Mama Low a Pioneer In Nation-Building

An orphan’s contribution

By Tek Chong

Yoong Fan Ngian and Sian Li who have journeyed with us for over 30 years in our mutual interest in the marriage and family ministries have been telling us about Daniel and Christine Low who they mentored in this ministry. They told us Daniel was the grandson of Mama Low whom we knew when we attended Wesley Methodist Church in Melaka in the 1960s. It was a divine appointment that we met Daniel and Christine in DUMC,  KL where they were holding an Alpha Marriage Preparation Course.  Thus, we got connected to their parents David and Rose Low again. Tek was impressed when he heard the story of David’s remarkable mother Tan Poh Siew whom we lovingly remembered as Mama Low but did not know her background until now.

Above: With David & Rose Low in Melaka

Connecting With Three Generations Of Lows

After meeting Daniel and Christine Low we made it a point to visit their parents David and Rose in Melaka.  David was with me in Anglo-Chinese School Melaka. We laughed and talked about our colourful school mates, how some of the bold and shameless mischievous boys were caught red handed drinking from our teacher’s thermos flask of coffee. We chuckled over how our history teacher interrupted the weekly Radio Malaysia Audio History Lessons when he wanted to hear the latest rubber market prices from the same radio. David told us the inside story: this teacher was the owner of a small rubber estate, hence his interest in the current prices of rubber to the point he would stop the lesson to check. We recalled how our American headmaster used us students to build the basketball court; and how we literally carried the whole bicycle shed re-locating it from one site to another. This headmaster was a member of the American Air force Ground crew, hence his gung- ho spirit, inculcating the same spirit in his students in his magnificent projects!


The story telling became interesting when I asked David about his mother, the Mama Low that I knew when we attended the Melaka Methodist Church.

Mama & Papa Low

Mama Low, Tan Poh Siew was an orphan. The Methodist Mission in Penang brought her up in their orphanage. Soon Poh Siew’s capability stood out and she was put in charge as a ‘big sister’ to the other orphans. She finished her secondary schooling with good marks and arrangement was made for her to travel to Ireland for her nursing training. After she qualified as a certified midwife she joined the public health service and was transferred to Malacca (now spelled as Melaka).  Her organisational ability was recognised by the then Colonial Health Authority and she was given the important assignment to set up high standard Midwifery Stations in all the rural areas in the State of Melaka.  David said with pride how he remembered tagging along with his mother visiting all the midwife stations being well received by the many local midwives who loved and respected Mama Low.

Debt to Her Church

Her story kept me spellbound. This was not the Mama Low that I knew when I was a youth growing up in Malacca. She was a kindly, gentle elderly lady with a great sense of humour and motherly warmth to everyone in the church. I did not know that she was a superwoman then.  I now realised why she was so loyal to her church, the Methodist Church; why she loved the American missionaries so devotedly. She was brought up and nurtured by the Church. The Methodist Church is HER family. A salute to the early pioneers, the godly early American Methodist missionaries!

David talks about his mother

Malayan Pioneers

I was awestruck by this little woman’s professional achievements – a Chinese young lady driving her little car to the remote areas of Malacca, setting up clinics and training young midwives to work under difficult circumstances. She was an unsung pioneering nation-building hero of our country. Thousands of women of all races had benefited from her noble but quiet labour of love and devotion. May this not be another forgotten tale of how Malaysia is built up by pioneers of different races. 



One Comment

  1. October 2018 Feedback from readers for: about: Mama Low, A Pioneer In Nation Building ISSUE 43

    Wonderful story,only short coming is not enough details.

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