Saturday, 30 January 2010

Mercantile Bank of India Limited 1912

Memorial Peperangan Dunia Kedua
Bank Kerapu (Kerapu Bank)
Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Memorial is open to public
Entrance fee: RM2

This strange looking building was painted white before it was painted yellow. It was a British bank which was used during WWII by the Japanese as its Kempetai HQ. It was converted into a museum and now houses some of the items used in WWII by both the British and Japanese armed forces.

The fact that it was a commercial bank means that the British officers were already trading in Kota Bharu, Kelantan and had control of banking and related transactions in the area.

There are a few money changers in Kota Bharu today but whether they are descendants of the early Indians of that early mercantile bank is something we can possibly research on. Here's a lead:

In the history of this bank, it had 22 branches in 1926, and 24 branches in 1929. They were:

  1. 1 in Thailand, 
  2. 2 in Indonesia (Batavia and Sourabaya), 
  3. 7 in India (Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Howrah (Calcutta), Karachi, Madras, Shimla)
  4. 3 in Ceylon (Galle, Kandy, Colombo), 
  5. 2 in China (Hong Kong and Shanghai), 
  6. 5 in Malaya (Kota Bharu in Kelantan, KL in Selangor, Kuantan in Pahang, Penang and Ipoh* in Perak), 
  7. 1 in Burma, 
  8. 1 in Singapore*, 
  9. 1 in New York and 
  10. 1 in Mauritius. 

*The 2 branches at Ipoh and Singapore were listed after December 1926..

The numismatic website of Australia published info of a coin used by this bank - it was manufactured in England. Bank Kerapu is the same Anglo-Indian bank as the ones in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Both the branches in Shanghai and Hong Kong were later bought over by Citibank and finally Mitsubishi.

WWII Memorial in Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
Tourism plaque of Bank Kerapu.

This building, built in 1912 was first used as a commercial bank, The Merchantile Bank of India Limited, and the locals called it Bank Kerapu. The word 'Kerapu' refers to the rough exterior walls of the building which resemble the rough exterior of the carp (fish)(dinding menggerutu).

In 1929, the bank manager in Singapore was R. Kennedy.

During the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945, this building was used as the headquarters of the Japanese secret police, the much feared Kempetai.

After the war, the building was reused as a commercial bank (there is no date of when it was reused as a bank nor who was managing the bank).

When I was growing up in Kelantan in 1969-1971, my mother would come to this bank for transactions. As a child, I never liked this building nor its interior. I never liked the feeling whenever I went near or inside this building.

In 1981, the first floor of the building was converted into an Art Gallery while the ground floor was used to display handicrafts.

In 1992, the building was turned into a memorial dedicated to WWII and was officially opened by the Sultan of Kelantan (Sultan Ismail Petra) in 1994. Items on exhibit include artifacts, photographs and other memorabilia of the war such as a lamp, masks, Japanese bicycle, and hand grenades. There is even the Japanese anthem written on one of the big display boards on the ground floor.

In 2009, I visited the building again. Outside the building, there is a red post box (pillar). There is also an attached outdoor display which houses larger exhibits such as a ship propeller, a British bunker and vehicles used in British Kelantan. Other non exhibits are Japanese boats, a black Morris car and a wooden carriage (which needs restoration work).

Advertisements in The Straits Times 1926-1929:

The Straits Times 16Dec1926 p14
The Straits Times 17Dec1926 p14
The Straits Times 18Dec1926 p14
The Straits Times 20Dec1926 p14
The Straits Times 21Dec1926 p14 .... mentioned Singapore
The Straits Times 28Dec1926 p14
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser 12Oct1929 p19 .... mentioned Ipoh


Mercantile Bank of India, Ltd (December 1926)
(incorporated in England)
  1. Capital           £3,000,000
  2. Subscribed     £1,800,000
  3. Paid-up          £1,050,000
  4. Reserve Fund and Rest £1,512,884 ... increased in 1929
Board of Directors (December 1926)
  1. J. M. Ryrie, Chairman
  2. P. R. Chalmers, Esq.
  3. J. O. Robinson, Esq.
  4. Sir David Yule, Bart. ... no longer in 1929
  5. Charles J. Hambro, Esq.
  6. W. H. Shelford, Esq.
  7. Chief Manager: James Stuart, Esq.
London Bankers:
  1. Bank of England.
  2. Midland Bank, Ltd.
Branches and Agents (December 1926)
  1. Bangkok
  2. Batavia
  3. Bombay
  4. Calcutta
  5. Colombo
  6. Delhi ... correct spelling
  7. Galle
  8. Hongkong ... one word
  9. Howrah (Calcutta) ... with 'h'
  10. Kandy
  11. Karachi
  12. Kota Bharu ........ before Ipoh and Singapore
  13. Kuala Lumpur
  14. Kuantan
  15. Madras
  16. Mauritius
  17. New York
  18. Penang
  19. Rangoon
  20. Shanghai
  21. Simla
  22. Sourabaya
TST 21Dec1926 p14


