The Reminiscences of Tuan Syed Shaidali


Capt. Syed Shaidali

Tuan Syed Shaidali (1891-1967) was a pupil at the V.I. from May 1898 to December 1908. He was an outstanding all-round student, excelling in cricket, hockey, athletics and football. He was captain of the latter sport in his final year in the V.I. A brilliant student as well, he was the Rodger Scholar of 1906. He became a teacher at Anderson School, Ipoh, in January 1909, and was later Headmaster of the Government English Schools at Kuala Kangsar, Parit, Tapah and Batu Pahat. He was a fervent believer in education to uplift the economic position of the Malays. A keen sportsman, he took up polo as well and played with members of Malay Royalty, whom he trained in the sport. He even played polo with the Prince of Wales when the latter visited Malaya in 1922.

During the Second World War, as a captain in the British forces, he fought against the Japanese in Singapore. After the war, he was bestowed with numerous awards including the MBE in 1952. Capt. Syed Shaidali, as he was more popularly known, led a group of veterans in the 1958 Merdeka Day parade at the Selangor Padang.

After his retirement as headmaster of Sultan Yusof School, Batu Pahat, in 1947, Capt. Syed Shaidali was re-employed to teach at the Junior Technical School at Ipoh for a period. In retirement he continued to participate actively in the games he played in school, especially cricket. He was also a member of the Sultan of Perak's polo team.

Shaidali at VI Sports He never forgot his alma mater and was a popular visitor to the V.I. Annual Athletic meets, sometimes in the capacity of a judge. He was a regular winner of the Old Boys' Races, albeit with a "slight" handicap of about 50 yards in his favour!

In 1957 he was invited by Old Boy and V.I. teacher Mr Ganga Singh to write his reminiscences of his school days in the old V.I. in High Street. These were printed in the 1957 Victorian. In 1962, he wrote a much longer version intending to use it at the farewell dinner for Dr. G.E.D. Lewis on his retirement as the headmaster of the V.I., but the opportunity did not arise. The reminiscences were, however, printed in four installments in the issues of the 1965 Seladang.

Gathered here are those reminiscences of 1957 and 1965 compiled into one document. Overlaps in those two versions have been edited out but the essential facts as presented by Capt. Syed Shaidali at the time of writing are unchanged. Of course, those persons that he referred to as still living when he wrote his reminiscences are, in all likelihood, not around any more.




School Buildings and Admission

he original main building with a few alterations still stands despite the encroachment of the splendid new viaduct which copes successfully with heavy traffic in that area, but most of the other buildings - about half a dozen including the Headmaster's bungalow - have disappeared to make room for modern progress which dates from Merdeka year, 1957. More progress has been made in Kuala Lumpur since Merdeka than in the fifty years preceding it.

To start with there were only two buildings, the main building, Block 1, which still stands and looks with a frown at the new viaduct, and another rather like a barn near the Klang River which was behind and halfway round the school on the north side.

I had the misfortune to study in the barn which housed Standards I and II, while my elder brothers were fortunate enough to be in the main building. The "barn" had only the ground floor, not even cemented at that. It was badly lighted and poorly ventilated, and the long desks and benches which sat six boys each were rather high. The benches had no backs to lean on. J. T. Arundpragasam was the teacher of Standard I and was a great believer, like so many other teachers of those "good old days", in the adage, that sparing the rod spoilt the child. Knowledge was literally driven into boys by the rotan freely administered by the pedagogue. Bless him, for such were the times then.

In the Headmaster's office in the main building about sixty-five years ago, in May 1898, four brothers were admitted into the V.I., Syed Arshad Ali, Syed Marshad Ali, Syed Jan and Syed Shaidali. The two oldest were admitted to Standard V, the third to Standard II, and I was placed in Standard I or the "ABC" class. School fees were $1 each a month for the older boys; the younger ones were free. Previously, the brothers had been studying in the Government English School, Telok Anson, where their father, Syed Asgar Ali, worked as a Surveyor. The Primary Class was introduced about six years later in 1904 with Miss A. Gillett as the first primary teacher.

