NST oldtimer Michael Foong dies in Sydney

Michael Foong and John Khoo, former NST chief sub-editors

Michael Foong in Sydney, with John Khoo, another former NST chief sub-editor

Another oldtimer of the Straits Times/New Straits Times has passed on. Michael Foong, chief sub-editor of the paper in the mid to late 1970s, died of cancer last night in Sydney, where he has lived after leaving the Times in 1979. He was 74.

Michael began as a reporter with the Ipoh bureau and was later London correspondent. A favourite pasttime was to drop by at Billingsgate fish market and obtain fish heads for free and a Saturday night curry night with other Malaysians. “Those ang mohs just throw them away,” he would recall in later years, shaking his head in rueful wonder.

After leaving the Times, Michael worked for the Sydney Morning Herald with a small band of other former NST staff, and made up a regular foursome at the golf course. He was also with The Australian, and the Singapore Straits Times, both in Singapore and in their offshore desk in Sydney, headed by Tony Khoo Teng Guan.

Lean, tall and gangly, always with a ready smile and a quip, Michael adapted quickly from being a reporter to the demands and deadline pressures of the sub-editing desk, ready to wash down the day’s cares with a beer and a fish-head or bak-kut-teh supper late in the evening after the paper had gone to bed, and the horrors of putting it all together could be forgotten and laughed off, together with the muttered curses said under his breath at slow copy, slovenly subbing and forced headlines.

Michael had a way with words, as good sub-editors usually do, and would deftly turn around a deadpan headline with a quick rewrite or, with furrows creasing his forehead under the unspoken pressure from editors at his back and impatient caseroom foremen downstairs, put it aside for a quickie smoke break to await inspiration.

Among his memorable headlines was “Matches for Our Matchless Heroes”, to go on a small picture story about a Warriors’ Day appeal.

In his own quiet way Michael, too, was matchless.

Michael is survived by his son, two daughters and three grandsons. His wife Catherine died several years ago.

The funeral, a private affair for family and relatives at his request, will be held in Sydney on Friday.



7 thoughts on “NST oldtimer Michael Foong dies in Sydney

  1. I met Michael last September in Kota Bharu, during the SIC (56) class reunion. He was a simple, jovial and caring man. We will miss him greatly. May the Almighty bless his soul.

  2. Michael seemed out of place in the noisy newsroom with garrulous newsmen but he did fit in well in his quiet, dignified way. He will be missed.

  3. Michael was a jovial and warm person. About a year back, Michael had suggested that my wife (Chow Koon) and I joined him for a tour of South Island, New Zealand by car. Unfortunately, the plan was put on hold because of deteriorating eyesight. It’s sad to learn of his demise. We will miss our “old” friend Michael. (Posted on behalf of my uncle Yong Chu Hwa)

  4. Michael,he was truly a gentleman even during SIC time.Intelligent yet unassuming,ever with a smile.Someone whose presence makes our world a better place.We are sure he is resting in peace and sitting on the right -hand side of God.Our condolence to Lana and his children.

  5. I remember Michael well. He was chief sub but I joined the subs desk. Hardworking, methodical and wonderfully organised. He didn’t suffer fools easily. I was one of them.
    But I will always remember the discipline he exhibited.
    Michael and a few of the senior subs migrated to Australia a couple of years after I joined. If he had stayed longer, I would have learned more. They were members of a dying breed.
    They worked under the “boys from Fleet Street” and they left some fond memories with us.

  6. Michael was an old friend of my parents, Chu Hwa and Chow Koon. He was a most generous and kind friend. We will miss listening to his tales of his travels and we will miss his infamous ‘corned beef’ dish. He will be remembered fondly

  7. Michael and I were classmates and life-long friends. He was an amazing human being and a warm and loving father to his children, a affectionate companion to Lana, and a very precious friend to all us. Michael, you were such a wonderful part of our lives, we had some great and wonderful times – you will always be apart of us and live in us! I miss you very much Michael! Rest in Peace my friend!

    J V Anandan and behalf of Victor Dorairaj, Mimi and Mohamed Sulaiman

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