The Old Boy who never left school
From The Seladang, Sept-Oct 1970 issue
n every institution, there are groups of individuals whose dedication and devotion make them an inseparable part of it, a group of individuals whose names are synonymous with that of the institution. The V.I. is no exception. In this group is one whom every student of the school over the past 45 years knows - Mr. Richard Pavee, the school's chief clerk.
In April, 1918, Mr. Pavee first set foot in the corridors of the V.I. as a pupil in Standard Two, having had his Primary and Standard One education at the Methodist Girls' School. At that time, the Victoria Institution was in High Street (now Jalan Tun H.S. Lee) where floods frequently occurred and the boys even had the occasional experience of seeing crocodiles basking in the sun on the banks of the Klang River which wound round the school.
Classes at the old V.I. were for kindergarten, Primary, Standards One to Seven and Junior Cambridge and Senior Cambridge.
The school had already established itself on an admirably firm footing as far as extra-curricular activities were concerned. The Cadet Corps was already in existence, probably the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. In those days the Cadet Corps band consisted only of bugles and drums. Games were an important feature while the school also boasted a gymnasium.
The Annual Sports Day was a grand affair even then. Many wrote to the school for invitations to the event. There were no House Tents but, instead, the three major racial groups put up a cultural tent each in the padang to entertain visitors after the sports with music and cultural displays. The visitors were also treated to a cadet band display and a gymnastic show consisting of a dumb bell display by Standards 2 and 3, a wand display by Standards 4 and 5, and a club swinging display by Standards 6 and 7. At dusk there would be a display of fire club swinging by the senior pupils.
Mr. Pavee very modestly told us that he merely participated in extra-curricular activities, whereas he had actually distinguished himself in them. He was in the School Cricket second Eleven when he was in Standard Seven and played for the school first Eleven the following year. It was no easy task getting into the school team then as five members of the staff were also in it. Cricket was also one of the school's most important games, and it was to Mr. Pavee's credit that the first time his House, Hepponstall House, won the competition was when he captained the House team. Mr. Pavee was also a Corporal in the V.I. Cadet Corps and a crack shot, winning a Cup for the best shot in the Leslie Shield Competition in 1926.
Even though he was one of the top students in his Junior Cambridge year, Mr. Pavee unfortunately had to leave school in April, 1927, when he was in the Senior Cambridge Class, because of his family's financial situation. Although the school very kindly offered him a scholarship and free education to complete his Senior Cambridge and take up a teacher's post in the V.I., he found that he could not accept this as he had to seek employment to supplement the family budget. He started working as a clerk in the Government Clerical Service in April 1927 and was transferred from the then Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board to the Victoria Institution in August 1935.
There he worked until the war came to Malaya. Right up to the time of evacuation in January 1942, Mr. Pavee stuck by the school. Armed with a rifle from the school armoury, he stood guard and managed to keep everything in the school in good order as the British retreated from Kuala Lumpur. However, he had to leave his post when the Japanese forces arrived in the evening and that same night the school was completely looted. During the Japanese occupation, the school building was taken over by the Japanese. However, Mr. Pavee and a few teachers of the V.I. were called on by the Japanese government to open a school. This they did, using the Davidson Road Chinese School premises and Mr. Ng Seo Buck, one of the prewar V.I. teachers, was appointed Headmaster. With a bit of clever thinking they managed to retain some V.I. identity by naming the school the Katidoki Gakko (Victory School), keeping the name as close as possible to that of the Victoria Institution! The unsuspecting Japanese were naturally pleased. Mr. Pavee was taken on as a teacher after three months' training in Japanese at the training centre in the St. John's Institution.
When the war ended, the V.I. teachers and pupils reported to the Education Department and requested that the Victoria Institution be reopened. This was done but the school was housed in the Batu Road School Building in the afternoon instead because the British Military Administration was occupying the V.I. building in Shaw Road. After a few months, the V.I. boys moved into the Maxwell Road School building and when the British Military Administration vacated the V.I. building in 1946, the school finally moved back into its own building in Shaw Road.
