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The History of the Sultan Abdul Samad building is fascinating and if you knew some old British men who were ex-Malayan service men, you’d get the most interesting stories out of them. I am one such lucky person to gain from such a rich history but my memory is such that I cannot regurgitate as I write so it is necessary for me to go get those stories again and print them out here for you as they are really not to be missed. If you are so inclined, perhaps get some Malayan history books written by the Brits………
When I was told the history, I learnt how the Lake Club came about, why and who slept with who in the 1890s – LOL!
Have a good look at the bricks below. They are bricks made in Brickfields. Can you smell them??? If you are passionate about architecture, the smell of building materials will send you on a high; the feel of the materials, the touch, the sight……Aaaahhhhh.
The famous clock tower in replicating Big Ben of London has a great story. Here are some excerpts taken from the blog of Aizuddin Saad about the clock tower,
“The clock tower at Sultan Abdul Samad building has not only withstood the test of time, it has never missed a chime in its 113 years of existence.
The clock’s caretaker, Kunasegaran Velliah, 54, said during the mid-1950?s, the chime of the clock tower could be heard clearly from his home in Bangsar, where he grew up. This was a distance of 4km.
“The clock tower does not chime as loud as before. Only visitors and those who work near the building can hear it.”
It was constructed during the British administration in 1896 and was launched a year later in Jalan Raja. Since then, it has witnessed many historical events like the lowering of the Union Jack when Malaysia (then Malaya) gained its independence, Merdeka parades throughout the years, New Year’s Eve celebrations, international and local marathons and annual cultural events like Cit rawarna.
Kunasegaran, who has been the clock’s caretaker for 35 years, said he winds the bell and clock at the tower on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week, even on public holidays and during festive seasons. On Saturday mornings, he is there to conduct maintenance work. To wind the clock, Kunasegaran has to climb a black spiral staircase, then three wooden staircases till he reaches the fourth level of the tower where he would find a room. The clock is in the room, protected from dust and animal droppings while the bell is on the third level. The caretaker said sometimes when he is paged by the guards at the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry to do maintenance work early in the morning he encounters ghostly images.
The beautiful arches and a spiral staircase within with matching balustrades that Mr Kunasegaran uses below.
“I would ignore them and continue doing my work. It has never disturbed me before. I would usually say out loud that I’m here just to do work and nothing else,” he related. He said the clock was imported from South Croydon, Surrey in England and manufactured by Gillett & Johnston (Croydon) Ltd.
“The clock is very sensitive and works almost the same way as an old grandfather’s clock. Before winding the clock I must first wind the bell 320 times,” he said adding that task takes between half an hour to one hour to complete.
“To wind the clock, a medium-sized weight must be placed to lock the parts and stop the pendulum from moving before pushing the lever clockwise 24 times. I have to continuously push the lever so that the gears of the clock won’t jam and the weights that churn the clock could go up the cable to meet the weights of the bell.”
Kunasegaran said the only time the clock stops is when repair work is being done. “Usually we would stop the clock for a day when we need to change the cables. That only happens once a year. During Merdeka celebrations, the bell won’t chime for two hours to make way for the parade. Apart from that there has never been any major repair works done and the clock has never missed a ‘ding dong’ in its 113 years. If it is well taken care of, I’m sure it could last another 100 years,” he said.
The bell, which weighs 500kg, is a mixture of brass and copper. It is attached to a wooden beam and is chimed by an iron hammer that weighs 40kg. Kunasegaran said the second hammer there is no longer used. “It was used to replace the siren during the emergency period. It functions the same way as a church bell and has a long rope where officers could pull to signal people when they see war planes approaching.” Kunasegaran said he was the 40th caretaker and was the last of the seven caretakers trained by the Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (Jupem) in 1975.
“We were trained by our seniors before us, the 1960?s batch. I was just 19 then and my guru was Aziz Shakir. He has retired a long time ago. Now, I am training my replacement before my retirement,” said Kunasegaran.”
Now tell me if you didn’t learn something about the famous clock tower! I know I had the shivers when I read the part about the ghostly images!!!!
The original building plaque has withstood the test of time, all good since 1894!
Only for the new generation to spoil it by installing a grand amazing door. Not.
And a huge gong I’m not sure why or what for……
And if you look very closely below, you will see the remnants of writings that were once embossed onto the plaster of the building of which the Government have removed! They call this a Heritage Building yet they paint over the ORIGINAL FONT that was there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But thankfully, the strength of the embossment is slowly resurfacing again so you can see that it says GENERAL POST OFFICE……
Speaking of which, do you know that the Government can just take away any building they want as and when they want? I have a family member (of which some of the heirs read this blog *waves*) who owned a house on Jalan Ampang where the Maya Hotel now is and many years ago before the Hotel was even built, the Government knocked the building down and used the excuse of serious termites, I kid you not. The house was directly opposite the Le’Coq Dor (one of my favourite restaurants as a child) and they gave some cheap compensation for the mistake. True story.