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A Concise History of VI

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  A Concise History of the Victoria Institution   1893-2002  by Chung Chee Min ollowing the establishment of the British Protectorate in the Malay Peninsula in 1874, economic development in Selangor accelerated with the growth of the rubber and tin industries and the laying of a rail link from Kuala Lumpur to Klang in 1890. With demand rising for an English-educated work force to fill the ranks of the government service and the mercantile sector, the Capitan China of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Kwan Seng, together with Towkay Loke Yew and Thamboosamy Pillay were three prominent Kuala Lumpur residents who convened a public meeting calling for the establishment of an English school. They promised to give $1,000 each. Sir William Hood Treacher, the British Resident in Selangor, was very supportive. However, the chief obstacle in the way of realising their aim was a lack of funds. As it happened, in March 1893, Sir William discovered a sum of $3,188 of unspent money in the Treasury which had been raised six years earlier by public subscription for the erection of a permanent memorial to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. He then suggested to the donors that the sum could be used to build a school. With their agreement, this amount became the nucleus of a building fund for a memorial school that would be named The Victoria Institution . The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan  Abdul Samad, donated a sum of $1,100 and became one of the two patrons of the school  –  the other being Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, the Governor of the Straits Settlements. Soon, further public donations and the Selangor government’s contribution of $7,000 brought the total money available to $21,291, sufficient to begin building a government-aided institution to be maintained primarily for the purpose of providing instruction in the English language to day scholars of all nationalities and classes resident in the State and for other educational purposes . [The various races were at that time referred to as nationalities and, until 1972, Kuala Lumpur was part of Selangor.] The First Board of Trustees of the Victoria Institution in 1893 consisted of Sir William Treacher (President), Raja Sulaiman (a grandson of Sultan Abdul Samad, he would later ascend the throne as Sultan Ala-iddin Sulaiman Shah), Capitan China Yap Kwan Seng, Loke Yew, Rev F W Haines (the Inspector of Schools), A R Venning, Dr E A O Travers, F G West, K Thamboosamy Pillay, Ong Chi Siu, Koh Mah Lek and Tambi Abdullah. On the 14th of August, 1893, Lady Treacher laid the foundation stone for the School in High Street. (The srcinal foundation plate is today affixed to the front façade of the present VI building.) The first block of the Victoria Institution was completed in 1894 and Mr. G. W. Hepponstall was the acting Headmaster pending the arrival of Mr. Bennett Eyre Shaw from the Grammar School at Bishop's Stortford in England. Situated on an eight acre site in a loop of the Klang River, the School - with four staff - was officially opened by Mr Shaw on 30th July, 1894. Mr Hepponstall had srcinally been the Headmaster of one of the earlier English schools in Kuala Lumpur, a plank and attap building located at the junction of High Street and Foch Avenue (now Jalan Cheng Lock). His 96 pupils formed the nucleus of the initial enrolment at the V.I. which started with 115 boys from Primary One upwards. Mr Shaw was paid $2,400 a year and the assistant masters $780, $600 and $360. The government gave the school an annual grant of $3,000 and total expenditure was estimated at $7,425.  As the first Headmaster, Mr. Shaw initiated traditions and practices that would be emulated by other schools. He envisioned an education not merely for examinations but for life; his main aim was to produce good citizens. Without neglecting academic standards, Mr Shaw introduced and developed a variety of school activities designed to give a balanced education. He made drill and gymnastics an integral part of the education. He gave out prizes to those pupils with good attendance records and introduced a report card system to monitor the boys' progress and conduct. The  first Prize Day was held on 21st December, 1894; this was also the year the Treacher Scholarship was founded in honour of Sir William Treacher to given to the best boy in Standard Eight (now Form Four) Junior Cambridge Examination. The Rodger Medal, awarded to the boy who had the best School Certificate results, was founded in 1895 in honour of Mr J P Rodger (later Sir John Pickersgill Rodger, the British Resident in Selangor and President of the VI Board of Trustees from 1896 to 1901). Three years later another practice was initiated with the holding of the first VI Sports Day. In 1906, musical drill displays became part of Sports Day. Another scholarship, the Nugent-Walsh Scholarship, was