Saturday, February 27, 2010

Macalister Road, Penang

Macalister Road(or Jalan Macalister) was one of the longest road in Penang. It was named after Colonel Norman Macalister, Governor of Penang from 1807 to 1811.

The Chinese called it Tiong-lor̄(中路),which literally means middle road, being the middle road of the 6 roads that once met at Magazine Circus. The 6 roads are Magazine Road(過港仔/頭條路), Dato Kramat Road(柑仔園), Penang Road, Brick Kiln Road(風車路), Gladstone Road(火車路), and Macalister Road. Brick Kiln Road has changed its name to Jalan Gurdwara,the new Malay name is after the Sikh gurdwara(sikh temple)located there. Gladstone Road (火車路)which literally means tram road, is no longer there and was now occupied by Komtar building in 1985 and Prangin Mall in 2000. So now only 5 road left, and Magazine circus also no longer there.

Magazine circus was named after gunpowder depot formerly there, it was called Gơ̄-pha-teng(五葩燈) literally means Five-armed lamps, or Lak-chhe-lor(六叉路)which literally means Six-road junction, or Chheng-ioh keng(銃藥間) which literally means Gunpowder store. Today what remain to Magazine Circus is traffic light junction.

According to Penang traveltips, Macalister Road originally is one of the main road from George Town to Western Road. The road was built in stages, and eventually achieved its full length. For much of the first hundred years of its existence, it was a dirt track out of George Town. It starts at the six-point junction (with Gladstone Road removed, now there's only five points to the junction) in front of present-day Komtar, and ends at Western Road (Jalan Utama)(Tim,2010) .

Macalister Road follows a confusing traffic flow. From Komtar to Anson Road, traffic flows both ways. From Anson Road to Perak Road, it flows one way from Perak Road to Anson Road junction . From Perak Road to Residency Road, it also flow one way from Residency Road to Perak Road junction. From Residency Road to Western Road, it again flows from Western Road to Residency Road junction.

From Komtar to Anson Road, it is a concrete jungle with few trees and built-up area close to the road. It is the food heaven. But after Anson Road, it was apartments and bungalow with tall Angsana trees lining both side of the roads, churches and hospital are around the corner. After Perak Road, it is community area, YMCA, First AOG, Methodist church, Catholic center, and hospital. From Residency Road to Western Road, it is Angsana trees all the way and schools, college, sport, welfare and charity, and finally Chief Minister's residence.

Personally I will divided Macalister Road into 4 parts;
(i) Penang Road to Anson Road junction
(ii) Anson Road to Perak Road
(iii) Perak Road to Residency Road
(iv) Residency Road to Western Road(Jalan Utama)

(i) Penang Road to Anson Road junction

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This is the busiest part of Macalister Road. It started with the Nasi Kandar shop on the left, and an old Indian Muslim mosque on the right. The road was intersected by Lorong Macalister, Lorong Kinta, Lorong Madras, Jalan Zainal Abidin, Lorong Selamat, Jalan Rangoon, Lorong Abu Siti(Sam Seng Hang) on the right, and on the left the road is intersected by New Lane, Jalan Kek Chuan, Lorong Susu,Naning Street and Krian Road.

The Nasi Kandar shop is one of the oldest, unlike the Line Clear at the other end of Penang Road/Upper Penang Road. It is the "black cat" as old Penang used to call it, the craven brand of cigarette advertisement box on top of its shop was the landmark in the old days. Its name is Craven Cafe. Craven Cafe at Jalan Dato Kramat/Penang Road/Macalister Road junction - the original eatery which does a good 'ayam masak merah' and they have opened a more upmarket, hip air-conditioned Craven Cafe in Pulau Tikus which reputedly serves light and airy roti canai. After the shop is a row of shophouses, before you reach the Catholic Church and Heng Ee Primary School. Next is Wisma Central and you arrived at famous New Lane T junction, where the food hawkers night market are there. Cross the New Lane you come to the government clinic and place where the Mamak 2nd hand book stores used to be, in front of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital,at 57, Macalister Road. The place you used to practice your marching and first aid, if you are a member of Red Cross and St John in your school days. It is followed by Pakistan Mosque at the corner of Jalan Kek Chuan. Popular Dim Sum/ Steam Boat shop(Town Steamboat Buffet,火锅之家)at no. 63; Lorong Susu hawker food there are good, especially the Koay Teow Th'ng , ba chang(dumplings), roti canai(Indian pan cake), and durian fruits. The historical Sun Yat Sen Memorial museum , the colonial mansion is along the road and impossible to miss with its life-size sculpture of Dr Sun and his ardent supporters from Penang - Goh Say Eng and Ooi Kim Kheng. Continue with the office of Sin Chew Jit Pou. ... Ah Lim Lam Mee(Birthday noodle) at the corner coffee shop at T junction of Krian Road(Jalan Krian) until the Anson Road junction.

