The first available and official evidence as to the foundation of the Malacca High School was contained in a letter dated 9th. April, 1825, to the Honourable, The Resident Councillor of that day from the Trustee of the Orphan, Church, Poor, Leper and School Funds. It is suggested that it would be most appropriate to establish a good English school, free to poor pupils. The letter was signed by Mr. J. Humphrey, Mr. J.W. Overee and Mr. A.W. Baumgarten. At a meeting held later, it was agreed to consolidate the funds for the establishment and maintenance of a school which would be called, “The Malacca Free School”.
On the 7th. December, 1826, the school was opened with an enrolment of 18 pupils under the charge of Mr. T.H. Moore in the Parsonage House building where the General Post Office is located 1976. The very popular Lancastrian or Monitorial system was adapted. Under this system, the teacher was only required to give lectures to the class and it was the duty of the monitor to assign classwork and recitation. School hours were from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. To help in the maintenance of the school, donations were received from the community and the Government provided a small subsidary. Though the medium of instruction was English, other languages such as Portuguese, Chinese, and Malay were also being taught.
Little is known of the progress the school achieved but it can be safely assumed that the foundations for the proud heritage of the school was laid during this period.
1843 marked the emergence of Mr. John Overee, as the Principal of the school; a post which he held for twenty years. The Secretary was Rev. F.W. Linstedt, and the Board of Governors included Mr. Velge, Neubronner, Westerhout, Minjoot, Rodyk, and Baumgarten. This dynamic board took a very serious interest in their responsibilities and its members visited the school every month alternatively. It was also their usual custom to inspect the school twice yearly, usually under the surveillance of the Honourable, the Resident Councillor.
In 1862, Mr. Overee resigned his post as headmaster but was heard of later on as one of the Trustees of the school. He was succeeded by Mr. T. Smith who filled the post with considerable success till his death at sea in July, 1877, on his way home after a severe illness.
In July, 1867, as the Chinese community had shown keen interest in the scholastic development of their boys, three of their members were elected to the committee.
Father G.F. Hose, the Bishop of Singapore and Sarawak, became the Secretary of the school in March, 1868 and did a magnificient job in raising its efficiency and progress. In November, 1870, Mr. Tan Tek Guan and Mr. Tan So Sing became Trustees, the former being very active and interested in the school activities for many years.
However, the condition of the school was deteriorating so much so in 1875, the Committee had even discussed the possibility of building a new school. After a lengthy discussion, it was finally, agreed that the condition of the school was beyong repair and a new site was to be found. Sadly, no course of action was taken up until the death of Mr. Smith. The Committee then found they could not manage the school with the funds at their disposal and agreed to convert it into a Government School.
In August 1878, Mr. A. Armstrong was sent from Singapore to be the first headmaster of the Government school, now called “The High School”.
283 pupils for the first time gathered in their new school building on 1st. September, 1884. The building built by the Public Works Department, though situated on a bad site became the most regal building in Malacca.
The years that followed were years of inactivity but a steady rate of progress was achieved. This tradition and high standard of conduct soon distinguished it from other school in Malaya.
Mr. Howell, Headmaster from 1893 to 1915, launched many activities of paramount interest and benefit to the pupils though hampered by the lack of facilities such as a playing field and the usual shortage of teachers. He emphasised on the teaching of English and managed to increase the enrolment. A high percentage of attendance was also obtained and this became the best in the Peninsular at that time. Discipline was harsh and of a very high standard.
In May, 1916, when Mr. Howell retired, the vacant post was filled by Mr. C.F.C. Ayre. Mr. Ayre very wisely followed Mr. Howell’s footsteps and emphasised on the importance of examinations. He too was responsible for the formation of the Cadet Corps in 1902 and it gradually improved under his guidance.
Mr. C. Beamish then replaced Mr. Ayre in 1921 and he in his turn formed the High School Old Boys Association or HSOBA. He also established the Malay Hostel, a boarding house specially built for Malay Boys who had had scholastic distinctions in the Vernacular school. The school library was opened in 1924 and Mr. Goh Tiow Chong became the first librarian. It consisted of an initial of 400 books for pupils of the Fifth Classes and above. The library was opened to the teachers and pupils on every Fridays at 1.30 p.m. and also at 4 p.m.
When Mr. L.W. Arnold took over, the school moved to a new site. He was pre-occupied most of the time reorganising the working of the school, ensuring that the pupils enjoyed to the fullest, benefits of every available aid or facilities. He preserved and introduced several systems or traditions of the school such as firedrills, the Prefects system, the present school motto “Meliora Hic Sequamur” and the usage of pupils record books. A bell too was presented to the school by Mrs. Tan Chay Yan during his headmastership.
