I remember it well – the day I took my daughter on her first visit to a museum. It was the National Science Centre in Bukit Kiara. She was two years old, barely out of her toddler’s gait, excitedly walking up and down the aisle, absorbing, gazing all around with wonder, taking it all in. I’m not sure what it was – the colours, the buttons to press, the lit up exhibits, the big pictures on the walls – the visit seemed like fun to her from the get go. She was too young then to have me explain much, or any, of the content, so we simply roamed the museum as I let her lead. It was truly memorable.
Many more visits followed, later with her younger brother in tow. As my children grew, our museum and gallery visits grew as well – in frequency, in the time spent as well as in attention to the exhibits.
Something about their response to our trips propelled me to make these trips part of their growing up years. I found that museums did something to kids that books could not. While books inform and educate, museums, through large installations, interactive displays and the like, have the ability to capture the imagination and spark curiosity that written words on pages, cannot quite. The immersive learning experience museums and galleries provide are incomparable.
Numerous curators and directors of museums and galleries agree that exposure to museums among young children have tremendous benefits. “Bringing children to museums opens their eyes to different ideas and perspectives that are relevant to their lives. This kind of exposure can help develop higher critical and creative thinking skills, which are integral to future success.” —Rebecca Davidson, Manager of School and Educator Programs, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.
Maria Montessori put it beautifully when she said, “Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.”
Museums, with their engaging exhibits, are a great place to spark a child’s curiosity. References to different places and times, displays of varying forms and styles and the weaving of captivating storylines around them, are powerful tools to capture a child’s imagination and can lead to lifelong learning.
Parents, teachers, curators and museum guides like ourselves, all play a pivotal role in making museum visits educational and fun for kids. For some children and students that visit Muzium Negara, especially from outside the Klang Valley, we must remember that the visit is one rife with opportunity – to engage and to inspire.
Below are some tips to keep in mind when guiding children in museums:
Be clear on what the main content will be.
Children have short attention spans. No matter how interesting the exhibits are, resists the urge to want to show them all off. Be clear on what the main message or learning topic is that you would like to share and stick to it.
It might help to do a quick brief on what to expect, before beginning the tour.
Pick pieces or exhibits that will allow bodily engagement. This does not necessarily have to be buttons to press or levers to pull. Large installations, the shape of which children can mimic or imitate with their bodies can have a tremendous impact too.
At the Makara, for instance, won’t it be fun to ask children how an elephant and a fish posing together might look like? Get a group of boys to show the others how Hang Tuah and his band of brothers might have looked together. Ask children to close their eyes and imagine what living in a New Village might have felt like. What modern cartoons or super hero would they depict with a Wayang Kulit puppet?
This is the time to have fun yourself! Embrace the child within and let your imagination be your guide. You’ll be surprised how refreshing the experience will be.
Large exhibits over wordy signboards…. anytime!
Guide children toward larger exhibits to create a ‘wow’ moment, and one they are not likely to forget – the tin dredge and rubber tree in Gallery C, the diorama of the Melaka port in Gallery B and of the Pangkor treaty in Gallery C – these are sure to hold a child’s attention.
Trust the child.
Remember that learning is innate in human beings, especially so in children. Trust that they are whole, able and competent – capable of absorbing and processing information and making sense of what they see. History is a wonderful subject, filled with lessons to teach everyone, the young included. Do your best to prepare, but let the pieces, the content and the child’s natural learning desire, do the rest.
“It is very important to take children to museums and galleries. Exposing children to museums at a young age will inculcate a love for history and culture. A good museum is a great informal learning platform that can complement formal learning. For example, after learning about ancient civilizations in textbooks, it may be interesting for children to see the actual tools and ornaments used by people from those times. They might also be able to better picture scenes of daily life or important events from history by looking at relevant dioramas or exhibits; or listening to audio guides at various stops. Artefacts like actual fossils and dinosaur bones can also inspire awe and prod curiosity. This provides more learning touch points and better multi-sensory learning for children, versus just reading about something. It will fire up all their other senses, and lead to better retention and recall of important points.
Museums also provide opportunities for children to learn how to observe things carefully, digest information, and assess what they still need to find out and to ask relevant questions.
Guides play a role to enhance and optimize the experience by doing a little groundwork beforehand to help to set the scene for the visit. Without context to link what they see to what they know and what is important to them, children will just get bored very quickly looking at a bunch of “rusty and musty old things”! Activity sheets for kids also help.
Spend a few minutes thinking about how to relate the exhibits and artifacts to things children are learning about in school, what they are interested in. Encourage them to express their opinions. Ask them to compare and contrast what they see to things they use or do now. For parents, I think children will really value this kind of time spent with family. Just as we are curious about what our children think about things, they are also curious about our opinions and us. Creating a positive experience at the museum will also lead them to associate learning with happy experiences as a family. I think these visits to museums and galleries create a shared experience and memory as well as opportunities for family members to have real and meaningful conversations.”
Li Hsian, Co-Facilitator of Art Discovery Tours and Coordinator of Children’s Programmes, ILHAM Gallery
The introduction of railways in our country occurred in the second half of the 19th century and the British played an important role in its development. However, a Malay Ruler beat the British to the construction of the country’s first railway.
He was Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar of Johor who laid the foundation for the construction of the Johore Wooden Railway (JWR) line connecting Johor Bahru and Gunong Pulai where he had envisioned constructing a sanatorium and a hill resort in 1869. James Meldrum was given the task to build the line. In 1875, upon the completion of the first phase, he invited Sir Andrew Clake and his wife to ride on the steam locomotive, which was purchased from India and was subsequently named Lady Clarke. A few months later, the incoming Governor, Sir William Jervois was invited for a ride. An article in the Straits Observer (Singapore) dated 21 September 1875 reported the abandonment of the JWR line. The JWR was a short-lived railway line purposely built for the Maharaja and his guests.
In 1880, Maharaja Sir Abu Bakar ordered the construction of another railway, connecting Muar town and the coastal settlement of Parit Jawa, to eventually link with Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru. It became known as the Muar State Railway (MSR).Both JWR and MSR were funded from the state’s coffers. The early construction was done by Malay and Javanese workers and the line began operation on 11 March 1890. MSR was very profitable due to the high traffic of passengers and goods travelling between the terminals. Children attending English school in Muar travelled free. The opening of Jalan Abdul Rahman in 1918, greatly affected the traffic of MSR and eventually the line was closed in 1929. Below, news reports of construction workers who uncovered railway sleepers believed to be part of MSR.
The development of the railway system by the British tied up closely with their involvement in the politics of our country. The first phase started after the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 that saw the start of the Residential System.In 1880, Hugh Low, who was the British Resident of Perak, sought the approval and fund for the first British-built commercial railway line linking Taiping to Port Weld. Construction began in 1882 with help from the Pioneer Corporations of the British Army stationed in Ceylon. The line was completed in 1884 and opened for traffic on 1 June 1885. The locomotive was named Lady Weld, which later became FMSR 1 and ended its service in 1916.
In Selangor, Frank Swettenham who was then the British Resident recommended the construction of the 19-mile line between Kuala Lumpur and Bukit Kuda. It was opened to traffic on 10 September 1886 and it became the second line built by the British. It was extended from Bukit Kuda to Klang, a distance of 2 ½ miles on 17 April 1890. Lady Clarke from the JWR was used on the construction of the Selangor state railway. It was renamed as FMSR 2 and it survived until scrapping in December 1912.
The third line was in Negeri Sembilan. This time, a firm by the name of Hill and Rathborne was granted a concession to construct and operate the 24 ¾ mile long line between Seremban and Port Dickson.Construction started in 1888 and it was completed in 1891. The name of the company set up to run this line was Sungai Ujong Railway Company Limited. The locomotive was aptly named Sungai Ujong and it was later sent to Selangor and was called FMSR 4. It was sold to a contractor in 1909.
Tin production in our country was the fourth largest in the world in the 1870’s, then we became the largest producer in the 1880’s and by the 1890’s, British Malaya was producing more tin than the world’s production combined. Also at this time, the country was heading into agriculture and rubber became the major crop. Commercial cultivation of rubber was developing rapidly and most of the rubber plantations were located along the railway lines.
By the end of the first phase, twenty railway lines were already being constructed connecting all the major mining towns and districts in Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan to their respective ports. The second phase started in 1896, which saw the amalgamation of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang into the Federated Malay States (FMS)under one central administration headed by Frank Swettenham as the first Resident General.
Frank Swettenham, in a bid to unify the railway lines, put forth several suggestions. He suggested a line from Tapah Road to Kuala Kubu (thus linking Perak and Selangor railway system), a line from Taiping to Kuala Perai (Province Wellesley) and an extension of the Pudoh-Sungai Besi-Cheras to the south to connect to the Sungai Ujong line in Seremban. In 1901, saw the formation of the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) and two years later in 1903, Province Wellesley, Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan were connected by rail, linking Perai in the north to Port Dickson in the south. Edwin Spooner was appointed as the first FMSR General Manager. By this time, an additional thirty-seven lines were constructed across the FMS.
On 1 December 1905, the section from Tampin to Malacca town was officially opened thus extending the North-South trunk line from one Straits Settlement to another. The Straits Times reported on 4 December 1905 that ‘it is now possible to leave Malacca at 1 pm and arrive in Penang at 6.21 on the following day instead of taking two to three days by steamer’. Malacca Government Railway was awarded the concession to construct the railway line. The following year, they extended the main line from Tampin to Gemas and upon completion, Malacca Government Railway was absorbed into the FMSR.
