August 7, 2013

Sibu People Series: Brother Albinus

It would be wrong if I do not write about Brother Albinus, a fellow English Teacher, a Sibu "nern" of many years, beloved figure of the Catholics,a "feared" Rugby team manager of SHS, a thinker, a reader, model social worker. This list is so long that it will fill a page.

I have spoken to my former Principal/boss of SMKLimbang who wrote an excellent article about Brother Albinus for Borneo Post. The photographs are all from Mr. Phang Chung Shin.

From what I gleaned in the article, Brother Albinus' life has a correlation with the number 3.



Brother Albinus was born Michael O’Flaherty into a farming family in a village called Ballyhoneen in County Kerry, 

Ireland, on May 23 1930.


He passed away at age 83, in 2013.



Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/09/02/educating-the-least-the-lost-and-the-last/#ixzz2b9MzqQhd


Brother Alinus'  family home was one of only three farmhouses in Ballyhoneen


14-year old Michael O'Flaherty  left for Castletown where he continued his education before attending religious training in the Novitiate. He was given the religious name Albinus.

He attend teacher training in London's St. Mary's Training college. His dream to "go East " came true after 1950.

He took a three year degree course in English Literature in England and in 1960, he started teaching in St. Joseph's School, Kuching.


In 1967, Brother Albinus was transferred to Sibu's Sacred Heart School, where he was to serve for 17 years, first as a teacher and then as a Principal.

As students we remembered Brother Albinus as an energetic teacher who rode to Sibu town in his tall bicycle. Students who were naughty had to make sure they watch out for their backs if found loafing in the streets. "His boys had to be at home doing their homework, not wondering in the streets!!"

A favourite phrase of his to his naughty students was "Be serious". and he would walk away clapping his hands. It was like some kind of ritual for him, to clap his hands. Was it a kind of hand exercise? In fact I have seen him doing that when I supervised examinations in his school.

My school, the Methodist Secondary School and Sacred Heart School were the best of rivals. SHS would lead in rugby and most of the boys' games. But for several years our school did manage to beat his school. Our relay team for a few years were formidable too but SHS led by him finally won most of the trophies. He was so serious on the grand stand during the Inter School Meet. On many occasions he was with his students in the field, getting all sun burnt. Every one would recognise him or see where he was because he would be the tallest  and the whitest man in the field.

I have several personal encounters with him in his SHS. But then " Abai " as most local teachers and students would refer to him affectionately,  isn't here to hooom hooom hooom me as I write this about him. Whenever people mention his name, I would  remember the way he "hummed" to himself whenever he walked along the "corridors of Knowledge", the corridors of Sacred Heart School, Sibu. Not that I followed him every day, but I did walk behind him on many occasions when I was the Chief Supervisor of Form Five Examinations in his beloved school. I suppose that was his way of showing that he was "on top of the world" seeing that everything was running smoothly in the school.

He showed great humility. Most Principals would  send the school cleaner to unlock the gates of the school blocks during the quiet exam weeks. But he would be there even before Seven!! He would be there with that huge bunch of keys. chose the right one and opened the lock, draw the accordion, collapsible gates for me and I would go upstairs to the exam rooms. Teachers just can't help it. They just had to be on their toes with him around. He truly walked the talk.

He was a man of few words. His students used to tell me that the school blocks in Sacred Heart were aligned in such a way that he could see across, and through the windows and doors. And he could nail a misbehaving student with his "hawk  like " eyes. Teachers really appreciated his "walk around the school" and he did it several times a day. He would be at the verandah of one block and he could point at a misbehaving child a block or two away. The boy would be called immediately (in sign language and no shouting necessary) in his office,and he would repentant and chastised within minutes. Boys were always attentive in class because they knew that , like a guardian angel, he would just be behind them, absolutely, quietly.

No one would like to be boxed in the ears by him because legend has it that he was a boxer of some repute!!

He was a Sibu man.  BICYLE MAN - for all the games rugby, tennis, football, sports he would watch them sometimes, standing next to his bicycle. He later took driving lessons and passed his test in Sibu. I wonder how many people remember that. We were happy for him but many of the naughty students said,"Now that he has a car, we must behave even better. He can come after us faster!!".

Getting a medal for his service to Sarawak - PBB.

From Sibu he got to know many Foochows especially and understood the work culture of the Foochows. When he went to work in Fuzhou for a year in 1997, he was quite at home there. The Fuzhou students are hardworking and also preparing to go overseas, just like his students in Sibu.

