WELCOME TO PHS BLOGSITE

Welcome to the PHS blog, or heri.blog, if you like.

What this blog is about.
We are glad to start blogging in 2010 and we look forward to hearing from you. We offer quick response to heritage issues as they appear. We are not confined to Perak. We will highlight any lesson to be learnt about appreciation for our heritage.

What is heritage, and why does it matter?
Our heritage is shared by a multi-cultural people celebrating harmonious diversity. It is both indigenous and imported. It embodies our social history, our glories and our wealth. It gives us our identity. It figures in our daily life and our memories. It is of public interest.

Heritage is not simple. Its scope is vast, and its interpretations often conflicting. It is not easy to define.

In Malaysia, guidelines are set out in the National Heritage Act 2005. Read it and tell us what you think.

History is intrinsic to Heritage. History matters. Heritage counts. Heritage is what you have inherited, what you embrace, what you could live with and what you pass on to the future generations. It is about your pride and your values, your memories and your experiences.

Start thinking about what you value and you will fall naturally into sustainable conservation.

How heritage needs you, and what you can do to help.
Our heritage needs you — individuals, property owners, contractors, developers, architects, business owners, conservationists, you and me! It  takes individual, community and governmental efforts to protect and conserve our heritage.

You can play your part. Sign up as a PHS member or share your concerns for Perak Heritage by entering this blog.

This blog is an information exchange. Be our eyes, ears and legs. Alert us by email perakheritage36@gmail.com if you know of any heritage under-threat near you or anywhere in Perak. Remember, once gone, you can never get it back. So let’s try to prevent any destruction before it is too late.

This is our cyber-network. Let’s heri.blog!

We Care About Our Past!
Together we can make a difference.
Happy Blogging!

Annual General Meeting 2014

The façade of venue for AGM: Sarang Paloh Event Hall, Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street), Ipoh.

The façade of venue for AGM: Sarang Paloh Event Hall, Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street), Ipoh.

(An open letter)

RE : Annual General Meeting 2014

Dear members,

It’s that time of the year again! The 11th edition of PHS AGM provides yet another annual session for the gathering of members and friends.

PHS members would have received the Notice of Meeting by mail. For our friends and supporters, some key information below:

26th Apri, 2014
2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sarang Paloh Event Hall

No.12 & 14, Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street), Ipoh

Light refreshments will be provided.

Sponsor for the event: Miss Peggy Lim 

This year we will be having election of office bearers for 2014-2015. We urge you to attend the AGM to show your support for your Society. Why not take up the challenge, stand for election and join the PHS Committee, the work team? By the way, you may also renew your membership at the AGM.

There are two post-AGM programmes of great interest:

1. A special preview of FACES OF IPOH, an exhibition at Sepaloh Art Centre.

2. A walk in Old Town to assess recent development – a chance for you to share your feelings about heritage conservation in Ipoh Old Town.

ALL ARE WELCOME

Your friends and non-members may attend our AGM as observers. Please register your intent to join us with Siak Hong email: siakhongstudio@gmail.com or phone 0175061875 by 22nd April as we need to update the caterer the number we expect at the AGM.

SEE YOU ALL!

Your president,

Mohd Taib bin Mohamed

Public Relations in Practice – UTAR Style

Text: Law Siak Hong

The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) public relations programme on Volunteerism Campaign for Culture and Heritage had the makings of a reality TV show. Despite early jitters, the students managed to pull it off in style. The challenges were reconciled; their course assessment, pass or fail, had depended on their execution. As I see it, while they might not have excelled in all the challenges, the students did apply themselves satisfactorily. Even though there was no crowd at the exhibition, the performances of the charity night enjoyed a tremendous response from an enthusiastic audience, 250-strong.

PHS’s participation in this university programme goes back to November last year. The UTAR tutor, Pong Kok Shiong, acquainted through his proposed survey on a visit to the UNESCO World Archaeological Heritage Site of Lenggong Valley, had asked if PHS would be one of the NGOs in his UTAR public relations student project. At the eleventh hour, Yeow Jian Hui replaced him, but that posed no problem. However, in all honesty, it was clear from the start that the students were too ambitious or perhaps too idealistic. Still, in the end, good sense prevailed to save the day.

