Wednesday, 19 January 2011

16. Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos (1903-1986)

Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos (1903-1986)

Date of birth: 10 December 1903*
Place of birth: Penang**

Date of death: 23 January 1986
Place of death: Penang General Hospital
Place of burial: Tanah Perkuburan Masjid Jamek Glugor, Penang (island)

Birth date and birthplace

*Two birth dates are recorded, 1903 and 1904. He wrote 1903 in his application form to the LSHTM. His eldest daughter Tulip wrote 1903 when he dictated his biodata at his death bed at GH Penang in 1986.

**Actual birthplace is unknown. Nobody knows for sure where he was born. It could be any of these places:

1. Kampong Dodol, Perak Road, Penang (near Jelutong)
2. Kampong Sg Gelugor, Penang (near Minden Heights)
3. Butterworth, as his mother was originally from there.


1910 - Sekolah Melayu Kampong Melayu, Ayer Itam in Penang. Completed Standard IV

1914 - Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Penang. Completed Standard VII

1919 - Passed Senior Cambridge December 1919

1923 - King Edward VII College of Medicine, Singapore. 
           FMS Govt Medical Student. Enrolled June 1923. He was 19 years old.

1930 - Passed the Final Medical Professional Examination March 1930

1930 - Awarded College Diploma L.M.S. Singapore (Class of March 1930)
           His paper transcripts still exist but are faded and very brittle.

           Some of his medical books have been donated to General Hospital Penang
           but these could not be traced. His books were probably sent to the bookstore
           in Chowrasta Market (used books bookshop on the 2nd floor)

           Graduated along with Dr Abdul Ghani bin Mohammad (Bayan Lepas, Penang).

Government Medical Service

30 April 1930 --------- AMO as Assistant Surgeon at Kuala Lumpur District Hospital.
                                  Assistant Medical Officer (AMO)

1 December 1930 --- AHO as Assistant Surgeon at Kuala Lumpur Health Office
                                  Assistant Health Officer (AHO)

1 August 1932 ------- AMO Kuala Lumpur District Hospital

                                  Majlis (1 Dec 1932) stated his name and Dr Abdul Ghani.
                                  They were members of the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kg Baru, KL.

14 December 1932 -- AMO Klang District Hospital
                                    He qualified for pension (1 May 1933)
                                    (entered the pension scheme after 3 years of service)

                                    The Straits Times, page 13 (22 January 1934)
                                    He & wife attended a farewell party for Mr & Mrs P. Philips.

                                    The Straits Times, page 26 (9 February 1936)
                                    He attended the Greenland Badminton Party in Klang.
                                    He was seated 4th from right (pic)

                                    The Straits Times, page 12 (30 January 1934)
                                    Capital Charge. Malay Woman To Stand Trial.

13 March 1936 -------- AHO Quarantine Camp (Q Camp), Port Swettenham in Klang

                                     The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942)
                                     (20 March 1936). He replaced Dr S.V. Chellam.
                                     Dr Abdul Ghani bin Mohammad replaced him in Klang.

1 April 1936 ------------ AMO Kuala Lumpur General Hospital

21 April 1936 ---------- AHO Quarantine Camp (Q Camp), Port Swettenham*, Klang
                                   * now Port Klang

21 September 1936 - AMO General Hospital Kuala Lumpur

28 September 1937 - AHO Malay Regiment, Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan

                                   Became Medical Officer (MO) (LA) Grade I (30 April 1938)
                                   (first promotion after 8 years of service)
                                   What does LA stand for? Is it Lower Assistant or other?

                                   Played for Port Dickson Recreation Club (2 Oct 1938).

14 December 1939 -- MO (LA) Grade I District Hospital Klang

                                   The Straits Times, page 7 (26 May 1940)
                                   Reported he was AMO District Hospital Klang.

15 May 1940 - 3 December 1940 - Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTH), Singapore
                                   Attended a 6-month refresher course at TTH.
                                   This could be a part of his postgraduate training.
                                   The Queen's Scholarship ceased before the war, 
                                   and only resumed in 1950.

