On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

9. How To...Jjuweng

Jjuweng is best understood when it’s not. Dök jjuweng is a sad state when two souls don’t meet and are even at odds. Jjuweng may look almost similar to jjuweh but isn't, though jjuweh with lips pouting, may indicate displeasure as a result of not being in jjuweng with someone else. But jjuweh generally is a sign of someone doing something in earnest, lips shaped into a pout while carving a piece of driftwood into a spear to throw at someone with whom he is dök jjuweng i.e. in disagreement or just not compatible with. Admittedly, spear throwing may be an extreme way to state your disapproval of someone whose path other people, similarly disposed, may just avoid, but such is the caprice of people who’re at odds that they sometimes wish their opponents dead.

The origin of jjuweng has been lost in antiquity, though there are many who believe that antiquity may have begun in the 1800s, when topi-headed British lads came down to Trengganu and urged the local chieftains to “come join hands” in their empire-building work. Those who preferred to hurl spears at the topis were jotted down in colonial records as refuseniks to this invitation to ‘join’, an expression that slid into the Malay language as tidak join and later into the vernacular as dök join, then, dök jjuweng as an expression of incompatibility as the topi was to a long cloth wrapped around the head.

In daily life where there’s restraint about fisticuffs, people who are said to be dök jjuweng give each other a wide berth. In extreme cases, where they meet and wish to exchange words, the one speaks to the other through the intermediary of a neutral third, even if the gap between the first and second unjjuweng person is only a yard. Jjuweng is commonly stated in the negative as dök jjuweng probably because of the presumed provenance of the word, as to be a refusenik vis-a-vis the topis would’ve afforded some social cachet in the village. It’s more prestigious to be dök jjuweng than jjuweng so to speak.

It is better, by and large, to be jjuweng than dök, and the position in between will take you down another road: dok jjawa (standardspeak, duduk berjawa), the path of the undecided. Now, I shall not speculate as to how we’ve wandered from jjuweng, which came to us presumably from Old French via English, to Jawa, which is a place down the Straits, but such is the convoluted way of the argot.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Growing Up in Trengganu #839,722

Near the old CEB (later LLN) building opposite the old bus station with the big sentul tree, they came and turned the earth and built another ‘modern’ building in Kuala Trengganu, the Bangunang Pejabak Ugama. Before it Father’s office looked just like a little bungalow, with an open public counter, behind which Father no longer tinkered with dots and dashes but a newfangled contraption that buzzed in one part of the country then burred in another. The sound of telegrams had changed from the dee-dee-dit-dah-dah of the old Morse Code to the new wonder of teleprinter technology.

Our town too was slowly changing. After doing my lunchtime after-school chore of cycling furiously in the afternoon heat to the Telegraphic bungalow with a hot glass bottle of Father’s post-prandial Nescafe, I’d cross the road to the back of the new bangunang, into the newest bookshop in Kuala Trengganu. One day I came out from it with a paperback collection of horror stories put together by a man called Herbert van Thal. But mostly I cared little for books, preferring instead the zips and zaps of Beano and Dandy, and the gripping exploits of Battler Britton or Spy 13 and other war adventures that Father bought in compact comic books from a cluttered bookshop named Chee Seek in Kampung China.

Father was a secret comic book addict, hiding under his calm exterior a penchant for war. He brought home a paperback once, with the grand title “Sink the Bismarck!” which I dropped after one little paragraph at sea, and which I think he did too. But coming home from work he frequently stopped at the town’s mosque before taking a cycling detour over the titiang (bridge) of Banggol to Kampung China. In the cabinet below his writing desk he kept stacks of Chee Seek-stamped DC comics that took me away to rough terrains on many afternoons, deaf to all the ambient noise for the cries of startled German soldiers (“Donner und blitzen!”), bombs and gunfire. From the Chee Seek bookstore too Father bought the US Reader’s Digest which was thicker and glitzier than its English counterpart edition. It was from here that I got introduced to the condensed O. Henry, Robert Benchley and James Thurber.