Mercantile Bank of India, Ltd (October 1929)
(incorporated in England)
  1. Capital          £3,000,000
  2. Subscribed    £1,800,000
  3. Paid-up         £1,050,000
  4. Reserve Fund and Rest £1,612,046
Board of Directors (October 1929):
  1. J. M. Ryrie, Esq., Chairman ...... he was also on the KL Sanitary Board, for KL markets
  2. P. R. Chalmers, Esq.
  3. Charles J. Hambro, Esq.
  4. J. O. Robinson, Esq.
  5. W. H. Shelford, Esq.
  6. Sir Thomas Catto, Bart. ... replaced Sir David Yule, Bart. 
London Bankers:
  1. Midland Bank, Ltd.
  2. Bank of England.
Branches and Agencies:
  1. Bangkok ... Thailand
  2. Batavia ..... Indonesia
  3. Bombay ... India
  4. Calcutta ... India
  5. Colombo .. Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
  6. Delhi ... India
  7. Galle ...... Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
  8. Hong Kong ... now a part of China
  9. Howrah (Calcutta) ... India .... add 'h' to Howra
  10. Ipoh ... Malaya (now Malaysia)
  11. Kandy ... Ceylon
  12. Karachi ... Pakistan (could be undivided India then)
  13. Kota Bharu ... Kelantan, Malaya (now Malaysia)
  14. Kuala Lumpur ... Malaya (now Malaysia)
  15. Kuantan ... Malaya (now Malaysia)
  16. Madras .... India
  17. Mauritius
  18. New York ... USA
  19. Penang ... Malaya (now Malaysia)
  20. Rangoon ... Burma (now Myanmar)
  21. Shanghai ... China
  22. Shimla ... India (corrected spelling from Simla to Shimla)
  23. Singapore
  24. Sourabaya .... Indonesia
TSFPMA 12Oct1929 p19

A History of Kuala Lumpur 1856-1939

Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS)

MBRAS Monograph No. 29
A History of Kuala Lumpur 1856-1939
by J.M. Gullick

Monograph 25
Glimpses of Selangor 1860-1898
by J.M. Gullick

YAM Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid bin Ismail instructed me to read A History of Kuala Lumpur if I wanted to know the history of Kuala Lumpur. He reminded me to call him at home as he had the book at home and I had called his office.

The following day, I called Tan Sri at home and he gave me the title of the book and its author. I then requested USM Library to search for the book, for me.

This is a hardcover book with dark blue photo of the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad building.

I happened to watch TV when JM Gullick suddenly appeared on TV! I may still have a snapshot of him somewhere in my PC. I have never met him in person.

The Encyclopedia of Malaysia has his name for a write-up under architecture entitled "The British 'Raj' style". Here it mentioned that the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad building was completed in 1897.

His name is John Michael Gullick and is written as JM Gullick. He is regarded as Sejarawan Negara (national historian) at the Sejarah Malaysia website.

There are 5 Sejarawan Negara listed at the Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (PNM) website. They are Buyung Adil, Dato' Khoo Kay Kim, JM Gullick, Joginder Singh Jessey, and Mubin Sheppard.

Sejarah Malaysia: JM Gullick, Sejarawan Negara
Accessed on 1 December 2012

District Hospital Kuala Lumpur


In 1870, the British developed a district hospital at Jalan Pahang in Kuala Lumpur, which comprised three wards - the Chinese Tai Wah Ward, the Indian Choudhry Ward and the Malay Ward.

In an interview with Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid in May 2007, the author had asked him the description of Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) during his era. According to Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid, the hospital buildings were wooden and single storey.
The District Hospital Kuala Lumpur (after 1870) which became the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur (after 1962).

General Hospital Kuala Lumpur - the buildings were wooden and single-storey.

In 1920, after the First World War (WWI), the facilities were upgraded to include 25 wards. However, the First Class Ward was not sited at Jalan Pahang but at Bangsar. Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid was quick to inform that the Bangsar Hospital was meant for Europeans only. The second and third class wards were sited at Jalan Pahang. The development of HKL was carried out in phases. At one time, funds for building HKL was insuffient and development came to a complete halt. The unfinished parts of the HKL became known as Huxley's remains, after Huxley (the reason will not be reproduced here).

