Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Father, The Kirkbyite

Today, it is exactly three years since the passing away of Apak, my father (AL-FATIHAH for Hj. Ahmad Termizi b. Mat Nor).

In his memory, I am posting here an article that was first published in the coffee table book Kirkby College: A Heritage.

This story was written with the help of Azman, my brother. He started the piece, and I added to it and completed it before adding the photos.

For lack of space, the article that was eventually published was heavily edited and much shortened. Here, you will read the full and original version of the story.

What saddens me is that the book came a month too late for Apak. It was published and launched in conjunction with the Kirkby College Grand Reunion in November of 2008.

So Apak never got to see the book, nor read this short story of him as a Kirkbyite, written by his sons.


I call him Apak, a common term of endearment for father, widely used in Perak. Apak was born Ahmad Termizi bin Mat Nor on 1 March 1936 in Kampong Selat, Layang-Layang Kiri, near Parit, Perak. His was a typical kampong within the rural Malay belt, located on the banks of the Sungai Perak.

Growing up, I used to enjoy our occasional trips to his kampong when we go to visit Tok Mat Nor, my grandfather. One thing I’d always noticed was that, whenever we bumped into Apak’s childhood friends at the kampong mosque or the local coffee stalls, they would speak fondly of their “long-lost” friend. And then they would also praise his academic feats. Yes. And Apak’s academic achievements would prove to be the reason for him to be packed and sent away from his kampong, leaving behind his friends.

Much to the dismay of his uncles and aunties who had wanted their favourite nephew to be enrolled into a religious school, Tok Mat Nor had other plans for Apak. He wanted Apak to realize his full academic potentials by having an English-based education. So, Apak was sent to the famous Anderson School in the big town of Ipoh, at the tender age of 12, for his secondary education.

And as it turned out, this was to pave the way for his long and eventful journey to the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, England.

Apak spent two years at “Kampong Kirkby” near Liverpool. Amongst his friends from the 1956-1958 batch include Jaafar Saidin, Isa Ramli, Marmuji Koso, Zainal Abidin Mohamed, Tunku Yusof Jewa and Cheah Kok Choy.

Apak is a man of few words. So, although we heard bits and pieces of his days in England from Apak himself, most of the stories about Kirkby came to me through my Emak, Non Aziah. And then of course there were the many old, black and white photos from his Kirkby days at Tok Mat Nor’s house.

For instance, there was this long-framed group photo of Apak and his batch hung above the entrance to the master-bedroom at Tok’s house. It used to raise my curiosity. Standing below it, I would squint my eyes trying to make out what that long picture was all about. There were plenty more photos stashed away in a cupboard in the living room where Apak’s old books were kept. And then there were some more, in a big suitcase under the front verandah.

Although he didn’t much admitted it, I know the Kirkby days were something very special for Apak. Even as a kid I could somehow sense it. And now that I’m all grown up and been through the rigours of higher education and trainings of my own, I can’t help but feel proud that my very own Apak was one of those few to have been selected to train in faraway England back in those days.

Upon returning from Kirkby in 1958, Apak was posted to teach at a primary school in Kg. Melayu Sg. Raya, Ipoh. He was then transferred to Parit and Telok Bakong. He ended his teaching job as the first headmaster for Sekolah Menengah Kampong Gajah, a school he had helped to open. The royal town of Kuala Kangsar was his next stop when he was appointed as an education officer taking charge of primary schools in the Kuala Kangsar district. This was later followed by stints in Tapah, Teluk Intan, and finally Ipoh, where he retired on 1 March 1991.

True to his Kirkby background, Apak has a strong passion for teaching and education. He loved his profession. In fact, he even once had a wish that at least one of his children would become a teacher like him.

In his own way, Apak had started instilling in us the virtues of education since my brothers and I were mere kids. He inspired us to enjoy books by purchasing us the Grolier’s Children’s Encyclopedia, “The New Book of Knowledge”. This encyclopedia had really opened our eyes to the world of knowledge and learning. I remember us spending many happy hours sitting on the floor flipping through the pages, enjoying the pictures, singing out the nursery rhymes and sometimes trying to do the origami with Emak.

Apak’s far-sightedness also saw my brothers and I entering a “good school” in Ipoh. It was the late 60s and I guess the schools in Bota Kanan, where we were staying then, were not up to the mark for him. The best schools were in the big towns. So, as what his father had done more than a decade earlier, Apak sent us to stay with our maternal grandparents, Tok Hussein and Opah Badariah, and enrolled us into the SRJK Ashby Road. Apak was already preparing us for our future lives.

Apak used to monitor – in his own peculiar ways – our progress at school. For example, when I got to study at Sekolah Menengah Sains Perlis, a boarding school far north in Perlis, Apak had ordered me to write home at least once a month – in English! What I didn’t know until quite recently was that each time my letter reached home, Apak would be ready with a red pen in hand. The first thing he would do was to “mark” the letter and “circled” all the grammatical errors I had made. By the time the others eventually got to read the letter, “it was just like reading an English exercise book, what with all the red markings here and there”, my brother Azman once told me.

