Found: Abraham Hale

Abraham Hale, * Dec. 7, 1854 (Sussex), † April 8, 1919 (Hildenborough, Kent). Source: Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya (1908)
A. Hale about 1907

Four days ago, the Ipoh City Council announced that Lorong Hale, a charming but previously neglected downtown lane, has been upgraded to a Tin Mining Heritage Trail.[1. The original link no longer worked, as usual on sloppy Malaysian government websites; in April 2023 only the text could still be found on] “A. Hale” is the man after whom Hale Lane in Ipoh – and formerly also nearby Hale Street and several other Roads in Malaysia – were named.

This is my contribution to this new attraction in one of my two favourite Malaysian cities (the other one is Taiping). It will only partially be an article about a man, but also one about my “sweet joy of research” for him.[1. An unnamed Malaysian blogger has coined this expression and introduced it to the Internet on July 24, 2015, after having used an article by "A. Hale" to explore a stunning part of his family history.] “A. Hale” is a remarkable author whose life data – even just getting his full name – was a hard nut to crack and kept me busy for years.

In other words, “Finding A. Hale” was pure delight. It broadened my horizons, I came across astonishing stories (some of which were only marginally related to my original research), and it finally served as an excuse for me to travel to the fabulous cities of Ipoh, Taiping and other places in Malaysia. I met great people there, but none of them, in fact not a single person I met, including library staff, a museum employee, and tourist guides, had ever heard of „A. Hale“. I had to find him alone.

“A. Hale” was the author of a book that puzzled me for decades. The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya 1600–1605 is a mysterious biography, or at least it seems to be one. Strangely enough, this book, obviously written by an Englishman, had been printed 1909 by the renowned Dutch publisher E .J. Brill in Leiden. Brill is well known for sophisticated scientific publications, not for fiction. The Adventures of John Smith seemed to be the only work that “A. Hale” had ever published.

Example for „John Smith“ as a source in a scholarly work: Donald F. Lach, Edwin J. van Kley: Asia in the Making of Europe. A Century of Advance. Volume III: South East Asia. Chicago 1993, 1114. To read the footnote, right-click to open in a new tab, then click „show graphic“.
Source: „John Smith“.

His book is mentioned in the reference sections of the works of numerous scholarly writers until today. Few of these authors have asked whether it is actually a novel or non-fiction[1. For instance, it is given as an important scholarly source in Donald F. Lach’s and Edwin J. Van Kley’s monumental „masterpiece of comprehensive scholarship“ (New York Times) Asia in the Making of Europe. A Century of Advance. Volume III: South East Asia, which had been published in Chicago 1993 (p. 1113); it also stands as a source of valuable historical detail in Leonard Y. Andaya’s Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (Honolulu 2008, p. 255) and “John Smith’s” campaigns conducted for the queen of Pattani using Negrito bowmen as the primary element of their military corps is discussed in Annette Hamilton’s “Reflections on the ‘Disappearing Sakai’. A Tribal Minority in Southern Thailand.”Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. Vol. 37, No. 2. Singapore 2006, 293-314 (p. 302).] and this made me especially curious, not to say suspicious about the author. Because apart from this book, I did not find the slightest trace about him. Who was “A. Hale”? A scholar using an alias? Did he indeed write only a single book in his life? Either way, he must have been a man of great knowledge about the peoples and history of Malaya. But before the internet – and even beyond, i. e. until recently, since some sources had been digitized and are now generally and easily accessible –, the abbreviated name “A. Hale” was everything I knew.

I had first stumbled upon The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya in Hafiz Manzooruddin Ahmad’s Thailand. Land der Freien. (“Thailand. Land of the Free.”) about thirty years ago. This German language classic on Thailand came out by the end of 1942. Despite its time-based propaganda and some misrepresentations it is a well-written and fascinating book. Ahmad used some sources that are still fairly unknown today. It was a successful book during the last years of the National Socialist era and even beyond.[1. Ahmad was an Indian who left his first traces in Germany in 1923 as a student. He married a German and became a staunch supporter of the National Socialists. As early as 1932, he was among the founders of the Berlin Branch of the strongly anti-semitic World Islamic Congress. Ahmad established excellent relations with the highest circles of the National Socialist Party. He became the first deputy chairman of the founding committee of the Islamic Central Institute (IZI) in Germany, initiated by Joseph Goebbels. Some of his books on India, Thailand, Tibet and Turkmenistan were translated into Italian, Swedish and Czech and he was especially praised by the Ministry of Propaganda for his biography of the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi collaborator Muhammad Amīn al-Ḥusainī.] The narrator arranges history as an entertaining and impressive string of thrilling stories about daring explorers, curious researchers, unscrupulous conquerors, cruel rulers, loyal friends and nefarious traitors.

