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."