During the expansion of the railway lines in the FMS, Frank Swettenham had wanted to connect the FMSR from Penang to Singapore passing through Johore but it was turned down by Sultan Ibrahim, who took over the throne from Sultan Abu Bakar who had died in 1895. That impasse ended on 11 July 1904 when the Railway Convention was signed in London. Construction began northward from Johore Bahru at the end of 1904 and in March 1905, construction from Gemas moving southward started. The line passing through Johore was completed in August 1907. However, the line was opened to the public on 1 July 1909 and was known as the Johore State Railway. It later came under the FMSR when the FMS government managed to lease it for 21 years, starting from January 1912 with rental paid each year at an incremental rate. The section to cross the Straits of Johore was made possible with the construction of a causeway at the end of 1919. It was opened for goods trains on 17 September 1923 and later to passenger trains on 1 October 1923.
The next important event that took place was the signing of the Anglo Siamese Treaty a.k.a Bangkok Treaty on 10 March 1909. The treaty was intended to resolve the dispute over railway development and control in the Peninsula. For the latter, the states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu were ceded to the British. These four states became known as the Unfederated Malay States (UMS) and Johore was later added to this grouping.
The stage was set for the next grand expansion of the FMSR into the UMS and to the last state in the FMS i.e Pahang. Construction of the railway line connecting Bukit Mertajam to Alor Setar started towards the end of 1912 and it was officially opened in 1915. It was then linked to Bukit Ketri in Perlis on 15 October 1917 and reached the border town of Padang Besar on 1 March 1918. The line from Padang Besar linked up with the Siamese Railway system and it was opened on 1 July 1918. This marked the start of international train services between the two countries, with an initial schedule of three times a week between Perai and Bangkok. The following year, saw the first international express train service from Thonburi to Malaya. By 1920, it was possible to transverse the entire West coast of Malaya, from Padang Besar to Johore Bahru, by rail.
Between 1910 and 1931 theEast Coast line was constructed from Gemas to Pahang and Kelantan, while in Kelantan, construction began from Tumpat. On 15 October 1917, the construction from Gemas had reached Kuala Lipis. In May 1920, it marked another important milestone for the FMSR, with the start of construction of the longest river bridge in the country, the Guillemard Bridge, as a crossing over the Kelantan River. This 600 metres bridge was completed in July 1924. The other river bridge built by FMSR is the Victoria Bridge in Perak, which was built in 1900. The date 5 September 1931 witnessed the completion of the East Coast line connecting Gemas and Bahau (in Negeri Sembilan) through to Mentakab and Kuala Lipis (in Pahang) and finally to Gua Musang, Tumpat and Sungai Golok (in Kelantan).
By 1935, fifty years after the start of the first British built railway line, FMSR had laid 1321 miles of railway tracks and built 213 permanent stations and 76 halts across the Peninsula. Terengganu remained the only state not connected by the FMSR. (The new railway link infrastructure, East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will be connecting all the East coast states namely Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang to the West coast).
There are two handwritten copies of the Quran in Gallery B. Both these Malay Qurans are from the 19th century CE. Our curator will be explaining these manuscripts in a journal article next year. As an addendum to my blog article regarding the Prophet’s traditions, this article highlights the content displayed on the Qurans in gallery B to illustrate the sunnah (the ‘way of the Prophet’). Prophet Muhammad (saw) recited these particular surahs (chapters) on different occasions. Sunnah denotes the actual actions, practices and sayings of the Prophet.
Muslims believe the Quran text is the divine, unaltered Word of God, as revealed orally to Prophet Muhammad (saw) via the Archangel Gabriel in the 7th century CE. Upon memorising the revelations, the Prophet’s closest companions proceeded to transcribe them on palm wood, parchment, bones and later, onto paper. Al-Quran derives from the Arabic word qara’a meaning ‘to read’ or ‘to recite’.
The act of writing occupies an esteemed place in Islamic tradition. Much effort is placed on glorifying the Word of God through calligraphy and manuscript art. Some Ottoman and Indian Qurans were illuminated on every page with gold and colours. Malay Qurans have a defining feature in that only the beginning, middle and end pages are ornately decorated. This is in keeping with Malay values of understatement, restraint and balance. Some Malay Qurans, as in the case of our Javanese Quran in gallery B, do not even make the central pages a feature. Looking at our gallery B Qurans, we note the significance of the four illuminated pages: two at the beginning and two at the end.
The Terengganu Quran in gallery B displays the first surah, Al-Fatihah (the Opener) on the right-hand side and the start of the second surah, Al-Baqarah (the Cow) on the left-hand side. Al-Fatihah is a summary of the entire Quran. Its key verse translates to ‘You (solely) we worship, and You (solely) we ask for help from’. This oneness of God is the essence of Islamic faith. The second verse of Al-Baqarah means ‘That is the Book, in which there is no doubt, guidance for the God-conscious’. Therefore, Muslims consider the Quran as the sacred book for complete guidance, relevant for all time.
The Quran explains when and which direction one should pray, while Prophet Muhammad (saw) showed by example what words and movements to use during prayer. Following the Prophet’s sunnah, the Al-Fatihah is recited whilst standing within every prayer. There are exceptions and modifications to standing e.g. for the elderly and in certain circumstances. However, the words recited remain the same.
The Javanese Quran in gallery B exhibits the final two surahs, Al-Falaq (the Daybreak) and An-Nas (Mankind). Both these surahs are words of protection from evil: Al-Falaq against external elements and An-Nas against evil from within. These two surahs are known as al-Mu’awwidhat (the Refuges). According to Hadith Sahih Al-Bukhari 5016/7, the prophet’s wife Aisha’ narrated that Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to recite both these surahs when he became sick and also, before sleeping every night. Hence, these acts are examples of the Prophet’s sunnah, which Muslims should follow.
In the shahada, Muslims profess that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad (saw) was the best role model and the Quran confirms his exemplary character. We wish ‘peace be upon him’ by saying sallallahu alaihi wasallam (saw) after his name.
At Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) final sermon, he said: ‘I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray’.
The Noble Quran translated by Dr Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan (1997) Riyadh: Darussalam
Gallop A.T. (2012) The Art of the Malay Quran. Arts of Asia. Jan-Feb 2012
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (2020) Mirrors of Beauty. KL. IAMM
M Uthman El-Muhammady (1998) The Quran and the Hadith. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Religions and Beliefs Vol. 10, KL: Editions Didier Millet
Natasha Kamaluddin (2018) The First Six: An Introduction to the Noble Quran. Back to Basics Vol. 2 KL: Dakwah Corner
Ros Mahwati Ahmad Zakaria (2005) Manuscripts: The Word Made Manifest. The Message and the Monsoon, KL: IAMM
Muzium Negara gallery storyboards & Wikipedia
Muhammad Azam Adnan, Muzium Negara Gallery B curator
Titi is in the district of Jelebu in Negri Sembilan and it is about 43 km from the state capital, Seremban, using Federal Route 86. From the Selangor side, Titi is accessible from Hulu Langat and Semenyih on the B32 (Selangor state route) that crosses the border to meet up with N32 (Negri Sembilan state route).
The name Titi comes from a Malay word referring to a narrow passage to cross a ditch, drain or a tributary and usually made from log of a palm or coconut tree. However, the Chinese call it Titi Kong (知知港) which could possibly be referring to jetty/jetties found in the town in the past. Sungai Glemi is a tributary that meanders gently across the town and flows to join Sungai Triang. It flows northeast and ultimately falls into Sungai Pahang and finally into the South China Sea.
The Orang Asli were the earliest inhabitants in this area and they were already using this waterway to supply tin and various jungle produce to the commercial centre at the mouth of Sungai Pahang. In the 17th century, Minangkabau from Sumatra migrated into the state in large numbers and Jelebu was dominated by them. They were mainly in agriculture with tin prospecting mostly a part-time work to make some side income. The Chinesefirst arrived in the district in about 1860 and the first Chinese temple, Lian Hua An, was built in 1876.
During British intervention, Sungai Ujong was the key mining area in the state even though Lukut fell under its control in 1878. Lukut was the chief tin producing area in the country between 1830 and 1860 but by the time it came under the jurisdiction of Sungai Ujong, tin was dwindling and it was in financial ruin because of the conflict between the Malays and Chinese. The then Acting Resident of Sungai Ujong, H.A. O’Brien reported in 1884 of an abundance of tin deposits in Jelebu and in June the following year, British took over the administration and appointed E.P. Gueritz as the first British Collector of Jelebu. Immediately, the district saw major developments like the construction of a bridle track to connect Sungai Ujong (later widened into a cart road in 1888), Jelebu Hospital built at Petaling as well as police stations at Bukit Tangga, Kuala Klawang and Titi. As for for tin mining in the district, two British-owned companies, Jelebu Mining and Trading Company and Jelebu Mining Company were given the monopoly over land and tax concessions. The special concessions ceased in 1893.
Next, it saw the arrival of small Chinese enterprises to prospect for tin. The towkays from Sungai Ujong and Malacca were not keen to invest in Jelebu due to its remoteness. This was a good opportunity for Siow Kon Chia to start tin exploitation. He was born in Lan-Lin village of Hui Zhou in Guangdong in 1864. He came to Malaya in 1892 where he worked in Melaka for two years. He then moved to Sungai Ujong where he met with Roman Catholic missionaries who offered him a job. It was during this time that he became a Christian. At the same time, he started tin speculating and eventually obtained permits to operate several mining sites in Titi. For his labour recruitment, he returned to his home village and offered to transport whole families out to Jelebu. During the first few years of the recruitment, over a thousand Siow clan families had migrated to Titi.
