The Malay College Kuala Kangsar
The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (Malay: Kolej Melayu Kuala Kangsar, abbreviated as Malay College, MCKK, MC or Kolet, Koleq and sometimes dubbed “the Eton of the East”, other than Mayo College) is a premier residential school in Malaysia. We are an all-boys and all-Malay school in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, Perak. The school is one of the only two boarding schools in Malaysia that are under the royal patronage. Our royal patronage is the Conference of Rulers.
MCKK was awarded Cluster School of Excellence title by the Ministry of Education (Malaysia). In 2010,the school was awarded with the Sekolah Berprestasi Tinggi or High Performance School title, a title awarded to the 20 schools in Malaysia that have met stringent criteria including academic achievement, strength of alumni, international recognition, network and linkages. The school is specialized in rugby and basketball.
Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) is the first fully residential school in Malaysia. Established on 2 January 1905, it was originally known as the Malay Residential School of Kuala Kangsar.
The school was the brainchild of R J Wilkinson, inspector of schools for the Federated Malay States. In a letter to the resident-general dated 24 February 1904 he wrote about:
“…establishing at a suitable locality in the F.M.S., a special residential school for the education of Malays of good family and for the training of Malay boys for admission to certain branches of Government service”.
Its formation was supported by the rulers of the Federated Malay States: Sultan Idris Murshidul ‘Adzam Shah I of Perak, Sultan Alaiddin Sulaiman Shah of Selangor, Yam Tuan Tuanku Muhammad Shah of Negeri Sembilan and Sultan Ahmad Mu’adzam Shah of Pahang.
W Hargreaves, headmaster of Penang Free School, was appointed as the first headmaster to lead the establishment of the school with 40 pioneering students. Since 1965, the Malay College has been led by Malay headmasters.
As it was founded to educate the Malay elite, being royal children and the sons of Malay nobility, few of its early students were from commoner families. However, during Tun Abdul Razak Hussein tenure as Minister of Education in 1947, as a result of rising Malay nationalism, he democratized the intake. This is mainly because of his experience as an alumnus there, where he found out the aristocrats that gained admittance to this college were mainly below par compared to their less-privileged peers in Victoria Institution and Raffles Institution. Their status as aristocrats had caused them to not be independent and to have no willingness to strive for a better future. Today, only selected Malay boys aged 12 to 17 from around Malaysia are educated there.
Some of the notable teachers there were Pendeta Za’Ba and Anthony Burgess.
The Straits Echo on 15 April 1905 reported that a few boys were placed in cozy dormitories in Hargreaves’ rented house, while the others were stabled in small houses formerly occupied by the Malayan Railway clerks. The second half of the school, conducted by Mr Vanrenen was held in a fowl house. There were 40 boys in the first intake.
The sanction for the building of a permanent school became official on 23 December 1905; by 1 May 1909, the Big School was first brought into use. On Saturday, 11 December 1909, the Big School was officially opened by the Sultan of Perak, and the auspicious date also marked the change in the name of the school from the Malay Residential School of Kuala Kangsar to the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar.
The change seems to have seen greater emphasis on the original aim of MCKK. A report from 1910 said:
“From this school the Government have great hopes that the sons of Malays of the Raja and higher class will be educated and trained on the lines of an English Public School and be fitted to take a share in the Government of their Country”.
Since its inception, more than 5,000 boys (and 2 girls) have entered the gates of MCKK. The first Malay College Magazine was published in 1939. The compulsory white uniforms were introduced in 1949, before that, the students wore Malay dress. The Kolet samping designed and woven in Terengganu consisting of black, yellow and red (with resultant overlapping colours) was introduced in 1939 to be worn with white Malay baju & seluar and black kopiah was made the optional Malay uniform. It was only made compulsory in 1959 by the last British Headmaster, NJ Ryan. With the introduction of Squash in 1938, Eton Fives began to lose popularity.
The Headmaster changed the names of the 3 Houses (Rookies, Heads and Wheelies) to the four names of FMS Rulers in 1905. He was the same Headmaster who personally raised the UMNO flag on Federation Day, 01,02,1948, when the Kolet boys assembled to celebrate the demise of the Malayan Union and to sing the “new Malay National Anthem” as described by Hashim Sam Latiff. Kolet adopt (& perhaps adapt) that tune to be the MCKK Anthem using the words in the Ode to the MCKK penned by teacher-cum-poet/writer/composer Anthony Burgess. His words, turned into lyrics for the anthem, manifest the meaning of Fiat Sapientia Virtus.
In October 1989, the Queen and Prince Phillip visited the school.
In 2004, the college was made under purview of the rulers with Raja Dr Nazrin Shah was appointed as board chairman.
The college celebrated its centenary on 26 March 2005, attended by dignitaries, old boys, and townspeople. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia attended the event, along with the royal rulers of the states of Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan as well as the governor of Malacca. The college was also proclaimed as the Heritage Institution of Culture and Country.
On 10 June 2006, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan visited the school. The monarchs had promised to visit the school in the 1990s.
Since 30 May 2007, the Malaysian Ministry of Education has recognized MCKK as a cluster school.
In 2010, the school has been selected to be among the first High Performing Schools (Sekolah Berprestasi Tinggi) while in 2013, the Prep School celebrated its centenary.
MCKK has also hosted 2 international events, which are The Malay College Youth Development Summit since 2008 until now, and The Malay College Rugby Premier Sevens since 2011. Both events consist of international schools across the globe such as India, Singapore, South Korea and Australia.
The most recognizable feature of the school is the Big School (built in 1909), a building with pseudo Greco-Roman architecture fronted by a rugby field. The school is built to accommodate 100 students initially, but in 1910, there were 139 boys in the School Register, 124 of them boarders. Thus, the planning for the construction of the Preparatory School was considered and it was referred to as the Sekolah Kechil. The block was completed by 1913 when it took in its first boarders. It was then referred to as the Prep school. It admitted boys who had completed Standard 4 and were being “prepared” for secondary school boarding experience by completing their Standard 5 and Form Remove at the Prep School.
In 1955, the West and East Wing, as well as the Administration Block and Clock Tower were added. The Administrative Block was opened by High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya, Donald MacGillivray, in 1955. The West and the East Wing, with the Overfloor, make up what is now called the Big School. Two more hostel blocks, the Pavilion and New Hostel were built in 1963 and 1972 respectively; the latter houses second formers. Another prominent feature of the school is the Big Tree, a raintree (Samanea saman) in front of the East Wing that is said to be as old as the school itself.
The school has three fields. One is in front of the Big School, reserved for rugby, soccer and cricket. The second field is south-east of the Big School and it hosts field hockey games. The third open space is in the Administration Block and it is used for various purposes.
The college ground is the only place in Malaysia where an Eton Fives court is found.
The school excels in sports and debate. It became a powerhouse in rugby during the 1960s and still has one of the best rugby school teams in the nation.
Nicknamed “All-Blacks” after the New Zealand national team for its all black strip, they perform the haka before matches. It has held a match series against the Vajiravudh College of Thailand since 1960. In odd-numbered years, the match is held in Kuala Kangsar. In even-numbered years, it is held in Bangkok. In addition to this, MCKK competes with rival Royal Military College and King Edward VII School (Taiping) every year in a multi-games carnival.
The school basketball team is called as CG CAGERS.
A few school traditions, of relatively recent invention, survive.
One is the wearing of one of two forms of the school tie every Wednesday by the old boys.
Second is the annual gathering lasting around three days at the school itself – referred to as Old Boys Weekend. During the weekend, matches are held for any number of sports between the Old Boys and present students, culminating with a rugby match on Sunday morning.
Third is an annual formal dinner for old boys, usually held in a ballroom in Kuala Lumpur.
Fourth is the school cheering where almost every student is required to sing in unison various fight songs during official sport matches while wearing a specially designed polo-shirt.
You can take the boys out of Malay College, but you can’t take Malay College out of boys.
The alumni association of MCKK is known as The Malay College Old Boys’ Association (MCOBA).
It was established in 1929. In 2009, the association enrols its first non-Malay member, Liew Yong Choon.
To this date, seven Yang di-Pertuan Agong out of thirteen that have resided the throne were its alumnus (including a Lord President of the Supreme Court) and a Sultan of Brunei. Out of the four states that have Yang di-Pertua Negeri, two states have had at least one alumnus reside in office. The father of Malay nationalism and the founder of Malaysia’s largest party is also an alumni. A Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister (who later on become Leader of the Opposition) received their education in the college. The college also has produced two Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat. The college’s Old Boys also gain their presence in economy, education, law, armed forces and art.
The novelist and composer Anthony Burgess (1917–93), author of The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy, was a master at MCKK. He taught English and history and was housemaster at King’s Pavilion, between 1956 and 1957, during the headmastership of J.D.R. “Jimmy” Howell. According to Burgess’ This Man & Music, he wrote some music there under the influence of the country, notably Sinfoni Melayu for orchestra and brass band, which included cries of Merdeka (independence) from the audience. No score of any, however, has been delivered to posterity.
The “Ode: Celebration for a Malay College”, Burgess had written for the college’s 50th anniversary in 1955, “was swiftly expunged from the school’s choral repertoire”, when “within months … he had to leave the school after falling out with the headmaster, JD Howell. The following year Burgess published his first novel, Time for a Tiger. A thinly veiled account of his time at Kuala Kangsar, it so cruelly caricatured Howell and his colleagues that, as Burgess recalled in his autobiography, some of those who deemed themselves traduced ‘sought advice about libel’ from a local lawyer. The verses of the Ode have survived but not Burgess’ original melody.