R. Suntharalingam was a pupil of Mahmud School in Raub in his early years and continued his secondary education at the Victoria Institution from 1952 to 1956. An outstanding batsman and bowler, he played cricket for the school and was made the V.I. Cricket Vice-Captain in 1955, and Captain in the following year. He was also the Yap Kwan Seng House Captain in his final year at the V.I.
He graduated from the University of Malaya in Singapore in March, 1959, with a Bachelor of Arts degree with first class honours in history. He taught for a few months at his alma mater as a temporary teacher in 1960. The headmaster, Dr. G. E. D. Lewis, seeing a rare combination of Old Boy cum historian, commissioned him to write an official history of the school, as none had existed hitherto. Suntharalingam returned to the University of Malaya to read for his M.A. in May 1960 and on receiving his degree, went on to pursue his Ph. D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He began his academic career at the History Department of University of Malaya in Singapore, rising to the position of Senior Lecturer by 1975. He was Acting Head of the Department from 1970 to 1972.
He was appointed Associate Professor in the History Department, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in July 1975, and simultaneously held the post of Department Coordinator from December 1975 to September 1979. Dr Suntharalingam was involved with the design of many major and minor courses in the History Department and with various historical projects. During his academic career, he specialized in Indian History, focussing on Indian nationalism. He wrote two textbooks and many learned articles. He retired in 1991.
Dr. Suntharalingam was held in high regard by his students and colleagues alike. He had a reputation for being a disciplined and well-prepared lecturer. He would be the first at his office at 8.00 a.m. every working day well before his colleagues arrived. He mixed well with his students and was patient and caring to weak students who went to him for guidance. He had a clear voice that carried to the furthest reaches of the lecture hall. His well-paced lectures would be well supported by course outlines, reading lists and tutorial topics. But woe betide any student who was not prepared for his tutorials! A quiet, modest person, he eschewed fame and rank, and did not bother to apply for the position of Professor, preferring to teach, research and write books. A collection of essays by his USM colleagues and former students, Isu-isu Pensejarahan, was published in 1995 and dedicated to him. Dr. Suntharalingam passed away in 1998.
Dr. Suntharalingam's work, A Short History of the Victoria Institution 1893-1961, was
released on 28th March, 1962, and a copy was sold to every Victorian. The Headmaster, Dr. Lewis,
expressed the hope that the book would be made compulsory reading for all new pupils entering
the V.I. thereon and hoped that it would be revised from time to time. To make sure that the
current batch of Victorians knew their V.I. history, a compulsory test was scheduled for the
whole school a month later. Only a minority failed to pass the objective test. The pupil with
the highest mark was Phua Juay Chee of Form 5B who obtained 47 marks out of a possible 50, and
was awarded a book prize. The next five top scorers were Kwan Kin Kun (4B), Leong Wee Chuen (4A),
Nor Azian bt Idris (U6A2), Foo Yeow Leong (4B) and Quah Chek Jwee (4B). Phua Juay Chee went on
to become the V.I. School Captain in 1964.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE VICTORIA INSTITUTION
he rapid development of Selangor, following the establishment of the British Protectorate in 1874, created a growing demand for English education. The British administration in Selangor needed a regular supply of subordinate officers, who could speak and write fluent English, to man its expanding government machinery. As there were no locally qualified men, the officers were mostly recruited from India or Ceylon, or sometimes from the Straits Settlements. Clearly there was a need for an English school which could meet the demand of the local government. Consequently, a Government English School was established in 1890, but it was soon found to be inadequate. As late as 1892, the High Commissioner, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, drew attention to the unsatisfactory nature of educational facilities in the state.
The Government was not alone in realizing the need for educational facilities in the state. The people of Selangor, in their turn, also felt the need, and this was reflected in the demand for English education made by such public spirited men as Towkay Loke Yew, Captain China Yap Kwan Seng, and Thamboosamy Pillay. The Selangor Government could not for long ignore these demands, and the British Resident, W. H. Treacher agreed to help. It was the joint efforts of these men, which eventually led to the foundation of the Victoria Institution.
The chief obstacle in the way of realizing their aim to build a school was the lack of funds. But in March, 1893, W. H. Treacher discovered that a sum of $3,188/- had been deposited in the Treasury as the money unexpended from the funds raised in 1887 for the erection of a permanent memorial to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Treacher suggested to the sponsors of the subscription that the money could be utilized to build a school. As the fund was raised for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and as it formed the nucleus of the building fund, the new school was named the Victoria Institution.
Finding the idea acceptable, W. H. Treacher convened a meeting of the sponsors of the Jubilee Fund on the 15th June, 1893. At this important meeting, a scheme was launched to build a school to be run on lines similar to those of Raffles Institution in Singapore. It was also resolved to ask the High Commissioner's sanction for a number of items:
Firstly, to call for a government contribution of $5,000/- to meet the sum of $7,825/- paid by the Trustees;
secondly, to ask the Government to get the approval of the State Council for a regulation imposing an assessment of one per cent on all houses and lands in Kuala Lumpur, the proceeds of which were to be paid to the Trustees of the Institution;
thirdly, to fix an annual Government Grant not exceeding $3,000/- to be paid to the funds of the proposed Institution;
fourthly, to call upon the Government to grant a suitable site, free from premium and rent, so long as it was used for educational purposes;
and fifthly, to run the proposed Institution as a Grant-in-aid School, managed by a Board of twelve Trustees with the President (British Resident) and three other Government officers being ex-officio members.
It was further resolved during the meeting that the Government be asked to give favourable consideration to the establishment of Government scholarships for the proposed Institution, and to the selection of boys from the School for subordinate appointments in the Government Service.
The scheme for the buildings of the School was laid before the High Commissioner, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, and while giving his wholehearted approval, he also expressed his appreciation for the manner in which the public had shown an active interest in promoting the scheme. He was especially full of praise for the founders of the School who in addition to Treacher, included Loke Yew, Yap Kwan Seng and Thamboosamy Pillay. The founders besides taking an active interest, had also displayed "their great liberality."
