Our Queen's Scholars

Queen’s Scholarships, named in honour of Britain's Queen Victoria, were inaugurated in 1885 in the Straits Settlements by Sir Cecil Clementi Smith. There were two objectves for the Scholarship: Firstly, to allow promising boys an opportunity to complete their studies in England and, secondly, to encourage a number of boys to remain in school and acquire a really useful education. This was a noble aim at a time when there was no university in the Straits Settlements nor the Malay States, and when most families could hardly afford to send their children to school let alone to England for a university education. In 1900 Queen's Scholarships were made available in Malaya for undergraduate degree courses at a British University. Two scholarships were offered for each of the Federated Malay States – Selangor, Perak, Pahang, and Negri Sembilan – and pupils competed for them in annual scholarship examinations set by the Colonial Office in London.

he unique distinction of being one of the first Queen’s Scholars belongs to Chan Sze Pong. His father, Chan Fook Ngan, was born in China in 1858 and had migrated at a young age first to Sarawak before settling in Kuala Lumpur as a clerk. Sze Pong and his two brothers attended the V.I. in High Street and he was under fourteen years of age when he obtained Third Class Honours with distinction in Arithmetic in the Cambridge Preliminary Examinations. As the Cambridge Local Examinations were not available in Kuala Lumpur then, Sze Pong left the Victoria Institution and joined Raffles School where he passed his Junior Cambridge in 1898 and Senior Cambridge in 1899. On winning this Queen's Scholarship in 1900 - worth £250 a year tenable at an English University for five years - he Chan Sze Jin 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 was in charge of the Peking Hospital.

Chan Sze Jin had a remarkable and brilliant career in the V.I. Born in 1886, this younger brother of Sze Pong first won the Treacher Scholarship in 1898 and, following that, the Sze Jin Rodger Medal five times in succession, the first time when he was just twelve years old. It is interesting to note that his godfather was Mr J. P. Rodger (later Sir), who first instituted the Rodger medal in 1895! Sze Jin served in the St Mary's Boys' Brigade in the late 1890s and when that metamorphosed into the V.I. Cadet Corps in 1901, he was made one of its first two sergeants.

Joining the Penang Free School to prepare for the Scholarship Examination, Sze Jin won the Queen’s Scholarship in 1903. He then joined his elder brother in Cambridge where he took up law at Downing College in 1904. He passed his B.A. and L.L.B. in 1907, and his Law Tripos and History Tripos Part II in 1908, upon which he joined the Inns of Court, London. He was called to the Bar in 1910. On his return he started the law firm Chan and Swee Teow in Singapore and practised as a barrister with remarkable success.

Sze Jin was a member of the Straits Settlements Legislature and the Executive Council for many years. He took a prominent part in public affairs and served on various committees including the British Malaya Opium Advisory Committee, the Singapore Board of Education, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, and the Council of the College of Medicine, Singapore. He was also active in social affairs and was the first president of the Island Club (which was Sze Onn formed because the British excluded Chinese from their own Golf Club).

In 1929, S. J. Chan, as he was popularly known by then, returned to Kuala Lumpur on a nostalgic trip to witness the opening of the new V.I. and, representing the Old Boys, was invited to address the assembled dignitaries. He received the C. M. G. in 1941 in recognition of his public service. The then Governor of Singapore, Sir Shenton Thomas, personally went to his house to confer the honor on him. Sze Jin passed away in 1948.

The youngest of the Chan brothers, Sze Onn, was born in 1889 and won the Rodger Medal twice. While he did not win a Queen's Scholarship it is of interest to note that he taught briefly at the V.I. before he went to Singapore and started an accounting firm, Chan Sze Onn & Co, with a few others, including Kwa Siew Tee, the future father-in-law of the Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

The Queen's Scholarships were discontinued in 1911 but restored in 1931, except this time there were only two annual scholarships available for the entire F.M.S., one reserved for a Malay and the other for a non-Malay. So, to win it meant one really had to be the crème de la crème of the whole country.

Housed in a brand new building with state-of-the-art science laboratories, the V.I. was now in the position to offer science subjects for its Scholarship candidates as well. A special scholarship class was set up in the V.I. in the 1930s to prepare an annual handful of candidates for this prestigious examination. This scholarship class would be equivalent to Upper Six today though its syllabus would be quite different from today’s.

Ross and S.C. Hons students

In 1933, Ross Arulanandom became the first Victorian to snare the Queen's Scholarship after it was restored. Ross was born on March 30, 1914. His father was a railway engineer, his mother an English teacher. He was not a keen sportsman, but did play tennis and squash. He was a school prefect.

Prefects party for Ross

Before Ross sailed for England in August 1933, his fellow prefects gave him a farewell tea party. He went to St. John’s College, Cambridge where he gained a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours on 23rd June 1936.

