Heart and Soul: To Chief Tang, former Group Scoutmaster, with thanks

Tang Wang Nyap (first row, centre) and some scouts at Kinabalu Park, Sabah, in 1992. Photo: Liew Chiok San

Lord Baden-Powell was right when he said, “We never fail when we try to do our duty; we always fail when we neglect to do it.”

I believe Tang Wang Nyap, the Group Scoutmaster of Bukit Mertajam High School (HSBM), tried his best when he was in charge of the 1st and 2nd BM Scout Troops from 1968 to 1997.

The success of his scoutmastership was primarily due to his personal interest in scouting.

Tang was born in May 1946 in Bidor, Perak. He had his primary education at the Bukit Mertajam Stowell School, Penang, and continued his secondary education at BMHS later.

He joined the teaching profession (Regional Training Centre) and became a Geography teacher at Bukit Mertajam High School in 1968.

Tang was a former Troop Leader, and a holder of the Bushman's Thong, which was the second highest award after the King's Scout award. He did not leave scouting after his student days, but continued to serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster at the school in 1966 and 1967. He was promoted to the rank of a scoutmaster in 1968.

Tang did his Wood Badge Course at the historical Coronation Camp, Penang, and was presented with the two-bead Wood Badge in 1973.

At HSBM, his name was synonymous with scouting for he dedicated much of his time and energy to the Scout movement. Young and restless, the chief and his boys made adventurous cycling trips from Bukit Mertajam to Langkawi and Padang Besar in 1969 and to Singapore in 1970. In 1972, he led a group of senior scouts to Thailand.

Scouting also provided him an opportunity to contribute to society. He gathered a few scouts and held a jumble sale of old clothes, to help fire victims in 1978. It was a successful attempt.

On one occasion, he told yours truly, “If there is no one to help you, just carry out the activities on your own, and get the Assistant Scoutmasters and Troop Leaders to help.”

He started the Scout T-shirt printing project – with the old-fashioned way of using screen and dye – in 1977, and the Scout bulletin Highs Scouting in 1979. Though a man of few words, his actions spoke volumes.

Under his able leadership, the boys enjoyed various annual activities, namely Founder's Day, B.M. Hill hike, games and competitions on Training Session day, campfire, training camp, and farewell gathering for the outgoing scouts after their public examinations.

Tang Wang Nyap (centre) with his Form Six Rover Scouts at Bukit Mertajam High School in 1981. Photo: Liew Chiok San Tang Wang Nyap (centre) with his Form Six Rover Scouts at Bukit Mertajam High School in 1981. Photo: Liew Chiok San

Tang would normally spend his yearend holidays preparing for the annual pleasure camp at the presently defunct Jubilee Camp at Teluk Bahang, Penang. In the 1970s, the scouts only paid RM6 for the four-day camp, inclusive of transport!

For the safety of the campers, security duties were drawn up from 11pm until 6.30am. Members on sentry duty who were caught sleeping would be thrown into the sea, fully clothed, at 6.30am, the following morning.

A humorous incident occurred during one of those camps. A sentry who was not only caught sleeping in the store tent for food, but he also used the loaves of bread as a pillow to sleep on. As a result, all the campers (approximately 70 of them) had flattened, out-of-shape bread for breakfast. The sentry was immediately thrown into the sea at 6.30am!

The scouts also enjoyed two bungalow camps in Pangkor (1979) and Langkawi (1980). To acquire interesting ideas, knowledge and skills, Tang read up on scouting books and magazines. The scoutmaster truly made scouting fun. My salute to you, sir!

Tang was also appointed Assistant District Commissioner. He organised the annual Jamboree-on-the-Air (JOTA) and Jamboree-on-the-Internet (JOTI) from 1984 until 1997. Tang was the second National Jota Organizer (NJO) of Malaysia. There were between 1,000 and 1,500 JOTA-JOTI participants in those days.

I commented once, “Wah, Mr Tang, so many participants!”

He replied, “We explain to the Assistant Camp Chiefs what and how to do, and let them carry out the tasks. When they make mistakes at times, let them learn from their mistakes.”

As he was enthusiastic and hardworking, the boys under him had opportunities to participate in national jamborees in Sarawak (1978), Kelantan (1982), Perak (1989) and Sabah (1992). Tang and his scouts were also part of the Malaysian contingent to the Malaysia-Thailand Border Jamboree in Songkla, Thailand (1979).

Looking back on the good old days, a notable event comes to his mind. He still recalls the night hike down from the Bukit Mertajam Hill with another fellow scout, using torch lights, to fetch water for their patrol of scouts still up on the hill. It seemed that a member had used up the water supply of the group after "doing his business" in the jungle. It was pitch dark when they turned off their lights to look at their surroundings.

Tang recalled, “We were not aware of the danger we put ourselves in, and we were not scared. Ghu-kia em-bat hor (Hokkien for 'a calf which does not know a tiger'). All we could think of was the water needed for our group in the jungle.”

Tang retired from teaching and scouting in 1997. Throughout his 29 years as a scoutmaster, he helped many senior scouts to fulfill their ambitions of achieving the King's Scout award. Today, many of his former scouts are successful professionals.

The Chief conveys his appreciation and a big Thank You for all the assistance rendered to him by his former leaders, guides, colleagues and scouts, without whom scouting at HSBM would not have been successful.

To the Chief, Tang Wang Nyap, this yell is dedicated to you:

Booma-laka, Booma-laka,

Wah! Wah! Wah!

A Jing-a-laka, jing-a-laka,

Yah! Yah! Yah!

Booma-laka, Jing-a-laka,

Who is he?

Tang Wang Nyap, can't you see?

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