An Oral Account of Maria Hertogh’s condition while she was place in the care of
Convent of the Good Shepherd
Background of Interviewee
Mrs Clarke is the daughter of a wealthy Chinese rubber plantation owner. She lost her mother
in the war and her father later remarried. At the demand of her step-mother, she was sent to a
“boarding school” in Singapore to study. This school was the Convent of the Good Shepherd
which still stands at Thomson Road. Mrs Clarke was sent to the home when she was about
12. Five years later, she met Maria Hertogh, although through unfortunate circumstances.
Throughout the interview, she was full of expressions as she recalled the most tensed week in
the convent and the story of Maria Hertogh.
Profile Of Interviewee
Name of Interviewee: Molly Clarke nee Tan
Age: 70 (as in NRIC)
Place: Mrs Clarke’s home
Duration: About an hour
Language: English (mostly Singlish with lots of colloquial terms)
Excerpts of the Interview.
How did you get to stay in the Convent?
My mother was killed by the Japanese soildiers in our rubber plantation. Then my father
remarried and our step-mother a Cantonese teacher did not like me and Sally (her sister). So
my father got no choice send us to a boarding school. Last time we consider the convent a
boarding school. Last time we call the Good Shepherd Convent ah, now call Marymount
Convent. Still there. Thomson road.
You met Maria Hertogh?
Ya she was there for a week after Sister Clumbers our matron got involved in the matter.
Maria’s mother wanted her to stay at a Catholic place since she was a Catholic. Maria is a
baptized Catholic you know. So Sister Clumbers decided to help lor. There was no other
convent at that time also.
By the reports that I have read, I must ask you, when you saw Maria did you feel as if
she was indeed European or Malay?
Wow! She was a pretty girl you know that Maria. She was beautiful. She got blue eyes like
my Sera (Mrs Clarke’s grand-daughter) and she had the fairest skin of an ang moh. To me she
looked European. Nobody will say she Malay. But she look very weird when she first came
to the convent. She wear a baju kurung and tundung. I never read papers at that time but Sally
(Mrs Clarke’s sister) will tell you that Maria was always photographed in traditional Malay
outfit throughout the court case.
You didn’t follow the story in the newspapers?
That time I only interest in sewing. I don’t read. Anyway, in the convent we also don’t get
newspapers everyday. When the caretaker buy then we read lor. Sally like all these. I sit
down and sew then she will read to me.
What do you recall about the newspaper stories that Sally read to you?
When Aminah won the first appeal, she so smart she quickly get this small girl married to an
old man. Not really old man la but 2 times her age. He was a teacher. But you know, not once
in the convent she asked for that man. She only ask for her Malay mother. That one I
remember very well because just a few days before only she won the appeal.
Then there were lots of pictures about the riots. So many cars burnt down. About 20 people I
think were killed. The Muslim fanatics even came chanting their prayers to our convent.
Scary that one!
Tell me more about the situation at the convent that week.
Actually Maria was brought straight from the convent together with Sister and her mother.
But before that Sister is very intelligent, she arrange for the British army to guard the convent
all around la. She don’t want the police because most of the police all Malay. They purposely
won’t take action because the judge rule not in their favour. Then after she arrange security
for us, then she told us that this girl Maria will be staying with us. None of us must disturb
her. We also not allowed to talk to her or ask her anything. We mind our own business lor.
Then some of the free time also suspended because scared of problems outside. We have two
dormitories. One upstairs and one down stairs. We had all our meals upstairs. For 2 days we
were not allowed to leave the second floor. Got curfew also lor.
Was Maria a friendly person?
Aiyoh that girl! She gave Sister Clumbers and all the nuns a headache! She cry cry and cry.
Then she keep screaming in Malay. You won’t believe, the other mother bring her up until
the girl don’t know English! Then she also throw tantrums because she want the Malay
mother. Then food also she don’t want to eat. She want halal food. Then we all that week ah,
all food halal lor. They scared to spark off more riots.
I can’t say if she friendly. We are not allowed to talk to her and that time we are all afraid of
the nuns. The convent is like military you know. Must follow instructions. Very strict. Tough
life. Like or don’t like can’t say anything.
Maria was screaming and throwing tantrums and how did the nuns handle this? Did
they counsel her?
Sister Clumbers was the only one in charge of Maria. She always seen talking with that girl.
Then she will not look at Sister Clumbers when she talk. Sister Clumbers, you don’t play a
fool. She got mad. She made Maria wear Western clothes. Give her a dress then she throw
her Baju away. I tell you her Malay mother so bad give her to wear the tangkal.1 Sister
Clumbers so daring she cut it away. Then after that slightly ok already. Terrible before that.
When you said things were ok, what did you mean?
She stopped crying. Then she start to give her real mother some face lor. Then she played
with a few girls la. She became cooperative.
How did Maria part?
That day the judge reject the Malay lady’s appeal the riots all became worse. So many
Muslims, Indian Muslims all demonstrated outside the court. They tried to march into our
convent but the British soldiers very strong then they couldn’t. That night itself they pack her
off to Holland. It was about 3am in the morning then Sister, the RAF or RSAF I don’t know
the term now, but you know what they call the British air force last time in Singapore…
I think it’s the RAF.
Charm belt worn by muslims (interview with Molly Clarke)
Ya, the RAF and the Gurkha, you know ah even Lee Kuan Yew use Gurkha gaurds…they all
very fierce soldiers. Willing to die for their duty. So all these people heavily guarded the
convent and took her in a military transport to the Kallang Airport. Next day or the day after I
think, paper report that Maria go back to Holland with her mother lo! Sister also got once
show us the picture at the airport. Then ah many years later, before Sister Clumbers died, she
told us that Maria married a man called Gerard in Holland. He’s a Dutch. They had so many
But you know ah, after Maria left to Holland with her mother the real one, Sister Clumbers
go to Sir Lanka to stay for 3 months. The newspaper publish that she was transferred out of
Singapore. But actually she just want to please the fanatic people, say she transferred. Then
she come back quietly when everything cool down.