Saturday, 3 August 2013

Fort Cornwallis

George Town as a capital city

The Malays called the city Tanjong Penaga after the large hardwood trees that grew aplenty here. The British called it Cape Penaigre and mapped it was such in early maps of Penang. This was initially renamed after the ruling British monarch and was spelled as George Town, then as Georgetown, and now we are reusing the initial spelling, George Town, and sometimes initialled as G.T.

Fort Cornwallis as a non economical and wasted British fortress

Fort Cornwallis is a British fort in Penang at Tanjong Penaga. It was made partly using the blasted remains of the Malacca fort, A Famosa. The fort is not so high but high enough than the average Malay man. It is not that imposing or scary and does not make the hair stand. It is quite a benign fort, and looks neat in place.

The main entrance to the fort faces the padang. There is an amphitheatre in the centre which was built later, and the walls all round the fort have an earthern platform (ramparts). The convict cells are on ground level and are nearest the clock tower and Light Street. The chapel is at the corner nearest the court building outside. There is an access door at Fort Road, and another small access door facing the Esplanade - they were probably for bringing in convicts or goods, or getting rid of the dead in the secrecy of the night. There are a few wagons and big wagon wheels on display inside the fort.

Francis Light had the fort built without first obtaining consent from Lord Minto in India. Francis Light went ahead to have the fort built by the newly arrival of Indian convicts. He did not wait for Lord Minto's reply to his request. He was impatient and disregarded company rules when he built the fort. Even after the fort was ready and Lord Minto visited to see the fort for himself, he thought is was a waste of money of the East India Company coffers. Lord Minto was displeased with Francis Light and the fortress.

Francis Light and his mistress Martina Rozells lived in a house near Church Street before moving to another house whose grounds are now occupied by the St Xavier's Institution. Suffolk House is further up on Ayer Itam Road, beside the Methodist Boys' School (MBS), and close to the Al-Mashoor Boys' School. Francis Light and Martina Rozells had five children, including William and Mary. William resembled his father; Francis Light's statue is actually that of his son. This was because there was no photo of Francis Light when his statue was to be made, and sculptors had used his son's photo to create the father's statue.

After Francis Light died of malaria on Penang island, Martina Rozells remarried to another English man. The wedding took place in the chapel inside the fort. It was the first marriage there.

Francis Light is interred at the Christian cemetery at Northam Road in George Town, quite close to the sea. There are various graves here. Francis Light's cuboid grave bears his name. Most of the graves here are run down and uncared for.

Seri Rambai the Dutch VOC canon

An elaborate Dutch VOC canon is also present at one corner of the fort, nearest the Esplanade and Town Hall. There are Jawi inscriptions on the Dutch VOC canon. I tried to decipher but can't get the story right. If I understand it right - it seems that the Dutch VOC canon was gifted (menghadiahkan) to the Malay sultan (Maharaja Sri Sultan) and his warriors (panglima). But who was the sultan then in Malacca during Dutch VOC era? Were the Dutch communicating with any of the Malay sultans?

Why was the name Seri Rambai given to the Dutch VOC canon? Buah rambai is a tropical fruit and the fruits appear in clusters. The buah rambai flesh is see-through - like fetus in amniotic fluid! Yes, they look like fetus in amniotic fluid!
Meriam Seri Rambai - a beautiful Malay name for the Dutch VOC canon
The Seri Rambai Dutch VOC canon seated solo, facing North Beach and North Bay, Penang, which opens beyond to the vast Indian Ocean, and Thailand, Burma and northern India.
Affandi tried to decipher the Jawi inscription on Seri Rambai, the Dutch VOC canon
Seri Rambai, the Dutch VOC canon at Fort Cornwallis in Georgetown, Penang; did it come from A Famosa in Malacca?
VOC emblem on the 17th Century canon, Seri Rambai - this is such a beautiful canon.
Mysterious Jawi inscription on the Dutch VOC canon. The bigger story behind the Jawi inscription tells the canon was gifted to the Sultan of Johor and was brought to Batavia in Java. It was to be brought back to Malaya when the Johor ship carrying the canon went aground in the Straits of Malacca. The canon was later recovered by the British and was laid here at Fort Cornwallis. There maybe other versions of this story.

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