We met the very hospitable Mr Loh of the Perak Chinese Chamber of Miners who delivered a brief history of tin mining in Perak. Each of us also received a gift of his book.

Students at the very old STAR Printing Work; they were fascinated by a tricycle, an old mode of delivery of goods and a rare sight today.

Since they chose to do the project on culture and heritage, I thought the students must know more about these topics. It was the morning of the first Friday in January when we took a walk in Ipoh Old Town. It is gratifying that the experience turned out to be the inspiration for their main exhibit – the Time Tunnel which depicts the history of Ipoh in snippets of social history, material culture and landmarks.

The weeks that followed were a little uneasy for me. In late February, we had one last meeting on campus when the photography competition had already been launched. Three weeks later, it was the official launch of the students’ programme, at which the PHS delegation, comprising President Mohd Taib, members Normiah and Jayaraj, volunteer Vera and me, were treated like real VIPs.

Group portrait after the programme launch at the Students Pavilion.

Team united: group portrait after the walkabout and a night out in Kampar New Town.

After this experience, it was necessary for me to step up my game. Our exhibition featured a total of five groups of displays. For visual impact, with the help of Sam Tan of UTAR’s Green Technology Faculty, we showed the architectural models on the Kinta Valley town of Gopeng produced by his construction management students. The exceptional feature was a large map of the Dr Sun Yat Sen Ipoh Trail, and a print of an oil painting depicting the Chinese revolutionary leader among his supporters in Kampar, reproduced with the permission of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Singapore. For culture, on a table with items for sale, colourful handicrafts and soft toys supplied by Ipoh Craftsnerds found buyers. That evening, Vera and I were invited to a light dinner among the VIPs, and later to enjoy the performances at the charity night.

Vera at the sale table.

Vera and student volunteer hold fort at the sale table.

Models of Gopeng reneal project by students in construction management plus panels of information – courtesy of Faculty of Green Technology, UTAR.

The display on Perak Heritage Society and shophouse typology, and heritage maps.

The display on the industrial heritage of charcoal making heritage

The display of children art is an encouraging sign of the culture of creative development.

The display of containers and holders to echo culture and heritage: baskets of bamboo, rattan, straw and plastic, paper bags, and containers in metal, ceramic and wood.

“Revive The Forgotten” is the slogan created by the students for the charity night. The show, featuring singers, musicians and dancers from UTAR and Kampar was graced by the Vice President of UTAR, Professor Dr Teh Chee Seng.

All the way from KL, International Salon Chairman of The Photographic Society of Malaysia, Mr Harry Woo, Vice President Mr C T Goh and Head of Competition Department Mr W H Koh, gave away the prizes to the winners of the photography. On the screen to the right is the winning entry.

Here on stage with the emcees, the mascot appears in all the programmes of the campaign.

The impressive student choral singers.

The well-adorned Orang Asli flutist is a native of Kampar.

As Mohd Taib was otherwise engaged, I represented PHS at the public relations programme’s closing ceremony the following Wednesday. All four teams that took on their own NGO in the UTAR programme gathered together with a representative from their respective NGO. A sense of achievement and fun saturated the academic air. It looks to me like most of the students would all pass with flying colours.

Was it not Vice President Associate Professor Teh who told me during the show that 97 per cent of UTAR graduates find work, mainly in Singapore? The others, he intimated, had chosen to take time off to travel and perhaps, I venture to say, join the entertainment industry.

Footnote: PHS is grateful to Assistant Professor Dr Cheah Phaik Kin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Mr Ng Eng Kiat and Ms Lee Lai Meng, Mr Pong Kok Shiong and Ms Yeow Jian Hui of the of the Department of Public Relations as well as all the students under their director Lo Vui Che who worked to raise some money for PHS. Let’s do it again next semester!