Brother Albinus in my pastor Law Hui Seng's words, " is a man of mission". Rev Law Hui Seng is also a former student of Brother Albinus.

For a man who has a heart for mission, he truly followed the  Holy Trinity. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Brother Albinus more than full filled his mission. The young boy of 14 who hailed from Ballyhooneen, in County Kerry, served God whole heartedly for 52 years in Sarawak. He achieved so much for his schools but he had achieved a remarkable record for himself too.

(This is a personal write up for Brother Albinus for people who might not know of his work in Sibu. And I thank him for many of the salient pointers he made during English Teachers' meetings, examination assessment briefings and casual conversations with teachers. These I remember. I left Sibu in 1987, not long after he retired.  Thank you.)


(All photos courtesy of Phang Chung Shin)





46 comments:

Ensurai said...

Anonymous...see I did not procrastinate. Here it is for you and others who might be interested. There will be hundreds of articles published in the papers about him tomorrow from top guns and famous people.

sintaicharles said...

So sad that he has passed away, but he is with God now. He indirectly motivated me to improve my English at the now defunct St. Patrick's.

Anonymous said...

God bless his soul and may he rest in peace. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I am surprised taht you didnt mention any stories of his private life. Maybe you do that out of respect. I remember that the three Brothers- Bro Albinus, Bro Hilary and Bro Hyacinth would walked early every morning from Sacred Heart School through Tong Sang Road and Bukit Assek to Sacred Heart Cathedral to attend morning mass and then walked back just in time before the school started!!! It was a 30 minute walk one way. Wonder how many people in Sibu know and remember this!!

Anonymous said...

1. He likes to have his afternoon siesta
2. You will be served turkey when you visited the brother during Christmas Day.
3. He liked to say "All boys!!" and "Playing the fool"
4. He is always away for holiday break end of the year so you can 'play the fool' without worry.
5.He liked creative talent - so he organized art and craft exhibition and the annual school concert.
6. He is always there to supervise students at night and he reeked of wine/alcohol.

Ikan Semilang said...

He was our Principal and English teacher in Form 6.
A great man who came to this world to live a life for others.
May his soul rip.

Anonymous said...

I went to pay my last respect with my former schoolmate around noon time. We saw George Chan, Peter Chin, Thomas Lau and J.C. Fong there.

Anyway, back to stories about Bro Anai:
1. There was one time when students from the school went to Ling beng Siew to ask for donation for the school and Ling complained that the old School hall at Mission Road was named after his father Ling Chu Ming and why the new hhall at Oya Road not named after his father again? Bro Albinus imediately organised a ceremony at the school hall and named it "Ling Chu Ming". I remember it was 1985 and aoround Chinese New Year.

2. There was this teacher in charge of the school magazine. There was left over money for the committee. The teacher in charge told Bro Albinus that she wanted to bring the whole magaazine for a dinner using the money. Bro Albinus immediately told her if ashe wanted to do that, it has got nothing to do with the school!!

3. There is this classmate of mine who is a Buddhist and his family is strong in traditional belief. I think some Chinease made their son wears ear ring on one side of the ear for some belief I dont iunderstand. This Buddhist friend of mine was wearing such ear ring and when bro Albinus saw it he asked him to take it off. My friend when back and told his parents and they were unhappy about it. But my friend never wears that amnymore!!

Anonymous said...

I remember Brother Albinus once told us that he has a brother in the United States. i have found him here -John Flaherty
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/newsday/obituary.aspx?n=john-flaherty&pid=165373362&fhid=22110#fbLoggedOut

Anonymous said...

Brother Albinus likes to walked around or make his round around the school corridor to spot misbehaving students. However, there was a senior teacher, more senior than Bro Albinus who disliked his class being interfered by bro Albinus. he always said he know how to look after his students and if Bro Albinus touched his student, he would shout at him! That techer taught Geography nbut I will not named him here!!

Anonymous said...

Brother Albbinus was supposed to retire in 1983 but was given two extension (2 years each) after he want to see CM - Taib Mahmud, his student? to extend his contract.

Ensurai said...

So he retired the same year I left Sibu. I remember that. But I did not know about the two extensions. Thanks.

Ensurai said...

