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Madras Lane is located between Burma Road(车水路)and Macalister Road(中路). The Burma Road end of the road is facing Kuan Yin Si(车水路观音寺), or Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, a Taoist temple along Jalan Burma, and the other end at Macalister Road is facing the former King Edward Memorial Hospital, now restored as art and cultural center. Two minor streets off Madras Road are Jalan Talipon(電訊路) and Ong Chong Keng Street(王宗镜路), which are located between Madras lane and Kinta Lane. Madras Lane is located within the triangular grid , bordering by Penang Road(檳榔律), Burma Road, Anson Road安順路and Macalister Road. In within the grid are roads running parallel to each others. The roads are Macalister Lane(姓王公司後 Sὲⁿ-ông-kong-si-aū), Kinta Lane(近打冷巷), Madras Lane(油较路), Jahudi Road(爪夷路, now Jalan Zainal Abidin(再纳阿比汀路)), Lorong Selamat(平安巷), Rangoon Road(仰光路) and Aboo Sittee Lane(三星巷, 三牲巷).
Madras Lane or Lorong Madras, the official name, was named after city of Madras in India, now known as Chennai . Chennai, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. It was named , may be due to the early Tamil inhabitants, from the Indian city of Madras staying in the area. The overwhelming majority of migrants from India migrated to Penang were ethnic Tamil and from British Presidency of Madras. The Madras Presidency, officially the Presidency of Fort St. George and also known as Madras Province, was an administrative subdivision of British India. At its greatest extent, the presidency included much of southern India, including the present-day Indian State of Tamil Nadu, the Malabar region of North Kerala, Lakshadweep Islands, the Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh, Ganjam district of Odisha and the Bellary, Dakshina Kannada, and Udupi districts of Karnataka. The presidency had its winter capital at Madras and summer capital at Ootacamund. In 1947 Tamils Indian represented approximately 85 per cent of the total Indian population in Malaya and Singapore. Opposite Madras Lane was a community of Indian, mainly Indian Muslim at Kedah Road, many of them were Malabaris people, some of them married local Malay woman and assimilated into the Malay community and was known as Jawi Peranakan. One of the descendant of the early community was later become Prime Minister of Malaysia. It was not surprise, before the development of the area, there was people from Madras Presidency living here, and it was officially named Madras Lane.
To the local Chinese it is called Yu-ka-lor( 油絞路) or Chhâ-lơ̄-thaû(柴落頭).
Chha-lo-thau(柴落頭), a timber landing place
Why was it called Chha-lo-thau, which means timber landing place?, it may be possibly the timber vessel carrying the timbers sailed until the Titi Papan( which means Plank bridge, after the bridge over the Prangin Ditch) near Titi Papan Mosque to download their timbers. The Prangin River(later Prangin Ditch) ended there at the junction of Transfer Road/Burma Road. The place was called Tiaù-kiô-thaû(吊橋頭), which means Suspension-bridge head, the name of Penang Rd/Burma Road. It was also near to Transfer Ditch along Transfer Road(near today's Penang Road Police station). The area was actually a water transport hub, with active activities. Madras Lane(near junction of Burma Road)is nearby, closest to Titi Papan, which was the landing place or depot for timber merchants. Timbers may also collected from the hinterland by land transport to gather there.
Yu-Ka-Lor(油絞路), the oil mill road
To know the name, we need to know some history of Penang copra oil industry in Penang.
Then why it was called Yu-ka-lor( 油絞路) by local Chinese until today? WHEN PENANG WAS occupied by the British, it was intended not only to serve as a trading port but also as land for the cultivation of commercial crops such as peppers, nutmegs, cloves, sugarcanes and coconuts. Of these, coconuts turned out to be the only crop successfully cultivated on a large scale on the island, contributing considerably to the economy for almost one century. The mid-19th century witnessed an unprecedented expansion of coconut estates in Penang. These increased from a few thousand acres in the 1830s to 17,000 acres in the 1870s. In the process, Penang became the largest grower of coconut palm in Malaya, with Chinese businessmen on the island being the major owners.In the 1880s, Penang was already a centre that supplied copra and coconut oil to Singapore, Malacca, Kedah, Perak, southern Burma and southern Siam. To capitalise as fully as possible on this “coconut boom”, estate owners set up home-based mills to produce coconut oil for export. By 1892, there were 183 oil mills worked by foot power in Penang. Khie Heng Bee Mill, was the first modern rice and oil mill equipped with steam and hydraulic machinery.( Wong Yee Tuan,2011).
This initiative prompted four more modern oil mills to be established in Penang. They were: Sun Wo Loong owned by Ng Sui Kam, Ban Teik Bee Co. Ltd owned by the Lim brothers, Ban Hin Lee Oil Mills Ltd owned by Yeap Chor Ee, and Hock Hin Brothers owned by Choong Lye Hock and Choong Lye Hin. These controlled over 85% of the total output of oil in Penang. Sun Wo Loong was the largest and produced 80 tonnes of oil per day while the others had an average production capacity of 40 to 50 tonness.( Wong Yee Tuan,2011).