founded in 1909 as a memorial to a prominent Kuala Lumpur citizen to be awarded annually to the boy who stood second in the Junior Cambridge Examination. The first recipient in 1910 was Yong Shook Lin, who later became a noted lawyer andlegislator. The growth and development of the VI was rapid. A total of 201 boys were registered in its second year of operations, including nine local Malay boys and a Sumatran Malay. By 1900 there were 423 pupils; two years later, the VI had 532 pupils and, by 1924, the number had ballooned to 950. In 1899, a two-storey building (Block No. 2), consisting of six classrooms on the ground floor and masters’ quarters above them was constructed but this was hardly adequate for long. A gymnasium and another two-storey building (Block No. 3) containing a laboratory and three classrooms were added in 1903. In 1909, Block No. 4 was constructed, consisting of three classrooms on the ground floor and a large hall on the first floor. In 1921, a temporary building with three classrooms was erected to relieve the pressure for space. The VI Cadet Corps dates from 1900, when the St. Mary's Boys' Brigade was founded by a VI teacher, Mr. A.C.J. Towers. It became the VI Cadet Corps in 1901 and was the first of its kind in the country. The Corps had its first camp in Port Dickson in 1902 and, in 1909, its drum and fife band was formed. Mr. B.E. Shaw also founded the School Scout Troop - the First Selangor Troop - in 1910, the very first Scout Troop in the country. Another of his legacies was the inauguration of the House system in 1921, under which the School was divided into five Houses for competitive sports. With three masters in charge of each House, they were known as the Red, the Yellow, the Brown, the Green and the Orange Houses. In 1900, one of the earliest products of a VI education, Chan Sze Pong, became the first winner of the newly instituted Queen's Scholarship for an undergraduate degree course at a British University. He had also been the School's first Treacher Scholar and the second Rodger Medallist. Three years later, his younger brother, Sze Jin, also from the VI, won a similar scholarship to read law in England. His youngest brother, Sze Onn, was Rodger Scholar twice and was recruited by Mr Shaw. Sze Onn was trained with three others - Ayadurai, Syed Jan and M. H. Foenander - in the first batch of local teachers at the VI in 1904 and they were subsequently appointed Pupil Teachers. Indeed, Mr Shaw's policy of recruiting his Old Boys - the best Old Boys - to return as VI teachers paid off handsomely. Dozens of such Old Boy teachers, who made up the majority of the staff, worked diligently beyond the call of duty for the love and glory of the School. Many made teaching their life career and gave twenty-five to thirty years of their professional lives to the VI, churning out a second and even a third generation of VI teachers. Others went on to be headmasters of their own schools throughout Malaya, seeding them with Mr Shaw's ideals and vision. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, several VI masters enlisted, namely, Goodman Ambler, James Carr, C G Coleman, William Dainton and George Barber. Fighting for the Royal Fusiliers, the latter was killed in action in the epic Battle of the Somme in France in 1916. The other teachers survived the war and returned to their duties. VI Old Boys also fought in the war; two who gave their lives were J H V Thornley and William C Curtis. Sergeant Robert Chan Hong Seong, of the Mesopotamia Transport Corps is believed to be one of several other Asian Victorians in the Great War. He was awarded the Iraq Medal.  After 28 dedicated years, Mr. B.E. Shaw finally retired as the longest serving Headmaster in February, 1922. Before he left, there was a meeting of Old Victorians in the School Hall in Block 4 which unanimously approved the formation of the V.I. Old Boys Association. Mr Shaw was elected as the Patron and the first President was Chan Sze Kiong, brother of Queen's Scholars Sze Pong and Sze Jin. Through the generosity of Towkay Yap Fatt Yew, the Old Boys were given a spacious club house at 17, Rodger Street (now Jalan Hang Kasturi). (Incidentally, the second VIOBA President, who served from 1926 to 1934, was none other than K T Ganapathy Pillay, the son of one of the School's founders, Mr Thamboosamy Pillay.)  