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.

Titi New Village

by Eric Lim

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).

Titi sign at the south entrance / Photo source : Eric Lim

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.

Saint Augustine Catholic Church / Photo source : Eric Lim
Saint Augustine Catholic Church / Photo source : Eric Lim

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.

Mural of rubber plantation / Photo source : Eric Lim
Mural of pineapple farm / Photo source : Eric Lim

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.

Google Map showing Jelulung village (top) and site of memorial (bottom)

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.

Memorial at Titi 
Photo source : Elaine Tan / Malaysia quiet remembrance / Asia Weekly / Elaine Tan

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.

References

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.

Malaysia quiet remembrance / Asia Weekly / Elaine Tan / 4 April 2014 / www.chinadailyasia.com 

Massacre in Titi / atrocityinns.net > masacretiti

The Lukut massacres / www.sabrizain.org > malaya > sgor6

All because of Tin

by Annie Chuah Siew Yen

Kota Ngah Ibrahim and Kota Long Jaafar                                   

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.

Federal Route 74, Jalan Taiping-Kuala Sepetang, is a 17.1km federal road that connects Taiping to Kuala Sepetang in Perak, 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.

Tomb of Long Jaafar (in Kota Long Jaafar) near Bukit Gantang/Changkat Jering. Image credit:
https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-85rhx-KIyqI/UwxDgJ0ZdpI/AAAAAAABL8s/J30UCWPCPhA/s1600/33DSCN8696.jpg

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. 

Kota Ngah Ibrahim, currently serving as the Matang Museum

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.

Museum info board on Captain Speedy, showing his house (bottom, right)
In 1873 a residence next to Ngah Ibrahim’s house was built for Speedy as a token of appreciation.  Captain Speedy’s residence has been preserved but is not open to the public

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.

Makam Ngah Ibrahim

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.

Some artifacts related to the Japanese Occupation of Taiping at the Matang Museum

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)
264 descendants of Long Jaafar and Ngah Ibrahim at the Matang Museum. Image credit: Sinar Harian, 16 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 colonial era  Larut, Matang and Selama Land and District Office in Taiping. Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/3d/Taipingperak.JPG/330px-Taipingperak.JPG

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.

The historic Taiping Aerodrome, where aviation legend Amelia Mary Earhart had a refuelling stopover in 1937 during her journey to circumnavigate the globe, is set to become the state’s heritage site. Image credit: NSTP/Muhaizan Yahya

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.

References

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

264 waris Tengku Ngah Ibrahim, Long Jaafar disatukan

Sunderland, David, ed. (2014). “Fifty Years of Railways in Malaya”. British Economic Development in South East Asia, 1880–1939, Volume 3. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-84893-488-7.

“Landasan Keretapi Yang Pertama di Tanah Melayu”. Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2009.

F.M.S.R – Taiping – Port Weld Railway Line

http://zkeretapi.blogspot.com/

Taiping’s everlasting heritage

The Malayan tin industry to 1914

Kota Ngah: Where History’s Trials, tribulations etched

Small towns in Hulu Selangor

by Eric Lim

The late Rehman Rashid wrote the book Small town’, his personal tribute to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB). He spent his last few years nestling in this small town located in the Hulu Selangor district. For this article, I am going to pen some snippets on other small towns in the Hulu Selangor district, specifically Kerling, Rasa, Batang Kali and Serendah. I would also like to draw your attention to two articles previously published on this blog, discussing two other towns located in Hulu Selangor: KKB and Kalumpang.

Kerling

The early development of Kerling can be attributed to Syed Mashhor, who hailed from Kalimantan. He moved to Sarawak during the time of James Brooke, where he proved his prowess as a fighter. He then came to Selangor and served loyally under Raja Mahadi during the Klang War. He was twice beaten by Tengku Kudin and Yap Ah Loy, at the Battle of Ampang (September-October 1870) and Battle of Rawang (March-June 1871) but finally succeeded in capturing Kuala Lumpur in 1872. It was a short-lived victory as Tengku Kudin and Yap Ah Loy mounted an attack in February 1873 and recaptured Kuala Lumpur. Outside Kuala Lumpur, Pahang forces continued their onslaught on Syed Mashhor’s camps at Kanching and Ulu Yam; the civil war ended when the stronghold at Kuala Selangor fell on 8 November 1873. Syed Mashhor retreated to Perak and served under the British during the Perak War. He was pardoned by Sultan Abdul Samad and, on 12 December 1883, he was appointed as the Penghulu of Ulu Kerling. He developed Kerling by opening up lands for tin mining. He died in 1917 and he was buried at the local Islamic cemetery.

