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Press Cutting - How The First British Resident In Perak Was Killed In 1875

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Subject :Press Cutting - How the First British Resident in Perak was Killed in 1875
Published By : New Sunday Times 
Location : Ipoh
Estimated Year : 1976
Media Type : Article
Source : Philip LaBrooy
Remark : The headstone reads “James Wheeler Woodford Birch, Colonial Secretary, Straits Settlements, British Resident Perak. Assassinated at Pasir Salak. 2nd November 1875. Aged 49.” It reminds visitors to the riverine Kampung Pisang in Pasir Panjang Ulu of the early days of British rule in the State. Birch’s grave is among seven Christian ones which stand proudly as the only concrete structures and landmark in the kampung. To arrive there, the reporters had to walk about 3 miles from Kampung Gajah - Teluk Anson main road where they left the car to the grave. The seven graves stood in a clearing measuring about 40 feet square. The iron fencing around the 40 feet square clearing is rusty. Five of the seven graves are arranged in symmetrical order within an inner enclosure. Each grave is simple, with a crucifix on each. The headstones bear the names of those who were killed along with Birch during the Malay uprising in Pasir Salak.

A local resident of the Kampung, Pak Mat, said that Birch was killed in Pasir Salak while taking a bath about eight miles upriver and his body was found floating in the river near the Kampung about three days later. The British probably decided to bury him close to the spot where he was found. However, Pak Mat’s story of the killing as it was heard by his ancestors differs slightly from the version in the history books. He said Birch was killed by warriors led by Dato Maharaja Lela and Dato Sagor, who were incensed by the high handed manner in which he dealt with the Malays. In addition to the taxes, it seemed that Birch’s men had raped the women and Birch himself was keeping a harem in his house. This was contrary to what the history books say. Birch was in a bath-house over the river when one of Dato Sagor’s men, an orange asli named Kumtom dived into the water with a spear in hand. When he was beneath the bathhouse, Kumtom thrust his spear upwards killing Birch. After the killing, Dato Sagor fled into the jungle and according to legend he lived on rotten wood flavoured with honey. When he was caught, the British failed to put him to death by shooting and hanging. He finally died when acid was poured on him. Nobody seems to know for sure where he was buried. He added that the maintenance of the cemetery had been passed from father to son. The caretaker is paid a nominal fee by the British Government but they could not verify this as the caretaker lived quite a distance away. Pak Mat said the land where the cemetery is located was owned by his father and it was sold to the British Government. He also said people used to go to the cemetery for the four-digit lottery.

To read more about J W W Birch click here.

Filename : 20100610-010