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History

How it all began

Photo of children with intellectual disabilitiesOn 11th June, 1964, two meetings were held in Hong Kong: one attended by eighteen people at the home of Mr and Mrs Halleck Rose, parents of a son with intellectual disabilities, the other, which followed, was attended by four people at the home of Professor Field, Professor of Paediatrics at the Hong Kong University.

These meetings took place because of the desire of a group of parents of children with intellectual disabilities to co-operate in providing education for their children and to form an Association – for parents – as a self-help movement. There are no records to indicate who provided the initial spark, but Mrs Lois Reddin, the Canadian mother of a son with intellectual disabilities had recently arrived in Hong Kong. She had discovered that none of the English primary schools would accept her son and that there were no schools in Hong Kong at all for children with intellectual disabilities. The Reddins lived in the same block of flats as Seamus Rainbird, who was then in the Education Department.

At the first meeting, it was agreed that the parents should remain informally organized for the time being but that they should immediately set about founding a small class, find accommodation and a teacher, make a roster of parents to help the teacher, register pupils and look into the financial implications. Professor Field agreed to arrange for the assessment of the children.

It was agreed that concurrently a small working party be set up to undertake the task of forming an Association for children with intellectual disabilities to serve the whole community of Hong Kong. It was further agreed that Mr Ieuan Hughes, Director of Extra-Mural Studies, Hong Kong University, be spokesman for the working party, other members being Professor Field, Mr T C Cheng, President of United College of Hong Kong, Rev G L Speak, Principal of St Paul's College, Mr Rainbird and Mrs Reddin (the latter being also Secretary of the parents group).

Further meetings of the combined groups were held in the homes of the Hasties, the Halleck Roses and the Reddins during the next few months with reports on progress of each group being given by Rainbird and Reddin.

The class for four

Lady Bremridge visits the class of Lions Monrning SchoolAt the beginning of September 1964, the parents group, now chaired by Halleck Rose, opened a class of four pupils in the back choir room of the Union Church, Kennedy Road, Hong Kong. A Chinese University student was appointed as teacher at a salary of $250 per month, hours 9 to 12. School fees were initially $100 a month. Parents and friends were placed on a roster to help the "teacher". The pupils were Tim Rose (American), Harry Reddin (Canadian), Paul Blakey (Australian) and Robert Hastie (Scottish). The working party recommended registering the school, and the first formal meeting of the Management Committee of the School for Retarded Children was held at the Union Church on 2nd November, 1964, by which time an American teacher was employed and the school fees had become $130 per month.
 

Our first school: Morninghill School

Opening of the first special school in Hong Kong - Lions Morninghill SchoolBy January 1965, 12 children had been enrolled – both of western and Chinese parentage but all English speaking / understanding. The school gradually became more formally administered and in June 1965, the managers felt the "Retarded Children's School" was an unattractive name. The first qualified teacher was appointed in May, an American, Mrs Sandra Hill. As the children arrived every day they were expected to greet Mrs Hill with "Good Morning Mrs Hill" – thus the name Morninghill was adopted for the school in July 1965.


The formation of the Association

While the parents group was building up the school at the Union Church, the working party concentrated on setting up the Association. From June 1964 onwards there were discussions with the three Directors of Education, Social Welfare and Medical & Health, approaches to other organizations and people who might be interested and preparation of the draft Constitution (which was debated back and forth with the parents group).

On 10th February, 1965, the Inaugural General Meeting of the Hong Kong Association for the Mentally Handicapped Children & Young Persons was held in St John’s Cathedral New Hall. About 60 persons attended. Resolutions that the Association be formed and the Constitution be adopted were carried unanimously. The Hon R C Lee was elected President, Ieuan Hughes, Chairman, T C Cheng, Vice Chairman, Charles Mar Fan, Treasurer, S W Rainbird, Secretary, with Dr G H Choa, Rev G L Speak and Halleck Rose as Council Members. Professional advisers were Medical Adviser Professor Field, Legal Adviser Mr G Grimmett (Crown Counsel) and Education Adviser Miss J E Rowe (in charge of Special Education at the Education Department). Lady Trench had agreed to become Patron. On 26th February, 1965, the Association had funds totalling $10,510 (5 Life Membership subscriptions, 13 Ordinary Memberships and $9,000 from special funds donated through Lady Trench).

The newly elected Council's first project was to set up a school in Kowloon for Chinese speaking children. It opened in May 1966 with three children after the major difficulties of finding premises had been overcome.

The teething period

Lady Bremridge has a great time with students from the Lions Morninghill SchoolDuring the Association's teething period from 1965 to 1968, there were many changes in all aspects of the association: management, finance, staff and schools curricula, volunteers and specialist help, and accommodation. Although administration was weak, its strength was in the spirit that pervaded: with determination anything was possible, the children's future was at stake and every day they got older. Everyone had a sense of urgency to expand and improve. In the very early days parents and friends helped daily but gradually this changed to supportive roles.

Finances were a constant problem and it was a hand to mouth existence until the school became subsidised in September 1968. School fees covered salaries, the odd donation and equipment. For those who could not afford school fees, "scholarships" were solicited from many sources, including private individuals, groups such as the American Women's Association, Indian Women's Club, Round Tables, Rotary, World Rehabilitation Fund, Operation Santa Claus, Ladies Guild of the Union Church and the Association itself. The Island School provided Christmas Party entertainment.

The appointment of a Chinese headmistress Mrs Allen (BA, Dip Ed, with 5 years teaching experience with normal children) at a salary of $450 a month and Miss Yeung at $250 a month in 1966 improved the overall organization and standards. Miss Yeung was later to be one of the first staff to be sent overseas for training. It was always recognised that as the majority of children gradually became Chinese speaking, it was essential to have a Chinese head.

Opening of the first special school in Hong Kong - Lions Morninghill SchoolOur first school buildings

Accommodation for Morninghill School was relatively simple, thanks to Rev Rogers and the Union Church who allowed the school to spread as early as February 1967 into 4 groups and later used the stage, vestry, even the stairway to the Rogers' flat. The hall was also used for PTAs, film shows, meetings. The only "rent" was a small salary to the caretaker and flowers to the Church at Christmas. For longer term it was realised that a proper school building was essential and this became a possibility when in January 1968 Lions International District 303 offered to raise the sum of $200,000 (the Association's contribution to the cost of the school which had to exist before Government would consider an application for a grant of land). The school was later renamed Lions Morninghill School.

In Kowloon, the accommodation problem was acute and the school had to move from Christ's Church to Civil Aid Services premises to St Andrew's Hall (for some time) before finally becoming Mary Rose School, at Christ’s Church in 1970. Enrolments in 1968 were 38 at Morninghill School and 32 in Kowloon.

Fund raising in the early days

A Flag Day was held in 1969. Over 2,500 tins were borrowed from the Red Cross and labelled, and 400,000 flags had pins put in them by volunteers – it was before the days of sticky backs. A fund raising ball was attended by the Governor in early 1970. Some pupils had left school and were earning their own living or were training at the Kwun Tong Rehabilitation Centre. Two staff had been sent for overseas training.

The early days were over.

 

Adapted from "Some personal recollections of the first few years" (Annual Report 1980-81) by Lady Bremridge, Vice-Patron of the Association.



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