R.J. Wilkinson: scholar, historian and administrator


Sir R.J. Wilkinson. (Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia)

Sir Richard James Wilkinson, the son of a British Consul in Greece, was born in 1867 at Salonika, Greece. He was educated at Trinity College in Cambridge. He was multilingual and commanded a few languages, which includes French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish and later, Bahasa Melayu and Hokkien.

He became a cadet in 1889 after joining the Straits Settlement Civil Service.

His other posts while serving in the Straits Settlements are as follows:

  • 1896 – 1898  Acting Director of Education, Penang
  • 1898 – 1900 Acting Inspector General of Schools in the Straits Settlements, Singapore
  • 1902 – 1903  Transferred to Dindings, Perak
  • 1903 – 1906  Acting Inspector of Schools for the Federated Malay States
  • 1906 – 1910  Secretary General to the British Resident (EW) Birch in Perak
  • 1910 – 1911  British Resident, Negeri Sembilan
  • 1911 – 1916  Colonial Secretary, Straits Settlements, Singapore

His legacy includes the establishment of the Malay Training College in Malacca in 1900 which was eventually succeeded in 1922 by the Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) at Tanjung Malim.  In 1905, he founded the Malay Residential School, later known as the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK).

He was an important contriubutor to the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (JMBRAS). Some of the books authored by him are:

  1. Malay Grammar, co-authored  with Sir R.O. Winstedt, published by Clarendon Press , Oxford, 1913.
  2. A vocabulary of central Sakai (dialect of the aboriginal communities in the Gopeng Valley), published by J. Brown, FMS Govt. Press, 1915.
  3. The Achehnese, co-authored  with CS Hurgronje and AWS O’ Sullivan, published by E.J. Brill, 1906.
  4. Malay beliefs, published by Luzac & Co. 1906
  5. A history of the Peninsular Malays,  co-authored with Sir R.O. Winstedt, published by Kelly & Walsh, 1920.
  6. A English-Malay dictionary, co-authored with Sir. R.O. Winstedt, published by Kelly & Walsh, 1932.
  7. A history of Perak, co-authored with Sir R. O. Winstedt and SWE Maxwell, republished by Journal of The Malaysian Branch Royal Asiatic Society (JMBRAS), 1974.
  8. The incidents of Malay life, published by J. Russell at the FMS Govt. Press, 1908.
  9. Papers on Malay Subjects, Part I-V.
  10. Life and Customs, Part 1: The incidents of Malay Life,  1908.
  11. Papers on Malay Subjects: Law, Part 1-2: Introductory Sketch and the Ninety-Nine Laws of Perak

R.J. Wilkinson was appointed Companion of The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) in 1912. In 1916, he was appointed the Governor of Sierra Leone and served till he retired in 1922. He died in 1941.

1. Arkib Negara Malaysia
2. Wikipedia
3. British National Library Bibliography
4. Journal of the Malaysian Branch Royal Asiatic Society (JMBRAS)
5. Journal of the Straits Branch Royal Asiatic Society (JSBRAS)
6. Soda Naoki. The Malay world in textbooks: The transmission of Colonial Knowledge in British Malaya, Southeast Asian Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, September 2001.
7. J. M. Gullick. RJ Wilkinson (1867-1941): A man of parts. Journal of the Malaysian Branch Royal Asiatic Society, vol 74. no 1, 2001.

Sir William Jervois and officials in Perak, September 1875


Seated (centre): Sir William Jervois, Governor of the Straits Settlements. Standing (left to right): Dr. AF Anderson; Captain W Innes; Maj. F McNair; Lt. Henry Mc Callum; J.W.W Birch; W Knaggs (in a suit); Captain Speedy; Frank Swettenham. (Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia)

This photograph shows the British officials who were concerned in forming the Provisions of the Treaty of Pangkor in 1874. A young Frank Swettenham (later the first Resident General of the Federated Malay States) is seen standing on the far right. He was then a cadet in the civil service of the Straits Settlements, where he learned the Malay language and played a major role as British-Malay intermediary in the events surrounding British intervention in the peninsular Malay states in the 1870s.

1. Arkib Negara Malaysia
2. Wikipedia
3. Swettenham F. Sir Frank Swettenham’s Malayan Journals 1874-1876, eds Burns and Cowan. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press; 1975. Plate 4.

Golf in Taiping

golf in taiping

A game of golf in the Taiping sun. (Source: Federated Malay States Railway Guides)

The history of golf in Taiping begins back in 1885 with the establishment of the Perak Golf Club which also the first golf club in the country. It is also the second oldest in South East Asia, after the Jakarta Golf Club. In 1890, a major crisis arose in the British social circles in Taiping. The British Resident, Frank Swettenham, decided to limit the membership of Perak Club to high-ranking army officers and miners, leaving out the planters. Unhappy, the senior members resigned and in 1892, they formed The New Club. The chief promoters of it were the late Dr. Shepherd and Messrs. Lefroy, Mais, Gray, and Aylesbury.

During the first year of its existence the club house was sold to Sultan Idris I and Tuanku had granted them a piece of land for the club building, on the condition that the name The New Club is retained. The building scheme was financed by the issue of debentures to the value of $10,000. The New Club is the only club in Malaysia affiliated to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Reference: Harrison CW. Federated Malay States Railway Guides (Illustrated): The Magic of Malaya. In Seventeen Short Stories.