Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

This all-marble fountain was built in memory of E W Birch, Perak’s British Resident from 1905-1910. It was at the south end of Belfield street – sadly, now another fountain has replaced this beauty!

We were once told by a senior resident of Ipoh, that during the Japanese Occupation the four corners of the fountain were ‘decorated’ with severed heads!

Also, later in 1957, the Town Council had a sign put up at the base – to prevent people from drying their laundry/chillies/and other such food stuff by the fountain!

Anybody out there have ‘other’ such memories of this fountain? I also wonder what’s become of the original marble fountain…….

  1. ipohgal says:

    In the early 80s,I did F6 at ACS Jalan Lahat.Pass by this fountain everyday to and fro school.From the bus window,I could see a big flock of pigeons around this fountain throughout the year.The fountain was greyish in colour,so you make a guess!I saw traders from the nearby shops(mostly Indians)selling textile or jewelleries feeding the pigeons with grains.No,I did not go near the fountain due to the bird’s droppings!

  2. ika says:

    We would very much like to know when the original Birch fountain was demolished. Was it still there in its original shape when ipohgal saw it in the early 80s? Does anyone else out there remember passing the old fountain and if so, when?

  3. Azlan Zaaiya says:

    The old fountain was still there in the early 90s. However the condition was very bad because of erosion had carved thru the marble.

  4. hokin says:

    The Ipoh clock tower used to have a bust of Birch too, facing the multi-storey parking. Three years back when I visit the clock tower the bust is no longer there. Anyone know where the bust has gone to?

  5. ika says:

    The removal of things British seems to have taken place during the period of the 1980s and 1990s. We lost the Birch Bust, the painting of the first prophet, the EW Birch Fountain, Memorial plates from the war memorial (one has since been replaced), street names and more. All part of strengthening local history in favour of colonial history.

    History is always written by the winners not the losers and let’s face it, the British never really recovered from the loss of Malaya and Singapore to the Japanese. Independent Malaysia then became the winners and could rewrite history as they saw it.

    Japan is no different having rewritten their history to exclude the atrocities in favour of their glorious campaign.

  6. leongkk says:

    In the 40s, I was staying at 78 belfied street near to the old fountain. The majority of people staying there were chinese and not indians. My grandfather was operatiing a electrical shop there.In the evening the fountain would be brightly lit and the area around the fountain would be quite crowded. We kids would be playing around the fountain while the elders would be sitting aound the benches there.It was a pleasant place and quite safe as there were few or no cars. There was a ‘red clay hill’ at the back of the shophouses. We called it that as the soil on the incline was red clay. You can easily confirm this by scraping the side of the incline along the road leading to the police HQ.

  7. Karu says:

    I just keep wondering why the council people and the government just simply ignoring all the historic pieces. Is it that they don’t want any English Ruling History to be known by the future generations??

  8. Stex says:

    I loves foutains and this fountain in particular bought back so many font memories of my occassional trips to the barber with my dad in the early 80′s. I used to look across the barber shop on Belfield Road and admire the foutain from afar. Thanks for posting this wonderful picture and putting together the “Ipoh My Home Town” publication. We have bought a copy to keep and another one for our parents who are still living in Ipoh. As we were looking through the pages, my mum was overwhelmed to find her close relative of hers featured on page 194. What a plesant surprise! Once again, well done and good effort all!

  9. Steven Lee says:

    “Red Clay Hill” would be “Hung Lei San” in Cantonese and Bukit Merah in Malay. There is a Bukit Merah (new village) next to Menglembu and another Bukit Merah (lake town resort) along the North-South Expressway on the way to Penang. Since red clay is found in many places, there are numerous Bukit Merah’s all over Malaysia.

  10. Mano says:

    jaja, please read comment by leongkk, June 19th, 2010. The slope behind the shophouses was called ‘red clay hill’ by the kids living around there then.

  11. Wai Wan says:

    I was born in 1983, and grew up in Ipoh since then. The fountain looks so familiar, but I can’t recall its location. Where is Belfield street? Sadly all English Street names are removed. I guess I am lucky enough to still know Hugh Low Street, Cowan Street. :(

  12. Madi says:

    I remember the fountain very well. I was born in 41 Lahat Road which ends where the fountain is. The corner shop lot opposite the fountain was Dr Patwardhan’s clinic. His son Ajit and I were classmates for many years. In my preschool years, this place was a children’s playing spot. We used to sprinkle the water from the fountain on each other. This place used to be jam packed when the temple chariot passes through the place. Lots of coconuts were smashed on the road pavement as is the custom of the Hindus.
    I remember my father the late Mr.M.S.Maniam relating his Japanese war time story of this place as he lived in 5 Lahat Road. He said he witnessed Japanese beheading their suspects at this place and hanging the heads at the fountain.
    The fountain was a historical landmark, and there were protest from Ipoh residents when it was earmarked for removal but the State government went ahead and removed it and now that corner is a huge Deepavali bazaar during the celebration month.

  13. Ipoh Remembered says:

    This all-marble fountain was built in memory of E W Birch, Perak’s British Resident from 1905-1910. It was at the south end of Belfield street

    Yes, the fountain was built circa the WWI years; although for various reasons the authorities mostly left it “off” until the late ’30s.

    Incidentally, this part of town — what was then the southern end of Belfield Street — was for a time called “Market Square” because it was close to Ipoh’s “New Market” (completed 1907).

    We were once told by a senior resident of Ipoh, that during the Japanese Occupation the four corners of the fountain were ‘decorated’ with severed heads!