Ahmad dedicated an entire chapter of his book to Hale’s Adventures of John Smith in Malaya, quoting remarkable parts from the chapter after “John Smith” (this was, according to Hale, not his real name which he claimed to have withheld for reasons of confidentiality) had come to the East Indies on a Dutch ship. He went so far as to write about Hale’s book:

So far there has been no doubt as to the correctness of his presentation, and many details suggest that the memories of the English adventurer [John Smith…] really came from a man who was there.[1. H(afiz) Manzooruddin Ahmad: Thailand. Land der Freien. Leipzig 1943 (recte 1942), 61.]

After many adventures, “John Smith” settled down as a trader, and eventually became an advisor to the Queen of Pattani, whom he helped to wage a successful revolt against the oppression of the Siamese, who were trying for centuries to colonize their neighbouring countries.

A. Hale: The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya 1600–1605Hale‘s biography of “John Smith” provides us with an abundance of interesting historical and personal detail. But I had doubts from the start, whether it was indeed an Englishman who had served as the role model for Hale’s fictional character “John Smith” in Malaya at the given time.

Foray: Christoph Carl Fernberger (*1596, † 1653)

At this point, I insert a little digression, because in another part of his book – in fact the one just after the “John Smith” chapter –, Ahmad mentions a man who is said to have been the first German to ever travel to Ayutthaya, Christoph Carl Fernberger (*1596, † 1653). At first glance, Ahmad’s Fernberger story reads like a copy of A. Hale’s „John Smith,“ which he had previously rendered, but in fact Hale’s book is definitely the most recent of all of the made-up stories featured in my present article.

Olivier van Noort (left), the proven fourth circumnavigator and Christoph Carl Fernberger (right), perhaps the first German and first Austrian to sail around the world: Even Fernberger's image looks as if it was modeled on that of van Noort.
Olivier van Noort, Christoph Carl Fernberger

Many scholars also regard Fernberger as the first Austrian – and, after Maestre Anes and Hans Barge – the third German circumnavigator of the world[1. Fernberger was considered German in the 1940s when Ahmad wrote his book and he definitely was a German in the 17th century when he had his story written down. In his Reisbuch (travel book), Fernberger always describes himself as a “Teutscher” (German). At that time, Austria was leading the Sacrum Imperium Romanum, i. e. its subjects, like Fernberger, were just as much German as Prussians, Franconians, Saxons and Bavarians. Austria remained the leader of the German Confederation until it was bullied out by Bismarck in the Austro-Prussian “Fraternal War” in 1866.], even though as early as 1929, Gerald Roe Crone (1899–1982), the germanophile librarian and historian of cartography of the Royal Geographical Society in London and famous author of Maps and Their Makers with a legendary reputation for encyclopaedic knowledge of history and voyages of discovery, was drawing the attention of his readers to striking correspondences of Fernbergers Reisbuch with the factual account of Olivier van Noort (* 1558, † 1627), the first Dutch circumnavigator. Crone suggested that it would be easier to accept Fernberger as a forerunner of Daniel Defoe instead of a follower of Magellan or Drake:

The circumstances of Fernbergers voyage and his stay in the East Indies are rather baffling, for no record of fleet with which he sailed has been discovered, nor does he give the name of the commander or other officers. … Yet a comparison of the events of the voyage from the west coast of Africa to the Philippines with that of Oliv[i]er van Noort’s vojage of 1598–1601 establishes the strong probability, if not certainity, that Fernberger drew upon the latter for his material. [1. G.R.C: “Unfreiwillige Reise um die Welt” (Review) – The Geographical Journal Vol. 74, No. 6. December 1929, 605. – For information about Crone see “Obituary: Gerald Roe Crone, 1899-1982.” – The Geographical Journal, vol. 149, no. 2. 1983, 270–273.]

