Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

…from tomorrow, anyway. Yes…tomorrow – 20th January – will mark 144 years since the Treaty of Pangkor was signed.


picture from: Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya

Unfortunately we do not have a photo of the Treaty signing. This photograph was taken on Pangkor Island, 9 months after the treaty was signed, in September 1875 when Sir William Jervois visited Perak. At that time Perak was already in the hands of J W W Birch, the First British Resident. This photo is therefore 143 years old.

In the photograph surrounding the seated Sir William Jervois, who was a military engineer and Governor General of the Crown Colonies of the Straits Settlements, are (from left to right): Dr A F Anderson, Captain W Innes, Major J F A McNair, Lt H E McCallum, W Knaggs (in a suit), J W W Birch (standing on the Governor’s left), Captain Speedy (on the steps and bearded), Frank Swettenham (nonchalantly leaning against the handrail).


    • IKA says:

      Ipoh Remembered.

      According to “Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya”, Sir William Jervois, GCMG, CB was a military engineer and Governor General of the Crown Colonies of the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) at Singapore from May 8, 1875 to April 3, 1877. This photograph was taken on Pangkor Island in September 1875 when he visited Perak. At that time the Perak was in the hands of J W W Birch, the First British Resident. Thus the photo is 143 years old.

      I believe you have mistaken this photo with the Pangkor treatry signed between the British and the Sultan of Perak on 20 January 1874, on HMS Pluto, anchored off the island of Pangkor. Exactly 144 years ago today.

      I have amended the text under the photograph to be more explanatory.

  1. Ngai C O says:


    I personally struggle with the topic of colonisation although we have talked about what the British brought to Malaysia and what it took away. Really, what they took away was the essence in my mind. They even tried on China

    I have read some articles but am still formulating my opinion.

    Below are some write ups that I came across. There are many others especially by the Independent and Guardian Newspapers. Many were very disturbing to read due to the atrocities involved.

    British in Malaysia | Facts and Details

    Malaysia – The Impact of British Rule | History – Geography | Britannica

    National Archives release Colonial Papers | Wednesday 18 April | UK

  2. Mike Blakeway says:

    Very interesting photograph. I read through the brief biographies of the individuals on this Ipoh world site. Great information.

    The only comment I would make on colonialism is “don’t believe all you read in the Guardian newspaper” a very left wing rag that will tell you that the people of Russia were living in a workers paradise under Stalin at the same time as Britain had its Empire.

  3. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear IKA … If you look at the top of the post, it says:

    Yes…tomorrow – 20th January – will mark 143 years since the Treaty of Pangkor was signed.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Mike,

      I would like to point out that all the major UK dailies ran similar articles.

      Also, debates involving parties of opposing divides have been going on at major universities like Oxford.

      All these initiatives are commendable and should be applauded.

      Ultimately, the agenda is really to seek a closure of some sort.

      Their reports were based on the release of hitherto classified records, many of which were apparently destroyed or went missing either deliberately/otherwise.

      I did not mention in my posting about the Financial Times, the Times and the Telegraph simply because they are subscription papers

  4. Mike Blakeway says:

    UK newspapers, like your own Malaysian newspapers, all have journalists, owners and editors with a particular political/social/economic viewpoint. The Guardian is very left wing and always has been since its inception. Its articles are always written to reflect a specific political/ideological standpoint and they push a specific agenda. However so does the Telegraph which is right of centre. My point was that one needs to get a balance of views which you seem to agree with. A rule of thumb is that the “truth” seems to lie about midpoint between the Guardian and the Telegraph.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Mike,

      I hear what you are trying to get at but I have not found my bearings as yet.

      You are entitled to your own views, whatever it is.

      I am still following the debates that are going on both sides of the pond, those who were subjected to colonialism and those whose forebears were colonisers.

      As for Malaysian media, who knows better than from the horse’s mouth but that is entirely a different matter.

  5. Ipoh Remembered says:

    This photograph was taken on Pangkor Island, 9 months after the treaty was signed, in September 1875 when Sir William Jervois visited Perak.

