Friday, 29 January 2010

(3) Coco Majid

Interview (part 2), May 2007

Panic striken as I was, I started scribbling everywhere all over on my papers and any paper I could grab instead of take good notes. I did not want to miss this opportunity and the important points.

Then we got into this conversion which I will share with you.

Coco: Faridah, where are you from?
FAR: Malacca. 

Coco: Where in Malacca?
FAR: Banda Hilir.

Coco: Do you know Ujong Pasir?
FAR: Yes, I have relatives there.

Coco: Whom do you know in Ujong Pasir?
FAR: There was Pak Abas & family.

Coco: Who else do you know?
FAR: Nenek Mun.

Coco (smiling): Then, we are related!
FAR: @#$%^!&*!!! (totally shocked)

Coco (smiling): Yes, we are related.
FAR: Who are you? Are you Dr Majid who treated my grandmother? My grandmother lived in KL and only wanted to be treated by a Dr Majid. Are you that Dr Majid? Are you the only Dr Majid in KL?

Coco: Yes. I'm the only Dr Majid.
FAR: OIC. I'm sorry. I never expected that we are related.

Of course, my husband put down the video camera in sheer surprise. I instantly got up to salam my newly found granduncle!

We continued talking but in a more merrier manner now that we are related after all these years plus the first half of this interview. Goodness!

Coco asked if I wanted to drink anything. He offered teh tarik! I replied "No" as I did not want to trouble him.

Finally, after 2 hours of interview, Coco got up and walked me out of his room to where my kids were waiting. I instructed the kids, "Salam, ni datuk (saudara) Mummy" and the kids got up one by one to hold and kiss his hands. They were delighted!

I was tired from the 2-hour interview which had a totally unexpected outcome! Coco did not sound nor look tired! Strange?

So, it was this man whose name was always playing on my mind whenever I was doing domestic chores (usually sweeping the floor) ... when my mind was free to think. His name was always there and I had never met him all my life except on this special day. Come by chance?

I thanked Puan Safiah. We bade Coco goodbye and made our way to our hotel. Coco closed the door behind us. It was sad to leave my granduncle for I do not know when I will ever meet him again.

(2) Coco Majid

Interview: May 2007

Selesa Hillhomes Sdn Bhd
No. 20, Jalan Lumut, Kompleks Damai
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6-03-4042 6033 / 4042 4759 / 4045 2309 / 
Fax: +6-03-4041 0792 / 4045 3585
Receptionist: Puan Safiah Mohamad

While in Kota Bharu, I contacted Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid for brief info. I informed him that I needed more details and a photo to write his chapter. He was delighted and expressed his interest in TEMD. He was agreeable to a face-to-face interview. His secretary (receptionist) then posted his CV and a coloured portrait. In May 2007, I packed and travelled south with my family to KL. We had agreed to meet him at his office behind the Grand Seasons Hotel in KL.

In KL, we found his office at Kompleks Damai, a small office which took up the ground floor and one above it. It was a quiet office and I was looking for an old man with a big smile. I introduced myself to Puan Safiah and the reason I had come. She immediately attended to me and disappeared to find the doctor I was due to interview.

I waited a few minutes in the small office lobby while my kids got excited about whom I was to meet. I was then called in and walked slowly towards a dimly lit room. I was nervous, like I usually was, whenever I had to meet a doctor. I could just turn back and run away, but I wanted to see this doctor for my TEMD book. I braved myself and walked in.

Over in a corner was a small man talking on the phone with a Chinese-English accent. I stood in front of him and just watched him talking, giving directions that sounded more Chinese than English. He was not paying attention to me. For a while I thought I got the wrong place and the wrong man! I wanted to exit and as soon as I was about to... he put down the phone and said, "Dr Faridah..." I was alarmed and froze! "That's the doctor?" I asked myself.

Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid (his gave me this portrait in 2007)

I got seated and introduced myself in the usual formal academic way. I was still scared stiff as I wasn't expecting this somewhat 'small man'. I was expecting a tall man! In the midst of acquainting myself and getting used to the dim light, I pulled out my chapter revisions on him and he shoved the one I had mailed but with amendments in his own handwriting.

I took the amended one and went through it with him. He pointed out the necessary corrections. When he started to narrate more than I could take down notes with pen and paper, I requested his permission for videography and called to my husband. I could not stop to talk to my husband nor give him directions to video tape as this man was just talking non stop! Nobody warned me that this man does not stop narrating once he starts to talk!

