Thursday, 26 September 2013

Kedai Kopi

I am intrigued by the Malay kedai kopi (coffee shops) which are usually found at important road junctions. They are a wealth store of local happenings, knowledge, and history. Only men sit around and talk at coffee shops while the wives and mothers happily go about their daily chores at home.

At the coffee shops which I have seen, elderly men and male construction workers sit around and have morning coffee and meals. I don't know how long they sit there but quite a long time, till the afternoon call for prayers.

Some men just sit around doing plain talking while some play 'Dam Haji', a form of Malay chess. Some play other things with bottle caps. I have not seen them play poker for a long time. The men are dressed in shirt and kain pelikat plus a white or colourful kopiah. Some men smoke, most don't. They appear happy and that is why I think time spent at coffee shops in the presence of friends should continue for people who have nothing else to do the whole day. The men do look happy and I don't see why we must break up their routine. I don't think they are lazy men. I think they are making good use of their time by staying positive and enjoying gaiety at the cheapest price and a safe one. I don't think the men will get into trouble.

So far, I have watched about five such kedai kopi in the area where I live.

  1. There is one in front of the old Kubang Kerian market (now demolished for a condominium in the making). 
  2. The other one is right in my neighbourhood, where a murder once took place when a drug addict hit his own mother on the forehead as she opened her kedai kopi one unfortunate morning. She succumbed to her head injuries minutes later at home nearby her shop; her husband remarried and the new wife took over running the kedai kopi. The customers of the former wife didn't return to the kedai kopi but I see a new wave of customers. The menu is no longer as nice as cooked by the former deceased wife. 
  3. There is a small kedai kopi just up the street. My kids go there to buy their occasional nasi bungkus (packaged rice) before going to school. It is a good place to eat and hang out but the location is rather dangerous. Once a fast car lost control on Jalan Pasir Putih and ramped into the kedai kopi. It was sheer disaster but the female owner managed to make all necessary repairs and her kedai kopi was functioning as normal the following day as if nothing happened the day before. I was amazed by the speedy repairs, for only the lady and her old mother operated the kedai kopi; there were no males involved in the day-to-day running of her kedai kopi
  4. There is one kedai kopi where they usually sold durians from our village (which is noted for its quality durians). When it is the durian season, I see many elderly men having breakfast at the kedai kopi. They seemed relaxed, often helping the elderly female durian seller with the sale of her durians. I think they are testimony to the quality durians of our village. 
  5. There is one kedai kopi across the road next to the mechanic shop at the U-turn (no longer). Food comes late here and the elderly men therefore show up quite late during the day. They sit around at the table and spend a lot of time at the kedai kopi, talking and discussing with friends. 

There are a few more but life is about the same at almost all the coffee shops which I have seen. There are some not so good kedai kopi but I will say nothing more of them.

Even Ayah Mat (a village elderly then in his 80s) spent his time at the kedai kopi, very late after retirement, till he died. Ayah Mat was never known to be a kedai kopi visitor. He was a former government servant, a district officer, a religious person and was much revered by our villagers. His showing up at the kedai kopi made Affandi asked him why he was there. His simple reply was he just wanted to listen in on local news from the villagers.

What do people have at kedai kopi? Sweet black hot coffee, toast with butter and kaya, nasi lemak, nasi dagang, nasi kerabu and nasi bungkus of sorts. Kedai kopi with Indian males do offer roti canai and murtabak. Malay men do know how to make roti canai, murtabak and capati meals but it is not the same coming from the hands of local Indians.

There are coffee shops operated by Chinese (called kopitiam) but Malay men hardly go to Chinese shops for fear of the non halal issue with cups and saucers. I will not expand on the halal issue but it is a significant issue among the Malays.

Sometimes there are delicious Malay cakes served at the Malay kedai kopi and this is what attracts me to such stalls. They sell karipap (curry puffs), Cek Mek molek (sweet potato cake stuffed with sugar filling and fried), roti sardin (sardine roll made into rolled mustache or double-edged darts), cucur badak (spicy sweet potato cake; literally fried rhino cakes), kuih lapis (layered caked), and kuih keria (sugared doughnuts made from sweet potatoes). There are more delicacies on the menu but that should suffice.

Do stop at a good kedai kopi when you are in the vicinity of one. Visit it early in the morning and stay there till noon. Be prepared to spend for a table of 10 men. Be generous at any kedai kopi and you get to win over some good friends.

Affandi's coffee cup in Kota Bharu, Kelantan; 26 Sept 2013.
This is a typical coffee cup and saucer used in Malaya in the old days. The mess indicates how the coffee was prepared - by straining the hot sweet black coffee swiftly into this cup - full of zest! The mess is a mark of good coffee - described as kopi kaw (that's what Affandi told me). A clean coffee cup is never a mark of good coffee.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Malayan Hajj Doctors


Between 1900 and 1957, there were close to 55 Malay doctors who worked in early Malaya and Singapore. A few doctors served as ‘hajj doctors’ or ‘hajj surgeons’ as they were known, on the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj doctors’ work covered health and medical care for the pilgrims, most of whom were elderly in their 60s. Each time the hajj doctors accompanied the pilgrims, they wrote a report which was published in the local newspaper the following year. The doctors either worked alone or in a group of two or three doctors. Sometimes extra help was called for when the hajj situation warranted it (e.g. many pilgrims got sick from extreme hot weather) and only one hajj doctor was in-charge.