Apak has six children altogether with Emak. I’m the eldest. Then came Azmi, Azman, and our sister Nor Aliza who passed away at a very young age. This is followed by Azizah, and finally Azizul. Thanks to Apak’s guidance, all of his surviving children succeeded in getting a decent education. I managed to graduate from the University of Manchester as a town planner. Later, with his blessings, I also went to Japan and got a Master’s degree from Tsukuba University. My brother Azmi, the artist in the family, graduated from the School of Architecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Azman studied Communications at Institut Teknologi MARA and started out his career as a journalist.

As for Azizah, although she made the grades to do law, she opted to go to Universiti Sains Malaysia instead where she graduated in Education. With that, she became a teacher, thus fulfilling one of Apak’s wishes. The youngest in the family, Azizul, followed in the footsteps of Apak and went to England. He studied accountancy at the Northumbria University in Newcastle .

Although Apak was strict with regards to our education, he can be full of fun to be with. He introduced us to English football long before the EPL had seen the day of light. We used to watch Star Soccer together on our black and white TV in the mid-60s. He was very good at making beautiful kites. We used to buy all the materials needed, and then go into the woods in search of suitable bamboo for the frame. Then we’d spend hours flying the kites together at an open area close to the railway line near Tok Hussein’s house.

Like many of his Kirkby days friends, Apak was also an avid photographer. With his Kodak Brownie in hand, he would holler at us instructions to pose properly for him. He would insist that we be in our best batik shirts for the photo shoots. Sometimes we’d be in short-sleeved shirts, complete with neckties. Of course, the neckties would always look a tad too long on us. They were his.

Apak was a decent cook too. He could whip up a delicious meal of spaghetti for us all. Sometimes, when we wanted something different for breakfast, it was potato chips or toasts with fried eggs and baked beans for us. Mind you, spaghetti, chips and baked beans are hardly your typical Perak dish. So I guess these must have been some of the legacies of his two year stay in Kirkby.

Another legacy of his Kirkby days – and a valuable lesson in life for me – is the loyal and faithful friends he has kept. He has many. But two of them whom I know well are Uncle Jef (Jaafar Saidin) and Uncle Muji (Marmuji Koso). These two are like family. Why, even all of Apak’s uncles and unties know them. Recently, I have been lucky enough to get to know more of Apak’s friends from Kirkby. And what a cultured group of people they are, I thought. No doubt, a result of their proper training which allowed them to return home as “polished ladies and gentlemen with savoir faire”. So described one Yunus Raiss, a Kirkbyite himself.

Despite his sometimes serious demeanor, my Apak is a loving person, and can be pretty sentimental too. For instance, on the night when I left for England in September of 1979 to further my studies, it was Apak who got glassy-eyed when my plane roared off into the sky at Subang Airport and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Not Emak. This, I found out many years later, from Emak. That’s my Apak for you.

Since retiring, Apak has been staying in Kampong Kepayang Fair Park, Ipoh. He is now 72 and enjoys very much the weekend visits of his grandchildren


A young Ahmad Termizi, ready to fly off to Kirkby

At the front gate of MTTC, Kirkby, with close friend Jaafar Saidin. Just visible in the background
are the distinctive pipes for central heating which used to criss-cross all over the campus

Teaching Practice at an English school somewhere near Liverpool

With sons (circa 1965)

In Putrajaya with wife and grandaughter, 2007

1956-58 Batch Members ready for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri Prayers, 1957

Standing L to R: Marmuji Koso (Selangor), Jaafar Saidin (Kedah), Zainal Abidin Mohamed (Kedah), Hashim Mydin (Kedah), Abdullah Abd Rahman (Kedah), Syed Annuar Muhayuddin (Perak), Mohd Alkaf (Kelantan), Zainol Rashid Ahmad (Perlis), Ismail Hj Salleh (Kedah).

Front row L to R: Tunku Yusof Jewa (Kedah), Md. Ali Mohamad (Johor), Tarmizi Ridzuan ( Johor), Isa Ramli (Perak), Ahmad Termizi Mat Nor (Perak), Abd Halim Shukor ( Johor)

Apak (front row, third from left) in his element, dressed as a ‘pirate’ during the Freshies Parade


kotastar said...


It is great of you and especially for the sons and daughters that the story is in print and recorded to be read again and again. It is an obligation that we continue to record or remember the deeds of our parents and you have done that splendidly. How we wish articles like this get to be written remembering the earlier times when children were growing and sacrifices shown no doubt never realized. All the best to you and family.SALAM


salam azizi,


Sri Mersing said...

al fatihah. mungkin dia kawan abah saya juga...