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Dato Dr A W E Moreira DPMP JP JMN - Part 1
Over a very full, demanding and long life (1905-1985) both in work and retirement A W E Moreira made an outstanding contribution to the fields of medicine, sport and public service.
Dato Dr Moreira gained his love of sport from his father who came to Malaya from Ceylon during the “Great War” as sports editor of The Times of Malaya. The family were keen sports people with several of the eight brothers and three sisters becoming state and national players in hockey and cricket. During his service as President of Perak Hockey Association (1954-1984) he inspired generations of sportsmen including his protégé Sultan Azlan Shah, a brilliant centre forward for the Perak side.
A W E Moreira, educated at Ipoh’s Anglo-Chinese School, Ipoh and at the Methodist Boys’ school in KL entered medical college in Singapore in 1923 on a government scholarship. After graduation he was required by the Colonial Government to return to Perak where he subsequently spent his entire working life. Centred in Ipoh, Batu Gaju, and Taiping he managed to combine a very demanding work schedule with an active sports life. He played cricket, rugby and hockey for the state, representing Perak in cricket from 1930 to 1940 and holding the position of President of the State Cricket Association for ten years. However, his greatest sporting contribution was to hockey, where as Honorary Secretary to the PHAC he helped to establish the state’s supremacy in the sport throughout the 1930s, remaining in this position until the Japanese occupation, which put an end to organized sport.
Until the fall of Singapore Dr Moreira worked with St John’s Ambulance there treating civilian and army casualties. He was ordered then to return to his old post in Taiping where he took on the roles of physician, surgeon, anaesthetist and administration. He took risks supporting the political prisoners incarcerated in Taiping jail, not only treating their illnesses but passing them essential foodstuffs and used clothing. When faced with a major challenge in his role to supply all Perak’s hospitals with drugs he and his team of chemists and dispensers set up the medical stores to manufacture their own drugs, making morphine and tincture opii from raw opium and soaps, toiletries and toothpaste from palm oil. On his frequent visits to Singapore to purchase drugs and medical supplies, some from the black market and some from Chinese medicine shops, he managed to smuggle in drugs, money and foodstuffs to former medical colleagues in Changi jail. The drugs included vitamin A rich palm oil, experimentally purified by his team in the Perak medical stores, which probably helped to prevent a lot of blindness amongst the prisoners.
Dr Moreira also supplied food to the nuns and orphans at the Convent of Infant Jesus, Taiping. These covert and subversive activities aroused the suspicions of the Japanese who were keeping a close watch on his activities. They were about to arrest him when the Allies returned to Malaya. The British medical officers were then surprised to find Taiping so well supplied with drugs, in contrast with Singapore. When he went to the UK on a Queen’s Fellowship to study chest diseases, he was praised by the Head of the Medical Department there for his outstanding contribution as:
“A capable surgeon, a wise physician and one of the best doctors in the service.”
In 1946 Dr Moreira returned to his passion: sport, and hockey in particular. He was instrumental in establishing the state’s lead in the game, paying particular attention to improving welfare support of team members both on and off the field. When matches were played in Ipoh the teams could always expect lunch and dinner at the FMS bar, known as The Sportsmen’s Corner House, facing the town padang. He would organize worn out equipment and team clothing to be replaced, often at his own expense. His clinic also provided free treatment for the sportsmen and often for their families as well. Under Dr Moreria’s leadership Perak took the lead in hockey, at one time winning every major tournament that it competed in, and many players represented their country at international events.
In 1951 he resigned from his post as Chest Specialist in the General Hospital, Ipoh, to set up his own practice and entered public service. He was honorary physician to the Chinese Maternity Hospital from 1957 and to Our Lady’s Hospital from 1962. He continued serving St John’s Ambulance as Vice President and was conferred the Order of St John. He worked in senior roles for children with mental disabilities, for the Old Folks Homes of Kampong Simee and Jelapang and on the Board of Governors of the Anglo-Chinese School Ipoh. His work for the community was recognized locally when he received the Rotary Club of Ipoh-Kinta first Public Service Award in 1981.
The major contribution made by Dr Moreira to the medical profession was recognized by the Malayan Medical Association’s highest award of Honorary Membership in 1984, an honour also bestowed at the same time to the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. His interest in anti-tuberculosis work continued throughout his working life. He became the Chairman of Council of the College of General Practitioners in 1973 and later became President in Chief.
Dr Moreira was one of Ipoh’s most well-respected and well loved doctors, but it was for the passion with which he combined a successful medical career with wider interests in sport and public service that he will be remembered. His sporting interest continued into retirement as Vice Presidents of Perak Rugby Union and Perak Taekwondo Association, as an active member of the Perak Lawn tennis Association and as President of the Amateur Swimming Association of Perak. Further recognition was given of his public service when he was made a Justice of the Peace in 1966, awarded the title of Dato in 1970 and the JMN in 1983.
He passed away in Duncraig, West Australia on 10 December 1985.
To see more of the article in Part 2, click here.
To read more about Anglo-Chinese School, Ipoh, click here.