Penang Free School (PFS) was founded on October 21, 1816 by a committee headed by Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings. The school was open to all children regardless of race or religion, hence the name “Free School”.
The current location at Jalan Masjid Negeri is not the original location of the school; before that, it was located in rented premises along Love Lane in the heart of George Town. Not until 1927 was the school fully moved to Jalan Masjid Negeri due to overcrowding and rising enrolment. The original building is now the state museum.
PFS is famous for producing top students in the academic world and also in sports, politics, arts and the judiciary. Among its most famous alumni were Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia; Tuanku Syed Sirajudin; Dr Wu Lien Teh; Tan Sri Datuk Seri Dr Eusoffe Abdoolcader; Tan Sri P. Ramlee; Tan Sri Elyas Omar; Datuk Sri S. Subramanian and many more. The school system is currently a single session, boys-only school, with the exception of girls in the Sixth Form.
Past students who used to study at PFS are called “Old Frees”. Many of them play a big role in preserving school tradition and maintain a close connection to the school – even though some of them are well into their 60s. The Old Frees Association (OFA), with branches as far abroad as Singapore and even London, is the official alumni body that unites former students and organises any school-related activities. Through the OFA, members get to know about current issues affecting the school and how can they contribute.
This year, PFS celebrates its bicentennial, and many activities are being planned to commemorate this milestone, with the help of current and past students. The core values of this school, from its humble beginnings to the institution it is today, continue to be carried on, thanks the passion shared by current and past students.
Ridhuan Abu Bakar is a fulltime photographer specialising in wedding, portrait, landscape, motorsport and documentary photography based in Penang. Originally an interior designer with several firms in KL, once he picked up his first Canon 350D camera he knew that photography was his real passion and he has never looked back ever since. His works can be found at www.detikindah.com.