As the sum of $3,188/- was clearly inadequate to meet the costs of the proposed Institution, the founders launched an appeal for donations. This appeal realized over $10,700/-. Among those who donated generously was Sultan Abdul Samad, whose handsome sum of $1,100/-, went a long way in meeting the financial inadequacies. In appreciation of his financial assistance, Sultan Samad was made one of the first two patrons of the School, the other being Sir Cecil Clementi Smith. The demand of the Trustees for a Government contribution to the fund brought $5,000/-. The Government also undertook to provide $3,000/- per year as a school grant, while an education rate not exceeding one per cent on all houses and lands in Kuala Lumpur was expected to realize about $2,250/-. It appeared that there was sufficient funds to begin the construction of the proposed Institution. The generosity of the Kuala Lumpur residents, and the willing assistance of the Government had crystallized what was once an idea into reality. The Victoria Institution, besides being a permanent memorial to Queen Victoria's Jubilee, is also a living symbol of Kuala Lumpur's initiative and effort.
The problem of site was solved when the Government provided about 8 acres of land in High Street, on the left bank of the Klang River, to accommodate the proposed school building and the Headmaster's quarters. Building construction began in 1893; on 14th August, 1893, Mrs. W. H. Treacher laid the foundation stone of the School. Before the end of the year, the building was fast assuming a concrete form.
Although the school was not ready to begin session in January, 1894, the Trustees decided to make use of the Government English School for the time being. As the appointment of the Headmaster was yet to be made, the Rev. Haines acted as the Headmaster. And so the Victoria Institution commenced its career, though not within its own walls, on the 15th January, 1894, with a staff of three, besides the Rev. Haines. A total of 86 boys attended school on the first day.
The school building in High Street was ready for occupation in July, 1894. It consisted of one school block (Block No. 1) and the Headmaster's quarters, built at a cost of $11,500/-. Mr. Bennet Eyre Shaw was appointed the first Headmaster, his selection being made by the Colonial Office in London. The official opening of the School in the new building was fixed for 30th July, 1894. After this, all the teachers and the pupils of the Government English School were absorbed into the Victoria Institution. The attendance register showed a total number of 115 students, who represented boys from Standard I to VI. The School fee was fixed at $1/per month.
The management of the School was in the hands of a Board of twelve Trustees, w'hich was presided over by the British Resident. The first President of the Board was W. H. Treacher, one of the founders of the Victoria Institution. The other founders all served on the first Board of Trustees. The Secretary to the Board was the Headmaster of the Victoria Institution. By an enactment of 1899 the Board became a Corporation, and everything invested in the name of the Board henceforth came under the control of the Corporation.
VICTORIA INSTITUTION AS A GRANT-IN-AID SCHOOL JULY, 1894-SEPTEMBER, 1925
hese three decades were probably the most eventful and momentous years in the history of the Victoria Institution. The period was dominated by the personality of Bennett Eyre Shaw, the first Headmaster of the School, and its only one for about 28 years. In a way, the story of the School in this period is virtually synonymous with the work of Shaw. The achievement of Shaw was to lay a broad base upon which the School come to rest in subsequent years.
Prior to his appointment to the Victoria Institution, Shaw was an Assistant Master in a leading London school. When he took over the Victoria Institution, a number of problems, which were peculiar to a new school, soon confronted him. The first problem was the question of attendance, which tended to be irregular in the early days. Shaw realized that if regular attendance was not insisted upon, it would demoralize the work of other students. Shaw assumed a strict attitude towards those who persistently absented themselves without a good cause; eventually, he was forced to weed out those who persistently kept away from school. At the same time, to promote regular attendance, he offered prizes to those who had attended school regularly over a period. The success of his measures can be gauged from the gradual improvement in average attendance as the years went by. And so in 1902, the average attendance was 93 per cent, a remarkably high percentage, for a school that was only eight years old.
Another early problem which confronted Shaw was the irregular payment of fees. Shaw took steps to enforce strictly a regular payment and in this too, his strict measures were successful. Shaw was also a disciplinarian, and the standard of conduct he achieved in the Victoria Institution was surprisingly high for a school which had begun so recently. Shaw's successors have always endeavoured to maintain and improve the standard of conduct, which has been one of the hall marks of the School. It was also left to Shaw, as Headmaster, to draw up his School curriculum. Shaw felt that a balanced curriculum needed the training of both the mind and the body. Here again, Shaw's pioneering work has been integrated into the tradition of Victoria Institution educational system.
Shaw hoped to make classroom lessons interesting both for the boys and the teachers. In this way, he hoped to achieve the best results. As soon as he assumed office, he introduced elementary science, recitation and drawing. Shaw was also keen on introducing technical education, especially at a higher level, for he realized that a developing state like Selangor badly needed skilled labour.
Shaw kept in touch with current advances that were being made in educational science. He kept expanding or modifying School curriculum with the latest theories on school education. He analysed examination results carefully to remedy faults in the school educational system. In 1895, he was called upon by the Government to draft the Education Code, along lines of the latest English Code.
Weekly report cards was introduced by Shaw, so as to give parents an idea of the progress being made by boys in the School. At the same time, parents were also induced to take an interest in the welfare of their children, which was important for the success of the boys in their educational career. In an attempt to achieve good results, Shaw and his staff sacrificed a good deal of their spare time solving the difficulties of their pupils.
In trying to promote education in the School, and at the same time to perpetuate the memory of some leading public figures, a number of scholarships were founded, for which the boys of the Victoria Institution were allowed to compete late in 1894, the Treacher Scholarship was founded in honour of Sir W. H. Treacher who was one of the founders of the School. In the following year, J. P. Rodger, British Resident in Selangor, founded the Rodger Medal. In 1898, the Steve-Harper Memorial Fund was founded, and in 1909 the Nugent-Walsh Scholarship was floated. These scholarships were an excellent media in which education could be promoted and from the beginning a keen competition ensued for the scholarships.