On 18th. September, 1931, the school moved into its new premises and on 22nd. October, of the same year, a grand opening ceremony was held and many distinguished guests were present including the Governor. During this memorable occasion, it was revealed that plans to build a new school building dated back as far as ten years ago. The original site was Kubu Stadium though it was not ideal. But the late Mr. Haji Bachee, realising the important role the school would play in the near future, through his kindness and generosity, donated a plot of land on which Malacca High School now stands today. His act of generosity must rank as one of the greatest contributions to the world of education in Malaysia.
On the 1st. September, 1934, Mr. Arnold was transferred to Penang Free School and Mr. L.A.S. Jermyn became the next Headmaster. Many additions to the school buildings were carried out such as a hostel, a garage and an armoury. All the school’s activities were transferred to the Bandar Hilir English School on September, 1940 as the school was in the process of being converteed to a garrison. Mr. Jermyn retired on 8th. January, 1941 and early that year, Malacca High School was closed down.
Lt. Colonel C.A. Scott was elected as the Headmaster but he did not hold his post long.
Teaching was carried out as best it could in Bandar Hilir English School although faced by an acute shortage of teachers when all government servants were called up to form the Volunteers Corp. For the first time, in the history of High School, 2 girls returned and took up what had been an exclusively male subject, the Sciences. The 2 plucky girls were Miss Dorothy Khoo in 1940 and Miss Lily Foo in 1941.
When the Japanese occupation started on 11th. January, 1942, history of Malacca High School ceased for a brief spell or during a period of 3 years. The school buildings were occupied by Japanese soldiers till the arrival of British troops in Malacca on 15th. September 1945.
POST-JAPANESE OCCUPATION PERIOD TILL INDEPENDENCE 1945 – 1957
The British re-occupation of Malacca saw the Malacca High School enter its new era on the 1st. October 1945. Unfortunately, the school premises were at that time housing the Allied Forces and all activities had to be transferred to the Bandar Hilir English School. Classes were held in the afternoons and Mr. Goh Tiow Chong assumed the post of Acting Headmaster. At that time, there were only 7 classes, namely, School Certificate and Standards VIII, VII, VIA, VIB, VA and VB.
Following the first Promotion Examination which was held in April, 1946, the pupils were streamed into the various grades. An additional class, Standard VIC, was formed. On the 16th. September, Mr. C. Forster took over the headmastership of the school and Mr. Goh Tiow Chong was transferred to the Tranquerah English School to become the headmaster there. Lessons were still carried out at the Bandar Hilir English School and it was not until September 25th. that the High School premises were requisitioned. However, school work could not be carried out owing to the lack of equipment. Gradually, science benches were taken back from the Pathological Laboratory in the General Hospital, books belonging to the school were returned by the Malacca Library and furniture was obtained from the feeder schools in the district. Lessons were held in the afternoon commencing at 1.30 p.m. and ending at 5.30 p.m. Games and other extra activities were cancelled owing to these afternoon sessions.
The school moved back to its old premises in 1947 and the services of another 3 teachers were enlisted. School hours 8 a.m. to 1.20 p.m. On the 20th. February, Mr. H.R. Cheeseman in his capacity as the Director of Education of the Malayan Union visited the school and inspected every classroom. He urged the rapid rehabilitation of the school and promised that he would do all in his jurisdiction to expedite it. The services of Mr. Lee Kim Swee of Yok Bin was enlisted following the increase in the number of Chinese language students. Physical Education was introduced by order of the Education Department on the 18th. June. Huang Hsing Tsung brought honour to the school when he graduated from the Hong Kong University with a B.A. degree and later obtained his Ph. D. degree at the Oxford University.
Mr. Cheeseman revisited the school on the 5th. February, 1948, and talked to the School Certificate class. The gas plant for the Chemistry Laboratory was installed on the 16th. March, 1948 and a month later, all science laboratories were completely rehabilitated under Mr. Cheeseman’s personal scrutiny. The retirement of Mr. Cheeseman robbed the school of an ardent supporter who was always concerned with its progress and welfare.
Repairs on the badly damaged school field was completed in 1949, and on the 6th. of August, the first post-war sports meet was held. On the 8th. October, at the Foundation Ceremony of the University of Malaya, Malacca High School was represented by the Principal and the school captain. This auspicious occasion was a landmark in the educational development of the country and the school felt proud to have been represented. The High School Old Boys Association was revived under the able presidency of The Honourable, Mr. Ee Yew Kim, a member of the Justice of Peace.
