Labour of love

Danny Ng

Danny Ng did not know what he was getting himself into when he agreed to take on a “coffee book project” started by his late father.

It was at his father’s funeral last February that the advertising executive learned his father, Peter Ng a former Department of Irrigation and Drainage director, was working on a book detailing the history of Technical College Kuala Lumpur (TCKL) – now known as Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

“Several of his friends came up to me during the funeral to ask if they could have access to some of his files.

“I was in the dark as I did not know what it was about. It was only then I discovered about my father’s ‘project’,” said the 45-year-old.

“I am glad they approached me as only after combing through my father’s files did I realise how prestigious TCKL was and the amazing role it played in shaping what Malaysia is today.”

That labour of love culminated with yesterday’s launch of Remembering The Golden Era, Technical College Kuala Lumpur 1940-1970.

Founded in 1904 as Treacher Technical College after British resident-general Sir William Treacher, the school was intended to teach technical assistants for states in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei in departments such as railways, survey and public works.

It was later upgraded to a college which conducted courses such as engineering, architecture and quantity surveying.

It soon offered degree level courses and became a popular destination as the government focused more on technology-oriented industries.

In 1971, it was upgraded to university status, giving birth to UTM.

“I worked closely with uncle Tan (Chai Tam) – and two other uncles from Singapore Siow Keng Cheng and Young Pah Yin – on the book.

“My father never spoke about what he was working on and these three were a great help.

“Last March we decided to create a video to announce our intention to finish the book and that sparked a lot of interest. Pretty soon, we were receiving tons of contributions and anecdotes from all over Malaysia and the world.

“That in part caused the delay of the launch.”

From an initial 170 pages, Technical College Kuala Lumpur 1940-1970 expanded to close to 300 pages.

“We wanted a more comprehensive book and to show our appreciation of the college’s success stories and how the students contributed to building the nation.

“Not many people know the history behind TCKL. Do you know who built Merdeka Stadium? The North-South Highway? The answer you would get is the government. But this book reveals the faces behind the projects, many of whom graduated from TCKL.”

Ng said finishing the book was very emotional as he had to read his father’s notes and writings.

“He was among the country’s first engineers who helped Malaysia stand on its own.

“I saw a part of my father I never knew existed. In a way, the project has made me appreciate him and TCKL so much more.

“My father was a simple man but he was part of something great. Thank you TCKL.”

Remembering The Golden Era, Technical College Kuala Lumpur 1940-1970 will be distributed to the alumni, national library, UTM, other universities, technical colleges and government departments.