Shaw was an advocate for the establishment of Oxford or Cambridge Local Examinations in Kuala Lumpur. He felt that such a measure would induce promising boys of the Victoria Institution to remain in school to further their studies instead of leaving after passing Standard VI. Boys from the Victoria Institution prior to 1900, had to travel to Singapore by boat to sit for these examinations. In 1900, however, Shaw's hope was realized and Kuala Lumpur was made a centre for the Cambridge Local Examinations.
Shaw regarded extra curricular activities only second in importance to that of the classroom. From the very beginning, Shaw spent a great deal of time planning out-of door activities for the boys. Football, Cricket and Athletics were among the earliest activities introduced in the School. The first School Athletic Sports was held in 1898, and it henceforth became an annual affair, with practically the whole town turning up in the early days to watch the boys run.
In 1900, A. C. J. Towers organised the St. Mary's Cadet Corps, which was only for those who professed faith in Christianity. When Shaw returned from leave in 1901, he converted it to the Victoria Institution Cadet Corps with Towers as its first Captain. The Victoria Institution Cadet Corps was the first of its kind in Malaya. Shaw was also involved in another pioneering work, when he founded the First Selangor Boy Scouts in 1909. The boys of the Victoria Institution showed a great deal of enthusiasm, and in both these organisations the Victoria Institution displayed a high standard of efficiency. The Cadet Corps had its first Camp in Port Dickson in 1920.
Shaw placed a lot of emphasis on physical training, both for the pupils and the staff. Besides organising games, he also made drill and gymnastics an integral part of the general educational system of the School. The high degree of efficiency reached by the masters and the pupils of the School earned the Victoria Institution the reputation of being the model school for Vocational and Physical Education in Malaya. In fact, the Victoria Institution was the only School in Malaya to have a trained staff properly qualified to teach drill. There were also Art and Handicraft classes, and a well equipped Workshop, which provided for manual work.
Shaw also inaugurated another novelty which was martial in character and in keeping with the spirit that prevailed in the early days of the First World War. This was the Pipe and Bugle Band, which was attached to the Cadet Corps. It was very popular both among the boys and the public.
To further competitive spirit among the boys, and at the some time provide them with an opportunity to play games among themselves, Shaw in 1921 divided the School into five houses. Shaw's successor, R. J. H. Sidney carried this division a stage further in 1923, when he divided the School into ten Houses, each House assuming the name of a celebrity who had taken an active interest in the Victoria Institution. Thus the names of the founders of the School are still perpetuated in the Victoria Institution. In 1929, the number of houses was again cut down to five.
The outbreak of the first World War saw the European members of the staff enlisting for active service overseas. Among those who enlisted and left for England were G. Ambler, J. B. Carr and G. Barber; C. G. Coleman left to join the forces in India. Among those killed in action were Thonley, W. C. Curtis and G. Barber.
The development of the School was rapid during the first few decades. When the new Victoria Institution building was opened in July, 1894, the number of boys on register was 115; by 1902 the number had increased to 532, and in 1924 the total was 950. This phenomenal increase in the numbers attending the school was a reflection of the growing demand for English education and the rapid development of Kuala Lumpur.
This increased admission created many problems especially of accommodation and equipment; and so the original building was soon duplicated and even triplicated. In 1899 a two-storey building, (Block No. 2) consisting of six classrooms beneath and masters' quarters above was constructed at a cost of $12,000/-. This was hardly adequate. In 1902 operations began for another two-storey building (Block No. 3), containing a laboratory, three classrooms and a gymnasium. The building was ready for use in 1903. In 1909 Block No. 4 was constructed, consisting of three classrooms on the ground floor and a large hall on the top floor. In 1921 further expansion took place when a temporary building with three classrooms was erected. In 1926, another one-storey building came up to relieve the pressure. The need for periodic expansion of the School building, and the growing shortage of space was one of the reasons which eventually led to the removal of the school to the beautiful building on Petaling Hill in 1929.
Financially, the School was on a sound basis, being heavily subsidized by the Government. In 1904, the School was granted $8,400/- per annum to reorganise itself. This grant, however, lapsed after 1908. In 1914, the Government undertook an annual payment of $30,000/- to the school. Consequently, the Victoria Institution became one of the best staffed and equipped schools in Malaya. In 1907, a Government estimate revealed that the Government spent $13/- more per pupil in the Victoria Institution than in the next school on the list. The average cost per pupil in that year was $79.87, of which $64.38 was met by the Government.
Shaw's efforts to achieve sound academic results met with favourable response. As early as 1902, the Victoria Institution obtained easily the most passes in the Cambridge local Examinations both in the Federated Malay States and the Straits Settlements. 19 of the 79 passes in that year were from the Victoria Institution: Chan Sze Pong, a pupil of the Victoria Institution had the unique distinction of winning the first Queen's Scholarship for the F.M.S. His equally illustrious brother, Chan Sze Jin won the second Queen's Scholarship.
In March, 1922, Shaw retired after 28 years of devoted service as Headmaster of the Victoria Institution. As a pioneer educationist, Shaw had done as much, if not more than any other for the cause of education in Malaya. But Shaw will be best known and remembered for what he did for the Victoria Institution. Although a strict disciplinarian, he assumed a sympathetic attitude towards student problems. He commanded the respect and admiration of all those who worked with him. Among his pupils, he was always popular. Shaw left a rich heritage in the Victoria Institution, which time will serve to consecrate and preserve.
Shaw's successor was R. J. H. Sidney, who in many ways put the finishing touches to the work of his predecessor. In short, Sidney carried through the process of modernizing the School, and the changes he effected are apparent even to this day.
