FUN on Mount Pleasure: The Life and Times of Uncle Templeton

By Eugene Quah

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A rare colour photo of the view from the top of Mount Pleasure, taken sometime in 1955. Source: Straits Time Annual, 1956.

ON THE MORNING of 9 September 1940, a Friday, Police Constable (PC) Ahmad bin Haji Abdul Rahman was on duty in front of the Penang Swimming Club. It was the second day of Chinese New Year – a public holiday. There were already “about 100 cars parked on both sides of the road in front” of the club which was usually empty during weekdays.

At a quarter to noon, PC Ahmad suddenly heard a “noise like that made by an aeroplane”. A car, coming from town, negotiated a bend and came towards him, allegedly in a zig-zag manner and “at a terrific speed”. Startled, he waved his hand to signal the incoming sports car to slow down. The driver, a European man, ignored the constable and sped off towards Batu Ferringhi. PC Ahmad managed to note the car’s registration number: P211.

A month later, the driver, Harry Marriott, was summoned to court to answer charges of speeding and driving in a dangerous manner. He was one of Malaya’s most “well-known racing motorist[s]”. Representing himself, he told the magistrate that he was driving at a leisurely 50km/h and that the policeman was misled by the loud engine sounds since he had removed the silencer of the exhaust of his car. He readily told the court that on that day he was preparing for the hill race the next day at Mount Pleasure.[1] His preparations that day seemed to have paid off; he handily won the race the next day.

FUN at Miami Beach, Penang

Nine years earlier, on the afternoon of 17 March 1931, the Board of Licensing Justices, presided over by Henry Augustus Forrer, held their quarterly session at the District Court to hear 14 license applications. The board quickly approved the applications, including those for the Tea Kiosk at Strawberry Hill and the Crag Hotel, except one—this was for a first-class hotel license from a T.V. Templeton. After further deliberations, the board decided to only issue Templeton’s new hotel a third-class license, provisionally, for three months.

On 14 October that same year, the Old Xaverians’ Association gathered to celebrate their 7th anniversary with a dinner attended by 200 alumni. The chair for that evening was none other than the rubber millionaire and illustrious Xaverian, Heah Joo Seang. During the event, Heah introduced a guest, T.V. Templeton, who was “the well-known proprietor of ‘Fun’, Penang's beauty spot”, and praised him for being “a great optimist”.  He went on to explain that even “in times of acute trade depression”, Templeton, “had undertaken a colossal development, which, when completed, would constitute a land mark in local history”. That development was Mount Pleasure, then called FUN.

Just before the Christmas holidays that year, on 11 December, Templeton placed an advertisement in the Pinang Gazette announcing the opening of his new 60-acre health resort with a “mile of sea frontage” situated at the 8th mile of Tanjong Bungah Road. He named his resort FUN, an acronym of the phrase “For U Now”. The attention-grabbing and larger-than-life hotelier, considered a “character” among his social circles for his antics, boasted in the ad that his resort was “The only Real Health Resort of its Kind” – Templeton had a quirky habit of capitalising words to get his point across.

The resort offered two kinds of accommodations. At the foot of the hill, on the waterfront, was Miami Mansion, which offered hotel-style “Modern Rooms with Bathroom[,] a ‘Fun Fresh Water Swimming Pool’, continuously filled with running mountain water”. The humungous swimming pool measured 120ft by 40ft and was shockingly 8-ft deep (it was later reduced to 5ft after a drowning incident). By 1935, this hilltop part of the resort came to be known as Mount Pleasure. Jalan Ria (Fun Road) at the present-day Mount Pleasure residential development alludes to the original FUN resort. The bay is now known to all as Miami Beach.

The famous swimming pool, filled using water from the mountain, offers swimmers a magnificent view of the North Channel and the Kedah Peak in the distance. Source: Author’s own collection.

Uncle Mine

“If you can imagine Buddha in a pair of white cotton shorts, and an athletics singlet, you have Trevelyn V. Templeton of Penang,” the Australian journalist, Nan Hall, wrote.

