Almarhum Sultan Abdullah: an addendum

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.

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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[1] 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.

A 1910 map of Mahé. (Source: Google Images)

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.

Pisang seribu. (Source: Google Images)

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)[2].

Sultan Abdullah had seven children born in the Seychelles – four sons and three daughters[3]:
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[4] 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:

Content of Sultan Abdullah's letter to Henniker-Heaton, 1891. (Source: The life and letters of Sir John Henniker-Heaton)

Julien Durup in his article had calculated the date of Easter day in 1891 as 29 March[5], 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.

Footnote:
[1]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.
[2]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.
[3]These dates of birth tally with the sequence listed in the ship’s roster as seen here.
[4]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.
[5]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.

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Reference:
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

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7 thoughts on “Almarhum Sultan Abdullah: an addendum

  1. Salam. An interesting read. Btw what happened to all the decendants of Sultan Abdullah in the Seychelles now? Did they come back to Tanah Melayu, Malaya or Malaysia later in the years?

  2. Salam – Saya begitu tertarik dan takjub dengan “penemuan” artikel yang berkaitan dengan Sultan Abdullah “tahanan pertama ISA” kerajaan kolonial British ke Seychelles menerusi laman ini.

    Tahniah kepada pengendali Sembangkuala yang seharusnya membuka mata para pengkaji sejarah negara ini terutama negeri Perak Darulridhwan yang menjadi “pintu masuk” secara rasmi Inggeris ke dalam campur tangan sebuah kerajaan Melayu yang memiliki sistem monarki yang unik.

    Ketika saya menekuni kuliah sejarah tahun satu di Universiti Sains Malaysia, saya rasa bertuah kerana dibuka pemikiran untuk melihat sejarah Perak dari sudut pertentangan “kebenaran” hujah dan fakta yang dihidangkan menerusi buku sejarah, bagi membolehkan seseorang pelajar berfikir secara analitis dan kritis. Saya rasa terpanggil ketika itu dan terdetik di hati untuk meneliti topik yang dilupakan: siapakah sebenarnya Sultan Abdullah? Apakah nasibnya setelah dibuang ke Seychelles di tengah lautan Hindi itu? Bagaimana descendantsnya? Apakan tindakan British melontar seorang raja yang dihanya disyaki terlibat secara tidak langsung – tanpa bukti saheh – dibiarkan berada dalam isolasi di pulau yang memiliki dua pengaruh kuasa besar – British dan Perancis?

    Untuk makluman (barangkali sebagai rujukan), akhirnya, terhasil tiga artikel yang tersiar dalam majalah semi-ilmiah negara kita iaitu Mastika (tidak seperti mastika sekarang terbitan Utusan Melayu yang penuh dengan cerita mistik/seram) dan Dewan Budaya terbitan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Artikel-artikel itu ialah:

    1. “Sultan Abdullah: Tahanan Politik Pertama di Seychelles” Mastika, Ogos 1990, hlm. 16-18.
    2. “Benarkah Sultan Abdullah dianiayai oleh Penjajah British” Mastika, September 1990, hlm.52-54.
    3. “Lagu Negaraku bukan lagu kebangsaan Malaysia”. Dewan Budaya, November 1991.

    Setelah beberapa lama artikel 1 dan 2 itu tersiar, seorang Profesor Sejarah malaysia, Dr Cheah Boon Kheng (USM) telah mengambil cuti sabatikal dan melakukan kajian terperinci tentang Sultan Abdullah di Seychelles. Hal ini diperakuinya dalam siri esei ilmiah yang tersiar dalam jurnal JMBRAS Malaysia (1991/1992) [maaf jika tersilap tarikh - kerana saya kehilangan jurnal itu daripada koleksi saya].