Mr Shaw’s successor, Richard Sidney, had enlisted in the army in 1914, trained troops behind the front but had not seen action himself. His relatively short period as Headmaster from 1923 to 1926 was marked by the highly innovative and far-reaching changes he introduced. He reorganised the school into ten Houses, named after either founders of the school, old teachers or supporters of the school, namely, Nugent Walsh, Thamboosamy, Rodger, Hepponstall, Yap Kwan Seng, Treacher, Loke Yew, Steve Harper, Shaw and Davidson. Mr Sidney also introduced the first Speech Day in 1923 and changed the school hours from morning and afternoon sessions to the present system of one long morning session. A great and lasting institution was also created on April 6, 1923, when the first School Prefects were installed in a short but impressive ceremony. The first School Captain of the VI was Othman bin Mohamed who later became, variously, a Mentri Besar of Selangor, the High Commissioner for Malaya and Singapore in Britain and the  Acting Deputy Chairman of the Public Services Commission. The first school magazine, The Victoria Institution Echo , was published in April 1923; it was renamed The Victorian  after two issues and continues to be published to this day. Mr Sidney introduced an annual Conversazione , which was essentially an open day when parents would be invited to the school to view school work and watch various activities like pageants, dancing and massed displays. It was during Mr Sidney’s reign as Headmaste r that drama became prominent in the School's extra-mural activities. A Malay play, Chitra Raja Besi  , written by teacher and Old Boy, M A Akbar, was staged at the Kuala Lumpur Town Hall and the money earned was set aside for the formation of a School Orchestra. During Mr Sidney's tenure the VI Musical and Dramatic Society (VIMADS) staged public performances of Shakespeare plays - Twelfth Night   and Henry IV (Part One)  - which carried the School’s name far and wide. One year the VI boys took their play on tour to Ipoh, Penang and Singapore. Debating was also a popular activity and VI boys arranged many debates among themselves and with other schools. An outspoken person, Mr. Sidney agitated for a new site for the VI and urged that the VI concentrate on secondary education only. While his vision was not achieved during his time as Headmaster, it was realized within three years of his departure. The Klang River which then meandered through Kuala Lumpur in those days proved to be a bane to the school. There was the odd crocodile which lurked on the river banks next to the school to contend with but, of far greater inconvenience, were the occasions when the river burst its banks during the rainy season. Kuala Lumpur was flooded in November 1902, and again in December 1911. As the floods occurred during holidays, the work of the school was not interrupted. However, on March 8th, 1917, and October 27th, 1918, the river reached the ground floor classrooms and the school had to be closed for several days. The threat of more flooding and the noise from engineering workshops just across the river prompted the School’s trustees to look for a more suitable site. In 1919, the Government had offered a valuable piece of land of about 25 acres in Batu Road and plans for a school to accommodate 1,000 boys had been drawn up. The contract for the building was ready for signature when the town-planning expert prohibited the erection of the school building on that site. The rubber slump then prevented further action for several years. The overcrowding in the school and the extensive floods of 1926 which caused the school to be closed again for a few days led to a final decision on an alternate new site on Petaling Hill which was then a former Chinese cemetery converted to a golf course. But the winds of change were blowing even before that. On September 1st, 1925, the VI ceased to be a semi-private school and was taken over completely by the Government. From then on, future Headmasters would no longer recruited by the trustees of the School; instead, they would be officers from the Malayan Educational Service. Equally significant, the staff would no longer be personally recruited by the VI Headmaster but by the Education Service. The School's first civil servant Headmaster was Mr G C Davies who helmed the School from 1926 to 1930. He had been in the armed forces during the First World War and was a strict disciplinarian who never allowed the scholastic activities of the school to play a subordinate part to extra-curricular activities. Mr Davies oversaw the historic move from the High Street premises to the brand new building on Petaling Hill. On September 21st, 1927, the foundation stone for the new VI was laid by Sultan Ala'idin Sulaiman Shah, witnessed by the Director of Education, Dr R O Winstedt, and other dignitaries. After eighteen months of construction (the contractor was Low Yat), the building was ready and on March 26, 1929, in front of a large crowd of Kuala Lumpur dignitaries which included many Old Boys, Sir Hugh Clifford - the President of the VI Board of Trustees in 1901 and now the High Commissioner of Malaya - opened the new VI. The ceremony was also witnessed by the first VI Headmaster, Mr. B.E. Shaw, who had been invited back to Malaya by the many Old Boys who had been taught by him. The new VI became a secondary school with 500 boys from Standards Six (Form Two today) to Senior Cambridge. Its  old primary pupils in Standards Five and below remained in the High Street premises under the headmastership of  A.W. Frisby and they later transferred to the newly-built Batu Road School in June, 1930. BRS and Pasar Road School, which was built in 