The lesser known side of Dr Goh Keng Swee

OBITUARY: DR GOH KENG SWEE (Oct 6, 1918 – May 14, 2010)

DR GOH KENG SWEE who passed away on May 14, 2010 was one of Singapore’s founding fathers who assumed an important leadership role in our country’s history. His distinguished record evoked a wide display of admiration and appreciation for his key contributions in finance, defence, education and as Deputy Prime Minister.

Added to these were his initiatives in promoting several cultural and recreational facilities. Without him, Singapore’s post-independent history would have been very different. To say that he was Singapore’s Renaissance man would not be far from the truth.

A man who valued privacy in the midst of his public life, Dr Goh’s early life is interesting as it was eventful. The eldest son of Mr Goh Leng Inn, one of the three Singapore boys recommended by Methodist missionary and Malay language scholar, the Rev William Shellabear, to marry three of Towkay Tan Keong Keng’s daughters in Malacca, Dr Goh was born on October 6, 1918.

The family moved to Singapore where his father had taught in Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) for some time, as did his brothers-in-law, Chew Cheng Yong and Goh Hood Keng. All were active in the Middle Road Baba Church at the turn of the century while Hood Keng was Pastor of the Church, now known as Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

Not as well known was the fact that the young Keng Swee studied at ACS and attended the church at Middle Road. His academic record both in the Primary and Secondary classes was outstanding and he always stood within the first five positions. In 1935, he completed the Cambridge School Certificate before enrolling at Raffles College. us, it can be claimed that he was brought up in a Methodist Christian tradition.

When the time came for funeral arrangements, the pastors of Barker Road Methodist Church officiated at the wake services at his home from May 14 to 19. At the family service at the Mandai Crematorium, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon gave the message while the Pastor-in-Charge, the Rev Malcolm Tan, conducted the service.

The Bishop said that while it is good to be remembered by others, the best things, more lasting reminders of a man, may not be what is written on paper or stone but on hearts.

He said: “Our memories are fragile, but God’s memory is eternal. It is even more important to be remembered by God. We shall meet again our loved ones who died in Christ.”