The World Anthem

We are all of one Race, the Human Race.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

1966 - of golden fleece and heroes

(Click on pic for enlarged view)

Twelve and thirteen year old boys tend to hero-worship their elders. In primary schools such boy-leaders who truly lead are rare and that has everything to do with puberty.

Thus, in Pasar Road English School 1 (primary school) the teachers led the way. Outstanding among them was Mr. Paul Lee, my class and English teacher in Standard 6 in 1965. He coached the school Under 11 and U12 football squads and was the Prefects’ Master as well. This was the era when even primary school teachers turned out for teams in the Selangor Football League and league matches were played in PRES’s soccer pitch. From 1963-65, most of my December and March school term holidays were taken up by thrice-a-week football training at PRES under the wings of Paul Lee, such was his enthusiasm for football and dedication to its cause.

Another who stood out was Mr. A. Vaithilingam or ‘Vaithi’, now the President of the Hindu Sangam of Malaysia. Vaithi was the Athletics Master. Every Sports Day he would be seen starting off all the relays with his capped pistol which went ‘Bang!’ and for which he would tell us “you need a police licence, don’t play the fool boys!’ in hushed tones. We did not know the difference between a capped pistol and a condom. We imagined he always carried this pistol in the voluminous pocket of his even more voluminous long pants. That was enough for us to keep a healthy distance away from him and accord him some impressive respect. We knighted him ‘Son of A Gun!’

I greeted Paul Lee in the VI School Office (where he was visiting) sometime in 1971, but he did not recognize me. I was stunned when ‘Cobra’ or ‘One-eyed Selva’ as the hockey boys dubbed the school Chief Clerk who replaced Richard Pavee, chipped in with ‘Hey, Paul don’t you remember him from PRES. Remember that U11 football final in Merdeka Stadium?” Mr.K. Selvanayagam had also been the CC in PRES all those years ago. I used to go to Merdeka Stadium with my brothers to watch the Selangor State Athletics Meet (1963/64/65) which took place late evenings to nights. VI students like Eddy Lee, Wong Mun Fui and R.Thillainathan (UM Econs Gold Medallist) competed with national athletes. I met up with Dr.Thilli (PhD) a few years ago at Wisma Genting (he's been Genting's Economic Advisor/Director since the '80's) to discuss a proposal for land acquisition from the Company I worked for. He's now a vegetarian and he was pleased as punch when I mentioned his athletics days in VI and about having seen him in the 100m sprint at Merdeka Stadium! Dr.Thillli used to live in one of the Government Quarters houses facing Jalan Davis Schol off Pasar Road, during his VI days.

Cobra was both a hurdler and sprinter. He played at full-back for the inaugural 1972 VI staff-students’ hockey team which participated in the Selangor Hockey Association Division 2 League Tournament. That team included Mr. Daniel Chan (my Bio teacher in F6) and Mr. Robin Goh the Malaysian international. What a thrill that was, being coached by and playing alongside Robin Goh and Yang Siow Meng, another international who was the players’ player when it came to stickwork wizardry!

It may be a little pompous and even downright silly talking about Separation of Power for a school like Victoria Institution. I mean we were not a Government. But VI ran like that! There was the HM, Mr.V.Murugasu who was everywhere, the teachers who were everywhere and the Prefects who were everywhere. All day long! And sometimes, all night long too! Each knew his duty well and took his role seriously and conscientiously. All of them were working Executives; there was no place for sleeping partners & Chairmen or lawyers with watching briefs. The Prefects were the bridge between the HM and the teachers and the ones with whom we came into contact the most. There was no place anyone could hide and goof off. That applied to the school Mandors (labourers) and Watchmen (jaga who resided in the VIOBA premises) as well.

Inevitably the Prefects were the games’ and House Captains, as well as Heads of some of the societies. In some instances the leaders were the august members of Club 21 who were selected based on their outstanding contribution in any field including being top students in the public examinations. There was much mentoring of new leaders from the old guard which made life that much easier for the teachers in charge of various activities. The 1st and 2nd KL Scouts had student Assistant Scout Masters (King Scouts) who were the guys who actually ran the show, jamborees, camping, ‘akela will do our best, dip, dip, dip, dop, dop, dop!’ and all. Even the School Librarian and Red Cross Chairman were recognised and admired. (Remember Melville Jayathissa who joined the British Council Library? He was passionate about the library and books. Or Yap Chin Seong in 1972?).

