Some funny stories tend to stick. Tan Sri Vadaketh Chacko George, or V.C. George, remembers an incident many years ago where he and a few friends were at the house of lawyer Stanley Ponniah. While they were having merry drinks, Stanley shooed away the pet dog, going: “Get out, Moreover! Out!”
George and his friends commented on the dog’s unusual name, and Stanley replied that in his household, everyone was named after a Biblical character. And “Moreover”, he added, was the only named dog in the Bible.
A Bible was produced, and Stanley directed them to the relevant verse. It was the story of the beggar Lazarus, who ate crumbs off the rich man’s table. And according to the Bible, Stanley read triumphantly: “Moreover the dog licked his wounds.”
George, a retired Court of Appeal judge and former lawyer, had a good laugh back then.
This story stayed long in his memory. So much so that years later, he included it, along with 99 other humorous anecdotes, in his book Some Stories I Have Told And Some That I Haven’t.
The book contains 100 of the many funny stories George has told all through his colourful life... all written in his witty style.
“For years I’ve been telling stories. If I may say so, there’s been some demand for me to speak at weddings and birthdays, and so on. And when you are asked to make speeches, you have to be humorous, and make funny stories, ” says George, 90, at a recent interview at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur.
It was an early morning interview, and a jovial George was raring to chat about this book (which features a dust jacked with a classic cartoon strip by Lat), and accommodate a photo shoot – with or without his cool shades on.
“Some other people asked, why not write your autobiography? And I said, who wants to know about me? I don’t know if people want to hear about my life, but they might like a good laugh!”
George, who read law in Britain and started his law career in 1957, is a highly prominent name in the Malaysian legal circles. He was a lawyer for 25 years, before being elevated to the Bench of the High Court of Malaya in January 1981. He then became a judge of the Court of Appeal in 1994, retiring a year later.
Later, George took on arbitrator and consultant roles at the law firm Skrine, and he still consults today despite retiring from arbitration in 2020.
George has written over 100 written judgments in various law journals, and was very active in Bar Council affairs. He was president of the Bar Council from 1974-1976 and in 2012, was the recipient of the Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award.
In person, George speaks almost exactly how you’d expect a former judge to speak: slowly, but eloquently, his speech peppered with well-chosen quips and witticisms.
George had a nostalgic and satisfying experience in writing this book. The process of recalling events and people allowed him to remember all his old friends and the wonderful times shared.
“There was no planning. For instance, I’d be having a shower when I suddenly think of a story. Then I’d write a note. And I’d write everything in longhand, and my secretary (Christine Low) would write it up on her computer later, ” says George.
His son Chacko (actor/host) and renowned journalist Philip Matthews (George's cousin) helped with editing and fact-checking the book's contents.
His mind is still as sharp as a tack, but George quips: “You should have seen me 20 years ago, my mind was even sharper then!”
He mentions he did not have any initial plans for compiling his stories into a book. Originally, he thought he would just staple his manuscript together for his friends and family for a laugh.
However, after George had compiled 50 stories, he started thinking, maybe there is enough for an actual book.
The book, written during the lockdown months, was supposed to coincide with George’s 90th birthday celebrations last December.
But the launch kept being postponed due to the pandemic situation.
Some Stories I Have Told And Some That I Haven’t, which was self-published, is available at good bookshops nationwide now.
It gives readers a taste of George’s natural storytelling skills, allowing them to share the man’s vast history in the legal field, his friendships (from Malaysia to Britain) and amusing takes on life.
In developing his sense of humour during his younger days, George remembers being a fan of witty writers, including P. G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde and Guy de Maupassant.
But he also mentions the family environment as an important source of humour and fun. George was born in Klang, Selangor to school teachers, V E Chacko and Thankamma Chacko, who both came to Malaysia from Kerala in South India.
“I also think I inherited it from my father. He was a schoolmaster, and used to be called upon to make speeches at weddings. He was a funny guy, I may have gotten some of his genes, ” says George.
As a student, George went to ACS Klang from kindergarten, right through to secondary school.
Reading through his stories – almost nine decade’s worth – is definitely quite a ride, starting with his parents’ journey to Malaya, George’s amazing career exploits right to some tales offering glimpses of playful and mischievous old world Malaysia.
Where else can you find a former judge giving tongue-in-cheek advice about how to catch forty winks on the bench? Or a legal case that involved the eating of frogs? Or even a tale about how George triumphed in a horse race with a horse named “Don’t Trust George”?
Through the book’s 274-pages, George recalls his memories in detail, deftly emphasising the more comedic aspects of the situations he relates. Famous figures make appearances: these include former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, and the late Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, who George befriended during their law student days in London in the 1950s.
When reading through some of the hilarious court proceedings in the book, George’s love for the law clearly shines through.
“I enjoyed being a lawyer and a judge. I wrote some very good judgments, if I may say so. Yet what I find is that when you have good lawyers appearing before you, your judgments become very good.
Normally judges take all the credit for themselves, but it’s because they have good lawyers making good arguments before them, that they make good judgments, ” says George with a smile.
He mentions there might be more stories coming from him. He has since remembered 10 or so stories that didn’t make it to the book. However, he adds, do not ever call him a writer.
“I’m not a writer! I’m just a teller of stories. There is a difference. It was not creative writing, I was just transmigrating my spoken stories into writing. I’m still VC George, the lawyer!” he says.
Does he worry, however, now that his most-loved stories are all in print, he might have less material for his speeches?
“One of the advantages of being old is, I have a license to repeat my stories. And some of my friends, they often ask me to repeat my stories so they can hear them again.”
“Hopefully, readers might put the book next to their bed, and when they can’t sleep or something, they will say, ‘Hey, let’s read that story of Stanley Ponniah’s dog again. If in reading my book, they laugh out loud a few times, and chuckle once or twice, then as far as I’m concerned, my book is a success.”
And who would George want to portray him in a possible movie adaptation of his book?
“Who’s the most good-looking actor nowadays? Gregory Peck? Daniel Craig?” concludes George with a laugh.