In any management you do have rebels, supporters, deadwoods..and lots of personality clashes. May Bro Albinus rest in peace..May be I know this Geography teacher. A lot of forgiveness makes the world a happier place.

Ensurai said...

Thanks Ikan Semilang for passing by the blog...yes May his soul rest in peace.

Ensurai said...

A friend from SHS used to clean their residence in Oya Road. Whiskey bottles in the living room. But it is all quiet normal. Methodists are teetotalers. Catholics are allowed to drink.

A friend also told me that Brother Albinus would always be happy with the pork dishes for dinner. Irish love pork stew? We must name a nice pork stew after him. May be we can collect some recipes under his name.

An uncle of mine cooked for the priests in Mission Road. I was about 9 or 10 when I saw my first European Priests Steak..with baked potatoes... hahahahaha My grandmother brought me to their kitchen and I was very impressed by the buttery, carroty, aroma. My father did make a kind of braised beef steak with losts of onions...Oh yes...there I saw a good oven for the first time. I wonder where that oven would be now. It is a classic item come to think of it.

Ensurai said...

I have something to share here..Each time my siblings and I had a chance to watch a movie in Cathay cinema (money collected from making paper bags and some free lists), the brothers would sit on the front row of the best seats in the middle. One day, one of the brothers fell, head over heels on the steps because he tripped on his robe. Wow. it was a loud thud. Then the lights went out. We felt so bad!! It was not brother Albinus.

Ensurai said...

He was a good and holy man.

Anonymous said...

I remember in the 1980s, the brothers went to Rejang Park cinema to watch 'God must be carzy".

Anonymous said...

There was thus Malaysia lady teacher who would point her finger at Bro Albinus whenever he came to interfere in her class.

Anonymous said...

Our Form 6 Maths teacher told us that when he first started teaching at Sacred Heart, Brother Albinus told him not to give too many maths questions/problems for students to do as homework.

Anonymous said...

Should be a Malay lady teacher from Kuching.

Anonymous said...

During Form 5 and 6 exams for the science stream, lab attendants were very busy. So, Brother Albinus would give them 2 week unrecorded leave after the practical exams are over. But when he retires and a new principal took over, the new principal didnt gave any such leave and I heard them complaining!

Anonymous said...

One very good thing about Bro Albinus is that he opened up classroom and library for students to study inj a quiet place after school (2pm - 4pm) and 7pm to 945 pm. Every night he would supervise. My schoolmate was telling me that his father was from Belaga and rented a room for the 4 brothers and sisters. there were hardly any space in the room for him to study! Thankfully Bro Albinus has the sense to offer a quiet place for him to study. he is now and engineer!!

Anonymous said...

After Bro Albinus retired and left Sacred Heart, I heard an elderly Fppchow lady exclaimed:"Mo Abai, Sibu pai yian muan li muan say" translated as "No more Brother Albinus, Sibu ganster getting more and more"!!!

Ensurai said...

Yes he was good with that. When I was still a student, I heard from several people that he was very concerned that boarders should have really proper food. SHS should be like a good home , quiet for studies. To him education was the most important for people from poor background. May be that was mainly because he too came from very poor background. I understood that in those days completely. And I agreed with him that some kids needed some beating!!

Ensurai said...

That's very very good of him. I also experienced a personal touch of his when I supervised SHS for examns. I was pregnant then and he smiled saying that I was a tough lady and did not complain about the hot air in the school. No airconditioning in those days. The Art exam was in the afternoon also. My assistant and I arranged and rearranged the art display for still life until both of us were satisfied. It was so hot!!

Ensurai said...

That was really good of him. Praise God.

Ensurai said...

I heard that too.

Ensurai said...

I could not find it. Thanks anyway.

Ensurai said...

1. It is good he corrected the "wrong". very correctly requested, and very well addressed by Brother Albinus. No need to go through committee meeting too. I can imagine his power at that time.
2. That was very sharp of him. I wish I have a pengetua like that years later. The student Committee's money was all spent in eating, eating, and other non-educational activities by committee members and chairperson of the committee and advisors..and a lot of teaching staff knew about this. But no one stopped them. In the end the Majlis Pelajar's great savings were Zero, and Even Minus in the bank...Money EATEN literally. Brother Albinus was right in a way. Really admirable.
3. Yes,good of the student to be obedient in school. I would take off the earring in school, and wear it at home..Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give unto God, what is God's. It is like smoking. Many addicts can smoke outside school gates like chimneys, but in school, they control. Everyone is happy. But in the end, one must remember one's health. It is one's choice. God Almighty is All Seeing. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Ya, in those days before we have western food like KFC, Sugar Bun, MacDonald. I remember when Sugar opened in Sibu, Brother Hilary gave two of us some money to buy burger. The Brothers must have missed their home without western food in those early days!!