Chee Seek was different from other bookshops in Kuala Trengganu. In it were hidden pearls and paperbacks, and magazines dangling from the ceiling on thin wires; and in the back chamber of the shop, hidden from public view, were steaming plates of kerepok lekor dipped in home-made chili sauce, and a salad dish called ceranang bathed in a thick sauce of crushed peanuts and coconut milk, and sugar and hot pepper. This was the domain of the matriach Mök Mek, who fed our hungry bodies after we’d feasted our minds in those stacks of printed matter. After Chee Seek if you had money left, you stopped at the row of zinc roofed stalls, at the first one, run by a grumpy man called Sumbu, in that lane that took Jalan Kampung China into the narrow backstreet of Lorong Jjamil. You’d be lucky to find an empty stool or space at a wobbly table, where for twenty cents or so you could scoop into a bowl of the best ais kacang in town to extinguish the heat of war from the comic books in Chee Seek and douse the fire of Mök Mek’s chillied kerepok lekor.

In the heyday of our years there were six bookshops in Kuala Trengganu. There was one in our corner of Tanjong by the surau of Haji Mat Kerinci where we waited every morning for the appearance of the yellow and red livery of the Trengganu Bus Company. Further down the road, past Padang Malaya, stood a little shop facing the sea, with racks of jawi newspapers and periodicals by its door, behind which sat an eccentric with bottle-bottom glasses and a toothbrush ‘tache, a man called Che Mat Dök Dek for reasons I never knew. When his business folded in later years he packed the books and got rid of the mags and rags and opened his door again as a driving school.

Escaping from the heat one day I walked into a new bookshop in the other end of Lorong Jjamil where it curved into Jalan Banggol. A lady sat scowling at the counter and as soon as I pulled a big, expensive book from the shelf to see if it was as good as those DC comic wars, she threw a remark that exploded around me like a dozen bazookas, “Dök söh ambeklah bok besör tu, bukang nye nök beli!”* I have abided by this advice ever since.

Father read Qalam and Mastika that he sometimes picked up from the Saudara Store, a quaint little ‘bookshop’ near the Masjid Abidin that was owned by his friend Ustaz Su. Qalam was a hard hitting political-cum-religious magazine that I found very absorbing, and Mastika then had a writer named Othman Wook who penned spooky stories, the fore-runner to the magazine’s present day obsession with apparations, ghosts and ghouls. When Father finished reading those magazines he’d send them to his friend Mat Jar from the Government Printing Office, and they came back bound in burgundy. Our staple then was the weekly Utusan Kanak-Kanak that Father picked up with his daily newspaper from the Pök Löh Yunang. I remember reading it (in its Jawi edition) under the light bulb that hung in the rear verendah of our house while waiting for Mother to lay out the dinner table. Sitting there on the floor in the dim light and long shadows, the comic strip adentures in the Utusan cast a weird and eerie spell.

Keda Pök Löh Yunang was of course our favourite bookstore. It was a bright place, abuzz with people, with religious tomes and kitabs in its hard to reach shelves and lighter reading material on its tables and even at floor level. There was the ever smiling Pak Yassin who I met for the last time in the shop many years ago, when he took me to the coffee shop in the shadow of the clock tower for tea and satay. I had a vague suspicion then that Kuala Trengganu was the only capital in the world that served satay for breakfast, but that wasn’t what we were out to celebrate. It was for all those those years of the Utusan Kanak-Kanak and the Beanos and the Sunny Stories, and for the good ship Pök Löh Yunang and all the good people who sailed in her.

*"Leave that big one alone. You can't afford it!"

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ways of Seeing

History is fascinating because in its reflection not only does it portray itself but also the figure of the observer. It is this central self that interprets its happiness and grief and the myriad colours, and as often as not the meaning that is drawn from this experience can be both ideological and — I shall be the first to admit — highly personal. But the point of history is that central terrain of events and people in that ghostly past, awaiting and eager to be summoned to face us all in our present state — whatever state — of reality. It is this that makes history so daunting and worthwhile.

After my blog Man of Ood, fellow blogger Abidin offered this interesting comment: ”But the 1928 rebellion represented a conflict between tradition and modernity, not coloniser and colonised.”

Yes indeed, tradition and modernity have clashed many times even in Trengganu. It was the Sultan Zainal Abidin III I am told, who stopped the encroaching railway on its tracks because, he argued, it would take the state into decadence and well, even if he didn’t use the word, ‘modernity’. And from here more images of men: the quest for modernity and its opponents on the other side. And then again in Ulu Trengganu, the peasants on the one hand, troubled by tax for the use of land, and the rulers (urged on by the Brits) who had to push on or sidle to the wayside. In the case of Sultan Muhammad it was exile in Singapore; in the case of Haji Abdul Rahman Limbong, Singapore and then Makkah. In a more extreme case, in Perak, it was exile to the Seychelles.