It was not all work for Queen's Scholars in England, as a report in the 1937 Victorian told its readers that Ross Arulanandom and Hector Jesudason, the other V.I. Queen's Scholar, were invited to tea with King George VI at Buckingham Palace on June 22nd!

Ross graduates

Ross then went to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London to follow a career in medicine. Ross gained certificates from The Royal College of Surgeons in the Art of Science and Surgery and from the Royal College of Physicians to practise medicine, surgery and midwifery on 8th May 1941. He then gained a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery Certificate on 1st August 1942. Much later, in July 1960, he was granted a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University.

Ross Arulanandom

After he qualified, Ross had a hospital appointment at St. Matthew’s Hospital, Shoreditch, London. In 1948, when the National Health Service began, he opened his own practice in Shoreditch which he successfully built up.

He married Elsie Maud Dinnage, whom he had known since his Cambridge days, on 27th April 1943. They lived in Earl’s Court, London for all of their married life and had one daughter, Linda, born on 25th August 1948. Linda and her husband, Rodger Bending, have two children, Joanna and Paul.

In 1966 Ross suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. He made a good recovery and was able to return to work despite having to change his life-style. Sadly, in 1968 he was diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the lung and died on 21st February 1969. His wife, Elsie, passed away in July, 2001. Ross’ younger brother, Datuk Justice Fred Arulanandom was another outstanding Victorian. He studied Hector Jesudason Arts at Raffles College and his earlier career included being a teacher, a social welfare officer and a barrister. He was appointed to the bench in 1974 and served for seven years. He passed away in 1982.

Hector Jesudason won the Queen’s Scholarship in 1934. There is not much information about him except that he was a School Prefect. Hector was at Jesus College, Cambridge. He then went on to complete his studies in medicine at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

After a four year lull, the V.I. rejoiced when Tun Ismail bin Mohd. Ali was awarded the Queen's Scholarship in 1938. Ismail was born in Port Swettenham (now Port Kelang) on September 16, 1918, the second of nine children of Mohamed Ali bin Taib and Khadijah binte Ahmad. Mohamed Ali was himself an Old Boy and worked variously as an official assignee in the courts, a Selangor State Councillor and a Registrar of State Nationals, Selangor. Ismail's first four years of school were spent at the Klang High School. When Mohamed Ali was transferred to the Federal Capital, Ismail was initially enrolled at the primary section of the old V.I. in High Street and then transferred to the Batu Road School for the rest of his Primary School career. He joined the V.I. in 1931 which was then under Mr F. L. Shaw. Ismail's first teacher, in Standard 6A (equivalent to Form 2 now) was the awe-inspiring Mr Ganga Singh who taught him English. He moved from 6A to 7A the following year, then to what was called Junior A and after that to Senior A Ismail at the V.I. where all the staff were Englishmen. They taught him English grammar, essay writing, English literature and science. Ismail passed all his examinations at school but was, in his own words, "neither brilliant nor stupid, never topping the class, yet never lagging behind."

Some of his happiest days were spent at the V.I. He was a Scout, ending up as a Troop Leader and a King Scout. He played all sports – badminton, football, table tennis, swimming and hockey. In those days V.I. boys spent 7 days a week in extra-curricular activities such as bookbinding, debating, carpentry and gardening in addition to sports. There was afternoon school then - the boys stayed on after morning school and did their homework during this time under the supervision of a prefect. All in all, V.I. boys usually spent some 12 hours a day at school. Ismail was in Shaw House, where he rose to be House Captain and Table Tennis Captain. He was also on the editorial board of the Victorian. His closest friend in school was fellow Scout and fellow prefect Rodney Lam. This lifelong friendship was touchingly described by Ismail when he addressed the School as a Guest of Honour at its 1991 Speech Day.

The teachers that Ismail remembered best apart from Mr Shaw were Mr L. F. Koch, Mr S. Thambiah, Mr H. R. Carey, and the senior science master, Mr F. Daniel. Ismail's opinion was that the V.I. produced good students because it had good teachers and a vision of excellence. The V.I. was where he first began to use his mind in a logical, systematic and orderly way through learning new things like mathematics, geography, history, literature, gardening or scouting activities. Ismail learnt, too, to love reading of things, past and present, and of the skills of others.

Ismail graduates

To get into Cambridge or Oxford one had to take Latin or Greek to School Certificate level. Ismail chose the former, as Mr F. L. Shaw was a Latin scholar and Latin was taught in the V.I. from standard six onwards. At first Ismail was not interested in it because it was not properly taught. But when Mr Shaw himself became his Latin teacher, he began to appreciate the language – it was so orderly and systematic, requiring a good memory and mental discipline. In the end the only School prize Ismail ever won was for Latin; he still remembered the Latin title of the book that he won: Virginibus Puerisque by R. L. Stevenson.

