Gan Eng Seng (1844–1899) The founder of Gan Eng Seng School
A native of Cheng Chian Village, Hai Teng County, Fujian province, China.He was a Peranakan born to a poor family in Malacca in 1844. His great-grandfather migrated from Cheng Chian Village, Hokkien Province in China to Malacca. Gan Eng Seng was educated in Malacca. At 16, he headed south for Singapore, where he worked as a book-keeper at the Guthrie Company in Collyer Quay. Here he gained experience in the operations of “entrepot” trade. Hardworking and eager to learn, he rose through the ranks, climbing from the storekeeper post to chief storekeeper. He was eventually promoted to Chief Comprador after 13 years.Apart from his duties at Guthrie, Gan Eng Seng also ventured into the businesses of local products and shipping. He was involved in a total of 15 businesses.In 1885, Gan Eng Seng set up the Anglo-Chinese Free School for boys and donated several of his Telok Ayer shophouses for school dormitory use. In 1893, the school dormitories closed due to inadequate space and became part of the campus expansion instead. Gan Eng Seng financed the building of a free Chinese school in Melacca; and established a free school in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, China. He wrote a will to instruct his descendants to continue the maintenance and management of this school.Gan Eng Seng donated a large piece of property at Rochor to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He also conceptualised and financed Thong Chai Medical Institution at Wayang Street (the former location of Thong Chai Medical Institution). From 1892 to 1899, he served as the hospital's Chairman and sat on the Board of Trustees.Added to that, Gan Eng Seng was a member of the Chinese Advisory Board, who represented the Chinese community for petitions and appeals to the Straits Settlement government.In 1899, he passed away from an illness at the age of 55. Gan Eng Seng Secondary
School is one of the oldest schools in Singapore. Formerly known as Anglo-Chinese Free School, it
was established in 1885 by Gan Eng Seng, a strong advocate for education. VISION:
Gessians of Excellence,
Standing and Significance
Our school is a
community that nurtures the best in each and strives ever ONWARD! As Gan Eng Seng lacked
the opportunity to further his education in his early years, he fully grasped
the significance of education. When he achieved career success, he invested
great effort into creating educational opportunities for needy students. In
1885, he set up Anglo-Chinese Free School at his Telok Ayer shop-houses. The school provided free English and Chinese
education for Primary students. In 1881, the school had a total of 41 students.1893: The School moved to a new site at Telok Ayer Street
provided by the government. To meet the changing demands of education, Gan Eng
Seng donated S$5,000 to build a double-storey building that could accommodate
300 students. The building housed a large hall and numerous classrooms.1899: After the demise of Gan Eng
Seng, the Board of Trustees took over the school administration and management.
The members of the Board comprised distinguished pioneers of Singapore,
including Dr Lim Boon Keng.1930s:With the economic downturn during that era, community
funds dwindled and the school was in dire need of repairs. The Board approached
the government to take over the running of the school to ensure its survival.
In 1938, Gan Eng Seng School became a government school. Under the charge of
its newly appointed headmaster Percival Frank Aroozoo, the school weathered
through the worst
period of its history. The school building at Telok Ayer was later declared
unsafe by the Public Works Department.
1941: In September, the school was housed temporarily in
Sepoy Line Malay School in Park Road and later at Pearl’s Hill School.1942 – 1945:During the Japanese Occupation, the school
was suspended and reopened in 1946 at the temporary site of Outram School. The
school then shifted to Waterloo Street.