Who were these people? Just stick-in-the-mud anti modernisers who took up their cudgels against the Brits and no more? To accept that would give colonialism a high and mighty horse to ride over ‘backward’ people and then demean the names of Bahaman, Tok Peramu, Tok Gajah and his son Mat Kilau and more, they were traditionalists all but in their hearts they were also united by their hatred of foreign rule. When Pahang ‘rebels’ were driven out of their native state in 1894, they — Mat Kilau and Datok Bahaman — fled to Trengganu where they were sheltered by another Trengganu anti-colonial stalwart, Tok Ku Paloh. Earlier, in 1831, when another Malay state, Patani, was attacked by another outside power, Siam, both Kelantan and Trengganu went to its aid but unsuccessfully, and Trengganu, under great pressure, had to suffer the humiliation of having to hand over some of its best warriors to Siam, the victor. They were Panglima Ahmad, Panglima Demit, Panglima Mahmud and Panglima Pe’ee.

These revolts could have been moved by political events, or social processes could have pushed them to the boil, but, as my historian friend Dr Shahril Talib noted in his book ‘After Its Own Image: The Trengganu Experience 1881-1941’:
“[I]n recent years, several scholars have attempted to show some similarities and differences among these revolts. The prevailing observations were that all these revolts were anti-colonial and all, except the Trengganu case, were led by members of the ruling class. It was pointed out that the Trengganu revolt was led by religious leaders.”

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mat Sprong Ngilla Sapa Ddarak - I

Beginning a new adventure of Mat Sprong, Kuala Trengganu's most famous private dick.

Lepas ggarik: tanöh
dok ddene lagi, hujang belong serek, kereta lalu sia-sia habis ngeccik orang ttepi jalang raya. Mat Sprong nnitah cepak-cepak masok kkeda kopi Wang Wok, baju dia basah jjerok, air naik sapa llutut seluar, minyök rambut Zam-Zam nneleh dari ppala turong ke dahi habis beleming muka Mat.

“Buak aku roti telor sebutir, teh segelah biar panah sikik aku dok tengöh sejok ngokko ni,” dia kata kepada pelayang keda.

“Guane hari ning Mak, mung kerja jadi juru selang ke?” pelayang tu kata, ggura.

Mat Sprong angkat tangang sebelöh. “Jangang buak ggitu nati aku tang muka mung kang ddamo je!” Pelayang tembor lari masok belakang keda, dengor bbunyi ngilla kah-kah dari belakang dapor.

Mat kesak muka denge kaing batik hök dia paka macang samping atah seluor. Bila kena panah sikik ddalang keda kopi tu dia berhenti ketör tapi tiba-tiba dia naik rasa seria, bulu roma ddiri atas tekök, bulu lengang dia ccacang macang ulat bulu.

“Isy, budök ning kurang hajör sunggoh, nnyesa aku dök lepuk dia takdi,” dia bbisik sendiri sambil tengok lalulintas ddepang keda. Kereta lalu bbunyi ceeeeer! atah air, dua tiga orang dok gateh teksi krek-krek ddalang hujang renya-renya, budok budok berlari cebu-ceba ddalang air ttepi jalang.

Mat ppaling dari jalang tengok teh dia döh sapa mmeja: terus dia ambek sudu kaca keteng-keteng, laju, sapa keroh susu naik mmuka air, teh meröh ttukör jjadi warna sunga Telemong, wap panasnya naik berasap ggulong di udara lembab hök hujang bawök ssariyang dök bereti-reti. Making tinggi asak jjulang naik making kuat dadanya rasa pedih sebab ketagih döh naik pasa lama dök isap rokok. Ddalang kocek Mat rasa pitis ada tiga keping je, cukup untuk bayör teh segelas dan sebutir roti telor, nasib baik gula dapak free untuk cicöh.

Tiba-tiba Mat ngelloh panjang macang ppala kereta api Bukit Besi bila sapa di Suragate. Budök pelayang bawök roti telor ddalang pinggang leper plastik, kkilak denge minyök sapi, kulitnya rapoh macang kene cat bernis, berasap lagi, masih panas. Dari dapor ddengör suara budak pelayang ngilla lagi. Mat ambil sudu dan tabor gula atah roti, matanya jjeling ke cerok dapor.

“Hisy budök tu, galök sunggoh. Kalu dapak aku nök cekek tekök dia abih-abih!”