In May 1939, Hall, a well-known expat journalist based in Singapore, went up Mount Pleasure. Templeton apparently had not been boasting. She found that the resort “was a holiday paradise that really is all that the advertising blurb says”. Behind the bar by the pool was a circular room overlooking the sea, dubbed the “Eagle’s Nest”. The “eagle” in question was an enormous, 1.88m - tall Irishman with owl-like eyebrows, “a huge stomach, Buddha-like chests and a partiality for beer”. According to Hall, “in each of his satanic black eyebrow he can twist and hold a cigarette”. Weighing 127kg, “Uncle Tempey”, as some called him, or just “Uncle”, “despite his bulk”, could easily do somersaults while plunging into the pool. “A loquacious and imaginative conversationalist and as he talks, he looks at you with a flat, dead-pan stare. He rarely smiles but when he laughs his massive frame shakes all over,” recalled Hall. But by most accounts he was famous for “his ready smile and open-handed hospitality”. A “constructional engineer” by training, he told her that he had planned the whole resort, “including the winding roads leading up to it”.

T.V. “Uncle” Templeton. Born Trevor Vyner Templeton, he was a trained contruction engineer, hotelier, plantation manager, quarry operator, circus clown and pearl diver. Source: The Straits Times

Uncle’s legal name was Trevor Vyner Templeton. He was born in Poona (Pune), India in 1898. Educated in Singapore and Ipoh, he had been, amongst other things, “a circus clown and a pearl diver”. By 1918, he was working at Alma Estate in Province Wellesley. It was around this time that he bought the land which would later hold his resort. In 1922, he moved to Kedah and started a mining business at Kodiang Quarry. He also pushed drugs, albeit legally. Government records in Kedah showed he made an application that read, “Templeton Asks to Buy Chandu for His Coolies at Kodiang.” Using opium (chandu) was legal back then, just a permit was needed. By 1929, his business had failed. A pauper case was instituted against him, and he appeared to have returned to Penang.

Paradise Lost

“Here’s my little dumpling,” said Uncle, introducing his wife to Hall. “When he introduced me to his happy, plump and loving little Chinese wife, Saw Hye, his whole expression softened,” recalled the journalist. He revealed to her, with some pride, that he could speak English, Dutch, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese, Javanese, Japanese and Hindustani with equal fluency.

“The light went out of Pop’s world when the Japanese came to Penang,” the reporter noted. Uncle said he was spared from internment as he was Irish, but the Imperial Navy commandeered his resort. Japanese and Nazi submariners would later enjoy his bar and pool and use his tennis court throughout the war. Uncle, Auntie Saw Hye and their two growing children, meanwhile, were forced to live in a hut lower down the hill. The family endured “a sad three and a half years of semi-starvation and hard labour growing sago”. “We’re lucky to be alive. Seventy-six beheaded Chinese are buried on the hillside down here,” he told Hall. “When a Japanese laid a knife against my throat, I said to him” – presumably in fluent Japanese – “‘Hey man, what do you think I am – a papaya?’” The soldier, impressed (or shocked) by the Uncle's daring retort, relented and let him live.

At the end of the interview, Uncle revealed that many had wanted to buy his Paradise, but he would never sell it. “Not for a million dollars,” he insisted.

Mount Pleasure in 1945, then known as FUN (For U Now) health resort. “One of the finest views is from Mount Pleasure, near the 8th milestone and this is without the rigours of a long walk, as there are separate motor roads up and down,” wrote D.R. Horn, the Rural Board Chairman in 1952.[2] Teluk Nangka is now called Miami Beach after the Miami Hotel. Source: Federated Malay States Survey Department.

Uncle Goes to Rest

On Saturday, 27 July 1958, the Straits Times reported that Uncle had suddenly died. He reportedly had been sick for a while. That morning, “his condition worsened” and he died in an ambulance while on his way to the hospital.

In his obituary, the newspaper remarked that Uncle Templeton “had a ready wit and had achieved a reputation as a ‘character’”. He would have been proud to have been remembered thus by his “nieces” and “nephews” of all nationalities who turned up to pay him their last respects. Seven Buddhist priests, including Rev. Sumangalo, performed the last rites at Mount Pleasure before his coffin was taken to Batu Gantung for cremation. “His ashes will be buried in the little hillock behind Mount Pleasure, according to his last wish,” reported the press.

