One of the most visible symbols of Rafflesian identity, the RI school crest is based on our founder’s coat of arms, with the gryphon and double-headed eagle forming its central components, alongside other elements such as the double medallion, the helm, shield and ivy leaves.
While the origins of the school crest lie shrouded in the mists of the school’s early history, the oldest RI crest we are aware of dates back to 1882, and is found on the cover of an astronomy textbook.
What many Rafflesians are unware of, however, is just how much our school crest has evolved over the almost two centuries of our school’s existence. It was this profusion of crests, in fact, that led to Principal Philip Liau’s attempt to standardise the crest.
Shortly after becoming RI’s Headmaster in 1966, Philip Liau called upon Mr Wong Shuan Shee and Mr Lee Suan Hiang, who were the teacher-in-charge and chairman of the Art Club respectively at that time, and tasked them with the project of bringing the crest ‘back to its origins’.
Mr Wong, who is now retired, recalls, ‘We redesigned the crest around the end of the year. A former art teacher himself, Headmaster Liau pointed out various parts of the different versions of the crest that were in use at that time, and showed me what to modify.’
Mr Lee, from the Class of 1968 (and who would go on to become CEO of the National Arts Council), remembers being called into Mr Liau’s office and being given a book on English heraldry. ‘Mr Liau marked out various pages in his book on hereditary crests and symbols for my reference,’ he says, ‘Based on these inputs, I drew what I felt was as close as possible to the true original crest.’
Mr Ong Eng Hin, from the Class of 1971, and a former member of RI’s Board of Governors, recalls running an errand at the Art Room one day as a young Secondary One boy and seeing Mr Lee, three years his senior, hard at work painting the new crest.
He sums up well our sentiment about the crest, ‘It represents the school and the student body. Human beings look for symbols to bind them together, like the flag of a country, and this is one of the symbols that binds us as a Rafflesian community.’
In the timeline below, we present what we have been able to piece together, with the help of the Raffles Archives and Museum, about the multifarious history of this beloved symbol.