Mr. R. Thampipillay (1879-1974) was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and joined the V.I. as a pupil in 1895 on his arrival in Malaya. He was a brilliant scholar and on graduation joined the V.I. teaching staff in 1898. He played a prominent part in the formation and training of the Cadet Corps, holding the rank of Lieutenant. Throughout his career he taught a total of some fifteen thousand pupils, all of whom carried away with them fond memories of a dedicated, versatile and exemplary teacher. In the last 22 years of his service he was in charge of the Cambridge Class subjects. Mr. Thampipillay also organised the V.I. Old Boys' Association and was its first secretary. He was awarded the Inperial Service Medal on his retirement in 1932 after thirty-four and a half years of service. His final visit to the V.I. was in 1968 when he was a guest of honour at the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the school. The Grand Old Man of the V.I. received a special award from the wife of the Prime Minister, Puan Sharifah Rodziah.
In 1928 and 1929, Mr. Thampipillay penned his reminiscences of the old V.I. of High Street in several instalments of The Victorian. Unfortunately only two of these instalments remain and are reproduced below. They give an interesting vignette of the personalities of the Victoria Institution and life in Kuala Lumpur in the early twentieth century.
The Victorian, Dec 1928
he second of the series of Reminiscences is devoted to the Septennium 1898-1904, a period which was extraordinarily fertile not only in the expansion and development of the school, but also in the brilliant results obtained in the Cambridge Locals and other examinations.
The rapid rise of the population of Kuala Lumpur and the increasing demand for an English education compelled the Trustees to provide additional accommodation for the stream of students seeking admission. Early in 1898 a temporary school building fifty feet by twenty with plank walls, tiled roof and sand floor, was built on the site now occupied by the Gymnasium. Foundations were also laid for a permanent two-storey building, Block No. 2, to contain six classrooms beneath and masters' quarters above, with kitchens in a separate block. This building cost $12,000, and was completed in the following year. Two of the old boys, Mr. Chan Sze Kiong and Mr. R. Thampipillay joined the tutorial staff of the school as the eighth and ninth assistants respectively.
The first athletic meeting in the history of the School was held in January, 1898 in the school field. The programme consisted of twenty events, in all of which the competition was very keen. The whole burden of organization was borne by Messrs. R. F. Stainer and A.C.J. Towers, who acted handicappers and starters. Mrs. Belfield, wife of the British Resident, gave away the prizes. The Resident, after regretting that ill-health had compelled the Acting Resident-General, Mr. W. H. Treacher, C.M.G., to forego the pleasure of being present that day, congratulated Mr. Shaw and his staff on the excellent organisation of the school and on the capital results obtained.
Mr. R. F. Stainer, B.A. resigned his appointment in April and became the Editor of the Malay Mail. He did not remain long in this post, for in the following year he was appointed Inspector of Schools, Selangor. Resigning this position in 1900, he secured the appointment of Headmaster of the Central School, Taiping, subsequently called the King Edward VII School. He was the Head of this school for over twenty years and retired on pension a few years ago. In Mr. Stainer the Victoria Institution lost a hard-working teacher devoted to his work and highly respected by his colleagues and boys. Mr. F. G. Charter, Trinity College, Dublin, was temporarily engaged to fill the post vacated by Mr. Stainer.
The results of the Cambridge Preliminary Local Examination held in the previous December were announced in April. The three successful candidates were Chan Sze Pong, Chan Sze Kiong and R. Thampipillay. Chan Sze Pong was under fourteen years of age and obtained Third Class Honours with distinction in Arithmetic. Leaving the Victoria Institution he joined Raffles School, where he passed his Junior in 1898 and Senior in 1899. He won the first Federal Scholarship - worth 250 pounds a year tenable at an English University for five years, and proceeded to England where he entered Caius College, Cambridge. After passing his B.A., Natural Science Tripos, and M.B. Examinations, he returned to Kuala Lumpur in 1908 and practised his profession for a short period. He then left for China where he is now in charge of the Pekin Hospital.
