VISITORS to the Protestant Cemetery in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, George Town, will find many pleasant changes to the site following its recent restoration.
The 226-year-old cemetery, the final resting place of Sir Francis Light and other prominent personalities, was reopened to the public late last year following a RM230,000 upgrading project which took five weeks.
Upgrading works included repairing the cemetery’s main gate and pedestrian walkway, ground levelling, supplying benches and bicycle bays, installing lighting and a new signboard and constructing a shed and a drain.
Bollards were also placed at the entrance to prevent vehicles from driving in.
The work was funded by the Penang Municipal Council, Think City Sdn Bhd and George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI).
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng inspected the site, which belongs to the state government, on Thursday.
“From the tombstones, we can see at least 10 ethnic groups — Americans, Armenians, Australians, Chinese, Dutch, British, French, Germans, Irish and Scottish — buried at the cemetery.
“Part of the cemetery was bombed by the Japanese army during World War II.
“There are 459 graves at the cemetery, some holding the remains of more than one person,” Lim said in his speech.
He also said the cemetery was not only a final resting place for the dead but also had potential to be a growing tourist attraction, especially with more awareness of the personalities buried there.
GTWHI general manager Lim Chooi Ping said that until now, there was no complete record of the historical site but the cemetery was still in good condition and full of heritage appeal.
“Here lie the graves of historical figures who contributed to the early development of George Town.
“They include Francis Light, James Scott, David Brown, Philip Dundas, James Richardson Logan and more,” she said.
She said that since 2012, GTWHI had been cooperating with the council, Penang Heritage Trust, Think City and Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre For Global Archaeological Research to carry out various works at the cemetery.
These included the preparation of a heritage management plan, site survey, dilapidation report, and repairs to broken tombs.
The cemetery was founded in 1789 by the East India Company.
It also has the tomb of Rev Robert Sparke Hutchings, who is the founder of Penang Free School.
Thomas Leonowens is also buried at the cemetery. He was the husband of Anna Leonowens who was made famous in the novel ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ and its movie adaptations.