Dr Mohamed Said began writing his autobiography on 31 October 1978, his 71st birthday. Memoirs of a Menteri Besar was published in 1982. Subtitled Early Days the book chronicles his childhood experiences and schooldays in Linggi and later at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

His friend and medical colleague Professor A A Sandosham says in the Introduction :

To me many of these (Linggi) experiences are new. I was surprised to learn of the importance assigned to local tradition and the great influence wielded by the heads of religion and tribal chiefs.

Tan Sri Dr Said was fortunate in the headmasters and teachers (mainly expatriates from British universities) at the Kuala Kangsar college. Being a school for sons of the elite of the day and being a boarding school with relatively few students, the contact between staff and students was good and Tan Sri Dr Said seems to have made good use of his opportunities. His love for literature, kindled by enthusiastic teachers helped to widen his horizons and mould his character.

Encouraged by the positive response to his memoirs, Dr Mohamed Said continued with his writing despite his confession in the Preface that  “the writing of a good autobiography is a much more demanding task than the writing of newspaper articles or of papers for publication in medical journals, and requires of the autobiographer a literary talent of a higher order”.

A few years later he completed the chapters on his medical education in King Edward VII College of Medicine, Singapore and subsequent career as a government doctor. The  manuscripts of the second volume  are unpublished.

Fifteen years after his death on 27 July 1996 at the age of 89, Dr Mohamed Said’s family have decided to publish this Revised Edition in response to requests from friends and members of the public interested in reading about these old-world experiences.

Essentially, the Revised Edition has preserved in total Dr Mohamed Said’s account of his early life written in his inimitable literary style, with minimal editing to coordinate the technical aspects of the language.  There has, however, been a thorough revision of the format and layout of the book in line with modern publishing standards.  The fresh new feel will no doubt enhance its appeal.

The book has been given a more relevant title My Early Life  and for ease of reading, the three long chapters of the first edition have been realigned into ten new chapters demarcated by the appropriate chapter titles.

The photographs have been reorganised into two sections to complement the flow of the narrative. New photographs and images have been added to give the readers a better picture of Dr Mohamed Said the man, his life and times. An image of the young doctor graces the front cover while that of the middle-aged politician appears on the back cover.

A Prologue has been added to provide the link between his early experiences and later life as a medical student, doctor, government administrator and politician. In seeing his childhood and upbringing in a traditional Malay kampung as well as the formal English education he acquired in a prestigious school, the readers are given an idea of how the man’s values were nurtured and strengthened and where these influences came from.

The Epilogue, written immediately after his death and published a couple of years later, presents the link with family. Often when people are public figures, we forget that at the end of each busy, working day they go home to a family that loves them unconditionally, unlike their more scrutinising associates and colleagues at the workplace. The Epilogue is written from a daughter’s subjective, emotional perspective.

Besides the personal record of a man’s life, memoirs are a rich source of the culture and history of a people and of a nation. They contribute retrospective insights into the life and times of the people of a past era that provide the connectivity with the present era.

The book will appeal to readers interested in knowing more about traditional Malay life in a typical Malay kampung at the turn of the twentieth century. It offers us a glimpse into rural life with its myriad customs and traditions at a time when Malaya was an undeveloped British colony. It describes the socio-cultural and religious milieu of the era and helps us to understand better the shaping of the psyche of a small community of Malays.

Dr Mohamed Said’s good fortune in getting an English education in an elite institution imbibed with the best of the English teaching traditions was to open his mind to the culture of academic excellence. It was at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar that rural boys like him were taught by dedicated schoolmasters whose vocation it was to instil in their young students the best learning experiences. It was through the language and literature components in the school curriculum that his love for reading was nurtured and remained throughout his life.

The equally strong grounding provided by the school in the general sciences and arithmetic gave him the academic balance and more importantly, the Senior Cambridge Examination results which qualified him for entrance into medical school.

There is no doubt that like many of his peers who later became outstanding public servants and professionals, Dr Mohamed Said’s dedication to duty was inspired by the excellent teachers  who taught him. The seeds of character, principles and values were sown early in life through the constant exposure to the role models in his home and school environment.

There is no doubt that among them were his widowed mother Hajjah Majidah who brought him up singlehandedly,  and his favourite uncle Mohamed who instilled in him their ancestral Bugis values. At school his role model was Charles Bazell the English teacher who in his eyes “was truly outstanding” and “the best teacher who ever taught me at the Malay College”. 

It is hoped that the memoirs of Dr Mohamed Said in My Early Life will encourage more people to chronicle their life’s experiences for the benefit of those that come after



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