Singapore

The Northern Village: Tales from Pioneer Generation classmates

The Northern Village, a book by the alumni of Naval Base Secondary, chronicles life growing up in 1960s Singapore

It takes a village to raise a child, it is said. A new book, titled The Northern Village, has not only 30 stories about how a group of Pioneer Generation classmates from northern Singapore was raised, but also how they realised their dreams.

The writers, from the Naval Base Secondary School O-level class of 1963, believed that a book was the best medium to narrate their experiences to a wider audience from the long and arduous journey of the 1960s to the present.

At the launch of the book at the school's current premises in Yishun on Saturday, former MP of Nee Soon South ward, Ms Lee Bee Wah, paid tribute to the septuagenarians whom, she said, achieved so much with so little.

"The heart-rending book has a telling message: Whatever your background and whichever your race or religion and however little your resources, you can achieve your dreams with a focused mind and togetherness in spirit. Theirs is a true story of grit, gumption and perseverance," she said.

Ms Lee, who stepped down last June after 14 years as an MP, cited some examples of community and national service by the writers - helping during the New World Hotel collapse in 1986, the SilkAir crash in Palembang in 1997 and the 2000 Singapore Airlines crash in Taipei.

The 1963 cohort includes a nursing sister who had attended to all of our eight presidents, from Mr Yusof Ishak to Madam Halimah Yacob, in one way or another, she added.

Book editor and veteran journalist Godfrey Robert said: "The writers' mental fortitude and strict application of their diverse talents took them to where they are now.

"Through the various articles, you navigate through the struggles, pain, suffering and sacrifices of this generation against a backdrop of the hopes and aspirations of a new city state, to reach First World status from Third World beginnings after the British withdrew from the region."

FOREWoRD

The foreword by the cohort's then English and Literature teacher, Dr Oliver Seet, 85, who was also Associate Professor of English at the National Institute of Education, is touching and sentimental, and includes a poem dedicated to the class.

The school's principal, Mr Sulaiman Mohamad Yusof, in welcoming the 28-strong gathering, said he was enlightened by the stories in the 136-page book and would use it to inspire his students to do their best.

It is after all in line with the motto of the 64-year-old school that reads: "Be Our Best".

The Northern Village is priced at $28 and will be available from Feb 8 at Books Kinokuniya (Ngee Ann City), City Book Room (North Bridge Centre) and Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop (URA Centre, Maxwell Road).

COMMUNITY ISSUES