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Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow
    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear sk

      Despite the caption above which suggests that the photograph was taken in 1959, I have to tell you that the bust was removed in 1958.

      That was sixty years ago … so … yes … perhaps you should explore the area again one of these days!

      • IKA says:

        Ipoh Remembered. We based the date on Charlie, sitting on the steps. He was bot in the second half 1957 and he looks about two years old. Thus 1959. So far, most local people hazard a guess about the date of removal of the bust and that is usually 1970’s. I am therefore very interested to know where the date of removal is published please.
        I have a nice colour postcard (unused) of the tower with the bust printed as part of the Georgetown Dispensary Series, Ipoh.
        Do you have any idea when the Dispensary closed its doors in Ipoh please?

  1. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear felicia

    In database item 1037 I found this:

    the bust and dedication have both since disappeared, probably in the wave of anti-British sentiment that took place in the late 1980’s.

    as well as the following:

    the image of Mohammad (pbun), the last Prophet of Islam, was painted over in the 1990s due to objections from Muslims to the depiction of the Prophet.

    Both estimates are incorrect.

    The portrayal of the Prophet was the subject of protests in Ipoh beginning in early 1956. By 1958, the state government, which owned the Clock Tower, had no choice but to act: the image was chiseled away and the remnants whitewashed.

    A month or two later, still in 1958, the government removed the Birch bust. During the on-going protests over the portrayal of the Prophet, an Ipoh town councillor had raised an objection to the presence of the bust itself. The Town Council declined the state’s invitation to get involved; and so the state acted.

    I provided these corrections last year under the post entitled “Update on Old Town” (see my comments there dated March 13 and August 11).

    ——

    NOTES:

    The protests over the portrayal of the Prophet were organized by a group of Muslim activists with an office in the Cheng Bok building on Brewster Road. When I discuss the building again, I can provide a bit more detail.

    And the Ipoh town councillor who first raised the objection to the presence of the Birch bust was an Alliance member. His name escapes me at the moment but if someone were to surface a list of Ipoh’s town councillors in 1958, I would likely recognise him.

  2. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear IKA

    So far, most local people hazard a guess about the date of removal of the bust and that is usually 1970′s. I am therefore very interested to know where the date of removal is published please.

    As symbolic an act as it was, it ought to be mentioned in any good history of the merdeka period.

    But for the moment: In my copy of A History of Malaysia by Barbara and Leonard Andaya, the removal of the bust is mentioned briefly on page 282. (They don’t mention the Town Councillor, of course, but, for your purposes, they do confirm the date.)

    I have a nice colour postcard (unused) of the tower with the bust printed as part of the Georgetown Dispensary Series, Ipoh.
    Do you have any idea when the Dispensary closed its doors in Ipoh please?

    I knew the Dispensary well enough in its heyday but I was not in Ipoh to witness its demise. It was still there in the early 1980s but, if I had to guess, I’d guess it did not make it very much further. As for when the company stopped publishing those famous postcards … not later than the 1970s, I’d guess (but it’s only a guess).

  3. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear IKA

    I see you’re busy! In (new) database item 9114 I find the following:

    However the bust was removed by the State Government in deference to the local Muslims who do not accept graven images, statues or idols in Islam.

    While the removal of the image of the Prophet was, indeed, on religious grounds, the removal of the Birch bust was, at the time, entirely a political statement.

  4. S.Y. says:

    I don’t think the bust was removed in the 1950s. I remember still seeing it in the 1970s. More likely it was either in the late 1970s that it was removed

  5. ika says:

    OK Ipoh Remembered, I am glad you read the new item, but where does that out us with regard to the statement by SY who says abovr “I remember still seeing it (the bust) in the 1970s”?

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear IKA

      Eventually I will send you some notes based on minutes of Town Council meetings held in 1958. I remember a sarcastic remark made by D. R. Seenivasagam as well as a sort of disclaimer put forward by Liew Why Hone, who wanted it made clear that the request to remove the bust came from one councillor only, not the council as a whole.

      For now all I can suggest is that you post the book excerpt I sent you by e-mail, in which historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya note that the bust was removed in 1958. And notice that the book was published in the early 1980s …

  6. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear S.Y.

    The object you recall seeing there in the 1970s: Could it have been something other than the 1909 bust of Birch?

