The First of the 1961 Intake

An interview with Luke Teoh

What do you know about the earliest history of Brinsford ? When was it built ? Was it built just for "Malayan Teacher Training" (MTT) ?

I know rather vaguely it was an old army camp . It was offered by the British Government to the Malayan Government then.

Why was MTT done in England ?

Malaya was about to receive Independence from the British Government and the schools in Malaya were then manned by British expatriate teachers. There wasn't much time to build a college here and the country needed teachers to replace the expatriate ones. Furthermore someone thought it was a good idea to have a college in England manned by British lecturers who had returned from then Malaya. We had only two Malayan lecturers who taught the Malay language while all the others were British. We had a mixed bag of lecturers , an author, an ex- squadron leader who was very popular as he was very versatile - singing and acting in the college opera with the students, an ex-navy officer with his bawdy jokes, a no-nonsence ex-army officer and many who had served in the then Malayan Education Service.

What are you memories of arriving in England ? I guess this was your first visit ?

It was immediately after our A-Level or O-Level. Students were selected on academic and extra-mural activities. Some were from very remote country villages. It was quite a cultural shock but we came to enjoy and like the place. The lecturers were all very caring and understanding and the cleaning ladies were fantastic.(They always were -ed) Some were wives of army personnel who had served in Malaya or Singapore.They were used to being served by Malaysians but now they were cleaning for us. We had a Jean Green in J House. She had a very strong accent which we found quite difficult to understand her at first but she was very friendly and caring.

What did the locals make of the sudden influx of people from Malaya ?

The first batch of students had some problems with the local lads over the girls from Featherstone but the later batch of students were more discreet.They went separately and met in Wolverhampton or Cannock Chase instead.

How many people were there ? The capacity was about 250 from memory

There were 300 of us - 150 juniors and 150 seniors.

How long were people here ? Was it one long term ?

We stayed for two years. I came in November 1961 before the time started. We had a month of orientation. I completed my course and left in late Sept 1963. We had to go for 3 teaching practices at the schools in the various Midland towns . Each stay outside with an English family for the teaching practice last a month. I had the first one in Wolverhampton so I commuted by public transport. The second one was with a family in Aston near Birmingham and felt really uncomfortable because we had to dress for all the meals even for supper. They were a very nice couple though. The second one was in Stoke-on-Trent with the Webbs. This family was more informal - Mrs Webb was fantastic - she'd allow us to sit in front of the TV while she served us our dinner! TV wasn't just being introduced in Malaya but not many people could afford it yet. My regret is not having kept in contact with them after I went back to Malaya. Mrs Webb was so proud that one of her daughters was a friend of John Surtees, a champion motorcyclist then.

What did you do for entertainment ?

We played games, took part in college plays, had parties and cooked curries with the sinewy old chickens which we bought from the farm. It was a shock to see the farmer's daughter, catching a chicken and the wringing its neck to kill it and then giving it to us to take back to dress it. However we enjoyed going to the farm in summer, climbing up the old pear and apple trees - eating as much as we can eat - then paying for the fruit we take home. The college also arranged excursions to London to see a play or concert or musical.

Part 2

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People in this conversation

  • Top photo is from 1962 and is looking up the main road from probably close to J block which would be on the left. The second photo is from a booklet supplied to everyone who attended the reunion of Malayan teach training students who were at Brinsford in the early sixties.

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