute to Mike and Jean Hughes by arranging for us to meet at the Plus Expressway Head Office which has a suitable meeting room to accommodate our entire group - though admittedly, I am still uncertain of the number who would turn up on Sunday as not many have actually confirmed their intention to attend the meet. I can only appeal to you guys to just drop me a note (even if you have confirmed earlier as, like Poh Soon, my email is choc-a-bloc with messages from everybody, re-directs etc that I am now utterly confused. As such appreciate you email me again to confirm your attendance to enable me to at least have sufficient drinks of coffee, tea or even plain water not to mention space for all. Please email immediately as I will want to communicate with Enc. Marwadi, the head of Facilities Management of Plus who is doing his best to accommodate us all. Once I have your confirmation (please advise if you also have other friends accompanying you), Enc Marwadi and I will have to do a bit of head scratching  to see how we can accommodate all - not to mention we will have to look at the possibility of those who will just walk in unannounced. Further, there are those (about 9 chaps) who have called me/smsed me or whatever to say they are coming except they hang up before I can ask for their names. I also wish to thank some of you who have either emailed me or smsed me separately to offer your assistance in contacting your classmates and friends from the PFS to ensure a larger turnout. I do hope that I can also count on all of you who are in this internet group to do your bit to help Rally the troops for our final salute to our "Big White Chief" and his wife.
Final details therefore,
1. Date - Sunday, 27th March 2011
2. Time - 4.00pm - 7.00pm
3. Venue - Training Centre, Plus Head Office, Subang, Subang Interchange
4. Directions - If you are approaching the Subang Toll Plaza on the Plus North South Highway from Kepong and Damansara, keep left and turn left immediately after exiting the Toll Plaza. This will lead you to the admin building, I beleive, where you can increase value on your toll cards and of course use the toilet. Proceed straight ahead - follow the signboard saying Persada PLUS to again turn left through a tunnel under the Highway. You will exit and approach the  rear gate  leading into the Plus Building. There is ample parking space for many cars.
If approaching from the Federal Highway, take the normal turn that leads you to Subang Airport and then turn left up the ramp that will take you to the Subang Toll Plaza. Keep left as you approach the Toll gate and turn left at about 100 meters from the Toll Plaza, into the FRONT Gate of the Plus HQ,
The Training Centre is located on the ground floor of the main (tallest) building.
To help you guys, attached here is a road map to ensure you don't get lost. Happy Treasure Hunting and don't be late.
I record here our very thanks to Tan Sri Dato' Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim for his very kind help.

Thank you all in advance and look forward to see as many of you as possible. Call me if need be but please identify yourselves please.
Fortis Atque Fidelis,
Jimmy Yeoh
Class of '62 (Form 5)

 Should you have any trouble locating the venue, please call Zam - 017- 333 3071

p.s. I have problems posting map to the venue here. Please let me know in the comments here and I shall email it direct to you. Meantime, I shall ask Huat Seng if he can assist and post it for us.