Mr. Chan Sze Kiong severed his connection with the school on securing a lucrative post in the Malay Mail Office. He was for many years Secretary to Messrs. Robertson & Co. Ltd., Kuala Lumpur, and was the first President of the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association. He is now the managing director of the Straits Commercial Agency, Singapore. The Rev. Haines who had acted as Inspector of Schools, Selangor, for a considerable number of years, was relieved of his duties and Mr. J. Driver was appointed Federal Inspector of Schools. This gentleman had had considerable practical experience before coming out to this country and he proved himself a very capable officer. Unfortunately he did not hold his office long, for in 1902 he died in Kuala Lumpur, lamented by all with whom he had come into contact. The Rev. Horley who conducted the burial service made an impressive speech, the concluding words of which were "He was a gentleman".
Sir James Swettenham, Acting High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States, and brother of Sir Frank Swettenham, Resident General, F.M.S. paid a visit to the school in 1898. Chan Sze Jin passed the Cambridge Preliminary Examination held in December, 1898, with distinction in Arithmetic and English, and V. Assaippillay, S. Mylvaganam, and A Suppramaniam also passed the same year.
In 1899 Mr. J. T. Arudpragasam, who was connected with the school for a considerable number of years, and Mr. Charter who had been temporarily holding the post of First Assistant, resigned their appointments and Mr. G. J. Henbrey was appointed First Assistant. The Athletic Sports of that year attracted a large crowd of spectators and were a great success. Mrs. Rodger, wife of the Resident, distributed the prizes. Mr. Rodger in the course of a few remarks referred to the appointment of Mr. Driver as Federal Inspector of Schools, and said that the Government had secured a very valuable officer. He was glad to be informed by Mrs. Rodger that the Rodger Medalist, Chan Sze Jin, was her godson.
The Cambridge Preliminary results for 1899 were:-
In 1900, Kuala Lumpur was made an examination centre for the Cambridge Local Examinations. During the previous three years candidates had been put to great expense and inconvenience by having to travel to Singapore to sit for their examinations. Mr. Shaw went home for ten months leave and the Rev. Knight. Clarke, Chaplain of St. Mary's Church was appointed to act for him. Mr. A. B. Voules was made the Acting Federal Inspector of Schools.
The St. Mary's Cadet Corps, the forerunner of the V. I. Cadet Corps, was organised in 1900 by Mr. A. C. J. Towers, one of the most enthusiastic and hard working masters of the school. The members of the Corps were boys attending the V. I. and professing the Christian faith. Mr. Towers was the Captain of the Corps. Captain Ainslie of the Malay States Guides was Staff Officer, Mr. H. C. Belfield, British Resident of Selangor, Honorary Colonel, the Rev. Knight Clarke, Acting-Headmaster, V. I. Chaplain. The original members of the Corps included Lance-Corporals H. de Mornay, and H. C. Bartholomeuz and Privates G. Edward, Samuel, R. T. Williams, Chan Sze Jin, C. Anchant, G. Koch, M. H. Foenander, Arudpragasam, R. Nonis, E. de Witt, J. Doral, J. Askey, H. Anchant, E. Harris, Chan Sze Onn, C. Mitchell, W. H. T. Abraham, A. S. Mitchell, A. B. Ponniah, D. Hoffnar and Bugler A. B. Johnson. The Corps fell in for drill on the site now occupied by the Venning Road Chapel and attended the usual Birthday Parades. The Corps had the honour of being the guests of the officers and men of H. M. S. Brisk which happened to be at Port Swettenham the later part of the year 1900.
In 1901 the Corps was merged in the newly formed Victoria Institution Cadet Corps and Mr. Towers was the first captain and de Mornay and Chan Sze Jin were the first sergeants. When Mr. Towers left the school in 1902, Mr. J. H. Tyte took over the Cadet Corps from him. The V. I. Cadet Corps was then a Company of sixty strong divided into four sections, and was affiliated to the Malay States Volunteer Rifles. The Officers Commanding the Corps up to the end of 1904 were A. C. J. Towers, J. H. Tyte, McHeyzer, P. A. Wood and Phillips. The Corps paraded with the M. S. V. R. and the Police Force on special occasions, and the following letter addressed to the Headmaster by the Resident-General will bear ample testimony to its efficiency.
Mr. Shaw returned from Europe in December and was presented with an elaborately framed address by the masters and boys of the school. During the course of his reply, Mr. Shaw informed the boys that Her Majesty Queen Victoria was graciously pleased to present to the Victoria Institution a photogravure portrait of Her Majesty. The portrait which stood on an easel under cover of the Union Jack was then unveiled and with three lusty cheers for Her Majesty the impressive ceremony was brought to a close.