Syed Mashhor, standing third from the right.
Photo source – Syed Masahor becomes Head of Kerling 23/06/2015 / pekhabar.com

Rasa

Rasa started as a small mining settlement and grew in the 1900s. At its peak, it had 20 open mines and 5 tin dredge mines, with the population reaching 4000. The constant flooding in nearby Kuala Kubu was getting very serious, prompting the British government to move its district headquarters to Rasa in 1921. They also shifted the railway track away from Kuala Kubu town and built the station at Kuala Kubu road with the track ending at Rasa. This station was opened in 1924.

The most influential tin miner in Rasa was Tan Boon Chia (Chen Wensheng in Mandarin).Unlike the majority of the townsfolk who were Hui Zhou (Fei Chow) from Guangdong, Boon Chia was a Hokkien from the Penglai township in the Anxi Province, China. His was a typical rags-to-riches tale, and in 1918, when he was just 26, he built the largest structure in the township, a huge mansion with 51 rooms on a five-hectare land. When he died in October 1931, his two sons took over his business. The Tan family’s good fortune was abruptly disrupted during the Japanese Occupation. They left hurriedly and never returned to Rasa. There was talk of converting the mansion into a museum but hitherto, nothing concrete has come out of it.

Batang Kali

An event that happened in 1948 has placed Batang Kali in the history books. The event was dubbed Batang Kali massacre’and it took place at Sungai Remok Estate, just outside of Batang Kali. On the weekend of 11 and 12 December, the Second Battalion of the Scots Guards composed of National Servicemen in their late teens and led by a 22- year-old Sergeant raided the rubber estate in a counter-insurgency operation against Chinese Malayan communists. On the morning of 12 December, 24 Chinese estate workers were killed. Those killed had been unarmed and they had not tried to escape. In addition, the ‘kongsi’ houses were burnt to the ground. Chin Peng stated in his book, ‘My side of history’, that no one in the village was linked to the guerrillas. In 1970, an inquiry was launched in Britain but it was terminated. Likewise in 1990’s, investigations in Malaysia was aborted when Foreign Office officials intervened. It then went up to the European Court of Human Rights and ended at this court on 4 October 2018, when the Court delivered its decision to uphold the refusal of the British Government to hold an inquiry.

Signboard along Federal Route 1 / Photo source – Eric Lim

Serendah


In the Malay language, ‘serendah’ means ‘low’. This aptly describes Serendah, a township situated in a low-lying landscape surrounded by hills. The Sumatrans were the earliest settlers here, arriving in the 1870’s, and they built their homes along Sungai Telachi and Sungai Serendah. After the end of the Klang War, Sultan Abdul Samad started to open mines in Ulu Selangor and that saw an influx of migrant Chinese miners in Serendah in the 1880s.

By the 1890s, rapid developments within the town centre saw the construction of a hospital, rest house, post office, police station and a market. It had a clubhouse called the Bowing Club and a rifle range used by the Ulu Selangor Rifle Club, which was formed in October 1897. Concurrently, places of worship were built: a Sikh Gudwara in 1897; the Sze Si Ya Temple in 1898; a Hokkien temple, Hock Leng Keng, in 1899; and in that same year, a new mosque, Masjid Sultan, replaced the old one with funds for its construction coming from Sultan Abdul Samad, Foong Wah and Tok Pinang. A small Chinese school was set up in 1895. Then in 1900, Loke Chow Thye proposed the establishment of an English school; the British Resident approved it but the school was not built because the local community preferred Chinese education. A piece of land requested for a Chinese school was gazetted in 1924, and the school still exists at the present site, now known as SRJK (C) Serendah.

As with many mining towns, floods were major issues and in 1932, the bunds guiding Sungai Serendah broke causing massive flooding to the trunk road. A Committee was set up and, in 1934, it approved the construction of a dam. This dam has seven abutments, which are fed by water through seven spillways/sinkholes. It has been effective in preventing floods in Serendah. The site is now a major attraction, popularly known as ‘The Seven Wells’.

During World War II, the Japanese army arrived at Serendah on 10 January 1942 and the next day, they overwhelmed Kuala Lumpur. Two incidents were recorded during the Emergency. On 13 December 1948 (one day after the Batang Kali massacre), the communist burnt down Serendah Boys Home (now known as Pusat Perkembangan Kemahiran Kebangsaan / PPKK) and the home of the headmaster. The charred body of the headmaster was found inside. On 25 January 1949, two European miners were killed at a tin mine.

