Where ‘to serve is to reign’
Published on: Sunday, October 10, 2021
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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St Patrick’s Church (at right in pic) and school rooms in 1954. (Pic: St Patrick’s Archives)
THE driving spirit behind St Patrick’s Tawau is its school motto, “Servire Regnare”, in Latin means ‘to serve is to reign’.

In essence, it is intended to be understood to mean true or real authority comes from service, not domination or supremacy.

That’s how St Patrick’s ‘power that be’ legitimized their rule over us little ones – memory of a real education on sincere service without expecting any returns.   

So all those who had experienced the benevolence of this profound mission and vision upon an emphasis of equal service towards a diversity of others, where teachers and rectors alike never ‘lorded over’ us, are grateful to them forever. 

Small wonder 100 years on, deeply lodged respect and tributes to the services of the founding pioneers and their successors remained burning to this day.

The historic figures are all remembered and recorded as the great benefactors to this generation in a rare tri-lingual book entitled “St Patrick’s Tawau 1917-2017 – The Story of an Anglican Church and its Schools co-authored by the late Dr KM George, Ken Goodlet and Dr James Ku Fon Kiew”. 

A century old history and beyond  

“History is about people and events; Geography is about places and locations,” noted co-author Dr James Ku. 

For instance, few people know the Japanese used both church and school buildings for manufacturing salt during World War Two, and as a result the wooden buildings became rotten after the war!  

“In 2017, St Patrick’s Church and Schools celebrated its milestone event, their centenary,” he said.  

“It brought History and Geography together as this event was being celebrated to trace the journey of 100 years, from its humble beginnings in 1917 to what it is today, a vibrant church with its Schools; impacting the community in a remote geographic location in a town called Tawau in Sabah,” Dr Ku relished. 

“The celebrations were held from 7th-9th July 2017 with a number of festivities ranging from a golf competition, Grand Reunion Dinner at the Promenade Hotel Grand Ballroom, School open day and history exhibition / food and fun fair and the Centenary Worship Service in St Patrick’s Church,” he recalled.  

“Many former church members, students and teachers returned to Tawau from all over the world to mark this joyful event, participating in all the festivities. It was indeed a memorable journey down memory lane.”

“St Patrick’s Church celebrated the Centenary with the theme, ‘From Glory to Glory’; while St Patrick’s Schools had ‘100 years of Excellence in Education’ as their theme,” Ku retraced. 

The book: St Patrick’s Tawau 1917-2017 - The story of an Anglican church and its schools  

“The publication of the Book: St Patrick’s Tawau 1917-2017- The story of an Anglican Church and its schools, captures its vibrant history from its humble beginnings to what it is today,” he noted.

In his Forward, Dr Ku cited how the book began.

“After our 95th anniversary celebrations, I approached Dr KM George (principal 1966-Feb ‘76) with the idea of writing a centenary history of St Patrick’s because he had earlier contributed substantially to a history of St Patrick’s Secondary School entitled ‘Leadership through Service and he readily accepted the task.

“Bishop John Yeo, the rector of St Patrick’s Church, welcomed the proposal. Thus began the long journey of preparation for the eventual writing of the book,” he recalled. 

“We are grateful to Ken Goodlet (ex-teacher and Deputy Principal) who, at our request, kindly agreed to take on the task after the July Centenary celebrations. 

“He has put every aspect of the book covering the church and schools into perspective and has helped substantially in restructuring and writing the history, particularly the church aspect,” Dr Ku attributed.

The book is divided into six parts; Pat A – Church and school: the early years; Part B – Church and school: the middle years; Part C – Church and later years; Part D – Schools: the middle years; Part E – Schools: the later years; Part F – Centenary celebrations.          

“We are indeed grateful to generous sponsors who had stepped in to help with the publication,” Dr Ku said.  

“And also our appreciation to a host of others who had contributed in numerous ways to making the writing and publication of this book possible,” he added. 

A founding maxim that may have escaped the attention of veterans  

Veteran Ex-St Patrick’s may think they know it but a core belief and ideal and belief may have actually escaped their notice.

That is why this rare book is important.  

It serves a permanent reminder of that maxim contained in the school motto in Latin, “Servire Ragnare”, “to serve is to reign”, as explained in the first three paragraphs of this Special Report. 

Of course, pre-war and post-war rectors and teachers I know none.

