PSPA’s Brand New Musical Show, “Shiny Black Gold” depicts the life of an imaginary coolie who came to Ipoh from China to make his fortune from tin mining. In order to support the show, ipohWorld put on a small exhibition of artifacts which stressed the main aspects of the musical. Above you can see the story of the coolie at work and the dulang washer’s life.
The show is very true to life and also featured the coolie’s 4 Evils from which he suffered – The Triad Brotherhood, Gambling, Opium and Prostitution. This table features the last three, with old gambling tokens, a full opium smoker’s outfit and a book about local Japanese Prostitution – in 1921 there were at least 50 Japanese prostitutes resident in Ipoh.
Of course the coolies lived in the kongsi and here we feature communal eating by the light of an oil lamp.
Today, Sunday, is your last opportunity to see the show and visit the exhibition. There are two shows today at 4.00pm and 8.00pm and if you would like a ticket then there may be a chance if you phone 0125088818. Do it NOW.
Your ipohWorld hosts IKA and Felicia will be there to welcome you from 3.00pm.
Perak Society of Performing Arts presents their very own in-house production titled Shiny Black Gold – a story recalling the ‘glory days’ of tin mining in Perak. Interestingly, the cast of this production are fellow Perakians!
This musical will be held at Taman Budaya (along Tambun Road), from Friday 20 May till Sunday 22 May 2011. Show times are 4pm (Saturday and Sunday matinee) and at 8pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The above brochure is an old version and will be replaced by the new one as soon as we get it.
For further details/reservations, please contact PSPA (05-5487814) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Tin Mining in Malaysia: the Osborne & Chappel Story” was launched today by YB Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, Minister of Tourism Malaysia, in conjunction with the opening of Gopeng Museum’s second premises, the Heritage House, Gopeng.
The book, written by David Palmer, who was part of O & C in Malaysia from 1960 until he retired, and Michael Joll, also an O & C employee for many years, covers tin mining in Malaysia over 200 years, with a short history of the mining industry from the early Colonial days until tin was no longer important in the 1990’s.
It also covers the span of O & C’s long and important involvement in the tin industry of the Kinta tin fields and the towns of Gopeng and Ipoh and tells what happened when the tin mines closed down.
For the technically minded a section of the book describes the various mining techniques.
With 352 pages, hard covered and featuring a wealth of original illustrations, the book is priced at RM100 / GBP20 (excluding packing and postage). It is available direct from the Gopeng Museum or can be ordered by email to email@example.com.
I have got my copy so make sure you get yours. It is good value and will make a darn good read as well as a definitive reference book for those who do not remember the tin mining heydays of the Kinta Valley.
We received the following email and a number of family photographs recently from a lady named Judy and, as we usually do, would very much like to help with this enquiry which reads:
“I am researching my family history and trying find out as much as possible – of whatever type, good and bad – about my mother’s family. She was born Joan Marjorie Joseph(e) in 1930, in Ipoh, one of 13 children to a family of, I believe, tin miners. Amongst her siblings were Clarence, Clive, Kenny, and Patricia. In 1957 she married James Gardner, a rubber planter who had managed plantations in Ipoh and later at Rasa. the family may have, let us say an ‘interesting and colourful’ history and would be most interested – as I said, good or bad – to learn whatever I can.”The above photo is described by Judy as:
“The Gardner-Joseph wedding photo is, of course, my parents wedding.
You’ll see that my Aunty Pat has been scratched out – my mother’s doing, I’m afraid! I would be particularly interested in identifying the other people shown and where it took place.”
These additional photographs feature Vivian and Joan Joseph (left) and the wedding of brother Kenny to a lady named Helen.
Finally we have a single photo of “Auntie Girlie” as an officer in the Malaysian prison service, in Ipoh in 1967. Her badge of rank is one pip on her shoulder. Recognise her? If so please let us know.
All together we have 9 old photographs of this family and if anyone believes they know anything about them we shall be happy to email more to help with identification. We look forward to your help.