“Battle with the savages in the Strait of Magellan.” A plate from the Latin edition of Olivier van Noort's 1602 description of his circumnavigation: Additamentvm Nonae Partis Americae. Hoc est, Vera Et Accvrata Descriptio Longinqvae, Divtvrnae Ac Pericvlosissimae Nauigationis: quam Olevier à Noort ... Frankfurt 1602. A famous journey that should have inspired both Abraham Hale and Christoph Carl Fernberger in their recordings.
“Battle with the savages in the Strait of Magellan.” A plate from the Latin edition of Olivier van Noort’s 1602 description of his circumnavigation.

Allegedly according to his records or a diary which is now lost, Fernberger is said to have dictated his Reisbuch to a relative named Christoph Mathias around 1633.[1. We know nothing about „Christoph Mathias“. He might have been a younger brother but the only document of his possible existence is this Name on the Salzburg Copy of Christof Carl Fernberger’s Reißbuch, which had been put on paper by the hand of the scribe.] We do not know if Fernberger had planned to publish his travelogue. I doubt it. But even if he had planned to impress more people than only his family or friends, it was a non-starter, because it was totally ignored during the rest of his lifetime (which took place in the Thirty Years’ War) and even centuries after: The first report about the original manuscript dates from 1896, by Ferdinand Menčik. [1. Ferd. Menčik: „Freiherrn Fernbergers Seereise. (1621-1628)“ – Mittheilungen der k. k. Geographischen Gesellschaft in Wien. 39. Jg. Wien 1896, 60-72.]

But a copy of this manuscript – with some errors and omissions and wrongly attributed to Christoph Mathias Fernberger instead of Christoph Carl –, had been made in the late 17th century. This copy was discovered by Ernst von Frisch in the Salzburg University Library in the 1920s and later published in modern language as Number 22 in the popular book series “Alte Reisen and Abenteuer” (Old Journeys and Adventures) by F.A .Brockhaus. Frisch didn’t know Menčik’s article about the original manuscript and therefore wrongly accepted the scribe as the author as it was incorrectly written on the Salzburg copy.[1. Christoph Mathias Fernberger von Egenberg: Unfreiwillige Reise um die Welt 1621 – 1628 nach einer unveröffentlichten Handschrift bearbeitet von Dr. E. von Frisch - Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus 1928 (re-printed as a facsimile by Salzwasser Verlag 2012).] This was the book that G.R.Crone reviewed in 1929. The original copy was found again only four decades later in the Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv in Vienna and published by Karl Wernhart 1972 with an introduction and appendix. Wernhart re-edited his book 2011 with Helmut Lukas, who contributed an extensive comment on Indonesia and South East Asia and added many footnotes. [3. Karl R. Wernhart: Christoph Carl Fernberger. Der erste österreichische Weltreisende 1621–1628. Wien 1972, ²2011.]

But there is more to say: Anyone researching the many sources of adventurous voyages to the East Indies in the early 17th century, will not only have a striking déjà vu recognizing that large parts of The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya 1600–1605 are a perfect mirror of some well known adventures of Olivier van Noort from 1598 to 1601 and of some possibly true adventures of Fernberger, who may have travelled to the East Indies a quarter of a century later. [1. Obviously neither Menčik nor von Frisch nor Wernhart nor Lukas knew about Olivier van Noort’s voyage between 1598 and 1601, even though the account of this famous and adventurous journey was published in Latin, French, Dutch and German as early as 1602 and has been reprinted and re-issued numerous times in the 17th century and beyond until today. The original book contains impressive engravings that may have sparked the imagination of many readers – and  perhaps that of Christoph Carl Fernberger as well? It is amazing that Wernhart and Lukas in particular do not express a single doubt about Fernberger's stories in their extensive annotations and footnotes, although Fernberger, as G. R. Crone rightly points out, does not mention fellow travelers, officers, ship names etc for certain parts of his tale, especially in those parts where it would help us to not dismiss these stories as sailor's yarn.]There is also some overlap with contemporary travelogues from other explorers to Southeast Asia in the late 16th and early 17th century, such as Gerard le Roy, Wolfert Harmensz, Jacob van Heemskerk, Jacob van Neck, and Wijbrand van Warwijck.

