Dr Paglar: Everyman's Hero
by Shelley, Rex; Chen Fen
About This Book
Dr Charles Joseph Pemberton Paglar (1894-1954), medical doctor, politician and humanitarian, cuts an enigmatic figure in history. His biography, the last publication of the nation's most famous chronicler of Eurasian life, the late Rex Shelley, was completed shortly before the author's death in 2009.
Dr Paglar was born in Perak, Malaysia, the illegitimate son of an English planter and a local Indian woman. He spent his early years in an orphanage in Penang before his adoptive parents brought him to live in Malacca. He studied medicine in Singapore and worked for the government medical service. Controversy reared its ugly head during the Japanese Occupation when Dr Paglar was perceived as being a traitor for leading members of the Eurasian community to Bahau in Negri Sembilan, Malaya, where many perished. After the war, he was charged with treason for collaborating with the Japanese and detained at Outram Prison while awaiting trial. In the end, he was acquitted.
Not allowing these vicissitudes to embitter him, Dr Paglar continued his humanitarian work after the war, becoming the patron or president of 50 organisations. His philanthropic works include setting up a Tamil school and contributing funds for a mosque in Punggol. To this day, older citizens fondly remember the free medical treatment willingly given, the house calls that
went beyond the call of duty and the Paglars' open house to all.
When he died, thousands crammed St Joseph's Church where his funeral was held, and people of all races lined the streets to pay their personal tribute as the cortege made its way to Bidadari Cemetery. He was remembered for his readiness to do anything he could to help the humble people, his warm-heartedness, and selflessly giving himself in service to others.
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