Among his earliest reforms was the School Tuck Shop. Hitherto, food and drinks had been served in "shady cloisters" by hawkers. Sidney cleared the hawkers and appointed two teachers and some boys to run the Tuck Shop. Besides being a sound hygienic measure, it also proved to be a sound financial proposition. The handsome profits that accrued from the Tuck Shop went into the School funds.
But Sidney is best remembered in the Victoria Institution for the inauguration of the Prefect System in April, 1923. In the first Prefects Charter, it read "On the bearing of the Prefects depends the tone of the School", and these words symbolised the role of the Prefects in the Victoria Institution. In instituting the Prefect System, Sidney hoped to make the Victoria Institution equal to the best Public Schools in England. The Victoria Institution Prefects since 1923 have been a responsible and privileged group, and they have built around the Prefects Board an aura of prestige and efficiency.
Sidney was also a keen drama enthusiast, and in his effort to promote drama in the School, he reorganised the Victoria Institution Musical and Dramatic Society, better known as the V.I.M.A.D.S. Soon the Society was staging Shakespearian and other plays, with marked success. Sidney also took the troupe on tours northwards as far as Bangkok, and southwards to Singapore and the V.I.M.A.D.S. soon established a great reputation in all these places. The first issue of the School Magazine, The Victorian appeared in April, 1923, and this was another innovation for which Sidney was responsible. The Victorian was to be "a mirror in which every activity may be viewed." In its early issues, The Victorian interviewed a number of prominent people, and it soon established itself as one of the leading school magazines in Malaya.
Sidney endeavoured to make the parents take an active interest in what was taking place in the School. As Shaw had done before him, Sidney realized that parents should take an active interest in the welfare of their students, as it was one means of attaining good results, and also helped in maintaining discipline among the boys. To promote the link between the parents and the School, Sidney organised the Parents and Guardians Association. Another of his innovations was the School Conversazione, which showed the parents as well as the public on a small scale the many-sided activities and aims of the School.
There are two other developments with which Sidney had a hand: both these developments were of tremendous importance in the history of the school. The first development was the abolition of the quasi-government status of the School on September 1st, 1925. Sidney in his enthusiasm to make the Victoria Institution a Public School, had paid only lip service to the Education Authorities in the State. He wanted the School to be completely independent, and consequently come to clash with the Education Authorities. Moreover, his relations with the Trustees left much to be desired. These causes probably precipitated the take-over of the School by the Government.
The second development in which Sidney had a hand was the transfer of the School building from High Street to Petaling Hill in 1929. Although the conception of a new Victoria Institution was not his (it was suggested as early as 1918) Sidney by his constant agitation probably hastened the building of the new School. The new School was in step with his overall plan to modernize the Victoria Institution. Although he did not stay to see the new School opened in 1929, he had nevertheless the satisfaction of seeing his efforts brought to fruition when operations for the new building commenced in 1925.
Sidney's period of headmastership was brief, in comparison to that of his predecessor; it ended in February, 1926, only after a period of three years. But in this short period, Sidney achieved what normally would have taken a decade or even a generation. He saw the need to sweep away some old institutions, and he swept them away paying little respect to tradition. The new institutions which he helped to introduce made the Victoria Institution the leading school in Malaya.
The Victoria Institution had witnessed various developments during its first three decades of existence as a grant-in-aid school. It had enjoyed a measure of independence, which had a great influence in the moulding of the School. In various aspects of school education, the Victoria Institution was the pioneer, the Victoria Institution Cadet Corps being one notable example. The Victoria Institution was fortunate in having Shaw and Sidney as its first two Headmasters, for it was their foresight and initiative that made the Victoria Institution the premier school in Malaya.
When the Victoria Institution became a government institution, it entered yet another era in its eventful history.
THE VICTORIA INSTITUTION BECOMES A GOVERNMENT SCHOOL
he period 1925-1929 was a turning point in the history of the school, for it witnessed two events which were of tremendous importance to the Victoria Institution. The first event was the take-over of the School by the Government in September, 1925; the other event was the transfer of the school from the site in High Street to Petaling Hill in 1929. A study of the causes and results of these two important events is important for the understanding of the history of the School.
It is difficult to ascertain, owing to the lack of documentary evidence, why the Government abolished the quasi-independent status of the School. Probably, it was an attempt to get a greater degree of control in the running of the school. Sidney's headmastership revealed the danger of a school following an independent course, in defiance of government policy. Moreover, the 1920's witnessed a great deal of unrest in many of the independent schools in the country, especially in Chinese schools. The Government was anxious that this unrest should not spread to English schools as well, and in an attempt to anticipate any trouble, the Government probably decided to take under its wing all the grant-in-aid English schools.
In a way the take-over of the School was expected, if not welcome to the School. In January, 1920, following a report by a committee which was set up to inquire into the working of aided schools, Government assumed financial control over the Victoria Institution and the other aided schools. Under the new fiscal arrangements, the aided schools credited their income to the Government which in turn undertook to pay the salaries for the teachers. Victorians welcomed the take over, as it offered a better possibility of the Victoria Institution getting a new building.
The take-over of the Victoria Institution by the Government was deplored in certain quarters, but opinion, on the whole was in favour of this measure. But as far as the School was concerned, the Government's action had a detrimental effect. Prior to Government take-over the Victoria Institution staff was mostly the choice of the Headmasters, and usually, those chosen especially the Asian staff, were old boys of the School. Consequently, the staff was able to instil into their pupils something of the Victoria Institution tradition and heritage. But this was all changed after September, 1925. There was a lot of shuffling around of the Victoria Institution staff, and as a result a number of the new members were not old Victorians, and consequently, they imparted little of the Victoria Institution spirit to their pupils. Also, after 1925, the Headmasters of the Victoria Institution were transferred after a brief period to elsewhere in the country. Hence, they had little time to study the educational and other needs of the School. However, these disadvantages tended to be balanced out by the benefits accrued by the school as a result of the take-over.