Ismail passed the 1935 London Matriculation examinations but the following year he failed to land the Queen’s Scholarship, placing third. Undeterred by this setback, he persevered and won the Scholarship on his second try in 1937. He sailed for England on July 31st 1938. A year into his three-year economics course in Cambridge, war broke out in Europe. Worse, in late 1941 Malaya, in turn, was engulfed by war and came under Japanese occupation; Ismail was now cut off from home. He volunteered his services in fire watching as there were German air raids on Cambridge. He played badminton and tennis at Cambridge, captaining the badminton team. On finishing at Cambridge, he secured an extension of his scholarship to read law for one and a half years, graduating in 1943 with a Bachelor of Laws degree.

Ismail offered his services to the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, broadcasting messages Ismail at BBC of encouragement to the people of Malaya on BBC Far Eastern Service. In 1945 he taught Malay to a number of British Army personnel at the School of Asian and Oriental Studies. These were the officers who would run the British Military Administration when peace came. He offered his services to the BBC again until he left for home at the end of 1946. Ismail had been away from Malaya for eight years.

He was admitted into the Malayan Civil Service, one of only two Malays directly recruited. From his initial 1948 posting as Assistant State Secretary, Selangor State Secretariat, Ismail went through many appointments until he became Economic Minister in the Federation of Malaya Embassy in Washington D.C. from 1958 to 1960. He was simultaneously Executive Director, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and its affiliates. In 1960, Ismail returned home from the United States and was appointed Deputy Governor of Bank Negara. In 1962 he became the Governor of Bank Negara, a position he would hold for 18 years.

In his working career Ismail served under three prime ministers and every finance minister of his time. He became a legend in central banking, a pioneer of strong Ismail's signature on note financial institutions, a leader of bold public policy initiatives, especially in the field of monetary policy, a crusader of sound money and budget surpluses and a champion of low inflation and sustainable development. There was a time when the governor was the most listened to person in Kuala Lumpur, when markets reacted to every statement made by him. "Only crooks and thieves fear me," Ismail once said. The joke went that even the ringgit was so afraid of him that it never fell.

There are so many things to be said about Ismail but it will always come back to basics: hard work, thrift, discipline, absolute integrity and honesty. He would not allow his family and relatives to benefit from his high position - they could not tender for anything, no matter how transparent or above board. When his brother Hashim (now General Tan Sri, and an Old Victorian as well) first returned from England and asked Ismail to stand guarantee Ismail Mohd Ali for a bank loan, he got a flat "No". Ismail himself would refuse to be treated any differently from his subordinates or the public, or to be exempt from any official rule or regulation. Once, on his return from abroad, he was about to declare several items of taxable goods. The customs officials, recognizing him, told him: "Tak payahlah", only to be reprimanded by Ismail: "Tak baca undang, ke?" Another of his younger brothers, Jaffar (now Datuk and also an Old Victorian), had a friend who used to complain: "Your brother is as straight as a railway line." Ismail once said, "To be humble in front of your superiors is duty; to be humble among your peers is courtesy; to be humble before your subordinates is nobility." That was the measure of the man.

From 1978 to 1996 Ismail was chairman of Permodalan Nasional Berhad, whose trust funds, Amanah Saham Bumiputra and Amanah Saham Nasional, became the country’s most profitable large-scale unit trust operations. He ran the PNB pretty much the same way he ran Bank Negara so much so that there was never even a breath of a scandal associated with that body. After retirement Ismail was chairman of a number of corporations but continued his association with PNB as adviser.

Despite his busy public life, Ismail never forgot his old school. He served on the Board of Governors of the V.I. for a good many years and contributed very generously to the V.I. Foundation fund which awards a scholarship in his name. In a message to Victorians a few months before he passed away on July 9, 1998, Ismail said: "They must be honest, they must be hardworking, efficiently and professionally. I think the important thing also is that they must cultivate good friends. Friendship is very important."

Yap Pow Meng was the third son of Yap Tai Hong, and a grandson of Yap Kwan Seng, one of the Pow Meng in science lab V.I.’s founding fathers. Pow Meng was born on May 29, 1921, in Malacca and was the most academically distinguished of the five boys in his family. His other brothers, Pow Wai, Pow Cheng, Pow Veng and Pow Tat were also Victorians. His sister, Sai Yoke, later married his fellow Victorian and future V.I. teacher Chong Yuen Shak. Interestingly, Pow Meng, Yuen Shak and Pow Veng were Treacher Scholars respectively for 1936, 1937, and 1938. Pow Meng also won the Rodger Scholarship in 1937. Pow Veng's son, Peng Lee, later outdid his father by winning the Rodger Scholarship in 1965.