There was not a single student who at some stage in his life in VI did not secretly or openly harbour ambitions of being appointed to the Prefects’ Board. There was something impressive about these ‘Blue Shirts’ who wore their white jackets and stalked the corridors or stood by the doors of the School Hall during Assembly days, while the School Captain and Vice Captain stood to attention in front of the Assembly with their backs to the stage where the HM performed in front of the seated teaching corps!

My first run in with a Prefect, about a month after school started, was a disaster. It cost me serious money. Twenty cents! Due to a particularly rainy weekend, I had not bothered polishing my white Bata canvas shoes (remember ‘Mula mula ke Bata, kemudian ke Sekolah!) with liquid white Bata polish, normally applied with an old toothbrush (sponges came into vogue a year or two later). This was also well before the era of electric hair dryers!

The shoes were actually quite clean except they had green rubber strips at the side and back portions that covered the ankles, heels and insteps. This was the original Badminton Master shoe. VI school rule number 1,000,001 dictated the green strips HAD to be painted over. On reaching school, I tried to shield myself from the prefects by keeping to the shadows or walking in the centre of a circle of friends. But I could not escape the piercing and penetrating gaze of hawkeyed and bespectacled (yes, you guessed it – standard black, plastic Elvis Costello type frame) Soo Sun Wah (Badminton Cap) who commanded me to the Prefects’ Room.

There I was ordered to paint over the by now totally remorseful, thoroughly ashamed and repentent serially homicidal green strips as well as the rest of the killer shoes. As I was about to walk off after completing the job, Sun Wah pronounced the death sentence on me. “That will be 20 cents,”he whispered, like Brando in ‘Godfather’. I blanched! 20 bloody effing cents??!! That was all of my pocket money for the day. I mean, we were not poor, but were not swimming in it either, with 4 other schooling siblings in my family of nine, and the odd uncle or cousin who would set up camp for a month or two at a time. I brought buttered, and jammed, honeyed or cheesed, bread wrapped in waxy Soutern Bakery original bread wrap paper and water in school-purpose water bottle (filled with tap water, red syrup or Milo) for my mid-morning repast; every day! (Yes, those were the days you could drink water straight off the tap without boiling it. Expensive water filters, di regeur nowadays, were practically unheard of). I would rush home (via infamous school bus) and wolf down my lunch before cycling or walking back the 3-odd miles to VI before 4 p.m. The 20 cents were for a bottle of Coke or Pepsi after evening games.

So, I coughed up, but very, very reluctantly like a Scotsman having to pay for a round of drinks. As a silent sign of protest, I quietly pocketed the toothbrush! That must have caused a major investigation and scandal of Bernie Madhoff-like proportions among the prefects and the school auditors!

It was not until 1968 I think that Bata had a competitor in Fung Keong Shoes. When my father suggested I switch to Fung Keong, I went into fits and tantrums. In today’s terms, that would be like substituting Nike with Bata! But I eventually relented for that other reason - there were no green or red strips! The shoes were completely white and maintenance would be less tedious. The next year Balraj appeared for hockey training with a snazzy pair of black canvas rubber studded Fung Keong boots, ideal for hockey but not football. The entire team switched to Fung Keong.

From my own experience, I can certify that prefects were chosen solely on merit. That did not mean that all who deserved were appointed to the VIPB or that every prefect acquitted himself well in his role as VIPB member. Some missed the cut in a particularly competitive year when places were limited; in other years politics did interfere with the process. Admittedly, there tended to be a bias towards sportsmen. But without exception, I have found that those who had successful careers after leaving school were never one dimensional! Their interests included sports and/or active interest in music, the arts, cars, politics etc. and what have you.

