Mr P S Maniam

Reminiscences of the Anglo Chinese School Ipoh 1936 – and beyond

I came to the ACS Ipoh in January 1936 at the age of 7 from another Methodist School, the ACS Sungkai.( which had only classes up to Primary Two.) I was a hostelite in Horley Hall like many rural outstation boys from various parts of Malaya. I attended Standard 1 and I recall that my class master was the late Mr. F.G.H.Parry –a Scout Master.

We then had only the main building and the historic wooden two-storey Primary Building. A distinct landmark was the Wesley Church and a tennis court beside it. There were three wooden bungalows – for the Principal, the Pastor and the resident Missionary. The rest of the surroundings were Rambutan trees. The Principal then was Mr. Percy B Bell. The Hostel Master in charge was Mr. Ralph Kesselring – an American of German extraction – a kindly but strict disciplinarian and a pacifist. Martial music was taboo and many a hostelites 78 rpm vinyls on war themes came to grief at his hands.

Our residence – the Horley Hall – abutted the railway lines and gazing at the passing trains was an exciting experience – waving out to the passengers. There were five dormitories in the Hostel – ‘A’ Dormitory housed pupils from Batang Padang and Cameron Highlands, the ‘B’ Dormitory was for pupils from Bidor and its environs, ‘C’ Dormitory was exclusive for Sitiawan pupils D & E Dormitories were small and housed pupils from Taiping and Parit Buntar. The age range was anything from 7 years to 16 years of age. In those days there was a one-year Matriculation Class or Post Senior Class where students prepared for the London Matriculation Examination.

Sunday Evening Service was compulsory for Horley Hall students and the Doxology at the Dinner Table was sung on the way to the Dining Hall not at the Dinner Table… This was frowned on of course but it was fun!

Our Hostel Master in residence was Mr. Hector Ritchie, a brawny gentleman and a State Rugby player – a no-nonsense type – who was very friendly yet strict and had a penchant for carrying sleepy boys by the waist band of their pants and putting them under the shower so that they may not be late for school.

Saturday was pocket money day – about 10 cents per week – and a day when we were allowed to go to the cinema chosen for us by Mr. Kesselring.(Later to become Reverend Kesselring)

Horley Hall was the home to would be distinguished “Old Salts”1 – to name a few Dr Wong Poh Lam, Dr Goon Sek Mun. Maurice Baker, later to become Singapore High Commissioner to Malaya. Doong Siew Ming who, on completing his Senior Cambridge Examination answered the call of his motherland, China,  but lost his life in a crash during his Pilot  training in Ceylon  and Toh Chin Chye who was later to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.  Possibly there are others worthy of mention but memory fails me…

So much for Horley Hall, more can be written about this great institution which assisted rural students to make for themselves a place under the sun.

The School itself having distinguished itself from the time of its inception in 1894 was in 1936 pressing forward for innovation and progress. A Science block was built with provisions for a Laboratory and a workshop for the introduction initially of Woodwork vying with the only other institution which taught General Science – the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur and the sole series of Science text books was F. Daniels General Science. In Mr. Na Nagara the school found an eminent Science teacher who challenged the students in the manner he pushed the programme to gain acceptance.

I progressed from the historic wooden building to the brick building facing Lahat Road with its iconic belfry where the School Clock has been placed by the Rev. W.E.Horley our Founder Principal.

Marbles was the competitive game of choice during recess and was played on the gravel badminton court facing the field. The victor with his pockets full of marbles and his white short pants turned brown during the process drew the ire of the class masters. Discipline was maintained by the teachers with shouts of ‘silence’ and occasionally with the ‘cane’ which was allowed and often surreptitiously tucked behind the blackboard. All of this we took in our stride and enjoyed ourselves. The Office of Discipline Masters like Mr. M E Moreira and Mr. Brian Foenander were of another era – the post WWII years. Mr. Brian Foenander was in later years to become the Boarding Master – much loved, much feared and a great integrator of the hostelites of various races in Horley Hall and the school.

