Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Straits Settlements

One of my early fascinations in life was with the heraldic coat of arms. I think it began in 1974 or 1975 when I had a small part - a very small part - to play in the design of the Chess Association of Selangor's logo. I remember being very impressed with the amount of detail and description put in by Prof Dr Lau Kam Seng of the Universiti Hospital (he was the CAS president at that time and soon afterwards, he migrated to Australia).

Later, I was to design the emblem for the Penang Chess Association. I even proposed a description for the emblem in the spirit of heraldry but a bright spark in the association objected and wanted a simpler description. Nevertheless, the badge is still being used today although in the 1990s, I introduced a minor change and the headgear of the central chess piece - the King in the game of chess - now sports a slightly different look.

Therefore, you can guess the extent of my excitement when I finally learnt of the original coat of arms of the City of George Town. Yesterday, I did a bit more search on the Internet and I found something else: the coat of arms of the Straits Settlements.

But you know what? I had always thought that the Straits Settlements comprised only Penang (the island and the mainland), Malacca and Singapore. So I was a bit surprised to learn that the Straits Settlements (1826 to 1946) also included, to a lesser extent, the Dindings region in Perak, the island of Labuan in British Borneo, and both the Cocos/Keeling Islands and Christmas Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

According to Wikipedia, the Dindings consisted of some islands near the mouth of the Perak River and a small piece of territory on the adjoining mainland. They were ceded by Perak to the British government under the Pangkor Treaty of 1874. Originally, it was hoped that the Dindings' excellent natural harbour would prove to be valuable but it never turned out that way. The Dindings proved to be a disappointment and its administration was returned to Perak. Today, the Dindings is the district of Manjung.

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