Thus when Kwan Poh Woh (Drum Major/Horticulture Soc) was appointed prefect in 1972, there was some raising of eyebrows! But if you think leading the VI School Band with some 30 musicians is a piece of cake, think again! There were very high expectations on the Drum Majors who each year had to introduce new tunes, innovate with lighted caps and formulate complicated marching manoeuvres and drills for Speech Day Tattoos which were held at night. There were interminable practice sessions, full-dress rehearsals and performances under the blazing sun (e.g. on Sports Day). One year the band innovated with a jazzed up version of 'Negara Ku' (yes, they were ahead of Mahathir) and got a thorough shelling from Muru to revert to the original version! The leader had an obligation to maintain traditions, train the new recruits and leave a lasting legacy. It was a thinking job full of stress and pressure. Poh Woh had to master the triple-loop baton throw (degree of difficulty - 10.0!) for the 1972 Malaysian Schools Band Display at Merdeka Stadium, where VI had three Drum Majors (the other two being Jacob Thomas now (Msc Econs & Finance) MD of Mav Cap in KL and Lye Kim Loong) who tossed batons to the heavens and caught them perfectly in their descent!!

If in recent years VI Bands twice won the World School Bands competition held in Europe, it had its beginnings all those years ago! Don't forget, Poh Woh was PRES 1 School Captain in 1965 where he was also a member of the school band and played (obviously) the Base Drum!!. There are no coincidences in life! (That '65 PRES 1 school band was led by a VI '66 virgin, A.Sivandan (now Dr.Sivandan) who was the youngest of the Arul brothers from Ring Road near Pudu Railway Station and San Peng Road. The Arul brothers all led the school band in their respective years, under the tutelage and leadership of handsome Mr. Ng Seng Kiat at whose wedding the PRES 1 band played Elvis Presley's 'Wooden Heart.' My elder brothers were in the band, but me, I was too shy to sign up! Both Poh Woh and Sivandan are in the photo of the PRES 1 Prefects' Board of '65).

At the end of this post, I shall list some of those I feel ought to have been installed as prefects in 1971 and 1972, but missed out. That’s purely my opinion.

The 1966 School/Hockey Captain was Tan Kee Kwong (son of Dr.Tan Chee Khoon, founder of the Labour Party and Gerakan and leader of the Opposition in Parliament). I never came into contact with him except at an ‘old boys’ gathering a couple of weeks ago! He’s now a PKR member, following a spat within Gerakan.

The School Vice-Captain/Athletics Captain was Nah Seang Hoo who also represented VI at Rugby and Cricket. I was in awe of him. There is this picture in my mind’s eye of Sports Day 1966. I am in my Hepponstall House tent right across the other side of the tracks opposite the Games Pavilion. I see from the corner of my right eye this blur of combined silver bullet and gazelle hop, skip, jump and hurl itself over the sand pit for a new triple jump school record. That was Nah. None had expected him to clear the triple-jump sand pit at its farther end. Believe me, that 14 odd metres leap was something!

Nah oozed leadership and he drew all around him wherever he went. He had great charisma. Nah had brains as well. After qualifying as a doctor, he could be seen jogging in the school field some evenings and he even coached some cricket. There were a few occasions in 1974 when I stood at one end of the cricket training pitch catching and throwing back the ball, as he demonstrated to Chew Weng Kong, (1974 School/Cricket Captain), the art of swing bowling. Nah came prepared with a can of leather polish and cotton towel to prime one side of the cricket ball!

My last encounter with him was in 1975 when he picked me up from my house in Kampong Pandan Indian Settlement for a VIOBA vs PJ Club friendly cricket match played at VI. I was not a slow fielder on the grounds by any means, but Nah made me look pedestrian by comparison. He bowled, batted and fielded pace.That VIOBA team included 'Vinny' Vinayak Pradhan (1968 School/Cricket Captain/Victorian Editor) who my good pal A.Balachandren (1971 Prefect/Cricket Captain) once complimented as ‘an uncanny captain’. There was an incredible running catch that Nah took to dismiss James Niles’ hook to fine leg that day which had Vinny shaking his head and exclaiming ‘not many would have made it to the ball, let alone take the catch!’ Although I played cricket for the VI teams of 1971 & 1972, I was under no illusion as to my prowess. Had I been a senior during the times of the VI cricket teams of 1966-70, I would not have made ‘water boy’. Seang Hoo is also famous among prefects for his watercolour portrait of JFK which still hangs in te VIPB room! Nah’s younger brother, Seang Chew (1968 School Vice-Cap & now an architect in S’pore), was no less a talented cricketer and all rounder.