Tiba-tiba datang suara Cik Kaleh dari seberang meja, ddepang asap roti panas dan teh yang dö h mula nö k sejuk. “Ba’ape yang bekeng sangak tu Mak?”

“Leh, mung jangang wak ggitu aku ning senang kkejuk!” jawab Mat. Cemas.

“Ba’ape yang mung ning napök macang döh naik daröh gemuruh sangak ?” Cik Kaleh selok kocek wak keluör kötök rokok Consulate.

“Mung jangang ggura Leh, aku tengöh celaru perok ni; kalu budök pelayang tu ngilla sekali lagi aku nök gi pulah tekök dia ssitu jugök!”

Cik Kaleh pujok Mat. “Janganglah ggitu, tu budök-budök, apa salah kalu dia galök sikik?”

“Beri aku rokok seputong Leh. Aku baru tengök hatu raya tadi, dia ngilla macang budök tulah lek-lek,” jawab Mat.

[To be continued]

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Crocks in the Well

If you’ve ever rested on Frazer’s ‘The Golden Bough’ to view the rich seam of folklore in this world you’ll find that there’s a thread running through them all. A link however remote, however thin, to another, then another, until this tapestry of folktales becomes one collective note on the great unconscious of this world.

But even then I’m still surprised by what I find. Loreli, for instance, the singing lady who sings not just on the Rhine, but everywhere. The Malay nobat is the music of the spheres, heard by folks at sea then translated into the voices of strings and flutes and the reverberating noises of hard metal. After what I wrote about the Princess of the Bukit Putri I was surprised to hear a smiliar story from Atok [see Comments, below], about Kelantanese people borrowing crockery from Puteri Sa’adong for their bekwoh then dumped them into a well. Ah, that word bekwöh, defined in the Kamus Besar Utusan as kenduri arwah, feast for the remembrance of a departed soul. Is there a possibility that it started life as berkawöh (i.e. [cooking] in a caludron) then slowly morphing through word of mouth into bekawöh then bekwöh? And then, what happened to Putri Sa’adong? Did she too fly away? Why were the crockery thrown into the well?

Then a gender note: someone — a grammarian perhaps — wrote to comment on my use of the male honorific ‘Tuan’ for our princess, Tuan Putri. It is the way of Trengganuspeak, I’m afraid, for Trengganuspeak often makes no distinction between male and female in the award of titles. Even today there are still ladies in Trengganu (and in Kelantan too maybe) who carry the family title of Tuan; and big sister or brother in Trengganu is of course abang (‘elder brother’ in standardspeak), and kakök is both male and female in our Trengganu world. I believe this is also true in some parts of Indonesia.

But thanks Atok for taking us to your well of coincidental crockery. May your family blossom in their chosen paths and may there always be fish for your kerepok lekor.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fruits and Needles

When, in the early 1990s, the political administrators of Trengganu woke up with the stilted vision that perhaps people should be evacuated from town centres and despatched immediately to the darat and their homes replaced with roads and shops — a commercial rather than a civic community — one of the houses that got the demolition order within short notice was one that belonged to the family of my uncle’s wife, next door to the Masjid Abidin. This was the beginning of the end of the vibrant community of Kuala Trengganu: its spirit may have gone when the Tuan Putri left the Hill, now it was the turn of the people down below, they were being pushed out by men with moneybags, as hoteliers began to usurp their views.

Seventy-nine years ago, this month, a poem penned by a Trengganu lady named Hajah Wok Aisyah binti al-Haji Nik Idris, had these stanzas:
"Pada masa jalan dibuatnya besar
Datanglah notis pegawai bandar
Rumah yang terkena ke jalan besar
hendaklah segera pindah beredar

Manakala mendengar notisnya itu
banyaklah orang berhati mutu
Mulut berkata tiadalah tentu
'Inilah akal orang putih itu.'

"When the roads to be made broader
A letter came from the Town officer
All houses that now stand in the way
Must be pulled down without delay

When word of the notice began to spread
Many people they became so sad
And then they began to natter
'That white man must be behind this matter.'"
Pulling down houses (and people) that stood in the way of progress isn’t something new: it was done during the time of the British Agent/Adviser J.L. Humphreys, the ‘Tuan Hampris’ of the Syair Tuan Hampris that I quote above. Now progress continues apace: Kuala Trengganu is a town with banks and hotels and tourism places and a Cup to catch the Monsoon air, but as with planning in most Malaysian towns nowadays, it isn’t planning for the local community.

