Thursday, July 07, 2016

Francis Thomas (All Saints Memorial)

While exploring the niches in All Saints Memorial i came across this niche with a lovely wedding picture that you see below. The niche belongs to a western man and a chinese lady. Not knowing the person, i took a picture to read up further on Francis Thomas and Catherine Eng Neo Thomas.

Born in April 1912 in Westcote, England, Francis Thomas (1912-1977) was the fourth child in a family of six children of Rev. J A Thomas and Mrs. Thomas in Westcote, Francis was the third son in the family. The others were Mary (eldest), David, Michael, Anthony and Christopher).

Francis Thomas  was a well known Educator, Politician and Minister. He became a member of the Labour Party of Singapore in 1948, President of the Labour Front (1950) and became the Minister of Works and Communications (1955-1958) in the Labour Front Government under Mr. David Marshall and later Lim Yew Hock. He resigned in 1959 and returned back to his teaching position.He was the Principal of St. Andrew's School in 1963, succeeding from Mr. Tan Lye Whatt.

Francis Thomas passed away at the age of 65 on October 12,1977 due to cancer.

Wedding picture (taken at the niche of Francis Thomas and Catherine Lee)

St.Andrew's School Alumni

Francis Thomas joined St. Andrew's School as a tutorial staff in 1934 after attending an interview in London and have since then been closely associated with the school, moving up its ranks until becoming the Principal of the school in 1963 till 1974. He announced his retirement in 1973 with plans to officially retire in 1975. By then Francis Thomas was a teacher for 41 years.  Despite his retirement, he continued teaching until eventually he passed away in 1977.

A rousing farewell to the retired Principal Francis Thomas in 1974 (source: NewspaperSG)

The War Years

Francis Thomas was in the Engineers branch of the Singapore Volunteers and was assigned to the Bomb Disposal Unit. He became a Prisoner-of-War after the fall of Singapore and was at Changi before moving to the Burma Railway (October 1942) and finally Japan (in the outskirts of Nagasaki where the second atomic bomb dropped). Fortunately for him, he survived his imprisonment and the atomic bomb, when the war ended. After recovering in England, he returned to Singapore in the beginning of 1947 and returned to St. Andrew's School as a Housemaster.
Niche of Francis Thomas and Catherine Eng Neo Thomas in All Saints Memorial 

When Francis Thomas passed away at the age of 65 on October 12,1977, he is survived by his wife, Catherine Lee Eng Neo and five daughters, ( Kim Choo, Yvonne Thomas, Margaret Thomas, Ann Thomas and Judy Thomas ).


Wife: Catherine Lee Eng Neo /Catherine Eng Neo Thomas (1909-1999) 
It was as Housemaster of St. Andrew's House, Francis Thomas met Catharine Lee Eng Neo who was a Matron and they eventually engaged (Madame Lee Eng Neo was the youngest daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Lee Cheow of Pekan Pahang and Singapore ) and married in 1948.

Catherine Lee Eng Neo passed away on September 22, 1999.

(source: NewspaperSG)

Daughter: Elizabeth Thomas (September 3, 1949 - January 16, 1950)
Their first child, Elizabeth passed away 3 months old.

Daughter: Margaret Thomas
Margaret Thomas was involved in the reprint version by Ethos of Memoirs of a Migrant in 2013. Memoirs of a Migrant was first published in 1972 by University Education Press. Below was a picture taken of Margaret Thomas in 2001 (49 years old) with the road sign named after her father. Margaret was then the Vice President of (ex-deputy director of Business Times)

Margaret Thomas in front of the road sign named after his father (source: NewspaperSG)

Daughter: Yvonne Thomas 
The only article i found of Yvonne Thomas, was of her when she was 17 year old in 1956 returning to Singapore on a two month holiday and being greeted by her parents. At that time, she was a student of Wychwoold School, Oxford.

Yvonne Thomas (source: NewspaperSG)


Francis Thomas Award 
The Francis Thomas Award was first presented to the Shaw Foundation for their contributions to Children Charities. The award, named after Francis Thomas was to commemorate his dedication and service when he was the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Children Charities. The award was presented by the First Lady, Mrs. Sheares.

Francis Thomas Drive
Francis Thomas Drive, a road leading into St. Andrew's School was officially named on September, 1980 after him.

An honest man with great work ethics
"The only honest man in the Labour Front"- Lee Kuan Yew's description of Francis Thomas in 1958

A Singaporean Pioneer and Nation Builder
"There is plenty I regret in my life. I have done things i ought not to have done; i have left undone things I ought to have done. But i do not regret coming here and being a citizen of Singapore. It is a piece of good fortune for which I owe gratitude to my fellow citizens. " - Francis Thomas, June 1971 (Memoirs of a Migrant).


Memoirs of a Migrant. (Francis Thomas). Singapore : Ethos Books, 2013
Engagements. (1948, August 3). The Straits Times
It's back to school for Thomas. (1959, February 2). The Straits Times
Yvonne is back for holidays. (1956, July 27). Singapore Standard
Memoirs of a Minister. (1971, March 1). New Nation
"The only honest man in the Labour Front". (1971, March 1). New Nation
A rousing Goodbye to St.Andrew's Principal Francis Thomas. (1974, March 13). The Straits Times
Ex-Minister Thomas dies. (1977, October 12). The Straits Times.
2,000 pay respects to Francis Thomas, (1977, October 15). The Straits Times
Francis Thomas to retire in 1975. (1973, June 28). The Straits Times.
The first Francis Thomas award. (1978, October 1). The Straits Times.
School celebrate's its 118th Founder's Day. (1980, September 13). New Nation
Deaths. (1999, September 24). The Straits times
A road she can call home. (2001, February 4). The New Paper

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