                                   His 2 daughters attended the Methodist School in Singapore.
                                   He adopted a baby boy from an orphanage (Philip@Md Noor).

25 June 1941 --------- MO (LA) Grade I Sungai Buloh Settlement*
                                   Sg Buloh Settlement is a leprosy settlement.
                                   This leprosy settlement was ready in 1931 (created by Dr Travers).
                                   Lepers from throughout Malaya were sent here.
                                   Dr Travers returned to England and never returned 
                                   to see the leper settlement he created.
                                   Only British doctors were allowed to head this leper settlement.
                                   *now PKKN (Pusat Kawalan Kusta Negara)

                                   Monday, 8 December 1941 - Japan attacked Tanah Melayu
                                   The Japanese military forces attacked Malaya
                                   The Japanese army landed at Pantai Sabak, and at 
                                   Pantai Pak Amat, Pantai Cinta Berahi,* both in Kelantan.
                                   *renamed Pantai Cahaya Bulan (PCB) by TGNA.
                                   Battle of Singapore 14 February 1942 (Singapore lost)
                                   Japanese occupation in Malaya and Singapore
                                   The Japanese secret police (Kempetai) ruled Malaya
                                   British doctors were interned at Changi Prison in Singapore.

25 December 1943 - He became the Medical Superintendent at Sg. Buloh Settlement
                                  (this was the first instant that a Malay doctor was allowed to head
                                  the settlement, since the British doctors were in Changi Prison)

                                 The Straits Times (May 1945) reported that a Mr Lee approached 
                                  him and Dr Che Lah was in-charge of the leper settlement.

                                 The Straits Times (11 May 1950) reported he was in charge
                                 of the leper settlement.

                                 His eldest daughter narrated he was tortured under the Japanese
                                 administration even though he was serving them. One/some of his
                                 workers told the Japanese admin where he had hid his car. He
                                 survived the ordeal.

                                 WW2 ended in Sept 1945 when 2 US-made atomic bombs
                                 were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan

21 September 1945 - MO (LA) Grade I Civil General Hospital Kuala Lumpur*
                                   *now Tanglin Hospital or HKL?

11 December 1945 - Health Officer (HO) Grade I State Hospital Kota Bharu, Kelantan

                                  Dr A.O. Merican had passed away in Kelantan just before 
                                  the war ended. He was the first Penang doctor to shift to 
                                  Kelantan and opened a private practice (Merican Dispensary)
                                  in Kota Bharu. 
                                  When Dr A.O. Merican passed away, Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar 
                                  shifted from Penang to Kelantan, to help out at Merican Dispensary.                                       Then Dr Abdul Aziz opened his own private practice, Aziz Dispensary.

30 April 1946 --------- Medical Director (MD) Grade I Kota Bharu, Kelantan

                                  Nurse/Matron Mariah Chong Nyet Lin narrated they had to carry 
                                  medicine using elephants as there were no roads (bombed).

                                  He also took in a Chinese female refugee who came from China 
                                  on foot. This lady lost her 2 daughters and husband along the way.
                                  They died of hunger and exhaustion. Her baby girl died as she had 
                                  no breast milk. She was frail and hospitalised, fed and looked after 
                                  until well. She became his maid and chef in Seremban(?), Pahang 
                                  and Penang. She worked for him for a long time until she left to die 
                                  at the Kongsi. She was known as Che-cheh (sister).

21 June 1946 -------- Acting Health Officer (Ag. HO) Health Department,
                                 Malayan Railway Administration, Kuala Lumpur

                                 His eldest daughter (15) attended St Mary's School, Batu Road in KL

                                 His second daughter mentioned that Dr Che Lah hired a 
                                 Chinese cook (Hailam) in 1947/48 after the war.