University Programmes and PHS

Over the years, as the flag bearer for Perak heritage, PHS has cultivated a network of supportive and creative individuals. While we have also assisted many researchers, both local and foreign, we tend to maintain an extended friendship with teachers from institutions of higher learning. They explore our resources in different ways, but invariably our cooperation has produced impressive results. The recent visits from teams of architects and future architects remind us it’s time we acknowledge their faith in us.

Teaching and writing are the key elements in the career of the UCSI University lecturer, Teoh Chee Keong. In the past decade or so, he has written a book and a weekly column in a national Sunday newspaper on subjects close to his heart: community, architecture and heritage. He is a tireless campaigner for building conservation. Apart from exposing his architecture students to Perak’s heritage, Chee Keong has also conducted summer projects in Taiping and Ipoh for visiting Taiwanese students. Chee Keong is Taiping born-and-bred, and there is extra satisfaction in his contribution.

UCSI students studying Waller Court

Students braved the heat of the afternoon to look at the commemorative plaque at the obelisk marking Waller Court.

This year, for the studio design programme of third-year architecture students, Chee Keong has chosen a neglected part of the green lung of Ipoh, the D R Seenivasagam Park, as a building site for a hypothetical cultural complex: a performing arts centre which includes a hostel for actors and production crew. Unfortunately, due to the scope of the study, blocks of the adjacent Waller Court could not be considered for the hostel. Nevertheless, the upshot is that PHS may host an exhibition of the best submissions in mid-year. That is surely something to look forward to.

As highlighted in a previous blog, Waller Court represents an outstanding example of the architectural heritage of historic public housing. Last year, students of construction management from the Faculty of Green Technology, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Kampar investigated its exceptional construction. Sam Tan, their supervising lecturer believes that Waller Court is an important piece of Ipoh’s architectural heritage. Not surprisingly, its strategic location has attracted redevelopment schemes. But as Sam suggested, it would do us good to learn about ‘the value of the community and its intangible contribution to the fabric of the city; the true cost of destruction must be addressed’. By the way, last month Sam had also helped us draw up the last conventional lime kilns in Bercham. 

The team who worked on the Royal English School.

The team in front of Rumah Tetamu.

In January, through the efforts of the staunch PHS supporter Casey Ng, a measured drawing tutor of Taylor’s University, Izwan Nor Azhar came to us. He and his colleagues eventually assigned two buildings in Batu Gajah to their student project. The buildings are The Royal English School, built 1916 as a residence and Rumah Tetamu, a rest house by the golf course, which has seen better days. Of the latter, we learn that demolition – rather than conservation – is in order. We wonder if the interest shown by Taylor’s University could avert its doom. The Royal English School building fares much better. As the last remaining historic residence in Batu Gajah, it will be restored, and a sympathetic new annex added to make its adaptive re-use a sustainable venture. 

The most ambitious student programme that PHS has ever worked with is the University of Malaya–National University of Singapore (UM–NUS) Joint Studio Project in 2012. The study, after a similar one on Taiping in 2010, resulted in an excellent book which was launched in Ipoh early in 2013. That was celebrated with ‘Celebrating Perak’s Built Heritage’, an exhibition which combined both studies. The book is the first thorough study of Ipoh’s urban fabric in the inner-city area for 50 years.

The book, Encounters with Ipoh: Familiar Spaces Untold Stories is now available through PHS. Returning Taiping, a study by the same UM–NUS programme, is also available. Both titles are sold at RM90 per book. For PHS members, the discount price is RM80. Place your order by emailing perakheritage36@gmail.com and siakhongstudio@gmail.com.

Model and old shophouse by Sam Tan’s students.

PHS @ UTAR Perak Campus

“HUES OF DIVERSITY”
FOR CULTURE AND HERITAGE
PR Campaign Volunteerism 3.0
by UTAR Faculty of Arts and Social Science

VOLUNTEERS WANTED

  • Help us install PHS displays and exhibitions and sell books and handicraft
  • To volunteer or just to watch the show at night, contact Hong by 19 March. Phone 0175061875 or email siakhongstudio@gmail.com

The venue: Heritage Hall. (Source of photo: UTAR web site)

What it’s all about?