References

Syed Masahor becomes Head of Kerling 23/06/2015 / www. Pekhabar.com

The Selangor Civil war – The history of Yap Ah Loy / yapahloy.tripod.com

Chinese houses of SEA : The eclectic architecture of sojourners and settlers by Ronald G. Knapp / books.google.com.my

Batang Kali Massacre 1948 – the lesson of truth by Dato Quek Ngee Meng / nhq.com.my > social > bkm 1948

Revealed : How Britain tried to legitimise Batang Kali Massacre / www.theguardian.com > world

Serendah. Then & Now by Ee Yoke Chan

History of Kajang

by Eric Lim

Kajang, the capital of the Hulu Langat district, is located around 21 km south from Kuala Lumpur. There are a number of theories on how the name Kajang came about. The Malay dictionary defines kajang as ‘stuffed objects from leaves of nipah (bamboo, mengkuang or palm leaves) that are used as rooftop or awning’. The Temuan had already been exploring the area since at least the 16th century and they found an abundance of bamboo and palm leaves, which they folded to make rooftops. Thus, they called the place Kajang. Two other theories date from the time of the Austronesian migration. We look at the word as used by two different ethnic groups –for the Mandailing, berkajang means ‘to take shelter’; and for the Bugis, it means ‘to stab / to fight’. Raja Alang, a Mandailing, was cruising along the Langat River with his followers when half way they decided to stop and berkajang. He then called the place Kajang. The Mandailing and Bugis were trying to escape from the Selangor Civil War and both arrived near Kajang. They then fought each other because of the misunderstanding of the meaning of the word to them. After the event, the place was called Kajang.

In 1848, Raja Berayun, a Mandailing, wanted to claim ‘blood money’ from Datoh Klana Sendeng, a Rawa, for the killing of one of his friends. He brought 500 men and invaded Sungai Ujong but they were defeated and they retreated to the north of the Langat River where they established a village called Rekoh. The current name for Rekoh is Sungai Tangkas; it is about 4 km from Kajang. It was to be the earliest settlement around Kajang.

Kajang, like many towns on the west coast of the Peninsular, started as a mining settlement. An American prospector started a tin mine at Rekoh in 1855. However, the locals objected as he did not possess any consent and the venture was abandoned. The tin boom in the district occurred in the middle of 1890’s, when Chinese businessmen made huge investments in the district. One of the Chinese miners was Goh Ah Ngee,who was active in Balau (Broga today). He even built a church for a small group of Chinese Christians in the area. The first mine at Semenyih was opened by a Hokkien named Cheah King. Other Chinese miners were Khoo Seah, who had mines at Sungai Cheow (Sungai Chua today) Road (1896), Loke Yew at Sungai Merbau in Hulu Langat (1896) and Sungai Kachau in Semenyih (1897), Low Boon Kim at Sungai Jebat (1897) and Chan Yoke who operated a mine at Kajang (present Metro Kajang site). Tin was also found just outside of Kajang where Hakka coolies called it Xi Mi Shan (Tin Ore Hill).This site is the only mining pool left in Kajang. Recently, the Kajang Municipal Council converted the site into a recreational park.

Only mining pool left in Kajang (at Sungai Chua) converted into a recreational park

Tin mining industry in the district turned out to be a relatively minor enterprise, paling in comparison to other towns in the state. This prompted the District Office to suggest moving to agriculture. Tobacco had been planted in 1890 on a trial basis in Semenyih but the project failed. Coffee was next and it gained interest amongst European planters who were applying for land for coffee planting. Chinese businessmen were equally interested and joined in the demand for land. However, at the turn of the 20th century, faced with strong competition from Brazilian coffee producers, fluctuation of coffee prices and the appearance of a fungal disease called H. vastatrix and further assisted by the outbreaks of Cephonodes hylas moth that threatened to cripple the local coffee production, the industry soon vanished from the scene.

Rubberwas the next big crop. The Inch Kenneth Estate located just outside Kajang became the first estate to plant rubber on a commercial scale in Malaya. Among the Chinese planters who obtained land in Kajang for rubber plantation were Choo Kia Peng with 182ha in 1910, Loke Yew with 41ha in 1912 and Low Ti Kok with 24ha. Goh Ah Ngee, who had tin mines in Balau, also ventured into rubber plantation in Semenyih after his failed ventures in coffee planting. The development of the rubber industry was also helped by the extension of the railway track southwards from Kuala Lumpur to Kajang in 1897. Before that, Kajang was connected to Kuala Lumpur via a cart road built in 1888.

Inch Kenneth Estate sign near Kajang

A prominent person in Kajang was Raja Alang, son of Raja Berayun. He attended Malay schools in Malacca and Singapore and, upon his return, worked as a Forest Ranger in 1883. When Raja Alang ended his working career, he was made an aide to the District Officer and was his right hand man in Malay affairs. He rose to become a very influential man in Kajang. In his honour, two roads in the town were named after him but both roads have since been expunged. He also became very rich; in fact, it is said that he was the richest man in Selangor in the early 20th century. He built a mosque in Beranang, which is named after him. In his later years, he moved to Kuala Lumpur and stayed at his residence at 13, Jalan Raja Laut (present day Jalan Ipoh Kecil), in front of the former Capitol and Federal cinemas. Raja Alang died on 11 December 1927 and he was buried at the Ampang Islamic Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. His dream of a road to be named after him became a reality when his son, Raja Muhammad was the given the privilege to rename Perkins Road in recognition for his services in the struggle to achieve independence for the Federation of Malaya. Raja Muhammad chose to rename the road after his father.