Indonesian Hajj Mission

Before 1949, the Malayan pilgrims depended on the Indonesian authorities for their hajj travel needs. Before the Indonesian independence on 17 July 1948, when Sumatra had problems with the Dutch authorities, it affected both the Indonesian and Malayan pilgrims. Upon their return leg, the Indonesian pilgrims had to put up in Penang for a long time before they were allowed re-entry into Indonesia by the Dutch authorities. Thus, the area around Masjid Jamek Melayu Aceh in George Town was filled with returning Indonesian hajj pilgrims who were waiting to be allowed re-entry into Indonesia. There were reports of living conditions becoming unfavourable due to overcrowding.


Malaysia gained independence on 31 August 1957. Before 1974, the Malayan hajj trips from Malaya to Jeddah were by ships or steamers. These steamers were owned by British shipping companies but were registered in China for use in trade with China. However, some of these ships were chartered for use in the hajj pilgrimage. 

The hajj voyages were long and took more than a month for the onward leg and the same for the return leg. A steamer would carry about 1,000-1,500 pilgrims of all races and rungs. Life on board steamers was different from life in the Malay villages. Pilgrims had to cook their own food on the steamers.

Hajj Doctors/Hajj Surgeons

On board the Chinese-registered vessels, the health and sanitation conditions were under the purview of the Malayan hajj doctors. 

There were at least one to three hajj doctors in-charge of each hajj pilgrimage. Each hajj doctor either served once or repeatedly on the hajj pilgrimages during his career or lifetime. They were highly committed and were always helping out each other when posted as hajj doctors. 

These early Malay hajj doctors included Dr Pandak Ahmad bin Alang Sidin (Kuala Kangsar, Perak), Dr Shaik Mohamad Baboo bin Ahmad Albakish (George Town, Penang), Dr Abdul Ghani bin Mohammad (Bayan Lepas, Penang), Dr Mohamed bin Ibrahim (Kuala Lumpur), Dr Abbas bin Alias (Banting, Selangor), Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos (Glugor, Penang), Dr Megat Khas bin Megat Omar (Kuala Kangsar, Perak), and others. 

Tabung Haji

In Malaysia, the hajj business is dominated and monopolized by Tabung Haji (TH), a government-linked company (GLC). TH HQ is the Bangunan Lembaga Urusan Dan Tabung Haji at 201 Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur. The unique building was designed by architect Hijaz Kasturi and was ready in 1986. 

Since the 1990s, Malaysian hajj is handled by TH and a limited number of private operators who form hajj consortiums in the different states in Malaysia. The most famous of the private operators in Penang is Syarikat Amin Rawa. In Kelantan, more recent private operators of the hajj trade are Al-Quds Sdn Bhd and Andalusia Sdn Bhd. 

The private hajj packages are managed by young enterprising local Malay male graduates from the Middle-East who can speak Arabic as their second or third language and who have networked contacts in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries where they studied previously. They are former students who studied in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria or Egypt. They have good knowledge of hajj management and have been involved with parts of the hajj rites, managing the pilgrim first-hand at the cities and towns involved with the hajj pilgrimage─Makkah, Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina. 

A lesser hajj (umrah) is also managed by TH and the private operators, and also involves Malay students who are studying in Makkah and Madinah. 

Muslims spend a lot of money for performing the hajj and umrah for it is believed that the rewards will be in the Hereafter.

Tabung Haji in Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Dutch Submarines

There are many naval details of WWII which we do not know about. Here are a few links for ships and Dutch submarines which were in Malayan waters. There is mention of Singapore, Borneo, and local cities and towns of Malaya and Siam - Kota Bharu, Patani, etc. There is mention of Pantai Timour in Bali, Indonesia. There is mention of Station Soerabaja (Surabaya). The Dutch submarines blog webmaster also seeks help from readers re people ID, event, location and date.

Dec 23 1939: Arrived in the Dutch East Indies. Transferred to the K X after a month of exercise patrols on O 20. The O 20 was sunk later in The Gulf of Siam (19 Dec 1941). Exercised on K X, then K XI, K VIII, K XVIII, and K XII in August 1940.Was off West coast of Borneo when war with Japan started (7 Dec 1941). Sailed on board K XII to Singapore, loaded torpedoes from Submarine tender (probably tender Janssens) and went on patrol off the coast of Malaya.          
Dec 12 1941: Under the command of Ltz. I  H.C.J. Coumou we torpedoed a transport ship of about 8000 tons off Kota Bharu (Battle of Patani).
O 20's deck phone, June 2002 off Kota Bharu (Malaysia). The official name of this phone is electro megaphone and it is manufactured by Brown. (Photo: © Roy Leenderts).
The dive team at the bow of the Mata Ikan, June 2002 off Kota Bharu. (Photo: © Collection Roy Leenderts). From left to right: Top row: DaniĆ«l Zuidema, Klaas Brouwer, Guido Granacher, Dick Cohen and Roy Leenderts. Bottom row: Michael Lim, Simon Bok, the captain (name unknown) and Marcel Conradi.
K XV arriving in Tandjong Priok (Dutch East Indies), 1945. The submarine on the right is probably the Dutch Tijgerhaai (1). (Photo: © Collection Aart Hopman).

