The other road named after the memory of Charles Edwin Spooner

1 01 2011

Just as Spooner Road in Singapore is a world apart from the rest of Singapore in many ways, I recently discovered that the other road that was named after Charles Edwin Spooner that still exists is a world apart in many ways from the rest of the city it is set in. This Spooner Road, or Jalan Spooner as it is now known as, together with the Spooner Road in Singapore, were two out of three Spooner Roads that were named after Spooner who was the first General Manager of the FMS Railways (FMSR) who began his career in the Public Wokrs Department in Selangor before his appointment to the FMSR in 1901 (the third on Federal Hill in Kuala Lumpur I discovered had been renamed as Jalan Cenderawasih). It was during his time at the PWD in Selangor that he oversaw and influenced some of the Moorish styled architectural masterpieces of Kuala Lumpur, swaying the style from the Neo Classical Renaissance style that was a standard of British government architecture in the colonies towards one that was influence by Islamic elements for the Malaysian capital.

Spooner Road or Jalan Spooner in Ipoh is another named after the first General Manager of the FMS Railways, C. E. Spooner, and associated with housing for railway workers, as is the Spooner Road in Singapore.

With some time to spare after a stroll through parts of old Ipoh, where I was reacquainted with the genius of Arthur Benison Hubback in the form of the wonderful Railway Station and Town Hall on New Year’s Eve, I decided to take a drive with the help of an Asus Garmin A10 GPS mobile phone that I am reviewing over to a quieter part of town where Jalan Spooner was located. Jalan Spooner is a road that has in its past been long associated with housing railway workers as the Spooner Road in Singapore is, and it was for that that I had sought to find evidence on. Taking a right turn as directed correctly by the GPS off Jalan Sungai Pari not far from the railway tracks, it was a road sign and a sign that indicated the existence of a village “Kampung Spooner” that greeted me, followed by a sense of extreme desolation. For some reason I had that feeling that I was driving into the fifth dimension which might have well been accompanied by the theme music from the TV Series “The Twilight Zone”, as the I stared through my windscreen towards a the eerily silent stretch of road that lay ahead surrounded by the greenery that lined both sides of the narrow country-like road. The road ahead seemed even more eerie when the sight of a lone woman walking down the road up ahead came into view. She looked as if she was almost floating as she made her way up the long and lonely road that lay ahead.

As is the Spooner Road in Singapore, the one in Ipoh looks as if time has left it behind.

As it is with Singapore’s Spooner Road, driving down the road also gave an impression that it was a place where time had stood still, particularly when the first few signs of civilisation down the road came into view. A few wooden houses stood on the right, with a few signs of life: a boy wearing a clinical mask playing outside his home and a barking dog up the metalled driveway of the road that led to another house. On the right there was an old wooden shophouse that was shuttered, and a motor workshop with a few motorcycles parked in front.

Housing around Jalan Spooner.

A resident of Jalan Spooner.

A shophouse at Jalan Spooner.

A motor workshop along Jalan Spooner.

It was on the right of the road that a cluster of dilapidated buildings came into view – the style of which was similar to the many railway buildings that are found on the tracts of land along the railway corridor in Singapore, particularly around some of the level crossings such as the ones in the Bukit Timah and Kranji areas – probably a testament to the period of the Malayan Railway’s development when they were built. Close inspection of a red sign that was posted in front of one row of buildings naming the “Perbandanan Aset Keretapi” (Railway Assets Corporation) giving evidence of their previous use. There it was – the evidence that I was looking for – and with that I had established the connection between the two Spooner Roads, separated not just by the creation of two very different nations out of the British administered Malayan States and the former colony of Singapore, but also by a distance of some 600 kilometres along the railway track, and unified by its association with not just the illustrious C. E. Spooner, but also with providing housing for the workers of the Malayan Railway.

The former railway workers' quarters at Jalan Spooner - now in dilapidated state.

A sign providing evidence of the ownership of the land on which the dilapidated buildings stand, naming the Railway Assets Corporation (Perbadanan Aset Keretapi) as the land title holder and warning that trespassers would be prosecuted.

More dilapidated buildings that once housed Railway workers.

Another view of Jalan Spooner.

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4 responses

14 07 2011
Papan Jones

Thank you for this informative piece. Being in Ipoh means I got to check out Spooner Road. When I was a schoolboy of the Ipoh ACS many decades ago, Spooner was part of our cross-country run. When I re-visited in the 90s, the lovely colonial KTM quarters have already gone quite dilapidated. By the early 00s, most of them have been demolished. Enchanting the green environment, the canopy of big rain trees keeps the area cool and mosquito- infested, but all these may not survive much longer under the pressure of re-development.

29 09 2011
potpourri

I grew up in Jalan Spooner.

30 09 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Wow, really? When did you live there and what was it like growing up there?

26 01 2012
Noel F. D'Oliveiro

Neglected Railway property (KTM) an eyesore

As ‘Railway’ children in the Fifties, we enjoyed the luxury of residing in expansive bungalows with sprawling compounds and an abundance of fruit trees, whether it was in Prai, Taiping, Ipoh, Gemas, Tumpat or elsewhere. The Malayan Railway, as it was then known, saw to it that cleanliness was the order of the day, among other things. Social gatherings such as parties, film shows, festive celebrations and even athletic meets and league games, centered on the club house, which was a hive of activity throughout the year.
In Falim, Ipoh, we also raised a football team that was good enough to participate in the local league and won many an honour. So, it was no surprise when a good number of players were chosen to represent the State as well as the Country in athletics, football and hockey.
Recently, some former residents of Spooner Road, Falim, returned from overseas and took a nostalgic trip down memory lane. What embarrassed me and shocked them was the deplorable state of affairs that greeted us. It was an eyesore. I had no answers to their many pressing questions.
Dilapidated houses, that were once our homes, are now stripped from whatever respectability they had enjoyed.
The fields are a picture of prolonged neglect and have become grazing grounds for animals;
The roads are in the state of disrepair;
Pools of stagnant water, probably caused by leaking water pipes, apart from the rain, pockmark the area and have become perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes; Decomposing animal and vegetable matter have raised a stench giving one a feeling of nausea;
Street lights have vanished;
Overgrown vegetation, tall enough to hide a herd of pachyderms, stares one in the face; Garbage is dumped everywhere;
In a word, it was really a shame to see the whole place in shambles and condemned to a faceless place of undeserved obscurity.
What were once our homes and playground is today a haven for drug addicts and snakes with squatter huts mushrooming all over.
Shame on you, whoever is responsible, for aiding in its neglect that has led to this sad state of affairs.

Noel F. D’Oliveiro

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