Kajang Town

A sketch of Kajang Town, adapted from the map at Kajang Heritage Centre

Ulu Langat District Office was set up in 1883 and records of that time show that the Ulu Langat village was the largest settlement in the district but Kajang was chosen as the district capital because of its central location. An early census of Kajang is interesting – one police clerk (indicating that the police station was already established), one ranger (most definitely Raja Alang), twenty-two shopkeepers (of which sixteen were Sumatrans) and one gambler (most likely a Chinese!). The district office building was built in the 1910s and was in operations until it was demolished and a new building (Bangunan Dato Nazir) constructed in 1970. Situated nearby, across Jalan Cheras, is the Police Station, which was established in 1875, after the British succeeded in crushing Sutan Puasa’s suspected uprising. Across Jalan Hishammudin is the Post Office, which was also built at about the same time as the former Ulu Langat District Office; it is still in operation until today.

Old Ulu Langat District Office. Photo source bebasnews.my.

Located between Jalan Tukang and Jalan Mendaling is the Sin Sze Si Ya temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Kajang. The temple was initially located at Rekoh but was later moved to its current site in Kajang in 1892. It went through some construction work in 1898 and a grand ceremony was held in 1899. Today, the temple is among thirteen Sin Sze Si Ya temples that can be found in major tin mining towns in Perak, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.

Kajang Police Station

Rev. Fr. Francois Terrein MEP started a Catholic mission in Kajang and a church was built on a former rubber estate donated by Goh Ah Nee. The Church of the Holy Family was consecrated on 24 February 1901and it had a bell and three stained glass windows each depicting a member of the Holy Family. Goh Ah Nee also donated a piece of land for the purpose of a burial ground in 1903, which is still in existence. Later, the parish administrator allowed the Infant Jesus Sisters to start a girl’s school in Kajang. In 1939, the new Convent School (present site of SK Convent Kajang) was ready for the school year. During the Japanese Occupation, Japanese warplanes bombed Kajang on 12 January 1942; their target was the old railway station but unfortunately the bombs landed on the church and school compound. The church was damaged but somehow the three stained glass window panels suffered only minor damage. Today, the panels can be seen at the back of the altar. 

 Church of the Holy Family

The first English school in Kajang was opened by Reverend William Edward Horley in 1905. It was to be a private school and limited only to residents in Kajang. Since then, there were no further records of the school. Thanks to the efforts of a group of local community leaders, saw the resumption of English education in the district with the setting up of the Kajang Government English School, which was officially opened on 1 April 1919. The old Rest House building at Jalan Semenyih had been converted to accommodate the school premises. The school started with an enrolment of 100 students and grew to 129 the following year, with 10 female students. When Ng Seo Buck became the first Malayan Headmaster of the school in 1923, he was forced to turn the kitchen of the old Rest House into a classroom. By 1926, the school was overcrowded and the building had dilapidated. Ng left the school in 1927 and started a campaign to seek a new site and building for a new school. He was joined by Low Ti Kok, Raja Muhammad (son of Raja Alang), Haji Abdul Jalil and Ronald CM Kindersley (of Inch Kenneth Estate) and they succeeded in securing a site, which was a hillock along Jalan Semenyih. The school was named Kajang High School. Sultan Sir Alaiddin Sulaiman Shah officiated at the opening ceremony on 19 March 1930. Among the first batch of students was Tan Chee Koon, who went on to become a major figure in our country’s politics and was nicknamed ‘Mr Opposition’. The first Headmaster for the new school was C.E. Gates and he turned out to be a great inspiration to the students. When he returned to England in 1936, the Kajang Town Board named the road near his residence Gates Road. During the Japanese Occupation, the school became the headquarters of the Japanese army and it was called Toa Seinan Gakko. After the war, the boys from the school made two interesting discoveries – they found a skull and skeleton, which were later used as authentic visual aid during Biology classes, and they discovered a tunnel linking the school to the nearby cemetery!

