Glowing In His Glory
St Margaret's Schools celebrate 175 Years of Charity, Patience and Devotion
As the oldest girls’ school in the Far East, St Margaret’s Primary and Secondary Schools celebrate their 175th anniversary this year. Founded in 1842 by Mrs Maria Dyer, a young missionary with the London Missionary Society, it began in a tiny shophouse in North Bridge Road. With an enrolment of just 20, it was first known as Chinese Girls’ School, and for many years was the only girls’ school in Singapore. It moved to 134 Sophia Road in 1861, and was renamed St Margaret’s School in 1949 by the late Bishop Wilson, in honour of Queen Margaret of Scotland.
The school separated their Primary and Secondary sections in 1960. St Margaret’s Secondary School (SMSS) moved to 111 Farrer Road, while St Margaret’s Primary School (SMPS) remained at Mount Sophia, and was given a new address – 99 Wilkie Road, when its new building was completed in 1986.
The St Margaret’s Schools continue their mission to provide their girls “all-round education in a Christ-centered environment to nurture confident, creative and caring young ladies to serve God, country and community.”
Heritage Gallery Re-opening and Singapore Book of Records Attempt
The School’s 175th anniversary celebrations kicked off with the re-opening of the newly renovated St. Margaret’s Heritage Gallery, which holds artifacts and exhibits that tell of its rich history.
The School also made history in the Singapore Book of Records on Total Defense Day, by successfully using the most number of food cans to form the celebration theme words: ‘Glowing in His Glory: 175 Years of Charity, Patience, Devotion’. In all, members of the St Margaret’s family contributed 4208 tins of canned food. These were donated to charitable organisations for distribution to the needy.
Gracing this special event was alumnus Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching, Deputy Director-General of Education (Professional Development and Executive Director of the Academy of Singapore Teachers. Joining student representativesfrom SMSS and SMPS were other distinguished guests included Dr Lee Hoon Hwee, Vice-Chairperson of the School Management Committee; Ms Pang Wee Mian, Principal of SMPS; Ms Lee Soo Kwan, President of the St. Margaret’s Ex-Students’ Association; and Mdm Lee Lin Yee, Principal of SMSS.
Green Dot Funfair and Homecoming
This was a much-anticipated highlight that drew a good crowd of teachers, students, alumni, and friends and family. Old girls got to reunite with schoolmates and teachers. Despite a week of heavy rain prior to the fair, the skies cleared in time for the celebratory event on 3 June 2017. The school grounds were abuzz with game stalls and rides, while old bonds were renewed over coffee and lovingly prepared finger food in the elegant student-run café.
175th Speech Day
The School’s annual Speech Day was held on 21 July 2017, and was graced by the Bishop of Singapore, Bishop Rennis Ponniah, who gave his blessings to the graduates, award recipients, staff and family who attended.
Staying Connected Online
Mdm Premela, HOD of Corporate Communications, SMSS, shares, “Our Memories Portal is our attempt at capturing the personal individual memories of students, teachers and staff who have passed through St. Margaret’s gates. The photographs and stories we have collected so far run the gamut from the very moving to the extremely humorous. We look forward to receiving more photos and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org and launching the website on 16 November 2017.”
“In the age of social media, we have also been documenting and sharing memorable moments from the various 175th anniversary activities held over the year. Keep in touch with us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stmargssecsg) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/stmargssecsg) or catch up on what you have missed out on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/stmargssecsg).
The school would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to the success of our yearlong celebrations."
Blessed to be a Blessing
MISS LIM AI KIOK was a pupil of St Margaret’s School in the 50s, and a teacher with the Primary School for 56 years. On the occasion of the school’s 175th anniversary and as a proud member of the St Margaret’s family, she shares with us some of her fondest memories and observations.
Diocesan Digest: What were some of the highlights for you as a St Margaret’s student?
I stepped into St Margaret’s as a student in 1957. I remember I was struck by how old the school building was. It was a two-storey colonial bungalow which I found out was more than a hundred years old, that was occupied by the missionaries in the early years. Classrooms on the upper level had wooden floors that creaked.
We had to walk gingerly for fear of stepping on loose planks.
Every student had her own bible and a small green hymnal. We used them to read verses and sang hymns during morning worship every day. It was really beautiful.
Across the road was the Mt Emily swimming pool. It was the first swimming pool built in Singapore. As a student we had swimming lessons there once a week. It was eventually closed and converted into a park where our teachers today conduct their PE lessons sometimes.
It was permitted in those days to walk through the Istana grounds. I would alight from the public bus near the Istana front gate and walk through its lush surroundings and breath in the cool fresh air every morning, and exit via its back gate which is still there, facing the school, today.
There were several times when we had to be in different buildings. I was one of the fortunate ones who got to study in the old building before it was demolished. 1960 saw the separation of the Primary and Secondary sections. I was among the first batch of privileged students to study in the new building at Farrer Road. As a staff member in 1984 we had to move to a holding school at Anthony Road for two years. 1986 was homecoming to a brand new school with a new address, 99 Wilkie Road instead of the original 134 Sophia Road.
Another significant moment was the transition of the school uniform. There weren’t any before 1930. In the 1930s and 1940s, pupils could wear anything white, be it a sari, cheongsam, samfu or white frock. Around 1946, a white blouse and green pinafore became the official uniform until 1974 when the green and white polka-dotted uniform was introduced.
DD: As a teacher in the school, what are some of the positive changes you witnessed through the years? Do you think it is more challenging to be a teacher now compared to when you started?
The school has grown in her student enrolment capacity and staff strength. There is a wider range of CCAs. We teachers have to constantlyupgrade ourselves to keep up with the times. Modern technology and better facilities help to enhance teaching, making pupils more engaged in their learning.
It is certainly far more challenging being a teacher today. Pupils are more vocal, open and expressive. Parents are more engaged and take greater interest in their children’s learning and well-being, so demands and expectations are higher.
DD: What has kept you going?
A passion for teaching, love for kids and love for the school. Teaching is a calling where you can touch hearts and make a difference in lives. It gives me great joy and satisfaction to see my kids grow into successful adults and parents.
This is my 56th year as a teacher in my one and only school - St Margaret’s! I have never regretted taking this path. St Margaret’s is so rich in culture and spiritual values. I feel protected, peaceful, happy and proud to be part of this great family. The strong bonds among the staff and the unwavering care and devotion of the past and present leaders make St Margaret’s a very special and blessed place to work in.
To preserve and promote awareness of the school’s culture and heritage, I have assisted in setting up its Heritage Room and organising guided gallery walks within it for all student levels. This is followed by a quiz about the school’s history. I am currently gathering data and material for a video production to archive its history.
DD: If you could summarise the St Margaret’s family in a paragraph, what would it be?
“For charity, patience, devotion, let’s be known.
These qualities St Margaret’s shown
on which our school has grown.”
This has been sung during morning assemblies since the 1950s.
The legacy of charity, patience and devotion shown by Maria Dyer has become the school motto. These values have been passed down to us for the past 175. St Margaret’s will continue to be steadfast to develop character in the young ones and guide them ‘to become women of God, equipped for every good work’. May we bless others as we have been blessed by the school.