Former St Andrew’s principal Harry Tan passes away (1941-2008)

The notice:

I saw Mr Harry Tan’s obituary in The Straits Times yesterday (7 Aug 2008). And according to a report in The Straits Times today (8 Aug 2008), he died of stomach cancer. You can read the report here.

Here is also a notice on the St Andrew’s Old Boys Association’s website announcing his passing on:

Those who pass before us – Harry Tan 

It is with sadness that we announce our fellow Saint, Harry Tan Ho Swee, former student and Principal of St. Andrew’s School, passed away peacefully today, Wednesday 6 August 2008 in the early afternoon. 

Our deepest sympathy to his family, Mrs Tan Hoon Hwee and his 2 sons. 

The wake will be held at Mt Vernon Funeral Parlour 1

Services will held on Thursday & Friday at 8:00 pm 

Funeral Service on Saturday at 11:00 am

The Cremation at 1pm, Mandai Hall 1




My thoughts:

I am not a former student of St Andrew’s. I was from another mission school.

So why am I posting this? Because of what I know of Mr Harry Tan’s love for sports.

What I remember most from my school days during the 1980s to the 90s was the way St Andrew’s dominated schools rugby. The Saints won 14 National Schools B Division titles in rugby from 1970 to 1993 and were mortal enemies on the rugby paddock with Raffles Institution, the only school which was capable of stopping them from time to time.

B and C Division finals often featured  both schools and were inevitably hot-blooded and bloody affairs, drawing huge crowds of old boys from both schools. And while Dunearn Technical and Anglo-Chinese School made an occasional appearance in the finals, they, more often than not, played second fiddle to these two behemoths.

(Note: Dunearn Technical has since become Greenridge Secondary) while Anglo-Chinese School has since been split into ACS Barker Road and ACS Independent). 

I also remember my university mates speaking fondly of Mr Tan and more particularly, his love for rugby.  According to them, he was always seen at every schools final lustily cheering his students on Got this sms from a friend – an old Saints boy – when I asked him to describe Mr Tan:

“Strict. No nonsense, man of God. Taught maths, loved rugby (especially when we win). More concerned with character development in students than academic excellence.”

And it seems Mr Tan strongly believed that sports was a great way to build character in his students and instil discipline and respect in them.

This was why he revived cricket in St Andrew’s during his 18-year principalship (1966-1994).

“Cricket is a good sport because it makes you think all the time,” he said to the newspapers when he revived the sport. “It complements education. It gives the players the chance to grow into better students by using their heads all the time.”

Character development was also the reason why Mr Tan ensured that the Potong Pasir-based school continued its tradition of being the only school in Singapore to have a boxing club.

If I am not mistaken, the boxing club was started in 1934. In fact, St Andrew’s would always mark National Day by staging a boxing tournament for its students in the school’s quadrangle.

And even though the boxing club had only a handful of members each year, the veteran educator opted to keep it open and to rope in the coaching services of former national boxer and Commonwealth Games champion Syed Abdul Kadir.

Why? Because boxing develops self discipline and a respect for others, he said.

Because I am not an old Saints boy, I will not be able to know the sort of respect his students had for him. But I do salute him for his love and promotion of sports in St Adnrew’s and his belief in what sports could do for his students.

And so, I thought it best to end here by leading you to a posting by fellow wordpress blogger Otterman who is an old Saints boy. I think his entry, written almost immediately after receiving world of Mr Tan’s passing, is a vivid portrayal and loving tribute to the man.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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2 thoughts on “Former St Andrew’s principal Harry Tan passes away (1941-2008)

  1. […] “Former St Andrew’s principal Harry Tan passes away (1941-2008).” The Singapore Sports Fan Says…, 8th August 2008. […]

  2. Ivan aka Cheng Im says:

    For someone who is not a ‘Saint’, it shows he has left a legacy.

    True reflection of what he represents.

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