The following passes were obtained in the Cambridge Local Examinations:
In 1901, Mr. R. C. Browne and Mr. G. J. Henbrey resigned their appointments and Mr. J. H. Tyte joined the staff. Mr. Henbrey was an excellent footballer and a keen gymnast. He entered the F. M. S. Government Service and is now Deputy Conservator of Forests..
The European staff of the school was strengthened in 1902 by three new assistants, Messrs. A. H. Barlow, P. A. Wood and W. Proudlock. Mr. Towers who had been a very able assistant for five years severed his connection with the school in 1902 on being appointed Second Master of the Central School, Taiping. The Trustees congratulated Mr. Towers on his promotion and thanked him for his efficient services to the school, both as a master and as an active leader in the games during the five years he had been a member of the staff. Mr. T. C. McHeyzer, a well-known cricketer from Ceylon, succeeded Mr. Towers.
The Trustees recorded with deepest regret the demise of one of the original members of the Board, Mr. K. Tamboosamy Pillay who had taken a keen interest in the establishment of the school. Mr. K. Tamboosamy Pillay died in Singapore while on a visit to that town and his remains were brought to Kuala Lumpur and buried in the presence of a large gathering of friends at the Hindu Cemetery near the Pudu Railway Station. Plans for a two storey building, Block No. 3, containing a laboratory and a lecture and examination room above, and three class-rooms beneath and a gymnasium were approved, and the building operations commenced in 1902 and were completed in 1903. There had been a large rise in the number of students on the register during the previous three years, and in 1903, the total enrolment was 532 and the staff of the school consisted of:-
The school fees were raised, the Ordinary Fees to $20 a year, the Higher Classes to $36 a year, and a fee of $1 a year was charged for games. The results of the Cambridge Local Examinations for 1901 were as follows:-
Mr. J. Elton and Mr. McHeyzer resigned in 1902 and Mr. J. Hugh was appointed assistant master and clerk to the Headmaster. Mr. R. J. Wilkinson, of the Straits Civil Service, was appointed Federal Inspector of Schools in place of Mr. Driver, deceased.
The following extracts from the Resident-General's report for 1902 will give an idea of the progress made by the School during the previous years.
"The first school in importance, and the largest in the Federated Malay States, is the Victoria Institution with an average enrolment of 532 and a daily attendance of 480. The most interesting item of the year's work is the success obtained at the Cambridge Local Examination held at the close of the year. Out of 79 passes obtained by the schools of the Colony and the Federated Malay States, the Victoria Institution was first with 19 passes out of 26 presentations."
"In the Senior Division, one Second Class Honour with two Distinctions, and one pass were obtained; while in the Junior, four boys under sixteen years of age, one boy of thirteen, obtained Third Class Honours and was first among all the Junior Candidates from the Colony and the Federated Malay States."
"It is interesting to note that the two chief honours were won by the younger brothers of the present holder of the first F. M. S. Scholarship, being the sons of a Chinese clerk of some fifteen years' standing in Government service."
Chan Sze Jin had a remarkably brilliant career in the Victoria Institution. He won the Rodger Medal and the Treacher Scholarship and passed the Cambridge Preliminary in the First Division, the Junior in the First Division, and the Senior in the Second Division, with marks of distinction in several subjects. Joining the Penang Free School in 1903 to study for the Scholarship Examination, he was successful in winning the Federal Scholarship. He went to Cambridge where he entered the Downing College. He passed his B.A., L.L.B., Law Tripos, and History Tripos Part II in 1908, when he joined the Inns of London and was called to the Bar in 1910. Ever since his return from England he has been practising his profession in Singapore with remarkable success. He has taken a prominent part in public affairs and has served on the Committee to report on unemployment, on the British Malaya Opium Committee, on the Board of Education, Singapore, and on the committee to report on taxation. He is now serving on the Legislative Council S. S., on the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, on the Council of the College of Medicine, Singapore, and on the Opium Advisory Committee of Malaya.
A lady assistant teacher, Miss Gillett, was appointed and put in charge of the Infant Department. The experiment proved a great success and this department of the school has ever since been in the charge of a lady teacher. Mr. T. M. B. Phillips and Mr. A. M. Pilter, B. A. Cantab., succeeded Mr. Barlow and Mr. Wood. Mr. Barlow introduced Indian Club swinging into this school and was interested in Gymnastics as well. He was a vegetarian and had been a teacher in a deaf and dumb school before he came out to Malaya.