At the School of Public Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kampar, forty-four students flex their brains and muscles.

Their Aim Fundraising for charity – to benefit PHS awareness programme

Objective To encourage volunteer activities

The Concept
E = Educate participants on volunteerism
R = Revive the volunteerism spirit
S = promote Sustainability and volunteerism through campus events

Programme on Hues of Diversity

  1. 21 February
    -  Programme launch
    -  Photography Competition – currently in progress
  2. 12 March
    -  11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Soft launching + campus awareness, Students’
    Pavilion, followed by parade through UTAR campus
    -  6 to 8 p.m.: off-campus parade and ticket push, Kampar New Town
  3. 22 March
    -  3:30 p.m. onwards – Culture & Heritage Exhibition, Heritage Hall
  4. 22 March
    -  7:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Charity Night, Heritage Hall, UTAR
        Programme of recitals, cultural dances and more. Ticket @ RM10

Content of Exhibition

Content of Exhibition

TIME TUNNEL – a students’ installation

UTAR Construction Management project models

Ipoh Craftnerds’ modern handicraft for sale

Dr Sun Yat Sen Ipoh Trail

PHS exhibitions and displays

Books on Perak Heritage for sale

VIPs and event mascot at the soft launch of the campaign.

Icons of culture and heritage as portrayed and crafted by the students.

PHS: The Innovative Organisation in Perak Tourism

Finally, in the second decade of our existence, our heritage work has been officially recognised by the tourism authority in the state of Perak.

Tourism Perak awarded PHS the Innovative Organisation (NGO) of 2013, in acknowledgement of our responsible policies and sustainable activities. The truth is, through the years, we have formed partnerships for extra capacity and we have managed to stay relevant to the cause through adaptation. Indeed, we achieved our objectives with strategic action, and we did it in the spirit of volunteerism.

The award was presented at the Perak Tourism Awards Night 2013, a dinner party held in the spacious banquet hall of the new Casuarina@ Meru Hotel in Meru Raya, Ipoh. The Chinese dinner was a pleasant surprise; it went down well.

MB Zambry-Mohd taib

There to receive the Award for PHS was our President, Mohd Taib Mohamed, who has this to share: ‘In his welcome speech, Perak Menteri Besar Dato’ Dr Zambry highlighted the need to humanise “tourism products”, that tourism promotion must factor in people in order to give it soul. As far as I am concerned, we in PHS have been doing it for years. The human factor is the soul of our activities; we care about our past – our social history and material culture. Our activities are about what we can do for other people in the promotion of our heritage.’

With lighting effect, the atmosphere in the banquet hall was genuinely warm. To top it all, popular singing star Anuar Zain popped up to entertain the gathering. Photo-opportunities arose during his third song. As he moved through the crowd, adoring female fans posed with him for their album, and Facebook, of course. 

Industrial Heritage and Ecosystem: Charcoal from the Mangrove Trees

Text and photographs: Law Siak Hong 

It is impossible to forget that first time you set your eyes on the Kuala Sepetang charcoal kilns. They form a surreal dreamscape.

Ensconced in a voluminous shed that has been darkened by rising tree oil vapour and the smoke from wood fire, a row of smoking igloos appears to pulse relentlessly. The spectacle is entrancing. While a crisp, dry scent hangs in the open air, you inhale wisps of tart fumes of the oil expelled from the wood in the kilns. It’s atmospheric.

Unforgettable is the experience of the igloos in a darkened shed.

Raised on a base lined with firebricks, the hemispheroid bricks kilns are handmade by a travelling band of craftsmen-builders. Around the kilns, the ground is raw earth, trodden on by men and machines at work, yet powdery from the ash and bits of stray charcoal. In these fascinating kilns, bakau wood is slowly ‘cooked’ for up to 28 days to become charcoal, the best fuel for time-honoured slow cooking as well as frying in a hot wok.

The new may improve efficiency but the old has survived with traditional technology.