    What the Japanese Army did there was horrific. Even after the war was over the bloody nightmare lingered. It took until the early ’50s before the fountain was actually turned on properly again.

    In the early ’60s the Town Council put in some benches — maybe some trees as well, I don’t remember — and after that there was a flurry of public activity in the area. I remember one of the local auctioneers using the outdoor space to good effect, sometimes sensationally, as when a house belonging to one of Leong Sin Nam’s sons was put up for sale to settle a dispute with a bank.

    In the 40s […] the majority of people staying there were chinese and not indians.

    Yes, and it was the Chinese community, not the town, that had built the fountain to honor Birch — but what some may not remember is that it was Birch himself who suggested it!

    It’s really sad to see this historic piece of art work being replaced [etc.]

    I don’t know what has replaced the Birch Memorial Fountain so I can’t really comment, but change, I guess, is inevitable.

    I don’t know how many of you recall the majestic angsana trees along Clayton Road, between St. Michael’s Institution and the Padang. They were widely admired and appreciated but one fine day it was decided by the Sanitary Board that they were endangering traffic so down they came — “hacked away ruthlessly,” said the critics. In place was planted an avenue of teak trees. In fact, this happened in Ernest Birch’s time and at his instigation (if I remember right). And over the years the teak trees, much as the angsana before them, added much to the beauty of the Padang and were widely admired and appreciated. But then about thirty years after Birch left, the Sanitary Board again stepped in, this time to replace the teak with casuarina, which eventually came to be much loved, of course — but not before there was again raised such a hue and cry as you cannot imagine. And as for what happened to the casuarina trees …

    • NCK says:

      Ipoh Remembered, the casuarina trees that used to stand beside the Padang were said to be ‘century-old’ a few years ago when one of them fell in a storm and the rest were removed at the bidding of SMI’s PTA for safety concerns. When might their predecessors, the angsana trees and teak trees, be planted as you have so prudently remembered? How old are you, might I ask?

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear NCK: About the casuarina trees: I don’t know the details of the “century-old” estimate that you mention. I can only tell you that the trees were put in place in 1937 or 1938.

        Re the teak trees: As I said, they were planted in Ernest Birch’s time, i. e., while he was Resident (probably around 1907).

        And as for the angsana trees, I’m not sure when they were planted, but a few of them did survive into the late ’30s.

      • NCK says:

        Dear Ipoh Remembered, I am glad you replied. What is the source of your information, might I ask? You seem to enjoy a large database at your fingertips or be adept at finding information. I would appreciate it if the source was given every time you stated something so that any interested reader could verify the information or find meaningful readings at the source.

        • Ipoh Remembered says:

          Dear NCK … If I recall correctly from the discussion we had recently about the origin of Malaya’s five-foot-ways, you were not much impressed by excerpts cited from published sources; nor were you much impressed when it was observed that one of those published sources was a book that can be found in libraries around the world, including Ipoh’s own public library: even when a library “call number” was provided, it did not seem to help.

          It seems (and I think you actually said that) you favor sources that you can conveniently look up on the Internet. Alas, I have few such. So if you have questions about what I write here, ask and I will try to respond. Beyond that I presume you are well able to locate other resources.

    • NCK says:

      According to the database of this blog, the fountain was erected in memory of EW Birch, after his death in 1926, by the Chinese business community. That was long after his tenure as British Resident (1904-1910). If he asked for the fountain as you said, he must have longed to have a posthumous honour for himself so much that he planned for it long before his death. Don’t you think so?

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear NCK:

        According to the database of this blog, the fountain was erected in memory of EW Birch, after his death in [1929], by the Chinese business community.

        “After his death”? I don’t see such an entry in the database. If it exists, it is in error.

        Birch died in 1929. The fountain was built before that; I can’t remember exactly when but probably by 1912; and certainly by 1917 or 1918 at the very latest.

        The easiest way to convince yourself is to look for the fountain on maps of Ipoh produced in the early ’20s (before Birch died); e. g., maps published by the Surveyor-General of the FMS. You’ll find the fountain marked.

        If he asked for the fountain as you said, he must have longed to have a posthumous honour for himself so much that he planned for it long before his death. Don’t you think so?

        Birch didn’t exactly ask for a fountain to be built in his honor; what I said was that he suggested it, which he did.

        In fact, he also helpfully suggested a favored location: People’s Park, which he himself had just helped establish as a public recreation ground — but I suspect that that the Chinese community, taking into account feng shui considerations and such, in turn favored that location for a delightful little temple of its own, leaving the esteemed Mr. Birch’s fountain to be built elsewhere.

        (If you are not familiar with the old People’s Park, you can look for it, too, on those same Ipoh maps from days gone by. You will find it marked roughly half a kilometer due east of the fountain, on the Old Town side of the river.)

  14. Ngai C O says:

    Hi Ipoh Remembered,

    Modern structures do not attract tourists and are not enough on their own as pull factors if Ipoh or Perak were to develop the tourist industty.

    Because of the short sightedness of the authorities, much of Ipoh’s past has been destroyed.

    The fountain in question had undergone many transformations. I am not sure whether it still exists. The square where the fountain sat is littered with all sorts that are not inviting. This was my impression when I recently drove past.

    Yes, it cannot be disputed there are lots of eateries in Ipoh from the humble hawker fare to the exotic and the so called premium stuff to cater for a wide variety of wallets.