Van Noort - Fernberger - Books
Van Noort – Fernberger – Books

Christof Carl Fernberger may have been in Insulindia at the given time, but the inconsistencies in his adventure stories, rightly criticized by Crone, have not yet penetrated to German-speaking Fernberger researchers almost a hundred years later. On the contrary, even the stories of Fernberger’s travel section between South America and the Philippines, which are most likely a mirror of van Noorts account, are all accepted as facts without question. Only once did I find a mildly sarcastic comment under a large list of Fernberger’s supposed heroic deeds in a modern book: “Perhaps it is now more understandable that his book did not become a bestseller at the time. You really have to believe the story first.” [1. Wilhelm M. Donko: Österreich–Philippinen 1521–1898. (...). Berlin 2011, 58.] Some authors even introduce their own inconsistencies into the scholarly world. In one case, Fernberger is used as (the only given) “proof” that the Dutch East India Company (VOC) would have accepted Catholics from 1568 to 1648 despite the Eighty Years’ War against the Habsburgs and Spain. In reality, Fernberger was born and raised as a Protestant, who later in his life occasionally pretended to be a Catholic, especially when it was useful for his military career. [1. Franz Übleis: „Deutsche in Indien 1600-1700 (...)“ – Zeitschrift Für Religions- Und Geistesgeschichte, Vol. 32, No. 2, 1980, 129.]

Have Olivier van Noort’s and all the other adventurous voyages of the late 16th and early 17th century just been overlooked by all authors who have dealt with Fernberger until today? This seems almost impossible! All Fernberger researchers must have deliberately looked away because, firstly, you inevitably know Olivier van Noort when you write something of any importance about one of the first circumnavigators of the world, even as a patriotic Austrian. Secondly, you cannot avoid the beautifully illustrated books published by Theodor de Bry and his successors in the late 16th and early 17th century. Thirdly, Ernst von Frisch even took 15 plates from de Bry’s famous India Orientalis to illustrate his 1928 Fernberger edition, and fourthly, also Wernhart and Lukas cannot seriously pretent to be unaware just because their scholarly work has been published without such illustrations (and, besides, in extremely poor typography which is impossible to read without getting a bad headache).

Back to “A. Hale”:

This humorous author, who obviously had a great deal of expertise, really made me curious. From time to time, over a period of almost 30 years, I researched him again and again at some occasions, but it lasted until early 2015, that I found the first contemporary (1910) review of his 1909 book. It was written by William Irvine (1840–1911), a respected scholar, who is especially famous for re-discovering the original four-volume travelogue of the Venetian adventurer Niccolò Manucci in Berlin (written in Portuguese) and translating it into English. [1. William Irvine: The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya 1600–1605 (review). – Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1910, 185 f. – Irvine, a Scottish historian and former member of the Indian Civil Service, who spoke numerous languages, including Italian, German, French, Portuguese, Persian, Hindi and Arabic, was also a vice president of the Royal Asiatic Society and a honorary member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. A great number of details about his life can be found in an obituary by James Kennedy: “William Irvine.” – Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1912, 299–304.] Irvine describes Hale’s chapter about the detention of John Smith’s ship on the West Coast of Africa and continues:

While reading this story we are persuaded that all these things must have happened. We learn to know and like the race of dwarfs whom the sailors befriended, and follow eagerly the incidents of the successful campaign against the big savages, their oppressors (p. 21 to p. 122). In due time we reach Malay waters and the plot thickens; until at last we arrive at Patani in the Peninsula (p. 167). From this point to the end the author is at his very best. John Smith is left at Patani, a solitary white man, to look after the trading interests of the expedition. The old queen is kind to him; he is provided with two lovely wives ; and is then promoted to be a sort of Minister for Foreign Affairs (p. 178). The old queen wants to marry the hero, but he prudently declines the honour. For what read as very insufficient reasons he resists conversion to Mahomedanism. In fact, Mr. Hale seems to think Mahomedanism is a faith far superior in most respects to Christianity. John Smith is next chosen for a mission into the interior, with orders to counteract the intrigues and encroachments of the neighbouring Perak king and his feudatories. The account of this mission, which was finally successful, gives occasion for charming pictures of Malay scenery, social life, and character, and as a contrast, an absorbing narrative of a vigorous raid into the enemy’s country. […]

