The Man Who Raffles Left Behind: William Farquhar (1774-1839)

Ernest C. T. Chew, Associate Professor of History, National University of Singapore

Ernest Chew has graciously shared this essay, which first appeared in Raffles Town Club, vol. 7 (April-June 2002), with readers of the Postcolonial Web. It appears with his permission and that of the Raffles Town Club, which retains the copyright.

1. Connexion

In the last issue of the Raffles Town Club Magazine, I wrote on Sir Stamford Raffles, reviewing his career, and reassessing his contributions to the founding or establishment of a British settlement on Singapore, the planting of the seeds for the growth of modern Singapore. I was particularly concerned to provide the historiographical context for such a reassessment. This article presents another review and reassessment, this time of William Farquhar, who at Raffles' behest was appointed the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore, 1819-1823. Farquhar has generally been forgotten by Singaporeans. He was "left behind" by Raffles to take care of the infant British settlement in early 1819, and he has been "left behind" and overshadowed by Raffles ever since. The only road named after him,"Farquhar Street", disappreared in the wake of urban renewal in the Kampong Glam area in the early 1990s. Fortunately, the Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings was purchased by Mr G.K.Goh a few years ago, and donated to the National Heritage Board, which set up a permanent gallery to display a selection of the drawings at the Singapore History Museum.

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Last modified: 12 October 2002