    In fact these outlets especially the hawkers, the coffee shops and resaurents play an important role in supporting Ipoh’s economy, through making sure that people earn a living either as employees, self employed or owners

    These are hard working people that put in long hours daily.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear Ngai C O, I’m sorry if my comment suggested that I don’t think Ipoh should value its past. I guess My flippant remarks about the inevitability of change may have given the wrong impression. I do agree with you: quite apart from tourists, one’s own children should be taught history. Where at all possible they should see it around them, and not only in books or on the Internet.

      As for this fountain specifically, while it existed it could have presented an opportunity even for those educationists who are critical of what the British did in Malaya. For example, it could have been used to compare and contrast the Residencies of the two Birches father and son. One was assassinated, the other was honored with a marble fountain: why? It’s superficially a facile question but the deeper one goes into the respective histories of the two officials, the more questions one can ask and the more one can learn.

      As for the latter part of your comment, about eateries and hard-working common folk and the like, I’m sorry to say I don’t see the connection to the fountain. I’m hoping that if you elaborate just a little all will become clear to me, so please do. (Thanks.)

  15. Ngai C O says:

    Hi Ipoh Remembered,

    It is really nice that you sought clarity to my views.

    I would like to clarify that my comments were and are not in direct response to what you said in your posting.

    I was just expressing my opinion and how I felt and any supposed correlation was just a coincidence.

    I find it exhillirating that we can share our differences in opinions through which we can find common ground.

    As for the fountain, hawkers and hard working people, it is to do with the spirit of tourism. As you know Ipoh tries to sell its street food to visitors

    I possibly have been naughty as well taking the opportunity to digress and having a dig at some unsavoury people. Please pardon me for that.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear Ngai C O, thanks for clarifying. I appreciate it.

      And yes, I am somewhat embarrassed to say that when I think of Ipoh, it is indeed the uniquely delicious street food that I seem to miss the most.

      Not the clean and pleasant town with such a wealth of geographic and architectural features; not the truly awesome heat and Kinta floods; not the rare adventures in industry, finance, and scholarship; not the joyful exertions on the Padang or the pomp and ceremony of the Club; not even the many dear friends and cheerful acquaintances made and sadly lost over the decades — but, instead, beneath it all, the food.

      I half-wish my concerns and nostalgia were more elevated, but I suppose even after all these years of ostensibly being civilized, my animal nature will not be denied.

  16. NCK says:

    Dear Ipoh Remembered,

    I hope you’d recall that, without any chance to verify the texts which you purportedly quoted from the so-called Raffles ordinances, I did assume in your behalf the truth of the texts. No one would go such distance as to purchase a book, or look up a book from a library, so as to verify someone’s claim. (I might look up the book one day when the time is convenient.) I asked you to quote the relevant section of the book, which you said you had, as regards your claim but until now you haven’t quoted any. That is the only time you have ever revealed a source (the book) upon request.

    Below is the link to the database as regards E W Birch:
    You can also search the database, in this blog, for ‘E W Birch’ or ‘Sir Ernest Woodford Birch’ and get to the page. Please read the paragraph just before the bulleted lists to see the disparity from what you said about the time the fountain was built. I believe our blogger friends would appreciate the revelation of your source so that your information could be verified and correction made to the blog’s database. As for the early ’20s Ipoh maps published by the Surveyor-General, I tried to google but found none. Would appreciate it if you provided the link(s).

    It will be interesting to know if you saw the angsana trees and teak trees beside the Padang in the flesh, as you seem to have implied, or you read about them from some database. Please do tell. Thank you.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear NCK, thanks for pointing out which database entry you were relying on. It claims as its source a book — Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya — that was published in 1906 (that’s a minor mistake: the book was actually published in 1908). Now, as you know, Ernest Birch was not yet dead in 1908 (and even less dead in 1906). How can anyone rely on a book published 21 years before his death to tell them that a certain fountain was erected to his memory “after he passed away”? It simply makes no sense.

      Nor are those the only two mistakes in the entry. For example, it is written that “young Ernest” completed his studies at Oxford University. Whereas in fact “young Ernest” never even entered the university, as you can see for yourself on p. 128 of the book in question.

      Perhaps if they have time, ika, felicia, or Christopher can clear up this confusion for us.

      • Ngai C O says:


        I have looked up some information on the Ipoh World Database.

        They take the information from different sources. There are bound to be errors.

        Ipoh World does point out that if any inaccuracies are found, they will correct the faults.

        I have also found a number of inconsistencies. My conclusion is either can be wrong or hopefully right. Without any way of verifying, I have left things as they are.

        • Ipoh Remembered says:

          Dear Ngai CO … No doubt it is difficult to maintain a large database: entries not only have to match reality, they also have to match each other, plus each entry taken by itself must be internally consistent. So … it’s a lot of work.

          What I really like about the IpohWorld database: (1) its creators keep adding new items to it, seemingly every day, which takes a lot of time and dedication; and (2) the entire database is available to the public as a common civic resource. Truly admirable.

          In the case of this particular entry (identified above by NCK): (1) a reference work is cited but its publication date is given incorrectly; yet even after correcting for that, (2) a claim is made that is directly contradicted by the reference; (3) another claim is made about an event that ostensibly happened after the publication of the reference; and (4) this is all quite apart from ascertaining when the event actually occurred.

          As you say, the creators of the database go out of their way to invite comments, and to take those comments into account when necessary. I have no doubt that they will do so in this case as well, when time allows.