According to Mr. Pavee, the majority of the post-war students do not have the same spirit of dedication as that of the Old Victorians of High Street days. This was probably because the school had been separated into Primary and Secondary schools in 1929, the students of Standard One to Standard Five going to the Batu Road School and Pasar Road Schools and students from Standard Six to Senior Cambridge to the new V.I. building in Shaw Road. This split seemed to dissipate to some extent the feeling of deep devotion to the school which the boys had who had been brought up in the same school throughout their school career.
During his 45 years in the V.I., Mr. Pavee has served under some twenty different Headmasters. He remembers, as a student, being under Mr. Bennet E. Shaw, who personally signed the weekly report cards issued to pupils. Then there was Mr. Richard Sidney, who inaugurated the Prefects' Board and who also started the House system, Mr. Frederick Daniel, the first Science Master of the V.I. who was interned by the Japanese and who returned to the school after the war as its Headmaster and restored it to its old footing, and Dr. G.E.D. Lewis who broke up Gang 21 and established Club 21 in its place.
In his years of service in the V.I., Mr. Pavee has seen many changes taking place. Among the things now forgotten are the Empire Day celebrations when a Cadet Corps march past and parade was held in the school, after which a mini-sports was staged in which classes lined up to race across the school field. Winners were given small monetary prizes which, when pooled together, provided for a substantial treat for their classes after the celebrations.
The use of the school building has changed somewhat. There were 525 pupils pre-war compared to about 1,800 pupils at present. There were special rooms for geography, history and art. There was also a printing and book-binding room located at the west corner on the ground floor equipped with printing and book-binding machines. The present staff room was then the school library. The school also had a Cadet Corps rifle range in a small valley behind the School where the Merdeka Stadium now stands. Silent pictures were screened weekly in the School Hall from the projection room just behind the gallery. One feature of the School that has not changed much is the discipline of the pupils, thanks to the Prefects' Board which has always maintained order in the School.
Mr. Pavee has seen the school through a great part of its existence and development. He retired from permanent service in July 1965 but, at the request of the then Headmaster, was re-employed up to July 1970 when he reached 60 years of age. Although retired, Mr. Pavee still comes at 7 a. m. every morning to give his assistance to his old school. When asked if he has any message for the present Victorians, Mr. Pavee said that he would like to take this opportunity to share the invaluable advice that his dear mother gave him whenever he asked her for permission to go to the pictures during his school days:
"Study diligently during the years you are in school and forget enjoyment, for once you leave school there will be many years ahead of you for enjoyment and the better you are equipped, the better will be your enjoyment."
Richard Pavee's farewell message in the 1970 Victorian:
I shall be leaving the Victoria Institution this year after being with the School for 45 years - as a student from 1918 to 1927 and in charge of the School Office from 1935 to 1970.
I remember with kind thoughts all the Headmasters, Staff and Pupils whom it has been my pleasure to know. In as much as my life here has been very happy, I regret having to leave. I have always loved this School and have been proud of her.
The School - with its fine buildings and surroundings conducive to learning - has always been a centre of scholastic work and I hope that all who pass through her will avail themselves of the advantages so that they can become worthy people. I am happy the pupils have always been inspired by good traditions, and I have been overjoyed on the very many occasions when they tried their best to win glory in games for this institution.
I feel greatly rewarded for the work I have done, knowing the help I have had from Victorians throughout the country. I shall always remember 1964 when I was seriously ill and had to leave for Colombo for treatment. Their help and good wishes helped to tide over a difficult period.
Although I shall be leaving, my heart will be with the school. Steeped in the Victorian Tradition, I shall always feel very deeply for the School and I shall watch its progress with interest. I hope that the Headmaster, Staff and Pupils will feel free to call on my services which I shall freely render when the School is in need of help during special occasions. I would like to be considered as part of the school staff even though I am out of school and not officially employed.
My very best wishes to the Headmaster, Staff and Pupils.
Last update: 15 August 2004.
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