Goh Sin Tub (1927-2004)
Born in Singapore in 1927, Goh Sin Tub received his early education from St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI). He resumed his studies after a disruption during the Japanese Occupation, and received a scholarship to study at Raffles College. As an undergraduate, Goh wrote for the university’s literary magazine The Cauldron, which featured the pioneering work of local writers, and contributed articles to The Singapore Tiger Standard, a local English newspaper. Goh graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English from the University of Malaya in 1951.
After graduation, Goh returned to SJI to teach and was instrumental in setting up a poetry interest group Youth Circle Poetry whose members met regularly to discuss about writing poetry. The group attracted young writers like Edwin Thumboo, whom Goh personally guided and encouraged.
Goh also began writing stories for the Malay press. Encouraged by the editor of the Berita Harian, Goh published his stories under the title Cerpen-Cerpen Pilihan in 1969. The book won the second prize in the National Malay Literature Competition in Kuala Lumpur.
After that, Goh stopped writing to concentrate on his career, first as a civil servant then a banker, and only returned to writing with the publication of The Battle of Bands in 1986. As the then Chairman of the SJI board of governors, Goh wrote the book to raise funds for a new school building for SJI. Following its warm reception, Goh’s publisher persuaded him to write more stories, resulting in almost 20 more books published over a 19-year span.
Goh’s early experiences with the British colonial rule and Japanese Occupation convinced him of the importance of self-government for Singapore, and the need to remember the nation’s history through the writing of literature. Like many his contemporaries, he believed that literature had a role to perform in nation-building and he strongly advocated for a treasury of national memories. Works like the One Singapore trilogy (1998, 2000, 2001), Walk like a Dragon (2004) and his last work, The Angel of Changi and Other Short Stories (2005) are a testament to this commitment.
In recognition of his contributions, Goh was conferred the Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Award in 1996.
Goh Sin Tub passed away on 16 November 2004.
Author Picture © estate of Goh Sin Tub. All rights reserved. Biography from Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery (2008).