          • Ngai C O says:

            Hi Ipoh Remembered,

            Ipoh World has done an excellent job to come that far in its quest to make a mark for itself armed only with a shallow pocket and relying on goodwill and donations.

            Readers’ contributions and input keep the the light alive and perhaps also inspiration and encouragement to reach further heights.

            It is definitely very passionate about what it aims to do and I suspect it is a labour of love for the people involved in this project.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Also, on the matter of what the Raffles Ordinances say about five-foot-ways, you write above that “[you] asked [me] to quote the relevant section of the book […] but until now [I] haven’t quoted any.”

      Upon checking, I see you’re right that I have not quoted from the book I mentioned. But what I did quote from was the relevant ordinance itself.

      In any event, if you think it might be useful I’d be happy to go into that discussion again if you post a comment there to bring it back to the front of the queue.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      And finally:

      As for the early ’20s Ipoh maps published by the Surveyor-General, I tried to google but found none. Would appreciate it if you provided the link(s).

      I have to say, NCK, I think that if you really want to look at historical sources, sometimes you have to get away from your computer screen and actually locate a physical resource. Not everything has — in fact, most things still have not — been digitized (or even properly indexed).

      In this case, however, you’re in luck. There is a 1921 map of Ipoh that you can peruse without getting up from your seat. Search for “List of roads in Ipoh” and you will find it. And, as I said, you will find on it that the fountain was marked, nearly a decade before Birch died. How do you explain this?

    • NCK says:

      You still have not shared your source of information. Please do. As for what you claimed as erroneous in the blog’s database, I shall leave it to the bloggers to straighten it out with you.

    • NCK says:

      The article is ‘Papan Town?’, posted on 8th March this year. You can access this article by simply rolling the button at ‘archive’ to the month of March 2017.

      I took your hint and googled on ‘List of roads in Ipoh’, and found only the map posted in Wikipedia. The map is also in the database of this blog, if you might recall. Sorry to say that the fountain wasn’t marked in the map as you claimed. I thought you could do better than this.

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        I took your hint and googled on ‘List of roads in Ipoh’, and found only the map posted in Wikipedia. […] Sorry to say that the fountain wasn’t marked in the map as you claimed. I thought you could do better than this.

        Well, taking a look at the same map, I see the fountain marked on it. I have no idea why you don’t.

      • NCK says:

        My bad. I looked at a different spot. ‘Birch Memorial Fountain’ was indeed marked in the map, but don’t you think the location was wrong? That wasn’t Belfield Street.

      • NCK says:

        And why had it been a memorial fountain when the man honoured by it was still kicking? I think of a few possibilities:
        1. The year (1921) stated by Wikipedia of the map was wrong and the location of the fountain was wrongly marked.
        2. The fountain was originally meant for Birch Sr. and the location was wrongly marked.
        3. It was a different fountain altogether, meant for Birch Sr. and long demolished.
        4. Birch Jr. died before 1921.
        5. It was built in memory of the old Birch Jr., after he took a new perspective of life and became a ‘new’ person.

  17. Ngai C O says:


    Still ‘grieving’ the loss of the Birch Fountain, I read through all the posts since it was featured in 2010.

    I get the impression like myself a tragic loss to a monument that was part of growing up for many,many people. I suppose it was more so for those who had fond memories.

    I believe the fountain was around in the eighties when tin was still driving the local economy.

    Things began to falter with the ‘Look East’ era.

    • NCK says:

      I remember seeing the fountain every time I passed by and thought what an eyesore the little old fountain was. I was young then. Of course I would have thought differently now if it was still around.

  18. Ipoh Remembered says:


    And why had it been a memorial fountain when the man honoured by it was still kicking? I think of a few possibilities:

    I’m amused by your list!

    The date given for the map is correct but, yes, the location of the label is a bit misleading: the fountain was sort of at the top of Lahat Road, not far from the intersection of Belfield Street and Patrick Street, in a little triangular area known in the old days as (oddly enough) Market Square.

    Speaking of which, felicia reminded us that:

    Also, later in 1957, the Town Council had a sign put up at the base – to prevent people from drying their laundry/chillies/and other such food stuff by the fountain!

    In the ‘30s there was a sort of taxi-stand nearby and the drivers began to wash their cars at the no-longer-shiny-and-new fountain. The town eventually put a stop to this — even though over the years it hadn’t really devoted all that much energy towards keeping the fountain beautiful.

  19. NCK says:

    Dear Ipoh Remembered,

    You have made comments after comments but answered none of my queries. For example, why was the fountain called a memorial fountain when the man it honoured was alive? Was it meant to curse him?

    You said earlier that the fountain was built probably by 1912, and certainly by 1917/1918. Do you have any basis for this? Did Birch Jr. die before 1912 or 1918, or was it a mistake on the part of his friends when they built the fountain?

    Why are you sure that the map was published in 1921? Do you have the basis that confirms the year, or is it just your gut feeling? If you have the basis, please share your source. Or did you experience the events in realtime and live to tell us the truth? How old are you, might I ask?

    Birch Jr. initiated the clock tower. I found no records that say he ‘suggested’ to have the fountain. You have probably confused the fountain with the clock tower. There again, what is your basis for saying that he suggested to build the fountain, at People’s Park no less?

    PS: I have told you how to access the article ‘Papan Town?’ posted on 8th March – just roll the button below the title ‘Archives’ to March 2017. Do you still need me to post a comment in the article?

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear NCK

      I have various reasons for saying what I said but for present purposes a few brief remarks will have to suffice. If your interest endures, you can always look further into these questions on your own.