Tuan Humphreys wasn’t at all a bad colonial officer: he spoke Malay fluently, played dam with the locals, and even made up for the lack of tact of the High Commissioner the pompous Sir Lawrence Guillemard (who went down to Kuala Trengganu in 1923 with a gong for the Sultan, the KCMG) by translating his high and mighty address into polite and proper court Malay.

This portrait of Humphreys [left] used to hangJ.L.Humphreys in the Government administrative offices with that famous clock tower (Jjabak Jang Besör in Trengganuspeak), standing serenely between the wide expanse of old graves of unknown Trengganuers and the padang and the police station of Paya Bunga and the sundial memorial to Humphreys. These offices stood amid clusters of casuarina trees that spread trunks and shed needles and mini spiked fruits on the tarmacked floor. Casuarinas also shielded another place connected with the Kuala Trengganu of J.L. Humphreys, the golf course along Pantai Batu Burok that he gave to the Kuala people.

We used to stop under in the shade of those Jam Besar trees to collect those strange looking mini fruits of the casuarina and to play tricks with their needles. We pulled them out of their joints and then restored them again into intact needles, such were the simple pleasures of childhood in Kuala Trengganu. And then we walked away towards home, leaving the casuarina trees and the clock tower and those government quarters filled with people from states bigger and richer than ours, to emerge in Kampung Kolam by the Istana.

Thinking of this reminds me always of these lines from "Our Casuarina Tree" by that remarkable but tragic 19th century Indian poetess Toru Dutt:
"But not because of its magnificence
Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:
Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,
For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear!
Blent with your images, it shall arise
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!
What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?
It is the tree's lament, an eerie speech,
That haply to the unknown land may reach."

See Also:
* Man of Oob
* Light Over Trengganu

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Well Worn Tale

Around Christmastime maybe eight years ago, an aristocratic German man from one of the state education authorities told a group of us, while waving at the river Rhine behind him, of the enchanting lady Lorelei, the sad maiden who sat on the riverbank “just behind me”, he said, whose haunting calls sent many a fishing boat and many a fisherfolk down to their grave in the deep water.

As a Trengganu man I wasn’t in the least surprised by this siren call, for in Kuala Trengganu we too had one residing on Bukit Putri, a lady with one foot in the spirit and another in the corporeal world, and to whose door on the hill Trengganu folk beat a well-trodden path to — believe it or not — borrow her crockery. It was a very satisfactory and very Trengganu way of Trengganu flesh meeting the spirit world: we kept her at a higher plane and we borrowed from her cups for tea.

This was the tale told us by our mothers at bedtime or by elderly folk with rheumy eyes turned towards Bukit Putri. Some quiet nights when I looked out of the window from the front part of our house I saw a light winking from the hilltop, guiding ships coming into the Kuala, not misleading them like the lady Lorelei. And I thought of the Tuan Putri wandering there like a demented soul trying to make sense of the unsatisfactory audit of some missing items in her household.

Both the Lady Lorelei and our Tuan Putri were pushed out of my mind for a while by those petty businesses of this workaday world until the last Christmas break, when, swept to a quiet corner at a friend’s wedding anniversary do, I met again a friend who’d in the past been telling me fascinating stories about his corner of Losong in Kuala Trengganu. Now Losong is a part of town about which I know very little though I was told once that the word actually means ‘an escape route’, i.e. a bolt hole for one or the other of those parties that were intermittently engaged in their little wars. And so what did we talk — this Losong man and I — after we’d exchanged our guana gamök and dok ggitu lah sokmo?

Well, we exchanged notes about Trengganu wells.

There was a well near his house, my Trengganu man told me, that was square-shafted and held together not by the standard Trengganu round kerek or by brickwork as in our own well in Tanjong Pasar, but its sides were boarded with ancient lumber. Wells, as you know if you’ve stood there pouring water on yourself with a timba, need to be cleaned once in a while to clear them of mosses and lichens and old timba that had cut loose from their worn out ropes of woven coconut fibre. This was the ritual known as ranya telaga, when a man in his kain ssahang goes down into the well to rid it of all its debris before going up again and then, if it’s a family well, enlist the help of all able-bodied family members to bail out all the dirt to let fresh water trickle again into the well.

It was during one such ritual in his kampung that they found crockery hidden at the bottom of the well, said my friend. And this links us back to Bukit Putri because, as we so often heard at bedtime, the Tuan Putri fled the hill, never to be seen again, after some parties defaulted on their promise to return her pieces of china.

