A Legacy of Love
The motion picture Paradise Road shown recently, depicted the strength of women who were held prisoners in Singapore by the Japanese during the Second World War. One of the women immortalised in the movie was Miss Margaret Dryburgh, a Presbyterian missionary who arrived in Singapore in the 1930s. Before the war broke out, Miss Margaret Dryburgh was the Principal of Choon Guan School. A pillar of strength and a symbol of kindness and grace, she touched the hearts of those pupils that she taught in the school.
One of her pupils was Mdm Yeo Soo Hoon, now a retired teacher, who remembers fondly how Miss Dryburgh made an impact on her life as well as the lives of pupils in the school.
Seventy-five-year-old Mdm Yeo spent a year in Choon Guan School in 1935 under the tutelage of Miss Dryburgh. She recalls, "Although Miss Dryburgh was a warm and approachable lady, she had a very stern facade. Pupils would shudder at the sound of her footsteps."
But at the same time, Miss Dryburgh was ever willing to extend a helping hand to the needy pupils. Mdm Yeos two younger sisters, who were also taught by Miss Dryburgh, remembers that she frequently paid for milk for the undernourished pupils. The needy pupils also paid less school fees.
"Miss Dryburgh was the one who encouraged me to teach," Mdm Yeo revealed. "She was very dedicated and she would hand out notes to the teachers as a guide to help us along."
Miss Dryburgh was also remembered for the interesting stories she told during chapel which she conducted once a week. "Every pupil looked forward to her lessons," Mdm Yeo reflected. "Miss Dryburgh was also a very good pianist and would conduct piano lessons for the pupils," she continued.
In addition, Miss Dryburgh had a hand in organising school concerts and fund-raising events for the school. "She did whatever she could for the pupils and the school during those trying times," Mdm Yeo said.