Sun Wo Loong( a sole proprietorship), was formed earlier than that, it was a family business established before 1892. Ng Swee Cam, being a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University, USA, should be the one who modernize the family oil mill. It must be after he took over from the family, or at least when he come back to Penang after graduation in USA. It was later established as limited company.
SUN WO LOONG OIL MILL CO. LTD. (“新和隆油較廠” ), manufacturer or rice bran oil and coconut oil , was located at 51, Madras Lane, Penang, just next to Hu Yew Seah. The timbers may be used as fire woods for the oil mill, or for easy transport to other places in Penang, by bullock carts. That was the reason why the oil mill was set up at Madras Lane(柴落頭), near to the source of timber(timber landing place). So timber merchant must have come first.....
The heritage and Personalities
The landmarks at Madras Lane are Hu Yew Siah, Madras Lane Chinese Methodist Church, Telekom Penang headoffice(fronting Burma Road and along Madras Lane), and colonial government quarters. SUN WO LOONG OIL MILL CO. LTD. (“新和隆油較廠” ) had been closed down, and development plan has been emplaced for the former oil mill site.
Three historical personality were related to the street, Ng Swee Cam(owner of SUN WO LOONG OIL MILL CO. LTD.), Choong Thiam Poe(Founder of Hu Yew Siah), and Dr Rabrindranath Tagore from, Calcutta, India(Hu Yew Seah building was opened in 1927 by Rabindranath Tagore, the 1913 Nobel Prize laureate for Literature). If included Dr Ong Chong Keng(Jalan Ong Chong Keng, a side road, was named after him), it will be four.
1. Hu Yew Siah
The organization was founded by Choong Thiam Poe alias Chung Lok Shan (鐘樂臣, Zhong Lechen, 1888-1930) in 1914 and specifically created to promote Chinese language education among the English-speaking Babas and Nyonyas in Penang. The Hu Yew Seah building was opened in 1927 by Rabindranath Tagore, the 1913 Nobel Prize laureate for Literature from Calcutta. The building was used by the Hu Yew Seah as a venue to promote and teach Chinese language. Because by the turn of the 20th century there were a number of English-educated Chinese, characteristically the Baba or Straits Chinese elite, who grew up not knowing their mother tongue. In the 70s, it was used to provide free tuition to teach Malay language to Chinese students who are weak in the national language.
Dr Rabrindranath Tagore, Asia’s first nobel laureate, visited Penang in 1927 and was received at the Butterworth train station by notable Penang personalities including the late Mr Khoo Sian Ewe, at the time a Legislative Council member. Tagore gave speeches at the Hu Yew Seah, a Straits Chinese educational institution, and Chung Ling High School. He was recorded in the Straits Echo to have had a rousing welcome from Penang’s Asian and Western communities. He also gave a lecture about his philosophy of internationalism at the Empire Theatre (in Magazine Road) and laid the foundation stone of the Hu Yew Seah building in Madras Lane.
Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Hu Yew Seah(辅友社华小）
Today, the Hu Yew Siah building housed a Chinese primary school, called Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Hu Yew Seah(辅友社华小）.
2. Madras Lane Chinese Methodist Church(槟城油较路卫理公会)
Madras Lane Chinese Methodist Church as its name describes, is a church of the Methodist Chinese assembly in George Town. It is also known as the Penang Hokkien Methodist Church, to differentiate it from the Cantonese Methodist Church at Macalister Road.
Dr. West and Mr. Lau Seng Chong on May 5, 1895 to start work among the Hokkien speaking Chinese of Penang as the "Gospel Light (which began) to shine upon this particular group of people who afterwards called themselves Methodists".
These pioneers rented and old shop house at 29 Galdestone Road. Records show that they did not confine themselves to the preaching of the Gospel alone; they branched out into dispensary work, Sunday school work and even started a Chinese school - all within an incredibly short period of 3 months.
The faithful and energetic efforts of these pioneers and their successors contributed to the growth of the Church both numerically and spiritually during the next forty years. The period saw the birth of the Epworth League and the Ladies Aid Society. Both groups together with the Sunday School and other Church programmes resulted in increased membership and attendance. The pressure of space necessitated the Church to move twice each time to a larger building before the congregation finally moved into the present building in Madras Lane in 1937.
The new building was indeed the fruit of the vision, faithfulness and dedication of the pastors, church workers and members before 1937.
Trinity Methodist Church was found in Madras Lane
In 1939, the English Speaking section of the Chinese Methodist Church was inaugurated. The idea of starting the English speaking section was to cater to the needs of the increasing number of children of the Chinese congregation, who attended English schools and found it difficult to understand the sermons in Hokkien. This section started with about 30 adult and youth members. When the Pacific War broke out in 1941, the membership had increased to 80.
