Remembering the colourful history of Eurasians in Penang

Captain Francis Light with his wife and children, the three sea-captains and Fr Garnault.
Captain Francis Light (hands raised) with his wife and children, the three sea-captains and Fr Garnault. Far right is Eustace Anthony Nonis, the script writer and director.

A re-enactment of the Landing of Captain Francis Light on Penang Island, was presented by the Penang Eurasian Association (PEA) on the grounds of the Assumption Church.

The actors looked very majestic in their 18th century costume which were imported from UK. First to come on stage were the three sea-captains, and they were later joined by Captain Francis Light, his wife, Martina Rozells and children, Sarah and William and French priest Father Garnault.

Captain Francis Light then read out a proclamation to take formal possession of Penang which he later renamed to the ‘Prince of Wales Island’.

The play was held on the first day of the of a 3-day event organised by PEA to highlight the rich culture of the Eurasian community to the people of Penang.

The Eurasians, being a minority community in Penang are not as well-known as the other three main communities. Many are not aware that the Eurasians have a rich culture and colourful history, dating as far back as the arrival of Captain Francis Light, the founder of Penang.

The Sepoys marching in before the sea captains came on stage.
The Sepoys marching in before the sea captains came on stage.

The event was held on 15 August as it was on that date 228 years ago, in the year 1786 that the first Eurasians arrived from Kedah to Penang which was four days after Captain Francis Light officially took possession of the island.  The event was held at the Church of the Assumption as the date also marks the celebrations of  the Feast of the Assumption this year.

“In  Malacca, The Portuguese Eurasian celebrates the Feast of San Pedro in a big way, which is a tourist attraction for Melaka. We, the Penang Eurasian Association, hope to replicate a similar event, and hopefully to make it annually and hope our event would be included in the yearly Penang Calendar of Events.” Said the president of PEA, Aloysius Gasper,

With the event themed ‘A fresh beginning, a new hope’, Gasper hopes it helps the forgotten Penang Eurasion community make a positive comeback and be more visible. He also believes the event will give the younger generation hope for the future and teach them the importance of preserving their heritage.

Chief Minister of Penang, YB Lim Guan Eng was present at the event together with his exco members, Jagdeep Singh and Ng Wei Aik and The Bishop of Penang, Rt Rev Sebastian Francis.

Right after the play the Chief Minister launched “The Eurasian, A Founding Community of Penang” a book written by Eustace Nonis who was also the scriptwriter and the director of the play.

L to R: Aloysius Gasper, president of PEA, Bishop Sebastian Francis, Lim Guan Eng, Jagdeep Singh and Ng Wei Aik (hidden)
L to R: Aloysius Gasper, president of PEA, Bishop Sebastian Francis, Lim Guan Eng, Jagdeep Singh and Ng Wei Aik (hidden)
The launching of Eustace Anthony Nonis' book by the CM.
The launching of Eustace Anthony Nonis’ book by the CM.
Aloysius Gasper presenting a momento to the CM.
Aloysius Gasper presenting a momento to the CM.
Guests enjoying the Eurasian high tea.
Guests enjoying the Eurasian high tea.

In his speech, Lim congratulated Eustace for writing the play and on his second edition book.

Lim pointed out that the Eurasians have now become an integral part of Penang society although they are a small community. He was glad to see PEA working hard in their endeavour to show the people their origins and heritage. The guests were then treated to an Eurasian tea party.

Later evening at the Mass the Bishop in his homily stated that he was happy to join the Eurasians in recalling their history.

A live band entertained the people in the evening while they tucked in delicious Eurasian delicacies which was on sale.

Another state exco, RSN Rayer, was present during the evening to present awards to distinguished members of PEA. The recipients were 90 year old World War II veteran from Company E, James Jeremiah, Mr Spencer Rangel and the late Mr James Tait who was posthumously honored. Mr Eustace Nonis was also presented with and award for writing and directing the play.

“The awards ceremony is more of a recognition, We made a decision that at every function we will recognize members for their contribution to the community, state or country. At Easter in April, we recognized Mr. Harold Spedelwinde and Mr. Eustace Nonis.” Said Aloysius Gasper

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Mass celebrated at the church and animated by members of PEA
Sale of Eurasian food after the Mass.
Sale of Eurasian food after the Mass.
Rayer (2nd from left) presenting the award the Mr Jeremiah (2nd from right).
Rayer (2nd from left) presenting the award to Mr Jeremiah (2nd from right).
(Photo taken from Rayer’s Facebook)
Guests enjoying the Eurasian Eurasian cuisine after the Mass.
Guests enjoying the Eurasian Eurasian cuisine after the Mass.

Rayer in his speech stated that he was glad PEA’s Easter dinner was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, which is under his constituency. He pledged to fund next year’s Easter dinner if PEA holds it at the same venue again .

A carnival ‘An Evening with the Eurasians’ was held on the second day at the church to showcase Eurasian food and musical talents.

The event was concluded on the third day with a treasure hunt using bicycles at the church ground which was used as the base. The treasure hunt trail went to the streets of Georgetown, encompassing  the heritage sites of the early Eurasian homes and several churches.

“As the managerial Committee of the PEA , we  are trying to make a positive difference through our actions. Our goal is to make our Eurasian community known in Penang and to establish our heritage in the colourful history of  Penang. We, the Eurasians maybe a small minority in the census of the state, but we are a rare and unique identity and have played a major role in the history of Penang.” said Gasper, PEA’s president and the organizing chairman of the event. PEA’s vice president, Mr Gilbert Augustin, was the overall coordinator of the event.

Gilbert Augustin (L) and Aloysius Gasper (R)
Gilbert Augustin (L) and Aloysius Gasper (R)
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