The further text of this article indicated that the author of John Smith was a recognized figure in Royal Asiatic Society circles. With this in mind, I found some articles and notes by “A. Hale” in the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. But still not even his first name nor any other additional data. The next thing I came across were lists of local street names in Malaysia which had been popping up in the internet since around 2013. There had obviously been a number of Places in Malaysia which were once named after a certain “Hale”. But again, at the time of my research, none of these websites seemed to know more than the last name of a formerly well-known man.[1. For instance, former Hale Road in central Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur is now Jalan Raja Abdullah, old Hale Street in Ipoh, which is also a very central location, is now named after Tun Sambanthan), and even in Taiping, the museum city where Hale had acted particularly meritorious, there is no more Hale Road today, and also Hale Lane has been re-named and is now Lorong Tun Salleh].

Lorong Hale (Hale Lane) in Ipoh, Malaysia. Photos: © hmh.
Lorong Hale (Hale Lane) in Ipoh, Malaysia. Photos: © hmh.

Only Lorong Hale in Ipoh still exists[1. Lorong Hale in Ipoh runs parallel to former Hale Street and is situated just 60 metres south of it between Belfield Street (today Jalan Bandar Timah) and Leech Street (today Jalan Sultan Yussuf). „Hale Lane“ has just undergone a general facelift and is locally also known as “Wife Lane” (大奶巷 – more about this interesting local peculiarity here).] and there is even a must-see-location for all visitors of Ipoh which took the old street name proudly as a brand: Hale Street is now Jalan Tun Samba(n)than, but a touch of local history is still there: 22 Hale Street, a beautiful heritage gallery, with a great coffee shop on ground floor (now sadly closed due to the corona-hysteria), which was founded and spearheaded by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Sandra Lee, who is originally from Singapore … and all your questions will be answered by charming curator Lim Wen-yi.

Hale Street in Ipoh is now officially Jalan Tun Samba(n)than, but the old heritage is still there. “22 Hale Street” is a must-see for every visitor in Ipoh.
Hale Street in Ipoh is now officially Jalan Tun Samba(n)than, but the old heritage is still there. “22 Hale Street” is a must-see for every visitor in Ipoh. Photos: © hmh.

In early 2016, a well-researched book on Kuala Lumpur Street names came out.[1. Mariana Isa, Maganjeet Kaur: Kuala Lumpur Street Names. A Guide to Their Meanings and Histories. Singapore 2016.] The authors, Mariana Isa and Maganjeet Kaur, had done their homework in the National Archives of Malaysia and wrote in depth about Jalan Raja Abdullah, formerly Hale Street:

The Malay Agricultural Settlement scheme was largely implemented by Abraham Hale (1854–1919), who was Collector of Land Revenue Kuala Lumpur and Registrar of Titles Selangor at that time (1889–1904). He was appointed the first Vice President of the Malay Agricultural Settlement Board as he was well acquainted with the Malays and had an impressive grasp of the language. He was also listed as one of the individual donors for the building of a mosque in the settlement in 1903.
Hale served in the Federated Malay States from December 1884 to May 1911, his last post being a District Officer in Larut, Perak. He was described as a zealous and efficient officer whose heart was in his work. Prior to his posting in Kuala Lumpur, he served in Matang, Kinta, Tampin and Negeri Sembilan in various positions. A curriculum vitae attachment that he submitted in 1903 for a job promotion spells out his active participation in the public service. He was a member of the Malay Examiners Committee and Church Committee, Chairman of the Public Gardens, Selangor Museum and Central Census committees, and Chairman of the KL Sanitary Board. He was appointed a Deputy Agent for the Malay States Information Agency on 1 February 1916 and held the post until his demise.
Hale Road was the city’s main entrance into Kampung Baru and was named after him in appreciation of his dedication to the creation of the settlement. Source: ANM (Arkib Negara Malaysia) ACC. No. 1957/0110971, 1957/0111688.
Abraham Hale (left), around 1885, drawn by Abu Bakar, from the book discussed below. To read the text, right-click to open in a new tab, then click „show graphic“.
A. Hale, by Abu Bakar.