The barn eventually made way for a new block, No. 3. From time to time several other buildings and a gymnasium were added, and also servants' quarters quite close to the Klang River. During the interval the older boys indulged in illicit smoking in the servants' quarters and in the latrine built on stilts over the Klang River. The water of the Klang and Gombak rivers was crystal clear - hard to believe nowadays - except during the periodical floods when it was muddy but not so muddy as at present, mainly because soil erosion had not set in, in view of the few tin mines and hardly any rubber estates. The floods brought fish to our doors and a crocodile or two which did not always get away from the crack shots amongst staff members, especially Messrs. Tyte and Towers. Eventually the river was diverted to prevent boys from bathing in it lest they drown - at least, this is what the boys thought.

Every boy was admitted in person by the Headmaster, Bennett Eyre Shaw, M.A. Oxon. Those who went through the school during the three decades when he was Head, 1894-1922, derived lasting benefits intellectually, physically and morally. He was ever watchful and introduced many changes on his own initiative after each visit back to the United Kingdom on "home leave". He was very keen on modelling his school after one of the Grammar schools in England such as the one at Rugby. As it was a trustees' school he had a free hand in carrying out his ideas, and there was a marked absence of colonial influence in the school.

John HughOn his return from one of his visits to the U.K. he was teaching Physiology to the Junior Cambridge Class, in which I then was. He gave the class some written work to do and then sent for the School Clerk, John Hugh, to check up on the cash book. I observed the man in action while pretending to do my work. He checked not only the entries in the book but the clerk's pronunciation as well. At that time, one of the latest methods of teaching reading was to lay especial stress on the final consonants, e.g. fatt, dogg, findd, and we enjoyed seeing the school clerk being put through his paces.

Democratic institutions were introduced into the school about the year 1906. All games captains were elected by the students who played the various games such as football, cricket, and so on.

Most of the chief Government executives like the Resident-General, Sir William Taylor, and the Chief Secretary, Sir Edward Brockman, paid visits to the School. We used to look forward to these visits because of the half-holiday that followed after each visit. The half-day was spent swimming in the Lake Gardens and sometimes the headmaster would come along and give us prizes in the form of biscuits and cakes for swimming races.

Shaw introduced the "Direct Method" of teaching English with the aid of Twelve Easy Dialogues and The 'Natural' Method, his two books which were famous at the time.

He left behind on retirement a tradition that will always be part of the school. Most old boys tried hard to get the Government to accord him the honour of declaring open the new school building on Bukit Petaling on March 26, 1929, but were told that no less a person than Sir Hugh Clifford, the High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States and Governor of the Straits Settlements, was to perform the ceremony. Shaw's students are found all over Malaya in all walks of life, and some have reached the highest positions in Government Service and in the business community.

One final word about his strong personality and character. Amongst the boys of the upper classes of the school he was known as "Bulldog". From the verandah of Block No. 2, at about 4 p.m., the boys would shout "Bulldog" at the top of their voices as he walked across the school field, to his bungalow followed by Dorakim, the peon, carrying our exercise books in a bamboo tray. Although of Irish descent, Shaw was very proud that his students should give him the sobriquet "Bulldog", which was typical of the tenacity of the British character. He referred to this indirectly one day when he mentioned that Sir William Temple of Rugby School fame was called a beast, but a just beast.

Teachers

Mr. B. E. Shaw. Mr. G. W. Hepponstall and Mr. J. H. Tyte stand out very prominently in my mind even today after a lapse of nearly half a century.

When the school was first started in 1893, G. W. ("Gin Whisky") Hepponstall was in charge until the arrival of B. E. Shaw in 1894. G. W. Hepponstall was an outstanding personality in any company. He had pink cheeks due to two reasons, "gin" and, sad to say, leprosy which broke out later in life. He was probably one of the earliest authors in this country to write a textbook, known as Hepponstall's Arithmetic. The pupils in Standard Five in 1902 helped in working out the answers to the sums for pupils of Standards I to III in this book.

G.W. HepponstallIn class he was the terror of any boy with any peculiarity. He gave such boys nicknames that have stuck to them even after leaving school. Dayal Singh, afterwards a teacher in Anderson School, Ipoh, was known as the "Dhoby's Bundle" because of his turban which smelt of curdled milk. Kanagasabai was called the "Polecat" because he was accompanied by some odour, and Kidum as "Abu Fashia" as he was always dressed in silks.

Hepponstall had unique methods of teaching arithmetic and reading. He would go up to the blackboard and explain a sum most lucidly and then say, "Hands up the boys who do not understand this sum!" Up would go slowly and gingerly two or three hands. Then, from Hepponstall, "Go and suck your grandmother's eggs." The funny thing is that these same boys would later explain the sum to other boys who had not understood it but were afraid to put up their hands!

