Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pedra Branca (..atau Pulau Batu Putih)

inscribed on front in ink: T Robertson, 1882;
Painted in oil; 620x430mm
From the Cape of Singapura lyeth a cliffe in ye sea called Pedra bianque (Branca), or white rock, where the shippers that come and goe to from China passe in great danger and some are left upon it. (From Linschoten 1583)
Today, exactly 148 years ago, a flotilla of three ships arrived off Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Putih) with the Governor, Colonel William Butterworth, aboard. It was Queen Victoria's birthday and it had been chosen as the most appropriate day for a masonic laying of the foundation stone. When I heard the news over the radio yesterday evening, in the car on my way home, that the rights to Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Putih had been accorded to Singapore,I must say that it was another sad news for the nation, and for me too that merits (in some decent form) mourning. Ya, Tun Mahathir's exit from UMNO yadda, yadda, yadda...I shall not repeat what Datuk A Kadir Jasin ( has commented in his blog. Oleh itu (ek Malay plax? hahaha)...saya terpanggil untuk menyajikan anda sekelian...beberapa fakta dari dokumen2 lama yang ada di dalam simpanan saya supaya ada sumber selain daripada yang telah dikemukakan oleh pembesar negara kita. Saya pernah bergambar di depan bangunan ICJ di The Hague di bulan september 2004. Setidak-tidaknya ia boleh meningkatkan inventori elmu kepada dan di kalangan adik2 bijakbestari yang membaca blog saya ini....

Sebaik sahaja tiba di rumah, saya terus mengeluarkan buku ini dari koleksi buku2 saya:

The Thomson Paintings: Mid-Nineteenth Century Paintings of the Straits Settlements and Malaya by John Hall-Jones (Oxford University Press, 1983)....

The Thomson Paintings represents a selection from the collection of paintings of J T Thomson, government surveyor to the British Colonial administration of Singapore from 1841 to 1853. Containing forty (40) paintings reproduced including fifteen paintings of the early towns of Singapore, five of Malacca, three of Penang, one of Rhio, four of the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, anda series showing the construction of Singapore's first lighthouse, the Horsburgh Lighthouse, in the Singapore Strait. Painted with the eye of an architect, they are not only remarkable as works of art but also as an invaluable record of early Singapore and parts of Malaysia. Dr John Hall-Jones, A New Zealander, is the great-grandson of the painter and in introducing the paintings to the reader has illustrated his text with liberal quotations from Thomson's own writings...


inscribed on back in ink:

Horsburgh Lighthouse. China Sea. J.T.Thomson C.E. 1851.

Painted in oil; 680x440mm

In 1847 Thomson landed on Pedra Branca to set up a trial of bricks and mortars. But when he returned after the winter monsoon he found that most of the bricks had been washed away. The lighthouse would have to be built of nothing less than granite, he concluded (J T Thomson, 'Account of the Horsburgh Lighthouse', Journal of the Indian Archipelago, Singapore, 1852, pp 376-498), 'set in the best hydraulic cement'. Special provisions would also have to be made against attacks by pirates. 'The sea tribes of the immediate vicinity', he records 'are notorious for their piratical propensities. They have no compunction in murdering all their victims to destroy all traces of evidence against them.' He designed a tower with the lighthouse-keeper's room at the very top, 'the tower to be entered by strong doors reached by a ladder which could be drawn up inside when necessary'. The lighthouse was to be manned by eight man all equipped with firearms and it was to be stocked with enough food and water to withstand a siege of six months. Work commenced on the lighthouse in 1849 when Thomson established himself on the rock with a construction gang of Chinese, Indians and Malays. The Chinese ' were all inverate opium smokers', he recounts. Eleven of the Indians were convicts and 'three had the word "Murder" tattooed on their brows'. Only the Malays could be trusted and these he placed around his shelter of palm leaves on the rock. (extracted from page 68 of 'The Thomson Paintings')


inscribed on front in ink:

Gunboat Nancy, Horsburgh Lighthouse. 1851. Bintang Hills (on left)

Painted in watercolour, 280x 220mm
After the blocks were cut they were transported out to Pedra Branca (about 25 miles away) on lighters escorted by gunboats, of which the Nancy was one. Initially the Nancy was more of a hindrance than a help and matters came to a head when the whole ship's company went on a strike. 'During the night a heavy squall blew from the south-west', records Thomson (Journal of the Indian Archipelago, Singapore, 1852, pp 376-498)

( extracted from pages 78-79 of 'The Thomson Paintings')


inscribed on front in ink:

Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca, 1851

painted in watercolour 220x280mm

On May 24, 1850, the masons, upon landing, marshalled themselves in order of rank and then led by the 'Tyler with Drawn Sword' they marched solemnly in procession to the top of the rock. There, the Governor, (perhaps in some anxiety to be away from the storm-prone rock as quickly as possible) urged that the ceremony 'proceed with the least practicable delay'. After speeches by the 'Worshipful Master' and His Excellency, who called for three hearty cheers for the Queen', the assembled company parted ranks to allow the Governor to return to the landing first. That evening a dinner was held aboard the Hooghly to which 'the Governor and his guests did ample justice'. (extracted from page 80 of 'The Thomsn Paintings')

I was just wondering why ICJ made the decisions yesterday. I guess one of it is probably because certain parties would like to have it done to coincide or to mark with today's historical masonic laying of the foundation stone at Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Putih). I dunno, I may be wrong hehe. Terlalu banyak yang tersurat dan yang tersirat... I leave you to imagine what else we missed out, did or did not do 148 years ago....hmmm. I was excited and so happy when I read a few days before, in the mainstream media, of the bright prospects to our claim of Pulau Batu Putih... but alas.....I was greatly dissapointed! Have a great weekend folks and don't forget its also a 2-week off for the schools...hahaha..if you know what i mean....


iszudin mohd amin said...

Okay boss. I have read your observations on this matter. very interesting piece.

Anonymous said...

This is knowledge....I love it! thank you so much! DR MFO,26

Ritz said...

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