Hail, Penang! Being the Narrative of Comedies and Tragedies in a Tropical Outpost, Among Europeans, Chinese, Malays and Indians


George Bilainkin
2010, Areca Books
Hardcover, 22.3cm x 15.6cm, 271 pages,
56 black & white illustrations.
ISBN 9789675719028

Also available for purchase as a Kindle eBook from Amazon.


By George Bilainkin.

Foreword by Ilsa Sharpe.

In the late 1920s British colonial power in Malaya appeared at its zenith. Run by a small political and commercial elite on behalf of metropolitan interests, Malaya was the most profitable of all Britain’s possessions and seemed likely to remain that way. Into this scene came a young journalist, George Bilainkin – witty, confident, acerbic and iconoclastic – appointed by chance as editor of Penang’s lively English-language newspaper The Straits Echo in 1929. Through a series of engaging sketches and reflections he discloses a wonderfully compelling portrait of Penang, its personalities and its environs. Looking beyond the complacent colonial façade Bilainkin grapples directly and indirectly with a wide range of topics that have strikingly modern echoes: the absurdities of social snobbery; the position of women in society; and, above all, the fraught nature of race relations.

This revised edition of Hail, Penang! offers an original, engaging and provocative glimpse of colonial society that is sure to engage a new generation of readers. Also available as a Kindle eBook from Amazon (Kindle edition available only in the United States of America).

Editorial Reviews

Bilainkin was skilled, and exceptionally lively .… While his was a flawed personality, it was a wonderfully alive and human one for all that. In terms of journalism alone we will not see his like again. And with his Hail, Penang! he earned his place in Malayan history. – Ilsa Sharp

“Bilainkin anticipates many of the debates which would go on to shape the end of colonial rule.” Kirsty Walker

About the Author

George Bilainkin was a distinguished foreign correspondent and author who served as editor of Penang newspaper The Straits Echo (1929–1930).


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi
Acknowledgements viii
Foreword by Ilsa Sharp ix
Preface xxiv

I Towards the Pearl of the East 1
II Ricksha Coolies’ Greeting 11
III I Meet The Staff 19
IV The Colour Bar 31
V Keng Hor and Abdul 45
VI Willing Slavery 53
VII Damaging European Prestige 63
VIII Fighting Loneliness Everywhere 75
IX Dr. Voronoff’s Ambition 87
X Sidelights on Local Life 93
XI White Outcasts 103
XII Christmas in the Jungle 115
XIII Marriage a Real Lottery 137
XIV Englishwoman on a Leper Island 149
XV Human Suffering 163
XVI Europeans’ Manners 175
XVII “Failed B.A.” 187
XVIII A Malay Love-Letter 199
XIX Noel Coward’s Wizardry 213
XX Racial Clashes 225
XXI Malaya – For Whom? 235
Index 260

 Click here to view photos from the official book launch of Hail, Penang!

Weight 550 g
Dimensions 22.3 × 15.6 × 2.1 cm


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