(1) Coco Majid

An Old Man Remembers. The Memoirs of Tan Sri Dato' Seri Dr Haji 'Coco' Abdul Majid bin Ismail, Dato' Seri Maharaja di Raja Selangor, As told by the old man himself.

Published by The Written Word 2006

ISBN 9839925245

In his book, An Old Man Remembers, Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid wrote that his grandfather was a gharry driver (he told me that this was the equivalent of today's taxi).

He also wrote that at age 5, he and his grandaunt who made barut bayi, travelled in a carriage to deliver the barut bayi to a Chinese customer who had ordered it - they made their way through the flood of December 1926.

[KGC - I need your input here re what that barut bayi is called in Chinese. TQ. FAR]

British Doctors in Kelantan

British Malaya

Muzium Kelantan has kindly provided 4 b/w photos of the British doctors in Kelantan, British Malaya. Here are some highlights of those photos:
  1. The British doctors wore white uniforms and had hard hats much like Bismark's helmet (topi keras). 
  2. One photo showed a carriage during dry weather and another had a cart during the flood season.
  3. The photos indicate that the carriage and cart were used by the British doctors in Kelantan from 1914/5 to 1927.
  4. Flood is an important feature in Malaya's history. 
  5. Three photos featured the doctors while on duty during the flood in Kota Bharu in 1927
  6. Sampan and cart were used in Kota Bharu during the flood in 1927.

  1. Did the early Malay doctors also use the same vehicles (carriage, cart & sampan) for their work as the British doctors?
  2. Who were the Malay doctors in British Malaya between 1914 and 1927?
  3. Did the early Malay doctors work side by side with the British doctors?
  4. If the early Malay doctors had worked side by side with their British counterparts from 1914 to 1927, do we have that evidence?
  5. Was there any Malay or were Malay doctors featured in any of the photos provided by Muzium Kelantan?
  6. Where can we obtain evidence that the early Malay doctors had indeed worked alongside their British counterparts?
  7. If the early Malay doctors had worked together with the British doctors, were they treated as equal?
  8. Did the early Malay doctors have the same qualifications as the British doctors who served in British Malaya?
  9. Were the early Malay doctors paid the same as their British counterparts?
  10. If no, why were the early Malay doctors not as well paid as their British counterparts?
  11. Where were the early Malay doctors trained? 
  12. Where were the British doctors who served British Malaya trained?

Photo #1
"The Doctor's carriage in Kelantan circa 1914-1915."
Photo from Muzium Kelantan.

Photo #2
British officers during the 1927 flood in Kelantan.
Photo from Muzium Kelantan.

"Terkenang Bah Merah" by Mona Ahmad & Nasron Sira Rahm. Dimensi, Berita Harian, Malaysia. Sunday, 21 January 2007. page 4. The article showed the photo above during the great flood which hit Kota Bharu in 1927 with this caption: "British officers ... Mr Ferrier, Dr Tailor, Mr Kemp & Mr Worham ...". Courtesy of Muzium Kelantan.

(Another British doctor in Kuala Krai, Kelantan at the time was Dr JD Gimlette.)

British officers and doctors in Kelantan 1900-1957. In this list, William Langham-Carter already left; William Kerr had also left.

  1. Mr Ferrier
  2. Dr Tailor/Taylor
  3. Mr Kemp
  4. Mr Worham

Newspapers & articles which mentioned the British men above:

The Straits Times, 25 August 1902, Page 5
- Mr Ferrier

The Straits Times, 16 June 1933, Page 13
- British Malaya's golf tournament
- J. Straton Ferrier

The Territory Remembers - 75 Years.
- 58. Len Harris to John Ferrier, CMS, 14 May 1943. Copy in Harris’s papers

Photo #3
British doctors with a horse-driven cart in flood water in Kota Bharu, undated (1927?).
Photo from Muzium Kelantan.

Photo #4
British doctors wading in less than knee-deep flood water in Kota Bharu, undated (1927?).
Photo from Muzium Kelantan

There is a wooden carriage (very different from photo #1) at the outdoor display of the War Memorial in Kota Bharu. Other modes of transportation in early British Kelantan are also on display.

Malay Poisons and Charm Cures

Malay Poisons and Charm Cures (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks)
John Desmond Gimlette
Oxford University Press,South East Asia (1972), Edition: 3rd Revised edition, Paperback, 314 pages
ISBN 0196381509

Reading this currently... loaded with information, have to read real slowly and use my diary and laptop to take down notes. Here's what I have on the author off-hand, deep in my memory.