In 1905, Siow Kon Chia donated two acres of his land and financed the construction of a church. It is today the Saint Augustine Catholic Church. At the peak of his success, he married Maria Leong who was a Melaka born Baba Chinese. In time, Siow Kon Chia was regarded as the unofficial Kapitan China to help with the administration of Chinese in the area. Later, he moved his family to Seremban where he stayed until he died on 24 May 1929. His house located behind St Paul’s Institution had been used as the Headmaster’s residence; St Paul’s Institution was established in 1899 and was the first English school in Negri Sembilan.
When Siow Kon Chia’s business enterprises started to decline, it paved the way for a group of enterprising Siow men to emerge. Comprising five men – Min Foong, Piang Keow, Sin Tow, Lian Fook and Onn – they formed the Ban Lee Seng business enterprise with a capital of $100.00 per head. They started a provision store, selling work equipment and household needs. At the same time, they also operated a fish and vegetable stall at the local market. Later, they were involved in opening up land for rubber and cash crop growing. Within five years, they were very successful and opened another shop called Ban Yap Seng to cope with the business expansion. From 1920 to 1930, Ban Lee Seng was controlling the district’s transport services, groceries, meat and vegetable sales and equipment supplies. After a decade together, they decided to go their own way. They continued to prosper and became community leaders in Titi.
When the rubber boom started in the country, businessmen in Titi also took up rubber planting. However, rubber trees take about five to six years before they can be tapped. So while waiting, they planted cash crops like tapioca, vegetables, sugar cane and fruits like bananas and pineapples.
During the Japanese Occupation, Japanese soldiers arrived at the district on 7 January 1942, exactly one month from the date that they arrived in the Peninsular. It was early in the morning when about forty soldiers cycled into Kuala Klawang from Seremban. The troop was led by two guides who had stayed in Titi before the war and known by their Chinese names of Yah Te and Yah Ming, and had worked as a barber and photographer respectively. Within two weeks, the Japanese had formed a police force consisting of about one hundred men. The presence of the Japanese soldiers sent most of the Chinese in the area into hiding in the surrounding jungle.
On the fateful day of 18 March 1942, about one hundred Japanese soldiers, who had cycled from Seremban the previous evening and joined by the soldiers stationed at the district police station, made their way to Jelulung village (余朗朗村) located next to Titi town. Due to its strategic location near the borders of Selangor and Pahang, Jelulung became a favourite hideout for resistance fighters. Japanese soldiers gathered the villagers at the marketplace on the pretext of meeting the people and conducting identity checks. Later, they went on a house-to-house search and when it was done, the villagers were herded into small groups and led away to isolated spots and nearby houses where they were stabbed to death by bayonets. Those who resisted were shot point blank. By dusk, the whole settlement was set on fire. A total of 1474 men, women and children were killed and the massacre was the highest single-day casualties recorded during the Japanese Occupation. In 1979, a memorial was built at the Titi Chinese cemetery and the exhumed remains were finally laid to rest there.
When the Japanese left Titi on 10 August 1945, MPAJA took control and set up the People’s Communist Government of Titi but just for a brief period. By 15 October 1945, British Military Administration (BMA) returned to power in Titi. By the time of the declaration of Emergency in the country, Titi and the surrounding settlements were already known for their communist activities. When the resettlement programme came into effect, squatters were evacuated into allocated housing sites in Titi New Village. By 1955, Titi New Village had grown in size and comprised Titi town, Titi-Mahfong, Titi-Hosapa and Titi-Kimloong; and the population had reached 5500. Next, it saw the re-emergence of secret society in Titi, the ‘new’ Hung Household and rival Wah Kee group until the next stage where the people of Titi had their first experience of democracy with the introduction of local government through a publicly elected committee of councillors.
Two notable people from Titi are the late Qui Yun (1947-2006), a popular Hakka singer most remembered for the song Ah Po Mai Ham Choi, and Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai (born 1958), Founder and Executive Chairman of Top Glove Corporation Berhad.
Laurence K.L Siaw / Chinese society in rural Malaysia – A local history of the Chinese in Titi, Jelebu / thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and the Department of History at Monash University.
It is a dream of many young boys to fly, soaring high into the wide-open and mysterious skies and feeling adventurous and free. Mine was not any different except that I thought that if I were to take up flying I would be done with books and examinations, which proved to be otherwise. My journey with the airline started in July 1971 when I was selected as a cadet pilot with Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). It was right after finishing my Form Six (A-Level) in Ipoh.
Unknown to many, the airline started as Malayan Airways and it was actually formed way back in 1937. However, it did not take-off until 1947 due to the Second World War. Its Headquarters was in Singapore. In 1963 with the formation of Malaysia, the airline was renamed Malaysian Airways. Two years later, with Singapore leaving Malaysia in 1965, it was again renamed, this time to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). The airline was jointly operated by both Singapore and Malaysia. Malayan Airways Ltd (MAL) started with Airspeed Consul Aircraft and Twin Pioneers. Douglas DC 3 was later introduced into the airline fleet.
I was sent to the Philippines Airline Aviation School for flight training. After training, I was posted to Sabah as a young Second Officer flying as co-pilot on the Fokker Friendship F-27. The road system was not very good those days in East Malaysia. It was more convenient to travel by aeroplanes. As such, we have passengers coming on board carrying chickens in baskets and the next thing you know the chickens were running all over the cabin with the poor stewardesses chasing after them!
Most of the aeroplanes stationed in Sabah and Sarawak were Fokker Friendship F-27 that replaced the DC 3s and Britten Norman Islanders (BN-2). The B737-200 aircrafts were used for flights between East and West Malaysia and Singapore. The first jet aircraft was the de Havilland Comet 4 used for regional and international flights. Unfortunately, Comet 4 had some metal fatigue cracks in the wing structure, which was a safety concern for the airline. The aircraft was replaced with a couple of Boeing 707s.
As early as 1970, there were already differences in opinion between the two governments as to how MSA should be run. The Singapore government was interested in expansion of international routes whereas the Malaysian government was more interested in expansion of domestic routes for obvious reasons. Eventually, MSA was officially split on 30 September 1972 into Malaysian Airline System (MAS) and Singapore International Airlines (SIA). MSA was a very popular airline worldwide. Both governments wanted to utilise these alphabets in their new airlines. The Malaysian government used Malaysian Airline System (MAS) since mas in the Malay language means ‘gold’. The Singapore government called their airline Mercury Singapore Airline (MSA) but finally changed it to Singapore International Airline (SIA).
On 01 October 1972, MAS became operational with two flights taking off in the early morning. Utilising brand new B737-200, the first flight was from Subang Airport to Singapore piloted by Capt. Hassan Ahmad while the second flight from Subang Airport to Penang was piloted by Capt. Khairi Mohd. At that time, only 30 odd Malaysian pilots opted to come back to MAS from MSA. I was one of the pioneers. In my batch of 12 pilots, only three of us opted for MAS. As such, MAS had to recruit a number of expatriate pilots from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland. I was then stationed in Kuching, Sarawak still flying as co-pilot on the F-27. I was transferred back to Kuala Lumpur and I started my B737-200 conversion course. As part of the course, I was sent to Christchurch, New Zealand for simulator training with the New Zealand National Airline. MAS had only ground instructors and classrooms for ground school but did not have any simulators then. Being operational on the B737, I was promoted to the rank of First Officer.
As the company expanded, MAS bought two B707 from Qantas. We were sent to Sydney for the conversion training with Qantas. MAS eventually bought a third one with the expansion of her international routes to Sydney, Melbourne, London and Europe. With upgrading to wide-bodied aircraft, MAS bought two McDonnell Douglas DC 10-30s. This time we were sent to Long Beach, California for a three months conversion-training course. This included flight training in Yuma, Arizona and ferrying the DC 10-30s back to Malaysia. MAS eventually sold off the three B707s and bought a third DC 10-30. The airline was becoming a well known and popular air carrier internationally. In 1981, we added the Airbus A300B4, a medium sized regional aircraft to our network. In the rural air services, the BN-2s were replaced with Twin Otters and the Fokker F-27s with Fokker F-50s.
In the late 1970s, I went down to the B737 fleet as a Captain. After three years, I was made a Flight Instructor conducting training and the checking of pilots. Pilots are checked for flying proficiency every five months in the simulator. Two years after that, I was appointed Fleet Manager for the B737 fleet. That was also the time the Malaysian government bought a B737-200 to be used as VVIP aircraft for the official use of the King and the Prime Minister. This aircraft had a Sitting room, Dining room, and Bedroom in the cabin with seats for 10-15 passengers at the back row. When not on VVIP flights, MAS would use the aircraft for normal service. The interior would be changed to the normal passenger-seating configuration. I have flown this special VVIP flights to many interesting places and destinations that were not commercially covered by MAS, for example Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa, Romania, Yugoslavia, Libya and even Timbuktu to name a few.
Most of the countries that we flew to would provide security personnel for our King or Prime Minister on arrival. We do, however, carry our ‘Mat Bonds’ (Malaysian James Bonds), as I like to call them, with us sometimes, all three of them from Bukit Aman. On the lighter side, during our flight to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, when the Prime Minister came down from the aeroplane, our national anthem was played but the Singapore flag was raised!!!! The next day, the newspapers in Port Moresby ran an apology on their front-page headlines, because it seemed the next week, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, PM of Singapore was supposed to visit Port Moresby.
