For those of us who have been associated with this School, and particularly for those of us who can claim to be old boys of this School, this is a very unique and historic occasion. It is not often that one can celebrate the 150th Anniversary of one’s School. My wife and I regard it as a very great honour indeed to be present on this memorable occasion as your guests of honour. We are proud to be here.
I remember the days when I first joined the High School when it was sited in the present High Court.
That building is also a unique building.
Indeed, I could say that it is one of Malaysia’s most fascinating old buildings, because once you have seen it you can never forget it, so unusual is its design and architecture. I sincerely hope that no Government of the future will ever pull it down because, if Iam not mistaken, there is no other building like it in the whole of Malaysia.
The Malacca High School was opened on 7th December 1826 in the Parsonage House with 18 pupils under Mr. T.H. Moore as its Principal. The Parsonage House is the site of the present Post Office, perhaps the same building, though we are not sure on this point. It was then a missionary school and was called the Malacca Free School, because education was supplied free, as implied by the name. Little information is available about the progress of the School during the next half of the century.
It is believed that the written records and other documents and papers were destroyed during the Japanese Occupation.
However, based on written documents and records still available, one gets the impression that the enrolment of the School, did not exceed 200 pupils by the middle of the 19th century.
In August 1878, the British Government took over the running of the School and renamed it the Malacca High School.
In 1931, the school moved to its present site.
I remember that event very well. In fact I was sad at the thought of having to leave such a historic building even though the new site we were going to was much larger and was obviously much more suitable for our future needs. The School now has a student population of about 1,500 and a tutorial staff of 69.
Being the premier school in the State and one of the leading schools in the country, the pupils of the Malacca High School enjoy facilities which are not commonly available. It is obvious that our School has grown and developed under very able hands and has set fine traditions. I am also happy to see this large gathering tonight which is evidence that our old boys still retain an active interest in the affairs of the School.
I should also add that the School has not neglected its extra-curricular activities, as even in my time we had our own magazine called “The Optimist” and I hope it is still going strong. We ha a literary association which regularly conducted debates on topical subjects and as a result of which we learnt the art of public speaking.
The High School was one of the first schools to play rugger. I remember this because that was the first time I started to play rugger and the year was 1934. To develop interest in sports, we also had a house system based on the house system of British public schools.
This I also remember because I was the Captain of my house, which was then known as Van Dieman House. We were one of the first schools to start the prefect system. I am told that the School is always supreme in hockey, rugger, basketball, sepak takraw and tennis. We have produced hockey and badminton players of world class. Our record on the playing fields is therefore something of which we need not be ashamed.
I also well remember my old teachers. Mr. Goh Tiow Chong was one of them and I am glad that he was the first old pupil to become Headmaster of the School in 1945. Previous to this, all the Headmasters were expatriates. I remember Tiow Chong very well because my abiding impression of him is that he was too kind to recalcitrant boy like myself. There were very few rules which I did not break, until I was made the School Captain.
I also remember Mr. P.F. Pereira, Mr. K.L. Chitty and Mr. Lee Chin Lin. Among the expatriates, the one I remember best was Mr. T.J. Thomas.
Since my last visit to the School a few years ago, I can see for myself that new classrooms and worksops have been adde. The old hostel has been replaced. The school has a larger playing field to cater for the needs of our young and promising sportsmen. I am informed by the Principal that the new hall is the first of its kind to be constructed on the old hostel site. The hall has a lenght of 132 feet and a width of 62 feet and can easily accommodate two indoor badninton courts.
I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the Principal, Staff and pupils of the School for their highly creditable academic performance last year, the results of which were announced this year. Never in the the history of our School has our Alma Mater performed so well in examinations, with pupils scoring the maximum distinctions in the Lower Certificate of Education, Malaysian Certificate of Education and the Higher School Certificate examinations, all in the same year. An academic achievement of this magnitude should not go unnoticed or unrecorded. I, therefore, have great pleasure in announcing that the United Malacca Estates Berhad of which I am the Chairman, will give a grant to commemorate this event.
It is good to see that the School has produced a variety of souvenirs to commmemorate this auspicious year, and I would like to compliment the souvenir committee on having done such a fine job. You can see the results of their work tonight. All of us should certainly buy our school tie for use on appropriate occasion, so that we can thus identify ourselves as products of the Malacca High School in spite of the generation gap. It gives us that sense of brotherhood and that sense of belonging to an institution of which we are all proud.
I would also like to compliment the old pupils who are now in Selangor, in particular Kuala Lumpur, for forming a branch of the High School Old Boys’ Association in Kuala Lumpur. They have shown great interest in this project and I am told that they are planning to build their own clubhouse. Their monthly dinner meetings on the 1st Wednesday of each month is one way of enhancing a sense of esprit de crops among old pupils of the School. I congratulate Encik Mokhtar Daud on being elected its first President and wish him and his committee every success in their endeavours to place the name of our Alma Mater high in the eyes of others. I do hope that old pupils in other States of Malaysia and in Singapore will follow suit.
Those of us who belong to this School have that sense of loyalty and pride because we feel that it is not only a school, it is something much more. It has traditions nurtured in the history of a State which is itself the history of Malaysia in miniature. Indeed, Malacca is a State which has more history behind it than any other.
As we look back tonight on what we have achieved during 150 years of existence, we can afford to say that we have been a credit to the country and its educational system. What we have achieved so far should not make us complacent. Let us resolve that in the next 150 years we will do even better, to benefit our School, our people and our country.
Before I sit down, may I ask all of you to rise and drink a toast to the School and to its future.
Speech By Tun Tan Siew Sin at the Sesquicentenary Dinner of The Malacca High School on Saturday 21st. August, 1976.
Converting Hard Copy to Soft Copy: Page 90 Optimist 1976