Happenings, News

The story behind MGS’ Louise McKee Wing

LOUISE McKEE: Died within a few hours
of her arrival in Singapore. – Methodist
Church Archives picture.

METHODIST Girls’ School pupils, past and present, will surely remember the Louise McKee Wing at Mt Sophia, and now at Blackmore Drive. But they may not know that Louise was the daughter of James N. McKee who accompanied her in 1925 on a round-the-world tour as a graduation gift.

An attractive and vivacious girl of 23, Louise had graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. Earlier, her mother died when she was only 12.

With her father and step-mother, however, they enjoyed their trip on the “Empress of France”, but had failed to be vaccinated. On the way out east, they stopped at Bombay where Louise made several visits to the market where she was greatly attracted to the children. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with smallpox and when they arrived in Singapore, were quarantined, and Louise was removed to the Middleton Hospital where she died within a few hours.

The distraught Mr McKee sought the help and comfort of Dr Edwin F. Lee (later Bishop), then Pastor of Wesley Church. In his counselling, Dr Lee reminded him of the Easter Story, suggesting that his daughter “could live in the life of a Singapore girl” if Mr McKee educated her. It seemed to appeal to him, and he made known the intention to donate as much as US$25,000 to put up a longed-for building for MGS.

Various factors prevented the early dispatch of the gift, while the worldwide economic slump further reduced the sum to about US$5,000 which was used to educate a few Nind Home girls who regularly wrote to the McKees and visited Louise’s grave.

The scholarship fund, however, was left in abeyance during the Japanese Occupation, but when the new MGS building programme was launched in 1950, the sum of S$13,071 was transferred to the Building Fund. As a memorial to Louise, one of the wings of the new buildings completed in 1955 was named after her. Similarly, when MGS moved to Blackmore Drive, the Principal made sure that this sentiment was preserved in the present Louise McKee Wing.

Research revealed that Louise McKee’s grave at the Bidadari Cemetery was exhumed by the Housing and Development Board, and therefore, plans were formulated for her ashes to be inserted in one of the niches at the Garden of Remembrance Christian Columbarium at Choa Chu Kang.


Re-interment of Ashes ceremony

A simple Re-interment of Ashes ceremony was held at the columbarium on March 20, 2004 with the Principal of MGS, Miss Kon Mei Leen, and about 20 school prefects in attendance.

The ceremony was conducted by the Rev Chiang Ming Shun, a Chaplain of the school and Assistant Pastor at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.

The Louise McKee Wing at Methodist Girls’ School. — Methodist Message picture.
The Rev Chiang Ming Shun reading a passage from the Bible at the Re-internment of Ashes ceremony.
— Methodist Message picture.