KUALA LUMPUR: When E Samson spoke with his rich, hypnotising voice, people listened with rapt attention.
As a newsreader over radio and television, his baritone voice was warm and smooth, and left a lasting impact on Malaysians from the 1970s to the 1980s.
Samson Irudayam, fondly known as E Samson, was a powerhouse on the stage, his voice booming during plays by his drama group, Sentul’s very own Blue Heavens.
His brother, Pathinathan, said Samson, “who brought along a sense of comfort, and love in whatever he did, or wherever he went”, died on Monday aged 77.
Samson died of lung cancer at Selayang Hospital, surrounded by his family, he said.
“He was widely loved as a family man, radio and television personality, church leader, voice actor, drama star, singer, dancer and writer,” said Pathinathan, 71.
Samson was born in Kuala Selangor to M Irudayam, a Malayan Railways carpenter, and Annakannu, and the family moved to Sentul in the ’50s.
He joined Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) in 1968 as a newsreader, joining other popular newscasters like Bosco D’Cruz, Leslie Dawson, John Machado, Yahya Long Chik, George Abraham, Ronnie Atkinson, Alan Zachariah, Constance Haslam and Faridah Merican.
Later, he became a mainstay in Sunday afternoon’s RM Playhouse along with D’Cruz and Paul de Souza, teaching listeners, through local dramas, to understand and speak proper English.
These presenters became influential in the cultural life of the nation, and promoted social cohesion.
Samson’s sense of solidarity among members of the community began when he formed Blue Heavens to raise money for charity and churches through dramas, songs and dances, mainly at the railway union hall.
Pathinathan said his brother, who was the lead singer and dancer of the group, popularised the lively Tamil song, Viswanathan Velai Vendum, among people of all races and ages.
Seeing the effect the song had on the people, RTM invited the group to perform the dance on its Tamil entertainment programme, Salangai Oli, to the tune from the classic comedy hit of Sentul Ravichandran’s 1964 movie, Kaathalikka Neramillai.
Former journalist William de Cruz said: “Samson was a Sentul hero, a Sentul soldier, and a pillar of St Joseph’s Church in Sentul.
“People like Samson and Bosco showed us boys and girls what theatre could be, even in Sentul.
“Every once in a while, they would put up a play within the church grounds, and the shows were packed.
“They never made much money, I imagine, and if they recovered their costs, they would probably celebrate at Madras Cafe.”
Sydney-based de Cruz said: “They loved what they did, and they did it for love. And later on, there he was, sharing the same stage with Faridah Merican and Rahim Razali.
“Whether he knew it or not, what Samson was also doing was, he was telling us that ‘You can do it, too’, Sentul boys and girls could do it.”
He said he would sit in awe, starry-eyed in the presence of Samson and “Uncle Bosco”. “They were big people, big presence, big hearts, loud, booming voices.
“I would hang onto every word, listening to how they would speak. You couldn’t help but listen because they spoke so well, without any accent or pretence.”
De Cruz said he was fortunate to have been in touch with Samson, off and on, these last few years.
“At times, I just couldn’t believe he was making time for me, because the last time we would have seen one another was probably 40 or 50 years ago.”
Writer, church leader, voice actor
Samson had written two books, The Blue Heavens, about the drama group and life in Sentul during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and, The Cardinal, about his ties with the late Anthony Soter Fernandez, Malaysia’s first Roman Catholic cardinal.
He was a founding employee of the Cahayasuara Communications Centre (CCC) of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, when it was established in 1967.
Samson was often called upon to do voice overs for archdiocesan and parish-related video productions, and he was also a much-sought after master of ceremonies for church events.
Sentul-born Colman Emmanuel recalled that each time he met Samson, he would call him “Mr egg trays” in reference to his way of creating the perfect sound for recording.
He said Samson used egg trays to line the concrete walls of the Cahayasuara Studio, on Jalan Robertson, to prevent external sounds from disrupting recordings.
Emmanuel said Samson’s voice was so engrossing that he had chills down his spine when he first heard him record two words “Moses, Moses” while doing the voice over for the annual Christmas pageant.
“He had a natural baritone voice with a slight tremor in each spoken word,” he said.
In September 1984, Samson became the director of CCC, making him the first layperson to lead a ministry in the archdiocese. He retired in 2001.
Samson is survived by his wife Esther Rajamah, children Priscilla, Damian and Sharmany, and three grandchildren.
The funeral Mass will take place at 10.30am today at the Church of Jesus Caritas, Jalan Burung Hantu, Taman Kepong, followed by burial at the Cheras Christian Cemetery, Jalan Kuari, Kuala Lumpur.