During the coronation of George VI and Elizabeth, this aerial view of Mount Pleasure was included in the commemorative photo book. The publicity-seeking Uncle had painted the rooftops of the chalets a brilliant Red, White and Blue which caught the attention of the Royal Air Force. Source: Imperial War Museum
This first ever ad for Mount Pleasure, then called FUN, appeared on page 9 of the Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle on 11 December 1931. Source: Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle


The resort remained a popular destination for honeymoons and holidays until it closed in 1971. That year, his children, Alfred, Rita and Phyllis (born after the war) sold off five of the remaining eight lots of land to Dato’ Low Yow Chuan (later Tan Sri), the owner of Low Yat Holdings. The sale would have been worth more than a million dollars. By 1983, Low Yat Holdings had changed itself to Mount Pleasure Holdings and was a publicly listed company. There were ambitious plans to turn the entire Mount Pleasure complex into a massive casino, but they eventually fell through.

In 1981, the developer began constructing the high-rise buildings that we see today. Phyllis, who remained in Penang, alerted her siblings that the earthworks had damaged their derelict family home at Lot. 48 which they still owned. The family sued the developer. Alfred Templeton told the court in 1989 that their family home “had been vacant since 1960 and in time had been vandalised and by 1980 had become a very run-down house”. The remaining pillars of the house can still be seen today amidst the jungle. After a long legal battle, the Templetons eventually won the case and were compensated.

We have Uncle Templeton to thank for delightful names like Mount Pleasure, Miami Beach and Jalan Ria (Fun Road). Sadly, Uncle’s name cannot be found anywhere on the island. However, since this is the story about “The Uncle”, surely it cannot end without a final twist.

In the midst of the little rocky islet of Pulau Tikus, which lies opposite the Swimming Club where this tale began, and is visible from Mount Pleasure itself, there stands a stone stele beside the shrine of Seyad Abdul Mohamed Kuddoos Oliyullah. Among the names of generous donors, mostly from the Chinese and Indian-Muslim mercantile communities in Penang, etched in stone for posterity, there is one name that stood out – a lone European name: T.V. Templeton.


[1] Bizarrely, by today’s legal standards, the magistrate, Lim Koon Teck, readily accepted Marriott’s explanation and let him off with a warning to “not make too much noise on the road in the future”.

[2] D.R. Horne. "Penang Illustrated Guide." Edited by Margaret Adams. Published by the Municipal Council of George Town, 1952, pg. 51.

  • Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle. “Racing Motorist Acquitted.” March 19, 1940, pg. 7.
  • Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle. “Proposed Hotel at Telok Nangka.” March 16, 1931, pg. 7.
  • Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle. “New Hotel at Telok Nangka.” March 18, 1931, pg. 5.
  • Malaysian Law Journal. “Alfred Templeton & Ors v Low Yat Holdings Sdn Bhd & Anor (1989).” 1989.
  • Fraser & Neave. “The Singapore and Straits Directory.” 39th Edition, 1918, pg. 730.
  • Pejabat Setiausha Kerajaan Negeri Kedah. “V.P Templeton Pinta Hendak Beli Candu Bagi Kulinya Di Kodiang. [Versi Melayu-Jawi].” January 25, 1922, 1957/0381917W, Arkib Negara. The initials were misspelled, the application was by T.V. Templeton of Kodiang Quarry.
  • Pejabat Setiausha Kerajaan Negeri Kedah. “Asks to Institute a Pauper Case Against Mr. T.V. Templeton Claiming Money Due In Respect of Contract Work.” March 28, 1929, 1957/0406098W, Arkib Negara.
  • Nan Hall. “The Buddha of Penang.” The Singapore Free Press, May 9, 1949, pg. 2.
  • Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle. “Chinese New Year In Wartime.” February 2, 1940, pg. 3.
  • The Straits Times. “The Club Verandah.” March 2, 1935, pg. 15.
  • Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle. “For U Now.” December 16, 1931, pg. 9, Advertisements Column 1.
  • Malaya Tribune. “Judge Wants New Court.” October 28, 1938, pg. 14.
  • Eli Solomon. “TA 0930 – The Lost MG TA Cream Cracker.” Accessed on March 21, 2021:
  • The Straits Times. “Drowned in Pool.” October 20, 1933, pg. 12.
  • The Straits Times. “Mount Pleasure May Become Casino”, October 23, 1971, pg. 19.
Eugene Quah

is an independent researcher who is working on a book about Tanjung Bungah and Tanjung Tokong. He rediscovered the joys of writing after moving back to Penang from abroad while on a hiatus from designing software.