___ January 1949 ? - Deputy State Medical and Health Officer (Dy. SMHO) Selangor

                                 Unknown newspaper. Doctor is guest of honour.
                                 He was succeeded by Dr J.A. Leslie-Spinks (pic)

                                 He was Vice-President SAGOA
                                 Senior Asian Government Officers Association (SAGOA)
                                The Straits Times (4 April 1949, p5). Senior Asian Officers Meet in K.L.
                                The Straits Times (20 April 1949, p7, pic) Senior Asian Govt Officers
                                 Form Assn.

                                 He was an elected Representative of the Guild of Graduates to the 
                                 Court of University of Malaya, together with Dr Mohamed Ibrahim 
                                 bin Shaik Ismail (Singapore).
                                 The Straits Times (2 July 1949, p7). Graduates Appointed.

                                 He was re-elected for the University of 
Malaya Court for a term 
                                 of 4 years (8 Oct 1951-7 Oct 1955).
                                The Straits Times (2 August 1951, p4). Nominees Named.
                                The Singapore Free Press (2 August 1951, p5). Varsity Council 
                                 & Court.
                                ... Dr Che Lah bin Mohamed Joonos, L.M.S., M.R.C.P. (re-elected) ...

Postgraduate Studies

                                 17 April 1951 - He applied for the Queen's Scholarship* to do 
                                 postgraduate studies in England. His application was posted to 
                                 Director of Education, PO Box 444, Kuala Lumpur.
                                 (*details are missing)

1952-1953 ----------- 2 years postgraduate studies at LSHTM, London.

                                (i) Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (6 months)
                                (ii) Diploma in Public Health (12 months)
                                (iii) Attachments to Rural Health Centres in England (6 months)

                                He stayed at 55 Courtfield Gardens, London, S.W.5., England. 
                                He then visited Europe in 1953.

Resumed Work

1954 ------------------ SMHO Malacca. 
                                According to his eldest daughter, he had supervised the building of 
                                public toilets on Pulau Besar.

25 November 1955 - 30 June 1958 - SMHO Pahang

                               2 December 1957 - He attended the Conference of State Medical 
                               & Health Officers and Ancillary Department Heads (letter from SMHO 
                               Negeri Sembilan).

                              The Straits Times (8 January 1958, p5). $4 Million Health Plan for 
                              Peasants. He laid out an extensive health plan for Pahang state.

                              Group photograph taken with his staff. Note written at the bottom 
                              of the photo says:
                              Group photo of the staff of the S.M.& H.O. Pahang taken on 26.6.58 at 
                              Kuantan on the departure of Dr. M.J. Che Lah, S.M. & H.O. Pahang, 
                              from 25.11.55 to 30.6.58.


He retired on 30 June 1958 as SMHO Pahang. This was published as CMHO Pahang in The Straits Times (30 June 1958). Dr A.N. Ray succeeded him in Pahang. 

He received the Meritorious Service Medal from Sultan Sir Abu Bakar, Sultan Pahang. 

Dr Che Lah returned to Penang.

Post Retirement Work

1. Rural District Council Penang

2. Penang Port Commission (PPC)

3. Pengarah Kesihatan at Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP)

Private Practice

He practised at his clinic in Gelugor, Glugor Klinik.

In 1982, he had asked me whether I would be a doctor. I said no as I already started working with USM as a lecturer. He then sold off his clinic as there was no one among his descendants who were doctors and could run his clinic. That's real bad.

Hajj Medical Missions

He had worked as a Hajj Doctor* for 9 Hajj mission to Makkah on board ocean liners (ships). The trip to Makkah took several months. The return trip also took several months. In his last trip to Makkah, he flew to Jeddah to check the medical mission set up before the pilgrims arrived. 

Photos of the Hajj using ships were exhibited at the Islamic Museum in Kuala Lumpur by Tabung Haji (TH) (pics).

TH was created in 1963 but ships were still used until commercial flights were made available for the Hajj pilgrims. My father was on the first commercial flight for the Hajj in November/December 1975, and then he went to Leeds University directly after the Hajj (I was in TKC the whole time, so I don't know when he went for Hajj).

