Lancelot Maurice Pennefather
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Lancelot Maurice Pennefather, also known as L. M. Pennefather (b. 1 January 1894, Malacca – d. 22 June 1982, Singapore) was a noted footballer, athlete, cricketer and hockey player. He was nicknamed “Son of the Devil” for his fearlessness. Between 1922 and 1928, Pennefather represented Singapore in six Malaya Cup finals, lifting the trophy four times.
Early life and career
Born to government surveyor John Pyne Pennefather and his wife Anne De Souza, Pennefather had seven brothers and four sisters. He attended St Francis’ elementary school in Malacca before moving with his family to Singapore at the age of 14, after which he attended St Joseph’s Institution. In 1918, Pennefather met Alice Edith Wilhelmina Patterson and married her a year later.
An accountant by trade, Pennefather was employed at Universal Pictures. After retiring from Universal in 1950, he worked as a tour guide at a local brewery for the next 16 years.
A versatile sportsman, Pennefather participated with distinction in a number of disciplines including football, athletics, cricket, hockey, badminton and tennis. During his time at St Joseph’s, he was twice the school’s individual champion in sports, the inter-school champion in 1910 and runner-up the following year.
Having joined the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC), Pennefather was individual champion of the SRC from 1919 to 1921, and inter-club champion in 1921. He also competed with success at a number of Malayan Amateur Athletic championships in the 1920s.
Pennefather’s favourite athletic events were the 100-yard and 200-yard sprints, and the 120-yard hurdles, his best times for these events being 10.4 seconds for the 100-yard sprint and 16.6 seconds for the 120-yard hurdles.
He also played team sports, representing the SRC in football, cricket and hockey. A newspaper report from 1933 named Pennefather “one of Singapore’s best all-round athletes in his day”.
Pennefather is best known as a footballer, having captained the SRC team during an early boom for the Singapore league. He also represented Singapore during the first decade of the Malaya Cup, a successful period for the team.
Pennefather had begun playing for Singapore in friendly matches in the 1910s, scoring in a match against Johor in 1914. When the Malaya Cup was inaugurated in 1921, Pennefather was asked to join the team but declined as he was focused on training for the SRC athletics championships.
In July 1922, Pennefather made his Malaya Cup debut against Johor. He played through the campaign as Singapore reached the final where they lost 3-2 to Selangor. For the next six years Pennefather was a regular on the team, having lifted his first trophy in a 2-1 defeat of Perak in 1923.
In 1925, the Malaya Cup final was held in Singapore for the first time and it proved to be a memorable occasion for Pennefather. Playing in front of a packed Anson Road Stadium, Pennefather marshalled Singapore’s rearguard against Selangor’s forwards and led his team to a 2-1 win. A Straits Times report singled out Pennefather for his notable performance in the game.
Pennefather’s last appearance in the Malaya Cup final was in 1928, a 2-2 tie between Singapore and Selangor in which the trophy was shared. Once again, the plaudits went to Pennefather, with the Straits Times reporting that he “played a fine game and over and over again saved his side from disaster”.
Some 47 years after his retirement from football, a New Nation report remembered Pennefather as “the favourite of the crowds with his end-to-end clearances, his fierce tackles against giant forwards and uncanny coverage of the goal area”.
Retirement from football
There are differing accounts of Pennefather’s retirement from football. A 1979 Straits Times article reported that he had retired from the game in 1928 after an injury. A 1933 article from the same newspaper, however, related an incident in which Pennefather had collided with an opposing player in a game against the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. According to the report, Pennefather was “blamed for rough tactics” and left the game for good as he was “hurt by this allegation of unfairness”.
Pennefather formed a famous sporting couple with his wife Alice. She had started playing badminton the year they were married, and was coached in the sport by her husband. In 1931, Alice became the badminton singles champion of both Singapore and Malaya, also winning the Singapore title in 1932, 1934 and 1937. In addition, she was Singapore’s tennis champion from 1936 to 1938, as well as captain of the national women’s hockey team.
Pennefather passed away on June 22, 1982, leaving behind Alice and sons Ashton and Percy. The latter led Singapore’s national hockey team at the 1956 Olympic Games, and retired as one of Singapore’s greats in the sport. Percy’s daughter Annabel, who also represented Singapore in hockey, became president of the Singapore Hockey Federation and vice-president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.
A champion of yesterday. (1933, November 19). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Diamond anniversary…. (1979, March 3). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Football. Inter-state: Singapore vs Johore. (1914, July 11). Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 12. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Lancelot Maurice Pennefather. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from http://www.pennyfather.org/ind858.html
Malaya Cup final. Singapore’s convincing win against Selangor. (1925, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
The Cup final. Second half thrills in drawn game. (1928, August 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Untitled. (1982, June 23). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved on June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Yap, S. (1975, April 25). Fullback with wings [Microfilm: NL8293]. New Nation, pp. 10-11.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Pennefather, Lancelot Maurice, 1894-1982
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