The Establishment (1903-1905)
“…establishing at a suitable locality in the Federated Malay States, a special residential school for education, of Malays of good family and for the training of Malay boys for the branches of the government service …”
-R.J Wilikinson, Inspector of Schools for Federated Malay States-
The 2nd Conference of Rulers in Kuala Lumpur in July 1903, was the initial motivation to the much needed improvement in the local’s education, particularly the Malays. An idea of establishing a special institution for further participation of Malays in the British Government was brought up during the assembly. Mentions of criticism arose as the ruling Sultan of Perak, Sultan Idris spoke on the discrimination of British education policy, for its dismal products, in his words, “…producing better Malay farmers and fishermen only…”.
But, nevertheless, the idea sparked off interests and received mix opinions from both the locals and the British officers. Both perceived that it would pose a new era, or medium for a change in the academic field of the Malays. At least, that was exactly the thought of J.P Rodger, the Resident of Pahang, when he sent a letter to the Resident General of the Federated Malay States, suggesting a school, not just another school, but to be a centralized academic institution for the Malay Rajas and chiefs.
The Inspector of Schools then in 1904, R.J Wilkinson, just appointed to be in the seat, gave full support to Rodger’s proposal. Wilkinson, well known for his love and commitment to his duty, was eager to put the plan into work. He submitted a proposal, roughly similar to Rodger’s, but with a slight, yet significant change in his, suggesting a RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL instead of a normal daily curricular activities. The eventual product was hoped to be channelled to the government sector, as a invaluable commodity for the future needs of the British government.
Apparently, Sultan Idris of Perak had a different opinion. Wilkinson’s reasons did not satisfy his crave for a reform in his subjects. Nevertheless, prior to the accepted proposal, a plot of land in the small town of Kuala Kangsar was contributed to render the setting up of the establishment, courtesy of the sultan himself.
The recommendation from Wilkinson, unsurprisingly, received total approval from the High Commissioner under several conditions. First, the scheme was to be introduced in a small scale and second, it was then unanimously decided that William Hargreaves, headmaster of Penang Free School, was to be the first principal of the new institution.
The new school came into existence as the Malay Residential School, as it opened on the 2nd of January 1905,with the registration of 8 students and three teachers.
The Pre-war Years (1905-1941)
The Malay Residential School started on the 2nd of January 1905 with the presence of 8 students and three teachers. The news of the establishment of the school spread out throughout the Federated States of Malaya, with some approving gestures from the public, as the number of students increased to 59 students and three teachers by the end of the year.
As its initial objective was to cater for the academic needs of the royals and the chiefs’ children, peers of the similar group mainly populated the school. Though, at the early of its development, many were just day students from around the town of Kuala Kangsar, while the rests lived with the teachers and railway-quarters, due to the unavailability of adequate facilities, to the extent that even fowl houses were partially turned to classrooms.
William Hargreaves, the school’s first headmaster, created the foundation of the school’s tradition, based the highly regarded public school culture in Britain. It was decided then by the British administration that the school was to be run similar to the normal residential school of Britain, and therefore, facilities and infrastructures were made available to cater for the needs of the students and teachers alike, in order to achieve this.
The final result was, a rise of a magnificent building, the Overfloor, on the 11th of December 1909, and officiated by the Sultan of Perak, in the presence of the High Commissioner of Federated Malay States. In the same occasion, notably, Malay Residential School was renamed as the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar.
Exposure of western ideologies, culture, and influence, were heavily emphasized on and were given utmost priority, though religious studies and Malay literature were of great importance. Teachers were responsible not only to watch over their studies, but to also be constantly aware of the students’ daily routine (e.g table manners, proper dress code, and practice of proper English).
In the field of sports, football became the first to gain popularity among the students, as Hargreaves himself was a keen footballer. And in 1911, the Special Class for Probationers was introduced, to train students to be Malay Administrative Officers. It signalled the very first batch of students from the Federated Malay States to be admitted into the school.
Hargreaves left in June 1918. The empty post was filled by acting Headmaster, J.O May. By then, the Board of Governors had already been established with participation of the British Residents of F.M.S., Director General of Education, and also included several Malay Representatives from F.M.S.
A prominent figure in the college history is L.A.S Jermyn (1919-1923), who replaced May as the headmaster. He introduced the college band, chemistry, and music subjects, woodwork, carpentry, the Old House system (Heads, Wheels and Rookies), and theatre.. His other contribution was the production of the first College Magazine in 1921, under the supervision of E. La. M. Stovers. A teacher during his period who later became a prominent intellect was Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad, publicly known as Za’aba.
C.Bazell took his seat in 1923. Known for his love and positive perception of the Malays, the headmaster was responsible for various changes in the school, for instance, he substituted monitors for prefects, and replaced princes in cubicles with prefects. It was around this time when the college rose to prominence in sports, especially football. The college was also respected for its formidable cricket, hockey and lawn tennis team.