External links:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Istana Negara Lama, Kuala Lumpur

2011 marks a turning point in Malaysia's royal records.

On 15 November 2011, the old palace in Kuala Lumpur, Istana Negara, ceased to function as a palace.

On 12 December 2011, the 13th YDP Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Almarhum Sultan Mahmud Al Muktafi Billah Shah (reigned as Agong 2007-2011) returned to Terengganu.

The Sultan of Kedah, Tuanku Abdul Halim became the 14th YDP Agong, and resided at the new palace from 2011 onward. The new palace is also located in Kuala Lumpur. The new palace was expected to be ready in 2008 (dijangka siap tahun 2008). The date of CF (Certificate of Fitness) of the new palace is unknown.

Faridah Abdul Rashid. 2012. Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore. Published by Xlibris Corp., Australia. page 93.


Istana Negara Lama has an interesting history. It was a Chinese family mansion and residence owned by Mr Chan Wing, who hailed from Guangdong Province, China. Mr Chan Wing arrived in Malaya as a poor teenager in 1889. He struck it rich in the tin mining business, which boomed and made Kuala Lumpur and Malaya rich. Mr Chan Wing's business was where The Mines Resort City stands today. His other ventures was the Kwong Yik Bank. Among mega players and occupants of The Mines Resort City built-up area include (I maybe wrong though) Tun Dr Mahathir, Palace of the Golden Horses and the Sapura Group.

I can't recall the story of Mr Chan Wing's wives. Mr Chan Wing had altogether 22 children, the youngest being Dr Mubarak Chan Ching Cheung (79; born 1934) - a graduate from Cambridge University. The Chan Wing children are in fact bright and talented. From 1920 to date, 15 Chan Wing family members attended Cambridge University.

The mansion was built in 1928. The mansion's architect was the Swan and McLaren of Singapore, who also built other superb structures such as the Bok House (Bangunan Kediaman Bok or Le Coq D'or restaurant) in Jalan Ampang in 1929, and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Atypical and dissimilar to the Chinese shophouses commonly found in Malayan cities of the time and today, this mansion had a dining hall which could fit 10 tables for diners (if 10 diners sat at a table, the hall could host up to 100 diners at a time). All the Chang Wing family members lived at the family mansion as Mr Chan Wing wanted it his way.

The mansion and grounds are sited on a hillock, on 5.26 hectares of rolling slopes dotted with trees and shrubs, typical of large tracks of hilly terrain in Kuala Lumpur. The grounds is sited near to Sungai Klang. This is most unfortunate as when it poured during the monsoon season, the entire road by the palace grounds would be flooded.
I remember my father driving us in his car through a terrible flood by the palace in KL. I could die seeing the river gushing beside us and our Opel Rekod (old German car) practically floating while trying to drive through the flooded road. - Faridah Abdul Rashid
The rain adds to making the grounds quite interesting. There was a holding pond at the bottom of the grounds but which was filled to make the old palace.

There was an orchard on the grounds, as most Malayan mansions did. Who would't want to grow fruit trees when the grounds are fertile and the rain comes almost daily? Kuala Lumpur is very fertile and fruit trees grow well. I wonder what Mr Chan Wing planted and what happened to the excess fruits harvested. Did they reach the Chow Kit market (which is a bit far, I think).

In 1941, Mr Chan Wing's family had to abandon their mansion. Mr Chan Wing and a son arrived in Perth, Australia. The rest of the family escaped to India. World War II saw the Japanese occupying the mansion from 1942 to 1945 as its officers' mess (mes pegawai tentera Jepun). It is not known if any beheading was done at this mansion during the war. The Japanese Administration added an entrance gate, now the front entrance. The actual gate was at the back of the palace, one that fulfilled the Chinese feng shui for a good life.

After the war ended, the British Military Administration returned to rule Malaya from 1946 to 1951. The British wanted British rule in Malaya for good, called the Malayan Union. The Malayans (mainly the Malays) wanted self rule and the British out. Fighting ensued and Malaya was divided. Things were terrible and Malaya suffered from the Malayan Emergency from 1946 to 1960.
My family and I also went through the intimidating Emergency period and curfew. All walkabout and travelling had to end before dark. It was scary travelling past the rubber trees during that time as an ambush was possible, even in bright daylight. There was a lot of fear when darkness approached and the next town was still far away. Old cars can't travel as fast as today's super cars. I still have butterflies in my tummy when I recall the Malayan Emergency. - Faridah Abdul Rashid
The capital of Selangor was shifted from Kelang (Klang) to Kuala Lumpur. The Sultan Selangor's palace was also shifted to Kuala Lumpur. The old Malay palace remained in Klang. From 1952 to 1956, the Selangor State Government rented the Chinese mansion and it served as Istana Sultan Selangor till Tanah Melayu gained independence on 31 August 1957. In 1957 (Merdeka year), the mansion was sold to the Malayan Government and was upgraded to a palace, suitable for Malaya's first king - YDP Agong. This was our Merdeka palace, a source of 'independence' even though it was originally a Chinese residence. There were many renovations to the old mansion. In the post-Malaysia era, The Balairong Seri Utama (main conference hall) was added in 1980, 17 years after Malaysia was formed in 1963. Humble as the palace was, 13 kings had resided in it; the 14th king was the first to reside in the new palace.