    Yes, Jervois visited Perak in September, 1875 — yet this was not 9 months but a full 21 months after the Treaty was signed (in January, 1874).


    Now, where was the photograph taken?

    This photograph was taken on Pangkor Island, […] in September 1875 when Sir William Jervois visited Perak.

    Yes, the photograph was taken in September, 1875; but no, it was not taken on Pangkor Island.

    Jervois never went to Pangkor, not in 1875 or at any other time. He did visit Perak in 1875, but he did not visit Pangkor. (Note also that between 1874 and 1937, Pangkor was not a part of Perak).

    So where was the photograph taken? When it appeared in your source — the book, Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya — this was the first time the photograph had been published, in 1908, more than three decades after it had been taken. The authors say it was taken on Pangkor Island, but they made (or relied on) a mistake. It was taken on September 15, 1875 at the Residency at Bandar Bharu, i. e., at James Birch’s home, 48 days before he was killed a mere two miles away.

    (Birch was in the process of building a new Residency at Bandar Bharu and he was buried at that new site. Today, Bandar Bharu as such no longer exists. For reference: it used to be where the Kinta River flowed into the Perak River.)


    Nor is the location the only mistake your source makes with regard to this photograph. And others, including historians, have made their own mistakes as well. Some have “identified” the seated figure as Governor Andrew Clarke. That’s obviously incorrect. Some have said that the photograph was taken in 1874 when the Pangkor Treaty was signed. That’s also incorrect. Others have said Birch is not in the photograph; and that’s incorrect, too.

    As for who is in the picture:

    The seated figure is Governor Jervois, no doubt.

    As for the rest, I’ll address your list in order:

    Anderson: Yes. He was a surgeon stationed in Singapore who had come up on the trip with Jervois.

    Innes: Yes. He was an engineer stationed in Penang. In the British attack on Pasir Salak five days after Birch was assassinated, Innes was killed in battle — shot in the heart — and he was buried next to Birch in Bandar Bharu.

    McNair: No. Born in 1828, McNair was 47 years old in 1875. The young man identified as McNair is in fact Lieutenant McCallum, Private Secretary to Governor Jervois.

    McCallum: No (see above). So who is it? The best analysis I’ve seen, performed in the late 1980s, examined other photographs in which ostensibly the same person can be found and concluded that he is Henry Plow — but I’ve subsequently established that Plow died at sea in 1874 on his way to a posting in Africa, so it cannot be him. Who it is I am not sure … yet.

    Knaggs: No, it’s Francis Stirling, Commander of the Thistle, on which vessel Jervois and his party had come up from Singapore. Knaggs was not traveling with Jervois but did meet the Governor earlier in Larut. (If it’s any consolation, one of his sons, Albert, spent a great deal of time in Ipoh between 1895 and 1911. When Treacher (yes, that Treacher) and Leech (yes, that Leech) retired from the board of Kramat Pulai Tin in 1914, Knaggs, by then at home in the UK, took their place. Within two years he was Chairman of the company. Some of his descendants are still in Malaysia, perhaps even in Ipoh, although by now they are all mostly Chinese.)

    Birch: Yes. What’s more, if you look closely you see the head of a man who is standing behind Birch: that man is Major McNair.

    Speedy: Yes. (Incidentally, notice how very tall he is.)

    Swettenham: Yes, without a doubt.


    A final question: Who took the photograph?

    It was probably not an official photographer: there is no record of one being on the trip; and strangely enough, no print of the photograph was sent to the Colonial Office in London.

    My own conclusion, shared by some, is that the photograph was taken using one of Birch’s own cameras. The Resident was known to be an amateur photographer. Images he had captured when he worked for the Public Works Department in Ceylon had even been sold as postcards. In Perak, he had trained his helpers to work his cameras so that they could take photographs of him — and that is what I suspect happened in this case.

  6. ika says:

    Hi Ipoh nRemembered, thanks for all the above. However if I an going to record that the 1908 book is wrong, it would be useful to know where the correct information comes from. Can you help with that please before I start on a rewrite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>