    Sekali lagi, saya berasa bangga kerana dapat berkongsi bahan ilmiah sejarah negara/negeri kita. Semoga dedikasi Sembangkuala akan terus mendapat hidayah Allah swt dan keberkatan-Nya untuk menegakkan susurgalur sejarah yang semakin terhakis dalam kalangan warganegeri dan rakyat kita. Sekian wassalam.

  3. Petikan dari Syukri ” Ketika saya menekuni kuliah sejarah tahun satu di Universiti Sains Malaysia, saya rasa bertuah kerana dibuka pemikiran untuk melihat sejarah Perak dari sudut pertentangan “kebenaran” hujah dan fakta yang dihidangkan menerusi buku sejarah, bagi membolehkan seseorang pelajar berfikir secara analitis dan kritis. Saya rasa terpanggil ketika itu dan terdetik di hati untuk meneliti topik yang dilupakan: siapakah sebenarnya Sultan Abdullah? Apakah nasibnya setelah dibuang ke Seychelles di tengah lautan Hindi itu? Bagaimana descendantsnya? Apakan tindakan British melontar seorang raja yang dihanya disyaki terlibat secara tidak langsung – tanpa bukti saheh – dibiarkan berada dalam isolasi di pulau yang memiliki dua pengaruh kuasa besar – British dan Perancis?

    Semasa didarjah 4 apabila belajar ILMU TAWARIKH ( Sejarah) saya dan kawan-kawan telah bertanya kepada cikgu kami tentang penglibatan Sultan Abdullah. Malahan ketika itu sumber yang terhad dek pada guru dan buku soalan-soalan ini tergantung sehingga saya dapat jawapannya. Malahan penglibatan Dato Sagor sendiri didalam pembunuhan Birch juga masih dipertikaikan. Alangkan eloknya ( sewajibnya) buku Sejarah Negara diperbaiki semula dan diperjelaskan dengan perinci berdasarkan kepada fakta.

    Salam Takzim
    HAJI SAMSUDIN BIN HAJI ABU BAKAR

  4. Many thanks to Sembangkuala for the valiant effort in telling the stories of the Perak royalties. I have found the information here useful for something that I’m writing (or try to). There are a few chapters that I want to know more about but fail to get from the web or library. Unfortunately I’m too poor to purchase the book. I’m wondering if Simbangkuala could point me to the right direction with reference to the following:-
    1) Has Raja Chulan ever told of his meeting with his father in Seychelles?
    2) I’ve read somewhere that Ngah Ibrahim’s son visited him in Seychelles too- do you know who he was?
    3)What happened in the seance where Sultan Abdullah is said to stab Birch’s effigy ?
    4)I read that Sultan Ali’s burial was delayed for one month because Sultan Abdullah did not show. How could that be possible with Malaysia’s weather?

    Once again, thanks
    KL Loo

  5. My salaam and respectful salutation to the Honarable Royals who have commented on this site.
    My name is Mohamed Tajudeen from Singapore. I have been visiting Seychelles regularly for the
    past 25 years on business. But now I am based here in Seychelles for the past 20 months as a General Manager of an Asian restaurant. Few months ago I attended a funeral of the mother of my friend at Mont Fleuri christian cemetry. It is a portion of land reserved for muslim burials, separated by concrete walls on a large christian cemetry. I was curious about the wall separation, and asked one of
    the local muslim gentleman. His answer was – This land was the former residence of exiled Sultan of Perak many years ago. I was astonished and requested to eloborate on this subject, like why the Sultan was here. But he was not able to not tell me much. From that day onwards, I knew there was some connections between Perak and Seychelles. I browsed through the internet, whenever I thought of it, but today I was touched by the comments left by the great grand children and the great great
    grand children of Sultan Abdullah. Sultan Abdullah was a very wise person. He had very well made use of his stay in Seychelles during his exiled period.
    Since I am based here in Seychelles, please do not hesitate to contact me, if you require any assistance in retriving any further information from the government’s archive here in Seychelles.

    Regards / Tajudeen
    E-mail : keepintaj@yahoo.com

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