But my hey days from 1962 to 1967, Bridges classes to Form 4 were full a crowd of the best, highly qualified, kind, student-bonded teachers I remember from Australia, India, UK, Singapore, Malaya, local alike for dirt cheap school fees at best RM11 per month.

These great and memorable rectors and teachers who crossed my path include names like Mr and Mrs Newmarch, Mr and Mrs Green, Mr and Mrs Bisset, certainly Mrs and Mrs James Power, Mr and Mrs KM George, Mr Ken Goodlet and Mrs Jane Goodlet, Mr. Pearce, Mr Peter Tow (ABC), mr Tan Nam Tong, Mr Waterhouse, Mr Griffiths, Ms Gillian, Mr and Mrs Matthew, Mr and Mrs Kurian, Mr Thomas, Mr and Mrs Abraham, Victor Wong and sister, Alice Kong, Mr Maurice, Mr Nichols, Mrs Wong, Lin Fen Chong, Timothy Chin, Cheong Thye Ming, Mr Kim.   

Mr Power and Mr Peter Tow were chemical engineers from the University of Sydney. 

They had no other reason to go to a backwater town like Tawau to offer themselves to poor village kids except for the primacy of service to which they donated their lives.

So did many teachers from India to make our education at St Patrick’s under an amazing diversity of international teachers in the 50s and 60s.          

Having left St Patrick’s after 1967 for Australia, I have no recollections of the school since but that’s in the book  

About the book and its writers / editors 

Known more popularly to Tawau folks as SPG, St Patrick’s Church and schools have grown and changed over more than one hundred years.  

This book tells in text and pictures of the pioneering and Church Missionary Society days, the challenging post-missionary period, the transformative growth of the 1990s, and present maturity and diversity. 

It is a story of visionary leaders, emphasis on service towards others, educational excellence, and fruitful engagement in Sabah and beyond. 

Here is a vibrant, multi-ethnic community devoted to God, built on a century-long foundation. 

The late Dr KM George, Ken Goodlet and James Ku Fon Kiew have each had over 50 years’ association with St Patrick’s.

They have each drawn on this wealth of experience and the diversity of their backgrounds to give this story the breadth and depth that is the richness of St Patrick’s.

This book is available at the following locations:

* St Patrick’s Secondary School (Contact: Miss Fong +6016-805 8335)

* St Patrick’s Secondary School Alumni Association (Contact: Peter Wong +6012-817 5333)

* St Patrick’s Church Tawau Resource centre (Contact: +6011 5995 4101)

Those interested can get copies at RM80 donation per copy. 

Co-author, editor Goodlet says ‘still feel connected’

KEN Goodlet here… KM George, James Ku and I, three co-authors of this book, have had a close association with and love of St Patrick’s Church and schools for over 50 years.

In the 1960’s KM was Principal, I was vice-principal and James was a student of St Patrick’s Secondary School.

Sadly, KM’s recent death meant that he just missed holding a copy of this book in his hands.

I enjoyed my work in this project as both a writer and editor because I still feel connected to the school, church and Tawau town.

I have had the pleasure of working with talented and enthusiastic people – James Ku, KM George, the translators Evelyn Thien Kon Kuin and Annie Chiew, and many others.

In early April this year I had emergency surgery for a massive brain bleed. 

I am so grateful that I had almost completed my work on the book before this happened. 

Since then my eldest son Matthew, once, for a very short time a student of St Patrick’s, has stepped in to work with James on final details of publication. 

Thanks, Matt and James.


Rev Cecil Alexander: Pioneer SPG missionary in 1917.

Rev Vun Nen Vun: First priest till 1931.

Rev Chin Pui Yin: Second priest 1931-1932.

Rev Sung Khi Fong: Pre-war priest.

Old St. Patrick’s church building 1929 to 1961.

The 1962 St Patrick’s Church in 1982, before the expansion. (Pic: St Patrick’s Archives) 

Walter Newmarch with the church Land Rover in the late 1950s. The vehicle worked hard on outstation work throughout and after this period. (Pic: Walter Newmarch) 

The first large confirmation at St Patrick’s after the arrival of Australian priests, held in November 1956. Ken Perry at left, Bishop of Borneo Rt Rev Nigel Cornwall at centre and Walter Newmarch at right. (Pic: Walter Newmarch)

Third co-author, the late Dr Km George: Principal 1965-1976

The two key co-authors Ken Goodlet (right), Dr James Ku and wife Choon Lin.

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