Filling the kiln with 10.5 tonnes of bakau billets is a day’s work for eight strong men

For retail, pieces of charcoal are packed in paper bags.

The kilns have always been easily accessible from the main road into Kuala Sepetang. It may be mere coincidence, but until metal roofing began to replace the expansive attap roof twenty years ago, the place did not even figure on the tourist radar. Since then, plenty of visitors have come to see the enthralling charcoal kilns, as photographers, curiosity seekers and tourists throng the place.

For durability, old attap roofs are being replaced by metal sheets

Perhaps surprisingly, the kilns are a legacy of prewar Japanese who introduced the technology in 1930. They gave the industrious Chinese a challenge and a new livelihood. Today, workers in the charcoal industry comprise local Chinese and Malays, both men and women, while foreign workers make up the numbers required in this labour-intensive industry.

A door becomes a convenient black board for reminders

Demonstrating industrial progress: new concrete structures are beginning to replace the traditional wooden sheds.

The Japanese have never really left. Today, they are the biggest buyers of the best charcoal produced here. Even the crumbs are not wasted; they are bagged and exported to Japan, and then moulded into briquettes for barbeques. A couple of decades ago, Japanese traders also began to tap the oil extract expelled from the wood. It’s a lucrative business, as barrels of the miracle liquid are refined to make medicines and cosmetics.

Stretching from Kuala Gula to Pantai Remis along Perak’s coastline, the 40,000-hectare Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve is the largest mangrove tract in peninsular Malaysia. It’s been managed as a sustainable production forest since 1905 and is considered to be an exemplary sustainable mangrove estuary, renowned throughout the world. The management of the mangroves is based on silviculture – allowing for a balance between production and conservation.

Here, then, is the focal point of Perak’s charcoal industry. According to the Malaysian Timber Council, there were 348 kilns in operation in the area in 2009, but today the figure is closer to 400. There are identical kilns in Kampong Dew, Kuala Trong and Kampong Sungei Kerang. Each kiln has an economic lifespan of seven to ten years.

“Shaved” of their bark, billets of bakau wood wait to be transferred to the kiln.

The preferred species for charcoal is bakau minyak (Rhizophora apiculata), which grows along the riverbanks and in more tide-submerged areas. Timber is harvested in a 30-year cycle, after which the trees are clearfelled. Then intensive planting is done two years after final felling. Yields are tightly regulated to ensure a constant supply of greenwood for the charcoal industry.

While charcoal is the primary timber product – in addition to fuel, it is further processed into items like soap, cigarette filters, shoe soles and water filters – mangrove trees also have other uses, providing timber for piling poles in housing and construction, fishing poles, pulp, tannin and firewood.

From the sea, the mangrove forests resonate serenity and harmony. (Photograph: putkuning.blogspot.com)

Matang possess an enchanting beauty and are a rich cornucopia of flora and fauna. Besides the productive timber forest, mangroves contribute substantially to commercial fisheries that operate all year round. They are also a breeding ground and habitat for wildlife such as monkeys, bats, otters, wild boars and snakes, and home to 156 species of birds.

The boardwalk meanders through the forest; bakau minyak and its aerial roots. (Photographs: myloismylife.blogspot.com; Shiangyang.org)

The Matang mangroves are therefore a natural and important coastal ecology that should be better known and understood. Mangroves are tidal, so the sensitive plant, animal and fish communities are subject to fluctuating temperatures, salinity and moisture. Thus, only a few selective species make up the mangrove community. The mangroves are also important for water storage and trapping sediments and carbon, contributing to the control of the quality and quantity of water and particles discharged into the sea.

Recently, perhaps out of zeal for tourism, the historic multi-lingual signboard was “embellished”. (Photo: Zaraab.wordpress.com)

When Kuala Sepetang was known as Port Weld, it was linked to Taiping by a 13-kilometre railway, the very first in Malaya. It began service in 1885. Port Weld was the sea jetty for Taiping and the Larut district, and the link to Penang and other parts of the peninsula.

As with early houses, a deck at the fishery co-op extends over the water. In contrast, houses built on the old railway track take on a landed-style.