Pow Meng as a cadet

Pow Meng was as involved in school activities as Ismail Mohd Ali before him and once cycled all the way to Malacca and back. In School, he was secretary of the Junior Cambridge Debating Society, secretary of the Geographical Society, secretary and, later, Captain of Hepponstall House, House Swimming Captain, a Prefect and secretary of the Prefects Board. He wrote prolifically for The Victorian under the pen name ‘Yapus’ and was made a sub-editor in his final year. He was also a member of the V.I. Cadet Corps Band. So total was his involvement in school activities that, according to one of his sisters, he used to complain that sleeping, bathing and eating were a waste of time!

War clouds were already gathering in Europe by the time Pow Meng secured his Queen's Scholarship in 1939. He sailed at the end of July to England. Hostilities broke out between Britain and Germany at about the time he started at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge to read for his medical degree (MBBCh).

Pow Meng's farewell party

In a letter dated 14th March 1941 to his former teacher, Mr Ng Seo Buck, Pow Meng gave a fascinating account of what a student's life was like in a country at war. Using both sides of the paper because of wartime shortages, Pow Meng wrote, "I and a few others are staying behind to act as fire-watchers for the college.. Everywhere one meets soldiers and airmen, hundreds of them, including men from Poland and Czechoslovakia… Air raids are infrequent in the day time… but recently the various laboratories have been linked up with the observer corps system and we do not have to troop down to the basement until the enemy is ten miles from Cambridge when a buzzer sounds. The sirens still moan away as usual, but you take them as a warning to stand by, ready to drop our scalpels and test-tubes if the buzzer should go…. We no longer feed our rabbits with cream to study fat digestion, because cream is unobtainable; we no longer study the uric acid content of oysters because oysters come from (occupied) France; we have to economise on rabbits and guinea pigs, and the Professor of Physiology has to go to the extent of getting a permit from the Food Office before the butcher will send him a sheep’s lung for demonstration purposes."

Pow Meng obtained his M.B. (Cambridge) in 1946, D.P.M. (London) in 1948, M.D. (Cambridge) in 1957 and F.R.C.P. (Edinburgh) in 1963. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He became a world authority on the Yap Pow Meng phenomenology of culturally-determined psychiatric syndromes such as koro, latah and other conditions seen primarily in Asia. He also wrote on such subjects as drug dependence, suicide, aging and other sociocultural aspects.

In 1948, after his basic postgraduate studies, Pow Meng took up residence in Hong Kong and was appointed Medical Officer in charge of Psychiatry. He lectured at the University of Hong Kong from 1952. He married Liang Shou Yung and had two children, Jane and Anthony.

Pow Meng founded the Hong Kong Mental Health Association in 1961. From 1963 he was a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health at the World Health Organization. From 1969 to 1971 he was Associate Professor in charge of Transcultural Psychiatry at the Clarke Institute of the University of Toronto, Canada. He returned to Hong Kong in 1971 to become the first Professor of Psychiatry there.

Pow Meng was attending the Fifth World Congress of Psychiatry at Mexico City in November 1971 when he passed away. He had suffered a mild heart attack several years previously; and this history, together with the Rodney - Cricket XI thin polluted air of the Mexican capital and the activities of the Congress, proved a fatal combination. With that, the world lost a brilliant man of science and the V.I. a brilliant son.

Rodney Russel Lam was the eldest of four brothers who went to the V.I. (The others were Randolph Sherwin, Rudolph Theodore and Ronald Victor.) By the time Rodney carried off the V.I.’s third consecutive Queen’s Scholarships in 1940, war had already engulfed Europe and unbeknownst to all, it was to come to this part of the world very soon.

In the V.I. Rodney had been an all rounder - chairman of Geographical Society and organizer of excursions, member of the School Cricket XI, a scout and, later, an Assistant Scout Master. He was also the secretary of Yap Kwan Seng House and later its Captain. He was editor of The Victorian, School Swimming Captain, a School Prefect and later School Captain.

School was a happy time for Rodney. Indians, Malays, Eurasians and Chinese mixed freely in studies and in sports. Indeed, Rodney’s best friend was Ismail Mohd Ali. Rodney, a Christian, was closer to Ismail than Ismail’s own brothers. He would eat and sleep at Ismail’s house and Ismail would do the same at Rodney’s.

Rodney's results

The above shows the Selangor results of the 1939 Queen's Scholarship examination. There were three compulsory subjects in the Scholarship examination - an essay, English Language and English Literature. For his electives, Rodney offered mathematics which was equivalent in marks to history and geography as offered by his classmate Harry Lau. (Harry joined the V.I. staff after the war.)