Another incident was during our recce trip to Tonga, we were told that there would be a large roasted pig as the centre dish of the traditional Tongan feast. We politely told them that our Prime Minister is a Muslim and does not eat pork. On our actual arrival day, it was announced on the Tongan radio that Malaysian Prime Minister has arrived and proceeding to the King’s palace for a Tongan feast and all the pigs were running about happily! For the Prime Minister’s flight, smoking and alcoholic drinks were not allowed in the aircraft.
To be competitive in the aviation market, in addition to a disastrous air accident in America involving the crash of a DC-10 on take-off due to the opening of a cargo door, MAS replaced the DC-10s with two Jumbo jets B747-200 in the mid-1980s. A third jumbo jet that came into service was a B747-300 with an extended upper deck. This was the time we started our USA services into Los Angeles. With sufficient flying hours and seniority, I became the captain of the Airbus A300 for two years, captain of the DC-10 for a year and became a jumbo jet captain at a young age of 36. Two years later MAS bought the B747-400, which has no flight engineer, just 2 pilots in the cockpit. Eventually, MAS sold the two classic jumbo jets B747-200 and the B747-300 and replaced them with thirteen B747-400s. This aircraft can fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to London. On this long haul flight, we carry two sets of pilots. There is a bedroom right behind the cockpit for the pilots to rest. Most of the flight engineers, 40 years and below, were retrained as pilots.
The first two B747-400s were the Combi version. The first half of the cabin was filled with passenger seats and second half with space for cargo containers. It was during one of my flights from London direct to Kuala Lumpur that a Lamborghini belonging to a Sultan was in the cabin cargo compartment. Flying the B747-200/300/400 from 1987 until my retirement in 2011, has taken me to many interesting and lovely places. Unlike many other airlines, MAS flies to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa and onwards to Buenos Aires in Argentina. In my years with the airline, I have seen and heard pilots and cabin crew complaining about the places and hotels we night-stopped, but that one place that I have not heard any complaints about is Honolulu, Hawaii. I guess, probably the only complaint would be not enough layover days there! I also had the honour of ferrying one of the new B747-400 aircrafts from the Boeing factory in Seattle, USA direct to Kuala Lumpur. It was almost a fifteen and a half hour flight.
Another interesting flight is operating cargo flights, which is a different cup of tea, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. MAS had two B747-400 full cargo aeroplanes. The whole cabin from the nose to the tail of the aircraft is loaded with cargo containers or sometimes animals like cows, sheep, goats and horses. For long haul flights, we carry two set of pilots and no cabin crew. The pilots had to heat up their own meals and make their own drinks. There was a flight I did that carried 400 cattle from Australia to the Middle East. The difficult part was to maintain the cabin temperature at 22°C. This is to ensure the cows did not develop too much gas in the stomach. False fire alarms in the cargo section had been activated on some previous flights due to excess gas produced by the many cows. Turbulence can cause anxiety to the nervous cattle too. Cargo flights also stop at destinations that normal MAS flights do not operate to for example, Milan, Italy and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
When I retired in 2011 from flying, I had clocked almost 20,000 flying hours. MAS had bought six Airbus A380 superjumbo jets. With a shortage of flight instructors, I was re-employed to train pilots in the simulator conversion courses for the B737-400 and B747-400. I did this for three years and finally decided to enjoy my retirement even though MAS wanted me to continue for a few more years.
Malaysia Airlines has always been an excellent airline. The cabin crew has won six awards and its pilots and engineers are well sought after in the international market. The airline has encountered some bumps and thumps but it is still a good and favourite airline among the locals and foreigners.
Many airlines and businesses in the tourism industries are now facing difficult times in this pandemic period. Malaysia Airlines is no different and I wish the airline all the best. This national airline has touched the lives of all Malaysians near and far.
Early this month, after a round of golf, a friend invited us to his farm for lunch. In the midst of enjoying the food, another friend arrived bringing a bottle of whisky and immediately announced that it is a product of Malaysia!
Indeed the whisky is distilled, blended and bottled in our country. The only difference is the spelling of whisky, which in this case is spelt ‘whiskey’. It carries a name ‘Timah’, Malay for tin, and, on the bottle, there is a picture and a brief write up on Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy. In August this year, ‘Timah’ won a silver award at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition 2020. Intrigued, I decided to do a search on Captain Speedy, in short, and barely twenty-four hours later, there was a news article about a plea to restore a colonial structure in Taiping, and that structure was none other than the former residence of the man!
James Speedy was 17 when he joined the Bengal army in 1828 where he stayed until 1835. In October that year, James married Sarah Squire, daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel, in Agra and he re-joined his regiment, which had moved to Meerut near Delhi in 1836. It was here that Captain Speedy was born on 26 November 1836.
1854 – 1871 (India, Abyssinia, Sudan, New Zealand)
Captain Speedy had his education in England and following his father’s footsteps, he joined the army at seventeen. He was sent to join the regiment in Meerut in 1854. He served in India until 1860, and during this time, he was awarded two medals for his regiment’s involvement in the Indian Mutiny in Punjab and Eusoffian Expedition. Here, he learned to speak Urdu.
He then left the army and moved to Africa where he was employed by King Theodore of Abyssinia (Ethiopia today) to train his army. He was given the Amharic name of ‘Basha Felika’ (meaning ‘speedy’). He worked here for eighteen months and he picked up Amharic. After a falling out with the King, he fled the country in autumn of 1861. He reappeared in 1863 in Kassala, a city in neighbouring Sudan, where he met Captain Cameron who was then the British Consul at Massawa, a port on the Red Sea coast (today Massawa is also known as Mitsiwa, and is in Eritrea). Captain Speedy was offered the post of Vice Consul and he worked until January 1864.
Next, he travelled to New Zealand where his parents had emigrated eight years ago and he was a member of the Waikato militia that fought in the New Zealand Wars. He was promoted to Captain and was awarded a medal for his service and land grant in the Waikato of confiscated lands. He later sold the land to Bill Cowan.
Meantime, the relationship between Britain and Abyssinia had worsened. King Theodore had captured some Europeans and diplomacy had failed to release the prisoners. This led Britain to arrange a military mission to be headed by General Sir Robert Napier. Captain Speedy was found in Australia in 1867 and he was recruited into the mission in Abyssinia. Captain Speedy made a return to Africa in 1868 but this time as acivilian interpreter where his knowledge of the country and languages proved valuable. On 13 April 1868, British forces stormed through the stronghold of King Theodore at Magdala and discovered that the King had committed suicide. Empress Tiruwork Wube died a month later on the way to the coast, leaving behind an eight- year-old son, Dejatch Alamayou (Prince Alamayou) under the care of Napier. Having been friends with the late King during his service in 1860, Captain Speedy offered to look after Alamayou and Napier agreed. The Abyssinian War gained the fourth medal for Captain Speedy.
Upon his return to Britain, Captain Speedy was appointed as Guardian of the young Abyssinian prince by Queen Victoria. On 15 December 1868, Captain Speedy married Cornelia Mary, daughter of Benjamin Tennyson Cotton, a wealthy Isle of Wight landowner, at Freshwater and Alamayou was a groom. A few months later, in 1869, Captain Speedy returned to India with his wife and Alamayou. He was appointed the District Superintendent of the Oudh Police from 1869 to 1871. Captain Speedy had accompanied the Duke of Edinburgh who was the second son of Queen Victoria, on a shooting trip in Nepal. Captain Speedy had big game shooting experience in Sudan, when he fled from Abyssinia in 1861. He was given a kukri with an ivory handle by the Chief Minister of Nepal. Kukri is a type of machete with a distinct recurve in the blade and originates from the Indian subcontinent.
1871 – 1877 (British Malaya)
After his two years in India, it was time to move again. In 1871, Captain Speedy arrived at Penang to work as the Superintendent of Police. His first contribution to Penang was the planting of a baobab tree. This is regarded as the oldest non-indigenous tree planted in our country. When Frank Swettenham met them, he said ‘the boy (Alamayou) was in good hands, for Speedy and his wife were very fond of him’.
In December, Speedy escorted Alamayou to England where he was sent to Cheltenham College in the care of its headmaster, Dr. Jex Blake. Captain Speedy then returned to Penang while Alamayou continued his studies in England. In 1874, when Dr. Jex Blake moved to Rugby School, Alamayou followed him. Alamayou left in 1878 to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and after a year, he left to Leeds to study under Cyril Ransome, a master whom Alamayou had met at Rugby School. He then contracted pleurisy and died on 14 November of 1879. He was eighteen years of age. The funeral took place a week later at the St. George’s Chapel, Windsor and Captain Speedy were present at the funeral. By the order of Queen Victoria, a brass plaque to his memory was installed and it bears the words ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in’.
Long Jaafar was a tax collector in Larut. It was here that he accidentally discovered tin ore, first, while bathing in a stream and second, when he found his elephant! In 1848, Long Jaafar encouraged Chinese to mine in his land and, subsequently, Chinese capitalists from the Straits Settlements invested in these mines, bringing an influx of Chinese immigrants to Larut. Long Jaafar prospered and the Sultan made him the administrator of the district of Larut, Matang and Selama in 1850. He died in 1857 and he was succeeded by his son, Ngah Ibrahim, who was granted even more powers by the Sultan; he was installed as the Orang Kaya Mantri and given control over Larut.
