Percival Frank Aroozoo



Singapore Infopedia

Background

Percival Frank Aroozoo (b. 13 April 1900, Singapore–d. 15 March 1969, Singapore) was headmaster of Gan Eng Seng School from 1938 to 1955. He was responsible for the opening of the new school building at Anson Road in 1951, and oversaw the school's transition from a primary to a secondary school. He was also instrumental in shaping the school's identity through his design of the school crest and the creation of the school creed.1

Early life
Eurasian of Portuguese descent, Aroozoo was born at 22 Waterloo Street2 to Frank Aroozoo and Martinha Beatrice de Rosario in 1900.3 He was a bright student and often received double promotions when he was studying at St Joseph's Institution.He passed the Cambridge Local Examinations in 1916 and qualified as a "normal class" teacher at the age of 17.5

Posting at Outram School
Aroozoo joined Outram School in 1918. The school was known then as a training ground for principals, and was a feeder school to other secondary schools such as the Raffles Institution.6 During his term, Aroozoo started the school magazine and served as its editor from 1925 to 1938. He also produced the annual school play for 12 years, from 1930.7

Aroozoo taught at the school for 20 years before he was promoted to Superscale B in 19388. Along with the promotion, he was offered the position of headmaster of Gan Eng Seng School.9 The offer pleased him very much because of his family's close ties with Gan Eng Seng. His grandfather, Simon Aroozoo, had been a close friend and colleague of Gan Eng Seng at Guthrie and Co.10

Japanese Occupation
Aroozoo led Gan Eng Seng School through some of its most challenging years. In 1941, the school building at Telok Ayer was declared unsafe by the Public Works Department. An immediate evacuation was ordered and the school took up temporary accommodation at the Sepoy Lines Malay School in Park Road and in Pearl's Hill School.11

Before long, the school closed due to World War II. During the Japanese Occupation, Aroozoo lost the ability to hear in his right ear. The injury was thought to have been caused by either a bomb explosion or an incident where he was hit by Japanese soldiers.12

Headmaster of Gan Eng Seng School
After the war, Aroozoo resumed his post as headmaster of Gan Eng Seng School. He led the school when it operated from temporary premises, first at Outram School, and then at the Japanese National School in Waterloo Street. The school reopened as a secondary school in its new building on Anson Road in 1951.13


Aroozoo was instrumental in shaping the school's identity during these transitory years. Ever mindful of the school's origins as a school for the poor children of Chinatown, he incorporated the Chinese junk and dragon into the design of the school crest.14 He was also insistent that the school retained its name “Gan Eng Seng School”, although there were suggestions that its new location at Anson Road be recognised.15 To the poor students, he gave out scholarships and ensured that the school library closed late for those who did not have conducive study facilities at home.16

Besides designing the school crest and penning the school creed, Aroozoo also started the school magazine “Onward”. The title of the magazine was subsequently adopted as the school motto. Aroozoo retired in 1955 and was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his contributions to education.17 The school library was named in his memory in 1996.18

Other contributions
Aroozoo was an active member of the Singapore Teachers' Association, and was the editor of Chorus, a teachers' magazine, as well as the stage manager for teachers' productions.19 Church work also featured prominently in his life. He gave his time and services as a server at the St Joseph's Church at Queen Street; promoter of the Apostleship of Prayer; founder member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul; co-founder of the Catholic Young Men's Association; member of the Catholic Action Movement; and founder of Rally, a monthly Catholic review.20


In 1956, Aroozoo initiated a Portuguese language class in the Portuguese Mission and, in 1959, started a fund for books and scholarships for poor children.21 He was also the lyricist for the City Song sung at the Singapore City Day celebrations in 1953.22

Family
Aroozoo met his wife, Agnes Danker, a Eurasian of Dutch descent, during his regular shooting trips to Johor Bahru. His wife had lived near the rifle shooting range that he frequented. They got married in 1926, and their first child, Marie, was born the following year.23 They subsequently had four other daughters (Hedwig, Joyce, Eleanor, Lydia) and one son (Edmund). Two of his daughters, Marie Bong and Hedwig Anuar, became successful and respected persons in their respective professions. Marie was the principal of Katong Convent for many years, while Hedwig was the first local and long-time director of the National Library.24 Aroozoo remarried in 1960 after his first wife died.25


Death
Aroozoo died of heart disease on 15 March 1969 at the age of 68. The memorial service was held at St Joseph's Church, and his body was buried at Bidadari Cemetery.26



Author
Joshua Chia Yeong Jia


References
1. Donald M. Dabbs, The History of Gan Eng Seng School (Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, 1994), 55–61. (Call no. RSING 372.95957 DAB)
2. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 348. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Braga-Blake, M. (Ed.). (1992). Singapore Eurasians: Memories and Hopes. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
4. Dabbs, The History of Gan Eng Seng School, 55; Marie Ethel Bong, oral history interview by Jesley Chua Chee Huan, 1 December 1992, transcript and MP3 audio, 30:53, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 001390), 1–2.
5. Myrna Braga-Blake, ed., Singapore Eurasians: Memories and Hopes (Singapore: Times Editions, 1992), 84 (Call no. RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 55.
6. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 55; Marie Ethel Bong, oral history interview by Jesley Chua Chee Huan, 12 January 1993, transcript and MP3 audio, 30:56, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 001390), 87.
7. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 55; Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 84.
8. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 84.
9. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 55; Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 84.
10. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 84; Marie Ethel Bong, oral history interview, 12 January 1993, 87.
11. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 55.
12. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 60–61.
13. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 58.
14. “Gan Eng Seng School Names Library after Ex-Principal,” Straits Times, 21 June 1996, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Marie Ethel Bong, oral history interview, 1 December 1992, 4.
16. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 61; Gan Eng Seng School Names Library after Ex-Principal.”
17. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 6–7, 61; Gan Eng Seng School Names Library after Ex-Principal”; “School Anthem, Creed & Crest,” Gan Eng Seng School, accessed 27 October 2020.
18. “Gan Eng Seng School Names Library after Ex-Principal.”
19. Marie Ethel Bong, oral history interview, 1 December 1992, 6–7.
20. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 84.
21. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 61.
22. “City Song a Credit to Its Creator,” Singapore Standard, 12 September 1953, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Marie Ethel Bong, oral history interview, 1 December 1992, 1.
24. Dabbs, History of Gan Eng Seng School, 61.
25. “Early Patriot,” New Paper, 14 August 2002, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
26. “Deaths,” Straits Times, 16 March 1969, 19. (From NewspaperSG)



The information in this article is valid as of October2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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