Upon graduation from the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore in March 1930, Dr MJ Che Lah had first worked with the British Government at the District Hospital Kuala Lumpur on 30 April 1930. He earned $250 monthly ($3,000 per annum) with a three-year agreement. He was appointed an Assistant Medical Officer and served as the Assistant Surgeon at the hospital. He had served the hospital from 1930 to September 1937 (he had served other hospitals during that period).
The District Hospital Kuala Lumpur was further developed in the early 1960s. It was renamed the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur (Hospital Besar Kuala Lumpur or HBKL) and later Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL).

The development of HKL began in 1962 from Phase I to Phase IV and ended in 1975. Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid retired as the first Director General of Health the following year.

The development of the various phases were as follows:
  • Phase I (1962 - 1968): Maternity Hospital, North Ward Block, Radiotherapy Department and Hostels for staff were built.
  • Phase II (1968-1972): South Ward Block, Neurology Institute, Surgical Block, Radiology Block, National Blood Transfusion Centre and more hostels were added.
  • Phase III (1972-1973): Specialist clinics, Outpatient Department and Doctor's hostel were constructed.
  • Phase IV-A (1973-1974): Trainee Nurses hostel and Clubhouse added.
  • Phase IV-B (1975): Orthopaedic Institute, Urology Institute, Artificial Limb Centre and Radiology Block built. The last phase of HKL was completed at the cost of RM 77 million.
In 1973, HKL became a teaching hospital for UKM medical students.
  • From 1986 - 1988, repairs and refurbishment of old building (Wooden Block) were performed.
  • The Paediatric Institute was constructed in 1989-1992.
  • Phase II upgrading of the Institute of Radiotherapy, Oncology and Nuclear Medicine  were performed in 1994-1997.

Information on Huxley's Remains was obtained by personal communication & interview with Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid bin Ismail.

Link to Hospital Besar Kuala Lumpur, formerly District Hospital Kuala Lumpur before 1962.

Orthopaedic, HKL

Orthopaedic Surgery

Coco was a pioneer of orthopaedic surgery in British Malaya. When I interviewed Coco in May 2007 about orthopaedic surgery during his time, he said it was crude. The surgical methods have improved tremendously since then (1950). 

Prof Saw Aik was the only HKL orthopaedic doctor who corresponded with me while I was researching on the early Malay doctors. I had asked Prof Saw Aik whether he had a photo of the old buildings of HKL. He gave me an old photo of HKL that showed many long single-storey buildings. He also provided the names of the orthopaedic pioneers who established orthopaedics at HKL.

On 15 December 2012, I returned to Kuala Lumpur and visited the grounds of Hospital Kuala Lumpur. I walked towards Medan Selara adjacent to Hospital Kuala Lumpur and saw the old orthopedic building. It was a low single-storey building. Its rear was light blue. The front facade was pink.



Link to Orthopedic, Hospital KL

Link to VI Web

(5) Coco Majid

Kuala Lumpur

Coco recommended me to read on the history of Kuala Lumpur. I thought that was odd as I was not writing on Kuala Lumpur history but history of medicine, focusing on the early Malay doctors.

He asked me to call him at home for his copy of a book on Kuala Lumpur history was at home.

I dared myself to call his house and we spoke. He gave me the title of a book and its author's name.

Coco referred me to "A History of Kuala Lumpur 1856-1939" by JM Gullick. He wanted me to have some idea about early developments in Kuala Lumpur.

(4) Coco Majid

Foreword for TEMD

I had called Coco to ask if he could write the Foreword for TEMD, explaining to him that I had tried in vain to get Tun Dr Siti Hasmah to write the foreword. He agreed and I faxed his office a sheet that had only the word 'Foreword'.

I totally forgot about the Foreword that I requested from Coco as I went about my daily work. The time came for me to submit my TEMD manuscript. I called Coco's office to ask why Coco had not returned the Foreword. I was told that Coco never received the Foreword and I was to fax a drafted foreword.

I sat down to think what to draft for a man who had survived that long in Malaya and Malaysia and done almost all things he possibly coould to help Malaya/Malaysia. I could not draft anything for him as a foreword. I had no idea what to draft and what to emphasize. The ugly thought of sending him another single-word fax was the only option.

I decided to list only a few keywords and fax that to him in the hope that he would write and I need not have to draft. I got worried as the deadline for submission closed in. I started to panic as I had no Foreword to go with my manuscript submission.

With the deadline almost a week away, I decided to draft for Coco a text which I thought would be best for him and befitting the overall theme of my TEMD. I made several drafts and made countless revisions. I settled on one which I particularly liked and faxed that to him.

I learnt from Puan Safiah that Coco had agreed and was pleased except for 2 typos. I was happy. Had I read Coco's mind?