Sources and external links:
  1. Mohd Bakri Jaffar & Dr. Azmy Morsidi. 2007. Untukmu Malaysia Sempena 50 Tahun Merdeka. 25000 km Menjejaki Warisan Kita. Himpunan Gezet Monumen dan Bangunan Bersejarah. pages 1-54 (Kuala Lumpur Ibu Negara).
  3. Google Search results for Istana Negara Lama


Old location & name: Istana Clifford, Jalan Clifford (then renamed Jalan Sultan Salahuddin)
Today's location: Jalan Istana, Bukit Petaling, Kuala Lumpur

Many have not seen the palace up close nor been on its grounds or inside the palace. I have only passed by the main entrance gates twice or so but only saw the iron fence and golden gates, always wondering what's inside and what goes on inside. These photographs were taken by my eldest daughter, Nuraishah Bazilah bt Affandi.


The Malaysian Heritage Department is housed in the old palace in Kuala Lumpur. It works closely with the national archives, Arkib Negara Malaysia.

Datin Paduka Dato' Profesor Emeritus Siti Zuraina bt Abdul Majid
(Pesuruhjaya Warisan)
Bangunan Pentadbiran
Istana Negara (Lama)
Jalan Istana
50460 Kuala Lumpur

En Amir bin Md Wal
(Pegawai Warisan)
Bangunan Pentadbiran
Istana Negara (Lama)
Jalan Istana
50460 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2260 9000
Fax: 03-2272 1392
Hp: 016-286 8586


2013 marks another point in royal history.

Istana Negara Lama houses a royal museum. Muzium Diraja opened its doors to the public on Friday, 1 February 2013. The museum opens from 9 am to 5 pm daily. Entrance to the royal museum is free. Seven royal guards stand at the entrance gate to relive the atmosphere of a Malay palace.

External link:


The date of opening the royal museum coincides with two important events in Kuala Lumpur's history.   Kuala Lumpur was upgraded from Majlis Perbandaran to Dewan Bandaraya on 1 February 1972. The federal territory, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, was born on 1 February 1974 - at this point, the federal territory ceased to be a part of Selangor and became an autonomous state (terkeluar dari jajahan taaluk Negeri Selangor). The Government's administrative offices have been relocated to Putrajaya. Kuala Lumpur now serves as a trade and commercial hub for Malaysia and the Southeast Asia (SEA) region.
Many old buildings of Kuala Lumpur are dilapidated. Some old areas of Kuala Lumpur are congested. Kuala Lumpur has lost much of its glamour and appeal. It is not the same Kuala Lumpur I used to like and looked forward to as a kid in the 1960s. Something is lacking in Kuala Lumpur today. Kuala Lumpur feels 'cold' and uninviting to the visitor. I think the 'soul' is missing even though Kuala Lumpur is more developed and looks modern. This is typical of all built-up modern cities I have visited. - Faridah Abdul Rashid

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was built in 1910, replacing an older building on site. Above the railway station was the Station Hotel. My family and I happened to stay a few days at the Station Hotel while we were in transit and while we waited for our father to come down to Kuala Lumpur (probably from the north). We had sailed from Port Jesselton to Collyer Quay in Singapore, and taken the train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. It must be from the old train station in Singapore, not Woodlands but the other one, Tanjung Pagar, which is now closed down.

I remember the Station Hotel's black and white interior decor and the delicious meals. The place upstairs was spacious, clean, airy and bright, but a bit bare (luas dan kosong). I loved the place as a kid.

I was going though my grandfather's photograph collection and came across a small dirty photograph of the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. It was probably in 1937, as most of his photographs were from that period, when he worked in Kuala Lumpur. His photograph of the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is badly stained yellow and I had to clean both the photoprint before scanning. I will need to search for it again.

The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station building today is a bit different and doesn't look as attractive as before. It was the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station that pushed me into liking architecture for life but I never took up architecture as a major at any university. I only kept architecture as a lifetime hobby.

Only five of my relatives have had something to do with the railways:
  1. My granduncle Tan Sri Dr Abdul Majid's father worked in the repair section of the railway yard in Kuala Lumpur. He died of malaria during the war. 
  2. My uncle Pak Saleh worked as Chief Auditor at the railway office across from the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. He is retired and has just moved to his new house in Sentul. 
  3. My aunt Esther (Jeffrey's mother) worked as an accountant in the railway office. She is retired and has recovered from heart surgery. 
  4. My mother's uncle was a 'train engine driver'; according to my mother, he had blue eyes and a pink face, he was pink. I think he was probably an albino guy. He was named Uncle Osman. 
  5. My maternal grandfather Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos worked as a doctor at the Malayan Railway Administration after the war.

External links:

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Plague Fighter: Dr Wu Lien Teh

Dr Wu Lien Teh was born in Penang in the Straits Settlement on 10 March 1879. His father was a fresh immigrant from Taishan, China. His mother was a second generation Straits Chinese in Malaya. Her family originated from China. He had four brothers and six sisters.

He attended the Penang Free School in George Town. A high achiever, he won the prestigious Queen Victoria 'Queen's Scholarship' in Singapore, and went to the UK at age 17. He was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge University in 1896. On record, he was the first Straits born Chinese in Malaya to study medicine at the University of Cambridge. He bagged all prizes and scholarships while he was at Cambridge University. He won the Cheadle gold medal for clinical medicine and the Kerslake scholarship in pathology. His undergraduate clinical years (usually years four and five) were spent at St Mary's Hospital in London.

