Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oldest Protestant cemetery in Malaysia

In the so-called Colonial Quarter of Penang, one can find an old cemetery along Farquhar Street-Northam Road junction. It is known as The Protestant Cemetery (1789-1892), the first to be opened after the "founding" of the Settlement of Prince of Wales Island by Captain Francis Light of the British East-India Company (EIC) in 1786.

The graves of many important persons who were involved in the growth of Pulau Pinang or Penang are to be found in the cemetery.

Francis Light himself is buried in the cemetery as are several governors of the settlement and their families such as Governor Philip Dundas (1805-1807), Governor William Petrie (1811-1816), Governor John Alexander Bannerman (1816-1819), Rev. R.S. Hutchings - founder of the Penang Free School and Quinton Dick Thomson - brother-in-law of Stamford Raffles.

Of the approximately 500 graves, more than a quarter cannot be identified due to decay and natural weathering.

Francis Light who died on 21 October 1794 was described as the "Founder of the Settlement of Prince of Wales Island." However, he was not the first English to land in Penang.

The first recorded English visit to Penang took place in 1592 when James Lancaster, captain of the Edward Bonaventure, dropped anchor at the island. He and his sailors, many sick with scurvy, rested in Penang for several weeks, taking on water and enjoying fresh oysters, courtesy of the "native Malays".

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