The causes of the transfer of the Victoria Institution to the new building on Hill are manifold. Firstly, the old school in High Street was inadequate to meet the increased admissions. Periodic extensions of the School building had proved to be only a temporary remedy, while spatial difficulties soon limited the scope for further expansion. Moreover, the building was "dangerous" in some places, and on a number of occasions there were near bad accidents. Inspection by the health authorities in 1918 revealed that the School was excessively overcrowded. Secondly, owing to the proximity of the School to the Klang River it was occasionally flooded and some of the floods assumed serious proportions. The most serious floods occurred in November, 1902, December, 1910, March, 1917 and October, 1918. In an attempt to prevent School flooding, a scheme to straighten the Klang River was instituted. But it was soon found that this scheme affected the School playground, and consequently it was abandoned. Thirdly, the springing up of a number of workshops close to the School, and the development of the High Street as one of the busy parts of the town, seriously affected school work. Under such circumstances, it was felt necessary to shift the School to a less noisy part of the town. Lastly, the Government of Selangor realized the growing demand for English education, and at the same time the need to separate elementary and secondary education. The building of a new School would solve both these problems and out of these variegated factors arose the new Victoria Institution on Petaling Hill.
It is difficult to determine the precise date on which the Government decided on a new site for the School. But as early as 1918, plans were already drawn up for the new School, and contracts for its construction were let. The new site was near Batu Road, where the Government had set aside about twenty-three acres for the proposed new building. It was expected to accommodate about 1,000 boys, but the site was condemned by the Town Planner. The abandoning of this site caused a great deal of delay. For before plans for a new site had matured, Malaya had become the victim of the rubber slump in 1921. The sharp drop in the price of rubber, caused a curtailment in Government expenditure, and hence, many new schemes were shelved, if not abandoned. And so the Victoria Institution had to wait for better days to get its new building.
When Malaya recovered from the slump, plans for the construction of the new building at last got under way. A new site was found on Petaling Hill, and operations commenced in 1925. The foundation stone for the new school was laid by H. H. Sultan of Selangor on 21st September, 1927. It was no mere coincidence that the same Sultan was one of the first twelve Trustees of the School, appointed in 1893. On 26th March, 1929, the School was formally opened in the new building by the High Commissioner Sir Hugh Clifford. This beautiful building, in many ways, justified the eminent place Victoria Institution occupied among the schools in Malaya.
With the change of site, there was also a change in the status of the School. In the past, the Victoria Institution had catered for both primary and secondary students, and classes had ranged from Primary to School Certificate. In the new building, the Victoria Institution became a purely secondary school, catering for students from Standard V and above. And so the Victoria Institution became the first secondary school in Malaya. The change of site also provided the School with various new facilities. One whole wing of the new building was designed for the study of Science. The Victoria Institution had now up-to-date laboratories fully equipped to begin a school course in Science. In 1930 F. Daniel was appointed to the Victoria Institution as its first Science master. It was under his initiative that a course in General Science was evolved as part of the School curriculum. The course he designed was later to be adopted not only in Malaya, but in Africa, Australia and the West Indies as well. In Science, as in many other fields of school education, the Victoria Institution had blazed a trail for others to follow.
The site also provided spacious fields to play games and to carry on the other extra curricular activities, so essential for school life. The cricket pitch that came to be laid out in the Victoria Institution earned the reputation of being one of the best in the country. In June, 1938, an up-to-date Swimming Pool, with spring boards, steps for high diving and shower baths was erected. Instead of having to look elsewhere for a swimming pool, the Victoria Institution now had facilities to hold its own swimming meet and carnivals. The Victoria Institution is still one of the few, if not the only school in Malaya, to have a swimming pool of its own.
G. C. Davies succeeded Sidney as Headmaster, and was in office between 1926 and 1930. He was a strict disciplinarian, indeed good discipline has always been one of the hall marks of the Victoria Institution. Like all Headmasters ever since the time of Shaw, Davies was also a keen enthusiast of games, and encouraged both school and Inter-House games. He was also a great promoter of School Old Boys link. When he left the Victoria Institution he assumed the principalship of Raffles Institution.
F. L. Shaw succeeded Davies, and he endeavoured to elevate the School to greater heights. It is said that he brought grace and dignity to his high office. It was during his term that the School began to achieve a reputation throughout the country. Both in studies and in games, the Victoria Institution excelled itself. In July 1936, Shaw left the School after six years of devoted service. J. B. Neilson acted as Headmaster until June 1937 when C. E. Gates assumed office.
The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 had an immediate effect on the School. In 1940-41, the School grounds became the temporary barracks of the Military. At the same time, the War Taxation Department and other offices were transferred to the School Hall. But the School went on despite these preparations, and C. E. Gates stuck on to his job, even after the Pacific War had spread to Malayan shores. In January, 1942 Kuala Lumpur was occupied by the Japanese. During the Japanese occupation, the School was practically closed, though N. S. Buck was made the Headmaster.
War found the Victoria Institution a fully equipped School, but when it was over, the Victoria Institution was little more than an empty shell. In the course of the War, books, laboratory apparatus, shields and other equipment were lost or destroyed. The war left a serious gap in the Victoria Institution's resources, and it took many years before the loss was replaced.
Both teachers and Old Victorians distinguished themselves in action. Those of the Victoria Institution staff who died were G. Burgess, E. Cobb, H D. Grundy, E. W. Reeve, A. C. Strahan, G. C. Tacchi and T. L. White. In 1949, Sir Anthony Eden unveiled the School War Memorial, where the names of these teachers were boldly engraved. It is not possible here to record the various ways in which other Victorians distinguished themselves in fighting Japanese imperialism.The dropping of the Atom Bomb on Japanese soil signalled the end of Japanese Occupation in Malaya. And the Victoria Institution Hall became the scene for the historic signing of the Japanese surrender on 13th October, 1945. The period of Japanese Occupation was over, but it left in its wake, various problems.