His favourite subject was reading. He would ask the boys who were poor in pronunciation to stand up before the class and read aloud. After correcting the mistakes many times without much improvement from the boy he would go up to him and would mildly slap him with both hands on the cheeks at the same time repeating the boy's mistakes rapidly, e.g. wok wok ("work"), yea..b..c (A..B..C), Moonday ("Monday"), dallarsh ($), yem ("m"), yen ("n"), etc. The effectiveness of this method was apparent. After a few lessons on these lines reading improved to the point of perfection.

It is very sad to say that he died a leper. What I prefer to remember instead is that there was always a bottle of gin in his cupboard from which he took a nip now and then with his back to the class......

J.H. TyteJ. H. Tyte from Devonshire joined the V.I. about 1902 after matriculating from London University. He might have come out from the pages of Charles Kingsley's "Westward Ho" in which the characters, mostly from Devonshire and the nearby counties, were very resourceful adventurers as were the early English teachers in this country.

He was a successful and very resourceful and efficient teacher and later a rubber planter and lastly, Officer Commanding of the Malay States Volunteer Rifles whose members were all Europeans from different walks of life in this country such as civil servants, planters, etc. He trained hundreds of Europeans for service in Europe during the First World War. Here we are concerned with him as a teacher of exceptional ability for he had many good qualities of a born teacher. He was the first Normal Instructor in K.L. where the first class for the training of local teachers was started. The first teachers to pass the Normal Examination were G.W. Hepponstall and R. Thampipillay. The training of local teachers was first started at the V.I. in 1904 and the first batch consisted of four students viz. Chan Sze Onn, Ayathuray, Syed Jan and M. Foenander from the Second Year Commercial Class. They were first appointed as Pupil Teachers.

He was the Senior Assistant in the VI for about eight years before he was appointed the first Headmaster of the Anderson School, Ipoh, the only Government public school at that time in the country, except for the Government English School at Kuala Kangsar. He was a good artist who helped in staging English and Malay plays in the Kuala Lumpur Town Hall. There were hardly any cinemas yet, most of the entertainment being provided by touring English, Malay, Chinese, Indian and occasionally Parsee theatrical companies.

He was also an expert billiards player and represented both Selangor and Perak at soccer and hockey. It would be difficult nowadays to find a teacher who was gifted with so much talent. He introduced hockey in schools in Selangor and Perak and athletic sports in Perak.

A.C. Towers, R. C. Brown and J. C. McHeyzar were some of the earliest teachers. Their salary was about $80 a month. Rice was sold at 8 gantang for a dollar, O.V.H. (Square face) gin cost 30 cents a bottle, Cycle brand cigarettes cost 5 cents for a packet of 10, but most smokers rolled their own, using Birdseye or Three Castles tobacco. There were no taxes to speak of and certainly.no politics; life was easy and to enliven it music was provided by the State Band which performed regularly at the Selangor or Lake Clubs. There was a great demand for the band at dances, marriages and public functions. At other times music was provided by amateur performers at concerts and amateur dramatics. Now we can have music at any time of the day and night by just turning a knob and tapping the atmosphere for it.

Towers was interested in gymnastics, cadet corps and cricket. He left the V.I. to go to Ipoh in 1902 to become Secretary to three tin mines - Mendrus, Lahat and Tronoh. Later he owned a rubber estate in Tasek, 5 miles north of Ipoh and was known as the "Laird of Tasek". He always retained a military figure maybe because he started the first Cadet Corps in this country.

Amongst the other teachers I remember were Messrs. R. Charter, J.C. McHeyzar, A.H. Barlow, P.A. Wood, C. G. Coleman, W. C. A. Dainton, and A. M. Pilter. I must also mention the peon, Dorakim, always smiling, who was almost as popular as Mr. Shaw. McHeyzar, a teacher from Ceylon, was the cricket hero of the School. He is believed to have hit a ball to the foot (upstairs) of the clock tower of the Government Buildings and another on to the road in front of the Chartered Bank, much to the amusement of the spectators who showed their appreciation by loud and prolonged clapping whenever he hit a sixer.

