The British Association (BA), or British European Association as it was then called, was set up in April 1956. It quickly grew to provide help in many ways to both new arrivals and the local community. Newcomers reading this may not know that it has contributed to several “landmarks” of present-day Singapore, as it was instrumental in helping set up Gleneagles Hospital and was a founder of both the Tanglin School and the British Club!
The British European Association of Singapore was founded at a time when Singapore was gaining independence from Britain. There was a need for the interests of British businesses and citizens to be represented in Singapore.
One of the first things the Association was asked to do was to manage Tanglin Preparatory School when Miss A. L. Griffith-Jones, the headmistress, left Singapore in 1957. The buildings at Portsdown Road were added to, and at the beginning of the 1960s a trust was created and the school became Tanglin Trust School. The BEA continued to take an interest in the school and served on the Board of Governors for many years. The BEA also had a representative on the Board of Governors of the International School of Singapore, that later became United World College of South East Asia.
Good quality medical care with air conditioned accommodation was another priority for the BEA. A hospital was needed not only for families posted to Singapore, but also for the provision of treatment for crew and passengers from cruise liners, and pilots and air crew passing through Singapore. A suitable location was sought, the Gleneagles Hotel was purchased, European doctors recruited and one year later Gleneagles Hospital with eighty beds opened its doors. An open day was held on Sunday 7th June 1959. The first baby was born by lunchtime the following day. This was the beginning of Singapore as a regional health care hub.
More recently, the BA supported the development of the British Club by investing $150,000 to enable its further development and in support of the BA objectives of ‘promoting social and recreational activities amongst the membership’. This investment secured BA members’ limited access privileges to its excellent facilities – an arrangement which has run for the past 21 years.
The Association has been continually working for the benefit of the expat community in Singapore. Somewhere along the way we ran sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also changed our name to the British Association of Singapore. So as you can see, membership of the BA means much more than meeting new people and learning new skills – we are a part of Singapore history.