THE POST-WAR PERIOD
hen the War ended in September 1945, the School came under the temporary occupation of Malaya Command. However, the Victoria Institution began its sessions in October 1945, making use of Batu Road School in the afternoon. In April 1946, the School shifted to the defunct Maxwell School. And it was not until September, 1946, that the Victoria Institution was able to return to its own building, following the evacuation by Malaya Command. Needless to say, the Victoria Institution presented a sorry sight, in comparison to what it had been prior to the outbreak of the War.
The problem was one of reconstruction and rehabilitation. No time was wasted before work was begun to bring the School back to normal. M. Vallipuram, who acted as Headmaster between October 1945 and September 1946 set the pace for a quick recovery. But the brunt of the work was left to F. Daniel, who was appointed as the new Headmaster to complete the work, and he did it competently and efficiently.
For over a year, the School's extra curricular activities were badly affected. The playground was in a bad state, although a quick start was made in Football, Cricket and Hockey. But it was the societies that were most severely affected. And no meetings were held for quite sometime. Meanwhile, the Victoria Institution Cadet Corps and the Scout Movement lay dormant. The War had seriously hampered the revival of all these activities.
F. Daniel had a passion for discipline, precision and organisation. His major preoccupation was to allow the School to settle down, while at the same time, to carry through the process of reconstruction in rapid stages. His attention was first directed towards the Science Wing, which was almost a dead shell. With the help of all the Science staff and the laboratory assistants, Daniel redesigned the Science Wing as thought fit. New equipment was directly ordered from England, and before the end of 1946, the Science Wing was re-opened. Since then, it has been the policy of the School to add new apparatus and today it is easily the best equipped school in the Peninsula.
The School library was similarly ransacked during the War. Daniel took a keen interest in trying to revive it. The first problem was to find a place to accommodate a library. Daniel found an ideal place beneath the Science Wing, which was peaceful and spacious. Having got the shelves to accommodate about 10,000 books, and a seating capacity of about 80 boys, he called for donations to purchase books from the Old Victorians and the public. The boys of the School also contributed their share, and they also helped in the classification and issuing of books. The library was also found to be an ideal place to be the school sanctuary where all school trophies and Honours Boards could be housed. Daniel felt that the library would be the most suitable place for the erection of the School War Memorial. On the 17th March 1949, Sir Anthony Eden formally opened the new library and also unveiled the School War Memorial. It was in many ways a historic occasion for the School. As Daniel said, the most encouraging thing about the new library was that "it was our own creation." The School carpenter, Loh Wing, whose service for the school dates back to 1930, had a big hand in the designing of the Library.
Another innovation with which Daniel had a hand was in the formal opening of the Refectory on 3rd February, 1949. It was previously used as the School Tuck Shop, but now, it was converted to other uses as well. Meetings of societies and broadcast lessons were held there.
The School's Golden Jubilee celebrations was also affected by the War. It was to have been celebrated in 1943, but the War caused a postponement. On 12th October, 1946 the Golden Jubilee was celebrated by the School.
Daniel is better known as a Science Master, being the man who designed a course in General Science for Malayans. But the School should remember him as the man who put the Victoria Institution on its feet following the depredations of Second World War. When he left in May 1949, the Victoria Institution had equalled if not surpassed the splendour of its pre-War days.
The successor to Daniel was E. M. F. Payne, who was Headmaster of the School from May 1949 to April 1952, and later became Director of Education. In 1937, and 1938 Payne had served in the Victoria Institution as a Science Master for about 1 1/2 years. Payne continued the good work of Daniel, expanding the facilities of the School to meet new needs. It was during his headmastership that the Post Certificate Class, or Form Six, was introduced into the Victoria Institution to cater for students seeking entry into the University of Malaya. Students, prior to entry into the University, had now to spend about 5 terms in the Post Certificate class. In 1950 the Victoria Institution had only one Sixth Form Class in Science. In later years, Arts classes were also begun. The inability of other schools to provide facilities for Form Six work saw the admission of boys and girls from other schools in Selangor. In 1950, the first girl student was admitted to the Victoria Institution and since then the composition of the School has been supplemented by a steady stream of girls entering the Sixth Form at the Victoria Institution.
Payne left the School in April 1952, when he was appointed Acting Director of Education. Godman acted until J. N. Davis assumed office in July 1952. His stay in the Victoria Institution was a short one, for in April, 1953 he was transferred to Penang. G. P. Dartford became the new Headmaster in April, 1953. A number of changes took place in the School in 1953. The Prefects adopted a new uniform, while the boys were to be in all white.
Dartford was responsible for some important innovations. Prefects were henceforth to be elected by pupils from Form Four and above. Through this means it was hoped to make the students responsible for the election of their own leaders. It was also hoped that the Victoria Institution would contribute in a small way to teach its students some fundamentals in democratic practice. However this innovation did not last for long, and was soon abandoned. Dartford also set up a Student Representative Committee under the Chairmanship of the School Captain. By this measure, it was hoped to canalize school opinion through proper channels. It was also another step in the introduction of democratic practice in the School. The Committee was however dissolved in May, 1956.
Dartford, a historian (author of A Short History of Malaya) tried to promote the study of history in the School. The Historical Society was revived, as a means of encouraging historical discussion among the pupils. On the occasion of the Victoria Institution Diamond Jubilee, Dartford compiled a short history of the School, which appeared in The Victorian, 1954. At the some time, he encouraged the production of a newspaper of 1894, and the Selangor Echo was the result.
Early in 1953, the Victoria Institution Cadet Corps was revived after a lapse of over 12 years, with H. M. de Souza as Officer Commanding. It is rather a surprise that the Victoria Institution Cadet Corps which had achieved such a fine reputation prior to 1941, should have been left dormant for such a long time. However, once revived, the Cadet Corps recaptured a lot of its old popularity. At the beginning of 1954, a School Flight of Air Training Corps was also formed, with T. Navaratnam as Officer Commanding.