When War was imminent in 1941 – the School Building was commandeered in October 1940 by the British Indian Army as barracks and store. The ACS became migrants being housed at the ACGS in the afternoon and the hostelites were put up at a bungalow on Tambun Road. Whilst trains were our persistent companions at Horley Hall and waving at the passengers was a hallowed pastime, Army trucks roaring incessantly by were our new companions. Outings were naturally curtailed and we spent a comfortable but miserable time there. School went on apace at the ACGS in the afternoons. Holiday 1941 had been called when on the 8th December 1941 the Japanese invaded Malaya and our beloved Main Buildings were bombed and strafed, Fortunately the Horley Hall Boys and the Girls at the Kenyon Hostel in the ACGS had been sent home.

In the four years of the Japanese Occupation the boys involved themselves in various activities and prematurely matured.

When we returned to school in 1946 – Mr. Aw Boon Jin had been appointed Acting Principal and he had a major problem on his hands – numerous students wanting non-existent places in the school – and they were not boys anymore, having coped with the vicissitudes of the War Years – they were young adults – some having been farmers, some mechanics and some even black marketers.

One of them Leong Choo Meng had joined the ‘Force 136’ – the British clandestine guerilla outfit, elements of which became the MPAJA 2 . They had lost four precious years of education and were now rearing to go.

The Resident Missionary, the Rev. Burr Baughman, who was interned at Changi Prison came directly to Ipoh in 1946 from prison.. Mr. Hector Ritchie, the Resident Boarding Master and School Clerk, and other servants of the School returned to their posts, it took us until 1949 to return to a sense of normality.

Disciplining the students under the circumstances was a different cup of tea. The Discipline Master Mr. M E Moreira, the Acting Principal Mr. Aw Boon Jin and the teachers were now facing young and mature adults and their methods had to change with the situation… There were the occasional confrontations between the teacher and the taught but time healed all shortcomings. By 1950 we almost returned to normalcy and we were a regular scholastic institution, thanks to good leadership at all levels.

The Primary Section was in the charge of Mr. Low Chooi Beng who was ably assisted by the ‘motherly disciplinarian’ Mrs. Grace Tong.

In trying times and a difficult situation all credit must go the teachers and other staff members for holding what would have been an administrative nightmare on an even keel.

In the Scholastic field we produced the pre-war Queens’ Scholars – the brothers Ng Yok Hing, and Ng Wah Hing. Maurice Baker, Thong Saw Pak, Loke Kwong Hung and Ng Cheuk Hing were Post-War Scholars.  Queen’s Fellows were Dr A W E Moreira and Dr Fang Ung Seng…

On the Sports field the school was very successful having produced the likes of Veerapan, an athlete. He led a crack track team to win the 4×400 metres at the all-State Athletic Meet in Kuala Lumpur in 1936. later he was to become a Major in the Army, Others worthy of mention are  Maurice Baker at the javelin, Cheah Tong Kim, an Olympic Swimmer, Chet Singh representing Malaya in Hockey at the Melbourne Olympics, Teoh Seng Khoon, and Tan Jin Eong represented Malaya and won the first Thomas Cup in Badminton for the country, and Eddy Chin who still holds the record for Long Jump which he set in the period under review.

I recall Thong Saw Pak a Silver Medalist at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics in Weight Lifting and later to distinguish himself as Professor of Physics at the University of Malaya in Singapore. There are others who did excellently well in Sport and I must apologize for not being able to mention them.

Some names, however, that come to my mind are the crack relay teams of Gunaseelan, D Pandian, George Cummings, S Rajoo, and Dicky Chong and others.

After the War in 1946, depending on which Standards we had been the school introduced a system of accelerated promotions – some did three months in a Standard, some six and in a couple of years we were back again to normal one year of study in a Standard or latterly referred to as Forms  By 1950 the backlog was cleared.

Scholastic achievements were on the whole of a high standard comparable or sometimes even better than many great schools of the time. Science had been introduced in 1938 or thereabouts and was under the guidance of Mr. Chia Sri Na Nagara- the standard and only series of Science text books was “General Science” by F.Daniel of the Victoria Institution.

