When S. Rajaratnam passed away four years ago, it was the music that I remembered. When it was announced today that Goh Keng Swee passed away, I found out via Twitter, plus it was just a few hours after my dad had text-messaged to say that my swimming instructor from my childhood had passed away a few days ago.

Of course it's Uncle Lawrence the swimming instructor whom I remember more vividly, even though I haven't seen him since the 1980s. But the memories are mixed up, somewhat. Images of the swimming pools at the former Raffles Institution at Grange Road and the former Non-Commissioned Officers' Club at Beach Road, where Uncle Lawrence alternately terrorised and cajoled a class of skinny children into learning how to swim (and occasionally tossed us off a three-storey high diving board at the latter pool), speak as much to the passing of an age as do the black and white images of Rajaratnam and Goh that fill the history books, will fill tomorrow's newspapers and occasionally pop into my mind (tepid remnants of hours of research at local archives and libraries). The voices too were from a different time: the cadences of Goh in the 1950s and 1960s describing his critics who called Jurong Industrial Estate "Goh's Folly", the smartness of Rajaratnam's sentences, and my swimming instructor's Eurasian Singlish accent, not quite the same as my parents'.

There is a time passing, perceptibly.

Vale, vale.

Edited to add (17 May): My friend Cheng Tju has posted a cartoon from the Straits Times (4 June 1960) to remember Dr Goh. It certainly harks back to a time when the fate of Singapore was hardly a foregone conclusion.



At 5/27/2010 12:49 pm , Blogger  said...

hey, i had swim lessons at the former NCO club too!! Friday nights, sat afternoons and sunday mornings. Mad!

At 5/30/2010 10:38 am , Blogger Tym said...

Yours was more hardcore than mine, then! Most of my lessons were at the old RI pool. We only went to the NCO Club sporadically, mostly so that my instructor could toss us off the diving board. ;)


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