Sunday, January 23, 2011

Discovering Kirkby

The word "Kirkby" may not ring a bell amongst most Malaysians. But in my family, everybody knows that this is where Atok, went to school at the Malayan Teachers' Training College (MTTC).

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 South Park Road which would lead one directly to the former MTTC campus. The Railway pub seen here is a landmark at the junction between the South Park Road and Glover's Brow. From here, the MTTC campus is just about 150m away to the left

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)

The far end of the South Park Rd before it swerves to the right and continue on from here. But you can see that it also branches off at this point and the road actually continues straight on. From this point, there used to be a lane which continues a little (about 75m) before coming to a halt. THIS is where the College gates used to be!

Just for comparison, here's an old pic of Apak (r) and Uncle Jeff (Jaafar Saidin) in front of the College gates back then

The friendly Sally-Ann Davies. She stays on the housing estate which has been built over the College grounds. She was on her way to post her Christmas cards when I stopped her to ask about the MTTC. Her mother used to stay around here, she said,  so she knows about the College

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
The new Kirkby station building. Its just a small station, but serves its purpose to link Kirkby to the bigger cities of Liverpool and Manchester in the North West of England


Anonymous said...

TQ Azizi for your detail report. For your info Kirkby College Alumni Society is planning to organize a pilgrimage back to Kirkby sometime this February or March 2011. The purpose of this visit is to put up a plaque at the former MTTTC site with statements:
1) this is the site of MTTC Kirkby 1952-1962
2) This college was unique as the only foreign teachers college on British soil
3) On this site Merdeka was officilly announced by Tunku Abdul Rahman on 7 Feb 1956.

Anonymous said...

This pilgrimage is a part of a documentary produced by Filem Negara Malaysia (FNM) that will be aired on Hari Guru Kebangsaan on 16 May 2011. Among dignitaries that will be invited to join this tour are:
1) DYMM Sultan of Perak and Tengku Bainun - as Royal Patron
2) DSU Dr Rais Yatim, Minister of Communication and Culture
3) Malaysian Highcom to UK
4) British Highcom to Malaysia
5) British Council Director
6) Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, son of Mokhtar Daud, Kirkby alumni
7) Datuk Seri Farid Ridhuan, son of Ridhuan Ali, Kirkby alumni
Others interested please sms your name and spouse to Tan Sri Yahaya Ibrahim 012-6802217, the organizer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the recent pictures. I lived in south park road from 1954-1972 and remember all the original bounderies and the college very well. As children we stood at the gate to the college to collect stamps from students . Our first glimpse at real foreign stamps. The shops,on Glovers brow at this time were aaa you say Kirkby stores , to the left was the post office come haberdashery store and to the right was Chisnalls a convenience type store , then a gap before the betting shop.
The coal merchant was behind the railway public house and a wooden built shop along the stretch of south park road towards the college housed a hairdreser and fish and chip outlet.
The college caretaker had a female dog, which every time it came into season caused my dog to vault all the garden fences to try and get to it.
About halfway down south park road near the junction with park road was a convenience shop in the ground floor of the flat on the corner. At the bottom of south park road , junction with Mount road was a community club. Here the mobile library visited , my first introduction to being able to borrow books. Dance classes took place on a Saturday morning and the bar and club was open in the evening. A girls club took place on a weekday evening run by a Miss Blake who had a flat on South park road. The gardens which backed onto the college from South Park road were all the same length as the houses at the top of the road. A gravel path ran the length of the back gardens and a brook with hawthorn was between the gardens and the pathway which exited by the main college entrance.
At the other end of the gravel path there was access to Staion Road which took you over the boundary to Waddicar. All the post war properties on the kirkby park estate had flat roofs ( do have pictures) these changed to gable roofs in the seventies after I left.
Traffic was sparse, most front gardens had neatly trimmed hedges. As Kirkby began to be built there was still a pigsty by the bus stop to get the bus to the Black Bull, probably around 1958 , i can remember the smell well!! Hope this is of interest , my regards to the ex pupils of the college and thanks for the stamps!!!!

Ian Cragg (formerly of Lingtree Road) said...


Just found your blog on 'Discovering Kirkby'. I have vague but happy memories of the Teacher Training College. I lived on the other side of the railway that effectively separated the new town of Kirkby from the older village side where the college was situated. I remember, aged about six or seven (now almost 58), walking around the strange flat roofed houses that bordered onto the college. In the streets some students were celebrating what I assume was the Chinese New Year(?) with a vivid dragon dance. I also remember the path that ran alongside the college separating it from the back gardens of the local houses. That path, which linked Kirkby to Melling, was known locally as 'the cinder path' as it was made up of -yes! - cinders. In later years the college was renamed 'Kirkby Fields Teacher Training College'; it subsequently became a government depot or base of some sort until finally and sadly falling into disuse before eventually being developed for housing. Anyway, best wishes to all who remember the old place!

Unknown said...

I am delighted to read your comments and see the photos!
My dad: John Grant was the Bursar at Kirkby Malayan Teachers College (from ??) until early in 1960. I was born there and was told many stories by my parents of what a good place it was.
May its memory live on!
Fiona (formerly Grant)

Azizi Ahmad Termizi: said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving some comments. The MTTC must have been a very good place indeed. Sad to see its gone now.