At its peak before 1872, there were 40 000 Chinese working on the mines in Larut. The Chinese were divided into two rival clans – Hai San, comprising mostly Hakka and Hokkien, and Ghee Hin, predominantly Cantonese. They vied for control over the tin mines. The Malays were also fighting among themselves over collection of taxes and, like the Chinese, they were also divided into two groups, Ulu (up-river); and Hilir (down river). When Sultan Ali died in 1871, they also fought for the throne of Perak. The two Chinese groups allied with different Malay factions and the conflicts between the factions resulted in the Larut War.
With the situation getting out of control, Ngah Ibrahim went to Penang to offer an appointment to Captain Speedy to restore order in Larut. He was made an offer of a salary and one-third of the revenues of Larut. Captain Speedy immediately resigned from his police post and left for India on 27 July 1873 on a mission to recruit sepoys for his troop in Larut. He returned with a force of 110 sepoys in late September. The frequent clashes of the Chinese caused the disruption of the supply of tin and this led to the British intervention in January 1874. Organized by the then Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Andrew Clarke, the Pangkor Treaty was signed on board the HMS Pluto, near Pangkor Island. It managed to solve the Chinese tin mining conflict and the Perak succession dispute. The treaty also marked the start of the Resident programme in the Peninsular.
James Wheeler Woodford Birch was appointed the Resident of Perak and Captain Speedy as the Assistant Resident at Larut. Speedy’s top priority was to restore mining production. Next, he divided Larut into two – North (Klian Bahru) was awarded to Ghee Hin and the town was known as ‘Kamunting’; while the more prosperous South (Klian Pauh) was given to Hai San and Captain Speedy named the town ‘Thai Peng’(Chinese for Everlasting Peace, it is Taiping today). Next, Captain Speedy started construction of roads and erected Government buildings and quarters, which also included the new government headquarters-cum-residence completed in early 1875. Sir William Jervois who took over from Sir Andrew Clarke in 1875 commented that the residence was ‘a large and very comfortable house’ and Birch said it was ‘a very commodious residence’.
Cornelia arrived in the middle of 1874 to join her husband, as did Speedy’s younger brother James Havelock Speedy who spent about 18 months in Larut. At the end of May 1876, Captain Speedy took 6 months leave to return to England to settle the inheritance left behind by Cornelia’s father who had recently died. The Speedy’s were now ‘very comfortable off’. They returned to Larut in early December 1876 by which time, the post of Assistant Resident of Larut was held by W.E. Maxwell. Captain Speedy was then moved to Durian Sebatang in Lower Perak where he stayed until he resigned at the end of 1877. The Speedys left British Malaya for good in January 1878 – his superiors were happy to see him leave!
1878 – 1910 (Sudan, Abyssinia)
They arrived in Sudan where they stayed until July 1878. It was during this trip that Cornelia wrote letters back home to her mother, and shared with family and friends, and was later published into a book titled My wanderings in the Soudanin 1884. They also met some Germans and within a week, Captain Speedy could speak with them fluently in German, showing he had the gift of languages. In December of 1883, he was again called upon to join a diplomatic mission to Abyssinia (for the third time) as an interpreter, which he was ‘most happy to offer my services’, this time under the command of Vice Admiral Hewett. He was paid until January 1885. In March 1897, Captain Speedy took his final mission to Abyssinia under Rennell Rodd. The mission was over by the end of May. Cornelia had bought a house in the picturesque village of Chatsworth in Shropshire where they stayed until Captain Speedy died in August 1910 at the age of 73. Cornelia died seven years later at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
John M. Gullick / Captain Speedy of Larut / Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society / Vol.26 No.3 (163) Captain Speedy of Larut (November 1953) / https://www.jstor.org/stable/41503024
Plea to restore colonial structure in Taiping by Ivan Loh / Page 4, Starmetro – The Star / 8 October 2020
Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy (1836 – 1910) / Wikitree Free Family /wikitree.com
The ancient East-West maritime trade surrounding the Malay archipelago brought imported cultures to the local people. Islamization of the Malay world has influenced Malay culture since the 13th century CE. In the 15th century CE, Melaka became the centre of Islamic learning for the region. As Muslims, the Malays are guided by the Holy Quran, Hadith and sunnah. There are two handwritten copies of the Quran in Gallery B. This article highlights artefacts relating to the Hadith.
Hadith is translated as ‘tradition’ referring to the narration, account and record of actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Sunnah denotes the actual actions, practices and sayings of the Prophet. The chain of narrators of ahadith (the plural of hadith) has been meticulously traced to ensure authenticity. The Prophet’s tradition has given practical examples for Muslims to follow.
The first type of zakat (charity tax) ordered by Allah was zakat fitrah on every individual Muslim with the means to give. It is taken mainly for the poor before the end of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. Based on Hadith 1511 of the Book of Zakat from Sahih al-Bukhari, ‘Ibn Umar said, The Prophet SAW made incumbent on every male or female, free man or slave, the payment of one sa’ of dates or barley as zakat-ul-fitr’.
The Arabic word sa’ translates to ‘small container’. In the Malay world, the gantang is a traditional unit of volume and the container for measuring it. There are two such containers in Gallery B – a copper one and a wooden one. The copper container is inscribed in Jawi with the words ‘This is a Brunei government gantang, the Just King, 1322 AH’. This dates it to 1904 CE when Brunei was ruled by Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. The copper container is 17cm high with a diameter of 19cm. The wooden gantang is from the Malay Peninsula and doubles up as a pounding mortar for rice flour. It is made from jackfruit wood and has been slightly decorated with a projecting ring at the top. It has the same height as the copper container but is smaller in diameter at only 13cm.
In the Malay world, dates or barley mentioned in the Hadith above may be substituted with rice, as the staple food of the region. The gantang differs in definition between Malay states. Azman et al (2015) explains the difference in gantang capacity is due to its various sizes and the different types of rice (density and size) used in the weighing process. It is worth noting that in the past, there had been studies on the differences in equivalent weight of sa’ by Baghdad and Madinah jurists. Ibn Malik had said that the sa’ is a measure of capacity and it cannot be converted into weight. This is similar to the English ‘bushel’ e.g. one bushel of oats equals 32 pounds whereas one bushel of malt equals 34 pounds.
In modern Malaysia, the traditional measure of gantang has been converted to the metric system with different results. The zakat fitrah in Selangor is calculated based on one Baghdad gantang of rice at 2.7kg whereas in Johor it is at 2.6kg. Malaysia adopted the Hanafi school opinion to pay zakat in currency value instead of using food. Each state religious authority in Malaysia sets its own zakat fitrah rates, ranging from RM5 to RM21 in 2020 CE. The main factor for these different rates is the type of rice consumed. Most people pay RM7 and those who pay above this rate may consider the balance as sedekah (charity). Hence, the spirit of giving as an obligation on every able Muslim is observed in keeping with the Prophet’s tradition.
Muslims follow the Prophet’s tradition of burning incense in mosques and homes for purification. Censers are incense burners used in religious context. In the Malay archipelago, usually kemenyan (benzoin) is placed on hot coals to release fragrance. Most Malay households use brass incense burners. Both incense burners on display in Gallery B are from China.
The cylindrical blue and white incense vase is marked with the seal of Emperor Cheng Hua of the Ming dynasty, who ruled from 1465 to 1487 CE. Chinese Muslim eunuchs were influential at court during the Ming era. This porcelain censer is decorated with three medallions enclosing Arabic inscriptions in underglaze blue. It is without a cover for use with stick incense, popular in China. The ‘Mohammedan’ blue (also known as hui hui qing) is a cobalt blue obtained from Persia. Blue and white porcelain was produced at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, South China from the early 14th century CE. It is believed that high quality Jingdezhen porcelain was for use at court and Chinese Muslims there. Some Jingdezhen pieces were exported to important Muslims outside of China. Most ceramics exported to Southeast Asia were of lower quality produced at Fujian, called Swatow ware. These were often imitations of blue and white porcelain, mass-produced for the middle class export market.
Our porcelain censer is likely to be a Swatow, with the main clue being the Emperor’s mark. Arabic or Persian inscriptions were introduced during the late reign of Emperor Hongzhi and early reign of Emperor Zhengde. Emperor Cheng Hua’s reign precedes this period. In addition, its inscription is not easy to read since the Fujian potters were unlikely to be well versed in Arabic and therefore, susceptible to mistakes when copying.
The colourful incense burner on display is estimated to be from the 18th century CE Qing dynasty. It is made of metal and enamelled with cloisonné decoration. Cloisonné, also known as Muslim ware (Dashi Yao), was probably crafted by the Arab settlers of Western Yunnan. The technique involves the application of coloured-glass pastes within pattern-shaping cells made of copper or bronze wires soldered on metal. It was introduced during the 14th century CE Yuan dynasty and peaked under the Xuande reign era of the Ming dynasty (1426-1436).
The calligraphic inscriptions (la ilaha illallah) on the burner and its cover means ‘there is no God but God’. Its design is a combination of the Sini script of the Hui Muslims with the motifs and symbolisms of the Han Chinese (notice the ruyi borders and imperial guardian lion knob). This artefact shows the synthesis of the two cultures.