He furthered his postgraduate studies at the School of Tropical Medicine in Germany and the Pasteur Institute in France.

After completing his studies in the UK, he returned to Malaya in 1903. However, the situation in British Malaya could not accommodate him. The British medical system in Malaya at the time could not accept him as he was not a British subject and non-British doctors could not hold any senior or specialist post within that system. Dr Wu Lien Teh instead researched on beri-beri at the newly opened Institute for Medical Research (IMR), Jalan Pahang in Kuala Lumpur, for four years (1903-1907). He finally quit and entered into private practice in 1907.

Opium was traded freely and used widely in Penang. The British provided opium to leper patients and miners. Dr Wu Lien Teh advocated the Chinese males to cut off their Manchu hair queue (long braided hair as pig tail). He opposed gambling and opium activities, including the opium trade. Dr Wu Lien Teh founded and served as President of the Anti-Opium Association in Penang. In his private medical practice, Dr Wu Lien Teh had possessed an ounce of opium tincture for treating his patients. However, when this opium tincture was discovered in Dr Wu Lien Teh's possession, he was charged and found wrong (guilty) which was untrue. His trial attracted worldwide publicity, including the Chinese Government.

He was invited by the Grand Councillor Yuan Shih-kai in Peking to take up the post of Deputy Director of the Imperial Army Medical College in Tientsin (Tianjin) in 1907.

[In 1910, Dr Sun Yat Sen led the revolution of 1910-1911 in China.]

In the severe winter of 1910, Dr Wu Lien Teh (aged 31) was requested by the Foreign Office in Peking to investigate why many patients died in Harbin, Manchuria. They had died of pneumonic plague. This pneumonic plague pandemic killed more than 60,000 victims in Manchuria and Mongolia. Dr Wu Lien Teh worked on the plaque problem in Mongolia and north China, requesting isolation of infected victims, compulsory usage of face masks, and the corpses to be cremated. The area covered 2,000 miles from north-western Siberian border to Peking. Cremation of plague corpses reduced the spread of plague till it was brought under control in 4 months. This was the first instance Chinese corpses were cremated and cremation continued to be a Chinese funeral tradition till today. His new scientific approach greatly prevented the killer disease from spreading.

It was a great success story and progress in Chinese medicine in China. Dr Wu Lien Teh received recognition as a plague fighter who helped saved thousands of lives in northeast China in the early
1910s following a plague outbreak. After the successful control of plague in Harbin, Manchuria and Mongolia, Dr Wu Lien Teh became world famous.

He chaired the International Plague Conference in Mukden (Shenyang) in April 1911. It was a historic event as many scientists from USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Netherlands, Russia, Mexico and China attended the conference.

Later in the same year, he presented a research paper on the plague at the International Congress of Medicine in London in August 1911. His paper was published in The Lancet in the same month (August 1911).

Dr Wu Lien Teh contributed significantly to the knowledge on plague and to humanitarian service for his community in China. He established the Manchurian Plague Prevention Service in 1912. With this foundation, he began to introduce major medical reforms, modernising China's medical services and medical education. During his 29 years of service in China (1908-1937), 20 modern hospitals, labs and research institutions were built, including the Peking Central Hospital. He was the first president of the China Medical Association (1916-1920). A medical reformer, he worked with the Russians during an epidemic in 1921. He was the director of the National Quarantine Service (1931-1937) in China.

He worked hard for the League of Nations and became a world authority on the plague.

The Japanese occupied China and the Nationalists retreated. Dr Wu Lien Teh's villa in Shanghai, China was bombed by the Japanese in 1937. Dr Wu Lien Teh left China and returned to the Malay peninsula.

After having worked in China for 30 years, Dr Wu Lien Teh eventually returned to Malaya in 1937. He worked as a General Practitioner (GP) at 12 Brewster Road, Ipoh (now Jalan Sultan Idris Shah). He provided free consultation and treatment for the poor.

With money collected from the public, he helped started the Perak Library (now The Tun Razak Library) in Ipoh to encourage young people to read.

His portrait was taken in Cambridge in 1956 when he was 77. He continued to work as a GP for 22 years till 1959; he was 80 years old. He then retired from medical practice and returned to Penang. He lived in his new Penang retirement home for a week before he died. He died from a stroke on 21 January 1960, aged 81.

Dr Wu Lien Teh was the first person to modernize China's medical services and medical education.
He is remembered for his contributions in promoting China's public health, preventive medicine and medical education. Bronze statues of him appear in departments and hospital buildings in Harbin Medical University and in Beijing. A museum is dedicated to him and contains his bronze bust. A road was named Jalan Wu Lien-Teh after him in Ipoh Garden South, Ipoh. A private housing named Taman Wu Lien Teh near the Penang Free School was named after him.

Until today, Dr Wu Lien Teh's accomplishment is still recognised at the Penang Free School which named one of its school houses after him, and bearing the green colour.

