The Malayan connection revisited

This month, we are looking ahead to an exciting event that will be taking place on Wednesday 28th August.

A group of Alumni from the Malayan Teachers’ Training College (MTTC) is making a return visit to Kirkby, when the former students hope to meet up with local people for a reminiscence session at the Archive. 

We’ll also be mounting an exhibition to celebrate the visit, and showing films of the students’ arrival in the 1950s and the ARK’s ‘Malayan Connection’ documentary. 
The Alumni are looking forward to revisiting Granborne Chase, on the original site of the College, and reviewing the information panel that was unveiled during their visit in August 2017. 

That occasion was definitely one of the highlights of our three year programme of National Lottery Heritage Fund supported ARK projects. ‘The Malayan Connection’ saw the Archive link up with former students of the college and local residents to share and celebrate the history of the MTTC and its significance to the Malaysian people. 

We have to go back to the Second World War to discover the physical origins of the College. 

Then, the barrack-like wooden huts with their strange, overhead hot water pipes were erected on land at Kirkby Fields as a temporary hostel for up to 1,000 Royal Ordnance Factory workers. 

At the end of the war, Liverpool Corporation was met with an urgent requirement for teachers and a need to retrain returning military personnel in a new career: the now vacant hostel was the ideal location for a teaching establishment. 

The Liverpool Corporation Emergency Teacher Training College opened on the site of the former hostel and operated from 1948 to1951. At this point, the Federation of Malaya Government accepted an offer from the British Government to open a Teachers’ Training College at Kirkby (a second was opened later at Brinsford Lodge, Wolverhampton) and on 2 January 1952, the first batch of 149 students arrived in Kirkby. 

These young people were drawn together from the different cultural, racial and religious communities that formed post World War II Malayan society. 

They came to Kirkby to train as educators, to gain a teaching qualification by employing western techniques and methodologies. The scheme was filled with optimism for the future as Malaya, embroiled as it was in the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), planned its vision of a multi-ethnic, diverse and tolerant nation independent of British rule. 

The College magazine, Panduan, embraced this optimism as a ‘challenge to work for a united, progressive and harmonious Malaya, having its roots in and drawing its sustenance from the (country’s) several diversities’.

The Malayan Teachers’ Training College welcomed 10 batches of students between 1952 and 1962. The young people, whilst fully appreciating the importance of their studies, threw themselves into experiencing western culture, befriending local families and spending their holidays touring around Britain and Europe on a shoestring. 

They were also the recipients of a highly significant announcement: on 7th February 1956, Malaya’s first Chief Minister (and later Prime Minister) Tunku Abdul Rahman, travelled to the College from London, where he had been negotiating the terms of Malaya’s independence from Colonial rule with British Government ministers. 

He announced to the amassed students and the world that ‘Merdeka’ – independence - had been agreed and would be established on 31st August 1957. 

To this day, the Malaysian people celebrate Hari Merdeka, or Independence Day and in 2017, the information panel on Granborne Chase was unveiled on the 60th anniversary. 

The students brought a great deal of diversity to Kirkby and the wider region: their ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds were drawn from Malay, Indian and Chinese heritage. They also practiced a range of religious beliefs as the students were of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian faith. 

The people of Kirkby were entranced by the students’ appetite for sharing their culture through art, music, costume, literature, drama and dance. 

The local residents were introduced to exotic foods that the students encouraged their hosts to dine on – but the food that has stayed fondly in the minds of the Alumni is the good old fashioned fish and chip supper with bread and butter pudding to follow.  

When the Alumni visited in 2017, they brought many items relating to their time at the college with them to donate to the archive, from photographs and scrap books, college magazines and programmes to official documentation and reports. 

The Malayan Teachers’ Training College Collection gives us a window into the lives of the students, whether they be studying, enjoying the performing arts or travelling across Europe. 

The collection, which will be featured in the exhibition being mounted to celebrate the return of the MTTC Alumni in August, has been fully catalogued and can be searched online at

One of the Alumni, V. P. Mohan (1955-1957 Batch) donated his selection papers to the collection. The notification of acceptance document, issued by the Department of Education, Federation of Malaya is the formal offer of a place at the Kirkby Teacher-Training College. 

The document outlines a series of conditions to be met by the student, including a commitment to repay the Government part of the cost of the training course over a period of five years. The form is signed by W Burton, for the Director of Education. It shows the commitment that the young students had to make, in both personal and financial terms, in order to accept the posting to Kirkby.  

So we are delighted that a group of Alumni are coming back to Kirkby one more time. 

They are keen to meet up with people who recall the College and would like to share their memories. Perhaps you were a primary school teacher who guided an MTTC student through teacher training in a local school, or maybe even a pupil who learned la little of South East Asian culture through contact with one of the student teachers? 

You may have lived in Kirkby and befriended the students – or maybe you live in Kirkby Fields and so share in the heritage of the College. 

The event will take place on Wednesday 28th August and if you would like to come along, please contact the ARK for further details.

You can visit the ARK at the Kirkby Centre, Norwich Way, Kirkby, L32 8XY

Find out more by visiting 
or you can following the ARK on Twitter @knowsleyarchive 


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on August 1st, 2019

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