Kajang High School opening ceremony by Sultan Sir Alaidin Sulaiman Shah on 19 March 1930.
Photo credit: hanafiahlubis.blogspot.com

Chinese education came at about the same time as English education. Boon Hua Chinese School started in the 1910s and, by 1917, the school was attached to the Merchant Club at a shop lot located at Main Street. It then shifted to two shop lots at No.2 & 4, Sulaiman Street when enrolment increased. The Chairman of the school, Low Ti Kok, and the Headmaster, Tan Yi Hoh, had applied for a piece of land in town as a site for the school. It was granted and works to build the school started in 1918; by the following year, the school operated from the new site. The school was renamed Yu Hua School. The school acquired the adjoining land in 1935 for its expansion. In 1958, the school was separated into Yu Hua Middle School and Yu Hua Primary School. To honour the contributions of Low Ti Kok to education in Kajang, the road in front of Yu Hua School is named after him. Low Ti Kok died during the war in 1943 and his residence, which is located near Yu Hua School, has been converted into the Hulu Langat Hokkien Association. 

Another site that brings back fond memories to the people of Kajang is Stadium Kajang. It was built in the 1970s and, over the years, the stadium was the training ground for football legends such as Arumugam, Santokh Singh, Soh Chin Aun and Mokhtar Dahari. In 2014, it was turned into a public area called Kajang Square. Finally yet importantly, when one mentions ‘satay’, Kajang automatically springs to mind. Satay Kajang was first introduced by Wak Tasmin Bin Saiban who came from Java in the 1910s. Haji Samuri who married the granddaughter of Wak Tasmin, took Satay Kajang to new heights by expanding outside of Kajang and started operating a satay factory. Today, Haji Samuri satay restaurant is housed at the former site of Ulu Langat District Office. In front of the restaurant is the Stadium Kajang MRT station. The MRT line to Kajang was opened on 17 July 2017 and it has greatly improved public transportation and accessibility to KL city centre and beyond.

Stadium Kajang

To end this article, here is a look at some current street names that still carry the names of people linked to the history of Kajang.

References

The peopling of Ulu Langat – David Radcliffe – https://core.ac.uk/reader/127607722

A short history of Ulu Langat – www.jstor.org

Chinese pioneers in the Ulu Langat district of Selangor – Voon Phin Keong / www.newera.edu.my

Migration, settlement and the rise of a middle class in Chinese society : a case study of Kajang -Diana Wong, Lin Chew Mun and Tan Pok Suan / www.newera.edu.my

Some old forgotten things about Kajang High School – hanafiahlubis.blogspot.com

Parish history – hfckajang.org.my

Lee Kim Sin – Kajang Heritage Centre – Facebook and Blog

Visit to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB)

by Eric Lim

As I am writing this article, the Air Pollutant Index reading in four stations had recorded very unhealthy levels yesterday. Johan Setia in Klang, Selangor was the highest with a reading of 229. 

The API was hovering around the 100 level a week earlier when I brought a couple from Hong Kong to a half-day tour of Kuala Kubu Bharu. I met Rochas and Alexis Tse during my call of duty at the National Museum on 2 September 2019. At the end of the tour, they had enquired about other museums in the city and we communicated using social media. When I mentioned about visiting Kuala Kubu Bharu, they immediately said yes. So off we went on an early Wednesday morning, leaving KL city centre at 7.00 am.

Kuala Kubu Bharu or affectionately known as KKB, is 60km north of the city using the trunk road known as Federal Route One. The journey is now made easier and faster with the use of the Rawang Bypass, which was opened to traffic on 28 November 2017. In less than an hour, we had reached our destination and our first stop was for breakfast. Alexis had ordered a bowl of Laksa noodles, which I thought was adventurous for someone from Hong Kong. Then we went to the nearby wet market where I was told that bananas from our country are better than imported bananas that are available in HK. A local elderly Chinese woman who was standing beside us gave us some in-depth information about the dokong and duku langsat and Rochas decided to buy some dokong to take home. We returned to the car to keep all the purchases and off we went to explore KKB.

History of Kuala Kubu

KKB and its surrounding area, collectively known as Ulu Selangor, were inhabited since the Neolithic Age 4,000 years ago (discovery of slab stone burials in the Bernam Valley in the North of Ulu Selangor) and through the Metal Age 3,000 – 2,500 years ago, with the discovery of iron artefacts and bronze celts in nearby Rasa and Kerling. Moving forward, the 18th century CE saw the arrival of people from Sumatra, the Rawa and Mendailing, who came in search of new land and for tin. Sungai Selangor was the main river that transported goods including tin, to Kuala Selangor, which was then the royal capital of Selangor. It became an important route and it even prompted the Dutch to set up post to collect taxes from the Malays when they managed to capture Kuala Selangor towards the later part of the 18th century CE.

