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Sybil Kathigasu

Sybil Medan Kathigasu (née Daly) GM (3 September 1899 - 12 June 1948) was a Malayan Eurasian nurse who supported the resistance during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. She was the only Malayan woman to be ever awarded with the George Medal for bravery.

Sybil Medan Kathigasu was born Sybil Medan Daly to Joseph Daly, an Irish-Eurasian planter, and Beatrice Matilda Daly née Martin, a French-Eurasian midwife on 3 September 1899 in Medan, Sumatra, the Dutch East Indies (thus reflected in her middle name). Her paternal grandparents were an Irishman and a Eurasian woman while her maternal grandparents were a Frenchman named Pierre Louie Martin and a Eurasian woman named Evelyn Adeline Martin née Morrett. She was the fifth child and the only girl.

She was trained as a nurse and midwife and spoke Cantonese fluently. She and her husband, Dr. Abdon Clement (A.C.) Kathigasu, operated a clinic at No. 141, Brewster Road (now Jalan Sultan Idris Shah) in Ipoh from 1926 until the Japanese invasion of Malaya. The family escaped to the nearby town of Papan days before Japanese forces occupied Ipoh. The local Chinese community fondly remembered her husband, who was given the Hakka nickname "You Loy-De".

Residing at No. 74, Main Street in Papan, the Kathigasus secretly kept shortwave radio sets and listened to BBC broadcasts. They quietly supplied medicines, medical services and information to the resistance forces until they were arrested in 1943.

Despite being interrogated and tortured by the Japanese military police, Sybil persisted in her efforts and was thrown in Batu Gajah jail. After Malaya was liberated from the Japanese in August 1945, Sybil was flown to Britain for medical treatment. There, she began writing her memoirs.

  • No Dram of Mercy (Neville Spearman, 1954; reprinted Oxford University Press, 1983 and Prometheus Enterprises, 2006)
  • Faces of Courage: A Revealing Historical Appreciation of Colonial Malaya's Legendary Kathigasu Family by Norma Miraflor & Ian Ward (2006, )
  • Sybil is played by Jacintha Abisheganaden in the TV drama series The Price of Peace.
  • In 2010, a 10-part miniseries drama based on her life was produced by Malaysian satellite television company Astro and Red Communications titled Apa Dosaku? (Malay: What Is My Sin?). Sybil's role was played by model and actress Elaine Daly, who also happens to be Sybil's grandniece.
  • In 2016, Google Malaysia commemorated her 117th birthday with a special Doodle; depicting her in her former residence in Papan, Perak.


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