It takes less than one minute to cross the channel by ferry. Locals would take the ride standing, with practiced ease. The fare: 20 sen.

Passing time with friends, children shoot the breeze bobbing in a fishing boat.

Off work, and in company, men from the village relax at the shelter by the canal.

So, when you visit the kilns for some amazing photographs, take time to walk through the mangrove forests. They are an outdoor classroom for an education on the environment, ecology and a sustainable industry. You may not see many animals during the day but, with patience and in stillness, you begin to catch their movements in and out of the water. It can be humid with little air movement but you will learn a lot from the informative storyboards. But be forewarned: mosquitoes are endemic. For this reason, staying in the holiday chalets in the reserve is not recommended unless, of course, you want to experience the mangrove forests in discomfort.

You may opt for a boat ride out to the island of Kuala Sangga for a day trip or a homestay at one of the floating chalets. To see fireflies, you have to take the boat from Kampong Dew in the evening.

I won’t be forgiven if I leave out food. Apart from curry mee with generous helpings of seafood in the shops and in the market, there are halal mee udang stalls and some pork-free restaurants by the waterfront for excellent fresh seafood. I love a cold beer with an early meal overlooking the water and the mangrove forests at sunset. Sadly, you can’t help but notice the new, incongruous tall concrete building which is a hotel by the sea. Tell us what you think of it.

The Last Conventional Lime Kilns

Text and photographs: Law Siak Hong

Lime is an essential building material. To learn more about it, a team of conservationists from Penang’s George Town World Heritage Inc. came to ‘Pulai-Ipoh’, a major centre of lime production (and limestone paving). Who would have thought that we had to commiserate about the sad exit of a traditional trade?

The visitors had travelled in the morning light and arrived in Ipoh for breakfast. To slip into the mood, we decided on a quick look at some old shophouses in Kampong Kepayang (read our last blog), five minutes away, where lime was used extensively in their construction before the days of modern-day cement. We could have spent more time romancing the ruins but the day’s programme beckoned.

In the meeting room of a plant in Keramat Pulai, our guru Harrison gave us an education on lime.

Harrison is well respected in the industry. Over the course of an hour, we learnt from him why the conventional kiln produces superior quicklime, and that quality loses out to the lesser and cheaper products from the contemporary tower kiln. We learnt, too, that lime is critically important in our daily lives. It is used in myriad ways: water treatment (to ‘soften’ water), sugar refining, food and food by-products, toothpaste, detergents, cosmetics, chemical manufacture, paper, ceramics, construction, smelting, steel, road, petroleum, agriculture and more. Is it for these products that we are destroying the biodiversity and natural beauty of our irreplaceable limestone hills? There must be a way out. Let’s reduce our reliance on them, for starters, and put a moratorium on new hills which have not yet been exploited.

GTWHI team: three architects and a videographer: Yee Li, Yeow Wooi, Que Lin and Gwynn, with our guru, Harrison (middle). Missing here, the researcher Muhammad Hijas appears in another photograph below.

Post-theory, we left the classroom for site visits. The sun was mild. We drove past limestone hills and came to the conventional lime kilns near a small limestone outcrop in Bercham, Ipoh. We discovered that these last conventional lime kilns in the Kinta Valley had been abandoned quite recently. (Why did I not ‘recce’ ahead of the visit?) In the work shed, a couple of workers were bagging the last scraps of quicklime. According to them, there is no more supply of rubber wood for the best fire to ‘cook the rocks’.

Feeling and testing the quality of the lime.

A file picture of the kiln when it was in operation; note the stack of rubber wood. GTWHI’s urban planner/researcher, Muhammad Hijas, squeezes into the lime kiln for the medieval feel of the ‘room’.

