Posts Tagged ‘Gail Pilley Harris’

Gail at the same beach she visited 60 years ago.

Six decades ago a young American girl visited a golden sand beach in Sarawak.

Through an invitation from a British Officer, this young girl Gail Pilley Harris and her elder brother sailed from Sibu to Miri for a short holiday.

“I remember a path from the hill which we would run down to the beautiful beach and watch iguanas in a nearby cave,” reminisced the daughter of a famous mother who founded the Sibu Methodist Children’s Home.

Parents John and Muriel Pilley were American missionaries born in Fuzhou, China and so were their children.

All speak fluent Fuzhou dialect.

Gail, who holds a Doctorate in Social Psychology, now resides in Rockford, Knoxville, Tennessee.

She was the guest-of-honour at the recent 60th Anniversary Thanksgiving Celebration of the Sibu Methodist Children’s Home.

Last week I met up with Gail in Miri when she was in town for a brief visit.

Interviewing the warm and open-hearted Gail was a rare priviledge for me.

I almost fell from my chair when she started the conversation in fluent Fuzhou dialect with an authentic China accent!

For the next fifteen minutes I was mesmerized by Gail’s fascinating narration of her dear mother, the indomitable Muriel who founded the Home sixty years ago.

“It all started with four orphaned girls,” said Gail. “My mother was a strong advocate in education for all, despite the fact that during that time when it was considered ‘wasteful and a total loss’ to send girls to school. The birth of a baby girl was often met with more disdain than joy especially in the poor families,” recalled Gail.

Gail also shared her fond memories of Journey’s End (site of the present Wesley Methodist Church) in Sibu. Her mother had affectionately named their residence Journey’s End as she knew they would never return to China again.

To raise money for the abandoned and abused children, the creative founder would stage Shakepeare’s Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It in the Fuzhou dialect. Actors and actresses were recruited from the nearby Methodist Secondary School. Gail also noted that the shows were always a sold-out and that Journey’s End was often filled with beautiful costumes and rehearsals.

At the end of the session, I couldn’t help feeling emotional.

The gale of love in Gail had somewhat left me breathless.

(The interview was conducted on June 15, 2010 in Miri)

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Sixty years ago Gail Pilley Harris (in blue blouse) visited Miri. Last week her childhood memories were replayed at Tanjung Lobang. She related to us how she and her brother used to run down a path from the British District Officer’s residence at the hill to the golden sand beach below and explored the nearby cave. Priceless nostalgia!

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