The Cambridge Preliminary Examination was abolished this year and the following boys passed the Senior and Junior Examinations.
The new High Commissioner for the F. M. S., His Excellency Sir Anderson paid his first official visit to the Federal Capital in July 1904. During his short stay in Kuala Lumpur he honoured the school with a visit, when he was accorded a grand reception. Two beautiful triumphal arches were erected at the High Street entrances; the school premises which were tastefully decorated with flags and evergreens wore a festive appearance. On His Excellency's arrival at the school he was received by the Headmaster and a Guard of Honour furnished by Cadet Corps. His Excellency, who was accompanied by the Resident-General Sir William Hood Treacher, the British Resident and the Federal Inspector of Schools was taken round to the various classes.
The Victorian, August 1929
n the fourth of the series of the Reminiscences an attempt is made to chronicle the leading events of the school from 1915 to 1922.
As briefly stated in the last series, Mr. Goodman Ambler was the first of the European masters to leave for England to enlist in Lord Kitchener's new army under the arrangements provided by the F.M.S. Government. Messrs. Wheatley, Carr and Barber also applied for permission to join, but in the medical examination held locally, Mr. Wheatley was declared unfit owing to defective eyesight, and the other two were certified fit for Military Service.
Mr. Ambler was granted nine months, Mr. Carr eight months and Mr. Barber six months full leave. The Trustees also agreed that the masters who had joined the Army or Navy with their permission would be paid during their term of service and the continuance of the war, after the expiry of the leave due to them, a sum equivalent to the difference between their full pay and the pay actually drawn by them in the Army and Navy. Messrs. Carr and Barber left the country in November, 1914. The work of these three masters fell on the remaining Europeans, viz., the Headmaster and Messrs. Coleman and Wheatley and on the locally recruited teachers who had willingly offered to undertake their share of the extra work that would be necessary to prevent the work of the school from being seriously affected. Mr. Coleman also had to leave for India about six months before the signing of the Armistice.
In 1915, the Honorary Treasurers of the Hare Memorial Fund informed the Trustees that, of the number of bursaries provided by the Hare Memorial Fund, six would be at the disposal of the Victoria Institution and each bursary would amount to half of the school fees. The Trustees agreed to forego the balance of the school fees of those bursars whose parents were unable to pay.
The first flood that seriously affected the school occurred on March 8th, 1917, and the school was closed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Previous to this, two other floods were experienced in Kuala Lumpur, one in November, 1902, and the other in December, 1911. These, however, did not interfere with the work of the school as their visits were during the school holidays. The next flood was in October, 1918. The river was in flood on Sunday night, October 27th, but the water did not reach all the ground floor classrooms and the school was closed on Monday. Of all the floods that have so far occurred in Kuala Lumpur only one was in the month of March, all the rest in the rainy season of the country, viz., October to December.
In order to prevent the flooding of the low-lying areas of the town and to minimise the damage caused by the frequent floods a project was launched to deviate and straighten certain sections of the river. It was found impossible to carry out this scheme as it affected the playground and buildings of the Victoria Institution. It was therefore decided to transfer the site of the school to a more suitable part of the town. In 1919 a valuable piece of land, about 23 acres in extent, was acquired by the Government near Batu Road, and plans were drawn of the proposed school building to accommodate a thousand boys. The Town Planner having condemned the site at Batu Road, another suitable place had to be selected. In the meantime the rubber slump intervened and building operations on the old golf links were indefinitely postponed.
Owing to the rapid increase in population of the town of Kuala Lumpur and the increasing demand for English education, the existing accommodation was found inadequate, and in 1921 a temporary school building with three classrooms was erected just behind the Assembly Hall.
Acting on the recommendation of the Committee appointed to enquire into and report on the working of the aided schools of Malaya, the Government took over the financial control of the Victoria Institution and other aided schools from January 1st, 1920.
In this connection it should be remembered that the Victoria Institution had been enjoying a preferential treatment, for unlike other aided schools it had been receiving a special grant of $30,000 a year and the salary schemes of both European and Asiatic teachers were based on those of the Government teachers. Under the new fiscal arrangement the aided schools credited their income to the Government which in turn undertook to pay the salaries provided for Government teachers.