1925, then became feeder schools to the VI. Because of the sharp reduction in its number of pupils, the School’s ten Houses were halved to fi ve  –  Thamboosamy, Hepponstall, Yap Kwan Seng, Treacher and Shaw were the ones that survived. With brand new science labs, the VI was now able to introduce science as a subject, the first school in Malaya to do so. In 1930, when Mr Edgar de la M. Stowell wa s the acting Headmaster in Mr Davies’ absence, the VI finally acquired a crest of its own, one that would serve as an instantly recognised identity over the years. It was designed by Mr G. Burgess, the Art Superintendent of Selangor, who incorporated in it elements of the Selangor flag. In his short stay of six months, Mr Stowell also introduced cross country running to the VI boys. Mr Davies’ successor was another Mr Shaw - Frederick Lloyd Shaw - who guided the school from 1931 to 1936. Mr Shaw revised the Prefects Charter, particularly in respect of the specific duties of prefects. In 1932, a great VI teacher and Old Boy, Mr R. Thampipillay, retired after over 34 years service with the school. He was presented with the Imperial Service medal at a ceremony in the School Hall. The following year, the School Football Eleven won, for the second time since 1926, the Thomson Cup for inter-school football supremacy. Boys entering the VI were now selected from Maxwell English School as well as BRS and PRS. The 1933 enrolment stood at 530. Equipped with its own laboratories and using course material developed for tropical schools by its own Senior Science Master, Mr F. Daniel, the VI began in 1930 to offer science as a subject to all Standard Six and Standard Seven boys, and to certain classes in Standard Seven and the Senior Cambridge. A biological garden was maintained on the School premises with many representative species of flora planted for teaching purposes; rabbits and guinea pigs were reared for biological dissections. Such was the demand that pupils from other schools went to the VI for science lessons in the afternoons; in the evenings, classes were taught for teachers, European officials and technical officers of various government departments. Latin, too, was taught, but only to select classes. There was also a matriculation class to prepare pupils for admission to first year courses in the University of London. Colours were granted every year to outstanding boys in football, cricket and hockey and half-colours for badminton and athletics. There were screenings of documentary and feature films on Friday evenings in the School Hall. The thirties were a particularly busy and typically successful period for the VICC which projected, through ceremonial parades on Empire Day and the King's Birthday, its very favourable reputation. In May 1935, for instance, the entire Corps and Band, 150 strong, took a leading part in the King George V Silver Jubilee Parade at the Selangor Club Padang. Mr. Shaw was succeeded by Major J.B. Neilson, who was Headmaster for nearly a year. Mr. C.E. Gates assumed the headmastership of the VI in June 1937. During his tenure, an up-to-date swimming pool with springboards, steps for high diving, shower baths and circulating chlorinated water was opened in June 1938. (A human skull, overlooked during the exhumation of the former Chinese cemetery was unearthed during the construction of the pool.) From then on, VI pupils could now receive swimming instruction as part of the school curriculum. It was also used by most schools in Selangor which had weekly periods of swimming allocated to them. When Mr B.E. Shaw retired in 1922, the V.I. Old Boys’ Association had made repeated appeals to the government to recognise his contributions. Finally, in 1938, Gaol Road, the stretch in front of the VI, was renamed Shaw Road in honour of the longest-serving VI Headmaster. (Shaw Road was renamed Jalan Hang Tuah after Merdeka ). During his reign, Mr Gates could point with justifiable pride to his three VI pupils who won Queen's Scholarships for degree courses in England  –  Ismail Mohd Ali (later Tun Ismail Mohd Ali), Yap Pow Meng and Rodney Lam. In 1939, every V.I. boy was grouped into one of three classes according to an individual athletic coefficient calculated for him. This enabled the boy to compete in a range of track and field events that contributed points to his House. In July of that year, the founder of the VICC, Mr. A. C. J. Towers, visited the VI on the occasion of the fortieth birthday of the V.I.C.C. and presented the band with a silver-mounted drum major's staff. The VICC had grown during the thirties: in 1930, the strength of the Corps was 145 Cadets (45 of whom were recruits); by 1941, there were over 300 V.I. Cadets organised as a battalion of three companies. In this final year of the Gates era, the school had 19 staff and 510 boys; there were 15 classes including one matriculation class. With war clouds gathering, the School Hall was requisitioned by the War Taxation Department, military barracks
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