#SayangiMalaysiaku: Moments before Merdeka, a Kuala Lumpur heritage walk
AFTER observing two minutes of darkness, at the stroke of midnight Aug 30, 1957, the Union Jack flag was lowered for the final time at Dataran Merdeka, signaling the end of British rule.
The handover of power, an event attended by then Prime Minister-designate Tunku Abdul Rahman, was witnessed by large crowds which gathered at the Royal Selangor Club Padang in Kuala Lumpur.
The new flag of Malaya was then raised in its place and the country’s national anthem, Negaraku, was played for the first time.
The dawn of a new Malaysia would come on Aug 31, 1957, with the festivities moving to the newly completed Merdeka Stadium where 20,000 people had gathered to witness the ceremony.
The Duke of Gloucester then presented Tunku Abdul Rahman with the instrument of independence and the latter proceeded to read the declaration, which culminated in the chanting of “Merdeka!”.
Malaya was finally independent, the greatest moment in the lives of its people.
And in 1963, the Malaysian Federation, comprising of Sabah (known as North Borneo back then), Sarawak, and Singapore was formed.
The Malaysian capital may have gone through many rites of passage including the Japanese occupation and British rule.
But many landmarks and much of its colonial charm in Kuala Lumpur remain, giving the bustling city an interesting contrast against its towering skyscrapers.
The Sultan Abdul Samad building
Built in 1897 by architects A.C. Norman and R.A.J. Bidwell, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is a late 19th-century building located in front of Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.
It used to house the Federated Malay States administration and is now occupied by the Tourism and Culture Ministry of Malaysia.
Named after the reigning sultan of Selangor at the time, it is also among Kuala Lumpur’s earliest Moorish-style buildings and easily recognizable by its iconic clock tower.
The former High Court building
One of the many grand buildings which line Dataran Merdeka is the former High Court building, designed by British architect A.B. Hubback.
Originally completed in 1915 (a major fire in 1992 resulted in its rebuilding), the structure used to house the Sessions and Magistrates Court before it was moved to a new building.
Its most distinctive features are its bronze onion-shaped domes and white cinquefoil arches.
The Queen Victoria Fountain
Formerly known as the Queen Victoria Fountain, it was brought in from England in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee but was not assembled on the site until 1904.
At over 100 years old, it is regarded as the Grand Old Lady of Fountains and is among the last of the British heritage in Malaysia.
The two-tiered fountain, which lights up at night, features eight sculpted winged lions that look like gargoyles and intricate Art Nouveau tile work.
The National Textile Museum
The National Textile Museum is a sight for sore eyes thanks to its alternating white and striking red bricks.
Also designed by British architect A.B. Hubback, it was originally completed in 1905 to house the headquarters of the Federated Malay States Railways.
In 1917, the building was handed over to the Selangor Public Works Department and subsequently the Selangor Water Department, the Malaysian Central Bank, and the Agricultural Bank of Malaysia before being converted for use as the National Textile Museum.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
A fine example of early English Gothic architecture, the St. Mary’s Cathedral is one of the oldest Anglican churches in the region.
Built in 1894 by the British colonial administration, it started off as a timber building before being transformed into a whitewashed structure with stained glass windows, tasseled tile paving, and buttresses.
The last time the church hosted a visit by a member of the British royalty was in 2017 when Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, visited the church as part of their seven-day maiden visit to Malaysia.
The Royal Selangor Club
Founded in 1884, the Royal Selangor Club was established as a social club and a meeting point for educated and high-ranking members of British colonial society.
In fact, most of its early members were British and membership to the club is primarily determined by high educational standard or social standing, rather than race or citizenship.
The club was initially based in a small wooden building with an attap roof but was later replaced by a two-story structure in Mock Tudor styling.