The photograph shows the view from the gate of the Matang Historical Complex which was originally Ngah Ibrahim’s fort built in 1865. It was initially simply a home for Ngah Ibrahim, who after his elephant went tin mining became a powerful and wealthy tin miner, but he fortified it to save himself from the Chinese triads of the Ghee Hin and Hai San who eventually went to war over tin mining rights and inadvertently brought the British to Perak.
Richer than the Sultan of Perak, he was appointed by the Sultan as Minister of Larut, but became involved in the plot against J W W Birch the British Resident, was charged with murder, found guilty and banished to the Seychelles. He was never permitted to return to Perak and died in Singapore in 1877. You may remember that his remains were found in a grave in Singapore in 2006, brought back to Perak and buried at his fort. Rightly or wrongly he had returned home.
The building has had many roles over the years: tax office and collection centre for the Larut tin trade; as a court to try Dato Maharaja Lela and Si Puntum for the murder of J W W Birch; the Matang primary school; and the first Malayan Teachers’ Training College, among others. Today the site is the Matang Historical Complex under the management of the Museum and Antiquities Department, proudly displaying that elephant.
Do visit the complex at some stage it really is very interesting and just next door is Captain Speedy’s house. Captain Speedy was of course the Perak Chief of Police in 1873 and appointed Assistant British Resident of Perak when the Pangkor Treaty was signed on the 20th January 1874.
This model of a full size elephant and handlers stands in the entrance to a building in Perak. Legend has it that one day he ran amok into the jungle and when he was finally caught he had a silvery substance smeared all over his left front leg. When his handlers had quietened him down enough to clean him up they found the substance was tin. The then Regent (there was no Sultan at the time) then gave all mining rights in the area to the owner of the elephant. True or not, it is a lovely story and is said to have started the tin boom and, later, wars between two Chinese miner clans, Hai San and Ghee Hin.
Now for the history buffs out there, where is the building, who owned the elephant and what was the date? No prizes given other than your knowledge of your local history being proudly displayed to the world.
Answers on Wednesday if you have not got them right by then.
This picture was taken a little over a year ago and shows the original accommodation for the tin mining coolies, known as the “Coolie Lines”. Here the coolies would eat and sleep when they were not slaving in the mines or visiting those places of entertainment in the town that provided either female company for a short while (!) or total relaxation “smoking the pipe”. Either way their hard earned-company tokens in which they were paid would be soon spent.
The mine itself was just a few metres above them, dug out of the hill upon which, at one time, the Government Rest House stood. But such was the power of the riches of tin, even that had to give way to the inevitable once prospectors found tin in its compound. Clearly a case of MCA, Money Conquers All.
The coolie lines were sited, not only close to the mine, but also in the middle of the British officers’ bungalows, on the hill overlooking the town. No doubt that was an unpopular move with the “Mem-saabs” at the time (Mem-saabs or Mem-sahibs was the form of respectful address for a European woman in Colonial times.) who would have felt in danger of their lives with these “natives” living so close by.
But now to the point of this post. Gopeng recently hit the world with its new museum and also floated the idea of a heritage town. What a great idea! Now, if the coolie lines are still standing (the photo is over a year old) they are large enough to provide space for a tin mining museum or gallery, something the Kinta Valley should have. So come on Gopeng, you have led the way in Perak with your museum, why not show Ipoh and the rest of the state what you can really do by starting our much needed Kinta Tin Mining Heritage Museum.
This photograph was one of literally hundreds that the famous German photographer took around 1900. August Kaulfuss was born and educated in Rohnstock, Silesia. He served in the German Navy for a couple of years then worked in the photographic studio of Otto van Bosch in Frankfurt. He arrived in Penang in 1883 and soon established a photographic firm at 9 Farquhar Street.
He travelled widely, mostly on foot, across almost all of the Malay Peninsula, from Province Wellesley in the north to Johore in the south as there were almost no roads or railways. Many of his photographs were made into picture postcards, a range of which are on the ipohWorld main site’s database. It is believed he returned to Germany before the First World War.
