Of Cabbages, Captains And Kings
“The time has come”, the Walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings – and why the sea is boiling hot – and whether pigs have wings” (Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventure In Wonderland).
Sports participation in the ACS was through the auspices of School Houses. A student was assigned to a House for the duration of his school tenure determined on the basis of his School Admission number (girls, for 6th form). Each house has its own distinct colour:
Abdul Aziz – yellow
Eu Tong Sen – purple
Horley – green
Oldham – red
Tagore – blue
Students competed against their peer class group, with the opportunity to compete in an “Open” class. This was the set up in all sports.
I have no knowledge as to when the house system came about but, to me, is one of the strongest traditions of the ACS. It is obvious that the chosen names were the School’s acknowledgment and reverence towards the Perak Royal Household, its founder, benefactors, eminent Methodist Church educators, and that they suitably reflect the ethnic composition of the school population. The House system inculcated in the students a great sense of belonging, camaraderie, provided role models to emulate, pride, and laid a competitive foundation for later life. These sentiments remind me of Mr.Teerath’s Ram exhortation of ACS to mean “Ambition, Character and Service”. Rival schools, those with envious intent, had oft ascribed derogatory meanings to the said abbreviations. Likewise, we have returned our perennial rivals SMI with an appropriate reference. Even our sister school was not spared a cheeky attribute.
In recent years, a then Principal (to borrow a phrase…“whose name we do not mention…” my respects to JK Rowling) replaced the Houses with some ignominious system. Thankfully, a sensible successor has since restored the Houses.
I was in Tagore House in my primary and secondary tenures – the House honouring Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel Laureate. Tagore dominated the swimming pool with the likes of Cheah Tong Kim, Phang Chee Foo and Choo Soo Ha. I recall when in Upper Six (1971), Tagore was school sports champion under House captain Lee Fook Wong, a Perak Schools’ Champion badminton player, school athlete, and ASEAN Schools’ high jump champion. He is a worthy role model and my lifelong chum. He continues to pilot MAS passenger jets in a career spanning 40 years. It is rumoured that FW has continued to maintain his physique and can still fit into his school uniform! I remember my classmates the twins, Khor Ho Teik (Chris) and Ho Teng, splendid footballers and athletes. My contemporary was Dr. Lee Tong Weng, the Head Prefect, academically brilliant, representing the school in table tennis and chess.
Then there was the Annual Cross Country run, which every student had to undertake unless excused. I must confess that in all the years of my participation, the extent of my running was only to as far as the McAlister Warehouse and, thereafter, one long stroll. The “scenery” en-route was interesting. There were the itinerant “kachang puteh” or goreng pisang” sellers, then you pass by the toddy shop on the Sungei Pari embankment, or when “strategically” negotiating the mounds of the Town Council’s nightsoil dump site. I recall when Colin Clark would lead a cohort on short-cuts, and evade the scrutiny of Mr. Moreira on his Honda Cub (aka “Loh Moh”, the then Discipline Master).
To those active in the school’s sports and games curriculum, support of one’s House was often enthusiastic and robust. Remember the Tembusu tree lines? Cheer squads were always lurking in the background. On school sports days, participants wore tops dyed in their house colour. The teachers who regularly delivered the daily school announcements via the PA system also got into the act on Sports Days. Who can forget the rousing boom of Mr. Jamit Singh or the intellectual tone of Ms. Tye Soh Sim.
Horley Hall produced a great number of sports personalities. The school’s basket-ball team in particular was made up entirely of boarders from the Dindings. With their strategic on court communication in Foochow, or dialects peculiar to their home towns, they confused opponents. Others included my swimming squad mates, Wong Woon Wai and Fong Swee Kheng. Mr. Brian Foenander, the boarding master, being the Man For All Seasons in hockey, ensured the game’s high standards. I remember the likes of Lam Kok Meng, Poon Fook Loke and Mohd. Azraai (don’t think they were boarders), outstanding hockey players who donned State and National colours. Horley Hall boarders were encouraged to engage in sports. That too was extended to our sisters from the MGS when they boarded at the girl’s boarding house which was established at the former Principal’s residence.
The rest of the teaching fraternity’s enthusiasm in sports was also demonstrated in the dedication of teacher-coaches. I have mentioned Messrs.Oh Boon Lian, Leong Soon Nyean, Lee Chong Lay, Fong Soon Leong, Foo Yoke Meng in swimming and water-polo. We had Messrs. Rasathurai, Donald Tan, Chandrakasam, Kesavan (K-Chat), Teh Chor Aun, Manogaran (yes, the actor!) in athletics, table tennis, badminton, tennis and other sports. Cikgu(s) Mohd. Noor and Ali Ibrahim were in sepak takraw. If life-saving is acknowledged as a sporting activity, Mr. Yip Yat Loong could lay claim to having THE largest life saving group then. Under his charge, many of us obtained our Life-Saving certificates and received our Merit and Distinction awards. There was a teacher who coached tennis, a very sober character, who went on to become the Headmaster of the Sungei Siput Methodist School.
Chin Yoong Fee (Cohort: 1971 Form 6 Upper Arts A)