The Malays in Ulu Selangor were involved in the Selangor Civil War (1867-1874) and it was during this turbulent time that the town got its name. The conflict separated the Malays into two factions, on one side led by Raja Abdullah, Raja Ismail and, later, Tengku Kudin. The opposing faction comprised Raja Mahadi, Raja Mahmud and Syed Mashhor. The Chinese rival groups also joined the fight with Hai San led by Yap Ah Loy, throwing their support for Tengku Kudin while Ghee Hin led by Chong Chong offered support to Raja Mahadi. The Malays in Ulu Selangor supported Raja Mahadi. As a defence against his rivals, Raja Mahadi had built an earthen fort near the mouth of a river and that was how the town got its name – Kuala Kubu (fort at the mouth of the river). Raja Mahadi managed to capture Kuala Lumpur in March 1872 but a year later, Tengku Kudin together with reinforcement from Pahang and Hai San came charging back to retake Kuala Lumpur. Raja Mahadi fled to Singapore while Syed Mashhor retreated to Perak. Years later, both men were given pardons by Sultan Abdul Samad but Raja Mahadi died in Singapore while Syed Mashhor returned to Kerling as a Penghulu (chieftain). He developed the place by opening up lands for tin mining and he died in 1917.

Selangor became a British Protectorate at the conclusion of the Selangor Civil War. At that time, tin mining activities in Kuala Kubu was second only to Kuala Lumpur and this prompted Frank Swettenham as the First Assistant Resident of Selangor to visit Kuala Kubu in 1875. He commented that the huge dam constructed by the Malays with the help of the Orang Asli in the 1700s as gigantic in size. Tin mining was carried out just below the dam.

Kuala Kubu circa 1906. Photo taken from http://peskubu.org/latar-belakang-sejarah-kuala-kubu/

In July 1883, Cecil Ranking, a young man of 26, started work as Tax Collector and Magistrate and he immediately got down to serious work wanting to show his capabilities to impress the Resident. However, his work was cut short because three months later, on the fateful evening of 29 October 1883, the huge dam broke and flooded the town. It was recorded that floodwaters rose as high as 10 feet; 38 houses were destroyed and 50 people perished, including Cecil Ranking. Local legend has it that Cecil Ranking had on that day, shot a sacred white crocodile believed to be the guardian of the dam. As a result, the dam broke. However, there were other factors more likely to have caused the tragedy.

  1. The dam was more than 100 years old and the wood was already rotting away.
  2. Cecil Ranking was seen dropping three dynamites on the dam ten days before the tragedy for the purpose of killing fish and this action could have shaken the foundations of the dam.
  3. It was raining non-stop few days before the flood.
  4. It may be linked to the Krakatoa volcanic eruption on 26 and 27 August 1883 in Indonesia. The tremor was felt in Kuala Kubu. It was to be one of the deadliest and destructive volcanic events in recorded history.

The new township was built nearer the left bank of Selangor River and the British were by now leading the development. In a short span of four years, the population grew to 7,580 making Kuala Kubu the third largest town in Selangor. Tin mining continued to be the main activity of the town and more lands were opened up for mining including Peretak, which is on the Main Ranch. By 1887, tin output for the year had doubled that of 1885. Also in 1887, British announced its “greatest undertakings in road making ever essayed in the Federated States” with the start of the construction of a bridle track from Kuala Kubu to Kuala Lipis in Pahang (capital of Pahang at that time as well as a gold mining centre). It was to be the earliest federal road ever constructed in Pahang. With this massive undertaking, Kuala Kubu became known as the Gateway to Pahang. It was on this very road that another historical event took place – the assassination of Sir Henry Gurney on 6 October 1951 by the Malayan Communist Party terrorists. Gurney was travelling in a convoy to Fraser’s Hill. Today, this road is known as Federal Route 55.

Mail service using motor vehicle in 1910. The vehicle is passing through Jalan Kuala Kubu on the way to Kuala Lipis.

Train service arrived in 1894 when the final section of the railway track was completed linking Kuala Kubu to Serendah, Rawang and Kuala Lumpur. In 1906, bus service from Kuala Kubu train station to Kuala Lipis was made available.

 Kuala Kubu railway station in 1900

Also available in Kuala Kubu was a nearby hill station called Treacher’s Hill (a.k.a Bukit Kutu), named after Willam Hood Treacher who ventured into the place in 1893. W.H. Treacher was the British Resident of Selangor from 1892 to 1896. There were two bungalows serving as a sanatorium at the peak of the hill until its closure on 31 December 1932 due to soil movement that rendered the resort unsafe. There was also an army training camp set up in 1915 to recruit volunteers for World War I in Europe.

Sanatorium on Treacher’s Hill

However, the improvements done to Kuala Kubu did not last long as the township was constantly ravaged by floodwaters. There were floods in 1885, 1913, 1917 and by 1921, the District Officer of Ulu Selangor announced the abandonment of Kuala Kubu and shifted its district headquarters to Rasa. Between 1923 and 1926, Kuala Kubu was flooded a number of times and finally upon the advice of the Public Works Department at the end of 1926, the Government decided to move the town to a new site up river and to higher land.