It may be safely said that the Cadet Corps reached a very high standard of efficiency during the war period. An intensive course of training was drawn up and Mr. Shaw took a keen interest in the detailed working of the scheme. In addition to the usual close and extended order parades on the school field twice a week, every Wednesday evening was set apart for route marches and field exercises. The Corps took part in many tactical schemes with the M.S.V.R. and the M.V.I. Monthly inspections by the Officer Commanding and periodical section commanders competitions quickened the interest and stimulated the enthusiasm of the rank and file of the Corps. Training in musketry formed an important part of the programme. No less than fifty cadets a year received a systematic and efficient training in the M.V.I. Range at Swettenham Road or in the M.S.V.R. Range in Circular Road. The General Officer Commanding the Malayan Forces and the Commandants, M.S.V.R., highly commended the smartness, turnout and steadiness on parade of the Corps.
On his return from the war, Captain Ambler, M.C., was appointed Officer Commanding the Corps. His enthusiasm for Cadet work knew no bounds and the first Cadet Camp at Port Dickson was organised by him in 1920 with the main objective of making the cadets fit and giving them an enjoyable open air life by a judicious mixing of work and recreation. About two hundred cadets from the Victoria Institution, St. John's Institution and the Methodist Boys' School under the command of Captain Ambler, assisted by Platoon Commanders, camped at the 5th mile, Port Dickson near the present M.S.V.R. training ground for a week in the month of August. Cadets were divided into parties of twelve each under tent leaders and each party was provided with a tent. Mr. Chua Cheng Bok of Cycle & Carriage Co., who happened to be at Port Dickson during the Camp Week celebrating his birthday, gave a very generous donation to the Cadet Camp Fund and this timely help contributed considerably to the success of the Camp. On account of the rubber slump and trade depression no Cadet Camp was held the following year.
An epidemic of influenza swept over certain regions of Europe and Asia during the second half of the year 1918. It began to spread in Kuala Lumpur during the latter part of September and made no signs of abatement till the end of October. The Annual Athletic Sports came during the period of the epidemic and over 200 boys and 10 masters were affected by it.
The Empire Day (May 24) and the Annual Athletic Sports (in September or October) were celebrated every year with great eclat. The march past of the cadets, scouts and other squads, the address of the British Resident, the Scout Display and impromptu sports were the main features of the Empire Day Celebrations. The V.I. Annual Sports and the demonstration of Physical Training and Gymnastics had, during these years, become so popular and attractive that they were regarded by the public of Kuala Lumpur as a very important event of the year and were looked forward to with very keen interest. The V.I. celebrated the Peace on July 21, 1919. The proceedings began with the inspection of the Cadets and Scouts by the British Resident who, after reading the King's message, gave a short but impressive address on the great and glorious occasion which they had assembled that day to celebrate. Each boy was given a refreshment allowance of 40 cents by the Celebration Committee. Fancy dress football matches were played in the evening, and then there was a procession of decorated bicycles. The proceedings terminated with a very effective exhibition of illuminated club swinging and the illumination of the grounds, the whole of the High Street frontage being outlined by a line of about six hundred lights.
His Majesty's Ship Malaya which was presented to the Imperial Government by the Rulers and People of the Federated Malay States and which took part in the Battle of Jutland in May, 1915, paid a visit to Malaya in January, 1921, and was anchored off Port Swettenham. The general public of the F.M.S. including school children were afforded facilities to visit the battle cruiser and arrangements were made in Kuala Lumpur to receive and entertain the officers and men of the ship.
The school sustained a severe loss by the untimely death of Mr. J. Hugh in 1919. Mr. Hugh was clerk to the Headmaster for over 18 years, and was held in high esteem and respect by all teachers. Another equally sad death was that of Elizabeth Davidson who was in charge of the Infant Department for many years. She was a hardworking teacher of wide experience and her death cast a gloom over the school where her unselfish and devoted work will be ever gratefully remembered by her many affectionate pupils. The Infant Department sustained another loss during the period under review by the death of Miss Ketschker who was connected with the school for a few years.
Messrs. Ambler and Carr returned to Kuala Lumpur early in 1920 and Mr. Coleman was appointed acting Inspector of schools, Selangor, in place of Mr. David Bishop. Messrs. Baraclough and Redfearn joined the staff of the school in 1921. Mr. B.E. Shaw retired from service in March, 1922, and Mr. Wheatley was appointed to act for him.
Last updated on 2 September 2000.
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