Folk in my kampung said that those were the pieces of crockery that belonged to the Tuan Putri, my friend said.

“Well, let’s go back and take another look at that old well then,” I said.

“No that’s no use,” my Trengganu friend said. “There’s a house now standing on that well."
* * *

I have been scouring many picture files for that pintu gerbang, that old gateway into the Istana Maziah at the foot of Bukit Putri where, as I wrote last year, the hantu kekeng stretched his (its?) legs at the chime of the genta at the midnight hour.

I am happy to say that I have found Father and Friend in front of the Pintu Gerbangone half of it — the gerbang I mean — in this photograph that my brother took out of our old family album. Here Father and his friend Soon (probably from the Post Office nearby) are seen standing by one those cannons that were placed in Padang Malaya (now Padang Maziah) under the pinang gatal tree. You can see some of its early shoots on the left hand of the picture. And there it is, that old pintu gerbang of the Istana Maziah in the background, looking tired and well-mottled even in 1947 when this photograph was taken. I hope the hantu kekeng has found a suitable place for it to haunt now that they’ve dismantled this pintu gerbang, and I hope too that the road there is broad enough for it to bring its midnight stretch to its full potential.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Light Over Trengganu

How swiftly time flies: a peek at the date and it’s already the eighth day of the new year!
Cepak sunggoh masa jjalang,
dah nök wak guana setarang!

How swiftly the time it flew
Then there’s nowt that you can do!
In 1925, maybe later, they placed an instrument on a raised platform to measure time with light from the sun that travelled over the Trengganu sky. This was near the police station, opposite the Padang Paya Bunga, and not far from the Pejabat Jam Besar (Jjabat Jang Besör in Trengganuspeak) that was hidden a short distance away, in the shades of casuarina trees.

Sometimes when we walked home from the Sekölöh Sultang Slemang (the “Rendöh” – Primary – branch of the school), we’d stop by at this monument to peer at the intersecting bits of curled metals, with barely a note of recognition of the person that it was trying not to forget, nor the time of day. This was the sundial of Kuala Trengganu, raised over the ground where once walked J.J.Humphreys.

Humphreys was appointed British agent to the court of Sultan Zain al Abidin in 1915, firstly to share a supporting role with Charlton N.Maxwell, and then to replace him altogether. Maxwell, grandson of Sir William Maxwell of Maxwell Hill, was a Malayan-bred gentleman who was well familiar with native lore; he’d turned his position in Trengganu into a curious anomaly, as an official representative of the British and a member of the Sultan’s Council. The Sultan Zain al Abidin was so impressed with his ways that he appointed Maxwell his mushir, “an obscurity meant to cover over the fact that it was illegal for a non-Moslem to be on the council,” opines Heussler in his book ‘British Rule in Malaya, The Malayan Civil Service and Its Predecessors, 1867-1941’.

Maxwell was soon pulled out of Trengganu to give Humphreys more space to swing his role. He (Maxwell) later retired with his Malay wife to the islands of Dinding off the coast of Perak but sadly, as Heussler notes, they were both murdered by their syce just before the second World War.

I must have seen the photograph below hundreds of times in our family photo album, wondering about the quaint ritual that was taking place (judging from the shadows) in the morning light, and it was not until I went to that school wedged between Batas Baru and Cherong Lanjut that I got to know that it was a sundial erected in memory of one J.J.Humphreys.
Sultan Sulaiman Unveiling the Humphreys Sundial
The tall man seen unveiling the sundial in the picture is undoubtedly Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah, and from the flag flying behind him — black and white strips, white saltire and star above crescent on white — I would guess that the ceremony took place between 1925 and 1933 when the flag was replaced by another. In the second picture (below), the white-suited man with the pith helmet cupping his hand to catch the light is probably the British Agent, and I’m confident that the man in the black Malay baju, looking with great interest at this new addition to the landmarks of Kuala Trengganu is none other than the Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amar Diraja Ngah Muhammad bin Yusuf, who, one fine golfing day, gave Humphreys a long memorable lecture on the judgment of Solomon vis-a-vis the claims of two women over a child [see, Man of Oob].
R to L Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah, the British Adviser, Datuk Amar Sri Diraja
Humphreys was, by all accounts, a tactful man and a competent British Agent credited with the economic progress of Trengganu. He stayed for a long time, until 1925, and is remembered, among other things, as the man who brought golfing to Kuala Trengganu. He died in Tientsin in 1929, from pneumonia, at the age of 50.

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