Flooded area of Kuala Kubu in 1926
Kuala Kubu in the 1920’s

Kuala Kubu Bharu – 1930 to present

Charles Crompton Reade, a town planner from New Zealand, who was employed by FMS, was given the task to plan the new town – Kuala Kubu Bharu. Reade planned the town along the garden city concept, such as distinctive use of zoning, angular visual entry to the town centre, and a compact town centre to allow space for the parkland separating the residential areas and hospital. Today, KKB is recognized as the first garden township in Asia.

Earliest shophouses in KKB. Post office on the right.
Charles Crompton Reade

One of the earliest shophouses built in the commercial sector of the town has the year 1930 embossed on its top front façade, which marks the birth of KKB. Other significant structures built in the 1930s:

  1. The former Land Office built in 1931 by the British on top of the administrative sector, overlooking the town.
  2. The clock tower commemorating the coronation of King George VI.
  3. The stone monument commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V.
  4. The former Holy Ascension Church, which is now being used as the Hulu Selangor Traffic Police Headquarters.
  5. KKB Post Office (neoclassical architecture with round gable window and round tribe casement window).
  6. Old Fire Station built in 1931.
  7. Shophouse No 1 & 2 at Jalan Dato Tabal (formerly Bowen Street).
Commemorative clock tower

Besides these structures and buildings, it was recorded that an airfield was set up on the outskirts of the town in 1931 as a means of transport for high-ranking officials as well as for goods. The airfield was used during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) for the landing of Taylorcraft Auster light aircraft.

In the book “Tarikh Kuala Kubu 1780 – 1931” published by Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu, it revealed a letter written by the District Officer of Ulu Selangor to the Resident about the naming of streets in KKB. The British discarded the local names written in Malay and mentioned about the unavailability of “well known Asiatic gentlemen connected with Kuala Kubu”. He then forwarded a list of five names of “Europeans who have been intimately connected with Kuala Kubu”:

  1. Ranking (as in Cecil Ranking, the first Tax Collector and Magistrate to be stationed at Kuala Kubu)
  2. Bowen (long serving District Officer of Ulu Selangor)
  3. Davidson (who made Kuala Kubu his home for about the last 25 years of his life)
  4. Stonor (who was the District Officer, then the Secretary to the Resident and finally the British Resident of Selangor)
  5. Maxwell (possibly William George Maxwell who was Resident of Perak and after whom Maxwell Hill was named before the name changed to Bukit Larut or his father, William Edward Maxwell, who was Resident of Selangor).

The four main streets in KKB were named after Bowen, Davidson, Stonor and Maxwell, only Ranking was not selected. Today, they have all changed to local names – Jalan Dato Tabal, Jalan Dato Balai, Jalan Mat Kilau and Jalan Dato Muda Jaafar respectively.

A sketch of Kuala Kubu Bharu and surrounding areas. Taken from Kamalruddin Shamsudin (2015) Charles Reade: Town Planning British Malaya 1921-1929, pp. 291

Next, we shall look at some “well known Asiatic gentlemen connected with Kuala Kubu Bharu”.

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru made two visits to Malaya i.e in 1937 and 1946. Both visits were to look at the welfare of Indians in the country. It was during the second trip when he visited KKB at the invitation of one of his family members who were then working in KKB.
  2. Rehman Rashid wrote the book “Peninsula – A story of Malaysia”. In one of the sections, he wrote about small towns in the country. After he retired, he came and stayed in KKB and immediately fell in love with the place. He then wrote a book Small town as a special tribute to KKB.
  3. Popular Malay singer, the late Sudirman Haji Arshad also sang about KKB. In his song entitled Joget Kenangan Manis, he sang “kalau pergi Kuala Kubu, tulis nama atas batu”, which translates to “if you go to Kuala Kubu, write your name on a rock”.
  4. David Chin, owner of Dave Deli restaurants owned a shophouse in KKB. Whenever he came to cycle with his buddies, he will open his shophouse for them to enjoy their meals and to rest. He called his place “Bicycle Stopover”.
  5. B.Rajkumar is a local-born athlete. He broke the national men’s 800m record by clocking 1.47.37 to win the gold medal in the Asian Track and Field (ATF) Championship held in Jakarta in 1985. It remains a national record.
  6. The late P.Gunasegaran was a top local golfer and he made his name at the 1994 Malaysian Open where he lost an epic eight-hole playoff to Joakim Haeggmann of Sweden at the Royal Selangor Golf Club in KL. Until today, no other local golfers have ever come close to his achievements in the Malaysian Open history.

Today, KKB remains the main administrative town of Hulu Selangor district. And there are plenty of training centres around the town such as Royal Malaysian Police Academy, Central Region Fire and Rescue Training College, Royal Malaysian Signals Army Unit, AsiaCamp (Team Building Camp), Kem Bina Semangat Ampang Pecah, just to name a few. 