Incense was sold in specialised markets of the perfumers (suq at-attariyyin) in and around the medieval Islamic world. Frankincense and myrrh were among the trade goods along the Silk Road. The Arabs had written about aloeswood and camphor from Tiyumah (Tioman) island off the Malay Peninsula from their 9th century travels. The Chinese used galangal, sage and Chinese weeping cypress in their censers. To this day, scent promotes a sense of well-being and is encouraged by the Prophet’s tradition.
A. R. Azman et al (2015), Calibration of Gantang (Sa’) Based on Metric System for Agricultural Zakat in Malaysia, ASM Science Journal Volume 9(2)
IAMM (2009) Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Volume II
IAMM (2020) Mirrors of Beauty: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Guide
L. de Guise & Z. Sutarwala (2006) Spice Journeys: Taste and Trade in Islamic World, IAMM
MAIS (2014) Az-Zakah; Spirit, Realisation and Obligation, IAMM
M. Uthman El-Muhammady (1998) The Quran and the Hadith, The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Religions and Beliefs Vol. 10, KL Ed. Didier Millet
Othman Yatim (1989) Warisan Kesenian Dalam Tamadun Islam, KL Dewan Bahasa Pustaka
Othman Yatim (1998) The Early Islamic Period. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia, Early History Vol. 4, KL: Ed. Didier Millet
Wikipedia, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia & Muzium Negara Gallery storyboards
A name may be just a term used for identification of a person, object or place, but studies have questioned the psychological effect names have on the bearer. To some, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, while to others a name defines a place or person’s life. So vital is the significance of a name that many communities have traditions surrounding its selection.
There must be a reason why there are at least three different places in Indonesia named Gunung Kawi (Mount Kawi). It may be an eponym for ‘Kawi’, the ancient sacred language of Java, which existed in the 8th century CE, and still used to some extent as a literary language. The word, in Sanskrit-derived forms can mean ‘poetry, wisdom or sculpture’, leading to the surmise that it may mean ‘Mountain of Wisdom/Poets’ or ‘carved out of mountain’.
Gunung Kawi, East Java
My first encounter with Gunung Kawi was when I was on a round island tour of Java in 1991. My co-travellers were mainly Indonesian Chinese from different parts of Java and as far as Medan in north Sumatra, who had joined the tour because Gunung Kawi was on the itinerary. They related (to me) the hagiasmos or sanctification ritual of this mist-shrouded mountain, which is the resting place of two of Indonesia’s legendary figures.
Gunung Kawi, located in the administrative area of Wonosari Village in the Malang Regency of East Java, is a stratovolcano with no eruption in recorded history. It gained fame because of matters relating to pesugihan often held there. Many do so because of the quest for infinite wealth. Pesugihan is derived from the Javanese word ‘sugih’ meaning ‘rich’. It is a ritual performed as a means to get rich instantly. In exchange, the seekers must sacrifice something.
At 2500 metres above sea level on the slope of Gunung Kawi is Pesarean Gunung Kawi – a cemetery containing the sacred twin tombs of Mbah Djoego and Iman Soedjono, revered historical figures in Indonesia. Iman Soedjono was one of the seventy noblemen who took arms against the Dutch occupation led by Prince Diponegoro from 1825 to 1830. Next to his grave is the tomb of Mbah Djoego or Kiai Zakaria II, a local figure who pioneered a new technology in farming at that time. He was a brave fighter and spiritual adviser to Diponegoro. Both were descendants of the kingdom of Mataram, loyal to Pangeran Diponegoro. Though the tombs are of Muslim deceased, this place has a magical appeal to Chinese, Madurese and indigenous communities of Indonesia who are in search of spiritual blessings.
The cemetery is located at the top of the village and along the way are several gates with reliefs that tell the story of how Mbah Djoego fought the war with Prince Diponegoro. The reliefs were carved by his followers in 1871 to commemorate his heroic deeds. Near the cemetery is the holy sian tho (sacred fruit) tree, also known as the dewandaru tree, believed to have sprung from Djoego’s stick, which was stuck to the ground for protection of the Wonosari area. Pilgrims wait around the tree for the fruit, leaves or even twigs to fall to be kept as a wealth-giving talisman.
Adjacent to the tomb house is a mosque. Within the pesarean complex is also a Confucian/Buddhist temple with Kwan Im as the main lord. In years past, some people from the local Chinese community who conducted the rituals here were believed to have become fabulously rich or healed from their sickness after the rituals. News spread, and more Chinese resettled at Mount Kawi. In time, the village became known to other Chinese communities and the Buddhist temple was built near the pesarean.
Some distance away is a building, once the hermitage belonging to Prabu Kameswara, a prince from the Kingdom of Kediri who was Hindu. He was a deeply religious person who preferred to live in meditative seclusion. It was said that after the prabu finished meditating in that place, he succeeded in resolving the political turmoil in his kingdom. This is now a place for worship and the practice of pesugihan.
On this mountain refuge, the sanctuaries of three different faiths exist harmoniously side-by-side, which is not unusual among Indonesians. Though this is a good place for photography, its uniqueness as well has attracted many to Gunung Kawi; they come not only for a vacation but also, for believers of animism, this is a pilgrimage site. Visitors believe that the pilgrimage will bring them success in their careers, good health and prosperity. The best time to visit the sacred sepulchres is on Thursday evening, Jumaat Legi according to the Javanese Calendar. Gunung Kawi is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations for Indonesian Chinese, with the Jumat Legi before the Lunar New Year being especially busy.
The smell of incense pervades the air; patrons come to have their fortunes revealed through the ancient Confucian/Taoist ritual known as kau ciam si (roughly translated from the Hokkien dialect to mean ‘seek/consult bamboo oracle’), a method of fortune revealing. It involves shaking a cylindrical container filled with oracle sticks made of bamboo, numbered 1 – 100, in such a manner that an oracle stick will mysteriously jump out. The number on the stick will be matched with the interpretation of the oracle on the divination slip of the same number, and therein lays the fortune you seek. The divination message may be an aphorism, epigram or proverb; it is cryptic and enigmatic. It is usually deciphered by a temple staff, its accuracy dependent on the knowledge of the interpreter. The practice of kau ciam si dates back to the Jin Dynasty, and is still prevalent in Taoist temples in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
In recent years, Mount Kawi not only functions as a sacred space (the pesarean) for pilgrims and visitors, but it also has a ‘profane space’ for other visitors who come to enjoy the natural beauty and the cultural and inter-faith performances of the region. These are initiatives of the government of Malang Regency in its attempt to change the image of Gunung Kawi and erase the stigma of Mount Kawi as a Pesarean.
Pura Gunung Kawi, Bali
Down in a valley through which runs a stream near Tampaksiring in Ubud, Bali, is an interesting archaeological complex – an antiquated sanctuary of edifices – Pura Gunung Kawi.
Unlike other temples in Bali, this mist and mystery-shrouded one is rather laid-back with few foreign visitors, but was on former President Obama’s itinerary when he and his family holidayed in Bali in 2017. I visited in August 2019 on the suggestion of the manager of the Ubud resort where I was spending a week. The complex radiates a certain mystique; legends of long-forgotten gods, kings and heroes have been told about its origin. But then, isn’t Bali a land of legends?
As you make your way down to the temple, a descent of 270 steps, you are met with beautiful vistas of luxuriant paddy fields, and finally welcomed by the sound of running water. Where the stairs end, there is an archway with pillars holding basins of holy water, which visitors sprinkle to cleanse themselves before entering the complex.
Pura Gunung Kawi’s setting among rice terraces and natural jungle makes its location quite stunning. The ancient artwork carved onto the cliff are of four candi or shrines on the west side and another five on the eastern side of the river, while another is hidden to the south across the valley. Evidence suggests that these candi were probably once protected between two massive rock-hewn cloisters. Each candi is believed to be a memorial to a member of the 11th-century Balinese royalty, but little is known of this. Legends relate that the whole group of memorials was carved out of the rock face in a single night by the mighty fingernails of the mythical giant Kebo Iwo.
The five candi on the eastern side are dedicated to King Udaya, Queen Mahendradatta and their sons Airlangga, Anak Wangsu and Marakata. When Anak Wangsu was ruler of Bali, Airlangga ruled eastern Java and became the legendary king of Singhasari (Singosari). The other four are for Anak Wangsu’s chief concubines and the remote tenth candi is for a royal minister. Another theory states that the whole complex is dedicated to Anak Wangsu, his wives and concubines, and a royal minister.
As the temple is held sacred, proper attire consisting of a sarong tied around the waist is required for all visitors. Image credit: Annie Chuah
These candi (niches) are not tombs and they have never contained any human remains, but their function has not been ascertained. Their shape resembles small buildings with three-tiered roofs bearing nine stylised lingam-yoni symbols. The doorway seems to be going nowhere. There is a small chamber beneath each candi for offerings of food and metal objects representing earthly necessities.
Within the complex are small stone caves and cells hewn out of rock that serve as meditation sites to complement shrines where Buddhist monks used to sit and contemplate. In Bali, Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted and fused in harmony since ancient times. As you wander between monuments, shrines, fountains and streams, there is a feeling of ancient majesty.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu, Bali
About 10km away in Gianyar, is another sacred temple – Gunung Kawi Sebatu, a Hindu water temple dedicated to Vishnu. This 11th century temple complex, built on a natural spring, comprises a collection of ancient shrines, bathing pools and fountains. The architectural interest is in its split gates, richly carved walls and the variety of shrines and pavilions.
