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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kellie's Castle, Perak, Malaysia

Screams from a newborn baby echoed through the corridors of a small farmhouse, one spring day in the year 1870. A healthy baby boy was born into the Easter Kellas estate to the Smith family and was christened William Smith. The golden years of the Victorian Era was at its peak. The British empire was secured spanning from the New World to India and into South East Asia.
William Smith grew up in a little farm close to Dallas on the Moray Firth in Scotland. As the Victoria era blossomed for a new class of elite, spearheaded by innovative technology and inventions - the working class were pushed harder into poverty and frustrations. Perhaps it was the drive to escape from the droll of intense poverty that sent William Smith to far off lands looking for opportunities.
Young William Smith who later called himself William Kellie Smith, (Kellie being his mother's maiden name) left his homefarm in Dallas in search of the rich life he dreamt. It is not known when Smith arrived in Malaya nor do we know why he chose to explore opportunites in Malaya. However, the young, amicable man of 6ft 3ins in height was accepted into the community with ease
In a small working communty of planters, miners and entrepreuners, Smith found business opportunities readily available. Having bounced around on a few successful and unsuccessful ventures, he finally had a great windfall working with a rubber planter named Alma Baker. Alma Baker had obtained a few government contracts to make roads in South Perak. William Smith snapped up his invitation to work together and made a huge profit from these projects. With the money, he purchased 900acres of land just south of Ipoh and cleared the jungle for his rubber plantation and homely estate. He named this estate, Kinta Kellas - Kellas in memory of his family farm back in Scotland and Kinta being the area of the large basin in where the estate is situated
With his empire falling into place as planned, William Kellie Smith formed a London-based company. He was then appointed manager of the estate and was paid a handsome salary by the London Board. Rubber being in demand in the early years, he made a fortune. Running in parallel with the demands of raw materials to fuel the new industrial boom, he further amassed more wealth as larger dividends were paid out to him by his London based company.
In 1909/1910 he built a Moorish styled manor for himself, his wife Agnes Smith and their first child, Helen Agnes. The manor sat on a little knoll just by the bend of Sungai Kinta or the Kinta River, commanding a clear, unobstructed view of the Kinta Valley. Its grounds were groomed into pockets of lush gardens, open spaces, lawns and a lake - added to complete the estate ambience. In Britain during the Victorian era, many young, rich, enterprising men took to buying old manor houses, castles and estates to accentuate their stature in the social circles and for a long period, such activities were well accepted. 
Perhaps it was this influence, perhaps it was the birth of his son that niggled him into building a larger more stately home. Construction of the new manor began somewhere after the birth of his son Anthony in 1915. Not much of the first home is left today, apart from the covered walkway, an open courtyard and part of a crumbling wall. The 'new' section of the stately home was to be an extension to the existing home, hence there isn't a kitchen nor a servants' quarters to be found. Many estate homes in the early years were designed so that the servants' quarters, utility rooms and kitchens were housed in an annexe and connected only by a covered walkpath to ensure no disturbances.
This new wing was to take 10years to build. Smith had employed an Indian taskforce to work on the construction. However, in the early 1920's, an epidemic of 'Spanish Flu' broke out and many of his estate workers including those working on the construction died after a short period of illness. The heads of his workforce requested that they build a temple for the deity Mariamman to ask forgiveness and protection for the people living on the estate. Smith agreed and had all his people feverishly working on the temple which was completed in a short time. The temple was built some 1500m from Smith's home. Today, the local community still pays homage to their gods at the temple. A little statuette of Kellie Smith stands alongside the deities on the roof of the temple probably watching over his little estate and the descendants of those that have worked and looked after him in the years when he was Sahib of the Kinta Estate
After the completion of the temple, everything returned to its normal state of affairs and work was diverted back to the construction of the manor house. In 1926, together with his daughter, William Kellie Smith made a trip home to Britain.The reasons for his trip is unclear but it is believed that they were to return to England for a short reunion with his wife and son. It is believed that Anthony was sent home to continue his education and Agnes had accompanied him. Back in Europe,William Kellie Smith was believed to have made a detour trip to Lisbon, Portugal to collect a lift (elevator) which he had ordered for the manor. Unfortunately, Smith never made it back to Malaya. In December 1926, Smith succumbed to a bout of pneumonia and passed away in Lisbon. He was buried at the British Cemetery.Agnes sold her interest in the Kellas Estate and Smith's distrought family never returned to Malaya.
Anthony Kellie Smith was killed in World War II and Helen never returned.

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