The History of Pangkor and the Dutch fort
Pangkor Island is situated off the West coast of the Malaysian Peninsular in the Straits of Malacca. It sits within the state of Perak which means 'silver'- a state that is rich in local Malay history, rich in tin, much planted with palm oil plantations but also containing some of the most beautiful rain forest in Malaysia. Along the Perak River a traveller can see a charming array of typically idyllic Malay wooden architecture and villages. It truly is one of the most lovely areas in Malaysia. Many of its 'new' villages and towns established during the 'Tin Rush', provide great examples of architecture that combined the best of Colonial, Malay and Chinese style. Many of these towns are no longer on a main route so they more often than not have an air of abandonment- but this is beautiful in itself.
Pangkor Island is small, approximately 10 km long and 2 km wide. Villages have developed along parts of it's coastline with Pangkor Town, Sungei Pinang Besar and Sungei Pinang Kechil, being the main areas of settlement. Smaller Malay kampungs have been long established in Teluk Gedung, Pangkor Town, Teluk Kechil and Teluk Dalam. The whole of the island is covered in jungle with 3 main Permanent Forest Reserve areas within them. The island has previously been lightly logged in the 1920's and 1930's with the sliding ditches still visible within Tiger Rocks boundaries, along which buffalo were used to pull out logs. Some rubber was also grown by small holders at the that time. Pangkor's coastline is dramatic with the jungle and huge boulders(common all over the island) often looking as if they are tumbling into the very blue green coloured sea.
The forest on Pangkor is special in that it has now been left to grow without interference and so has a great variety of tree and plant species including many old diptocarp trees. These trees are the main reason the island has such a strong population of Hornbills, providing nesting holes for the Greater Hornbill, the Wreathed Hornbill, Black Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill and the very common Southern Pied Hornbills. Giant ficus trees provide food for all. The bird life on the island is varied with many migratory birds coming through the jungle. One of the most stunning is the Asian Paradise Flycatcher in its white morph stage. These trees are also popular nesting sites for the White Bellied Sea Eagles, and are hosts to the largest orchid plants in the world. Very ancient cycad trees are also found at several sites on the island. It is home too, to the very reclusive and endangered Greater Argus Pheasant or Burung Kuang, (which is always heard at Tiger Rock with many display sites behind the Studio and Hill House). Wild boar are very common as well as civet cats (musang), flying lemurs, large monitor lizards and the ever present small macquac monkeys. There is a huge range of insects and butterflies which are preyed upon by towkay geckos, sun lizards and the little army of delightful flying lizards. The beautiful emerald coloured Wagners Pit Viper is also present and considered locally as a guardian and lucky omen. All these creatures are present at Tiger Rock and we see them on a daily basis.
The population on Pangkor numbers around 20,000 and this makes for a thriving local island economy. Boat building, fishing- especially for the small anchovy type fish(ikan bilis which is steamed then sundried and ready for sale)- and local tourism are the mainstay businesses on the island. There is plenty of retail therapy for island style clothing and accessories and the local street life is vibrant especially in the morning when all the food stalls are out and open. Walking along the hilly roads is popular with the locals and is great exercise. Join everyone in the morning and the late afternoon!
The Dutch Fort on Pangkor was established in 1670 and garrisoned until 1690, and again briefly from 1745 to 1748. Earlier in 1650 the Dutch had built a fort on the Perak River, but this was captured by the Malays the following year. From Malacca and these forts the Dutch tried to maintain a blockade of the Perak coast and to compel all ships to call at Malacca by means of a squadron of small sloops.
The Dutch surrendered Malacca and its dependencies to the British in 1795.
It now gets complicated. In 1871 Sultan Ali of Perak died and the Raja Muda, Abdullah- the rightful heir- was invited to attend the funeral and be installed as Sultan. Abdullah was weak and unpopular and feared to accept the invitation so after 32 days the Perak chiefs, impatient with him, installed the Bendahara Ismail instead. Raja Abdullah never gave up hope and started to intrigue with the Ghee Hin, a clan of Chinese, who had seized Matang and was blockading the Larut coast (the tin field area in dispute amongst Chinese secret societies (the Ghee Hin and the Hai San) and whose revenue was collected by the Perak chief Ngah Ibrahim. Ngah Ibrahim, a Mantri(one of the 4 great officers in the state) supported the Hai San(the opposition Chinese clan) and resented Abdullahs interference.
The Governor Sir Harry Ord, did not recognise the rival Sultans and recognised the Mantri as an independent ruler. As this all brewed, the British Government decided to intervene and in January 1874 , Sir Andrew Clark (Governor in 1873) met the principal Perak chiefs(except Sultan Ismail) and the Chinese headmen at Pangkor.
Here an agreement was reached that Raja Abdullah be recognised as Sultan and accept a British Resident ''whose advice must be asked and acted upon on all questions other than those touching Malay religion and custom". Sultan Ismail would receive a title and pension. The islands of the Dindings and a strip of coast opposite were to be ceded to the Straits Settlements (comprising Penang, Malacca, Singapore and now the Dindings). The Perak chiefs accepted reluctantly, the Mantri was unhappy that he was no longer acknowledged and that Abdullah would be Sultan, and Sultan Ismail was obviously furious.
At the same time the Chinese leaders agreed that Commissioners appointed by the Governor could settle their differences. Captain Dunlop, Mr Frank Swettenham and Mr W A Pickering were given this task and within a month reported that a satisfactory devision of the tin fields had been made. This agreement is known as The Pangkor Treaty.
After the murder of the British resident, Mr J W W Birch ( The wrong man for the post, he did not think the local customs worthy of any consideration) on the Perak river, a plot in which all the Perak chiefs were involved, Sultan Abdullah and the Mantri amongst a few others, were banished to the Seychelles. Ex- Sultan Ismail lived the rest of his life in the state of Johore.
So began the British colonisation of Malaya.
The Pangkor Fort was left abandoned. It has recently been refurbished as a tourism site. There are various stories surrounding it. The most intriguing is the carving on a large rock close by. Locally it is said to have been carved by the Dutch to commemorate the taking of a Dutch child by a tiger on the island. It is said that a Dutch child did go missing but more probably that the child got lost or was killed by hostile locals. No one really knows the true story. Look carefully at the carving, then look at the Dutch insignia and the carving looks like the lion and shield within the insignia. In the end interpretation is left to your own imagination! Apparently the Dutch left treasure too, and it is hidden in a warren of underground caves behind the Fort, within the grounds of Tiger Rock. We have found 2 coins of the British East India Company, under the Main House but so far that is all!
It is after this carving in the rock that we named "Tiger Rock".