An International Symposium on him was held in Harbin, China on 18-20 January 2013. The symposium was organised by The First Hospital of Harbin Medical University in Heilongjiang, China with the third Boreal Congress of Cardiology. It was attended by delegations from Malaysia, Singapore, members of the Penang State Government, and investPenang, Penang Global Tourism, Penang Medical College, and members of the newly formed Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society, Penang. An 18-member delegation led by Datuk Dr Lee Kah Choon, headed to China to attend the commemorative symposium on the legendary plague fighter Dr Wu Lien-Teh who was born in Penang. Participants were from various organisations, medical professionals, private individuals and members of the Old Frees' Association.

A conference, 'Remember Dr Wu Lien Teh' was held at the Conference Room, Ipoh Specialiist Hospital (5th Floor) on Friday, 22 March 2013 at 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

A book authored by Dr Wu Yu-Lin contains 200 photos of his work on the plague and services rendered in China from 1908 to 1937.

His autobiography is entitled Plague Fighter: The Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician (Heffner, Cambridge, 1959).

Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal is the president of the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society of Penang. The Society has proposed Penang as the next venue for the Dr Wu Lien-Teh and Global Health Symposium in 2014.

Dr Wu Lien Teh was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1935. However, he did not win a Nobel Prize for the plague that he had battled in Manchuria and Mongolia.

His biography was presented at the Penang Story Lectures on 19 May 2012. Ong Lay Hong presented on "Plague Fighter Dr Wu Lieh-teh. A Penang Hero who modernized medicine in China". Ong Lay Hong is the Managing Director of Singapore Media Academiy, A MediaCorp Enterprise.


Quah Seng-Sun. 2012. Anything Goes blogspot. Accessed 6 Sept 2013.

Dr Wu Yu-Lin. 2013. Memories of Dr Wu Lien-Teh, Plague Fighter. Accessed 6 Sept 2013.

Ipoh News. 2013. Perak Lecture "Remember Dr. Wu Lien Teh". Accessed 6 Sept 2013.

Rightways Technologies. 2013. Remembering a plague fighter from Penang, Dr Wu Lien-Teh. Accessed 6 Sept 2013.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tan Sri Syed Hassan Aidid (1916-1983)

Senator Syed Hassan Aidid was born on 20 September 1916 in Singapore. He married Sharifah Rahmah Aidid and had nine children. He was educated at Penang Free School in George Town, and at Green Lane. He was a successful diamond merchant and proprietor of the New Gold Co. He was the Chairman of UMNO Penang and Province Wellesley. He was the Director of Sri Negara Ltd. He was the Chairman of Warta Negara Press. He was on the Board of Governors at the St. Xavier's Institution, Jalan Ayer Itam. He was the Manager of the Ayer Itam English School and Sekolah Kebangsaan Ayer Itam (Malay stream). He was the Vice-Patron of the Penang AAA. He was also the Patron of Sepak Raga Association.

His last known home address was 11, Mk. 1A, Ayer Itam Road, Penang. The house is still extant. His last known telephone number in the early 1970s was 23422. His last known office telephone number was 61643.

Source of the above text and portrait: Who's Who is Malaysia 1971-1972.

[Update from Nazmi Hassan Razak, 18 Dec 2013: He died on the 28th of February 1983.]
Relatives often reminded me that his house was "rumah besar sebelah Shell Air Hitam". He had passed away on 28 February 1983. His youngest daughter and I were working at the USM Medical School in Penang. His eldest daughter was the Chairman of Persatuan Wanita USM and I was the Honorary Treasurer.

I remember entering this house to pay my last respect as they performed mandi jenazah on him before burial. The ladies and I were allowed to view him. I took a long look at his face because I wanted to remember him as I had never met him when he was alive. I still remember his characteristic nose. It was from this memory that I was able to search for his portrait at the USM library in Penang.

His house photos (below) were taken by me when I visited Penang on 6 December 2015

Going towards Bukit Bendera, Jalan Bukit Bendera in Air Hitam (main road).
Shell is the landmark to locate his house.
Approaching his house. View after returning from Bukit Bendera.
There is a junction after Shell and before his house.
This is his house.  
The house was under renovation when I passed by and took photos of it on 6 December 2015.
Update from Syed Alwi Aidid, Singapore 2013:

Puan Sri Datin Sharifah Rahmah Aidid married to Tan Sri Datuk Syed Hassan bin Mohdhar Aidid (deceased 1982/1983). She is the elder sister of Sharifah Mariam bt Syed Alwi Aidid (Prof Syed Mohsin's mother). Puan Sri Datin Sharifah Rahmah Aidid passed away  on 31 May 2012 and is interred on 1 June 2012 at Masjid Perak Road cemetery in Penang. They have 9 daughters.
  1. Datin Dr Sharifah Mariam bte Tan Sri Syed Hassan Aidid married to Datuk Dr Adam Yee Abdullah @ Yee Thiam Sun. Their sons are Isa and Dr Ilias. 
  2. Sharifah Azizah Aidid married to Syed Taha bin Abdullah Sheikh Abubakar
  3. Sharifah Aminah Aidid (Singapore) married to Syed Salim Hassan Alkaff
  4. Sharifah Naemah Aidid married to Abdul Malik. They have 2 sons and a daughter.
  5. Sharifah Shipak Aidid married to Dr Razak Dali. They have 2 daughters and a son, Nazmi Hassan Razak.
  6. Sharifah Sheikhah Aidid married to Syed Ismail Al Wafa
  7. Sharifah Zahrah Aidid married to Roslie
  8. Sharifah Sakinah Aidid married to Dr Syed Mohamad Syed Sahil (Prof Syed Mohsin's brother)
  9. Sharifah Hasnah Aidid married to Prof Abu Hassan bin Abu Bakar. She had worked at the USM Medical School before, 1984-1990.
More at:

