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Dr A C Kathigasu MBE
Dr AC Kathigasu, was born in Taiping on 17 June 1892 of Tamil parents Mr Kanapathi Pillay (an immigrant from Ceylon) and Thangam. They named him Arumugam Canatapai (A C) Pillay.
A bright young man, he was educated first at King Edward V11 School, Taiping and then at the Methodist Boys School, Kuala Lumpur. He was sent to Singapore (Kallang) medical school by his father at the age of 15 years 9 months and surprisingly gained entry, as because there was a shortage of doctors his birth certificate was not checked, and he already had the desired educational grades. He graduated at the age of 21 as Dr A C Kathigasu LMS (Singapore), the youngest doctor ever recorded at that time.
On graduation he returned to Malaya, joined the government service and became the Chief Medical Officer for Kajang, Selangor, at a salary of $190 per month. A member of the Malayan Voluntary Infantry from 1914 to 1921, he was given the rank of Sergeant on joining the volunteers as his status as a doctor meant he could not be a Private. Soon after he was transferred to Kuala Lumpur and he met Sybil Daly, a Eurasian and staunch Catholic whom he fell in love with. There was of course a religous difficulty as he was a Hindu. However, with agreement from his father he changed his name and religion on 4 January 1919 in order for the wedding to take place. His new (Catholic) name was Abdon Clement (A C) Kathigasu. They were married on 7 January 1919 in St John’s Church, Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur. They had two children, Olga and Dawn Kathigasu and adopted a third, William Pillay. Dr Kathigasu remained in government service until 1925, serving in Kuala Lumpur and latterly Ipoh. On leaving the government service, he started his own medical practice in Ipoh.
A keen sportsman who represented the State at both soccer and cricket he was President of the Perak Cricket Association for three years and Vice President for several more terms. He was also an enthusiastic Rugby player and President Perak All-Blues (an inter-state rugby competition) for 14 years.
On the Japanese Occupation of Malaya he fled to Papan, before continuing to run his clinic in Ipoh. When Sybil was arrested by the Japanese for helping the MPAJA (Malayan Peoples Anti Japanese Army) from her clinic in Papan, he was also caught up in the web of anti-Japanese activities and was imprisoned and tortured over a period of some two and a half years.
Post-war he was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire) for 'Services in the Allied Cause'. He continued with his clinic in Ipoh, and with Sybil dying on 12 June 1948 from the injuries the Japanese had inflicted on her, he eventually remarried. He passed away in Ipoh in December 1972, aged 81 and a devout Catholic to the end he is buried in the Catholic cemetery in Tambun.
The following entry appeared in “Leaders of Malaya and Who’s Who for 1957-58” :
KATHIGASU, A C (Dr), LMS (Singapore), Member of British Empire (MBE)- Born June 17, 1892, Taiping, Perak. Education : King Edward VII School, Taiping and Methodist Boys School, Kuala Lumpur. Career : joined government service and served for 12 years in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Kajang. Left government service in 1925 and has been practicing in Ipoh for 35 years. Public Activity : President Perak Cricket Association; represented state in soccer and cricket. Malayan Voluntary Infantry from 1915/ 21; President Perak Cricket Association for 3 years; vice-president for many years; President Perak All-Blues for 14 years. During Japanese occupation incarcerated 2 ½ years with late wife “the Edith Cavel of Malaya”, Mrs Sybil Kathigasu. Address: 10, Green Lane, Ipoh.
To read more about Sybil Kathigasu, click here.
To read more about Olga Kathigasu, click here.
To read more about Dawn Kathigasu, click here.
To read more about William Pillay, click here.