(Another who seemed destined to lead and is still much admired by me as well as by his contemporaries and peers, is Yap Kian Fui who was School Vice-Captain of PRES 1 (1964) and School Captain of VI (1971). I first met him on the PRES football field in 1963 where he was the speedy right winger. He was Sportsman of the Year in both PRES 1 and VI (jointly with Raja Ahmad), as well as Victor Ludorum (Champion Athlete) and academically gifted as well. He was yet another successful product of Imbi Road & PRES 1. I was very moved and really felt honoured when he recently invited me for his son's wedding dinner at the Marriott Hotel in KL!)

The 1966 batch of students had some really outstanding prefects and students, many with brains to match their brawn. Several returned the following year as Temporary Teachers who were in every sense as good as, if not better than some of the regular teachers.

Among the prefects were Pong Kai See (football /rugby), another of my idols and his close pal Dr.Yong Siew Onn (Victorian Editor/rugby) who taught us general science for 1 term in Form 2 North and made it fun. Kai See was a max 5A’s HSC student. When I met him recently I mentioned remembering he was awarded a Colombo Plan Scholarship for overseas Uni. He corrected me that he had been offered 2 scholarships, the Rubber Research Institute Scholarship being the one he accepted to study in UK! More amazingly, his varsity and flat mate in London for 2 years was his intense scholar-rival in school, Yeoh Oon Hock (also max 5A’s HSC). Ramasamy (Prefect/Athletics/Football/Scout) was chuffed when I likened his football style to that of the great Eusabio who destroyed Korea and England in the 1966 World Cup! Tan Kim Chuan (1967 School & Football Captain/Athletics/Rugby), another of the VI greats, coached our victorious 1968 U15 Football team for which we presented him a trophy of appreciation. From him we learnt about team spirit and to play a more adventurous and daring style of soccer. He taught geography. Nice guy Prefect/Asst. Scout Master Lum Chee Soon was renowned for that slash of brylcreamed hair which slung across his forehead in an arc which he would frequently comb into place and fondle. Chee Soon is now an Econs lecturer at the Capilano University in North Vancouver.

Then there were Club 21 members like Leong Weng Chiew (Senior Debater) who briefly taught history and made it lively. In 2004, I spent 2 weeks in Lahore, Pakistan with Weng Chiew as corporate lawyer for a M’sian Plc I worked for, trying to seal a corporate deal and the most miserable of Joint Venture Agreements! Melville Jayathissa drummed the little known life-cycle of the cockroach into our flea bitten brain in 1968. Cyril Gaudart held the M’sian Schools’ 100m sprint records, while Ishtiaq Mobarak Ahmad (my senior in PRES 1) still coaches the national hurdlers, having made an appearance in that event in the 1976 Montreal Olympics! Zainon Mat, as I mentioned earlier, later played for and captained Malaysia in cricket. Zainon was a javelin champ as well. P.Paramjothy was appointed to Club 21 by HM Muru, the Monday following the Saturday he dropped the baton in a 4x100 inter-schools relay, had the presence of mind to quickly pick it up and make ground for the last-leg to come home second! Good and sporting character was well rewarded.

Awang Goneng, author of ‘Growing Up In Trengganu’ is none other than Wan Ahmad Hulaimi, who won the 1st prize in the Literary (English) Section of the ‘Victorian’ while still in Lower Six A1 in 1966. I contacted him by email last year courtesy of Chung Chee Min (VIOB and VI teacher 1965-67). I mentioned to Wan about having read his article in the ‘Victorian’ titled ‘The Italian That Refused To Go P-i-i-i-i-ng’ (2nd prize, senior section '67) about his Vespa scooter. He duly apologised to me for haunting my brain all these years! Astounding too, is it not, that he was Chairman of the VI Judo Club! And who says Malays of rural origin can’t master English? If the mountain cannot come to Mohammad.....!

