Thursday, 20 September 2012

A Walk in Time: Kellie's Castle

Remember how little girls used to dream of becoming a princess, meet prince charming, and live in a majestic castle filled with secrets tunnels and beautiful decorations? Well, I know I’m not one of those girls but what I do know is that we have our own castle here in Perak, Malaysia.

Around 100 years ago where Malaysia was still under British reign and wealthy foreign traders live scattered around Malaya, a Scotland trader came to Malaysia in order to build his own plantation. This foreigner cleared the jungle in Kinta District and opened up his own rubber estate. Due to high the demand of rubber at that time, this exploration of his brought him a lot of fortune. With the success, he brought his family from Scotland to settle down in his first mansion that was built as a symbol of his prospering rubber estate named Kellas House in Malaya.

The man’s name was William Kellie Smith.

In 1915, Kellie was blessed with a son, Anthony. To celebrate his heir’s birth, he decided to build another mansion in front of his old one. He hired workers from Madras to build a mansion first of its kind in Malaya. The works on the building halted a few times, one was when a mysterious illness, now known as Spanish Flu, killed many of his workers. But the tragedy wasn’t what caused the end to the construction, it was the death of Kellie himself that did. William Kellie Smith died in 1962 from pneumonia on his visit to Lisbon to retrieve the elevator that was to be placed on the towers of the mansion. His heartbroken wife, Agnes, sold all of their property in Malaya and returned to Scotland with their son.

If you go to Batu Gajah, Ipoh, Perak, you can find the old mansion standing on a hill separated from the main road by a river. The mansion is grand, with a six-storey tower, wine cellar, and stately columns. Moorish arches and walls embellished with Greco-Roman design. The design was so because of the builder’s interest in Indian designs and myths. Some parts of the mansion are missing. This is because during the Declarance of Emergency when the Japanese took control of Malay for a period of 3 long months, they attacked British traders and possible enemies. Because of the grandness of Kellie’s mansion, which is one of its kind in that time, the building was targeted.

There are many rumors surrounding the castle. Some say that Smith’s spirit lingered on the land, guarding his great castle. It was said this is why the castle is still standing after all these decades. More to the ghost stories, people also said that the spirit of the workers who died in the influenza and also the World War II stayed behind. Scary isn’t it? I wouldn’t recommend staying after dusk if you’re a faint hearted. Who know, Smith might greet you personally.

It is also said that the mansion has four secret tunnels. One is connected to the Hindu temple 500m In the west, one connected to the main gate garage in the south while the other tunnel connect the castle to the road in the east. The other tunnel was never discovered. Though rumors had in that it was used to hide the communist leader of Malaya, Chen Ping in between the 50s and 60s. Imagine what it feels like if you were the one who discovered that last unknown tunnel. If you ever found it, tell us. For now, you can just enjoy the scenery and roams the caste floors and rooftop for only Rm3-Rm5.  

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