Tuesday, August 18, 2009

James W. W. Birch

James W. W. Birch
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James Wheeler Woodford Birch

James Wheeler Woodford Birch


1st British Resident of Perak
In office
4 November 1874 – 2 November 1875
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Frank A. Swettenham


Born April 3, 1826(1826-04-03)
South England, United Kingdom
Died November 2, 1875 (aged 49)
Pasir Salak, British Malaya
Religion Christian
James Wheeler Woodford Birch, commonly known as J. W. W. Birch (3 April 1826 - 2 November 1875) was the first British Resident in Perak, Malaysia. He was appointed to the post on 4 November 1874 as the government adviser to the Sultan of Perak following the signing of the famous Pangkor Treaty on 20 January 1874, which established Perak as a British protectorate state.

1 Assassination
2 Memorial
3 Sources and references
4 See also

Birch was killed on 2 November 1875 by a local Malay chief, Dato Maharajalela and his assistant Sepuntum, who speared him to death while he was taking his bath, nearby a river, in Pasir Salak, near today's Teluk Intan (Teluk Anson).

There is inconsistency as to the reason why Birch was assassinated. One view is that Birch's assassination was because he outlawed slavery in Perak. Dato Maharajalela, whose income depended on capturing and selling the indigenes of Perak or Orang Asli as slaves, was then incensed and plotted with some of the slave-traders to kill Birch by spearing him when he was taking his bath in the river.

The more popular view among local historians indicate that Birch was assassinated because of his disrespect to the local custom and tradition, and conflict with local Malay chiefs. He was known to be arrogant and disrespectful of even the Sultan of Perak. Some history books noted how he was despised by the Sultan. Dato' Maharajalela is generally celebrated as a folk hero among Malaysians, due to his substantial contribution.

In the aftermath of the event, the administration shifted to Taiping. Sultan Abdullah was deposed and sent to exile in Seychelles. Dato Maharajalela and others involved in the incident were hanged.

Birch's grave is located near the site of British fort at Kampung Pasir Pulai, about 24 km from Pasir Salak. Roads in Kuala Lumpur and Taiping were thought to have been named after him (Birch Road), but this was for a different Birch; ironically, the same road was later renamed after Dato Maharajalela (Maharajalela Road; Malay: Jalan Maharajalela) after Malaysia's independence in 1957. Similarly Birch Road also appeared in several towns in Malaysia, they were Seremban, Penang and Ipoh, also found in Singapore.

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