Other Teachers

Some of the earliest local teachers were Chin Khye Cheong, Goh Kim Fook, Chan Sze Kiong, R. Thampipillay, S. Candyah (the usual spelling now is "Kandiah"); and later, G. J. Henbrey, P. A. Wood, J. Elton, Tan Lye Huat, H. M. de Souza Sr. (of tennis fame), A. H. Barlow (gymnast); J. S. Ayathuray spoke with an Oxford accent even before it was invented by Oxford University and later joined the High School, Malacca; Chan Sze Onn joined Anderson School, Ipoh, as Senior Assistant, and subsequently founded a firm of Secretaries in Malacca Street, Singapore; Syed Jan who joined the Kedah Education Department after serving two years at the Anglo Chinese School Ipoh; W. J. Proudlock, gymnast and left winger in soccer, Tamby Omar, footballer and high jumper, G. C. Coleman, centre half and expert at heading the ball in soccer, who later became Inspector of Schools, first in Selangor and then in Perak; W. C. A. Dainton, very good as goalkeeper, A. M. Pilter who later settled down in Cameron Highlands, J. H. B. Phillips who took up rubber planting near Taiping, A. G. Beaumont, later headmaster of the A.C.S. Ipoh, and Mohamed Yassin.

The first lady teacher was Miss A. Gillet, appointed in 1904 to take charge of the Infant Department. She later married Mr. Norman Grenier, the Selangor and Malayan cricketer. Other lady teachers who joined later were Misses E. Davidson, de Silva, and A. Charter.

Dr. J. McClosky was the school doctor and visited the school regularly every day at 9.30 a.m. He was replaced by Drs. Day and Travers when he retired. Of the teachers mentioned only R. Thambipillay in Kuala Lumpur and Tuan Syed Jan in Sungai Patani, Kedah, are alive today.

Some of the teachers mentioned besides being expert teachers were well up in music, art, dramatics, and games of all kinds. Some wore hats size 7 1/4 in. They taught us to get the utmost out of life and to do nothing that was not cricket. It speaks volumes for the school whose teachers and pupils helped in opening up the country from Kedah to Singapore, the Malaysian Archipelago and as far as India, Siam and Burma.

Physical Education

A gymnasium was built in 1903 and the School produced some strong-muscled men. Their trainers (almost as good as those in the circuses) were Messrs. J. H. Tyte, W. Proudlock, A. C. J. Towers and Natha Singh. The last named finished up at Anderson School, Ipoh, and in his last days even methylated spirits were not potent enough to satisfy his craving for drink. At the Annual Sports, gymnastics and Indian Club displays were extremely popular items.

From the very first, stress was laid on physical training; there was organised drill twice a week and games in the afternoon, although there were two sessions daily from 9 to 12 and 1.00 to 3.45. It is quite likely that the V.I. was the pioneer school to introduce organised physical drill, gymnastics and Indian Clubs. There were extramural duties after school hours, say from 5.00 p.m. till 6.30 p.m. Many teachers turned up voluntarily in the afternoons to help in the training of students in games and gymnastics. Some of the European teachers - Towers, Tyte, Proudlock and Barlow - were as good in gymmastics or even better than Natha Singh, the gymnastics instructor. The annual athletic sports, together with gymnastics and Indian Clubs display, were very popular with those who came to witness them.

No doubt, with improved training techniques all previous records have been left behind but some of them took a quarter of a century to surpass which shows the calibre of the athletes in those days. Creating new records can be counted as an innovation of the last twenty-five years or so due primarily to improved methods of coaching and training.

The V.I. was ahead of other schools in military training; its Cadet Corps was started in 1900 and those of us who were in it were certainly very proud of our uniform. There was, however, one exception, R. Seenivasagam, Mr. R. Thampipillay's younger brother.

One drill morning, he was absent from parade, and unfortunately the class had already assembled before he could sneak in. Our class master, Mr. J. H. Tyte, was also the O.C. of the Cadet Corps and he was furious because that day we had a rehearsal for a guard of honour for the British Resident. Seenivasagam was put on the carpet, and the O.C.C.C. was red in the face when he asked him why he was late. All Seenivasagam could do was to blurt out, "Sir, my legs are so thin that the boys call me 'bamboo-sticks' whenever I wear puttees!" The teacher suppressed a smile and told him to get back to his place. As the number of students in the class was small, about 12, we sat in a semi-circle. On going back to his place, Seenivasagam got hold of his desk preparatory to sitting down but he pulled it on top of himself and sat on the floor, as someone had pushed away his bent wood chair. The teacher had a broad smile as he told Seenivasagam to collect himself and resume his seat.

