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Idolising a Scottish Planter?

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

Are we not idolizing a Scot, whose only contribution to the country was being a rubber planter who left behind his unfulfilled dream to live like a White Rajah? Even Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz appeared to have admitted it when launching the new features at the Kellie’s Castle near Batu Gajah recently.

”Kellie’s Castle deserves to be appreciated not only for its design but to remember its former owner, Scottish planter William Kellie Smith, for his ambition to become a lord in this part of the Earth,” he said.

Kellie's Castle

Thanks to branding and successful promotion, this abandoned and yet to be completed monument to posterity, the so-called ‘castle’ has become a popular tourist attraction in Perak. But, having immortalized Kellie by promoting the site, is that not enough of an effort? Do we actually need to go to the extent of spending more taxpayers’ funds to furnish a lounge and bar areas of the building with replica of old English furniture, antique items complete with curtains, carpets and paintings to reflect how they might have looked during William Kellie Smith’s time?

Well, does anyone really care how William Kellie would have lived if he was alive and had completed the construction of his castle? No doubt, William Kellie could have given some indications of his choice. This is not necessarily how he would live and furnish the building.

Thus, those responsible for assembling them could only say that they are “60 to 70 per cent” similar to what Smith would have conceived them to be. Furthermore, what significance would these new features have on our Malaysian culture?

We do not have to imitate other well-known sites abroad. Like the exhibits in the Windsor Castle, the 14th century Kellie Castle in Scotland, and various mansions in the United Kingdom. Those old and exquisite collections once belonged to royalty and lords who had actually lived in the buildings and as such they could take the visitors through a memorable trip of the country’s past.

I was also horrified by the suggestion, of some tourism officials, to resume construction of the building and to complete it to its intended grandeur. Fortunately the suggestions were shot down, otherwise more taxpayers’ funds would be spent.

Kellie’s Castle is attracting tourists now largely because of the story of William Kellie’s failed dream to have a lifestyle of a maharajah of India and the ghost stories being spawned around it. And also because it is ideally located along the Simpang  Pulai-Batu Gajah Road.

These latest features in Kellie’s Castle were developed out of a RM5 million allocation from the Federal Government. I feel that any expenditure, in the case of Kellie’s Castle, should be confined to providing sufficient facilities, beautifying the surroundings and ensuring the safety of visitors.

If there is any need to reflect the lifestyle of anyone, it should be that of our own prominent personalities in Perak – that is to show the custom and tradition of Malaysian history.

It saddens me to see the federal and state authorities paying so much attention to Kellie’s Castle at the expense of other tourism sites in Perak, which are badly in need of funds for development and promotion.

One such important site which needs our immediate attention is the last of the tin dredges at Tanjung Tualang – a heritage from the glorious past of the tin mining industry in the Kinta Valley. Save the dredge before it disappears completely.

The state has great potential as a tourist destination in the country as it is endowed with various assets, such as natural attractions, heritage and archaeological sites as well as seaside resorts.