Some time ago Jeya mentioned that it is still possible to visit a bucket dredge some 10Km from Batu Gajah on the Tanjung Tualang Road. This is dredge number TT5 and it is open to visitors for a small entrance fee. You may walk on the dredge to get a feel for its massive size (4,500 tonnes weight) and talk to the man behind the project Steven Ng who seems to spend most of his life there.
This dredge, a museum piece, the last in Perak and one of only 3 left in Malaysia was built in 1938 by W F Payne & Sons and worked the mining pools in the Kinta vally for 44 years. It stopped working in 1983 when the price of tin dropped to a level where it was no longer an economic proposition. Today it sits in a man-made pond at Desa Perlombongan along the Tanjong Tualong Road and is well signposted.
Unfortunately the machinery no longer runs, but if you want to get an idea about how the dredge worked, click here and you will find the 11 different operations that took place on a dredge of this sort.
The picture shows an old , open cast, tin mine in Taiping during 1958. We are wondering what had happened to this mine. Can you help us ?
The scene is of course very typical of an abandoned mine with the mine itself now full of water and the sheds falling down. However the Palong still stands proud against the skyline.
“Perseverance is the key to success”. This is the motto that drives the poor dulang washer on the performance of her work. It is obvious to the meanest intellect that a dulang washer does not live a life of ease and luxury. She earns barely enough to feed herself and her family and her life is a hard one. Yet, she persists in her work because she hopes that one day she might succeed.
A dulang washer has neither tin-mines nor labourers to work for her. She obtains tin-ore from the rivers where anyone can help themselves to the alluvial tin-ore, though of course she has to obtain a licence first before she can begin to extract any alluvial tin from any river.
Very early in the morning, she busies herself around her shabby hut. She prepares a scanty meal for her still sleeping children and, having eaten a hurried breakfast of hot Chinese tea and some home-made cakes, she walks to work. Her husband has also gone to work for he works as a rubber tapper and has to be up early too. On her shoulders she carries a pole with a basket containing a big bowl of rice, a large bottle of weak Chinese tea and some vegetables on one side. Hanging on the other end, is a big, smooth-surfaced wooden dish called a “dulang”, a wide-brimmed hat made of rattan and an old wooden bucket, which is bound up tightly with rattan to prevent leakage. Around her neck she wears a faded red scarf. On her feet, she wears a pair of dirty old sandals which have been mended over and over again.
When she has walked a little distance away from her home, the sun rises and beats down upon her. Because she is afraid that the hot rays will tan her or give her sun-stroke, she hurriedly ties the scarf over her head and then places the wide-brimmed hat carefully over it. By the time she reaches the river, the sun is already shining very brightly and would have given her sun-stroke had it not been for the protection of the scarf and the hat. Thanks to the long sleeves she wears, her arms are not exposed to the sun.
She finds a cool place on the bank of the river and sits down to rest before starting work. A drink of the weak Chinese tea refreshes her. She would have made it stronger if she could have afforded to buy more Chinese tea leaves.
Taking the bucket and dulang, she walks to the edge of the river. There, she rolls up her trousers high above her knees and wades to the middle of it. She bends down and scoops up some tin-bearing soil from the river bed into the dulang. She holds the dulang a little below the level of the water and rotates it. The swirling water carries away the light soft soil and the heavy grains of tin-ore settle at the bottom of the dulang. She then empties the grains of tin-ore into the bucket. It takes much washing to obtain a handful of tin-ore and the poor woman’s work is tiring and tedious.
By noon, her bucket is only a quarter filled. She leaves her work and wades back to the bank for some lunch. On dry land, she inspects her legs and sees several leeches hanging on to them and sucking her blood. She is so immune to this sight that she calmly plucks them off and throws them away. She washes and dries her legs and then applies some Chinese ointment to the bites. She sits in a shady place and begins her hurried lunch. After working so long in the water, she enjoys the meal though the rice and vegetables are cold. She leaves some for the evening because she will not get home until about seven o’clock in the evening.