Classes

In early days there were Standards I to VII, with no age limit. It was not unusual for married men to be studying in Standards III and IV. Later the Preliminary, Junior and Senior Cambridge classes were introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. Science was taught in the Cambridge Classes but was discontinued in 1905 when the Cambridge Examinations were abolished by Mr. R.J. Wilkinson, a Malayan Civil Servant and the famous compiler of a Malay-English Dictionary who was the Federal Inspector of Schools for the Federated Malay States. Commercial Classes were introduced. However, the Cambridge Classes were revived in 1907.

A change in the classification of classes was introduced when Miss A. Gillet was appointed to take charge of the Primary Department and the school fees were raised to $5 a term from standard V upwards. Meanwhile the teaching of Science had a long holiday from 1905 to 1935 when it was reintroduced into the bigger schools owing to public demand. Up to the end of 1904 every boy in every class in the School was examined annually by the Inspector of Schools, Selangor.

Transport

Most people, including the Sultan and the British Resident sometimes, used their two legs to transport themselves over short or long distances. Some went on horseback or horse carriage. Sampans were used between towns and villages situated along river banks, roads were few and very muddy during the wet season and very narrow and winding, which did not matter at all as far as the bullock cart was concerned. Roads were all very dusty except the one in front of the Government buildings on Jalan Raja. A water cart drawn by bullocks was employed to spray water on the roads to keep the dust down during hot days. There were small steamrollers for the construction of roads made of laterite (no granite or limestone was available as there were no metal-crushing machines).

The rickshaw was the most popular means of transport within town limits, but journeys in rickshaws up to 20 miles were not unusual. Even Sultans and Residents used these sometimes. Gradually the railway network was spreading and boys from Klang, Kajang and Kuala Kubu attended the V.I. They were given free railway passes.

Later, the rich rode on horses or in horse carriages until the advent of the penny-farthing bicycle at the beginning of the century followed soon after by the fixed wheel and, soon after that, the free wheel bicycle. Mr. Shaw was one of the first to ride a bicycle. Sir William Taylor, the Resident-General, visited the School officially in his horse trap driven by himself and the "syce", seated behind. Hence the local term for the motorcar driver which was "syce" for many years.

Small steam coastal vessels carried goods and passengers between the ports on the West Coast such as Alor Star, Penang, Port Weld, Telok Anson, Klang later Port Swettenham, Port Dickson, Malacca and Singapore and the few ports on the East Coast such as Pekan, Kota Bharu and Kuantan. The ports on the West Coast were connected by rail to the main towns inland - Port Weld to Taiping, Telok Anson to Tapah Road, Klang to Kuala Lumpur, and Port Dickson to Seremban. A journey from Penang or Singapore to Kuala Lumpur had to be undertaken first by steamer to Klang and then by rail to Kuala Lumpur. Early in the present century both Penang and Singapore were connected by rail and travelling became easier and quicker. Both the railway stations at Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur were wooden structures not much bigger than the present Rawang railway station(a picture of the K.L. station may be seen in the Muzium Negara to this day).

The opened-up area of Kuala Lumpur was about a mile and a half in radius from the bridge over the Klang River near the roundabout in front of the Oriental Building. There were no traffic lights, no roundabouts, no one-way streets, no "Stop, Look and Go", and magistrates were not burdened with traffic offenders.

The first motor car in K.L. appeared in 1902, a de Dion, was owned by J. H. M. Robson, editor of the Malay Mail which was housed in a building where the present Ibu Pejabat Pos (General Post Office) now stands. He drove it down Java Street (now Jalan Mountbatten) and it looked like a cross between a railway engine and a small steam roller with this difference, that it emitted smoke from behind and not from a funnel in front. When it first appeared crowds gathered on both sides of Java Street to wonder at a horseless carriage going at some speed. We thought that it was a new kind of road locomotive. There was a man in front of it with a red flag to warn other users of the road and I dare say some present-day motorists need such a person with a red flag in front.

The Malay Mail and Chow Kit & Co. stood in the area on which the present Post Office stands. The original Post Office conducted its business in the portion of the Government Buildings nearest to the present Post Office.

A unique institution was the K.L. Fire Brigade. It had a steam engine drawn by two horses. The Brigade was manned entirely by volunteers of the European community of K.L. Displays were held annually and prizes awarded. A gun was fired from the Police Depot on the hills behind the Selangor Club in case of fire in the town. The brigade had its headquarters in a building which stood in the triangular piece of ground used as a car park in Malacca Street opposite the bus station.