I remember the priest at the Sacred Heart Churh and their cuisine. I saw that in 1970s.

Anonymous said...

Exactly like Brother Albinus and the other brother who like to smoke but I never knew Brp Albinus smoked until many dacades later When my school mate came back from US (he is a PR there) and told me abouit it in the cafe of Lime Tree Hotel close to midnight just last year!!!

Anonymous said...

Do you mean after that more Sacred Heart's boys became pai yian?

Anonymous said...

i believe so because nowadays there are so many pai yian, droputs from school!!!!!!

Ensurai said...

Pai yang is every where..not necessarily from Sacred Heart. Sibu generally has bad press reviews at the moment. Sad to say.

Ensurai said...

Good boys are timid and don't make headlines. Bad guys make money and make headlines according to a revered writer. Some dropouts are good like Bill Gates..some just cannot make it, so they have to find an alternative. The fastest way is to find that first bucket of gold by hook or by crook..many young men cannot wait...you can guess the rest.

Ensurai said...

The School and Mission moved to Oya in 1967-1968. I am not sure if my uncle Lau Ing Pew already retired then because my grandmother could no longer walk to the mission. She would have to call a trishaw. And I believe that my uncle would come to town to meet her if necessary. My grandmother did not know how to use the black telephone in those days. We also did not have a telephone.

Any phone calls had to be made in Ta Fong Aerated Company Office, where another uncle, Lau Pang Kwong was CEO.

Ensurai said...

Yes indeed. All the brothers SMOKED..only very discreetly. Because my uncle, and some of the boarders had to clean up the Mission House..I knew all along...But because I was young, and well Ang Mohs and every adult could smoke, it was not an issue with me. Only when I became a school teacher did I have to make a difference between Authority and Subservience, Non Smoking Rules etc...and all those terms, like Negotiable s, Non negotiables....Today the schools just put up a sign.."Non Smoking Zone"..and that's it. And immediately after school, you see those boys in green trousers light up!! It is something you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

U have so many comments, what can I add as I am MSS as you. My Dad knew him well. Of the 9 of us, only Joseph was taught by him, Joseph is a lawyers and remembers him well.

Ensurai said...

Thanks for the comment.

Ensurai said...

There were whispers that Bro Albinus did not like women. But I would testify for him that HE knew a good woman teacher from a poor, uncooperative one. He was a good judge of character...hooom, hooom...hooom,

Ensurai said...

Thank you for commenting.

Ensurai said...

I think the brothers went to see every English movie which were shown. They would go after an early dinner. When Brother Albinus bought his car (the car might have been a mission car though),the brothers all went by car and we could tell that they were in the cinema!! I am sure the Zenith Mint Cinema was happy to have the loyal patronage of the brothers.

Anonymous said...

brother albinus fid write nice things in my testimonial. He wrote "he has shown his intellectual abilities and an aptitude for serious study.: that was written few months before he reired!!

Ensurai said...

Indeed , an intelligent Principal would always write inspiring words in his/her students' testimonials. That piece of paper is often a springboard for the student to do well in the future. Good words usually inspire a child positively. I wish more Principals are adept in the writing of testimonials. Some just scribble a few words, others just write a few simple words thus "dismissing" the student forever...It is a sad time for many heads and most of their students who need an encouraging word, and a helping had.

Anonymous said...

I dont think that is true because Bro Albinus' favourite teachers are all ladies1!

John Ting said...

I left Sacred Heart School in Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia at the end of 1981 to study 2 years high school, then 6 years university to become a medical doctor in Australia. Career-wise since then I have mainly worked in the field of anesthesia, intensive care & emergency medicine with the recent goal to essentially offer Rural Generalist relieving service in rural Australia. I also do active research medically & non-medically. My interactions with the 'very strict' influential Brother Albinus had shaped my life in good & bad manners with some emotional scars from psychologically doing certain wrong thing in life but overall becoing a stronger person, family man and Christian. God bless Brother Albinus soul. Rest In Peace. J Ting, 08:15 am Friday 17 April 2015 Brisbane

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