It has been a challenge thus far to find a more detailed appraisal on Almarhum Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II‘s life in exile in the Seychelles and especially those in Singapore, Penang and finally Kuala Kangsar at the end of his days. The internet is vast and we are pleased to have found this gem of an article written by Julien Durup, a Seychellois historian, with some further information on Almarhum and his family. -Ed.
Sultan Abdullah and his family, together with the other exiled chiefs, left Singapore for the Seychelles on 21 July 1877 on the Cotherstone, a steamship mastered by Captain Blanche. They were escorted during the journey by Police Inspector R. Strugnell who acted as a body guard and interpreter, along with eight other policemen. The journey across the Indian Ocean lasted slightly over a month and they arrived at Mahé on 31 August 1877.
On arrival in Mahé, Sultan Abdullah initially lived in a huge house with a lot of annexes at Union Vale. According to hearsay, they resided in the following different locations in Mahé – Bel Etang, Rochon, Port Victoria, Union Vale and Ma Constance at Anse Etoile, the former huge mansion of the famous corsair, Jean François Hodoul. They were then relocated to the island of Félicité, although William McAteer in his book, Hard Times in Paradise:The History of Seychelles 1827-1919, described that only Ngah Ibrahim and Laksamana Mohd Amin were deported to Félicité by Charles Salmon, Chief Civil Commissioner of the Seychelles, for security reasons which he did not fully explain. Police Inspector Strugnel had persuaded Salmon to take away Sultan Abdullah’s keris and left it with the police, but he was allowed to keep a sword given to him by Queen Victoria. It seemed that Sultan Abdullah had never shown any animosity against Strugnel, as they often played cricket together. In 1879, after two years of strict isolation with a lack of water and medical care in Félicité, Captain Arthur Havelock (Salmon’s successor) allowed them to move to Mahé.
During his exile, Sultan Abdullah was a very keen sportsman. He took part in kite-flying competitions, played football, and was a very good at cricket. He was also a collector of walking sticks and had a love for agriculture where he introduced many types of fruits brought over from the Malay States which included buah salat (butter fruit), manggis (mangosteen) and pisang seribu (thousand finger bananas).
Sultan Abdullah had seven children born in the Seychelles – four sons and three daughters:
1. Raja Said Tauphy, born in Rochon on 16 March 1879
2. Raja Abdul Hamid, born in Rochon on 21 May 1882
3. Raja Abdul Rahman, born in Rochon on 11 June 1882
4. Raja Halijah, born in Victoria on 4 August 1883
5. Raja Aminah, born in Victoria on 18 September 1883
6. Raja Saleha, born in Victoria on 16 April 1886
7. Raja Hussein, born in Victoria on 2 May 1888
Raja Halijah learned to play the piano very well when she was growing up in Mahé. She was said to have played La Rosalie accompanied by Raja Chulan on the violin when he came to visit, and consistently learned and played that tune in Mahé. This tune was later played by Raja Chulan to his elder brother, Raja Ngah Mansur, on his return from the Seychelles and the rest is history.
On 16 April 1891, Sultan Abdullah wrote the following letter from his domicile in Port Victoria to his friend, Sir John Henniker-Heaton, Conservative MP for Canterbury, who visited him in the Seychelles:
Julien Durup in his article had calculated the date of Easter day in 1891 as 29 March, and it is known that the aforementioned wife was Che’ Rasia, known to the Seychellois at that time as Princesse Rasia. Che’ Rasia was the mother to Raja Abdul Malik, Raja Nuteh Fatimah, Raja Mariam Maheran, Raja Puteh Aishah, Raja Ensah, Raja Abdul Hamid, Raja Saleha and Raja Hussein.
Police Inspector Strugnel was originally suspended in Perak for cruelty committed against Malay prisoners, and later became a body guard and interpreter to escort Sultan Abdullah to the Seychelles.
The thousand finger banana (banane mille) following its introduction to the Seychelles had since contributed to the economy of the islands – it became the commonest type of banana and contributed in nourishing the population during the two great wars.
These dates of birth tally with the sequence listed in the ship’s roster as seen here.
Raja Halijah in her interview by the late Mubin Sheppard described that La Rosalie was often played by a French band that gave weekly public performances at the seafront near Sultan Abdullah’s residence in Union Vale.
29 March is an important date amongst the Seychellois Muslims as this was the date that the Muslim cemetery at Mont Fleuri was officially opened. During period from 1887 to 1893, four persons from Perak died at Mahé who, presumably, were among the deportees.
1. Durup J. The Innocent Sultan of Perak in the Seychelles. Seychelles eNews [www.seychellesweekly.com]
2. Porter A. The life and letters of Sir John Henniker Heaton Bt. by his daughter, Mrs. Adrian Porter. London: John Lane Co.; 1916.
3. Généalogie et histoire dans les îles de l’Océan Indien
4. Raja Nur Jannah