Birch memorial tower which located beside The Mosque of Perak built in 1909 in memory of the first British President of Perak, J.W.W. Birch, who was assassinated in Pasir Salak in 1875 by followers of a local Malay chieftain, Dato’ Maharajalela.
The memorial, built at cost of $25,000, was described as a square decorated tower where each corner representing the four virtues of British administration
It is interesting to note that the memorial project was put into motion by the British President of Perak in 1905, E.W. Birch, the son of J.W.W. Birch. The memorial, built at cost of $25,000, was described as a square decorated tower where each corner representing the four virtues of British administration which are: Loyalty, Justice, Patience and Fortitude. On the four civilization panel around the tower, there are forty-four notable historical figures portrayed.
When you look carefully through these four panels, each of the one them pictures the depicting exponents of the different stages of civilisation
- Panel A (North) – The stone age: A Hunter, A Fisherman, A Woman spinning. – The iron age: A man and a woman – The Early Eastern Peoples: A Nubian with gold and ivory, A Chaldean Astrologer, A Woman making pottery, An Egyptian, An Assyrian, A Persian.
- Panel B (West) – The Eastern Mediterranean: Moses, David, A Phoenician, A woman representing the Aegean civilization. – The Far East: Confucius, Buddha, Lao Tzu. – Greece and Rome: A woman representing Greek Art, Alexander the Great, Plato, Augustus.
- Panel C (South) – The Byzantine Empire: Constantine the Great. – Islam: Prophet Muhammad (Removed). – The Age of Chivalry: A Crusader. – The Age of Faith: Saint Clare of Assisi – Gothic Art: Saint Thomas Aquinas – The Renaissance: Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna, Columbus. – The Reformation: Martin Luther. – The Elizabethan Age: William Shakespeare.
- Panel D (East) – Modern Science, Art and Social Services: Isaac Newton, William Harvey, James Watt, An unnamed Embroiderer, Beethoven, Robert Stephenson, Louis Daguerre, Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, Thomas Alva Edison, Joseph Lister.
There were also panels portrays historical figures on the four corner around the tower. One of the forty-four figures was The Last Prophet of Islam which was painted over in 1990s due to objections from the depiction of the Prophet from around the world at the time.
The tower has 6 feet x 6 inch big clock and four small clock each side of the square. It has a mother bell and four smaller bells which used to strike the chimes which came with the sound system exactly as Big Ben Tower in London. According to the locals, they were impressed and wondered at the same time on how the clock would worked like it did at the beginning. They were also stated that the sound system sounded scary at night.
The memorial tower was inaugurated by the eight British President of Perak, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch who also the first son of J.W.W. Birch. He became the President of Perak from the year 1904 until 1910. Sir Ernest Woodford Birch cautioned the Sultan and Malay Speakers to remember the assassination of his father and hoping that the good relationship between British and Perak would continue after the incident for the sake of rapid development of Perak.
From the colonialist’s point of view, James Birch’s untimely death marked the turning point of British rule in Perak; the British gained access to lucrative tin mines, making many of them overnight millionaires. The Birch Memorial Clock Tower officially opened in 1909 to commemorate their hero’s death while performing an active service to his country.
As the British expanded their influence in Malaysia, they encountered resistance. Perak’s sultans and local Malay chiefs didn’t like the idea of losing control of their state. James Wheeler Woodford Birch soon became Perak’s first British resident in 1874. Birch quickly consolidated his power. Revered for cementing British influence in the natural resource-rich Perak, Birch became a colonial hero. But Birch’s lack of respect for local customs made him deeply unpopular. The resistance movement plotted his assassination.
Almost one year after the British resident’s inauguration, Dato Maharaja Lela speared and murdered James Birch. The British responded by sending troops to crush the resistance which sparked the Perak War. A few short months later, the imperialists quelled all opposition, taking complete control of the state. Not long after, Dato Maharaja Lela and his co-conspirators were executed.