There were only a few streets and roads in K.L., the main ones being Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) which was partly developed up to its junction with Jalan Campbell, Java Street and Malay Street (the latter now known as Jalan Melayu), High Street (Jalan Bandar), Ampang Street, the stronghold of the moneyed Chettys (now Chettiars) even to this day, and Ampang Road to the race course, Pudu Road, Klyne Street (the Museum was on Bukit Nanas), Weld Road, Brickfields Road, four roads to the Lake Gardens - the road by the side of the Selangor Club leading now to Parliament House, Young Road, and two roads past the overhead railway bridge and the Masonic Hall, Damansara Road, Klyne Street, Malacca Street in which was the first Anglo Chinese School (later the Methodist Boys' School when it moved to its present site), and Petaling Street, shared between the Chinese and Japanese communities.

The houses along Malay Street were owned mostly by rich Malays and some were occupied by Malay businessmen. The original Malay settlement was behind Batu Road in the space between Batu Lane and the Klang River. At the beginning of this century the Government created a Malay Reserve known as the Kampong Bahru as there was no room for expansion behind Batu Road.

The cinema (called bioscope in those days) was an infant. Live shows like the Wayang and the Circus provided entertainment in the evenings on their annual visits. We had no 'potted' music (the gramophone was a curiosity in the houses of the very rich) but we had excellent music played by the State Band at the Selangor Club and the Lake Gardens. Most people walked and there were hardly any accidents, at least not the ghastly sights one sometimes sees these days. What a blessing it was when electricity was supplied to the town of Kuala Lumpur early in the century. We were certainly very happy to get rid of the smoky oil lamps.

Malay Students

It was a matter of high policy to provide the Malay child with an education in the National Language and training for the Malay school teacher at the Sultan ldris Training College, Tanjong Malim. Ordinarily, to become a Malay school teacher the student had to pass Standard Six in a Malay school and if of the right age, 14 or 15 years old, he was admitted into the training college for three years. When he passed he became a fully trained teacher.

The sons of the Sultans, Rajas and major chiefs were educated at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar from 1905 onwards. They learnt the Malay Language but the main medium of instruction was English. They studied up to Senior Cambridge class and after a year of specialised study were drafted into the Malay Administrative Service with chances of promotion into the Malayan Civil Service. Some rose high enough to become Staff Officers. Shining examples of very capable and efficient Malay officers were Hamzah bin Abdullah, Othman bin Mohamed, Dato Mat, Raja Kamaraizaman, Tun Abdul Malek and Raja Tun Uda.

The greater majority of Malay boys and (although not until recently) Malay girls attended Malay schools. Those who passed a qualifying examination were admitted into the English schools and were given free education. Some of the brightest ones became teachers, penghulus, Malay writers and journalists, and played their part in the renaissance of the Malays. About 1925 Malay Special Classes I and II were introduced. In each district there was a competitive examination for both boys and girls in the Malay schools under the age of 11. After the examination selected children were admitted into the English schools for a specialised course in English for two years to fit them for promotion to Standard IV or V in the English school. About ten percent of these received a scholarship of $10 a month after the first year examination.

As there were a few Malay boys in the V.I., a Special Malay Class was formed in 1906 with Syed Jan, a normal trained teacher as the class master. In the class were two sons of the Sultan and Raja Musa bin Raja Bot who later became a judge of the Supreme Court Kuala Lumpur.

Very few Malay boys and hardlly any Malay girls attended English schools, for the belief then existed in the Malay community that their children might become converts to Christianity if they attended such schools. This is not surprising as religious instruction was included in the curriculum of both the Methodist Boys' School and the St. John's Institution: therefore hardly any Malay child attended these schools. However, a few risked the frowns of their community and there was a sprinkling of Malay boys in the V.I. classes. Dr. Abdul Latiff, father of the Selangor State Secretary and of the Director of the Federation Information Services, was one of them. It was only after World War II that the Malay girls could be spared from the drudgery of the kitchen and other home duties to attend schools in considerable numbers.