Update from me, 28 February 2015:

Prof Abu Hassan bin Abu Bakar is at the School of Biology, USM in Penang. He was known as Danker and played the guitar when he attended UC Davis in 1976-1980, along with several others - Prof Musa Abu Hassan (deceased 1954-2015), Prof Mohamed bin Daud (UNISEL), Abdul Rahman, Mohd Shahrin, Harith Harun, Prof Zairi Jaal (Biology, USM; eldest brother of Zaiton Jaal), Prof Khadijah Mohd Salleh (deceased), etc.

Update from me, 4 September 2013:

My maternal grandfather's house was at 219 Solok Pemancar. He lived there and I was there for holidays in the early 1960s, before I went to school. Immediately across the road was a big old tree, underneath which some Indian devotees prayed, shook bells and chanted. My grandfather got irritated from the 'noise beneath the big tree' and sold his house, and moved further uphill. But I still like the house, even today. I can't recall what the interior is like anymore but I remember the tiled front entrance, and perimeter walls.
Amendment received from Wan Latifah (10 Sept 2013): I would just like to correct the post regarding 219 Solok Pemancar. This house was bought not by Tan Sri Datuk Syed Hassan Aidid but by his elder brother, my grandfather, Datuk S. M. Aidid. He lived in the house until he passed away in November 2007 at the age of 105.

Tan Sri Syed Hassan Aidid is a relative of my father. They are descended from the Sumatran Achehnese Arab people, Keturunan Aceh Peranakan Arab. They are related to the Sumatran Minangkabau people who opened the earliest Malay settlement in Penang at Kg Batu Uban, some distance from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). This settlement was opened by Nakhoda nan Intan @ Muhammad Saleh, an imam and sufi prince from Pagaruyuyng Palace. 

Nakhoda nan Intan's brother, Nakhoda Kecil and his people developed Tanjong Penaga, growing paddy (tanam padi), sugar-cane, coconut among other plants. Nakhoda Kecil went to greet and meet Captain Francis Light on the marshy shores of Tanjong Penaga (Cape Penaigre). Captain Francis Light and his people, and the first batch of Indian convicts developed the paddy fields, etc to become a city that we have today. This area became George Town, named after King George V or VI?

Penang did not lag behind in business and trade as in 1925, there was Dr Ali Othman Merican (Dr A.O. Merican) who helped founded the Penang Malay Association (PMA) which looked into Malay businesses, commerce, trade and industry. Dr A.O. Merican left Penang shortly after, in 1927, to go to Kelantan. He became a successful doctor in Kelantan.

At the time of Merdeka, there were few wealthy Malays in Penang, including those who had businesses going. The Malays were doing well on the island in the 1960s even though many Malays in the villages were poor - they were living at subsistence level (kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang makan petang). It should not surprise us because the Malays preferred a simple life and not run after worldly riches. We must accept this fact and not simply accuse the Malays of being lazy and unable to compete - they are living at their best and they are comfortable with life. It is us who are terrified by their simple way of life and want them to change. In the Malay style of living, rich Malays helped the poor Malays, even among siblings and friends. We actually do not have to change them. What we must worry about is the business-hungry people who want the poor Malays to give up their lands and lives. This we must prevent and put a stop to. Let the poor Penang Malays live as they wish - their landed kampung houses are worth millions today but all they want is a simple life in a wooden house - so just leave them alone, and let them be happy. If we want to help, we can, but by making good roads and drainage where the Malay kampungs are. Just don't force them to change. They are an extinct breed already. Tourists also want to see the real Malays in true Malay settings. Don't change anything but improve on the landscape and facilities.

The PMA is still managing well alongside many other bodies. The Malays must come together and work hard together if they are to remain on Penang island. They cannot just sit back and live. It will be sad if all the Malays on the island have to leave. I will be very sad, just sad as what happened to Singapore where many of my relatives still reside. Singapore is a rather sad story but we must try and save Penang while it is still ours.

The Penang Malays at Kg Sg Gelugor have an active cooperative and the poor villagers in the village get to own houses via this cooperative. So, there are means to help the poor Malays in Penang but the Malays themselves must learn about such existing opportunities and be actively involved in the developmental projects around or near them. They stand to benefit if they do things right and have a positive attitude. My mother benefited from the cooperative at Kg Sg Gelugor - she obtained a double-storey wooden house from the subscription money she paid to the cooperative. I don't know about other cooperatives in Penang. There is also now another active cooperative established by the historic Dato' Jenaton Group - this is a rapidly developing cooperative and worth investing in for the Malays.

Update from Nazmi Hassan Razak, 18 Dec 2013:

Nazmi Hassan Razak said...

Just would like to correct the year of death of my grandfather. He died on the 28th of February 1983 iso 1982.

