Kirkby is a small town with a current population of around 40,000 located just 10km away from downtown Liverpool. It is also about one-and-a-half hour's train ride away from Blackpool, where I used to do my A-Levels. But out of sheer ignorance and being "too busy" perhaps with studies, I did not make it to Kirkby until very recently, last December.
I set off from Blackpool by train via Wigan. The journey is not that long, but with it being winter, it does have its fair share of challenges. Firstly, fending off the sub-zero temperature. Secondly, I had to rush it as the daylight hours is very short. Even so, and although I've never set foot in Kirkby, looking for the former MTTC ground itself was quite easy.
You see, I've had tip-offs from Apak's former college mates, and especially Frank Moorhead, a son of one of the former lecturers at MTTC. I had also looked up maps and figured out the exact boundaries of the MTTC. I guess all those training as a town planner is quite useful after all.
As soon as I stepped off the train at Kirkby Station, I set about getting my bearings. And as I walked towards the South Park Road, I soaked in the atmosphere of this quaint little town and started imagining the ways of the Kirkbyites all those years ago. How they'd descent upon the station as they set off for their Teaching Practices. How they'd walk in groups, passing by the Railway pub as they visit the Kirkby Stores to buy the papers, and so on.
I had heard so much about Kirkby. I had seen old photos and even paintings of it by Uncle Jeff, a close friend of Apak from the Kirkby days. And of course, I had read so much about it too: form the Kirkby Website by Low Sau San, and the coffeetable book, Kirkby College-A Heritage. But today, I was finally discovering it for myself.
The MTTC campus is actually located just on the outskirt of Kirkby town centre. The local commercial centre comprises a short row of small shops along the main street which is Glover's Brow. Today, some of the services found here include a newsagent, convenient stores, a betting shop, a Chinese take away and an estate agent.
But, the key to finding the former site of the MTTC is to get to the South Park Road. The South Park Road is a narrow road with little traffic nowadays. But it was just off this road that the main entrance gates to the MTTC was located. My guess is that, back in the 1950s, this road would have been the main thoroughfare and gateway for all Kirkbyites to get to the shops, the railway station, and beyond.
As I walked along the main street and the former MTTC campus ground, I had the good fortune of meeting and talking to a few people who did have some knowledge about the former college. This includes Sally-Ann Davies who stays in the residential area which has been built over the MTTC ground. Another is a gentleman who pointed out to me the exact location of the former MTTC entrance gates, and that the College border fencings was located just behind the Waverly House.
Unfortunately, nothing much of the old college is left to be seen now. As time passes by, not even any of the locals would be able to recall that Kirkby used to be the proud home to the Malayan Teachers' Training College.
That is why I hope that the idea of putting up a commemorative plaque on the campus site would become a reality soon. Kirkbyites would welcome it, I'm sure. And the locals too could be proud to know of the historical significance of their little town.
I left Kirkby that evening feeling very cold, hungry and tired. But deep down, I was very happy and contented.
I have been to Kirkby, Apak. I now have new pictures to show, and stories to tell, my brothers and sister, as well as my children. Hopefully, with these, the memory and legacy of Kirkby lives on among your children and grandchildren.
|At the Kirkby station. The station building is on the left just after the railway crossing bridge. The bridge carries the road Glover's Brow and a pedestrian way which leads directly onto the South Park Road to the right of this photo|
|The view along South Park Rd looking directly towards the College ground|
|The junction between South Park Rd and Glover's Brow (looking in the opposite direction from the photo above)|
|Just for comparison, here's an old pic of Apak (r) and Uncle Jeff (Jaafar Saidin) in front of the College gates back then|
|Green open space within the residential area which is built over the College site. View looking towards where dormitory Blocks 3, 4 and 5 used to be|
|Another view of the residential development. This one is in the direction towards where dorm Blocks 8 and 9 once used to stand|
|The Waverly House which used to be the landmark right at the entrance to the College. It is now a protected building and still standing proud|
|The Carters Arms pub on Glover's Brow|
|The blue-fronted shop is called Village News. When the Kirkbyites were here, it was known as the Kirkby Stores and much frequented by Kirkbyites for their supply of newspapers, sweets and stationary|