Oh, there were others and many memorable events.

But in sports, none stood out in 1966 more than the showdown on Sports Day between Nah Seang Hoo, the School Athletics Captain and a relatively unknown Harpal Singh, for the most coveted of Victor Ludorum Trophy. Both represented Sultan Abdul Samad House (purple colour). Nah had already bagged Golds with new records in Triple Jump, Long Jump and of all events, the Shot Putt!! Nah’s putting technique and fitness must have been supreme, given there were more Herculean looking athletes in school and Nah looked like he could not possibly heave a feather over his shoulder!

The quiet and studious Harpal took Golds in the 800m, 1,500 m and 3,000 m races. Word got around the field that the challenge for the Victor Ludorum would go down to the wire. Every student, teacher and guest present lined the edge of the 400m grass tracks to witness the outcome. The roar was incredible from the moment the starter gun went off till Nah just pipped Harpal to the tape for a great win. We cheered from beginning to end. And then some more as Nah shook Harpal’s hands, did a victory lap and later lifted the Champion’s Trophy! Neither race (no pun intended), nor religion nor creed mattered. And I would have cheered just as much had Harpal won, though neither Harpal nor Nah was from my House.

For once, we would remember who was runner up!

- to be continued


Those who should have been appointed prefects:-1971
Lim Shook Kong (School and State Badminton/rugby/Club 21)
Bryan Pereira (Rugby/Athletics/Club 21)
Pritam Singh (Cricket/Hockey/Club 21/Civics Soc)
Wong Chee Wai (Athletics/Club 21)
Abdul Halim (Water Polo Captain/Swimming)
Tan Lip Ping (Football/Athletics/Hepponstall House Vice-Cap)
Simon Yap (Treacher House Captain/G.Student)


Cheah Peng Keong (Hockey/Civics Society/G.Student)
Chew Yoong Fong (Hockey/G.Student)
Teoh Siang Chin (Life Saving/Swimming/Water Polo/G.Student)
R.Pathmanathan (Athletics/Debater/G.Student)
Yap Chin Seong (Club 21/School Librarian/Science & Maths Society/G.Student
Yap Teong Choon (Swimming/Water Polo/Treacher House V.Captain. G.Student)
Jaspal Singh (Cricket/Science & Maths Soc/Seladang/Horticulture Soc. G.Student)

The top 4 names in the 1972 list above are all highly qualified and respected doctors today. Siang Chin is ex-President of the Malaysian Medical Association. Yap Chin Seong is an outstanding Engineer while Dato Yap Teong Choon is co-majority owner of Sin Heap Lee Plc, listed on the KLSE. Jaspal, probably a PhD, is an Engineer who is the CEO o f Metroline in London, UK and a top civil servant in Singapore. I think VI was the poorer for their omission from the VIPB.

*1 G.Student – good academically


  1. Hi dpp,

    Enjoyed reading your article. I look forward to reading the next one.

    I really enjoyed teaching at the VI. Your articles brought back many fond memories.



    (Mr. Vincent Voo was a VI teacher up to 1971 whom every student knew of as he would be the one to conduct the singing of the school song at Assemblies. On the occassion of his farewell at a special school Assembly, 2 other teachers also bid goodbye - Mrs. Yiap, a brilliant English and English Literature teacher and the mathematician, Mr. Anandakrishnan or 'old man Andy'(there was also another younger teacher Anandakrishnan who taught Biology and coached Cricket, hence the distinction between old and young Andy).

    On that farewell occasion I wrote up the pamphlet of their achievements for distribution to students!! Oh, and 1 more thing about Vincent Voo's farewell Assembly in 1971. He sang a capella 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone' on stage.

    Mr.Vincent Voo was also Art teacher through whose hands philistines like me learnt the basics of still life, making masks and painting. I believe he now lives in Australia) Dpp.

