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Biography - Tan Sri Dr Runme Shaw

'The story of the Shaw Brothers is a success story of fairy tale proportions. The main ingredients in the successes of Runme and his brother, Run Run have been sheer business acumen and hard work.'
- Singapore Trade, May 22, 1969

'I believe success is only on thing hardworking. Anything you work hard always shows results. Of course the luck must be with you.'
- Tan Sri Runme Shaw, Pioneers of Singapore, Oral History

Tan Sri Dr Runme Shaw, was Chairman and Founder of the Shaw Organisation (Singapore).

He passed away on 2nd March 1985 at the age of 88 after being in a coma for 2 1/2 years.

He is survived by his wife Peggy (23 June 1916-, Jiangsu) and sons Vee King and Vee Foong and daughters Doris, Vivian, Nora and Sylvia.

Born in 1901 in the district of Zhenhai, Zhejiang, China, Tan Sri Dr Shaw was the third child in a family of seven children. As he once said of his family's economic status: 'We were not rich, but we were well to do'. He was named 'Runme' by his father as it meant 'kindness'. This was a trait which he lived up to in a lifetime of social service and philathropic acts.

As a boy, Tan Sri Dr Shaw went to a traditional school in Shanghai where he studied Confucian classics and classical chinese literature. Soon after completing his secondary school, Tan Sri Dr Shaw started as a sales manager in his father's textile import and export company in Shanghai.


(From Left) Run Run, Runde, Runje, Runme, 1920

But his real interest lay in films. He joined his elder brother, Runde, who was then producing silent films as distribution manager.

In 1924, Tan Sri Dr Shaw arrived by steamer to Singapore to establish a film and theatre business. Overcoming incredible odds and through sheer hard work, Tan Sri Dr Shaw and his brother, Sir Run Run Shaw, began to build their film business one brick at a time.

By the post war years, their business had spread throughout Southeast Asia, Europe and North America, operating a chain of more than 160 cinemas as well as various commercial and residential property developments. In addition, the Shaw brothers also operated amusement parks and film production studios in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.


The Pope greets Runme Shaw as Mrs Shaw
looks on, Singapore

Runme with the children of the Singapore
Spastic Children's Association, 1968

Visit of Queen Elizabeth II to
the Turf Club, 1972

Over the years, Tan Sri Dr Runme Shaw chaired and served on numerous corporate boards outside of his own Shaw Organisation Group of Companies. He served on the Board of Singapore Turf Club, Fraser and Neave Ltd, Bank of Singapore, Shangri-la Hotel Ltd, Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation, Bukit Timah Saddle Club, Alliance Francaise, National St John's Council, National Kidney Foundation, Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, National Safety First Council, Singapore Association of Mental Health, Singapore National Heart Association, Singpoare National Olympic Council, Society for Aid to the Paralysed, Metropolitan YMCA, Young Men's Christian Association of Singapore and the Chinese Swimming Club. For his long service as Chairman of the Tourist Promotion Board, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the President of the Republic of Singapore.

Besides his business interests, Tan Sri Dr Runme was also a famous philanthropist. In 1957, he instituted the Shaw Foundation, which is a fund for charitable purposes in Singapore. Since its inception, the foundation has donated over US$150 million to various associations, schools and institutions. As Chairman of the Turf Club for 19 years, he turned the 'sport of kings' into a major source of funds for cardiac, cancer, liver and pediatric medical research, homes and orphanages, hospitals and associations for the disabled.


Runme with Mrs Milton Rackmill,
wife of president Universal International at Turf Clube, 1965

Runme receives Darjoh Indera Mahkota Pahang by H.H.Sultan of Pahang on May 29,1968

It was also his tenure at the Turf Club that Runme cultivated his love of horses - race horses. He owned some 70 throughbred stallions, each of whom he named after his cinemas.

With the Shaw's racing colours of blue and yellow and red and yellow, these horses have won practically every major race in Singapore, the evidence of which can be seen in the numerous trophies that line his office and the photographs at his mansion in Queen Astrid Park.

His mansion, a sprawling Spanish style bungalow set in four landscaped acres was where Tan Sri Dr Runme relaxed and entertained friends, business associates, foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and many visiting celebrities.

Hollywood stars such as Liz Taylor, Frank Sinatra, William Holden and John Wayne have lazed by his huge pool; watched if they wanted, movies in his private cinema hall. Complimenting the delicacies that was served from the kitchens (there were two, one European and one Chinese) was the Danish-designed glass dining room. This room was unique in that water trickled down its ice blue walls on all four sides, giving visitors the amazing impression that they had stepped into an ice cube. Complimenting the decor of his mansion were the paintings and chinese ceramics Runme collected over the years. He also collected cars, particularly Rolls Royces.

For his lifetime of achievements, Tan Sri Dr Runme Shaw was bestowed with numerous decorations and honours including the title of Panglima Mangku Negara by the Yang di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia; the titles of Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang and Dato Kurnia Perkasa by the Sultan of Pahang; Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, Order of the Holy Sepulchre by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by the Italian President and Officier de la Legion d' Honneur by the French Government.


Runme at his Queen Astrid Park home, 1971

He was an Associate Knight Officer of St John and the Honorary Member of the Academy of Medicine and the Diabetic Society of Singapore.

He was also awarded a Doctor of Letters by the National University of Singapore and the Dag Hammarskjold award for his contribution towards the arts.

 

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