Bukit Kutu a.k.a Treacher’s Hill

by Eric Lim

Ulu Selangor was one of the major tin mining districts in Selangor during the Colonial era and Kuala Kubu was a key mining town in the district. After the dam in this town broke in 1883, a new township was built nearer the Selangor River. The population grew in tandem with tin production and it soon became the administrative centre for the district.

William Hood Treacher was the British Resident of Selangor from 1892 to 1896 and, in 1893, he came on an inspection tour of Ulu Selangor. When in Kuala Kubu, he spent a night at Gunong Kutu and later commented that the hill could be a possible site for a sanatorium. His comment was followed up in an article in the Straits Times Weekly Issue (1893) quoting an official report by Selangor Gazette that Gunong Kutu had several advantages as a sanatorium which include fair accessibility via the construction of a bridle road, a good spring near the park and cool temperature.

Kuala Kubu in 1906 with Bukit Kutu in the background. Photo credit: http://peskubu.org/latar-belakang-sejarah-kuala-kubu/
William Hood Treacher. Wikimedia Commons

The British also considered possible hill stations in other Federated Malay States (FMS), namely Gunong Kledang in Ipoh, Gunong Angsi near Seremban and Gunong Tahan in Pahang. However, they remained undeveloped as they were not high enough and had limited flatlands to accommodate many visitors. In the case of Gunong Tahan, the project did not even begin because part of the hill was located in Kelantan, which was not part of the FMS.

Gunong Kutu was also known as Treacher’s Hill. It was later renamed Bukit Kutu, probably because it was more appropriate than being labelled a ‘gunong / mountain’. Bukit Kutu remains the official name until today. The first bungalow was erected by the Selangor Government in 1895 and this was followed by another bungalow constructed in 1904. It was reported that in each of the bungalows, there were four bedrooms, a dressing room, bathroom and a good-sized living room with a fireplace. Each bedroom had two beds, which were supplied with blankets. The bungalows were also fixed with telephones connected to the Kuala Kubu Exchange. Activities in the daytime included going for walks, playing tennis, croquet and stump cricket. Badminton and ping-pong were added in the later years. At night, there were card games like bridge and board games such as chess. On a clear day at Bukit Kutu, the naked eye could easily locate Kuala Kubu town, Rasa, Serendah and even faraway places like Fraser’s Hill, Pangkor Island, Port Swettenham and Morib. A telescope was also made available.

As for the location of Bukit Kutu, the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser in 1923 reported that ‘distance-wise, the route from Kuala Kubu Rest House to Bukit Kutu peak where the two bungalows were located took 8 ½ miles and 8 ¾  via a well graded path up the hill’. Permission to use the bungalows had to be obtained beforehand from the District Officer of Kuala Kubu and the rent was $1.00 per day per bungalow. Government officers were given free usage of the bungalows. The journey to the peak took no longer than 3 ½ hours and about 2 ¾ hours coming down. The Straits Times reported on 15 April 1930 that Rex Duncan and J.L Ross climbed to the peak on their motorcycles and they used a Matchless 250 cc motorcycle, one of the oldest marques of British motorcycles. Three years earlier, Mackenzie also used the same make of machine to reach the top.

Matchless motorcycles. Photo source : Pinterest

The service of sedan chairs carried by coolies was also available for those who choose not to walk and the cost was $1.80 for each coolie. Separately, coolies could be engaged to carry provisions, letters, etc. and it cost $1.30 each. The train line to Kuala Kubu was established in October 1894 and this provided some convenience for visitors to Bukit Kutu. Prior arrangements could be made to send boxes of provisions, cold storage, etc. on stated days to the Kuala Kubu railway station and staff from the Rest House would collect them and deliver these up the hill.

Kuala Kubu Rest House. Photo source : NATIONAAL ARCHIEF, THE HAGUE

It was reported in 1903 that a new breed of mosquito was found by Dr Daniel at Bukit Kutu, which closely resembled the malaria carrying Anopheles of Italy. It was named Anopheles treacheri. Bukit Kutu was rich in biodiversity with various kinds of flora and fauna and this led it being established as one of the earliest wildlife reserves in our country in 1922. The first in Chior, Perak was established in 1903, right after the Wildlife Animals and Wildlife Birds Protection Bill was formulated in 1902.

The popularity of Bukit Kutu started to decline when Fraser’s Hill opened to visitors in 1922. From 1926 onward, the site started facing problems of soil movement but requests for help from the state government did not materialize. Finally, on 31 December 1932, the resort ended its operations. In 1933, one of the bungalows was bought over by Mat Ripin at a price of $28.00 but, later, he had to return the property because he was a government servant. In 1936, the bungalows were again sold, this time at a price of $100.00 to T.E. Emmett who said he wanted it for his own private use. Since then, Bukit Kutu was abandoned and the path was lost in thick vegetation. A chimney and fireplace, main entrance steps and stone walls at the other end of the ridge are the only remnants of the bungalows.

Bukit Kutu in 1921 (colorized edition of the black & white photo). Photo source : Wikimedia Commons

Today, Bukit Kutu is a popular hiking spot. The starting point is at Kampung Pertak, an Orang Asli settlement located near the Selangor Dam. The tradition of getting permission to visit Bukit Kutu since its inception is still in place until today whereby a permit is still necessary for the hike to the peak; it can be obtained from the Police Station in KKB town.

References

Jimmy Oddstuff. Remembering Treacher’s Hill (Bukit Kutu). Academia. 2012. (PDF) Remembering Treacher’s Hill (Bukit Kutu) | Jimmy Oddstuff

Bukit Kutu. The Singapore Free Press And Mercantile Advertiser (1884 – 1942). 13 February 1923. Pp 5.

A week end on Bukit Kutu. The Singapore Free Press And Mercantile Advertiser (1884 – 1942). 22 April 1931. Pp 1.

In praise of Treacher’s Hill. The Straits Times. 14 July 1896. Pp 3.

A Selangor sanatorium. Straits Times Weekly Issue. 14 March 1893. Pp 2

Untitled. The Straits Times. 13 July 1903. Pp 4.

The journal of wildlife and parks. 1996/97. https://www.wildlife.gov.my/images/document/penerbitan/jurnal/Jil151996_97.pdf

Siti Farrah Zaini, Zuraini Md Ali, Brit Anak Kayan. Site selection criteria for British Colonial Hill Stations in Malaya. Department of Building Surveyor, Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya. November 2017. https://umexpert.um.edu.my/public_view.php?type=publication&row=Njg3NzQ%3D

Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu. Bukit Kutu – Treacher’s Hill / Pusat peranginan dan Sanatorium 1893. Tarikh Kuala Kubu 1780 – 1931. © Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu (Peskubu). 2016. Pp 37 – 40.

Author: Museum Volunteers, JMM

Museum Volunteers, JMM Taking the Mystery out of History

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