From now on, Finding A. Hale was routine. Quite a few Malays, Chinese, Indians and Westerners seemed to have had pleasant memories of him even decades after his death. Records from this period document good and factual relationships between colonial officials, Malays and immigrants. Abu Bakar for instance, an entrepreneurial migrant from Medan in Sumatra to colonial Malaya, who probably thanks to Hale some of his initial success, remembered the Inspector of Mines in Kinta in the 1930s, when he wrote down his memoirs. He even left us a cartoon of Hale. Almost 70 years later, his manuscript was found and used to put a unique piece of history on paper: “Kinta Through the Eyes of Abu Bakar”.[1. Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Salma Nasution Khoo: Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak, 1875-1911. Kuala Lumpur 2003. – There is an in-depth review of this book by Susan Rodgers: (Untitled) – Indonesia, no. 80, 2005, 217–219.]

The stroy is this: In 1884, Abu Bakar applied for a job in the European mines and bumped into the Manager, Martin Lister, and Abraham Hale, then Inspector of Mines in Kinta:

Abu Bakar interviewed for a coolie’s job but was told that he was too fat to do manual work. Asked what he could do, Abu Bakar said he could write Jawi and Romanized script and do book-keeping. He was offered capital to start a provision shop catering to the miners. Abu Bakar could not believe his luck. He stocked his shop with food, drink and opium, the last being the most profitable item. (p. 147)

In a marvellously researched book worth reading about the tin-rich Kinta Valley, we learn why Abraham Hale did a particularly delicate job as an inspector of mines in Kinta. He is mentioned and quoted numerous times in Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia’s Modern Development.[1. Salma Nasution Khoo, Abdur-Razzaq Lubis: Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development. Ipoh 2005. – Henry Sackville Barlow has reviewed this remarkable book: H. S. Barlow: (Untitled) – Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 78, no. 2 (289), 2005, 124–126.] The authors quote Sir Hugh Low (*1824, †1905), the first successful British colonial administrator in Malaya. This naturalist and Perak Resident 1877–1889, who is especially famous for the first trials of Hevea rubber in the region, confirmed in his memories that Hale had done “exceedingly well in his work which requires great tact, patience and judgement” (p. 62).

Excerpt from “Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya.”
“20th Century Impressions…”

Advocate for the Ignored and Oppressed

Abraham Hale was never married. We do not know if he preferred male companionship over female, but his bachelorhood could have easily been a reason why he was that especially “zealous and efficient officer whose heart was in his work”. His excellent contacts with the local population and his language skills were legendary among his co-workers and friends. He even lived some time with the often ignored Aborigines of peninsular Malaya, and besides his work, he found the time for historical and social studies. Apart from bis Adventures of John Smith in Malaya, Abraham Hale wrote articles and pamphlets and compiled the official List of Malay Proper Names for the F M S [1. Federated Malay States and Strait Settlements] administration. He also contributed an article to the 1908 landmark publication Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya, a vast and richly illustrated inventory, its reprints are still making excellent coffee table books in the 21st century. It bears a photo of himself and a résumé below his contribution:

Mr. Abraham Hale, the writer of the above article, is the District Officer for Larut and Krian. He was born in Sussex in 1854, and was educated at St. Clement Dane’s Holborn Estates School. For a time he worked under his father in the estate office of Lord Sheffield’s Sussex properties, and was subsequently a farmer on his own account. He came to the Federated Malay States in 1883, and after engaging in tin mining for a short time, entered the Civil Service. His first substantive appointment was that of Inspector of Mines and Assistant Magistrate, Kinta, which he received in 1885. In 1887 he was sent to the Negri Sambilan to assist the Hon. Martin Lister, and administered the provinces on the Malacca border for ten years, being the first officer in charge of Rembau. During this period he often acted as Resident for the Hon. M. Lister. In 1897 he was appointed District Officer at Kuala Selangor, and two years later at Klang. He became Collector of Land Revenue and Registrar of Titles at Kuala Lumpur in 1899, and received his present appointment in 1904. Mr. Hale is chairman of the local Sanitary Board and of the Board of Visiting Justices. He is an Official Visitor to the Asylum, and Government Examiner in Malay for Perak . He has made a study of Malayan subjects, is the author of a pamphlet on the Sakais, and is a contributor to the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of which learned society he is a member. He is a member of all Perak and Selangor clubs, and is on the committee of the New Club, Taiping.[1. Arnold Wright (ed.): Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its History, People, Commerce, Industries and Resources, London 1908, 252.]

