Developers of 18th century Pinang

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The Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia was a famous scholarly series edited by J.R. Logan. In the New Series, Vol. II, No. 2—1857, published in 1859 in Singapore, the following abstract can be found. It is taken from an article titled “Notes on the Malays of Pinang and Province Wellesley”, written by J.D. Vaughan, and was purportedly related to the author by one of Haji Brunie’s sons.

Since the details are largely hearsay passed down by a son of Haji Brunie to Vaughan, caution should be exercised in accepting them as facts.

The possession of the island took place on August 11, 1786. The battle at Kuala Prai and the destruction of the fort there occurred in 1788 after the sultan of Kedah had failed to get military assistance from the English. After failing to order the English off the island, he amassed 6,000 to 8,000 men, and placed them at the mouth of the Prai River. Francis Light led a sudden attack on the forts that were being built there and routed the sultan’s troops. With that victory and the signing of a treat on May 1, 1791, Light secured his occupation of the island of Penang.

What is of greater interest, at least to me, is how speedy the process of development on Penang Island in the first two decades after Light arrived was. Herein are mentioned the “development projects” in exotic spelling—Jullutung, Datu Cramat, Batu Lanchang and Glughore; Batu Uban, Sunghie Nibong, Sungei Kluang, Bayan Lepas, Permattang Dammar Laut and Batu Mow; and Telluk Coomber, Bali Pulo and Ayer Itam.

Narrative of Haji Mahomed Salleh, commonly called Haji Brunie.—The English came to take possession of Penang in three vessels, one of three masts, and two of two masts. One was commanded by Captain Light who was called Datu Nadore by the Malays [the word Nadore is probably a corruption of Commodore]. One brig was commanded by Captain Farkar (Farquhar) and one by Captain Linsi (Lindsay?); they came from Bengal and remained at anchor off Kiddah for three days.

Mohame Salleh or Haji Brunie, the narrator, was a native of Brunie and had just returned from Arabia, he was residing then in Quala Prye waiting for a vessel bound to Borneo.

After presenting handsome presents and the Governor General’s letter to the Rajah they crossed over to Tanjong Panagar as the Island was then called. The Rajah sent his war prahus in charge of a Datu, who had instructions to make the Island over to the English in due form.

After the English hoisted their flag and took possession of the Island, they fired shots at the shore for three days without ceasing; the Haji asked the reason for so doing and he was informed that it was the English custom to fire for several days at a new settlement for the purpose of driving away the devils therefrom. On the fourth day they landed and lived in tents. Captain Light found about thirty persons living on the beach, the head man was called Nacodah Kechil. Mr Light got him to clear the jungle, assisted by Malays from the Kiddah side. Fifteen dollars were paid for cutting down and uprooting a large tree, and for the smaller trees the reward was proportionately reduced. Capt. Light brought native Sepoys with him from Bengal.

Haji Mahomed Salleh came over from Quedah and took service under Nacodah Kechil. As soon as a clearance was made, a fort was built.

A strong nibong fence was made in the shape of a square and a bank of earth was thrown up against it thirty feet wide; then another fence was made. In the narrow square wooden houses were built for the Europeans. Haji Mutsalleh asked leave to clear a space in the country for himself, the permission was granted and assisted by Nacodah Kechil and others they cleared the land on which the village of Jullutong now stands.

The Malays that came over with Light got free grants of land and they cleared the jungle where Datu Cramat now stands. Seven years after the English came, a person named Danbie Chand cleared the land about Batu Lanchang. Two years after a Captain Scott cleared the land at Glughore; he was assisted by a man named Mahomed Prie of Sungora.

Nacodah Intan cleared Batu Uban. A year after an European named Raboo (?) assisted by a Malay named Hakim Tudoh cleared Sunghie Nibong.

A Malay named Loh Munu cleared Sungei Kluang.

Haji Mahomed Salleh three years after this, or about twelve after coming to Pinang, settled at Bayan Lepas with a man named Long Syed. The Haji on his return from Mecca touched at Acheen and Quedah, and married a native of the latter country and settled there. He came across a few days after Light came and the land he cleared at Bayan Lepas still remains in the possession of his family. He died about twenty years ago and left several sons and daughters, who are all respectable persons; two of his sons have held the responsible office of Pungulu of the district.

Pah Kichil, a native of Batu Barra, Jamuludin and Nacodah Che’ Salleh of Lingah cleared Permattang Dammar Laut.

Tunku Utas and Toh Ninah Siamese cleared Batu Mow.

Nacodah Seedin, a native of Delhi, and Punglima Long of Sittool first settled at Tellok Coomber.

Tukong Ko of Purlis and Lebbi Tampak of Delhie, cleared Bali Pulo.

An Englishman named Bacon cleared Ayer Itam.

About 20 years after Light came the Siamese and took Kiddah when about six thousand Malays emigrated from the latter place to settle in Pinang.

Shortly after the English came to Pinang, Captain Light quarrelled with the Rajah of Quedah’s Prime Minister who lived in Quala Prye; what the cause of this quarrel was is unknown, but Captain Light sent a brig of war and gun boats, drove the Rajah’s people out of the Fort and destroyed it.

The occupation of Pinang and the destruction of the Fort on the Prye have been described in nearly every work that has been published relating to Pinang and its dependencies. A comparison of the Malayan tale above related with the authentic publications would prove highly interesting to the curious. How little of truth is there to be found in the traditions of events that occurred only seventy years ago, what absurdity then to rely on the annals of any nation that pretends to display the events that transpired centuries ago.



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