Entry into the main temple is reserved for Hindu devotees but other pavilions and shrines for ancestral spirits can be explored. Artisans in the mountain village of Sebatu were skilled wood carvers and sculptors. Carved beams and depictions of deities and demons in stone can be seen throughout the temple.
There is a shrine dedicated to the Javanese sage Mpu Kuturan, a priest instrumental in the establishment of Balinese Hinduism. To the right of the central court is the temple of the Pasek Gelgel clan where the ancestral deities are honoured in nine shrines.
The reflecting pool with a floating pavilion is in the outer courtyard; further beyond is the performance pavilion. Some pools are for purification ritual baths while shoals of carps are reared in others. Fowls roam around the jungle setting. The Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple is a gem, one of the prettiest temples in Bali, so visit before the crowds come to know about it!
Elaborate ceremonies are held to celebrate the temple anniversary, Purnama Sasih Kasa, on the first full moon of the Balinese calendar and attended by Balinese Hindu pilgrims from all over the island.
The Balinese are expected to participate in the temple anniversaries of their clan temples to reinforce their clan identities. This is the time their ancestors come down for visits to be welcomed with dance and food.
Throughout the world people look up to mountains as sources of blessings and healing, as in these spiritual Gunung Kawi sites in Java and Bali. Sacred mountains incite reverence and are the subject of legends. Spirituality provides a sense of peace and helps us understand why these Gunung Kawi remote locations are held in such mystical regard by the natives of the land.
Along Federal Route 74, at the sharp bend leading to Kuala Sepetang, is a house that cannot be missed for its stark contrast to its rural surroundings. Originally a fortified residence, this building has in turn acted as a court house, the administration centre of the Japanese in Perak, a teacher training college, a Malay primary school, and most significant of all, a museum under the Department of Museums Malaysia.
At one time, the residence of one of Perak’s most prominent historical figures, this house with its enclosed walls, sections of which have crumbled, is Kota Ngah Ibrahim. Considered an imposing physical legacy of 19th century Perak, it was built in 1854 by Ngah Ibrahim.
Ngah Ibrahim was the son of Long Jaafar, a Perak-born minor Malay chief historically credited with the discovery of tin deposits in Larut in 1848 (although the Malays had been panning alluvial tin many years earlier). Long Jaafar was the first to recognise the potential for tin mining and initially employed three Chinese men to extract the tin ore. He soon collaborated with Chinese financiers in Penang to bring in more Chinese immigrant coolies. His tin mining operations prospered, and his wealth was said to have exceeded that of the Sultan, who made him the administrator of the district of Larut, Matang and Selama in 1850.
Long Jaafar saw the need for a fort (kota) to ward off attacks from Kedah which was under the protection of Siam. The Acehnese were also attempting to attack Bukit Gantang nearby, with the intention of acquiring Long Jaafar’s wealth. However, Long Jaafar did not live to see his fort competed as he died in 1857. He was buried within its compound, and his tomb is preserved as a historical site – Kota Long Jaafar.
The construction of the fort of Long Jaafar was then left to his son, Ngah Ibrahim, who decided that the fort at Bukit Gantang was no longer feasible as it was too far from any waterway and the distance was quite formidable for his elephants to transport tin to the nearest port. Instead, Ngah Ibrahim pursued the construction of his own fort, which he had begun in 1852.
Ngah Ibrahim was recognised by the Sultan as the ruler of Larut (succeeding his father) and he was granted powers even greater than what his father had – by bestowing on him the title of Tengku Menteri. Ngah Ibrahim is credited with establishing the first modern system of administration in Perak, which comprised a police force, a judge, a magistrate, a treasurer and a clerk.
In the Larut mines, rich with deposits of tin ore, the animosity between rival clans over mining rights resulted in fights that turned into bitter feuds. Ngah Ibrahim did not have the means to control the large Chinese population. He enlisted Captain Tristram Speedy, Superintendent of Police in Penang, to help his police force quell the clan conflicts. Speedy brought over a troop of sepoys from Calcutta to restore order.
It was tin that spurred the beginning of road building in Malaya in the 1860s. Ngah Ibrahim lashed together timber with strips of rattan to form rudimentary roads to facilitate the transport of tin from Kamunting (Kelian Bahru) to Port Weld; this happened 25 years before the first railway arrived.
Despite these achievements, Ngah Ibrahim is best remembered as a resistance fighter. Together with his father-in-law, Mohamad Amin, and Sultan Abdullah they were implicated in the assassination of J.W.W. Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, on 2 November 1875. While the other local chiefs led by Maharaja Lela were found guilty and sentenced to death, Sultan Abdullah, Ngah Ibrahim and Mohamad Amin were exiled to the Seychelles in 1877. After his exile years, Ngah Ibrahim moved to Sarawak and then Singapore where he died in 1887. His remains were discovered at the Pusara Al-Junid in Singapore in 2006 and re-interred in the compound of Kota Ngah Ibrahim/Matang Museum.
Ironically, Ngah Ibrahim’s fort was turned into the courthouse for the Birch murder trial. The British later converted the building into the Matang Malay Teachers College (1913-1922). It was then used as a Malay school (1923-1941). The Japanese Imperial Army made the fort its headquarters from 1942-1945.
In 1985, the fort was handed over to the Department of Museums and Antiquities and converted into the Matang Historical Complex. Two years later, the Perak Museum Department took over and listed it as a state historical site. Today it is the Matang Museum with collections of artefacts related to the glory days of Ngah Ibrahim and events which took place during the turbulent tin mining years, including accounts of the conflicts of the warring Cantonese Ghee Hin and Hakka Hai San factions.
Visitors to the Matang Museum today will not only learn about the story of Malay chieftain Ngah Ibrahim, but will also walk through major events that took place in the Larut, Matang and Selama district. Sadly, today the museum sees few visitors despite its historical contributions to Perak’s history.
In April 2019, 264 heirs of Long Jaafar and Ngah Ibrahim united through a special gathering organised by the family at the Matang Museum to review the historical exhibition of their forebears. The Chief of Larut Matang and Selama, Datuk Wan Mohd Isa, who is a fourth-generation descendant, said the special assembly was held for the second time after twelve years. Family representatives covering the seven generations of the family from various parts of the country gathered to commemorate the lives of their ancestors. The pilgrimage programme included a tahlil ceremony and Yasin recitation at the makam of Ngah Ibrahim in the museum grounds.
“We will continue to trace the remains of historical relics or documentation related to our ancestors to be submitted to the museum to be immortalized for future generations,”
Wan Mohd Isa (Sinar Harian, 15 April 2019)
The First Railway
It was the extraction and transportation of tin that provided the original reason for the building of railways in Malaya. Conceived with the objective to serve the tin mines, the first railways were not planned for integrated development nor were they regarded as a means to facilitate inter-state communication.
The then new Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Frederick Weld, visited Taiping in 1881. Impressed with what he saw, Weld mooted the idea for the construction of a railway from Taiping to the port, which was later renamed Port Weld in his honour, as among the next most necessary works to be undertaken in Perak.
Sir Hugh Low, Resident of Perak (1877-1889) raised the capital for the construction of the railway line linking the mines to the port. This he did by an additional levy on tin export duties, with the support of the Chinese mining community. Construction of the first railway line began in 1882 and it was completed in 1885. The line, starting from Port Weld, passed Jebong, Simpang Halt and finally Taiping, the heart of tin-rich Larut. It was a passenger and freight light rail, operated by Perak State Railway.
Only thirteen kilometres in length, it served the needs for transporting tin ore from the mines to the coastal port. The railway also facilitated the entry and exit of workers and miners to the work place. The train was also often loaded with mangrove timber, which was widely used as firewood in the mines. The advent of the railway was a boon for the inhabitants of the towns. Travelling on the rough bridle roads of 1885 was hazardous because of notorious gangs. The railway was faster, safer and brought significant growth to the tin industry and the town of Taiping. Sadly, this was not to last!
By the 1890s, the rising water table in the Larut mines made mining difficult. Chinese miners began moving to the Kinta Valley, which soon took over as the new mining centre of Perak. In 1902, the Taiping-Prai line opened. By 1920, Port Weld was no longer a tin-exporting port.
This rail service ceased operation in 1941 due to a decline in tin output and the inability of the silted port at Port Weld to enable larger ships to dock. The tracks of the line no longer exist as they were dismantled in the 1980s.
Little effort has been made to preserve the historical value of the country’s first railway line. The Port Weld station signboard is said to have been removed from its original position on the platform after the rusted stand collapsed. Locals took the initiative to erect a new concrete one and placed it in front of the coffee shop, about 20 years ago.
This shop sits on the actual location of the Port Weld Railway Station housing office rooms and a ticket counter. All railway tracks have been demolished, the remnants sunk in the construction cement of fishing warehouses and rows of shophouses in the small town of Kuala Sepetang.
The second Taiping railway station, the oldest still standing, is a heritage building and is preserved as part of the town’s history. The current station is on the West Coast Line and a stop for both the KTM ETS services as well as the Bukit Mertajam-Padang Rengas route of the KTM Komuter Northern Sector Line.
In Taiping today there is little evidence the line ever existed. At the King Edward VII Primary School, there are no signboards marking the historical spot where the first railway station stood. Staff at the school point out the remnants of what they think was a railway track, in a classroom. In the gardener’s shed was a rusty object uncovered during renovations, believed to be a spring that was once part of a locomotive.
The first railway line is no more than a memory!
…and what of the land where the track once was?