On 30th July, 1954, the School celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. A Speech Day was organised, which included among other things Prize Giving and an Exhibition. The day was also notable for the laying of the foundation stone of the new Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association Clubhouse, by the Sultan of Selangor: yet another occasion when the ruling house of Selangor had displayed an interest in the developments of the School. Needless to say, this connection between the School and the ruling house goes back to 1893 when the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Samad donated $1,100/- towards the Victoria Institution building fund.
Dartford left on long leave to England in May 1954, and A. Atkinson acted as Headmaster. He was only in the Victoria Institution for a short time, and he was succeeded by P. Roberts, who also acted for a short time and in his turn left at the end of 1955. Dr. G. E. D. Lewis succeeded Roberts in November 1955; and except for a short period in 1958, when he went home on leave, he has remained the Headmaster of the School.
Dr. Lewis undertook a series of innovations which have now become an integral part of school life. In 1956, he revived Speech Day as a regular annual event as well as the Cross Country Run, which had been allowed to lapse after the War. In this annual event, every student is expected to take part, unless medically unfit, and everyone who completes the course within a given time, wins a point for his House. Dr. Lewis also made a change in the Inter-House Competition for the various games. Previously, each House normally fielded only one team, or sometimes two. But since 1956, each House has fielded three teams for most of the out-door games. This has given an opportunity for the younger students of the School to compete in the games played in the School. Through this means, a greater number of boys were able to play games than ever before. In 1956 Dr. Lewis also reorganised the School societies. Previously, a student was expected to shoulder both the Presidency and the Chairmanship of a society, and this led to a great deal of chaos especially during 1956. In the reorganisation of the societies, the advisory teachers took over the function of Vice-President, allowing a student to be the Chairman. To a large extent, this change rescued many societies from the chaos into which they were sinking, and today the societies are both active and flourishing.
Probably, the greatest post-war development in the Victoria Institution were the Sixth Forms, which were begun in 1950, and today one-fifth of the students of the school are Sixth Formers. Until very recently, the Victoria Institution lacked the facilities to cater for Sixth Form students: there were no separate classrooms or laboratories for them; neither was there a good library. Clearly, there was a great need for some changes in the School, which will allow it to accommodate the Sixth Formers. No one better realized the needs of the Sixth Formers than Dr. Lewis, and it was his efforts that led to a series of remarkable developments after 1956.
In 1956, a scheme was approved for the construction of a separate Sixth Form Block and Animal House, next to the Science Wing. Operations were soon begun and in 1957 they were ready for use. The Sixth Form Block consists of four classrooms and a lecture theatre on the first floor, while the ground floor consists of three spacious laboratories. The new block was built at a cost of nearly $250,000/-.
There was also a pressing need for a School Hostel. As many of the Victoria Institution Sixth Formers came from Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan, they needed accommodation that would be both economical as well as close to the School grounds. The scheme for a hostel to be built within Victoria Institution grounds was approved, and building was completed by the second term of 1957.
The old Library was found to be clearly inadequate to meet the needs of the Sixth Formers. In 1957, the task of re-designing, re-stocking and air-conditioning of the library began and it was completed before the year was over. The expenses were met by Federal, State and School funds, the School contributing about $8,000/- out of a total cost of $26,000/-. And so the Victoria Institution Library became the first school library to be air-conditioned in Malaya.
These recent developments have adjusted School facilities to the new demands of the Sixth Form. A new Sixth Form Block, a School Hostel and an air-conditioned library will doubtless provide the Sixth Form with all their wants. Dr. Lewis had a big hand in all these developments, and to stimulate further the Sixth Formers, he has founded a prize to be won by the student with the best results in the Higher School Certificate Examination.
Other developments also swiftly followed in 1958, for in this year a new School Canteen complete with kitchens for Muslim and non-Muslim food was built, while Loh Wing's carpenter's shop was moved from the road-side to its present site so as to make room for the new canteen. In 1960 a new air-conditioned Reading Room was built, while in January, 1962 a new lavatory block and an extension to the school air-conditioned library were completed.
Recent political changes in Malaya have also effected a change in the running of the School. When Malaya achieved independence, and became a fully fledged democratic country, it was also decided to democratise the management of the School, so as to give the residents of Kuala Lumpur some responsibility in the education of their children. According to the terms of the Education Ordinance of 1957, Boards of Governors were to be set up in all Schools. In the Victoria Institution three members of the Board were to be nominated by the Ministry of Education, two by State government, three by the President of the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association and three by the parents of the pupils. Both the Government and the public were amply represented in the new Board, and it in many ways resembled the Board of Trustees, on whom was entrusted the management of the School when it was quasi-independent.
THE VICTORIA INSTITUTION OLD BOYS' ASSOCIATION 1922 - 1960
he history of the School would be incomplete without some knowledge of the history of our distinguished Old Boys. Needless to say, they have distinguished themselves in all walks of life, and as a body, working in unison and towards certain well defined aims, they have made a valuable contribution to this country.
The need for some sort of an organisation was keenly felt among some of the early Old Victorians, but it took well over a generation since the school's foundation to establish the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association. In 1922, a meeting was convened of all the Old Victorians in the School Hail. At this meeting, it was unanimously agreed to the formation of the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association for certain well defined objectives:
Firstly, to promote and encourage physical advancement of the members of the Association by providing such games as football, cricket, tennis, etc.,
secondly, to provide the members with a Reading Room for the development of social, intellectual and moral qualities amongst its members;
and lastly, to render the School such assistance as may be deemed necessary to maintain and enhance its reputation.
The Association chose Mr. Chan Sze Kiong as its first President, while B. E. Shaw was made its first Patron. An analysis of the objectives of the Association reveals that Shaw's lessons on physical and moral education had been well learnt and appreciated.
