GOODBYE, MR CHIPS!  

Mr Earnest LauOur beloved teacher and former Principal Mr Earnest Lau, affectionately known as the Mr Chips of ACS, passed away on 05 March at the age of 82. He was recuperating after a recent pacemaker inplant and died of heart failure during an afternoon nap.

Mr Lau was a true blue ACSian. After his primary and secondary education in ACS, he continued his studies overseas at Ohio's Oberlin College and at Oxford's Balliol College, where he obtained a Honours Degree in History and Diploma in Education. 

In 1955, he returned to teach in ACS where he made a great impact on the lives of thousands of ACS students. The older ACSians associate him with the stirring and nostalgic "40 Years On" which he taught and sang with gusto when he first joined ACS as a teacher, whilst the younger ones from the 1977 to 1983 era remember his charismatic leadership when he was the school Principal.  An author of several books, Mr Lau was the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore before he passed away.

 

Ho Chee Meng's QuoteMr Lau was a wonderful teacher who enriched the lives of thousands of students under his charge. There was never a dull moment during his lessons which were delivered in his clipped Oxford accent, and with the occasional "mana boleh" (his favourite expression) which cropped up every now and then as he spoke.

Pasto rKang's QuoteMany students attribute their good command of English to Mr Lau.  According to Mike Chan (Class of 59/61), "Coming from a non-English speaking home, my English was only so-so but through Mr Lau's patient tutelage, it improved by leaps and bounds. He inspired me to be a lover of the English language and literature, subjects that I eventually obtained distinctions for in the 'O' and 'A' level exams".

Winston Choo's quoteMike shared with us that he will always remember "The Mysterious Mr Quinn", an Agatha Christie book which Mr Lau chose for literature. Here's Mike's account:  "Mr Lau went through the book chapter by chapter with us. One day, after finishing Chapter 4 (or so), he simply told us to skip chapter 5 completely and jump to chapter 6, i.e. read at home to prepare for the next lesson. He did not explain why and out of curiousity I went home to read Chapter 5 and then realised why ... it was about Mr Quinn's visit to a lonely young widow and his sojourn with her and of course what comes naturally.....very subtly written for the 50s but quite X-rated if you read between the lines.  I suppose our Mr Chips did not want to "corrupt" our young minds by having to explain what was happening between Mr Quinn and the widow."

Lim Kok Lian quoteAnother student attesting Mr Lau's great influence on him is Lim Kok Lian (Class of 59). "He was a teacher with a very high standard. If he gives you a "B" grading, you would be doing quite well in his taught subject. It was because of his constant push for EXCELLENCE in English that he laid a strong foundation in me and this has most definitely benefitted me throughout my adult life and career.  Mr Lau, thank you for investing your talent in me which I will always remember and cherish. I look forward to seeing you again someday, in that 'great getting up morning'! 

Until then, au revoir, Mr Chips!"

Jegathesan's quoteAlthough Mr Lau appeared to be a no-nonsense and somewhat stern teacher, he was equally sporting in more ways than one. He played a part in introducing rugby to the school and Hamid Jinnah (Class of 59/61) remembers vividly that after their first trial game, a group of the players encircled him and pulled his shorts down!  According to Hamid, "He was very sporting and took the ragging in good humour. We were certainly blessed with dedicated, caring and sporting teachers like him!"

Richard Seow's quoteMr Lau was also unassuming and full of humility as Phillip Lee Soo Hoon (Class of 59) would testify. "When Mr Lau was the Principal, my firm used to audit the School's accounts, and he never thought or regarded me as his former student. Instead, he offered help so that I can finish my work.  He was such a caring person, and one of the very few great men I have had the privilege to know. Rest well, Mr Lau. You deserve it. You have fought a good fight and finished the race well.

Mr Lau was indeed bigger than life and the epitome of a perfect gentleman. We will surely miss him.  The flood of tributes that flowed in is a testament to the immense influence he had over many in the ACS family, the Methodist Church and the community. In addition to the reports in the press, email exchanges over the net and the Facebook page in memory of him, we would like to share with you below some personal anecdotes that speak volumes for Mr Lau; these accounts also reveal some aspects of him which few are aware of.

Earnest Lau"Ernest Lau had a big voice, a smile that could light the skies of Singapore, a strong handshake and an enthusiasm for life. He had a daily routine of walking twice around our housing subdivision every morning and evening. His walking was a jog even in later years when he used a stout walking stick to help him along. The neighborhood dogs would bark until he softly quieted them. The dogs paid attention to him!

He had a fantastic memory. He was commenting about the speech I had just given, when he said," Say, didn't you represent ACS in a speech competition?" Sure did but that was 43 years ago! I remembered rewriting my speech because the original elicited a few 'grumphs' from him. By that I mean he made some inaudible noises. Mr. Lau expected the best. What a joy it was to be able to step up to the plate. And he remembered!

When invited to dinners, he sent bouquets of flowers with notes of grateful thanks and appreciation. What a classy thing to do! He entertained my children with his kung-fu sword routine...every step performed perfectly....done on his driveway... neighbors stopped to watch. No short cuts with that routine and it ended up to enthusiastic applause. Such a wonderful way for the neighbors to get together and connect.

Lau was a classy gentleman, my friendly neighbor and my teacher. He was a beautiful person. I will miss him. We all will for a great person has left us."

Suellen Ng (Pre-U Arts Class of 60/61)

Mr Earnest Lau 

"I was moved by the eulogies made at Mr Lau's funeral service, especially the relevation that he had made a $1million donation towards the purchase of a property adjoining Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for a sanctuary to serve the community, and not just the church. The building is named "The Unfailing Light", after a magazine that his father, the late Rev E. S. Lau, was editor of.

Those of us fortunate enough to have Earnest Lau as our class teacher in Sec 4D quickly overcame the terror that other students faced in his presence. You will recall his nicknames of Bulldog, Ernie and Ah Lau. My first encounter with him was when I was in Sec 3, and it was over the use of 'can' versus 'may' - something that I remember till today, and I am certain that I was not the only one. I had gone to his class and asked 'can I speak to so-and-so?' and his loud retort was 'can you? CAN YOU?', followed by an even loud roar 'MAY I'!!

Lim Cheng Wee (Class of 65/67)

 

Mr Earnest Lau"Eloquent and always well-attired, he was courteous and kind to all his students regardless of who they were, as all his students were equal before him. Yet, he was not unaware that some among them would need help more than others given their different family backgrounds. To this end, he would leave no stone unturned to come to their aid.

I recall the time when Mr Lau approached me to ask if I could give up my school scholarship - I was 3rd in class and only 3 school scholarships were available - for the 4th boy as I did not need the scholarship money, whereas the 4th boy needed the money to carry on. I was touched by his care and concern for the 4th boy; more, I was also surprised that Mr Lau made it his personal interest to know not only his students in classwork, but their family backgrounds as well, to come to their help should the need arise. I readily acceded to his request.

Mr Lau was very kind and easily approachable for his students to feel at ease before him; this, at a time when corporal punishment was the norm in schools. He never pinched, let alone slapped, anyone of us. If at all he was displeased with our misbehaviour, he would still smile and banter with us even as he got his message across to us in no uncertain terms. It is no wonder that he was much respected and loved by his students".

Yap Swee Hoo (Class of 57)