July 21, 2022

Primary school registry with Lee Kuan Yew’s name in it among artefacts submitted for Founders’ Memorial

By brit

SINGAPORE – For almost 100 years, a primary school registry of historical value to Singapore has been sitting in the heritage gallery of Telok Kurau Primary School.

On the page listing pupils who registered in 1931, a Harry Lee occupies entry no. 487. Scratched-out markings, where the school clerk entered the year of registration wrongly, make it stand out on the page.

A column on the right indicates his father’s occupation as a storekeeper, a detail probably added later.

Harry Lee would go on to become Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Also in the same registry is Malaysia’s third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn.

The registry was highlighted by the school recently as part of the Founders’ Memorial Committee’s efforts to canvass for donations and loans related to Singapore’s founding fathers.

Since the National Heritage Board-linked committee started its open call in April, more than 70 submissions of artefacts and stories have been made by the public, contributing to the retention of the country’s collective memory of Singapore’s early years.

Items collected are being curated for a possible exhibition at the National Museum next year.

When the Founders’ Memorial opens at Bay East Garden in 2027, these are also likely to find their way into a permanent gallery there, giving visitors a glimpse of years past.

Currently travelling around Singapore is an exhibition showcasing some of the artefacts that the committee has collected, woven into a narrative that includes early tree planting campaigns and the first Housing Block estates.

One of those who have indicated an interest in donating artefacts is Mr Dan Teo, 54, who has spent a fortune collecting Singapore memorabilia, shipping in six early Toto posters from Bulgaria.

“It’s very interesting because Toto was clearly linked to sports and the National Stadium. It was a way to raise money for the stadium’s construction, and also served to bring people of different races together to create a space for them to interact,” the educator said.

The posters come in six colours and reflect a time when Toto numbers were churned out manually using a mechanical device.

Mr Teo said Toto also helped to take underground gambling into legitimate spaces.