VIPs and VVIPs took flights to perform the Hajj instead of using ships. Dr Omar bin Din had accompanied one of the VVIPs on a flight to perform the Hajj in 1965 (will need to revise Dr Omar's biography as narrated by his 2 sons, Iszham and Yusoff).

*Pegawai Perubatan Haji


He had 2 prior heart by-pass surgeries. He passed away of old age on 23 January 1986. He is interred at Tanah Perkuburan Masjid Jamek Gelugor, Penang.

At the time of his demise, I was doing my PhD at Flinders University of South Australia. I only received news of his demise a month after he died, but I cried bitterly for 3 months. I had just recovered from a severe case of adult chickenpox. I then moved to Perth and continued my PhD at the University of Western Australia.

I returned to Penang in August 1989 and he was gone. His house was next door to my mother's house. His house was all too quiet. Only his wife lived alone in the house. Then she passed away after 10 years living alone. His house is still extant in November 2015 but dilapidated. Nobody comes to clean the house. His orchids are still hanging, some with gorgeous flowers. An Indian man comes to cut the grass. 

Author's Notes

Please help identify the other people in his original photos below (recaptured from his photo albums).

ACS Scouts 1919. He is on the right

ACS Scouts 1919. He is seated between 2 men with hats

Dr Che Lah is second from left. 2nd right is Haji Syed Kabeer. 
The 2 men at far left and right are not known.

Dr Che Lah is at right most

Dr Che Lah is in white suit and with songkok at right. 
At left could be the same Chinese man/boy in ACS Scout of 1919.

Dr Che Lah at extreme right, maybe Hajj medical mission of 1963

Farewell to Malayan Railway. 
Not known which newspaper. 
Could be The Straits Times, The Star or Straits Echo. 

At the government residence at Maxwell Rd, Kuala Lumpur.
Could also be his govt qtrs in PD.  His surviving daughters can't confirm.

At home in Minden Heights, Penang
The swing has been with him since I was a little girl.

His clinic was Glugor Klinik along Glugor Rd, 
now Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Penang.

His 2nd residence at 219 Solok Pemancar, 
Jalan Solok Pemancar (circa 1959-65), 
off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. His house faces 
Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. Photographed in 2011.

Same as above. Re-photographed on 4 March 2013

His 3rd residence at 355 Lengkok Pemanchar (c.1969-c.1976). 
His house faced the rambutan plantation on the hill slopes 
and the valley below (Brown Garden). 
His house was demolished circa 1976.

His 4th and last residence at 460-H, Minden Heights, Jalan 7 
was built in the 'poor man's row' circa 1970-71. 
The house is still extant, but is dilapidated.

His pusara at Tanah Perkuburan Masjid Jamek Glugor, Penang.


Anonymous said...

Interesting to read about the doctor of Glugor Klinik. Passed by that spot every other day without knowing who the founding doctor was... now I know. -YNCheah, USM

Faridah said...

TQ Dr Cheah for reading about Dr Che Lah.

Prof Faridah said...

This is from Azlan Ismail@Avon:

Azlan Ismail @ Avon said...
Hi Prof Faridah, I'm a great admirer of your blog. It gives a good insight of Penang and people who have left a legacy on the island. I was particularly interested in the pictures of Dr Che Lah's former house at No 219 Solok Pemancar. I was raised at No 217 Jln Pemancar, which is just across the road. I still go back to the house whenever I had the opportunity as my relatives are still there. By the way, Dr Che Lah's former house is now owned by Datuk Syed Mohammed S.M Aidid and his sister, Sharifah Intan. I heard they want to sell off the house back in 2011 but the last I heard they decided to keep it. It's now re-painted and looks elegant. Best regards.

Prof Faridah said...

Salam Azlan Ismail,

TQ for liking this blog and for the information on Dr Che Lah's old house in Penang. The Aidid family was related to my late father.