On the right after the mosque, Masjid Jamek Hj Wahab, and row of shophouses , you cross Macalister Lane, and historical St Paul Anglican Church. after the church there are two colonial bungalow, one has converted to seafood restaurant, the bungalow was once the residence of Mr Khoo, ex-teacher of SXI who was a scout master, you need to buy proficiency badges from him if you are a boy scout. Then you cross few roads until 10 storey UMNO building, which was financed by Ministry of Finance Incorporation. Coffee shops with many hawker stalls followed, and opposite Sin Chew office at the corner coffee shop of Lorong Selamat, where the Wan-tan noodle is good with the special delicious wan-tan. There are two hotels located here, Red Rock Hotel (formerly known as Agora Hotel), and Grand Paradise Hotel(N0. 101), opposite Red Rock Hotel.

(ii) Anson Road to Perak Road

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This part connected from the Anson Road junction to junction with 3 roads, Macalister Road, Perak Road, and Barrack Road. Colonel Macalister, will remember Barrack Road, as this is the road where the military camps were. Barrack Road lead to Gaol Road(Prison Road) where the Penang old prison is located.

Macalister Road becomes increasingly greenly beyond the Anson Road junction. Tall Angsana trees (Pterocarpus indicus) lining on both side of Macalister Road. According to Penang traveltips, the trees were planted by Charles Curtis, curator of the Penang Botanic Gardens in the late 19th century.

On the right corner is the old re-branded Ghee Heong located at a colonial bungalow as sale office; then you continue until First Baptist Church, after some bungalows which are clan house and furniture show room, finally the Loh Guan Lye Hospital recently completed new wing is near. Followed by a row of double storey shops but end with the corner lot, which is an old single storey coffee shop.

On the left of the Macalister Road , is a bank at the corner to Anson Road. The next building is a beautiful abandoned bungalow with dilapidated condition, where you will find two durian motif at the entrance of the bungalow. It was once rented to many tennants, it was the residence of lawyer Tan KK,who was once a MPPP councilor,and follower of veteran Lim Kean Siew when he was with MCA. The apartment blocks and old bungalows followed, and you reach the HQ of Penang Gerakan(NO 139). At the end of the road to the Perak Road junction is Sister Char Koay Teow, located at Lam Heng Cafe, No 185, Macalister Road, near the junction with Perak Road.

(iii) Perak Road to Residency Road/Peel Avenue

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The Angsana trees at both rows continued..

This part of Macalister Road is like a community . YMCA(No.211), Methodist Church, First Assembly of God Church, Catholic centre and Island Hospital are located on this stretch. The famous Baobab Tree tree planted by Captain Speedy is at the junction of Residency Road.

The road then split into Residency Road to the General Hospital, and Peel Avenue to Burma Road. Opposite the Baobab Tree is another road, Codington Street which lead to Pulau Tikus, a prime residential area.

(iv) Residency Road to Western Road(Jalan Utama)

This part can sub-divided into:

(a)Residency Road to Sepoy line Road
(b)Sepoy Line Road to Western Road

The final stretch of Macalister Road is also a fast-speed thoroughfare, but runs in oppose direction from the earlier stretch.

Residency Road to Sepoy line Road

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The traffic flow however is now in opposite direction, you cannot drive to St George's Girls School. Need to drive to Residency Road and passing Sekolah Menengah Jalan Residensi, it can also lead to Maternity Hospital on the right, and General Hospital on the left. Go straight to Jalan Utama at the traffic junction just opposite Governor's residency, go straight and after Penang Sport Club, turn right back to Macalister Road.

The famous top girl school in Penang, St George's Girls School is on the left,if we continue our journey and disregard the opposite traffic flow. Taiwanese charitable Tzu Chi Buddhist Temple and Disted College are on the right. This is the greenly part of Penang with the Angsana trees at both side of the road. But traffic flow is heavy.