When Mr. C. Forster retired as Principal of the school in 1950, Mr. G.P. Dartford succeeded him. Mr. Dartford was a very energetic and practical man who brought many remarkable changes to the school. The school field was improved, the badminton courts rebuilt and the school buildings were whitewashed and painted. Mr. Dartford also ordered a fence to be built enclosing the school premises. In short, the school was given an entirely new look.
The 125th. anniversary was celebrated in 1951 but it was held on a very small scale. A concert was sponsored for the first time by the High School Literary Association in aid of the School Library which was a great success. In May, the following year, Mr. G.P. Dartford left the school and Mr. Laidlaw took over as Principal. At that time, the staff comprised of 25 teachers. When Mr. Laidlaw left the school on the 15th. January, 1953, Mr. A. Atkinson was appointed the temporary Principal. On the 17th. February, Mr. E.H. Bromley, was officially named the new Principal.
In the Coronation Week, celebrations held in conjunction with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the Malacca High School students were one of the most active particpants. During this year, Malacca High School, was given the honour to host the A.A.A. Championships and in the competition proper, the High School team managed to secure second place. Outstanding among the Malacca High School participants was team captain, Ong Cheng Watt, who was judged the “Best Particpant”.
In 1954, all classes were renamed Forms I – V, Lower and Upper VI instead of Standards V – IX and Post Certificate class. The prowess of Malacca High School in the field of cricket was clearly indicated when 2 of her boys were selected to represent the State. In 1954, the Chief Scout of the Commonwealth visited the Malacca High School Scout Troop. Visits by many high ranking government officials clearly indicated the keen interest of the British Government in th development of the school. Among the many distinguished people who visited the school was the new Resident Commissioner, Mr. H.G. Hammet who was very impressed with the progress of the school.
The few years before Independence was attained, marked a period of political activites who brought many changes to the country. Malacca High School was also involved in this tide of change and realised the significant role she played in the future development of the country. A great portion of the communist activites was hampered by Sir Gerald Templer in 1954. The situation of the school which was in need of many changes, was clearly manifested in the Principal’s, Mr. E.H. Bromley’s farewell message. In his message, he wrote, “The times in which we live seem crowded with the most rapid developments. Singapore and The Federation of Malaya have both taken a step forward into a new era of self-government”. Tun Tan Siew Sin also reflected the mood of expectancy of changes in his message to the ‘Optimist’ on the 8th. August, 1955. He wrote “The youth of today is particulary fortunate as he can look foward to a future bristling with opportunity, a future in which enterprise and initiative will reap rewards which are both ample and satisfying. Before many years are over, these young people will go out into the world and their thoughts and actions will have a decisive effect upon the ultimate destiny of the country.” Mr. E.H. Bromley left school in November, 1955 and the vacant post was filled by Mr. A. Atkinson.
The Speech Day in 1956 was honoured to have the presence of Tun Haji Abdul Razak Hussein who was at that time the Minister of Education of Malaya.
Activities were in full swing in 1956. There were many clubs and societies among which were the Geographical Society, Literary Society, Aeromodelling Club and the Debating Club. The Scout Movement, the Cadet Corps and the Red Cross Society were also very popular uniform unites then. All these clubs and societies served their purposes of acting as outlets for the interested students. Malacca High School was one of the few schools in which Malay was learnt by every student and apart from the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Malacca High School was the only school which taught the National Language to the Sixth Form.
August 31st. 1957 will be a day all Malaysians willl cherish and remember. It was Independence Day. The school braced herself to contribute positively to the hopes and aspirations which had brought independence to the country. In their messages to the school, the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, His Excellency, the Governor of Malacca, Mr. Leong Yew Koh, and the Chief Minister of Malacca, Datuk Osman bin Talib, clearly indicated the responsibilities of the school and the hopes of the national leaders. With the retirement of Mr. A. Atkinson, Mr. W. Gibson took over the headmastership of the school. Under his guidance, the school staff swelled to a total of 46 teachers. The school was greatly honoured on this Independence Year, for Tun Tan Siew Sin, one of her old boys, was named the Minister of Commerce and Industry in the Federation.
Thus the school emerged proudly into the post Merdeka era having contributed greatly to the progress and development ot the country.
Coverting Hard Copy to Soft Copy: Page 59 Optimist 1976