    Also, do you have an answer to the other question IKA raised: When did the Georgetown Dispensary close its doors in Ipoh?

    Thanks.

    • S.Y. says:

      Dear Ipoh Remembered,

      As a boy, I used to visit my grandfather, who was a remarkable man (he came from China, was a tin miner, rubber estate owner and later turned registered dentist – there was a shortage of dentist after the second World War and registered dentist was the norm). His shop was in Panglima Street. It was quite often that I went to the clock tower which was quite close by. From my frequent visits I have seen the bust of Birch and so I could not be mistaken. Subsequently, when I started practice in 1969, my employer was in Hale Street (known as the lawyers’ row) and almost every day I was going to court (High Court or the Magistrate’s court) and I would pass by the clock tower and I noticed the bust of Birch there. I did not pay attention but definitely in the 1970s it was there. When it was removed I cannot say. I do not have any documentary proof unfortunately as to when it was removed.

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi S Y.

        I have checked and confirm what you said regarding the bust.

        That aside, there were plenty of hawker stalls at the corner of the OCBC building, where officeworkers would buy their lunch.

        And more next to the post office. Cheap, cheerful and tasty.

        Petition writers were abound by the huge fig tree, which provided much needed shade from the intense sun.

  7. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Above I explained that the original bust of James Birch was removed by the state government in 1958. Contemporary periodicals recorded the removal and then historians did so, too, as late as 1982.

    However, given remarks by IKA and the comment posted above by S.Y., I looked further into the matter and found that a bust of Birch was removed from the Clock Tower in … 1999!

    Was the original bust returned to the site after 1982 and then removed again in 1999? Or was a replacement installed after 1982 and then removed in 1999? I’m not sure.

    At any rate I’ve sent IKA the text of two newspaper articles that document the removal of a bust in 1999. According to these articles, one from the New Straits Times and the other from the Malay Mail, the state government had no idea where the bust went, and, indeed, appealed for its return on the basis of its historical value.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      I do not want to be a spoiler and give away too much.

      I can confirm the bust was there in 1989 and so was the Prophet artwork.

  8. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    Above I wrote:

    The portrayal of the Prophet was the subject of protests in Ipoh beginning in early 1956. By 1958, the state government, which owned the Clock Tower, had no choice but to act: the image was chiseled away and the remnants whitewashed. […] The protests […] were organized by a group of Muslim activists.

    Here’s an excerpt from the Straits Times, 17 July, 1958:

    Ipoh, Wed. — The Perak branch of the All-Malaya Muslim Missionary Society yesterday succeeded in getting rid of an “offensive” painting of the Prophet Mohamed which had adorned the Birch Memorial clock tower here for half a century.

    A P. W. D. workman quietly chipped away at the offending figure of the Prophet about 30 feet up the tower.

    After two hours of chipping the figure of the Prophet […] vanished into crumbling masonry.

    In light of this journalistic account dating back to 1958, what indication do we have that the image of the Prophet was still there in 1989?

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      You have created doubts now in my mind. Let me check and get back to you. I might just have seen double or seen the wrong facet.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      There is an article J.W.W. Birch | Revolvy that said the Prophet was painted over in the 90s.

      There are references below from which it sourced its information.

  9. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    There is an article J.W.W. Birch | Revolvy that said the Prophet was painted over in the 90s. There are references below from which it sourced its information.

    Thanks for looking into the question. The “Revolvy” article is a version of a Wikipedia article. I checked the specific reference: it points to a web-site that does not provide any sources (credible or otherwise). I think it should simply be ignored.

    Here’s another example of things that should simply be ignored:

    The Ipoh railway station was initially meant to be a hospital and used before the 20th century as such before being turned into a station. The original completion year of 1917 was delayed for three years due to lack of construction materials as well as high costs during World War I. Designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, it was first constructed and opened in 1935, making it the second concrete station to be constructed in the town.

    Except for the reference to Hubback, the whole paragraph is moonshine, and yet it exists on the Internet.

    And even when it comes to published sources, such as articles in newspapers, they are not all created alike. A newspaper article that reports on a recent occurrence is much more reliable than an article that tries to tell us about history.