Sepoy Lines Road to Western Road(Jalan Utama)

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The official residence of the Penang Chief Minister, Sri Teratai, is located here, The Che Hoon Khor, St Christopher International Primary School , the cricket ground, are also found along this stretch. Penang Medical College which prepared students to universities in Ireland medical colleges are along Sepoy Lines Road just opposite from the cricket ground. This stretch that joined Western Road will lead to Botanical Garden, but remember the traffic is opposite flow, and you need to go by Sepoy Line Road to Western Road(Jalan Utama).

Colonel Norman Macalister

Colonel Norman Macalister, who was the governor general of Prince of Wales. He was from Clachaig House, Scotland; who died in August 1810 when his ship "The Ocean" was lost at sea. His father was Ranald Macalister from Skye, where he possessed Farm of Skirrinish. He is the factor on the Macdonald estate of Troternish. He married Anne, daughter of Alexander Macdonald of Kingsburgh and widow of Lauchian Mackinnon of Corrychatachan, with issues. Norman Macalister is one of 11 issues, the 6th son.

Capt Norman Macalister was posted to Prince of Wales in early 1800s. In 1805,he was the Commander of the Artillery. He made inventory of useful timber of Penang,part of the company's exercise to identify the potential naval timber and secure suitable woods for masts and spars to replace supplies from the lost American colonies. During 1805-1807, it was recorded in The Government Gazette that Capt Norman Macalister was the Commandant and "4th" in the list of council members under the newly appointed governor,Philip Dundas,who had arrived at the newly created Presidency of the British East India Company in September 1805. The status of Penang with Province Wellesley was in equal footing with Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.

Philip Dundas created a "red-light district" to control disease without having to discourage business. But 2 years later, Dundas died of ill health, a consequence of unsanitary condition of the territory. He 'so seriously indisposed as to be incapable of attending his duty' that he was taken on board HMS " Belliqueux" , a 64 gun 3rd rated ship of the line of The Royal Navy and , dying on 8-4-1807, he was buried in Penang.

Five days later, on 13-4-1807, Henry Shepherd Pearson took up his post as Acting Governor; Norman Macasliter, now a Colonel was appointed and sworn in as Governor on 17-10-1807.

Macalister Road was named after him during his tenure as Governor of Penang. He also completed the brick structure of the star shaped Fort Cornwallis on the north-east coast of Penang, with Indian convict labor in 1810. The fort is originally built with nibong palm trunk,with no permanent structure by Capt Francis Light. The fort cover area of 417.6 sq. ft. or 38.80 sm. It was named after late 18th century Governor General of Bengal, British India, Chales Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis. It is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. In 1804, the Indian convict labour had started rebuilt of the fort with brick and stones during Colonel RT Farquhar's term as governor of Penang. The fort was completed in Macalister's term.

Macalister was succeed on 24-3-1810 by Chales Andrew Bruce.

Macalister taking leaves, set sail for home on the East India Company ship "Ocean" in August 1810. Nothing more had ever heard from the ship, Macalister was assumed lost at sea. He left two daughters,said to have been illegitimate;

(i) Frances Bying, married her cousin, Angus Macalister, laird of Ballinakill,with issues
(ii) Flora, married Keith Macalister, of Inistrynick

His successor's tenure was short lived. He died and a reported issued from the fort dated 28-12-1810 appointed William Edward Phillip as the new governor.


1. There is also Macalister Road in Singapore, near Singapore General Hospital. Who is the Macalister, the street name after?.
2. Macalister & Co, Singapore was found by two Scots, Alexander McAlister and James Parker Niven in 1857. Is Alexander McAlister the eldest son of Ronald and Anne Macalister?
3. John Macalister was appointed as assistant collector of customs and land revenues at Malacca, in 1808.
4. George Hugh K. MacAlister was the Professor of Clinical Medicine at King Edward VII College of Medicine, Singapore from 1918 to 1929

Related & reference articles:

1. Clan MacAlister,
2. MacAlister of Glenbarr and Cour and Others,
3. Macalisters in Britain's Colonial Past, by Robert M. McAllister,
4. The Mamak booksellers of Macalister Road, Penang,
5. Why building at Macalister Road owned by Ministry of Finance Incorporated still named Menara Umno Pulau Pinang?,
6. Norman Macalister,
7. 中路 (MacAlister Road), 杜忠全,
8. Glenbarr Abbey & MacAlister Clan Centre, Kintyre, Scotland,
9. Macalister Road,
10. Macalister Road,

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