A Tribute to Moses Tay Moh Seh 

By Daniel S. P. Lim

Moses Tay passed on at the age of 92 on December 22, 2020 and is survived by his lovely wife Ho Ung Ging and successful sons namely, Dato’ Daniel Tay, Esq (Consultant lawyer), Dr. Samuel Tay (Colorectal Surgeon) and Captain Stephen Tay (Commercial Pilot – SIA), together with their spouses, nine grandchildren and spouses, as well as three great grandchildren. 



Much has been spoken and written about his achievements in tennis, which is legendary.  Moses has much to be proud of. Aside from the 11-time Perak Open singles achievement, he can proudly lay claim to bringing home the first international win in tennis in 1957 and  captaincy of the National Davis Cup team from 1969 to 1971. This honour is rated by him as one of his most prized trophies amongst his other achievements.

A further recognition came a few years ago when three lawn tennis courts at the YMCA of Ipoh were designated as the ‘Moses Tay Tennis Arena’ in addition to the two existing hard courts. These are the only lawn or grass tennis courts in Perak taking the colours of Wimbledon. These lawn tennis courts were constructed when Dr MK Yee was captain of the tennis fraternity. 

All those achievements came about through sheer discipline, determination and strength of character. Those who knew Moses can testify that when he sets out to achieve something, nothing can stop him. Come rain or shine he would be at the courts practicing or at some fields running. He would practice in the courts when the sun was at its peak to develop perseverance and he would do many laps around the fields even when it was raining to develop stamina. Such was his strength of character. 



Much too has been bandied about concerning his mode of disciplining students – his signature caning (for boys) and duck walk (for girls). Many of the beneficiaries of Moses’ brand of discipline have attributed their success largely to him, for keeping them on the straight and narrow. The need for hard work, conscientiousness and discipline were somehow inculcated in them through his pep talks as well as through the fear he placed in them should they deviate.

The ethos which Moses practiced was not much different from that of the typical Chinese diaspora who crossed the high seas and battled hardships to secure a better future for themselves and their descendants. Moses, like every “tiger father or mother”, believed in strict parenting or upbringing of children coupled with arming them with skills, strong work habits and inner confidence which would prepare them for a better future. Long before Amy Chua of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” fame, there was Moses Tay.

There is no question of doubt too that underlying his philosophy on the necessity of discipline for good upbringing, is the biblical injunction “spare the rod, spoil the child.” (Proverbs 13:24).

This very much explains why he personally enforced strict discipline not only in the home but also at the school he helmed and it is no coincidence that during his time, it rose to greater heights and was a school much sought after by many a parent who wanted his or her child to excel.

During his tenure as Principal of Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) aka S.M. Methodist Sitiawan from 1972 to 1979, the names of many of the students from the school with sterling results for SPM and STPM were constantly and consistently in the news.

Without any shadow of doubt, he left an indelible mark on the school and a long-lasting legacy in the lives of many of his students.



One might ask, how did all these come about? For this, a brief history of Sitiawan might be able to throw some light.

The beginnings of Sitiawan can be traced to the then colonial government’s interest in rice cultivation at the turn of the 19th century.  With government support, the recruitment of Fuzhous was undertaken by the Methodist Episcopal Mission led by two Chinese pastors. The Christian Fuzhou immigrants first settled in the Kampung Koh area and were housed in attap sheds. The communal life was centered around an attap shed known as “muksu lau”, which in the Fuzhou dialect meant the parsonage and it included an orphanage. It was later enlarged to house the very first school – ACS, with 22 students. 

Given the virtues of hard work and thrift of the Fuzhous, the faith of the forefathers, as well as the church’s emphasis on Education as a means to uplift the livelihood of the people and to secure a better future, one can begin to understand where Moses, a descendant of Fuzhou immigrants obtained his drive and shaped his ambition. 

He was cognizant of the church’s role in providing for the needs of the early settlers, including education, and he sought to ensure that the students who passed through the school would not lay to waste the given opportunity made possible through literally, the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices of their parents. He continued to build on the church’s mission concerning education and strived to turn the school into a center for educational excellence. 

One of the missionaries who had a great influence on Moses’ life was the late Rev. Eugene McGraw who served as pastor of Wesley Methodist Church Taiping as well as Principal of the Methodist School in Sitiawan from 1937 to 1941.  He left Malaya due to the war and returned to serve as Principal of Methodist Schools in Sibu, Malacca and Penang before he returned to the States in 1971.

Rev. McGraw was a caring pastor and very much a role model to Moses as an Educator. It was he who encouraged Moses to pursue his Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree with the University of London, which he obtained through sheer hard work and diligence.  Moses was proud of his BA not only because of what it stood for in the academic circle, but also that ‘BA’ was an acronym for being ‘Born Again’, pointing to his spiritual status as being spiritually regenerated.

With such close affiliation with Rev. McGraw, other missionaries and pastors, one can understand why he and his family always has such great affinity with the men of the cloth. He taught his family to live their lives as he did, in gratitude for all of God’s blessings and to pour much labor of love into the churches they associated themselves with.

Christmas was central to Moses’ faith, wherein Christians like him would commemorate the birth of Jesus. Every Christmas holiday he would gather his family for reunion, as well as to celebrate this all-important day. What a befitting finale to have his funeral on Christmas Day, 25th December, 2020, to mark his passing on from this earthly life to a new life with his Redeemer!



For more on the life of Moses Tay, read SeeFoon’s article on him published in Ipoh Echo in July 2015 :


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