There is no rest after lunch for she returns to work immediately. Regardless of the passing time she works on. Even the beautiful reflection of the setting sun and the purple clouds in the water does not distract her. Only when darkness falls, does she return to the bank, eat the remaining food and pack to leave. She rolls down her trousers again and starts to walk wearily home.
She trudges to the town and sells her tin-ore to a tin-smelter. He weighs her tin-ore and calculates the amount of money that must be paid to her. Meanwhile, she helps herself to a warm cup of tea from the man’s tea-pot and rests her weary bones on a wicker chair. The man gives her the money and reluctantly she leaves the comfortable chair to start on the journey home.
When she returns to her simple and shabby abode, she again does not have the liberty to rest for she now has to prepare dinner for the family, with the help of her eldest daughter. The younger children wait impatiently for their dinner and while the tired dulang washer is preparing the long-awaited dinner, her youngest child watches, a seraphic look of innocence on his pale and wan face.
After dinner, she sends her children to sleep and then has the usual talk about their future with her husband. They both add some of the money they earn to their hidden ‘store’ which they sometimes count happily.
So, after a hard day’s work, she lies down on her wooden bed and stays awake for some time, thinking how wonderful it would be to be rich. But, exhaustion soon puts her to sleep.
This is a typical day for a poor dulang washer. Though her work is difficult and tiring, she never thinks about giving up her only means of income to take up some work that is beyond her knowledge.
Miss Yvonne Chew,
Lower Six Arts 1952
St. Michael’s Institution
The story above is extracted from The Michaelian 1952, an annual magazine by St. Michael’s Institution Ipoh.
by Sir George Maxwell, KBE, CMG.
When Sir George first travelled from Taiping to Batu Gajah by gharry, sampan and pony in 1891 most of the Kinta Valley was under primeval forest. Sir George who retired as Chief Secretary to the FMS Government in 1926, celebrated his eightieth birthday in 1952, but like all men great or not so great, it was eventually time for him to pass on – but not before he left us this memory:
“…the general transport system of Kinta at that time. Everything brought into the district travelled from Teluk Anson in large houseboats poled up the river by Chinese or foreign Malays, and all the tin ore and other produce went down river. Kota Bahru was the lowest landing station..The first metalled road in the district ran from Kota Bahru to Gopeng, which was then by far the most important mining centre. Batu Gajah was the next landing station. Then came Pengkalan Pegu, which served Lahat and Menglembu. Finally there was Ipoh, where all navigation ended.
Above it, there was a shallow stream of pure mountain water ………
Much of the tin ore from the mines and the provisions for the miners was carried by elephants: and every day half a dozen or more of them were standing outside the shop houses in Ipoh, Sungei Raia and Gopeng.”
In 1920, Wong Jee Seong (Wong), an immigrant from China, was employed as a bank clerk in Ipoh, earning the princely sum of $28 per month. In those days this was a handsome wage as a full bag of rice only cost 12 cents. A regular attendee at St Michael’s Church in Brewster Road, Ipoh, Wong, his mother, wife (Choong Kee Chin)and family lived happily at 241 Brewster Road in a nice house, rented from the Church. A stable family, well thought of in the community, the house was often full of friends, one of whom was the then Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Perak, Dato’ Panglima Bukit Gantang, a frequent visitor. It was a risk free, stable and comfortable life.
But the tranquility was soon shattered by a friend’s proposal that Wong should enter a partnership with Lee Ah Weng and others to engage in tin mining rather than continuing with his humdrum life with the bank. The proposer ‘guaranteed’ a certain fortune from an unworked hill mine in Selibin, adjacent to the River Parit, near Ipoh. The mine was later named Beatrice after the daughter of the British mining engineer they employed. Wong took the bait and immediately left the secure employment of the bank and invested his meagre savings in the partnership known as the Tong Ying Kongsi. It was a great gamble for a family man.