After the war, the English Speaking section, despite some minor setbacks, experienced a steady but slow growth. By 1950, the Sunday School and the Youth programmes of the section were activated with the help of the family of the late Rev. Khoo Cheng Hoe and others. The formation of the Boys' Brigade and Girls' Life Brigade alone greatly contributed to the upsurge of youth activities and Sunday School work and attracted an aggregate of over 200 youths. The pressure on space was similar to that experienced by the Mother Church in the pre-1937 period. Under these circumstances, the youth activities on many occasions had to be held at the premises of Union Institution in Burmah Road.
All this while, the English Speaking Section was without a regular pastor. The late Mr. Goh Kim Leong, being the most regular member of the congregation was appointed the Supply Pastor. Although Mr. Goh in his own words described himself as "not gifted to preach sermons", he had executed his duties as Supply Pastor faithfully and fruitfully. Through the God inspired vision and dedicated service of his leadership and faithfulness of the senior members of the congregation, the English Speaking Section was admitted to the Malayan Annual Conference, marking the birth of the Trinity Methodist Church in 1957. The late Rev. Khoo Oon Eng was appointed our first regular pastor by the Malayan Annual Conference.
Since this congregation was organized as a Local Church in 1957, God has richly showered His Grace upon us. The Local Church began with a membership of 80 in December 1957 with a full range of varied activities i.e. WSCS, MYF, MIF, BB, GLB and Sunday School among others. The crying need for a building of its own was immediately realized. Despite its weak financial position, the leadership of the new Church acted entirely on faith in proceeding to purchase the site in Green Lane. With God's blessings on the various fund-raising activities, the Trinity Methodist Church had a building of its own within three years in 1960. The present parsonage adjoining the Church building was also acquired at about the same time.
Founding of Boy's Brigade at Madras Lane,1st Penang Company
The Boys' Brigade did not come to Malaya until the after the second World War. A British soldier by the name of Robert Davis (former Captain of 6th Birkenhead Company at the Tranmere Freehold Methodist Church and later Tranmere United Reformed Church) gave the idea of The Boys' Brigade to one of Penang 's great educationist, the late Mr Geh Hun Kheng, who accepted the challenge becoming the first BB Captain in Malaya. Mr Geh realised that he had to do his "small share" to win the Boys over from the various subversive groups that were so rife after the Pacific War. The 1st Penang Company was officially started on 20th July, 1946. The first meeting of 20 Boys was held in the Methodist Church in Madras Lane on a Sunday in September 1946. Penang thus became the springboard from which Companies were started first in Kuala Lumpur and then in other parts of the country.
3. Telekom Penang
In 1870, postal, telegraph, and telephone systems were introduced in the Malayan Peninsula with the construction of a submarine cable linking the Straits Settlement to London.
1874 The telephone makes its debut in Perak
1882 Perak and Penang are linked by telephone via a submarine cable
The Telecommunications Department was established in 1902
But we do not know when the Telekom Penang was established at Madras Lane...Jalan Telefon must have built after that....
Despite Macalister Road or New Road/Jalan Bahru, was built in late 19th century, which was mentioned in Singapore Directory of Strait Settlement in 1877; the two landmarks, Hu Yew Siah building was completed in 1927, Madras Lane Chinese Methodist Church was completed in 1937.
As per Kelly Map from 1891-1893, the Madras Lane had been built, in fact all the roads there were named with the name "Lane". Macalister Lane, Kinta Lane, Madras Lane, Jahudi Lane. However Kinta Lane was a shorter lane than today's Kinta Lane, which did not continue until Burmah Road, but met its dead end about half way of the current Kinta Lane, may be at the Jalan Telefon of today. Jalan Telefon and Ong Chong Keng Street were not yet built in 1891-1893 period. Jewish burial ground already at Jahudi Lane.
We do not know when the office and workshop of Telekom was built, neither we know when was SUN WO LOONG OIL MILL CO. LTD. constructed. In 1904, there was mentioned of Anson Road, Logan Road, Cantonment Road, Scotland Road, Scott Road, Burmah Road, Aboo Sitee Lane, Ayer Etam Road, Dato Kramat Road, Klawei Road,Perak Road, Jelutong Road, Transfer Road, Scotland Road,, Johore Road,and Barrack Road. This revealed that a good road system of the city had already developed.
Jalan Telepon and Jalan Ong Chong Keng is obviously years later in 20th century.
1. Before palm oil, there was coconut oil… , by Wong Yee Tuan ,February 2011 issue of the Penang Economic Monthly. (Wong Yee Tuan is a research fellow with the Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, and obtained his PhD in history from the Australian National University in 2007).