“Malay Proper Names” (1901, re-edited 1925) and “On the Sakais” (1886), by Abraham Hale.Abraham Hale retired in May 1911 and was later (1916) appointed Deputy Agent of the Malay States Information Agency in London. He left traces in various museums by presenting them with numerous artifacts that he had discovered or bought during his research. He contributed, for instance, 49 stone implements for the ethnological section of the Perak Museum in Taiping, which is now the oldest museum in Malaysia (founded in 1883)[1. Salma Nasution Khoo, Abdur-Razzaq Lubis: Kinta Valley. Pioneering Malaysia’s Modern Development. Ipoh 2005, 2.], there is at least one “neolithic gouge of black hornstone from Kinta, Perak, collected by Abraham Hale in 1885” in the Raffles Museum in Singapore[1. John Loewenstein: “Neolithic Stone Gouges from the Malay Archipelago and Their Northern Prototypes.” – Anthropos vol. 52, no. 5/6. 1957, 841.] and as early as 1884, Hale sent numerous exhibits to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for the great Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 in London, which was opened by Queen Victoria, and when it closed had received 5.5 million visitors. These items are now in the posession of the adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum. The museum has transcribed and published parts of the donation correspondence that Hale exchanged with his (probably) former professor Sir Joseph Prestwich and commented: “The tenor of the letter suggests that Hale might have been Prestwich’s student at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, he seems well acquainted with him and [famous naturalist Henry Nottidge] Moseley…”

Abraham Hale passed away at the age of 64 at Dachurst, Hildenborough, Kent. A warm obituary was written by an anonymous author on page 12 of The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 21 May 1919.

The numerous friends of Mr Abraham Hale, formerly District Officer at Taiping, will regret to learn of his sudden death, at the age of 64 years, at his home at Dachurst, Hildenborough, Kent, on 7th ult. Mr Hale, who had been Deputy Agent at the Malay States Information Agency in London for over three years, had been in his office on the previous Saturday. Mr Hale retired from the F M S service in May, 1911, having joined as Acting Magistrate at Matang in Dec, 1884. He went out East with the late Hon Martin Lister, and for some time lived amongst the Aborigines, of whom he had a more than average knowledge. He was also exceptionally proficient in the Malay language, and for many years was a number of the Board of Examiners in that language. In spite of his long residence in the East, upon the outbreak of hostilities with Germany, Mr. Hale at once donned uniform, and served with a local Volunteer Defence Corps. He was also a Special Constable, and during the numerous air raids was frequently out on night duty in the neighbourhood of his home. As Deputy-Agent in London, Mr. Hale entered enthustiastically into the work of the Agency, seeking in every way to promote the interests of the Federated Malay States and other portions of British Malaya, and to help the development of direct trade between the Malay Peninsula and other portions of the British Empire. His wide knowledge of the Peninsula was of great service to inquirers at the Agency, and from the first he spared no pains to discharge efficiently the duties of Deputy Agent.

Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt (1878–1966), a colonial administrator, prestigious Orientalist and Malay scholar himself, wrote Abraham Hale’s obituary for the March 1920 issue of the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society:

Mr. Hale, who retired from the F. M. S. Civil Service in 1911 after twenty-seven years’ service, died on April 8th in his sixty-fifth year. He was one of the earliest, surviving members of the Society and contributed several notes and papers to early numbers [of the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society], his principal contribution being on “Folk-lore and the Menangkabau Code in the Negri Sembilan” Journal XXXI. He always lamented with that delightful candour which characterized him, that his literary talent was untrained; but for all that it was a very genuine talent. Had The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya been written two centuries ago, its author would have ranked with Defoe. Hale had an extraordinary faculty for vivid detail.


Less than a fortnight before he died, he wrote me a letter full of his usual enthusiasm for Malaya and his abundant interest in life; and enclosing a photograph of himself as a private in the Kent Volunteer Fencibles. For me as for many others it was a pleasure to have known him and served under him.[1. R.O.W.: “Mr. Abraham Hale. (Dec. 7, 1854 – April 8, 1919)” – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society No. 81 (March 1920), 13.]