    For example:

    Let’s review the construction of the clock tower. By its general appearance it’s been there a long time. But how long? I found the best person to ask for information is Kumar, who runs the nearby Ipoh Bookstall. Most people buy a newspaper or magazine from him to read over their coffee. He can tell you the tower has been there since 1917. […] (The picture [of the Prophet] was removed officially from the Ipoh memorial by the Religious Department of the Ipoh City Council in the early 1970s.)

    Moonshine — and it appeared in the New Straits Times (“Clock tower with a riddle,” September 21, 1998, p. 8).

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      Thanks Ipoh Remembered.

      After I posted the link, I checked again and found that Revolvy hijacks from other sources.

  10. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear ika

    With regard to your question about updating database entry 9114, I appreciate the difficulty — and thanks for taking it on. I see that the entry now says the following:

    So the question remains with us. Was the bust removed in 1958 (as planned) and replaced at a later date or was it always there until 1999 when it was reported missing?

    This question side-steps the 1982 testimony of historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya who say flat out that “the Perak State Council removed the bust of J. W. W. Birch from Ipoh’s memorial clock tower” in 1958. Their assertion is now quoted in the database entry and comports with my memory as well.

    In other words, my own time-line goes something like this:

      1907: Bust completed by the scultor and cast in bronze.
      1909: Clock Tower inaugurated, bust of Birch unveiled.
      1958: Bust removed by state government, as I recall.
      1982: Historians state that bust was removed in 1958.
        —
      1999: Local papers suggest the (or a) bust has recently vanished.

    Whereas I (or you) still have to address the recollections of S.Y. and others who intermittently saw a (or the) bust in situ at various times.

    If only there were a photograph that showed the bust in place between 1958 and 1999 …

    I should add that if the bust was stolen, I can only hope it was not simply destroyed. The sculptor was an artist of some renown.

    ——

    And about the offending faïence image that was removed in 1958 … did you see above that I quoted from a 1958 Straits Times article that details its removal?

    As I noted earlier, the image had to be chiseled away (and not simply painted over). Because the artists at Doulton had set down their images on a wet glaze before the tiles were fired in a kiln, simply painting over the fired glaze would have been ineffective.

    In one of life’s smaller ironies, the glaze Doulton used was made of tin oxide mined in the Kinta Valley, not too far from where the memorial was erected.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      The intrigue of the bust and the painting of the Prophet meanwhile continues to buzz us.

      I am sure many people would have taken photos over the years and may come forward to update readers.

      When?

    • ika says:

      As I read it the extract you gave me from of historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya dies not say the bust was removed in 1958, only that it was planned to be removed. Is there any other reference in the book which confirms the removal?
      As I mentioned earlier I have a colour photograph (postcard) which shows the bust and is almost certainly after 1958. but as it is unused and undated cannot be used as evidence.
      I therefore believe that database article is correct until proved wrong.
      Personally I am in no doubt that the Straits Times is correct regarding the destruction of the image.

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear ika

        As I read it the extract you gave me from of historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya dies not say the bust was removed in 1958, only that it was planned to be removed. Is there any other reference in the book which confirms the removal?

        I am not sure how you are reading that excerpt. It says unequivocally that the bust was removed in 1958. (I’ve even quoted the relevant part above.)

        As I mentioned earlier I have a colour photograph (postcard) which shows the bust and is almost certainly after 1958. but as it is unused and undated cannot be used as evidence.

        Perhaps there is something else visible in the photograph that can be used to date it?

        • ika says:

          I will have another look at the postcard.

          I took your historian’s quotation with a pinch of salt as there are so many reports that counter the removal of the bust in 1958. After all, do they give a reference for their claim?
          This morning I spoke with James Devadason, a prominent local history buff, who was featured in the 1999 newspaper report and he says that he was with members of Badan Warisan when they discovered it missing and he is absolutely sure it was there earlier that year.
          He also says that the “Painted out” figure was sandblasted away not chipped out and that it was not Mohammad but a Christian figure (Jesus?).
          He will check the facts with Badan warisan.

  11. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear S.Y.

    Thanks for sharing more of your memories. As you may have noticed, I’m still trying to reconcile my memories with yours.

    About your grandfather who became a dentist and had a clinic on Panglima Street: By any chance was his establishment near the corner of Panglima Street and Belfield Street? There was a Chinese dentist there but I think he moved to Brewster Road after the war.