The following are some of the main attractions in KKB:

  1. Sungai Selangor dam
  2. St. Paul Catholic Church
  3. Former Coates Theatre built in 1953
  4. KKB Hot Spring @ Taman Arif
  5. Chilling Waterfalls
  6. Kampung Orang Asli in Pertak
  7. Bukit Kutu
  8. Old Chinese Temple at Ampang Pecah

By the time we left Galeri Sejarah Kuala Kubu, after our last stop of looking at old photographs of KKB, it was almost noontime. We went straight to Teo Kee stall to have our lunch. They serve delicious Teochew dishes and porridge. After lunch, we took a last look of Kuala Kubu Bharu town before heading back to the city.

Kuala Kubu circa 1910. Photo taken from Cheah Jin Seng (2008) Malaya: 500 Early Postcards, Singapore: EDM, pp. 52

Note: I forwarded a copy of this writeup to Alexis and this is what he wrote in return:

“Kuala Kubu Bharu is absolutely a strange city to me. After being guided through various historic sites within the city, a strong sense of similarity floated. Vaguely, KKB seems like one of the New Zealand cities, which I have visited. Would it be like Port Chalmers, Picton or Napier? Eric told me that KKB was the first city in Malay Peninsular with town planning initiative by Charles Reade, a colonial town planner. We are lucky and privileged to be guided to this special city for an in-depth understanding of the history of Malaya”.

References:

  • Persatuan Sejarah Kuala Kubu – Tarikh Kuala Kubu 1780 – 1931
  • Muzium Negara – Information board

Petaling Jaya – a satellite township of Kuala Lumpur

by Soundaravalli Paraman

150px-MBPJIn Malaysia almost all new townships have a suffix, the word Jaya which in Malay means success in the hope that the town will live up to the given name. The city of Petaling Jaya has lived up to its name. Petaling Jaya lies alongside KL in the heart of Klang Valley and can be said to be the most advanced region in Malaysia. It is the leading growth centre of Selangor and arguably the foremost industrial hub in Malaysia.

When Kuala Lumpur was becoming overcrowded in the 1950s, squatter enclaves sprouted in and around the city. To solve this problem the British conceived the idea of a satellite settlement in the neighbouring Petaling area in 1952. The Selangor Government allocated 1200 acres of the Effingham estate and to attract people to this settlement it offered 1300, 50’x90’ lots at a nominal price to the landless. In 1953, residential areas of sections 1, 2 and 3 were developed. About 800 wooden houses were built around the area now known as “Old Town”. The only two main roads were Jalan 1 and Jalan 2, now renamed Jalan Templer and Jalan Othman respectively. Here, public amenities and facilities for commerce were developed. Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald Templer (High commissioner of Malaya, 1954-56) was made chairman of the Petaling District Council to plan the development of Petaling Jaya as a satellite town. Due to communist insurgency the earlier housing areas were fenced off from the surrounding areas to prevent the people from assisting the communists.

Initially the town was administered by the Kuala Lumpur District officer and the Petaling Jaya Board until the end of 1953.

1954            Under Ordinance No 36 a legislative body, Petaling Jaya Authority, took over

1964            Petaling Jaya Town Board was given financial autonomy    

1/2/1974      When KL became a Federal territory, Petaling Jaya became a township in the state of Selangor

1/1/1977      PJ Town Authority became PJ Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya, MPPJ)

20/6/2006    Petaling Jaya attained city status (Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya,  MBPJ)

After 1954, rapid development took place. More land was acquired from rubber and oil palm plantations and refilled tin mines, for industry, infrastructure and housing. As of 1957 there were over 3200 houses, more than 100 shops and 28 operating factories. By 1964 Petaling Jaya expanded to 19.9 sq km and a population of 35 100.

As of 2003, PJ had grown to 51.4 sq km  and had a population of 450 000 consisting of 55% Malays, 30% Chinese and 13% Indians.

In 1954, the Federal Highway was developed to link the Federal capital to Port Klang and thus areas developed north of the highway came to be known as PJU or Petaling Jaya Utara and areas which started in 1953 onwards were known as PJS Petaling Jaya Selatan.

Petaling Jaya Selatan (PJS) refers to an area which started off around 1953 from section 8 to PJ Old Town. Petaling Jaya developed rapidly due to rural-urban drift in areas like Sungai Way, Subang Jaya and Seksyen 52.  PJ New Town is the central Business district of PJ with the landmark Menara MBPJ which acts as a focal point. Interestingly PJ New Town is called State because of the location of the first theater known as State.

In a realignment exercise in 1997, parts of PJ such as Subang Jaya, Putra Heights and Bandar Sunway came under jurisdiction of the newly created Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ).