Brother Columba passes away

Brother Columba Gleeson, the last De La Salle principal of St Joseph`s School Kuching has passed away in Dublin, Ireland.

Old Josephians Association sources informed The Borneo Post that the 80-year-old Irish-born Brother died at around 6.30pm (Malaysian time) yesterday.

Bro Columba first came to Sarawak to teach in Sacred Heart School, Sibu in the 1957.

He became the principal of St Joseph`s in 1970 and served until his retirement in 1987. Old boys of the school fondly remember those years as an era of academic and co-curricular excellence in the school`s history.

State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohd Morshidi Abdul Ghani, who had studied under Bro Columba, described him as a great teacher and principal.

He said Bro Columba would always be there attending students` welfare and needs both in studies and sports.

“He was race and religion blind,” Morshidi said when asked for his comments on Bro Columba`s demise.

When told of the sad news Sarawak United People`s Party president Senator Datuk Sim Kui Hian who is also the Old Josephians Association chairman said: “We have lost a friend, a teacher, a mentor and a principal who has touched the lives of so many students.

“His death is not only a loss to St Joseph`s School but also to the people of Sarawak.”

Another former student Prof Pierce Chow, Professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and Senior Consultant Surgeon at National Cancer Centre Singapore and Singapore General Hospital said: “For those who were fortunate to have been taught by him, it is the passing of an era, of that part of our lives when our characters were moulded into what we have become. He will forever be with us, for he is part of us.”

For The Borneo Post senior news editor Haroun Abdullah who is a former student, Bro Columba was a great disciplinarian who had the welfare of his students at heart.

“I believe those who had been in St Joseph`s School during Bro Columba`s time are proud to have been guided by such dedicated teacher.”

St Joseph`s School and the Old Josephians Association are making arrangements for the signing of the condolence book.

(Taken from The Borneo Post)

Brother Columba (1935 – 2016)

News have been received from Ireland of the passing of Brother Columba, one of the most respected and well-loved Principals of St. Joseph`s School, Kuching and a former teacher of Sacred Heart Secondary School in Sibu.

Brother Columba, born James Gleeson, was called to the Lord at about 7.30pm (Malaysian Time) on Wednesday, 3 February, 2016, slightly more than a month before his 81st Birthday.

Fondly known to his family as “Jimmy,” Brother Columba was born on 18th March, 1935 to a farming family in a small town called Cullenwaine, Co. Ottaly in Ireland (a country which he always maintained is not part of the British Isles). As the eldest in the family of 8 children, in accord with the tradition of the time, he took his father`s name, “James”. His father and his mother, Anne Corbett, were full time farmers, and young Jimmy spent time after school each day, to help his parents in looking after the farm.

At the age of 13, he left home to join the De La Salle Brothers` Junior Training Centre at Mallow and Castletown.

At a young age of 22, he arrived in Sarawak in 1957 to teach in Sacred School in Sibu until 1962 when he returned to Ireland for further studies. Whilst in Sibu, he excelled also as a footballer and was a member of the Sibu football team in the then Sarawak Cup competition in the early 1960s.

In 1966, he returned to Sarawak to teach in St. Joseph`s Kuching and was the Form Teacher in Lower Six Arts, teaching Economics, Geography and General Paper. He was a keen hockey player, he soon introduced hockey in the School and produced outstanding teams and players in the game.

He took over as Principal of St. Joseph`s from the late Bro. Albinus in 1970 and remained as principal until his retirement in 1987 when he felt that the locals, particularly from the ranks of the ex-pupils, should take over the responsibilities of managing St. Joseph`s, so that the fine traditions of the School and the quality of education for the youths of the State, which have been cultivated during the La Salle Brothers` era, would be maintained.

During his stewardship at St. Joseph`s, the School enjoyed a most successful era of having excellent academic results and outstanding performances in sports and other extra-curricular activities.

A skillful motivator, with a commitment and dedication to his vocation which was always second to none, Brother Columba forged a strong bond with his fellow teachers and his students, developing their teaching and intellectual potentials and instilling in them strong moral values. He cultivated virtues of mutual respect and understanding amongst his staff and students of diverse family and racial backgrounds, cultures, creeds and levels of abilities. For his outstanding contributions to education and invaluable services to St. Joseph`s, he had been honoured by the State, and most recently, with a Bronze Commemoration Medal during Sarawak`s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Independence.

After his retirement from St. Joseph`s, he was actively engaged in pastoral work in the Catholic Archdiocese of Kuching, including counseling of the youths, a task which he always enjoyed and found most fulfilling. During this period, he founded the newspaper, Today`s Catholic, and was its editor. His regular column, Signpost, in this newspaper was a favourite amongst many of its readers who find his writings an inspiration in the search for a true meaning of Life.

These articles have now been compiled into a Book, Living in Faith.

For family reasons, he returned to Ireland in 1997 where he served the La Salle Community in various capacities in Castletown and Belfast.

He returned to this part of the world from time to time on the invitation of his former students to “catch up” with them in Kuching, Sibu and Singapore. Many of his students also visited him in Ireland particularly in the last few years when he was at Miguel House, the retirement home at Castletown where he passed away peacefully on 3rd February.

In one of his articles in Today`s Catholic, captioned Giving Thanks and Praise he wrote about a former teacher, in her advanced age, living out her life in a retirement home, receiving a card from one of her students who became a successful businessman. She was absolutely thrilled to be remembered for what she had done as a teacher. Brother Columba too richly deserve all our thanks and praises for all the sacrifices that he had made in coming to Sarawak and how much he had done for the many, many people in this country whose life had been touched by him in keeping with the noble aims of the La Salle Order. He often reminded those who visited him in Castletown, that even though he had been a teacher throughout his adult life, he did not have a single former student who is Irish. All his students are from Sacred Heart and St. Joseph`s in Sarawak!

Brother Columba is gone to be with the Lord, but he will never be forgotten. May his Soul rest in peace.

Brother Columba Gleeson

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Funeral Of Br Columba Gleeson (James Gleeson)

Back to list

Leave a Reply