      Why was the fountain called a memorial fountain when the man it honoured was alive?

      Not unusual. In a similar instance, Frank Swettenham’s (replica) portrait, ensconced in KL’s Town Hall in 1906, was referred to immediately as a memorial (whereas he died forty years later). It was a memorial not to his life but to his career in Malaya.

      As you know, words have subtle shades of meaning that drift over time. A meaning you’re familiar with might have been strange to someone else in some other time. There’s a famous line in Pope’s translation of The Odyssey where a goddess says to someone that his “royal court I shall revisit, and that pledge receive, And gifts, memorial of our friendship, leave.” Similarly, in Tom Jones, Fielding has one character hoping that another will receive a thousand pounds “as a Memorial of my Friendship.” In neither case is it meant that the friendship is dying or dead. Both examples are cited in the OED. In fact, if you look there, you’ll find that the primary definition of “memorial” refers to “preserving the memory of a person or thing; often applied to an object set up […] to commemorate an event or a person.” As you can see, this usage does not require the person in question to be irretrievably dead; and the editors give other examples that range over six hundred years down to the present.

      As for your question about the date of the map you looked at on line: I’m hardly the only one to think that the asserted “1921″ is plausible. In his book Ipoh: When Tin Was King (see page vi), local historian Ho Tak Ming includes the same map and dates it “c. 1921.” Now, he could be mistaken, too, but much the same map was published in other documents issued by the government as early as 1920. These maps are all similar enough that I believe they were based on the same underlying survey, and I’ve had conversations with historians (John Gullick, for example) who believe that the survey probably took place in 1915-1916, certainly no later than 1917-1918. I’m inclined to this view myself.

      I found no records that say he ‘suggested’ to have the fountain. You have probably confused the fountain with the clock tower. There again, what is your basis for saying that he suggested to build the fountain, at People’s Park no less?

      I’m sorry to hear that your search for records did not help. Among the political classes, Birch’s suggestion was common knowledge at the time. There is a fair amount of evidence in personal papers — and there is this:

      In view of the approaching departure for good of our popular Resident, who sails for the old country on December 6, a public meeting was called for Friday afternoon in the Ipoh Club, which was largely attended by all the leading European residents in the place, for the purpose of deciding what form our parting souvenir of his long and successful administration should take. […] The Chinese community are likely to erect an ornamental fountain to his honor in the People’s Park, on a wish expressed by Mr. Birch himself.

      That’s from an article in the Malay Mail, November 13, 1910.

      Knowing what you know of the Chinese community in Ipoh at the time — we’re talking about the likes of Chung Thye Phin here, not the Chinese community of laboring ice-vendors — how long would you estimate it might have taken them to make good on this sort of mutually beneficial commitment? Hence “probably by 1912.”

      By the way, You may be wondering what “parting souvenir” all the leading Europeans chose to give. Believe it or not, it was a sum of money. Birch didn’t need it. Before long “our popular Resident” was chairman and director of various companies with lucrative investments in Malaya.

      One final note: When a monument or memorial is built, it usually bears an inscription which includes the date of construction. I wonder if you ever had a chance to look at the inscription on the Birch fountain. It was undated!

    • NCK says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered, would you mind sharing the access to your evidence for each of the following points you have mentioned?

      1. The portrait of Swettenham, at KL town hall, being called a memorial before Swettenham’s death.

      (Just so you know, in the online version of OED, the word memorial in the sense of commemorating a person, or reminding people of a person, is used solely for dead people in the example sentences of the entry. By common sense, when something, say, a statue, is meant to honour a live person for the person’s good deed, it is simply called so-and-so’s statue, sans memorial.)

      2. The similar Ipoh maps of the times that showed the fountain as a memorial fountain. Mind telling why your historian friends thought the survey took place in 1915/1916?

      3. The Malay Mail article dated 13/11/1910 and the other personal papers as regards Birch Jr.’s intent of having his memorial fountain in People’s Park.

      • NCK says:

        4. Birch Jr.’s getting a sum of money as souvenir. (And what was the amount?)

        5. Birch Jr.’s appointments as ‘chairman and director of various companies with lucrative investments in Malaya’.

    • NCK says:

      Hi, Ipoh Remembered. Please share your accesses. I think the English in the Malay Mail article reads like the version of English we find in today’s social media – a mix of American English and Manglish. Better let the other readers help take a look at the article and the rest of your evidence as I’m afraid you might have been conned. You know, people nowadays can bluff through their teeth in social media without any fear of their identities being known. (By the way, Manglish is a copycat term and what it denotes is a copycat pidgin English.)

    • NCK says:

      Below is what a layman of me think of the quoted passage:

      The first sentence is long and cumbersome. It should be broken down to shorter sentences for clear reporting. It should be ‘approaching departure date’ or ‘pending departure’. ‘For good’ is unnecessary. ‘Our Resident’ is very informal, unlike news reporting.

      Present tense (‘sails’) is used for a future event in the headline only, not in the text. Then, ‘was’ appears and makes the tenses inconsistent. ‘December 6′ and ‘honor’ are obviously American.

      ‘Public meeting’ is ambiguous. ‘Called for’ is better replaced with ‘held’ to be accurate. It should be ‘this Friday afternoon at the Ipoh Club’. ‘All the leading European residents’ is ambiguous; a few names should have been mentioned. ‘In the place’ is strange.