Set 80 metres apart, two rows of kilns, three in each, face each other across a little creek – a fire barrier, perhaps. About 4 metres in diameter and 5 metres high, the cylindrical kilns rise behind a retaining wall: a concrete and brick structure. Entry into the kiln to stack the rocks is through a narrow, man-sized passage. In front of the retaining wall is a long shed, a roofed work space with a storage room at one end and at the other, living quarters for the workers, who keep a 24-hour watch on the fire for three days. Work is also done on an upper level. Compacted earth, levelled with the

File picture: limestone piled around on the upper level, to be cooked in the kiln and become quicklime.

rims of the kiln openings, provides the space where rocks would wait to be dropped into the kiln and stacked into a domed vault, piece by piece. What skills, what occupational hazard! The back of the kilns slopes away gently for a small truck to bring up the rocks.

The abandoned kilns and the cool isolated setting. Note the limestone hill in the background. Workers’ quarters on the right have been reconfigured into a store. What’s in store for these kilns?

Harrison walking past the retaining wall of the abandoned kiln.

One set of kilns was already partially concealed by bushes, creepers and wild grass. Dead branches had been dumped into the hollow.

Yeow Wooi recording the structure of the retaining wall at the passage (left). Piqued by the construction, Que Lin the videographer switches role and poses at the passage (right).

While we were looking around, someone unlocked the steel door to the only kiln which had remained intact and accessible! The passage was partially sealed with bricks, and we had to bend down low or crawl in. It felt like we had stepped back in time, into a circular medieval room under an open sky; we would be right at home draped in hessian, mud and ash. White lime had caked up on the bricks lining the kiln, while green moss had found their footing on the wall and the floor.

File pictures: Looking down into the kiln and the narrow passage. The bricks lining the kiln are laid on their edges. Note the irregular surface of the wall.

After lunch and iced tea, we went to a tower lime kiln south of Gopeng. A surprise was waiting in the wings. As we took the first bend of the dirt road to the plant, a brick wall came into view. Hugging the foot of the limestone cliffs were twelve, or more, conventional kilns in the wild. A poignant moment: nature had reasserted its mastery over man-made objects.

Effective and responsible action: thin out the vegetation selectively (aesthetically) and manage the ground covering and the trees; then maintain a clear path to the upper level of the kilns and mark it with a guide rope. Would the holes and the wild vegetation pose any threat to the visitors?

Later, at the plant, we were told that the lime company might adopt and maintain this evocative historical site, for corporate responsibility purposes. For sustainability, cost effective measures are practical and appropriate. Less is more. Perhaps the management will consult with us: PHS.

While a conventional kiln is seen as a hole in the ground, the tower kiln pierces the air. For industrial security, no photography was allowed. The tower kiln is a tall, heavily insulated steel drum, tapered and stumped at both ends. It is suspended from huge I-beams, supported by a massive concrete base. Around the kiln, an open steel staircase links several platforms, where various operational procedures and tasks can be performed. On a tilt, the bucket elevator raises its load of limestone up to the top to tip the rocks into the kiln. Progressing downwards (!), the rocks are heated, cooked and cooled. Quicklime powder, the finished product, is collected at the base and piped into the adjacent silo. It takes sixteen hours for the tower kiln to make quicklime. In comparison, the conventional kiln takes nearly two weeks.

File pictures of the retired tower kiln, similar to the ones we visited in Gopeng, with twin silos (left). A view from the top at the level of the gangwalk from the kiln to the top of the silo (right).

Our close encounter with the retired but magical tower kiln in Keramat Pulai was scratched due to rain…. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with a deep sense of loss, of a magnitude I have yet to come to grips with. What can be done to save and reintroduce the technology and the art of the conventional lime kiln which produces superior quicklime for our building craftsmen? In the meantime, we must settle for lime of a poorer quality, but one that is cheaper and much quicker to make. Would there be a demand for the superior product or would it be simply a waste of time? This is the kind of problem conservationists grapple with. 


Perak Heritage Society

Persatuan Warisan Perak
(Reg. No. 1254) was registered with the Registrar of Societies in August, 2003.

Office and Postal Address:
85C, Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil,
30300 IPOH, Perak, Malaysia.
(opposite the Syuen Hotel)

Fax: 05-253 5507

E-mail:
perakheritage36@gmail.com
Website: http://perakheritage.wordpress.com

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