However, the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association was at once confronted with the problem of a clubhouse. Fortunately, for the Association, Towkay Yap Futt Yew was generous enough to allow the members of the Association to occupy a spacious building at No. 17 Rodger Street, rent-free as from January, 1924. The formal opening of the Club premises was performed by Towkay Yap Futt Yew, who took the occasion to present a new billiard table to the Association.
One of the underlying objectives in founding the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association was to render the School such assistance, as it might need. It was decided that funds should be collected to assist poor and deserving boys to continue their education in the Victoria Institution. With this aim in view, Towkay Yap Futt Yew staged a Chinese play in October 1923, in aid of the fund. Two other plays were produced in the same month, the proceeds going to the Scholarship Fund. About $6,000/- was collected in all, and it was decided to call it the Shaw Scholarship Fund, in appreciation of the first Headmaster of the School, who had retired the previous year after 28 years of service.
In August 1923, was held the first Reunion Dinner, an event which was instituted primarily to afford an opportunity for Old Victorians to meet occasionally. On these occasions, the Headmaster and other prominent members of the School Staff were invited as guests of honour. The Reunion Dinner became one of the annual functions of the Old Boys' Association.
One of the aims of the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association was to strengthen the links between the Old Victorians and the School. In this objective the Headmasters of the Victoria Institution also played their part. Among those who actively encouraged School-Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association link were Richard Sidney and G. C. Davies.
The Old Victorians never forgot their first Headmaster, B. E. Shaw. Besides floating a scholarship in his name, the Old Boys also invited the Grand Old Man to visit Malaya on the occasion of the opening of the new Victoria Institution on Petaling Hill. Shaw himself was considerably moved by this invitation, as well as the reception he got from the Old Boys in Kuala Lumpur.
This was not all. The Association repeatedly pressed the Selangor government to have a School or road named after B. E. Shaw, in recognition of what he had done for education in the State. Their efforts did not go unrewarded for in 1936, a road leading to the Victoria Institution was renamed after Shaw. This will be a proud monument, not only for the services of Shaw, but also for the efforts of the Old Boys' Association.
Old Victorians had earned a reputation in all walks of life. It is not possible to record here every instance when an Old Victorian distinguished himself. Mention of a few will indicate to what extent, the Old Victorians have taken a leading part in Malayan Society.
Probably, the outstanding Old Victorian in the pre-war period was Chan Sze Jin. While in the Victoria Institution he won practically all the academic awards for which he could compete, including Treacher Scholarship and the Rodger Medal. In 1903, he won the Federal Scholarship and went to Cambridge where he excelled himself. In 1910 he was called to the Bar, and then he returned to Singapore to practise law. Later he become a member of the Legislative and the Executive Council of the Straits Settlements. He served practically in every public committee, including the British Malaya Opium Committee. For his services, he was conferred the Companionship of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1941.
In the field of sport, the Victorians also excelled themselves. In cricket, an Old Victorian was the only Malayan player ever to have won international fame. He was Lall Singh, who represented India in the Test series against England in 1931-32. Lall Singh earned the reputation of having been one of the finest fielders of all time. Another Old Victorian who made a name in the field of sport was C. R. Martin, little known among Victorians today. He was a student of the Victoria Institution in its early days, and then completed his education in Penang Free School. In cricket, he was the first to score a double century, and kept wicket for the Federated Malay States. He represented Singapore in football, at that time being the only Asian in the team. Later, he was one of the founders of the Association Football League, Singapore. Until recently, he was intimately connected with the Singapore Football Association, mainly as a coach. He was also a prominent athlete, and took part in both field and track events. He was a founder member of Athletic Association of Selangor. He was also a good boxer.
In post-war Malaya, Old Victorians have continued to excel in every field of life. In the achievement of independence for the country, and the setting up of our own government, the Old Victorians have played a notable part. Today, the Minister for Health, Mr. Ong Yoke Lin, is an Old Victorian; in self-governing Singapore, Enche Ahmad, an Old Victorian, is also the Minister for Health. One could safely predict that the Victorians will play a greater part in the independent Malaya in time to come.
In 1948, the Old Boys' Association suggested that a day should be set aside as an Old Boys' Day, and it was decided to make November 21st 1948 as the first Old Boys' Day. On this occasion, it was also suggested that the Old Boys' Association should meet the School in cricket, hockey, football, badminton, table-tennis and swimming. To maintain and stimulate interest in this competition, it was suggested by the Old Victorians that Mr. Daniel the Headmaster should donate a trophy in his name. The idea was accepted, and in 1948 the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association became the first holders of the Daniel Trophy. Since then, Old Boys' Association-School games have become a regular feature of School life. It would arouse even greater interest if one week was set aside, during which games, debates and other functions could make a re-union of Old Boys' Association-School even more complete.
The idea of a new clubhouse, with greater facilities, suggested itself as soon as the War was over. In 1948, the working committee of the Old Boys' Association decided to launch a drive to increase membership, as a means to bring the scheme to fruition. A Building Fund was soon started, and the Old Boys were called upon to donate generously. In 1954, the Building Fund stood at $21,400/-, and it was decided to start construction of the first stage of building. The State government granted a site near the entrance of the School, and the foundation stone was laid on the 30th July, 1954. The first stage was expected to cost about $18,000/- and it was completed by the end of 1954. The second stage was estimated to cost another $13,000/- and as funds were not adequate, a drive was made for more funds. The present boys also collected money for the Clubhouse.
In 1956, Old Victorians in Singapore endeavoured to play their part in making the Old Boys' Association a force in the country. Early in that year, a Singapore Branch of the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association was formed, following a meeting of about 100 Old Victorians at the Union House in the University of Malaya. In August, 1956, the Old Victorians from Singapore brought a cricket and hockey team to play the Selangor Old Boys and the present boys. It was successful and an enjoyable visit, and was repeated in 1961.
Last updated on 6 September 2000.
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