Initially the profits failed to meet the expectations of the group, but nonetheless there was enough tin to make mining worthwhile and so they persevered. In July 1923 however the gamble paid off in a very big way, for the mine, bored into a limestone hill, had hit what was known as a pipe – a tubular vein of ore running into the hill and close to the surface. This pipe was around 20 feet in diameter and around 850 feet long, producing almost 100% pure tin ore worth a veritable fortune as was the by-product of white arsenic they sold to Australia. It was the jealous European miners who it is said coined the expression, “As rich as the Beatrice Mine” which thereafter, in Ipoh, indicated nothing less than fabulous wealth.
The workers extracted the ore in as large a chunks as they could manage. It was then transported, unwashed, to the Wong home in Brewster Road where Wong’s brother and family lived in a hut in the grounds. Here it was broken up into smaller, manageable, pieces and loaded into canvas bags, which were then sewn up. Again, no washing was required as the ore was so pure. Once a load of bags were ready, they were sold to the Eastern Smelters Company in Belfield Street, where, next door, there was a tin buyers shop who bought the small yields of tin that the part-time ‘dulang washers’ the wives and daughters of Ipoh men, managed to wrench from the Kinta River.
With such a vast quantity of almost pure ore, the partnership became extremely rich and soon Wong joined the band of prosperous ‘Tin Towkays’ of Ipoh. Of course, in the style of the day, such prosperity had to be demonstrated by material wealth and so one of Wong’s first purchases was a Cadillac motor car, believed to be the first Cadillac in Ipoh. Racehorses followed and soon Wong was a member of the newly formed Perak Turf Club (19261) and the proud owner of four racehorses. Of these four, only one name has been recorded for posterity – ‘Soldier Boy’ – which won four consecutive races, quite a feat all those years ago.
Legend has it that the Sultan of Perak, also a racehorse owner wanted to buy ‘Soldier Boy’, but the horse was not for sale. At that time Wong was a leading member of the Club as an original guarantor for setting it up, one of the first members and a successful owner. Our former bank clerk had arrived in style. At the time, the first Chairman of the Club was F Douglas Osbourne, also a prominent name in tin mining circles.
Other demonstrations of wealth soon followed with Wong and wife departing on long holidays to England and Europe in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. Trips to the Chinese homeland followed and life continued to be good for the Wongs and their growing offspring. However, despite their ever increasing wealth, the family never moved from 241 Brewster Road to their own house while Wong was alive. It is true that he tried to buy the old property from the church many times but the house (like ‘Soldier Boy’) was not for sale. A stones throw from the Church, the family were just ‘too comfortable’ in the old house and as regular church-goers it was all too convenient to pop along to the church ‘almost next door’.
But, as they say, ‘all good things come to an end’, for one day in the late 1930’s the mining manger reported a disaster – the lode had petered out. The partnership could not believe such a thing and insisted that the mine should continue. Money started to be lost, but they would not give in, instructing their manager to continue to search the hill in which the original lode had been, but still there was no tin and losses started to build up to a level where racehorses had to be sold and other economies made. But Wong was convinced that tin was there if only it could be located and judging the line on which the lode had run he ordered the River Parit to be dammed and diverted so that they might mine the river bed. No tine was found and the fortune continued to diminish. A second diversion of the river followed with more losses and Wong and family were back to where they had started in 1920 with no car or trappings of wealth. In some ways fortunate for them the Japanese invasion of Malaya in 1941 brought this saga to an end and the family continued to live in their home in Belfield Street until Wong passed on. At that time they moved to a new, smaller home and the story of the Beatrice Lode Mine was complete.
1 Horse racing in Perak actually first started in Taiping in 1886. Taiping being the oldest town in the country, It was then known as the Taiping Turf Club. In 1926, the Perak Turf Club was formed in Ipoh at the site on which it still stands.
Postscript. The details of this tale were kindly provided by the grandson of Wong Jee Seong, Antony Teh, a retired school teacher from St Michael’s Institution.