  2. Dear dpp,

    Thanks for your e-mail and phone call.

    Your article especially brought back all the sweet memories of glorious V.I. then.

    I am indeed happy to see that all of you are successful in life wherever you are in different parts of the world.

    All the best to you.

    Mrs Chong (my form teacher in 1 North & 2 North 1966 & 1967. dpp)

  3. Hi There Mr. Vincent Voo & Mrs. Chong Hong Chong (who had taught me English/Art and Geography respectively).

    Many thanks for all those past lessons. Very nice to hear from you all here.


  4. Dear dpp

    I hasten to correct you re Yeoh Oon Hock. There are two Yeoh Oon Hocks at least. The VI YOH is rubber scientist and now resides in the US! He is a distinguished scientist being a holder of some rubber patents. See

    Chung Chee Min

    thanks for the errata CCM


  5. Hi dpp

    1) As far as I know Nah Seang Chew is not an architect (unless he has become one since 1995). When I met him he was a teacher in Raffles JC (and the basketball teacher).

    2) Harpal Singh went on to do medicine at MU - dont know what happened to him after he graduated

    3) I also remember Paul Lee (my class teacher in Std 4) and Vaithi (taught me arithmetic in Std 6) well.

    Thanks Siew Meng

    I thought that's what Seang Chew said to me when we met recently - about being an architect. Possibly I misheard him, I'd had 4 shandies by then. I sent him an email last week. Let'see what transpires. Thanks guys. Keep 'em 'comin!!


    Ps Dr. Chong Siew Meng was Nah Seang Chew’s classmate and is currently a Pathology lecturer in Dubai. Dr.Chong’s father was a VI Science Teacher. So, the pedigree is impeccable!

  6. Hi dpp, Very intereting writeup! Chee Min introduced me to your website. How were you able to remember all the silly stuff!! BTW, I was from PRS too (until 57), and remember Vathi and Paul Lee. Chee Sing is my brother! Hi Mr. Vincent Woo - you were one of the wonderful teachers! Best wishes to everyone! Wong Mun Fui

  7. Hi Mun Fui,

    I vaguely recall that after VI you graduated (Polymer Science?)and started a plastics manufacturing company, probably the 1st in M'sia. Am I right? My brother used to speak about your all round abilities, VIPB, School Captain, athletics and rugby.

    I know Dr. Wong Chee Seng is your brother and I ran into him at Kian Fui's son's wedding dinner a couple of months ago. but he could not place me. Chee Seng was an oustanding athlete in PRES 1 as well as being among the top students in VI.

    There was another younger brother or cousin of yours with me in F1 in '66, I can't recall his name, but he left us after F3.

    Great to hear from yet another VI legend. Do drop by often with 1 or 2 anectodes from your days in VI. I'm sure your contemporaries and the current crop of VI students will find in interesting and educational.



  8. Hi dpp

    It is great to hear from you and to see your work. I can just feel the pulse of your love, pride and passion for VI. I am willing to give whatever help necessary since we were in the same VIOBA cricket team.

    The picture of JFK was done by me. I had thought of going back several times to see if it is still there but didn't get to it. If I remember it correctly there is my signature at lower right hand corner.

    For now, cheers and God bless

    As always

    Nah Seang Hoo

  9. Hi dpp,
    You mentioned meeting me on Oxford St, London. I really cannot remember the event!!
    BTW, we migrated to NZ in July 2003 after spending 13 years working as a software developer in Abu Dhabi. I am now a house-husband: take care of the home, cooking and a 7-year (bonus) daughter. The eldest daughter is going to U this year while the son has 2 more years of high school.
    I came to VI from Kajang HS not Klang ACS. Well, I still have the newspaper cutting of the bat but not on the winning side was still a bitter pill to swallow.
    Do you still remember the drawn cricket match between VI and KHS? I was on the opponent side then and i think needing one run to win, Vi's wicketkeeper (later works for Star/NST) was dismissed.
    Do drop in if you are in Auckland.
    Give me regards to Morgan/Nesa if you see/write them.
    Contact me on