18 December 2013 at 17:47  

Update: 28 Feb 2014
King's Birthday Honours for 505

Inche CM Hashim, Penang - Panglima Setia Mahkota
Syed Hassan Aidid, Penang - Johan Mangku Negara
Dr Abu Bakar bin Ibrahim, KL - Johan Setia Mahkota
Dr Ibrahim bin Haji Mohamed Yassin, Ipoh  - Johan Setia Mahkota
Syed Kabeer bin Syed Ahmad, Penang - Ahli Mangku Negara

Update from Syed Hazzwarri, 31 Jan 2015:

Syed Hazzwarri has left a new comment on your post "Tan Sri Syed Hassan Aidid":

Hope will have gathering of tok lid generation's a.k.a S.M Aidid. At solok pemancar for this coming aidilfitri. Look like rumah usang ready.. Aunty Latifah hope u can make it become true. Already celebrates 4 year Ami aidid house. This years year we celebrated over there. 

Posted by Syed Hazzwarri to The Early Malay Doctors at 31 January 2015 at 19:25

External links:

Monday, 2 September 2013

Obituary: Dr Ruby Majeed 1924-2013

I received news from En Amir Mohd Wal (Jabatan Warisan Negara) this morning that Datuk Paduka Dr Ruby Abdul Majeed has passed away. I don't have the details of her demise as yet. We are saddened by her passing. Al-Fatihah.

Datuk Paduka Dr Ruby Abdul Majeed

En Amir has shown my book, Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore, to Dr Ruby's youngest sister, Datin Paduka Profesor Emeritus Zuraina Majid (Pesuruhjaya Warisan), and she is touched.

Dr Ruby bte Abdul Majeed's short biography is on pages 751-754 in my book.

Name: Dr Ruby Abdul Majeed
Date of birth: 6 November 1924
Place of birth: Kuala Lumpur
Medical studies in Australia: - malay girl doctor
Malay Girl Here To Become Doctor. (1948, April 13). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), p. 6 Edition: HOME. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from
Qualification: MBBS 1959 University of Adelaide
Private practice: Clinic Drs Syed Mahmood & Ruby Majeed, Kuala Lumpur

This short (one A4-page or two 9"x6" tradebook-pages) biography below is taken from my other book,  Research on the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore (Xlibris, 2012: pages 258-259).

43. Dr Ruby bte Abdul Majid

Dr Ruby is the wife of Dr Syed Mahmood bin Syed Hussain Jamalullail. Prof. Farida Jamal furnished the biographies of both doctors after consulting them.

Ruby was born on 6 November 1924 in Kuala Lumpur. The third of eight siblings, she grew up in the vicinity of the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur, across the road from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR). She watched the activities in her neighbourhood with great interest and dreamed of becoming a doctor, like the ones she saw walking to the hospital. She learnt many skills from her mother and relatives at home. She commenced formal schooling at Kampong Baru Malay School at age five and moved to the Bukit Nenas Convent in Kuala Lumpur at age seven. Upon completing the OSCE (Overseas School Certificate Exam?) in 1948, she proceeded to Australia for further studies. She graduated from the University of Western Australia, majoring in Zoology, and trained in Histology at the University of Melbourne. From 1952 to 1954, she taught Histology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, in Singapore.

She married Dr Syed Mahmood in 1956. With the encouragement and support of her professor and head of the department, Ahmed Mohiuddin, she left for Adelaide, Australia, during the same year to study medicine. Her training and work at the University of Malaya was given recognition, and she was exempted from some courses. She graduated from the University of Adelaide as a medical doctor in 1959.

Upon completing her housemanship at the General Hospital, Penang, Dr Ruby Majeed was appointed Medical and Health Officer in Perlis. She founded and chaired the Perlis branch of the Federation of Family Planning Association of Malaysia and the Red Cross Association of Perlis. She also chaired the St John Ambulance, Perlis, and served as patron of the Perlis Girl Guides Association.

Dr Ruby Majeed moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1967 and set up private practice in the MARA building, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Dr Syed Mahmood joined her two years later.

She was a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP), which was awarded by the Australian College of General Practitioners. Together with a group of dynamic doctors, she strove to get general practice registered as a medical specialty in Malaysia. The Academy of Family Physicians (formerly known as the College of General Practitioners) was established, and from 1980 to 2002, she served as the president of the College of General Practitioners/Academy of Family Physicians. She was invited to sit on several committees of the Ministry of Health, Malaysia, subcommittees of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), and committees of the Private Medical Practitioners Association of Selangor, where she served as president for one year. She also served as the treasurer at MMA Foundation for four years.

Her passion for education resulted in her involvement in teaching and curriculum development in Family Medicine at the University of Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). In the 1990s, she also served as an adjunct professor in Family Medicine for four years at the Faculty of Medicine, UKM. Throughout, she worked as a general practitioner. Dato’ Paduka Dr Ruby bte Abdul Majeed is noted for her dedication, determination, sincerity, honesty, and integrity. A good listener, she is much more than a giver of health care to her patients and is always willing to help people in need. She is dearly loved and admired by her large, extended family and her many friends.

From me: It will be great if we can expand and make her biography a more complete one.

Contact for Jabatan Warisan Negara:

Amir Md Wal
016-286 8586

Bangunan Pentadbiran
Istana Negara (Lama)
Jalan Istana
50460 Kuala Lumpur

No. Tel : 03-2260 9000
No. Faks : 03-2272 1392