In a very short time the school began to teach the Pure Sciences – a passport primarily for Bio-Medical studies. This was made possible with the influx of Indian Graduate Teachers. I joined the Staff as a Physics teacher in 1955 answering an appeal via a personal letter sent to me by Rev. R Kesselring ‘requiring me’ as he put it to answer the ‘Macedonian Call’. This letter is a cherished possession of mine.

The infrastructural development of the School had a life of its own and was related to specific Principals – The Primary Wooden Building – (1894) and the Main Building -1914 (Rev W E Horley); The Science Block and Woodwork Laboratory 1936 (Percy B Bell). Another Science Block and School Library 1956 (Rev R Kesselring).

His successor Mr. Teerath Ram continued the infrastructural development at a more furious pace. Between July 1957 and January 1975 he was able to enlarge the School Stage and Hall (1958), an air-conditioned Library, Staff Room & Lecture Theatre (1959), the Lower Secondary and Tuck Shop Complex (1960), Swimming Pool and Recreation Centre (1962) and notably the Teerath Ram Stadium for badminton and assembly purposes (1974)    The Teerath Ram Stadium took over from the Memorial Gymnasium for indoor sporting activity at the expense of Gymnastics as a Physical Education activity.

Mr Teerath Ram pressed on in this development and had built a half-Olympic Size Swimming Pool in early 1960 and swimming sport and water-polo became a staple and much sought after sport. Here Mr Oh Boon Lian, Mr Chan Tuck Wah.  and other teachers were to play an important role in the development of this sport and produce State and National Swimmers and Water Polo Player.

The last of the developments was the building of The Kesselring Industrial Arts Block by Mr.P Subramaniam (1984). Then we ran out of land!

The Hockey Teams under Mr M.E.Moreira, Mr Chet Singh and later Mr Brian Foenander were built to formidable strength and were outstanding in their performance.

The teachers ensured that good sportsmanship was the name of the game and the participating pupils acquitted them selves well in the best tradition of the ACS.- “Bene Orasse Bene Studiusse”3 pervaded all our activities.

The great strength of the ACS was its adherence to Tradition. The Principals and teachers were not inflexible but their programmes were Tradition-built.

A classic example of this is the tradition of School Drama – culminating in the formation of a Music & Drama Society in the 50’s which has endured and developed into the creation of writers, directors among the students and an enduring place in the Malaysian Drama scene.

The first play was staged in 1916 and it was Shakespeares’s  “Julius Ceasar”. The producer/Director was the Principal Dr Lester Proebstel, “Tempest”, (1917) , “Merchant of Venice” (1918); Julius Caesar (1929); “Twelfth Night” (1932) and the then was a long pause due to the Great Depression and other factors.

It was to flourish again with the arrival of Mr Harold Wakefield with “Macbeth” in 1949 and the battle was joined and the school turned out a play-a-year and it would appear to have become a part of the curriculum, – a play a year- with student and teacher participation, initially mainly Shakespeare.until in 1985 Broadway Musicals burst on the scene with “Brigadoon” and continued to be a constant intoxicating fare to the present day.

The Subramaniam brothers Paul and Peter were responsible for the first student written scripts and production of original plays “Icarus and the Flight of a Thousand Swans” (1982), and “Ashgar the Temple is Burning”(1983) and these endeavours inspired more original scripts from the student body. Students continued to amaze the audiences with their originality and skills.

The school stage has thrown up a number of our students on the National Theatre Scene. Whilst the inimitable Mr.Chin Yoong Kim kept the home fires burning with his promotion of the theatre arts, innovative musical and directorial skills and the proper singing of the School Song, other students have graduated to the national theatre scene. Amongst these who need to be recognized in this field are Mano Maniam, and Chin San Sooi – the former for his performing and directorial skills and the latter for his works “Emily of Emerald Hill” and “KL Sentral” among other staging of  shows on the national and international scene..

All this and more was achieved by the School because of its belief in Tradition and the  impetus the school motto gave – “Bene Orasse Bene Studuisse”

1 This is a nautical term for ‘Sailor’ – the School Magazine was called ‘Voyager’
2 Malayan Peoples’ Anti Japanese Army
3 Latin for “to have prayed well is to have endeavoured well” – the School Motto: In the school auditorium


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