Dato’ Dr Ling Sing Hang, the eldest son of the late Reverend Ling Kah Ngiong, was born on December 11, 1911. His father pastored the Geylang Methodist Church and Foochow Methodist Church in Singapore as well as the Pioneer Methodist Church and Trinity Methodist Church in Sitiawan, Malaya. However, Ling did not follow in his father’s footsteps and became a doctor who was noted for his contributions to education and community service.
Dr Ling had his early education in Anglo Chinese School (ACS) Sitiawan, ACS Ipoh, and Penang Free School before leaving for Hong Kong to study medicine. After a year in Hong Kong, he had to stop due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression. He took a six-year break to work as a teacher at ACS Sitiawan and then as a government clerk in Lumut to support the family as he had four younger siblings (two sisters and two brothers).
He later resumed his medical studies at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and graduated in 1942, after which he worked at the HKU hospital. A keen sportsman, he represented HKU in soccer, cricket and tennis. His love for sports continued after graduation. In the 1950s, he would pilot a speedboat from Teluk Muroh (near the Outward Bound School in Lumut) to get to his clinic on Pangkor Island twice a week.
In 1943, Dr Ling married Ho Swee Hoon whose father, Dr Ho Tai Lian, administered a maternity hospital in Chuanchow, Fukien, China. They were blessed with three daughters and five sons. Three of his children are doctors, two are lawyers, one a teacher, one a hotelier, and another an IT professional. His beloved wife was supportive of all his ventures. He was a generous and faithful supporter of the church and various charities.
During the war, his colleagues working in the Hong Kong coastal hospitals were shot or bayoneted by the invading Japanese troops. To escape the atrocities, he left Hong Kong and went to “Free China” (as the unoccupied parts of China were called in those days). There, he worked in the Presbyterian Mission Hospital for five years, and was fortunate to survive epidemics of cholera and pneumonic plague during the pre-antibiotic era.
Returning to Malaya in 1948, he took over Sitiawan Surgery, a clinic set up by his brother-in-law, the late Dr Ng Kong Kai.
Despite his busy practice, Dr Ling was actively and deeply involved in education as chairman of the board of governors in various schools for over 30 years: ACS Primary School, Kampong Koh, Sitiawan; Methodist English School, Ayer Tawar; ACS Primary School, Lumut (where he was the founder); Nan Hwa Secondary School (to which he donated substantial funds and was instrumental in the construction of the school hall); and ACS Secondary School, Kampong Koh (where he initiated the building of more than 26 classrooms, a new science laboratory, the office block and school hall).
In acknowledging Dr Ling’s contributions, A Brief History of SMJK Nan Hwa, Sitiawan, Perak, noted that: “Earlier in the late 1950s, Dr Ling led the School Management Committee to complete the new extension project, including the Nan Hwa School Auditorium to replace the old Haw Par Hall. He strongly believed in promoting bilingual literacy and competence in Chinese and English.”
According to Reverend T.C. Nga, the founder of Faith Methodist Church in Singapore, “It was fortunate then for ACS Sitiawan to have Dr Ling Sing Hang JP, to head the School Boards, where he spared no effort in serving his alma mater. Under his chairmanship, new classrooms were built, and other amenities and facilities added and upgraded to meet the needs of the students. Dr Ling Sing Hang not only gave his time and talents, but also his treasures sacrificially to help build up ACS Sitiawan, which extended to Lumut and Ayer Tawar to establish new schools.”
Dr Ling was also the founder-president of the Manjung Kutien Association, a Foochow clan association in Sitiawan, to which he donated land and money to complete its first building in 1964. His ancestral village in China also found a generous benefactor in Dr Ling who provided electricity supply and an access road to the village which he found was blocked by a gorge during his visit there.
An active community leader, he was also chairman of the Bruas division of the Gerakan political party for a number of years and the charter president of the Rotary Club of Sitiawan in 1961, serving actively there for 24 years in the Manjung district. In all his community projects, Dr Ling gave generously of his time and wealth.
His most outstanding personal contribution to society was his 30 years of voluntary medical and obstetric services to the not-for-profit Sitiawan Maternity Hospital where he was the medical superintendent from 1948 to 1985. He made daily ward rounds, and dealt with complicated deliveries, aided by a few equally dedicated doctors. The hospital safely delivered about 15,000 babies in that span of time.
In 1960, he was instrumental in seeking funds from the government and public to replace the hospital’s wooden buildings with new ones. The old heritage buildings still stand today as a school for the handicapped and home for senior citizens. In recognition of his service to the community and to education, the Sultan of Perak awarded Dr Ling the Justice of the Peace (JP) in 1966 and Darjah Dato' Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMP) in 1969.
When Dr Ling passed away after a short illness in March 1999, Reverend T.C. Nga wrote: “As a Christian, he always discharged his duties and responsibilities faithfully without fear or favour. He treasured friendships, and heeded St. Paul’s advice to ‘speak the truth in love’. He was a family physician and a personal mentor, a man rooted in Christian teachings. When complimented for his achievements, his response was, ‘I am what I am by the grace of God’.”