By Edward Ng, 57FA
As we say in Chinese, “In all ventures, the first step is most difficult.” Thus let us pay the well deserved homage to our Founding Principal, Mr. Cheong Wai-Fung. (called Headmaster in those days) His leadership and dedication brought us to the status of a well regarded Alma Mater, which was the first government co-educational English School in Hong Kong.
The initial year must be extremely difficult, before the new campus was completed. Mr. Arthur Hinton, his closest colleague right from the start and the first Vice Principal, remembered from first hand observation, “It is worth pointing out that sharing the premises of King’s College during our first year could have presented difficulties over the use of facilities and equipment, particularly perhaps as regards science. It was fortunate that when Mr. Cheong was appointed to QES, Mr. Leung Fung Kei became the Principal of King’s College and it was to the credit of both of them that they cooperated well and as far as I know, there was no friction caused by the sharing of the premises.” He also noted that Mr. Cheong started the Parents-Teachers’ Association almost right from the start.
When QES was first opened in 1954, Form 4 was its highest form. The students of this form became our pioneering students to take the School Certificate Examination in 1956. This 56FA became the founder of the QESOSA which has been active ever since, not only in Hong Kong but in other countries where old students have gathered. We are fortunate that one of these students, Ella Cheong, daughter of the Founding Principal is still in touch with some of us. So that gave us a unique gleam into the leadership and dedication of Mr. Cheong.
First Mr. Cheong set the school motto, which is well known by now: “Prepare Yourselves That You May Serve”, in Latin “Vos Parate Ut Serviatis”, and in Chinese 修己善群. This was obviously a challenge to students to develop and refine themselves so that they could be beacons and blessings to others. Then he assigned the 4 houses labeled North, South, East and West, to signify the broad perspective and expansive horizon for students to aspire. The Chinese names for the houses are even more significant, based on 8 classical virtues, thus, Fidelity & Filial Piety (忠孝); Benevolence & Charity (仁愛); Faithfulness & Righteousness (信義); Peace & Harmony (和平).
My vague recollection of Mr. Cheong was a stern and seemingly aloof official. But others who had first hand experience remember him as a very personable and approachable principal. Mr. Hinton confirmed this aspect with first hand recollection, “He was very kind and always ready to help students who had problems. Sometimes students would approach me first since I taught them but when I spoke to Mr. Cheong on their behalf, he was always helpful.” Mr Cheong obviously also excelled in teaching before his Principal status. Some former students, on learning of Ella as his daughter, told her that he was an excellent tutor. They credited his teaching methods to cultivate the love of the subjects that he taught, in particular mathematics which they had loathed previously. Ella also added that, when she was busy at work, her Father did live up to that reputation of excellent tutor, as lauded by her kids during their exam times.
Tsoi Heung-Sang, 59FA, with 3 roles as an alumnus, teacher and parent, had such interaction and reminisce, “Yes, Mr. Cheong was highly respected, not only by us students, but also by his colleagues too. Amongst his QES colleagues, two who thoroughly knew and greatly appreciated his contributions to QES as the founding Principal, and respected him as a person, must have been his successors --- the second Principal Mr. Arthur Hinton, and the third Principal Mr. Terry McC Chamberlain. After their retirement, they left HK and only came back for visits now and then. On one rare occasion, both of them happened to be in Hong Kong at the same time. They made a special point of going together to visit Mr. Cheong at his home. I guess the respect and friendship must have played an important role in motivating them to do that. It was January of 1998, and they all treasured that visit. I know because I helped make arrangements for it. Mr. Cheong passed away two months later….” (note: Mr. Chamberlain took up teaching at Northcote College of Education after QES, and came back to succeed Mr. Hinton as Principal when the latter left QES for Northcote.) It is heart-warming to hear of close working relationship among our first 3 Principals, whom we always admire. Mr. Cheong was known to have good relations with the staff and it was his leadership which enabled QES to settle down very quickly as a happy and successful school.
Mr. Hinton remembered similarly their close and cordial working relations, with some concrete anecdotes, “Although he and I had never met before, we soon established a friendly working spirit which I greatly valued. Thus once we had decided that the prefects should be elected by the senior students, at first Form 4 students and later Form 5 and so on, he left the actual arrangements to me. Similarly he left the organization of extracurricular activities to me, showing confidence in me. When it was proposed that a dance gathering should be held soon after we moved into our new building Mr. Cheong was very hesitant but, when I said that I would stay throughout the evening, he at once agreed.”
Louisa Leung, 59FA, had this fond memory of him. Apparently after the new campus in Kowloon was put in service, she was selected to be transferred to Belilios Public School. She immediately pleaded to decline the transfer. Mr. Cheong said, “What I have decided I shall not change.” She said, “This is unfair. I know of some who reside on the Hong Kong side , and are not transferred. I want to stay because I love this school. I’ve been waiting for this new campus for a long time.” Mr. Cheong looked at the documents and said, “OK, by your courage and eloquence, I’ll let you stay, but no need to mention to others. You’d better prove that I made the right decision.”
Since Mr. Cheong retired in 1959, he is obviously not well known to the younger generations. In the context of editing the Chinese book “Queen Elizabeth School, Hong Kong” for QES60, Kwan Sek-Yiu, 69FA, convenor of the Editorial Committee, made a special effort to collect information about Mr. Cheong. Here are excerpts from his summary in the book. First Sek-Yiu reminded us of the naming of the 4 houses, then went on with these words (in paraphrase), “He was delegated by the Hong Kong Government Education Department to start the first co-educational English School. It is significant that he stood out as a Chinese Principal, among mostly British Principals in English Secondary Schools. He worked very closely with the Vice Principal Mr. Hinton. Their leadership promoted lofty and magnanimous goals to inspire students. He and Mr. Hinton were progressive leaders. For example, they co-mingled teachers’ offices among expatriates and locals. They instituted a democratic procedure to encourage students to elect their leaders. They emphasized holistic education to include a variety of extracurricular activities. Mr. Cheong always encouraged students to be cognizant of services to society, and to have hearts for charity. Through Mr. Cheong’s leadership, QES became well known very quickly.” Many years later, a great testimonial of this success was noted in the highest record set and held by Law Ka-Ho, who obtained 10 distinctions in the 1998 School Certificate Examination, and 7 distinctions in the 2000 Matriculation Examination. (As made prominent by the headline 10+7 in Sing Tao newspaper, and also confirmed by Ming Pao. Ref: http://goo.gl/7OdNwy )
The sequel to ““Queen Elizabeth School, Hong Kong” (《伊沙沙伯．香港》) is just published in October 2015. The Editorial Committee made an excellent effort to highlight Mr. Cheong’s biographical chronology listed below:
Author’s note: I am indebted to Mr. Arthur Hinton, Kwan Sek-Yiu, 69FA and Gavin Chan, 88FA for their editorial guidance.