Amongst the Malay boys who attended the V.I. in the early days were Kidum, son of one of the richest Malays in Jalan Melayu, Syed ldrus, Tamby Omar, Abdul Hamid bin Tamby Abdullah, Baba, Mahmud Twakal and Abdul Latif (now Dr. Latif). The last two travelled daily from Klang.Old Boys

The names that follow comprise, of course, only a small number of the Old Victorians who did well in school as well as later in life. There were three O'Hara boys, Granville, somewhat of a bully in school and later a forest officer, Claude, a mining prospector still living in Ipoh, and Vivian also a forest officer; two Bartholomew brothers, one an engine driver and the other an architect; four Chan brothers - Sze Keong, a teacher, Sze Pong a doctor, Sze ]in, a lawyer and legislative councillor and Sze Onn, a teacher and afterwards founder of a Secretarial firm in Singapore - M. H. Foenander, Straits Times reporter who died lately; M. A. Akbar, teacher and Scouter; L. F. Koch, teacher; Hector La Brooy, first to win the Rodger Medal at the V.I. and still living in Ipoh; Chin Leong with his pigtail, "Kayu Arang" Ayathuray, Lim Chin Cheng, Yong Shook Lin, Dr. C. N. Abraham, J. Askey, and the two Aestrop brothers.

The Junior Cambridge class was revived in1907 and the following were the teachers: J.H. Tyte, Class Master, taught maths and drawing; B.E. Shaw, the Headmaster, taught religious knowledge, literature, physiology and history, and C. G. Coleman, geography.

Pupils consisted of a baker's dozen who sat in seats arranged in a curve in front of the teacher. They were M. Vallipuram, afterwards a teacher who acted as Head of the V.I. after the Liberation in 1945, L. F. Koch, a teacher, Dr. Thilliampalam, Dr. C. N. Abraham, Yap Kwan Wee, A.H.M. Fox, K. M. Kumurasamy, who used to take his evening walk in Batu Lane, wearing a blood red tie, became a lawyer and was practising in lpoh, A.K. Moosdeen a Hong Kong Chinese Muslim, E. Neal, forest officer, M. Fernandez, a teacher and headmaster now living in Singapore, and of course the writer, now retired after serving as Headmaster of four schools in Perak and living in Petaling Jaya.

In a decade, over two thousand pupils had attended or were attending the school. It was possible then for the Headmaster to 'know' every single pupil for the enrolment did not exceed 600 pupils even in the biggest schools. All schools were 'one stream' schools and the number of pupils in any one class was about thirty.

The School was founded by a Board of Trustees under an Enactment known as the V.I. Enactment and the institution was named after the late Queen Victoria who was graciously pleased to grant her assent together with an autographed print. The Headmaster was the Secretary of the Board and the State Treasurer, Selangor, was also the Treasurer of the school until 1926 when the school was taken over by the Government.

It was a, very sad and solemn day at the school when the news of the death of Queen Victoria was announced early in 1901.

Changing Appearance of Kuala Lumpur.

The skyline is daily changing especially in the heart of the town. Development is proceeding apace more so since Merdeka in 1957. Nearly all the one-storied shophouses in the former Java Street, Market Square (Medan Pasar), Jalan Raja and Batu Road have disappeared and their places have been taken up by multi-storied buildings. The extension is upwards and not sideways due to the almost daily increase in the price of land. Many roads have been or are being widened and improved by the provision of pavements for pedestrians and cyclists. The pavements along the embankment of the Klang River were used for drying fish in the days of the single-storied buildings in that area. Now there are rows and rows of motor cars drying in the sun. It may be of interest here to mention that Messrs. Cycle and Carriage Co. Ltd. started in a small way as a bicycle repair shop in the end shop nearest the Selangor Traffic Office in Jalan Bandar. It moved to the building now occupied by Messrs. Naina Mohammed & Co. later, and from there it has shifted to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Outstanding Headmasters.

It was customary for a Headmaster to continue working in the same school for a number of years until he reached the retiring age. Many such headmasters have left lasting impressions of their success, for example, Hullet of Raffles Institution, Singapore; B. E. Shaw of the V.I; R. H. Pinhorn of the Penang Free School; R. F. Stainer of the King Edward VII School, Taiping; and Hargreaves of the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar. Some worked in the same school for nearly thirty years.

The first Director of Education of the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States was J. B. Elcum and another well-known one was Sir Richard Winstedt, both of the Malayan Civil Service. The latter, 84 years old, is still living in England.




VI The V.I. Web Page


Created on 14 June 1999.
Last update on 26 November 2003.

Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng