CLUB 21: For Merit
oon after Dr. G. E. D. Lewis' assumption of duties as headmaster at the V.I. in 1956, he discovered that some of the V.I. boys were members of secret societies and were extorting money from fellow schoolboys. Some teachers had been aware of it but were too frightened of the consequences to bring the matter to his attention. Six boys were initially identified and caned by Dr. Lewis, but by 1958 there was a fresh outbreak of gangsterism at the V.I.
Checking with the police, Dr. Lewis found that there were two main secret societies in Selangor at that time: the Wah Kei and the Ang Bin Hoey. The latter had several criminal gangs associated with it, namely, the 08 or 108 Gang, the 21 Brothers (or Gang 21) and the 360 Gang.
Isolating several suspects in separate rooms, Dr Lewis used the time-honoured method of getting them to confess by suggesting that one was informing on the other. (He also ensured that there would be no retraction by making sure that the confessions were all in writing!) The V.I. headmaster soon found out that members of Gang 21 were eager to finger members of the 08 gang and vice versa! All in all, twelve gang members were identified, belonging either to Gang 21 and the 08 Gang. They had paid monthly subscriptions to their respective gang leader and, in turn, had extorted pocket money and personal belongings from their fellow Victorians.
In addition to receiving six of the best, each gangster was further punished by having to stand in the quadrangle for an extended period, with knees half bent and holding in each hand extended at shoulder level, a saucer with a cup in it. Woe betide anyone who dropped either cup or saucer! Dr. Lewis then warned the entire school that in future any boy found to be a member of the 08 Gang would be caned 8 times, while a Gang 21 member would be caned 21 times! Except for one other gangster caught later (he was caned 8 times), there were no more cases of gangsterism in the school after that. Dr Lewis had also secretly recruited some burly members of the school rugger team to keep an eye out for any intruders, ordering them to pursue and tackle the outsiders rugger-style, if necessary, and to bring them to him. In the event no gangsters dared encroach upon V.I. property again. Other schools were not so lucky.
From the ashes of gangsterism in V.I., Dr. Lewis forged his own "gang" - Club 21, the name, number and intentions deliberately chosen to be a tweak in the nose of Gang 21. Like its notorious counterpart, Club 21, too, had stringent membership rules, except that aspiring members were chosen for meritorious service to the school and thus consisted of its best sportsmen and leaders in extra-mural activities. Membership of Club 21 would be second in prestige and honour to membership of the V.I. Prefects Board, whose numbers were limited to about 20 each year.
A special badge with a yellow scroll inscribed with the words "Club 21 For Merit" at the top of the school crest was struck and the first 15 members of Club 21 were presented with their distinctive badges during a school assembly in early 1958. While eleven of these founding members were outstanding sportsmen in a variety of sports, the other four were recognised for non-sports contributions - Chua Lai Hock for his talents in biological research, M. Shanmughalingam for representing the school in debating, A. Krishenjit, for his outstanding contributions to drama and a fourth member, Leong Ming Tuck, for his exemplary work as the V.I. Cadet Corps' C.S.M.
Over the years over 100 pupils, including four girls, have proudly worn the yellow-topped Club 21 badge, proud members of a unique Gang, a gang for good, excellence and merit. Club 21 membership and membership of the V.I. Prefects' Board were not necessarily mutually exclusive, as many Club 21 members went on to become V.I. Prefects in the Upper Forms.
The following is a list of these Victorians and their year of induction:
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng