Friday, October 14, 2016

Old Protestant Cemetery (aka Northam Road Cemetery) @ Georgetown [Penang, Malaysia]

I make it a point to check google maps before i embark on my overseas trips so that i have a better understanding of the area surrounding my choice of accommodation.

In my recent journey to Penang, i did notice that aside from its close proximity to the blue cheong tze fatt mansion, Bayview hotel (Georgetown) is also pretty near a Christian cemetery that's over 200 years old! 

Given my love for the peace and tranquility in cemeteries, it's of personal interest that i will intentionally plan a stop at the Old Protestant Cemetery (known also as Northam Road Cemetery).

Built in 1789, way before the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles, it was in operation for slightly more than a century before it stopped accepting burials in 1892 when another new Christian cemetery was constructed.

Left abandoned with minor restoration work starting only from 1993, a major effort was only undertaken in 2012 and completed in the same year; guess that's the same time when the stone plaque was installed to give ignorant visitors like us a better understanding of the resting place for Penang's pioneer Christians. 

Starting the walk into the cemetery now! 

If not for the many ancient graves by the sides, this might have attracted the attention of photographers as a potential spot for wedding shots.

Notice the coach speeding down the road? That's how close the cemetery is to Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah and in addition to Bayview hotel (Georgetown), there are quite a number of decent-sized hotels in the vicinity.

Designs of tombs and gravestones intrigued me as they said a lot on the history and culture dating back to the period when the deceased was, well, dead.

Older tombs are sometimes not as interesting given the more rudimentary tools available then and the fact that weather can adversely affect their physical state.

In comparison to Chinese tombs, western style tombs are generally rather simplistic with lesser religious connotation; not to mention that the former relies heavily on Feng Shui too.

A rare Asian element display at this tomb; often found in a row on top of a wall in traditional Chinese homes, this allows air circulation within the house.

Gilbert Gardiner who died at Penang General Hospital on third December 1889 - as inscribed on the stone scroll on top of the grave.

Moss covered grave of Florence Amelia Hewett who passed away at the young, tender age of 18.

Some were without headstones although i am unsure if it was on purpose since the cemetery was also bombed during the world war and it was said that damages occurred as well during the major restoration work.

Graves with Chinese inscriptions?! These were the resting places for the refugees of the Taiping Rebellion in China led by a Christian sect.

Unlike Chinese graves which were normally quite spaced out, the tombs in the Protestant cemetery were at times condensed in certain pockets, resulting in crowding of graves. To be fair, i remember the Bidadari Christian cemetery in Singapore to be much "neater".

Sight of small tombs saddens me as it could only mean the death of a child; in this case, the kid was Gladys Valerie who was only 15 months ago when life was taken away from her.

Tomb of a German lady called Frida - i know because of the German words "geboren" and "gestorben" which are translated into born and died respectively.

Quite a number were stone-coffin tombs and in case you are interested, the founder of Penang, Captain Francis Light, was also buried in this cemetery and had similar stone-coffin designed tomb.

My interest lies in taking photographs of unique designs; actually not really, i was just too sleepy that morning and it didn't quite register in my brain when my eyes glanced upon the name "francis light" on the information stone plaque at the entrance.

The longitude and latitude coordinates caught my attention and i believed there must be a fascinating story for this tomb; it actually contained the remains of a man called Alexander Lawrence from Glasgow but the memory extended towards his daughter who died on board a ship and was buried at sea.

Two uncommon designs stood out from the rest.

Don't you think it is a cross between a chest and an incense sticks holder found in many Chinese temples!? I am curious to know if there would be anything hidden inside...

One of the bigger tombs in the cemetery - it belonged to a John Ross and his wife, Jane Anne!

Roman-style pavilion sheltering the smaller grave underneath; there wasn't any indication on who this belonged to! Either there isn't any or i am just too blind to notice any.

Another moss-covered tomb.

Half broken gravestone; according to the information plaque, there were about 459 graves with 150 unidentified and "many burial records were lost".

Another section; the photographs taken were generally taken in chronological order and i didn't make any attempt to revisit spots that i had already walked through. A map of the cemetery would be shown at the end of this post for easier reference.

Charles Theophilus Hogan - whose death was deeply regretted by his widow. The use of regretted sounds strange in contemporary context; the common word used would likely be missed.

Please focus on the tomb behind the cross - as with the grave showing longitude and latitude coordinates, the final resting place of John Hogan was also a memorial for his wife who died in Singapore and his eldest son.

"In loving memory of Eva Virginia" who was married and died at only twenty years of age.

Panorama taken halfway through the cemetery route - i had strolled to the end of the cemetery at this point but as there's only one entrance, i had to walk back.

Just a basic, inscribed headstone for the remains of Constantine Geroge Glinn who departed on 16 July 1854, aged 36 years old.

Before the restoration, many graves were said to be in derelict conditions; beside weather and age, the relatively quiet environment also attracted damage by vandals and drug abusers.

Two stone mounds side by side; maybe a couple? This was quite similar to some Chinese tombs where families can be buried in a connected manner.

Doric column inspired by the Romans?

See the greenish-blue plaques? One of them mentioned that it belonged to Philip Dundas ESQ who was the first governor of Prince of Wales Island, the old name of Penang.

Crypt like tomb.

Helen Mary Kerr - a spinster who departed from this world without crossing 22 years old. Again, i doubt many people use spinster nowadays, which can be rather insulting to unmarried women.

James Richardson Logan and Abraham Logan - the Logans must be a very established family in Penang as i had already found quite a number of graves with the Logan family name.

Acts of randomness.

Jonas T Leslie - the verses were not very clear in what they want to say although one section appeared to be Latin. Oh well, i am more a K.I.S.S person; keep it short and sweet.

Another baby tomb - kid was only 10 months old.

More randomness - i did notice a pattern; whenever i blog until too late and there were too many photographs, i tend to reduce my comments lest they become mere gibberish.

Was this half buried in the ground?!

Just wondering, with that metal piece sticking out like that, does that infer a higher risk for lightning strikes? Not to mention that there is also a safety issue; hence, no running in the cemetery please!

I am not much informed on the origins of tomb designs for the westerners and now that i am picking up on reading again, maybe i can go to the library and see if there is any book talking about it.

Captain Joseph Webb - "faithful and true in all its personal relations, just, and of strict integrity in his business dealings"; sound like the perfect man for my younger sister!

The Roman Catholic Cemetery is a separate cemetery although its entrance is via the Protestant Cemetery; i would have loved to explore if not for the locked gate. Too bad, and i am hungry.

Sun was also getting stronger and we had an appointment; meeting up with the rest of our travel mates to the cooling Penang Hill and spectacular Kek Lok Si temple!

Quintin Dick Thompson ESQ - his death must have come as a shock as it was indicated that he passed away "after an illness of ONLY two days".

No idea what this shelter was for; in Singapore, this would likely mean there were caretakers and it's plausible given that this cemetery was granted a class 1 heritage site and is the oldest Protestant cemetery in Southeast Asia.

- End -


Along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah
[a short walk from Bayview Hotel (Georgetown)]

Location Map

As above. 

Map of Cemetery 
As above.

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