USM Library Call Number:

JM2 G491

Here are the details of the book:

ISBN 019 638 150 9



Update 21-22 August 2012:
There are many versions of the book Malay Poisons and Charm Cures:
  1. First published 1915
  2. Third edition, 1929
  3. Reprinted 1971
  4. Third Revised edition, 1972
  5. Third Impression 1981
  6. There is a 2011 version of the book by Thailand available from Select Books:

Dr John Desmond Gimlette

Dr John Desmond Gimlette (Dr JD Gimlette) was a British doctor in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, Non Federated Malay States, British Malaya.

I haven't got a date yet on his services rendered. There is Padang Gimlette in Kuala Krai named after him. There may be many more as he was a famous British doctor in Kelantan and British Malaya.

The British Association of Malaya and Singapore (BAM) has a photo of Dr JD Gimlette and a description of his departure.
A group photograph of European officials, medical staff and orderlies gathered to say farewell to J.D. Gimlette. Others present were Mr and Mrs William Langham-Carter. The precise date of Gimlettes departure has not been determined, but this photograph must have been taken prior to August 1915, when Langham-Carter departed on furlough (long leave). Dr L.H. Taylor took over from Gimlette.

The British Association of Malaya and Singapore has a photo of Dr JD Gimlette and a description of his contact with the Kelantan royal family, with whom he had contact with the royal Malay traditional doctor (tabib sultan) and then wrote his book, Malay Poisons and Charm Cures. The sultan at the time was Sultan Muhammad IV.

The photos shows a group of the Kelantan royal family and British officials posed at an unidentified function. From left to right (first figure unidentified): Dr John Desmond GIMLETTE (1867-); Medical Officer, Malaya 1896-circa 1922; served in Kelantan 1909-circa 1916; Sultan MUHAMMAD IV; William LANGHAM-CARTER; The Raja Kelantan, Later Sultan ISMAIL; Tuanku Seri Indra, later Sultan IBRAHIM.

Important names to note in Kelantan History:
  1. Dr John Desmond Gimlette (b.1867-deceased), Medical Officer, Malaya 1896-c.1922; served in Kelantan 1909-c.1916
  2. Sultan Muhammad IV of Kelantan (r.1900-1920) (link to Sultan Kelantan)
  3. William Langham-Carter, British Adviser in Kelantan 1913-1916
  4. Tengku Ismail, later Raja Kelantan, later Sultan Ismail (r.1920-1943)
  5. Tuanku Seri Indra, later Sultan Ibrahim (r.1945-1960)

Muzium Kelantan

According to Muzium Kelantan, Carter had given his photo albums to the Sultan of Kelantan for safekeeping - this was before/after/close to the flood of 1913. The Sultan of Kelantan then gave the photo albums to the Muzium.

Dr JD Gimlette, Mr Carter and Dr LH Taylor were photographed together during a flood - probably their last moments experiencing the flood before they all left Kelantan for good.

"Doctor's carriage" before 1915. Photo from Muzium Kelantan.
Could this be Dr JD Gimlette, wife and daughter?
British doctors in a flood in Kelantan. Photo from Muzium Kelantan.
Same flood as above in Kelantan. Photo from Muzium Kelantan,

There was a newspaper article on Bah Merah (the big flood). It featured the British doctors during the flood (as shown above). I can't locate the article yet.

How to write for TEMD

Chapter format

Divide 250 pages by 36 chapters and you get 6-7 pages per chapter. If each chapter must remain within 6-7 pages and not exceed that #, TEMD is unpublishable!

Some chapters are thinner while others are thicker. The pages reflect the amount of information & photographs gathered from contributors. The more they contributed, the more # of pages for the chapter (and vice versa).

To give each chapter a fair go at content, I created a flexible template and used that to gather information from contributors. Otherwise my search for information would have absolutely no structure, I would miss out on a lot of information and there may be lots of gaps in the write-up.

Because TEMD is a historibiographical book (and maybe one of a kind) every single bit of information contributed and gathered is important.

If I don't document history today, a huge chunk of historical information may go missing for a long time and maybe forever! It is with this sense of urgency that I had continued searching, researching and writing for 7 difficult years, on top of my hectic schedule plus dual role as a lecturer in biochemistry & IT at USM, more so now when I have graduated and become a professor!