SLIM SCHOOL 

"STAT LUX IN MONTE"

"Upon the hill top stands a guiding light"

A TRADITIONAL VICTORIAN SCHOOL MISTRESS

Anne Laugharne Phillips Griffith-Jones, born in 1890 into a distinguished Welsh family in Pembrokeshire, was a welfare officer at a munitions factory in Wales during World War I for which she was awarded the M.B.E.

In 1923 she came to Singapore to spend a three month holiday with her brother, O.P. Griffith-Jones a well known local stock-broker and found life so pleasant in Singapore she decided to stay on and assist Lillian Newton, O.P.'s sister in law, running a private school. In those days most expatriate children returned to the United Kingdom to finish their education at boarding schools, a practice entailing long sea voyages and long periods of separation from parents.

Miss Griff, as she became affectionately known, had no teaching qualifications, though by all accounts she personified the traditional Victorian school mistress and had a disciplinary and austere disposition that belied a warm-hearted caring nature.

When Lillian Newton returned to England in 1924, Miss Griff took over some of her pupils and in 1925, with the club's permission and the help of Mollie Faiers, opened Tanglin Day School in two attap huts in the Tanglin Club grounds; among the first five pupils was her nephew 'Lilo' Griffiths-Jones. As neither teacher could play music, the staff was quickly increased to three.

Over the years the the pupil strength increased to over 50 and in 1934, at O.P.'s suggestion, Miss Griff opened a Tanglin School in the Cameron Highlands, a boarding school with 150 pupils and 22 qualified teachers from England.

Miss Griff was interned by the Japanese in World War II and while "in the bag" at the infamous Changi Prison and Sime Road Camp, displayed the same qualities of organisation and leadership which were a feature of her everyday life.(go here for an interesting aside)

In 1958 she retired to a small bungalow near Brinching in the Cameron Highlands; she was conferred the O.B.E. for services to education and in 1962, the PJK (Pingat Jasa Kebaktian) by the Sultan of Pahang for meritious service. She continued to correspond with former pupils; Renne Parrish whose daughter attended the school in the Cameron Highlands recalled with affection the later years when Miss Griff , surrounded by her cats, made everyone welcome; "tea was always served in the best British tradition with a silver service and immaculate linen. Her humble cottage was a little bit of England tucked away in the hills of Malaya."

In 1974 Miss Griff died in Ipoh hospital, aged 84 , after suffering in later years from painfull arthritis; she is buried at Tapah in the foothill of the highlands she loved.

Photo of Miss Griffs burial plot.

I would like to thank Mr Ronald Stones M.B.E. Head of Tanglin Trust School and Mrs Wendy Burgess Director of Developement who provided me with the biography of "Miss Griff" from which the above extract is taken. Tanglin Trust School.

The following was kindly sent to me by Roger Marshallsay.

Extract from Odd Man Out The Story of the Singapore Traitor. by Peter Elphic & Michael Smith.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., ISBN 0-340-58762-8 1993.

Odd Man Out tells the story of of a spy in the British Forces in Malaya, an officer, Captain Patrick Heenan, whose treacherous activities played a significant part in the Japanese victory. although the Japanese would have still taken Malaya without his assistance, the information he provided, particularly about aircraft movements, helped their 2 month blitzkrieg immeasurably

Extract:

But the most important of Patricks many girlfriends was as woman he met in the Cameron Highlands, a hill station east of Ipoh, a picturesque resort area that was extremely popular with officers seeking rest and recuperation. The long road up to the Cameron Highlands climbed from the small town of Tapah towards a 6,000-foot peak called Gunong Batu Brinchang. The resort area was on four different levels with a small shopping bazaar at each level. The highest level was at Tanah Rata where there were a number of hotels and holiday homes. There was also a golf course and many other amenities. The main attractions, apart from golf, were tennis, riding and walking, and there were magnificent views over untamed jungle interspersed with beautiful tea estates. The weather up there was perfect, warm but not too warm during the day and cold enough at night sometimes to sit around log fires. As a bonus, there were no mosquitoes.

Prior to 1939 the Camerons was a rather staid place, even in the season - a place to take the family, where the only illicit pleasure was an over-indulgence in alcohol, a common occurrence among expatriate colonial communities. But with the influx of reinforcements for the British and Indian Armies, those visiting the area had begun to adopt a more relaxed, even debauched, attitude. Young officers flooded there at weekends or on local leave, looking for respite from the lowland heat and for female company. They found a warm welcome among the grass widows and their daughters, and from some of the young women at the Tanglin school, a school for European girls on the second level run by a Miss Anne Griffith-Jones. How attractive were so many of Miss Griffs girls, says Dorothy Tommy Hawkings, who ran a kindergarten attached to the school. The news spread throughout South-east Asia, and many war-weary, tired and dispirited groups of men were renewed with vitality and hope in the company of such charming girls.

It was hardly surprising that Patrick should have been drawn to the Cameron Highlands, spending some of his local leave there and, in all probability, the occasional long weekend. It was here that he met Pinka Robertson. She ran the only riding school in the Cameron Highlands, which was attached to the Tanglin Girls School. She was a good-looking, twenty-nine-year-old half-Norwegian and, in the words of a woman friend, had a big bosom and lovely grey eyes. Pinka was a nickname. She had been born Gyda Jean Robertson at Walton-on-Thames on 28th October 1911. Her mother, Gyda Thorkildsen, from Arendal in Norway, had married Robert MacFarlan Robertson in January 1911. The family had moved to Malaya where Robertson managed a rubber plantation between Seremban and Port Dickson.

In her early twenties, Pinka had gained a reputation among the men at Serembanís Sungei Ujong Club, one of the countrys top clubs, of being argumentative, pig-headed and entirely unseduceable. But by 1941, when she and Patrick began their affair, she appears to have changed her attitude. One female friend says she had become man-hungry, not in the sense of being promiscuous, but because, in the words of someone else who remembers her, she was looking very hard for a husband. Perhaps in Patrick she saw a man who might be a match for her; they both had a reputation for liking an argument. Whatever her reasons, she was not the first woman to fall under his spell. Normally, Patrick openly discussed his sexual experiences with his fellow officers but, in Pinkaís case, as with the woman in Japan, he was reticent.(return to story)

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