      I think it is better to simply say ‘deciding a parting souvenir for him’, and a fountain couldn’t be a souvenir for him to take home. It should be ‘long and successful tenure’. ‘Ornamental’ is unnecessary. It should be ‘in his honour at the People’s Park’ and better ‘as he has expressly wished’. The emphasis ‘Mr. Birch himself’ is unbecoming, unlike news reporting.

  20. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK … I’m all for skepticism but I think yours is getting a little unwieldy here, even for you.

    Instead of trying to edit a 107-year-old piece of writing whose author is dead and can’t easily benefit from even the most well-intentioned advice, may I respectfully suggest that instead you use the citation I provided to find the original, so that you can see it for yourself and actually deal with its content rather than its style?

    You also seem doubtful about my statement that after he retired, “before long [Birch] was chairman and director of various companies with lucrative investments in Malaya.” This is simply fact. Birch officially retired in March, 1911. By May of the same year he was a Director of Malayan Tin Dredging, by November also a Director of Tronoh South and the Chairman of Eastern Smelting. These are just three examples and they were not uncontroversial.

    You also seem still doubtful that the term “memorial” could have been applied to the Birch fountain while Birch was alive. Usage found on Ipoh maps produced before he died seems not to have convinced you. I explained that in those days, this usage was not unknown. As an example I mentioned that Frank Swettenham’s portrait, ensconced in KL’s Town Hall in 1906, was also referred to immediately as a memorial (whereas Swettenham died forty years later). Following are some examples of this specific usage taken from that era:

    A replica of Sargent’s academy portrait of Sir Frank Swettenham has just arrived at Kuala Lumpur from London […] It is proposed to hang the picture in the Town Hall. It may be remembered that Sir William Treacher and Mr. George Cumming […] interested themselves in supplying the town with some lasting memorial of the first F. M. S. Resident-General, and it was first proposed to erect a small bust of Sir Frank somewhere in the capital, but the oil painting was ultimately considered the more fitting memorial.

    That’s from the Straits Times (August 9, 1906, p. 5). Here’s another write-up, this one from the Eastern Daily Mail (August 10, 1906, p. 2):

    The town of Kuala Lumpur will shortly be supplied with a suitable memorial of its first Resident, which will take the form of a copy of Sargent’s famous Academy portrait of Sir Frank Swettenham which has just arrived from London.

    And then:

    At the Town Hall […] there was a large gathering […] to witness the unveiling of the portrait of Sir Frank Swettenham […] by the High Commissioner. […] Mr. George Cumming then addressed the audience [crediting the High Commissioner for suggesting the portrait, etc.]. Mr. Cumming described the interest which [a former Resident-General] had taken in the establishment of a permanent memorial to Sir Frank. […] After unveiling the portrait, [the High Commissioner confessed to having made the suggestion] because he felt strongly the desirability of the establishment of a permanent memorial of [Sir Frank]. [Much praise of Swettenham followed.] In conclusion, the High Commissioner congratulated his audience on the establishment of so fitting a memorial to a great man.

    This third article appeared in the Straits Times (October 4, 1906, p. 2).

    Frank Swettenham died in 1946.

    Perhaps you see now why I said the Swettenham portrait in KL, like the Birch fountain in Ipoh, was referred to immediately as a memorial even though its subject was very much alive.

    And those (Birch and Swettenham) are just two instances of this usage. There are many others. Two more come quickly to mind, one a fountain and the other a clock tower, not to Birch in Ipoh but to Chamberlain in Birmingham, England. First the Chamberlain Memorial Fountain:

    A memorial erected by public subscription to commemorate the exceptional services rendered to Birmingham by Mr. Chamberlain […] during his connexion with the Town Council, was publicly unveiled and presented to the town yesterday. The memorial […] takes the form of a monumental fountain in the Gothic style.

    This article appeared in the Times of London (October 27, 1880, p. 10). If you are in Birmingham, you can read for yourself the inscription on the fountain. It begins with the words “This memorial.” And while in Birmingham you might also visit the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower. It was completed in 1908. Chamberlain went from being Town Councillor and Mayor of Birmingham and Member of Parliament to becoming the founder and first Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, then the President of the Board of Trade and eventually Colonial Secretary. He was still very much alive while his memorial fountain flowed and his memorial clock tower chimed. He died in 1914.

    Going back to Ernest Birch, I’ll add a final note about his character: he was not a shy man. As you know he was among the prime movers behind the memorial to his father; whereas a more discreet personality, not wanting to be thought of as aggrandizing his own family, might have left that task to others. Similarly, when Ipoh’s so-called Birch Club was created during his Residency, he did not demur: in fact, he officiated at its formal opening. I’ve suggested more or less openly that Birch was somewhat vain and that he ruled Perak in his own interest more than anyone else’s. I’m hardly the only one to have said so. In fact, in May 1910, while Birch was still Resident, his own superior in office, Governor John Anderson, wrote the following to a colleague at the Colonial Office (see Memorandum CO 273/368 no. 17210):

    For goodness sake don’t let them send [so-and-so] here. He is as vain as [Ernest] Birch and as much given to playing for his own hand, only he is more cunning about it.

    What do you think Anderson meant? Was he also “conned” by “social media” the way you think I have been?

  21. NCK says:

    Dear Ipoh Remembered,

    I’ve asked you to provide the access to your references for the vetting by interested readers but you continue to make long comments sans proof. If any one of your references is in the physical form, such as paper print, you can make a scan copy or take a photo of it and send the copy or photo to ipohWorld, who I believe will be more than happy to add a piece of historical evidence to their collection.

