Sunday, 3 February 2013

Colonial Hospitals in Malacca

This is the only photo I have of the early hospitals within Malacca fort. I found this photo in a plastic bag under my dining table at home in Kelantan. It has probably been there for a long time. I forgot about it till I was doing spring cleaning this afternoon and found the plastic bag.

In the plastic bag was a large old dirty blue photo album with old photos of my siblings in the 1960s, a small photo album which I made for my mother long ago after she died, and a pack of photos which belonged to my grandfather/father.

I think my grandfather sent this photo to my father in Kirkby, near Liverpool in England, for an exhibition about the history of Malacca or something similar. This photo was among many that my father had used for the said exhibition. I remember going through a handwritten letter (in pencil) for these photos. The text was written in English by my Malay grandfather. It explained what each photo was about. I don't remember where I had placed the letter. It maybe in a box in my bedroom next to my sejadah. I will check the text for this photo when I find the letter again.

Floor plan of Malacca fort in Banda Hilir. Photo was exhibited by my father in 1951-1953 in England. There are 3 hospitals in this photo - for 3 categories of patients I suppose?

For orientation of the fort: Sungai Melaka is at left. The drawbridge is illustrated in the photo, close to the river mouth. The Straits of Malacca is at the bottom edge of this photo. The hills would be at the top edge of this photo. 

I think this photo was before land reclamation was done by the British - after they blasted the fort and used the bricks for land reclamation.  The bricks were from mosques that were here before the Portuguese arrived. Some bricks were also transported here for making the Portuguese fort. 

Our ancient communal home in Banda Hilir (demolished) would be to the right of this photo. Our home also used the same bricks for supporting the stilts, and was built in 1897. I guess the bricks were taken after the British blasted the fort. I may have uploaded the photo at our family blog.
The Portuguese captured Malacca from the last Sultan of Malacca in 1511. The fort was built in 1512 and was completed in 1518. The structures had Portuguese names. The Dutch renamed structures within the fort when it conquered and ruled Malacca from 1641 onward. 
Text for the above photo which is B/W. (The Portuguese names are followed by the Dutch names within brackets.)

Top left:
Showing Dutch additions (in colour)  to the Portuguese works (black).
Based on Leupe's plan, Bort's report, Abdulla's account, and contemporary practice in fortification.

B: sea-level earthwork battery covering sands
G: gates rebuilt with guardhouses
D: drawbridges
S: sluices controlling moat
R: ravelin covering Victoria & flanking Emelia

The scale is in yards: 0, 100, 200

Top right:
Profile of Landward Defences (not to scale)
(fort), covered way, breastwork, berm, moat
(breastwork fitted with pointed stakes)

The fort itself, beginning at top left, going clockwise:

S, D, R

San Domingo (Victoria) Enlarged by Bort

Madre de Dios (Emelia) Casemated  [Mother of God, chapel for the Portuguese Christians]

Moat dug 1673-4

Onze Mille Virgines (Henriette Louise) Casemated

G, D, S

Santiago (Wilhelmus)

Hospital Dos Povres (Mauritius) (hospital of the poor/pauper hospital; nearest the Straits of Malacca)

San Pedro or Curas
(Frederick Hendrick)

Middleburgh Half Bastion 1660

Warehouse (smallest of 3 and attached to Slavenburgh)


Governor's Residences & Offices (Stadhuys)

B, G, D

Customs House

Mora (Ernst Casimir) (probably to keep the king's coronation stone or similar to Stone of Scone)

Warehouse (trapezoid, standalone)

Warehouse (long rectangle and attached to Stadhuys)

Hospital Real (Amsterdam) (royal hospital; nearest the Malacca river)

Hospital (unspecified, located at south-centre between the Stadhuys and St Paul's Church)

St Paul's Church (up on the hill behind the A' Famosa today)

External links:
Reviews - A_Famosa_Fort-Melaka_Central_Melaka_District

The Burghers

I was surfing to find something on the Sri Lanka Malays when I stumbled upon the Burgher people.

The Burghers keep many precious records of their existence. They are a close knit clan but are widespread on the globe, and they have photos and intact marriage records, etc. They keep a lot of details including family feuds and what happened. Within the Burgher society itself, they are fun, happy and merry. Malays either join in Burgher parties or request the Burghers to organise parties for them so they (the Malays) too can "enjoy" parties.

In British Malaya, the Burghers were hired mainly as clerks or accountants. After Merdeka, the Burghers were reportedly sidelined. Thus, many Burghers emigrated though a few chose to stay. The ones who left were of Jewish lineage. The ones who remained were mostly Christians.

In Malaysia today, Burghers intermarry or marry outside of the Burgher clan. Thus, Burghers have Portuguese, Dutch, British, German, Swiss, French, Jewish, Sinhalese names and surnames.

Now the European colonials have gone and so have their cultures. European names have disappeared from many registers after Merdeka. However, it is not surprising to find a Burgher name in Malaysia today. It is not surprising to find a Burgher Malay in Malaysia today. It is not difficult to distinguish a Burgher descendant within any Malay society. Though Malaysia is a multi-ethnic multi-cultural society, by Malay standards, the Burgher though socially acceptable is often a social outcast at many Malay functions, festivities and culture. Why?

Assimilation of the Burghers with the locals and local culture and tradition takes time. Even though the Portuguese were here in 1511 (501 years ago), and the Dutch were here in 1641 (371 years ago), it takes a long time for the Burghers to fully assimilate into the Malay social fabric. The Burghers are devoted to their religion. It is therefore, very difficult for the Burghers to relinquish their colonialist religion and become Muslims. Language could be another factor.

Appearance-wise, it is not surprising to find a Burgher lady dressed in saree/kain sari, Western dress or tank top or midi.