When Rodney got the news of his Scholarship success, he must have had mixed feelings. He was going to be reunited Rodney and Ismail with his best friend who was now in England but, on the other hand, there must have been deep concerns regarding travel to a country that had just suffered a massive military defeat in France and was now bracing itself for an invasion by Hitler's armies. Alternative arrangements were made for Rodney and V.I. boys learned in the August 1940 issue of The Victorian that Rodney had left rather suddenly in June, not for England but for the Singapore Medical College instead!

Rodney had completed his first year of studies when the relative tranquillity of Singapore was shattered in February 1942. The Pacific War had begun in late 1941 with the Japanese army overrunning Malaya and before long it was at the gates of Singapore. Rodney Lam Rodney got away on the last convoy out of Singapore. Barred by Japanese forces from heading south to Australia, his ship headed north to India, strafed part of the way by pursuing Japanese aircraft.

Rodney spent one year in medical college in Bombay before making his way to Edinburgh in 1943 where he finally could resume his medical studies in the country he was supposed to go to in the first place! One of his classmates at Edinburgh at that time was Lim Chong Eu, later to be Tun Dr Lim, Chief Minister of Penang. Rodney graduated from Edinburgh with M.B., Ch.B. He was the captain of the university lawn tennis club and was also a member of the Scottish Universities tennis team. After leaving Edinburgh Rodney did post-graduate work at London University and obtained his Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Rodney sat for his FRCS and became an orthopaedic surgeon. He married Miss Yeo Lian Sim who had also escaped from Singapore to Bombay. With the Mandarin stage name of Yang Lian Shin, Mrs Lam carved a singing career in Europe singing English, French, German, Italian and Chinese songs. Until he passed away in 1996, Rodney Lam was serving as a consultant on the Hospital Board of the southeastern region in Canterbury, England.

In 1941, the Scholarship rules were amended again. They ceased to be awarded to school candidates for undergraduate courses and only graduates of Raffles College and the King Edward VII College of Medicine were eligible for awards intended for postgraduate studies.

Mohamed Din bin Ahmad

The first postwar Queen's Scholar was Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mohamed Din bin Ahmad. Born in Siputeh, Perak, in 1912, he began his education at the Malay School, Setapak. In 1921, he joined the primary section of old V.I. in High Street, but when Maxwell School was opened in 1924 as a feeder school to the V.I., he and some other pupils were transferred there. He eventually rejoined the V.I. when he was in Standard Seven.

Mohamed Din was a rare combination of scholar and sportsman. On the academic field, he won the Treacher Scholarship in 1928 and narrowly missed the Rodger Scholarship the following year. In sports, he started as a scorer for the School cricket team. Then one fine morning he was drafted as an eleventh batsman. He practised ceaselessly and proved so skillful that he became the opening batsman and was later awarded his cricket colours. Among his teammates was the legendary Lall Singh who played for India against England in Test Cricket. He was a cadet and rose to be a corporal, but could rise no higher because of his height. He was a regular speaker at debates and was the first president of the V. I. Geographical Society. He was a School Prefect and was appointed School Captain in 1930.

Mohamed Din bin Ahmad

On leaving School, he obtained a government scholarship to read medicine in the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore. He was president of the College Club and captained the College Cricket XI. After graduation in 1937, he was posted to Kuala Kangsar as Assistant Medical Officer. In 1949, Mohamed Din was awarded the Queen’s Scholarship to do a course in Public Health at the University of Edinburgh and a course in Tropical Hygiene in London. In addition, the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis awarded him a scholarship for a course in tuberculosis. When he returned in 1952 he was Medical and Health Officer, Perak. In 1953 he became Chief Medical Officer of Trengganu, where the scope of work was unlimited. It had its hazards too; one day when Mohamed Din was travelling in a jeep on a bumpy East Coast road, a tiger jumped on to his moving vehicle!

Mohamed Din became Assistant Director of Medical Services in Malaya in 1956. In 1961 he was President of the Malaysian Medical Association and from 1960 to 1968 he was Chief Secretary to the Ministry of Health. In 1966, as first Malaysian Director-General of Health, he was elected the first Master of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia.

Abdul Majid bin Ismail

One year after Mohamed Din landed his Queen’s Scholarship the V.I. achieved another a similar honour. Also from the pre-war V.I., the new Scholar was Tan Sri Dato' Dr. Haji Abdul Majid bin Ismail. Nine years younger than Mohamed Din, he had first been schooled in a Malay school and then transferred to Maxwell Road School and Batu Road School before setting foot in the V.I. in 1936 in Standard 6 (Form 2 today). He was two years older than his classmates on account of his time spent in the Malay school and struggled with ill health in his early V.I. years.