    Scepticism is needed as there are people who bluff through their teeth on internet, perhaps just for fun, or they may want to shape opinions, nurture societal idiocy, and what have you. I don’t mean you are one of them but you might have fallen prey to their wiles. I think this blog has no use for any infusion of falsehoods, fancies or guesswork disguised as historical facts, intentional or not.

    My remarks about the news passage are meant to show you that the passage seems not a work of journalism. In other words, I think it is a poorly written piece of scam. Malay Mail has archives up to three years old in its website. So if you really have read the 107-year-old article on internet, please share the link.

    I know the word memorial is not only used in the sense of commemorating a dead person. It is also ‘a record or memoir’ according to the free online Oxford Dictionaries. But I don’t think the word would have appeared in the proper name of any structure meant to commemorate a live person. You may want to check if both of Old Joe’s memorial fountain and clock tower had memorial in their names before he died. The clock tower was initially suggested to be named Poynting Tower, sans memorial, after Prof. Poynting (1852-1914) of the University of Birmingham where the tower was built.

    I’d rather not worry at the word. In fact, your provision of the access to what you have claimed as your references, such as the old Ipoh maps and the other things that I have highlighted, as well as what you have rolled out with your new comments, would be appreciated.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear NCK … I have provided numerous citations above. You can check count them; but so far as I can tell, you have not checked a single one. When you do check — actually check them, not just by doing a cursory search on the Internet — when you do that, please do not hesitate to say what you find. Meanwhile, I think perhaps there are other more fruitful discussions we can pursue than this one — don’t you? I certainly hope so.

    • NCK says:

      Well, I believe everyone knows my points. I have to say all that you have claimed as your references cannot be found on internet. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that reading a quote without referring to the original document is as good as taking the quoter’s word – the quote could have been tampered with, or it could be a scam altogether. So far you have not given any single link to your so-called references nor have you produced any piece of evidence for your copious claims, which you have presented as facts, despite my requests.

  22. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Continuing from above, more evidence against two (ahistorical and incorrect) notions: (1) Ipoh’s Birch Memorial Fountain was built after Birch’s death in 1929, and (2) it must have been built after his death because it was called a “memorial fountain” …

    First, a notice published in the Straits Times on October 14, 1912, said, and I quote, “The Chinese of Ipoh are going to put up a memorial fountain to Sir Ernest Birch ….”

    Who believes it would have taken twenty-seven years for “the Chinese of Ipoh” to have a simple fountain built?

    And notice that Birch was alive and well at the time the article was published — in 1912 he had barely left office and yet the fountain is already referred to as “a memorial fountain.” No doubt this will confuse those who think the use of the word “memorial” meant that the honoree was dead.

    Further, in Ho Tak Ming’s book, Ipoh: When Tin Was King, on p. 473, under the heading “The Great Flood of 1926,” there is a photograph of “Belfield Street under water” in which the Birch Memorial Fountain is clearly visible, sitting there three years before Birch died.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      I wrote:

      Who believes it would have taken twenty-seven years for “the Chinese of Ipoh” to have a simple fountain built?

      That number should have been seventeen, of course!

      My apologies for the error.

    • NCK says:

      After giving innumerable arguments, you still got the facts wrong. Note that evasion begets suspicion, and a flippant research only results in misinformation. Fortunately, I stumbled on an archives website belonging to the National Library Board of our neighbour and found that the tower was meant for Birch Sr. and was officially opened by H.E. High Commissioner Sir John Anderson on 8th Dec 1909.

      Anyone interested can just google ‘nlb archives’ or ‘newspapersg’ to get to the website. There are a multitude of news articles on this website. You can find more information about the clock tower, including the design competition, which architectural firm won the competition, when the construction began, and when the construction was completed. I would appreciate it if someone would tell us how to find a similar website in Malaysia.

  23. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK

    After giving innumerable arguments, you still got the facts wrong. Note that evasion begets suspicion, and a flippant research only results in misinformation. Fortunately, I stumbled on an archives website belonging to the National Library Board of our neighbour and found that the tower was meant for Birch Sr. and was officially opened by H.E. High Commissioner Sir John Anderson on 8th Dec 1909.

    What facts did I get “wrong”? What “evasion”? What “flippant research”?

    Who doubts or has denied that the Clock Tower was meant for J. W. W. Birch and that it was completed in 1909? Have you totally forgotten that we were talking about the Birch Memorial Fountain and not the Clock Tower?

    In case you have, indeed, forgotten, your rampant “suspicion” came about because you are pathologically unable to believe that the Birch Memorial Fountain was built for Ernest Birch long before he died in 1929. I have provided documentation above, none of which you seem to have grappled with. More documentation is available.

  24. NCK says:

    Ipoh Remembered, I admit I mixed up the fountain for the clock tower (boy, are they easy to mix up when you least suspect). When you claimed against the common sense that the fountain came before Birch Jr. died, any sensible person would expect you to prove your case.

    Talks would have gone in a different direction, and the merry-go-round saved, if you had referred to the note on the Straits Times and provided the link for all to read. But alas you based on a map, were adamant on the map’s date, and claimed that there were “many similar maps”, you had “many historian friends”, Birch Jr. was very vain, and so on – all other moonshine which I’m not going to list here.

    The following articles can be found on the archives website that I mentioned before. Anyone can access the site by googling “nlb archives” or “newspapersg”: Then, search by “Birch memorial fountain” in the website.