In broad terms, that’s what I found out about him and learned from it. There is much more, but I’m going to reread John Smith in Malaya for now. Meanwhile, here are some links with sources to experience your own “sweet joy of research”:


♦ This Malaysian family history blog has introduced “sweet joy of research” to the Internet on July 24, 2015, together with a “Short biography of Abraham Hale”:

♦ Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Salma Nasution Khoo: Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak, 1875-1911. Kuala Lumpur 2003. – There is an in-depth review of this book by Susan Rodgers: (Untitled) – Indonesia, no. 80, 2005, 217–219.

♦ Salma Nasution Khoo, Abdur-Razzaq Lubis: Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia’s Modern Development. Ipoh 2005. – Henry Sackville Barlow has reviewed this remarkable book: H. S. Barlow: (Untitled) – Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 78, no. 2 (289), 2005, 124–126.

♦ Trancribed letters by Abraham Hale from the Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections (Tylor papers PRM ms collections, Box 12. These letters are of relevance to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford:

♦ The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya 1600–1605 on

Timothy Tye’s Travel Tips: Jalan Tun Sambanthan (Hale Street), Ipoh, Perak:
Lorong Hale, Ipoh, Perak on the same website:

♦ Wife Lane (Lorong Hale), First Concubine Lane and Second Concubine Lane in Ipoh, Perak:
– More Photos:

♦ 22 Hale Street, Ipoh:
Video by 瞬·moments about the rescue and renovation of the 22 Hale Street Bulding, with local entrepreneur Sandra Lee and curator Lim Wen-yi:
– 22 Hale Street on Google Maps:,101.0780968,17z/


Publications by A. Hale (with link, if online available):

– “Hypothetical High Tides.” (letter). – Nature vol. 25. 1882, 385.
– “Stone axes, Perak.” – Nature vol 32. 1885, 626.
– “On Mines and Miners in Kinta, Perak.” – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society no. 16. December 1885, 303-320.
– “The Stone Age in Perak.” (Notes and Queries No 3, 62 [insert].) – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society no. 16. December 1885.
– “Sang Kalembai.” (Notes and Queries No 3, 63 [insert].) – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society no. 16. December 1885.
– “The Title ‘Sang’.” (Notes and Queries No 3, 64 [insert].) – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society no. 16. December 1885.
– “Legend of ‘Toh Panglima Ghapar of Kinta.” (Notes and Queries No 3, 81–83 [insert].) – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society No. 16. December 1885.
– “Evidence of Siamese Work in Perak” – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society No. 18. December 1886, 356.
– “The Stone Age in the Malay Peninsula.” Nature vol. 34. 1986, 52–53.
– “On the Sakais” – Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute vol. 15. London: Trübner & Co 1886, 285–301. (Also as a special print assigned to “Harrison and Sons” who was the printer for Trübner & Co.) – Another link to this article (including full appendix):
– “Notes on Stone Implements from Perak.” – The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. vol 17. 1888, 66.
– “Coco-Nut Beetles” – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society No. 22. December 1890, 429.

Abraham Hale's book “The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya” was preceded by a Malay motto that he had already explained in an essay ten years earlier: “Folk-lore and the Menangkabau Code in the Negri Sembilan. ('Records of Malay Magic') ”- Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society No. July 31, 1898, 46.
‚Malay Magic‘ explained.

– “Folk-lore and the Menangkabau Code in the Negri Sembilan. (‘Records of Malay Magic’)” – Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society No. 31. July 1898, 4361. – Anyone reading The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya should have read this essay plus his 1886 publication “On the Sakais” beforehand. Otherwise, he won’t understand Hale’s motto (written in Malay) that precedes his book which was published a decade later. Hale was fascinated by the Aboriginal people (a.k.a. Orang Asli, Sakai, Semang, Negritos…) in Malaya, Siam and Indonesia, whom he called „the least harmful of all savage races“.
– Malay Proper Names. Kuala Lumpur: Government Printing Office 1901, ²1925.
– “Hill-Stations and Sanitaria.” – Arnold Wright (ed.): Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya. Its History, People, Commerce, Industries and Resources. London 1908, 251–252.
The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya 1600–1605. Leyden: E.J.Brill 1909.
– “Catch Crops on Estates. Optimistic Report of a District Officer.” – The Straits Times. Singapore 10. December 1909, 9.

(Click on the curled arrow at the end of each footnote to go back to the main text above.)

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