Posted in Advent Calendar 2017, Cemetery Explorers, Cemetery Exploring, Georgetown Penang, Headstone History

Penang’s First Lady – Martina Rozells

A Eurasian of Siamese and Portuguese descent, Martina Rozells, is said to be have been born in Thaland, Phuket and later became an adopted child of the Sultan of Kedah in what is today Malaysia – just south of Satun province in Thailand. She has variously been depicted as the a Siamese Princess, the Princess of Kedah

Much has been written about Francis Light, the founder of Penang, but little has been written about his beautiful Thai-Eurasian, common in law wife, Martina Rozells.

“Martina Rozells co-habited with Francis Light, the founder of Penang, for at least 22 years before his death from malaria in 1794. She bore him five (or possibly six) children, one of whom later became the founder of Adelaide in Australia. Founding a city must have been written into the genetic code of both father and son.

Over the years many romantic legends have been constructed about Martina, and the truth may never be fully known. One of the most exotic stories is that she was a princess of the royal house of Kedah and that the island of Penang was presented to her (and her husband) by the Sultan as her dowry. However, as the Sultan demanded tribute from Penang as recompense for revenue lost, this cannot be true. Along with this story is the notion that Light and Martina were actually married according to Malay customs; but they were not recognised by the East India Company.

Other versions of the Martina story dress her as a Catholic Eurasian of mixed Thai and Portuguese descent. One of the reasons for Light not marrying her might have been the fact that she was a Roman Catholic and he was a Protestant. The other is that she was almost certainly a Eurasian. It is hard for us to realise how much race counted for in the past. Being of mixed race was especially tricky because you belonged to neither side. Despite these prejudices, the Eurasian community has made a rich contribution in the field of Penang’s musical history, with artists like Jimmy Boyle, Joe Rozells, Larry Rodrigues, the Baum brothers, the Jeremiahs, Colleen Read and Leo Aeria. An equally important Eurasian heritage piece is in the field of food with such delights as Beef Semur, Chicken Devil Curry and Salted fish pickles – all Malaysian favourites even today. It is thought that Francis Light himself invited the first wave of Eurasian migrants to come to Penang in 1786, the year of the Colony’s founding and that subsequent migrants came from Phuket as well as Kedah.

Light died fairly young, but he had made exceptionally detailed provision for Martina in his will, which perhaps gives us an indication of the value placed upon common household objects in those days: “I give and bequeath unto the said Martina Rozells my bungalow in George Town with one set of mahogany tables, two card cables, two couches, two bedstead large and two small with bedding…. a dressing table and 18 chairs, two silver candle sticks, one silver teapot, two sugar dishes, twelve table spoons, twelve tea spoons, one soup spoon and all the utensils not under the stewards charge to be disposed of as she thinks proper without any limitation. I also give Martina Rozells four of my best cows and one bull….” (Quoted in Streets of George Town).

It is rather shameful that after Light’s death, his business partners tried to cheat Martina out of her inheritance by transferring his properties into their names. She struggled in the courts for many years perhaps hampered by being illiterate, as so many women were in those days. She did finally win justice in 1812 but by then, she had married John Timmins. Even the street which once bore her name, Martina’s Lane, has been renamed Leith Street Ghaut”.

taken from Expat Go

Wall and doorway between the Protestant and Roman Catholic Cemeteries. Photo from http://malaysianmeanders.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/penangs-colonial-past-at-old-protestant.html

It is not clear where Martina Rozells was buried but, given that she died in 1822 in Penang, it is quite possible that, as a Catholic, she was buried in the Catholic Cemetery, divided from the Protestant Cemetery by a wall.

Posted in Advent Calendar 2017

Engaging in the Advent Calendar

When I created all those Advent Calendars ten years ago I used Dreamweaver and the site was static. Community members communicated using Yahoo groups. The interactive nature of Web 2 has changed all of this and now it is possible to comment on the gallery images as they go up. Lori Gloyd has been one of the first out of the starting blocks this year. She remembers one April day, back in 2006, when she stumbled upon Soul Food and recalls how she began blogging. Lori really was one of the invaluable members of the Soul Food community. Her enthusiasm was contagious, he work exemplary and she was always supportive of other community members. Do take the time to check out Pelican’s Perch, the site which she created during those heady Soul Food days.

There will be lots of activities provided. Obviously not everything will appeal. However, I would love to see folk engaging here and posting any feedback on this site as well as on Facebook.

2017 While Waiting for Godot Advent Calendar

Posted in Advent Calendar 2017

Check out the 2017 Advent Calendar

Keep an eye out for the day when you are encouraged to take photos of street art. This photo was taken in Georgetown, Penang.

Back in the day, when I ran the Soul Food Cafe, come December, everyone eagerly anticipated the launching of a new Advent Calendar. I launched the first, Made in Australia, calendar in December 2004. From 2004 to 2010 I launched a number of features that showcased the work of artists who inhabited the cafe and offered activities for those who came to visit each day. You will find these scattered throughout Soul Food.

After being thrown some curve balls I walked away from my life, moved out to regional Victoria, resettled and began to reinvent myself. The internet has transformed since those early days and the virtual world I explored seventeen years ago is now heavily populated. While I have no desire to be noticed in the vast crowd I have kept my hand in. I run web publishing courses in my local community and enjoy seeing the sites people make.

While Waiting for Godot is the special place I come to when I am not working on essays for my Masters of Social Work (Qualifying). The university year is over and it is December tomorrow. I have decided to experiment and try setting up a simplified Advent Calendar using blogging technology. My original ones did not enable comments. I used Dreamweaver to make them.

This 2017, While Waiting for Godot Calendar is meant to be a bit of fun. Each day a new image will appear in a gallery. The caption will include links to activities, designed to amuse me while I wait for Godot and decide what I will do next. Enjoy!