    On 14 October 1912, a snippet in the Social and Personal section of The Straits Times said: “The Chinese of Ipoh are going to put up a memorial fountain to Sir Ernest Birch on a triangular piece of ground near the Lahat Road, which will be available when the improvement to the Lahat Road has been carried out.”

    As I have said before, the word memorial is not only used to commemorate a dead person, it is, even today, also “a record or memoir” according to the free online Oxford Dictionaries, but I don’t think the word would have appeared in the proper name of a monument meant to commemorate a live person.

    On 2 May 1918, a Malaya Tribune article in the section titled Ipoh Assizes reported that a cowardly robbery was perpetrated against an eight-year-old little girl by a Chinaman near the Birch memorial fountain on 8 April. The article didn’t say if the fountain was complete or under construction, but it was there, assuming it was the same fountain in question.

    On 12 January 1937, the section titled Around Malaya of Morning Tribune reported that the Birch Memorial fountain in the middle of the Square in the Old Town of Ipoh was (finally) in full blast after having been on a care and maintenance basis for many years, that the event proved that the fountain worked, and that hired car drivers found the fountain useful in their washing chores.

    On 31 May 1962, the Straits Times said: “Plans are also underfoot to rehabilitate the Birch Memorial Fountain in Belfield Street which has been in disrepair since before the Japanese occupation. It was erected from public donations in honour of the first British Resident in Perak, Mr. J. W. W. Birch. The Ipoh Town Council plans to turn it into a park with trees and benches at a cost of about $8,000.”

    Now, this journalist might have mistaken the man honoured, or he might have got it right. Who’s to say Birch Jr. wouldn’t have a change of heart on who to honour after the first snippet of 1912? Besides, mistake could happen either way – the 1912 snippet could have been wrong in the first place.

    • ika says:

      Funnily enough Christopher of ipohWorld also found the same 1912 snippet this afternoon while I was out. He also found exactly the same words in the Singapore Free Press dated 17 October 1912.

      Therefore, taking into account the other press cuttings above, it is clear that we have to amend our database, the word Memorial having led us astray earlier. Such is the life of an archivist! The question is what date to use the construction of the fountain? It is doubtful that the roadworks would have been completed instantly and the fountain would take some time ti construct including the pipework which takes us into 1913or later.

      So gentlemen of Ipoh, shall we use c1915 as the best guess?

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear ika

        shall we use c1915 as the best guess?

        Months and weeks ago, as you can still see above, I quoted from articles published in the Malay Mail and the Straits Times, including the article dated October 14, 1912 that has now come to your attention.

        As for a best guess, here’s what I wrote above (six months ago):

        Birch died in 1929. The fountain was built before that; I can’t remember exactly when but probably by 1912; and certainly by 1917 or 1918 at the very latest.

        That was, and still is, my best guess, in the sense that its guaranteed to be accurate.

        Whereas if you want to take a small risk in order to narrow things down, I think you could say the fountain was built circa 1912-1913. I believe the fountain was there for at least a year before people began trooping off to fight the Kaiser.

        Plus if you are correcting the database, please look at my comment above dated April 13, 2017 at 7:07 pm, wherein you will find discussed other errors that perhaps ought to be corrected as well.

        • IKA says:

          OK. I asked for your opinion and I got it. Thank you for that. I shall be taking all the points made when I get around to making what effectively will be a 100% rewrite.

          6 months ago we were in a new office with no telephone or wifi, just a small dongle. We had one good computer between 4 of us and there is no doubt we were not up to scratch. That us the sort of problem you get when everything depends on sponsorship. Today we have 3 PC’s and a reasonable but slow wifi from Telecom. I for one am playing catch up which is why i have suddenly started responding.

          Hopefully we will do better in the future.

          • Ipoh Remembered says:

            Dear ika … Let me just say, as I have said before, I’m constantly amazed by what you and the rest of the ipohWorld crew have managed to build with such limited resources. In addition to the almost-daily posting (complete with puns, allusions, and little jokes), there are also the regular additions to the database (which I look for daily), and your off-line activities in the real world of Ipoh. Truly wonderful — and as you know, you have my gratitude.

        • NCK says:

          There’s nothing to be smug about. It is simple conclusion from the face value of the few archived news articles. You should be grateful to have me partake in the merry-go-round for your inability to prove your statements, rather than simply ignore you.

    • NCK says:

      Hi, IKA. I don’t think the fountain would have taken long to be assembled, perhaps just two weeks, when all its parts were available. By my interpretation of the 1937 Morning Tribune article (the fountain in full blast), the fountain wasn’t operational until 1937. By the face value of the 1918 Malaya Tribune article (the robbery), the fountain was at least present if not operational yet.

      I can only say construction took place between 1912 and 1918. When we find more information about the fountain, a better guess will be in order.

      I’m still bugged by my common sense and feel hesitant to accept that the fountain was called a memorial fountain when Birch Jr. was alive. So I suspect either it was Birch Sr. that was honoured, or the 1918 Malaya Tribune article had not addressed the fountain correctly. Of course I have not seen all monuments. Perhaps my common sense is not so correct.

      • IKA says:

        Thanks for your reply and I note the points made.

        Regarding the word memorial I believe it was a mistake that crept in at reporter level which got through the system and once there the mistake was repeated again and again. Not everybody spoke the King’s English back in 1912. Indeed many do mot today.

        • Ipoh Remembered says:

          Regarding the word memorial I believe it was a mistake

          I do not think it was, for reasons detailed above (see my comments of April 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm and especially May 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm).

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