Still Majid seemed to have made an impression with the Headmaster Mr F L Shaw in his first year. After the weekly assembly Mr Shaw would turn to him in the front row in the School Hall where he sat and call to him, “Here, Madge (that was how Shaw addressed him)” and hand him his academic gown which he had worn for the assembly. “Madge” would then run upstairs and hand the gown to the School office.

He was an active Scout and recalls many of the hikes he took in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He also remembers the time when the Scouts did duty at a party given by the Chief Secretary of the FMS. There Majid accidentally had his first taste of whiskey and got drunk. His wobbly journey home in the middle of the night, pushing his bike (as he could not pedal) with his equally inebriated fellow Scout teetering on the cross bar, must surely have been a sight for sore eyes.

In 1939, he emerged third amongst the V.I. boys who sat for their Cambridge School Certificate exams. On leaving the V.I. he was summoned with two other V.I. boys to the office of the Raja Uda of Selangor. The dignitary pointed at Majid and one boy and said that they were to be doctors. Pointing to the third boy, he told him to be an engineer. And that was how the three boys got Selangor State scholarships for further studies in their chosen fields, that is, chosen by some one else!

Majid joined the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore in 1940. His studies were interrupted by war in early 1942 when the Pacific war broke out. After the war, he resumed his studies from 1946 to 1949. The pre-war Raja Uda must have had great prescience because, in 1950, Majid Ismail, the V.I. boy he had directed to be a doctor, was awarded a Queen’s Scholarship tenable at the Faculty of Medicine in Singapore. On graduation Majid worked as a medical officer at the General Hospital in Kuala Lumpur. He went for post-graduate courses in Edinburgh and Liverpool and by 1958 he was a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon rising to be Director of Planning and Research in 1969. In 1971 came the ultimate prize for a medical professional in public service; Majid was appointed the Director-General of Health, a post he held until retirement in 1976. He was made a Tan Sri in 1973.

Throughout his long public career Majid also held many other positions in statutory and professional bodies including Chairman of the Council of the University of Malaya, President of the College of Surgeons, Malaysian Chairman of the National Medical Research Council, Vice-President of the National Council of Social Welfare to list but a few. He is currently Chairman of Syarikat Endah Sari Sdn. Bhd., Inti Universal Holdings Bhd (Inti College) and other companies. Despite his many commitments, Majid has never forgotten his old school. For a decade he sat on the V.I. Board of Governors. The school, too, did not forgot its brilliant son either, and made him Guest of Honour at its 1986 Speech Day. Majid relaxes with golf, big game hunting, gardening and chess.

Who would have expected that a Queen’s Scholar could come from a D class in the V.I.? The next Scholar, Arthur Rajaratnam, was one such. He joined the School in early 1939 on completing his Standard 5 at Pasar Road School. Possibly because he was two or three years younger than the rest of the class, he performed poorly and was in the D class consecutively in Standards 6, 7 and 8. On the sports field, however, things looked better. Despite his small size, Arthur represented Treacher House and took part in most sports. He joined the Boy Scouts in the Stag Troop.

War came to Malaya just as he was finishing his Standard 8 in December 1941. The V.I. was closed and three and a half years of ensuing Japanese occupation transformed this lad and his fortunes. Having to work on the family farm planting vegetables, rearing chicken, sheep and cattle during a time when labour was Arthur Rajaratnam - Cricket XI unavailable made Arthur reflect on the kind of career he wanted. Surely not that of a labourer, thought this perennial D class boy. He then spent a few months studying at the Japanese Technical College in High Street Kuala Lumpur. Its premises were, of course, those of the Old V.I. which had become the Technical College in 1930. Under the Japanese, though, its principal was a military officer but its local lecturers were still the same ones who had taught prewar. The language for instruction was still English, though the students had to take Nippon-go as a subject. It was here, in what was formerly the Old V.I., that the lad from the New V.I. became interested in engineering and in the physical/chemical sciences.

By the end of the war and the return of the British, Arthur, now four years older, rejoined the V.I. to complete his final year, the Senior Cambridge year, in 1947. Typical of the education chaos at that time, Arthur’s class of overgrown boys included many of his prewar Standard 8 classmates as well as younger boys who had been given express promotions from the lower standards. By now, the diffident prewar boy had now vanished and, in his place, was a mature and serious student able to compete against all comers both academically and on the sports field. Arthur the athlete represented the school in football under Mr Leong Fook Yen, and cricket under Mr. Gorbex Singh (with coaching provided by former Victorian and international cricket great, Lall Singh). He played some hockey as well.

Arthur the scholar had learned science under Mr Lim Eng Thye in Standards 6 and 7, and under Mr F. Daniel in Standard 8. In postwar V.I., he had Eng Thye again for science and under this strict task master, Arthur gained a solid scientific background and foundation. Arthur was also fortunate to have a tuition teacher - retired teacher, Mr. K.S. Koo, himself a Queen's Scholar from Penang and a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University - who gave him encouragement and a very solid foundation. Mr. Ganga Singh was the English expert in those days and though Arthur was not taught by him at all, he took some group tuition under him just before the Senior Cambridge Examinations. So, brimming with confidence, Arthur sat for his School Certificate examinations. When the results were released, it surprised Arthur and all his class teachers - not to mention as his prewar teachers in Standards 6, 7 and 8 - that he had topped the pass list as the Rodger Scholar of his year.

Armed with a Malayan Union scholarship and, later, a Federal scholarship, Arthur joined Raffles College and the University of Malaya in Singapore and read for a Science honours degree in physics. He played rugby for the Asians All Blues during his undergraduate days. (Fellow Victorian Siew Nim Chee, who read economics, was his college mate at Raffles at that time.) It was in his Masters degree year in 1954 that Arthur was awarded a Queen’s Scholarship to read for his Ph.D. at Imperial College, London, from 1955 to 1958. He became the only Victorian to win a Queen’s Scholarship for a science degree.

He returned from England to a physics lectureship at the University of Malaya in Singapore. He was seconded from 1966 to 1969 as full time director of the unit which later became known as the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research. Returning to the University which had by then been renamed the National University of Singapore, Arthur served as Professor of Physics from 1969 to 1987 during which period he was also the Head of the Department of Physics from 1969 to 1982. After retirement from the NUS in 1987 he taught as Professor of Physics at the newly established Universiti Brunei Darussalam until 1991 and helped establish its physics department.

Arthur Rajaratnam

In his long academic career, this Queen’s Scholar has taught modern physics, classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, electrodynamics, atomic and molecular physics, solid state physics and optics. In research he has worked in the fields of experimental spectroscopy, laboratory astrophysics, solar and atmospheric physics and nuclear physics. In the industrial and applied fields his interests included instrumentation, non-destructive testing and applied spectroscopy and neutron activation analysis. In all, Arthur has published 25 papers in international refereed journals, a dozen in local and international conferences, and, in addition, a few reports for the Singapore Government. He was a member of many academic and professional bodies. He also served as a volunteer engineer officer and served on various public boards and organizations in Singapore. He was awarded three public service medals.

It must have given this Old Victorian some satisfaction when, in 1960, he was asked to review the science textbooks - books that he himself had used - written by his former V.I. Headmaster, Mr F. Daniel. This physicist found that, at least in the physical and chemical science sections, Mr Daniel’s books gave a very good background to science students and were, in retrospect, quite excellent for the period 1937 to 1958 when Malaya was not yet developed in scientific matters.

Now retired, Arthur Rajaratnam expresses the deepest gratitude to his teachers at the V.I. “They were the best dedicated teachers,” he recalls, “They also trained us in leadership qualities, to be good sportsmen and to become good law abiding citizens.” He has happy memories of studying in a multiracial environment with little care about politics - a precious thing he would always treasure. “Whenever I meet my school mates whom I have not seen for years it is with great happiness that we recall our school days. I was active in the Singapore V.I.O.B.A. (the late Geoffrey Leembruggen was president of our Association). Meeting on the sports field with the Old Boys from K.L. was an annual event I looked forward to during the sixties.”

The next Queen's Scholar was Dato' Dr V. Thuraisingham who was in the V.I. from 1945 to 1949. Like the school career of Arthur Rajaratnam, his straddled the war years. His primary days at the Pasar Road School V. Thuraisingham were rudely interrupted by war in 1941 when he was in Standard Three. Nevertheless during the Japanese Occupation years Thuraisingham was able to receive private lessons in mathematics and English from his own father who was a clerk and a former teacher. Attending the classes with him was one Ronald McCoy who would later be his classmate at the V.I and at Medical School!

With the surrender of Japan in 1945, Thuraisingham joined the V.I. which was then housed at Batu Road School briefly, and then at the Maxwell School. It was a time of great chaos in the Malayan education system with overaged boys who had not been to English school for almost four years admitted to classes with cohorts two, three or four years younger than themselves. Thanks to the home tuition that he had had, Thuraisingham, admitted to Standard Seven, found that he had lost only about a year's equivalent of schooling. In 1946 he was back in the V.I. building where there were initially only four or five classes under the brief headmasterships of Mr Ng Seo Buck and Mr M. Vallipuram. The prewar teachers were all back - Messrs Lim Eng Thye, N. S. Rajalu, S. Thambiah, Lai Nyen Foo and S. V. J. Ponniah, to name a few. Conditions were primitive though; the science lab and the library had been stripped clean and there were no textbooks to speak of, only cyclostyled notes passed from pupil to pupil. Thanks to the new Headmaster, Mr F. Daniel, things slowly V. Thuraisingham - Cricket XI returned to normalcy, with the science lab restocked and the entire collection of missing sports trophies replaced. A brand new library was built in the present site and officially opened in 1949 by the British wartime Foreign Secretary, Mr Anthony Eden. Thuraisingham clearly remembers the morning Eden left Kuala Lumpur. His plane, which had taken off from the nearby (old) airport, circled the V.I. Below, the V.I. boys had assembled in the school field in the shape of the letters "V.I." as a farewell gesture. Eden's plane then dipped its wings as a salute to the Victorians before flying off for Singapore!

Thuraisingham was active at the V.I., serving as the secretary of Yap Kwan Seng House and as a School Prefect. He also represented the School in cricket. (He was bowler to teammate Ronald McCoy's batsman.) In those days there were no post-School Certificate classes nor Sixth Form classes and after he had sat for his school certificate examinations at the end of 1948, Thuraisingham and others were interviewed by professors from the Medical College. Successful, he and McCoy were among the first batch of students to join the fledgling University of Malaya in Singapore in late 1949.

Thuraisingham was awarded the Queen's Scholarship in 1955 on completion of his MBBS course and, after a period of practical experience at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, proceeded on to his post-graduate studies in Edinburgh and London. In 1960 he was awarded a Colombo Plan Scholarship for training in cardiology. National and professional recognition have been showered on this Victorian over the years - FRCPs from Edinburgh and London, Fellowship of the Academy of Medicine, Malaysia, authorship of many publications in medical journals, membership of the editorial board of the Malaysian Leong Chee Kong Medical Journal for 25 years, and a KMN, a PKT and a DSPN from the Governor of Penang (earning the title of Datuk). Thuraisingham is presently a director and a senior consultant at the Gleneagles Medical Centre in Penang.

Like the pre-war Ismail-Rodney pair, the next two V.I. Queen's Scholars were also friends and classmates in school. Dr Leong Chee Kong and Dato' Dr A. Tharmaratnam were also the very last to win Queen's Scholarships in 1957, the final year of British rule. They had joined the V.I. in 1947 and both enjoyed debating among other school activities. They served together on the Editorial Board of the 1951 Victorian of which Chee Kong was editor and both also held A. Tharmaratnam secretarial positions, Chee Kong with Hepponstall House and Tharmaratnam with the V.I. Literary and Debating Society. The latter was a Scout (later rising to King Scout), a School Prefect and Vice-Captain of Yap Kwan Seng House as well.

The V.I. Science and Mathematics Society was then a fledgling society having been founded in 1949 but membership was such an exclusive and prestigious honour in Tharmaratnam's time that aspirants had to submit an essay on a scientific topic in order to be considered. In 1951, when Tharmaratnam was president of the Society, he mooted the idea of a science exhibition with exhibits in physics, biology, mathematics and chemistry conceptualized, assembled and explained by the Leong Chee Kong and Tharma, 8A science students of the School. This turned out to be such a thumping success in August of that year that a new tradition was started and for the next twenty years or so the V.I. Science Exhibition became an annual Mecca for thousands of Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley school children.

Leong Chee Kong is best remembered for scoring an incredible nine distinctions in his school certificate examination (in those days the A's were not differentiated into A1's and A2's). His A's in English, English Literature, Elementary Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Geography, LCK & Tharma - Vic Ed Board History, General Science I, General Science II and Latin earned him the Rodger Scholarship. (His feat stood unsurpassed for almost fifty years until 1999 when Ho Sui Jim became the Rodger Scholar with ten distinctions.)

Leaving the V.I. in 1951, Chee Kong and Tharmaratnam embarked on their medical studies in Singapore and, based on their 1957 final results, the Victorian pair were awarded Queen's Scholarships. In that year, as a generous final gesture, the colonial Government had offered two Queen's Scholarships for medicine and for other disciplines as well. Tharmaratnam won a second honour when he received a gold medal from the University for being the best medical student. On the completion of their post-graduate degrees in England, Chee Kong and Tharmaratnam returned to Malaya to practise as consultants. Tharmaratnam continues his medical career as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Penang while Chee Kong is retired in Australia.

With Merdeka achieved in 1957, the Queen's Scholarship was replaced by the Agong Scholarship and thus vanished into the footnotes of history. The Victoria Institution can be proud that, during the lifetime of this prestigious Scholarship, it has had more than its fair share of Scholars.

VI The V.I. Web Page

Created on 31 July 2002.
Last update on 16 March 2006.

Contributed by: Chung Chee Min