The Old Pool, to promote swimming habits among the boys, was constructed in 1926, and Bazell introduced Eton’s Fives in 1928. In 1938, the Heads, Wheels and Rookies house system were substituted for Mohd. Shah House (Yellow), Ahmad House (Black), Idris House (White), and Sulaiman House (Red), honouring the four rulers of F.M.S who were directly or indirectly responsible for the establishment of the Malay College.
H.R. Carey replaced Bazell in 1928, and the College was closed in 1941 in the midst of World War 2.
Japanese Occupation – The 60th anniversary (1941-1965)
In 1941, the college was closed down due to the break of the second World War. During the war in 1943, under the Japanese Administration after the loss of the British, the College was turned into a Japanese school for the locals. It did not receive much support from the public, due to the Japanese failure to recognize the college as a ‘special’ school. As the number of students continue to decline, the Japanese decided to close it down and the college was converted into a Japanese Civil Service Headquarters, which witnessed the prosecutions of hundreds of people at the Rugby Field.
The year 1945 saw another change in the college as it was turned into a Japanese hospital, as the Japanese began to suffer from huge losses in their campaigns in the Pacific and Asia. It saw the influx of countless of patients, resulting from battles into the college. After the historic atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the surrender of the Japanese signalled another process in the college evolution, as it bear the Union Jack again on its helm.
The British apparently was not attentive to the needs of the people after the war. In August 1946, the College was still closed, and no sign of it being reopened. When Sir Carey, the former headmaster arrived to reclaim his position in the college, he saw that the college was in such a sorry state with blood stains on the walls, damaged army tents and neglected huts around the college compound. Murmurs of dissatisfaction went on, though it came to no avail.
The first move to repair and redevelop the college was initiated by a group of concerned old boys, who organized a fund to support their deed. And it was well received by the public, who evidently wanted the college to have its glory days back. However, due to the lack of funds, the bricks were painted yellowish white for the first time. The reopening of the college took its place in 1947, when adopted its present motto, which will forever be associated with the school, ‘FIAT SAPIENTIA VIRTUS’, the Latin for ‘Let Manliness Come Through Wisdom’.
Dato’ Onn bin Jaafar, an old boy, then the Chairman of UMNO, in line with the reopening of the college, persuaded the British to increase the number of students admitted, giving opportunity to Malays regardless of their family background, to live up to the real objective of its establishment. Thus, since then, the once influential royals gradually disappeared, to give way to the emergence of a new breed of outstanding Malay students in the college. And in 1948, the Form Six classes were started.
The King’s Pavilion was borrowed to the College in 1950. Two years after that, the King’s Pavilion was permanently given to the college by Sir Gerald Templer. In 1953, a significant moment in college history was written down as the first and probably the last girl was admitted to the college, as the college was the only mean to continue her studies in Britain.
In the year 1955, College celebrated its’ Golden Jubilee in pomp and splendour as the College benefited from the vast development on its’ grounds. The Big School wings, The New School, Hargreaves Hall and other facilities were constructed. The ceremony was officiated by Sir Donald McGillivray, High Commissioner of Malaya and witnessed by all the nine rulers of the Malay States.
The College was made into a fully secondary school six years later. King’s Pavilion was also returned to the government and turned into The Government English School. In memory of the building which was affectionately remembered by the boarders, The Pavilion was constructed as a new residential block in 1963.
Malay College’s first Malay principal, Encik Abdul Aziz replaced NJ Ryan during the College’s 60th anniversary.
1966 to the Present Day (1966-1999)
The college was made an all Upper Secondary School in 1969. But, nevertheless, the first formers were accepted again in the college in 1972, ‘for the sake of the college spirit’. They were mostly placed in the Preparatory School, where they would hopefully learn the ‘surviving skills of a collegian’, before they mingle with the older seniors. In 1973, the college hosted the first PPM, Prime Minister’s Trophy Competition, where all boarding schools (there were several others at the time) would compete among themselves in debates to win the coveted trophy, initiated by the 2nd. Prime Minister and also and Old Boy, Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein.
The Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Hajj Resource Center was opened to the students in 1974, to render the knowledge and information needed for excellence in the academic field. Ten years later, the college made its first step towards globalisation by introducing Arabic and Japanese Language classes for the students, with some of the best language teachers available. The intake of Form Six students was ended in 1985, and GCE A-Level students were admitted into the school as replacements. The discontinuation of the A-Level students in 1988 left the college with only the lower five forms to cater for. French was then introduced in 1989, in addition to the first two.
Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II and her consort, His Royal Highness Prince Phillip made an eventful visit to the college in 1989, and also officiated the monument to commemorate their historic visit. In 1992, another royalty , His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, the Sultan of Brunei and Her Royal Highness Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha, visited the college.
The college hosted the 22nd PPM North Zone Carnival in 1995. It was in this year that another foreign language was introduced to the students, Mandarin. The college was given the honour to host the 23rd PPM National Level in 1996, the second time ever in the college’s history. It was during this carnival, that the Education Minister of Malaysia officiated the Information Laboratory, or Infolab, to signal the bright future of smart education in the college. The college was announced in 1997 as one of the pilot schools for the smart school project in Malaysia.