Home Exploring Captain Speedy's Bungalow
Matang, Perak

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The bungalow of Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy, better known as Captain Speedy, is located to the right of Kota Ngah Ibrahim, in Matang, Perak. Captain Speedy was one of the most colourful characters from the Victorian era, an Indiana Jones of his time. Yet his name featured prominently in the history of Malaya, particularly related to the Larut Wars.

Captain Speedy's Bungalow in Matang, Perak

Captain Speedy was born in Meerut, India, in 1836, but went to school in England. From 1854-60, he served in the army in India, where he received medals for his role in the Indian Mutiny, Pubjab and Eufoszai. In 1864, he resigned his post to take up a new appointment in New Zealand, where he served in the Waikato Militia. There, he was promoted to captain, and earned another medal, the Maori Wars Medal.

In 1867, he was recalled from Auckland, New Zealand, to help Sir Robert Napier in the Abyssinian War, which lasted from 1867-68, and gained him another medal, the Abyssinian medal. After meetings with Queen Victoria, Captain Speedy was appointed guardian of the young Prince Alamayu Simeon, son of the late Emperor Theodore.

Around 1868-69, Speedy got married, to Cornelia Cotton, and returned with his wife and the young prince to India, where he became the District Superintendent of the Oudh Police, at Sitapur, from 1869-71. He also accompanied the Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria, on a hunting expedition to Nepal.

In 1871, Speedy was appointed the Superintendent of Police in Penang. That was when he planted the famous Penang Baobab Tree, which is still standing today, as the oldest planted tree in Malaysia. In 1873, he resigned from the superintendent position to take up an appointment with Ngah Ibrahim, the Mentri of the highly lucrative but restive district of Larut, which was the centre of Malayan tin mining activities at that time. Speedy brought over a troop of Indian soldiers to restore order in Larut.

Upon the signing of the Pangkor Treaty in 1874, JWW Birch was appointed the British Resident in Perak, and Speedy became the Assistant British Resident. Captain Speedy was instrumental in establishing the towns of Taiping in the Klian Pauh mining area, and Kamunting in the Klian Baharu mining area. This happened somewhere between 1874 and 1875. After JWW Birch was killed in Pasir Salak in 1875, the capital of Perak was moved from Bandar Baru to Taiping.

Captain Speedy is believed to have stayed in this bungalow in Matang between 1873 and 1877. In 1878, Speedy and his wife spent some months Sudan, in Africa, and this resulted in a 19th century travelogue published by his wife. From 1883 to 1897, he was involved in various missions, for Vice-Admiral Sir William Hewett and Rennell Rodd, to settle frontier agreements in Abyssinia. His exploits were extensively covered in newspaper stories and books. Among the semi-fictional storybooks featuring Captain Speedy which were written include A Narrative of Captivity in Abyssinia; With Some Account of the Late Emperor Theodore, His Country and People (1868) by Henry Blanc. Other writers who mentioned Captain Speedy in their writings included early travel writer Isabella Bird, in The golden Cherconese, and Robert Louis Stevenson's In the South Seas (1896). He was also an inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's short story called The Lang Men o' Larut (1889).

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