Federal Route 74 or Jalan Taiping-Kuala Sepetang was built on the former site of the first railway line from Taiping to Port Weld. At most sections, Federal Route 74 was built under the JKR R5 road standard, allowing maximum speed limit of up to 90 km/h.
At the Simpang Halt junction are two Hindu temples adjacent to each other, conspicuous for their size and grandeur in a rural setting. They are located along the old railway line, beside Federal Route 74. These temples started as simple sheds under a tree; the current temple structures date to 2005. The site of the temples is probably where the railway staff quarters or labour lines used to be.
After the Simpang Halt junction, the road leads to Aulong, formerly a ‘Briggs Plan New Village’. Here houses have been built smack on the former tracks, avoiding the signal/telegraph posts of the railway line. See pictures below. Follow these signal posts and you will arrive at the Taiping railway station.
Growth of a Mining Town
After the signing of the Treaty of Pangkor, J.W.W. Birch was appointed the British Resident of Perak, with Captain Speedy as the Assistant British Resident. There was relative peace in Larut and the town of Klian Pauh was renamed ‘Tai ping’ meaning ‘Great Peace’, while Klian Bahru took the Malay name of Kamunting.
The early residents of the old mining village of Kelian Pauh were mainly shopkeepers who dealt primarily in goods destined for the surrounding tin mines. The world’s richest alluvial tin deposits at around Taiping enabled its rapid growth.
The British administration collected large revenues from Larut. Speedy was tasked with developing the towns of Taiping and Kamunting in 1874 and 1875. Keen to establish direct communications with Penang, he set about building new roads to replace the inferior corduroy type of roads to connect Taiping and Kamunting to the road from Province Wellesley. The establishment of government departments grew in tandem with the growth of Taiping. Key positions such as Inspector of Mines, Harbour Master and Treasurer were held by Europeans while the Malays and Chinese held the junior posts.
Taiping grew rapidly as a supply centre for the mines and became the administrative capital of Perak in 1889. Many impressive buildings were constructed, the District Office among them. Another was the Telegraph Office built in 1876 with a 43.2 km long telegraph line installed across the forest from the residence of the British Resident in Kuala Kangsar to the office building of the Assistant Resident in Taiping.
The Taiping Gaol was established in 1879, at a time when Chinese gangs running the tin mines were engaged in open conflict and the state was fairly lawless. Convict labour helped build much of Taiping and ran various trades from within the prison such as a laundry and bakery. It is still an active prison and even from the exterior, you can see that it is a well-preserved example of a Victorian gaol.
Opposite the gaol is the Perak Museum, the oldest museum in Peninsular Malaysia. It was set up by Sir Hugh Low when he was Resident of Perak (1877-1889). The building dates from 1883 and is worth a visit.
The Taiping Lake Gardens, the oldest public park in Malaysia, was an abandoned mining ground before it was established as a public garden in 1880. The garden was developed by Charles Crompton Reade who also laid the garden city plan for Kuala Kubu Baru. The disused mine was donated by Chung Thye Phin to be used for public recreation. The gardens were planted with rain trees, bamboo and palms, and remains a favourite recreation spot for the townsfolk to this day. Nearby, Maxwell Hill (Bukit Larut) was opened in 1884.
Taiping Hospital, formerly Yeng Wah Hospital built in 1880, is recognised as the oldest in Malaysia. The All Saints Church was the first Anglican Church to be consecrated in the Federated Malay States, in 1887. The gothic wooden structure is of meranti hardwood and its bell tower contains four tubular bells. The stained-glass window, which was installed in 1911, is still intact. The headstones in the graveyard make for interesting reading.
The Old Market was built in 1884 and the New Market in 1885. Both buildings stood 220 feet in length and 60 feet in width are separated by Kota Road. The buildings were built with timber pillars, concrete slab and iron roof.
The Police Station and Fire Brigade complex was built in 1890. Only a corner section of it with the clock tower remains. The Taiping branch of Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, now Standard Chartered, is the Taiping Library. By 1900, the town had the first English school, later named King Edward VII School, and a newspaper. The 16.1-hectare Taiping Aerodrome, built by the British in 1929, is reputedly the first airport in South East Asia.
In the 1880s, Taiping was the most advanced urban centre in Malaya, but it stagnated in the 20th century as the mines in Larut were gradually worked out. The state capital was planned to be moved to Ipoh in 1937 as the Kinta Valley had overshadowed Larut in tin production. However, this plan was only effected in 1942 by the Japanese administration.
New Straits Times, June 4th 1992; Berita Harian October 28th 1994). Rodzyah|Shamsury |Yacob Omar|Abdul Halim|Usman I.M.S A Heritage Study On Kota Long Jaafar Volume 2, 2009 13 ISSN: 1985-6881
Recently, a reader of this blog wrote in asking for the actual site of Sir Henry Gurney’s assassination. Prior to this, I had been asked the same question by my ex-classmate’s husband while doing a guided tour at the National Museum last year. In addition, recently there was a news report on the development of a new multi-storey hotel resort in Fraser’s Hill and Badan Warisan Malaysia, a national heritage NGO, had initiated a petition to stop the demolition of heritage buildings on Fraser’s Hill.
These events are closely related to Federal Route 55. Sir Henry Gurney was assassinated on 6 October 1951 by communist terrorists (CT) at Mile 56 ½, Kuala Kubu Road (90.91 km, distance measured from Kuala Lumpur), about 8 miles (12.87 km) from Fraser’s Hill and about 2 miles (3.22 km) before The Gap. Federal Route 55 is the main access route to Fraser’s Hill, whether from Pahang or Selangor.
This stretch of road was the first federal route constructed in Pahang, thus putting the final jigsaw in linking all four states in the Federal Malay States (FMS). It was opened on 13 January 1899, and it initially connected Kuala Kubu to Kuala Lipis, the then capital of Pahang. Today, Federal Route 55 starts at the intersection of Federal Route 1, the main North-South trunk road, with Kuala Kubu Bharu and ends at Teranum in Raub district.
With these two issues on my mind, I decided to drive up to Fraser’s Hill using Federal Route 55 from the Selangor side. My last trip to our country’s third hill station was for a tai chi retreat many years ago. The drive was a breeze on a Saturday early morning except for the occasional braking and overtaking of cyclists. On weekends, particularly, Federal Route 55 is a favourite with cyclists, who challenge themselves on its uphill, downhill and winding circuit.
I do recall seeing on the internet, a photo of a signboard that was erected at the site of Gurney’s assassination. Hence, as I approached The Gap, I slowed down to look for it but alas, I could not locate it even though I went back and forth several times. Since it was still early, I decided to pull over at The Gap, to check the old Rest House. Incidentally, The Gap is still in the state of Selangor. What once used to be a fine stone Tudor style rest house where visitors could drop by for scones and tea, relax and admire the flowers and as well as enjoy the mountain fresh air before continuing their journey to Fraser’s Hill, it is now in decrepit condition. In 2008, it underwent refurbishment with a budget of RM 500,000. A second phase costing RM 1.5 million was planned for 2011 but the project was cancelled. Since then, the building has been left untouched and is under threat from the elements and vandalism. Looks like the glory days of the Rest House would not be making a return for a long time to come.
The trend of losing heritage buildings continued to rear its ugly head when I reached the site of the proposed 15-storey resort and spa in Fraser’s Hill. Two colonial bungalows, Maybank Lodge and Jelai Resort, had been completely demolished two weeks earlier as part of the project. The project is expected to be completed in 2026. When the Silver Park Resort was built, another two bungalows namely Mentakab Bungalow and Bishop House (earlier called The Retreat) were destroyed to make way for that project. Another important landmark in Fraser’s Hill is the Jeriau Waterfall. It is now a pale shadow of its former glory after the development of an 18-hole golf course nearby. The golf course did not survive for long and it has been abandoned for many years now.
Moving away from the news of destruction to a more positive note, I have succeeded in locating the photograph of the memorial signboard. In addition, I also found photographs of Gurney’s Rolls Royce that was riddled by bullet holes (a total of 35 bullet holes were counted), Gurney’s funeral procession held on 8 October 1951 and the news headline of the killing. I discovered these at the Shahzan Inn on Fraser’s Hill.
In retaliation for the killing of the highest ranking British officer in the country, the entire population of the village of Tras near Fraser’s Hill, almost all Chinese, was rounded up onto lorries and sent to a detention camp in Ipoh. They were suspected of supporting the CTs. Thirty seven of them were arrested for possible involvement and the rest were released in batches but they were not allowed to return to Tras. They were finally permitted to return home in 1958, by which time, Tras looked more like a ghost town! Tras is also located on Federal Route 55, near Teranum.
Again, it looked like an easy and quiet ride leaving Fraser’s Hill. However, not for long as I could see a chasing pack of cyclists behind me. I stepped on the accelerator and I went speeding down the hill and round the hairpin bends but they were still close on my tail. It was like in the movies. When I finally broke free, it was close to the Sungai Selangor Dam and I decided to stop at the Lookout Point to view the massive lake. Treated water from the dam is supplied to Selangor and Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
As I was about to return to my car, I saw the cyclists speeding by and soon they were out of sight. It was a good race for them and a good day for my adventure on Federal Route 55.
Book / The Towns of Malaya : An illustrated urban history of the Peninsula up to 1957. By Dr Neil Khor, Mariana Isa and Maganjeet Kaur.
Henry Gurney’s final flight by Alan Teh Lean Seng / 7 October 2018 New Straits Time. www.nst.com > lifestyle >sunday-vibes