  12. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear ika

    This morning I spoke with James Devadason, a prominent local history buff, who was featured in the 1999 newspaper report and he says that he was with members of Badan Warisan when they discovered it missing and he is absolutely sure it was there earlier that year.

    Well, I’ve never doubted that something went missing in 1999. The question is only what it was: (1) the original unveiled in 1909 or, if that original was removed in 1958, then (2) the original, it having been returned after being removed; or (3) something else, perhaps a replica, installed at some point in place of the original.

    He also says that the “Painted out” figure was sandblasted away not chipped out and that it was not Mohammad but a Christian figure (Jesus?).

    The original figure was holding a blade of some sort, and a book with a star and crescent on it …

    Plus if you take a look in the ipohWorld database (item 7345), there is an e-book wherein someone has provided a list of all the people portrayed on the sides of the clock tower: Jesus is not listed but you-know-who is …

    He will check the facts with Badan warisan.

    Glad to hear it.

    Thanks again for following up on this.

    • IKA says:

      One point, It was me that arranged to have the photos of the four panels taken and then I took the names from a university document (Singapore I think.) There was no reference where the author got his information.

  13. sk says:

    Ipoh Remembered : Thanks for pointing out Item 7345. Its a very rich cultural art & history. Whoever thought of this deserved a credit. In Panel A, there was a Fourth Figure from the Left of an Egyptian woman breast feeding a baby – depicting Baby Moses or Mother Mary ?
    IKA – who wrote the details & can we have a link to the ebook. Thanks.

  14. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear IKA

    One point, It was me that arranged to have the photos of the four panels taken and then I took the names from a university document (Singapore I think.) There was no reference where the author got his information.

    Thanks very much for arranging to have the photographs taken.

    If there is a reference in the database to the Singapore document from which you took the names of those portrayed, I missed it. In any event the omission of Jesus from the list is correct, as is the inclusion of you-know-who.

    By e-mail I am sending you a scan of an old, damaged, and semi-restored photograph which shows the panel in question before it was edited in 1958. I don’t imagine it’s advisable to post or share the image in any way — in fact, I am almost certain it’s not, nor do I imagine it’s necessary to correct anyone else’s mistaken memory — but you can look it to confirm for yourself whose portrayal was taken out.

    • IKA says:

      I look forward to seeing that – not arrived yet. Thanks.
      There is no reference in the database to the source document from Singapore. I believe it was the student’s final thesis and we had a bad photocopy of it. I will see if I can find it.

  15. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear sk

    Thanks for pointing out Item 7345. Its a very rich cultural art & history. Whoever thought of this deserved a credit.

    Yes, and even more impressive, the architects gave Doulton and Co. only a general theme: “the Progress of Civilisation.” And only this theme was conveyed to the company’s head designer, and from it he, and presumably his staff, created the panoply that we see.

    It should be clear that Doulton in those days was not simply a firm that made tea-cups: it was a premier design establishment, almost an art academy in itself.

    Similarly, the sculptor who created the bust of Birch was also a master of his art.

    It’s a tribute to the organisers of the memorial that they were able to obtain the services of all these accomplished artists even though they were unable to raise as much money for the project as they had set out to raise.

    In Panel A, there was a Fourth Figure from the Left of an Egyptian woman breast feeding a baby – depicting Baby Moses or Mother Mary ?

    No, the woman and the man to the right of her are together supposed to represent the Iron Age.

    Moses, holding a tablet, is the first figure on the left in Panel B.

    can we have a link to the ebook.

    Is there not a link provided towards the end of the database item?

  16. sk says:

    Thanks IKA & Ipoh Remembered for the link. That link provided has only the Murals & The description. I am looking for the entire e book link, if there is one.
    IKA did further added the writer was a student researching the life of Leong Sin Nam.
    Thanks all for the info.

  17. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear sk

    I am looking for the entire e book link, if there is one.

    If you saw a PDF file named “7345_jsx0q140621.pdf” … that is the e-book referred (and linked) to in database entry 7345. I don’t think any other e-book was meant.

    As for a connection to the life of Leong Sin Nam, I cannot think of any. In 1906, when planning for the clock tower began, I’m not sure he was in a position to contribute much money. Among the Chinese miners in Ipoh at the time, it was the older generation — people like Foo Choo Choon — who took the lead.

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