Along the way they made fortunes in tin, opium, rubber and commerce, and created empires, and left legacies that became the stuff of legend. This is the story of those skilled opportunists, and of the mansions that they built, the architects they employed and the fortunes that they made and lost.
With over 200 photographs detailing their journey, these are the priceless stories of those personalities that ultimately shaped Penang.
The genesis of an idea…
Keith Hockton was educated in Kuala Lumpur in the early 1970’s. When he returned to live in Malaysia in 2010, he was captivated by Penang’s natural beauty and astonished by its historical heritage. Despite there being a number of very good historical books on the market, the information he wanted and craved – about its mansions, parks and monuments – wasn’t available in a concise, easy to access form. He yearned for people’s stories, stories that actually give life to the mansions and places of interest.
Walking down what was once Northam Road (now Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah), the author stopped at every grand mansion and asked himself the same questions: how old is it, who lived there, how did they make their fortune, who lives there now and what happened to the family?
A serendipitous encounter with Howard Tan, a Penang based photographer who has taken some of Penang’s most lasting and memorable shots, led both to collaborate to create this book. The combined efforts of the two – Howard’s gift in capturing the essence of places and Keith’s restless searching for people’s stories – resulted in addressing unanswered questions.
They make no claim to covering the full richness of this island, but have managed to capture a great deal of its history, all within a slim volume. Through the photographs of the heritage homes, the research and the interviews with friends and family who lived there, and sometimes still do, they have blended place and story.
From considering Penang’s heritage homes and the people who occupied them, it was only a small step to recording whatever information could be found about its parks, buildings and places of interest. They have attempted to link Penang’s colourful past with its ever so colourful present and give you, the reader, and an insight to what made Penang so incredible.
This book is not intended as a walking map of historical sites, more an ambling, meandering guide, that will take you from Batu Ferringhi through to George Town and beyond. Whether you are a citizen, resident or curious visitor, you will enjoy ﬁnding and exploring these historical and cultural places.
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