To me, olden places get more interesting with the stories attached to them. True or true only to some extent, an old-wives-tale or a narrative carved out of pure imagination—they give much fascination to mere structures. On our trip to Perak, I was pleased to find Kellie’s Castle in our itinerary and was even more excited to hear about its stories. Read more…
Situated in Batu Gajah town, Kellie’s Castle has had an interesting tales ever since its time of conceptualization. Its owner, Sir William Kellie Smith, was a Scottish planter whose line of business was rubber plantations, one of the most promising industries in Perak at the time.
It was a grand dream. Adapting Roman-Moorish and Indo-Saracenic influences, the supposed vacation home would’ve had six stories, 14 rooms, an underground wine cellar, an indoor tennis court, and a rooftop courtyard for socials, among others. The planned castle received fanfare even back in London, so clearly, it was a castle fit for a king.
In building his Malayan home commencing in 1915, he recruited South Indian immigrants from Madras, India. Sir William treated them kindly, even building them a temple nearby, while in turn, the workers saw highly of him and pledged their loyalty to him.
The construction of the castle was stalled a number of times. Business was dismal, and financing the castle consequently became difficult. World War I prevented the continuous delivery of materials and the flow of funding, while a nasty Spanish Flu pandemic killed a lot of his workers in 1918. But the most unfortunate event in the construction came in 1928 when Sir William himself died of pneumonia whilst on business in Portugal. He would’ve brought with him back the first-ever lift or elevator in Malaya that he procured from England.
The family, most especially Sir William’s wife Agnes, found it unbearable and meaningless to live elsewhere, so they sold Kellas Estate, the unfinished castle included, to Harrissons and Crossfield. Until recently, remaining parts of the castle have been untouched.
Fast forward to 2013, our visit to Kellie’s Castle was also an appreciation of the recently-completed upgrading by the Perak State Government. A total of 5 million MYR (~1.53 million USD) was earmarked to build a one-stop center and restore the living room and bar lounge.
As we toured around the place, one section at a time, I felt some regret, of course. But I found myself deeply fascinated with the stories our guide told us—yes, of the paranormal kind. He told us that days prior, he took some paranormal experts to roam one night.
He took us to the laundry room, as it was where one of the South Indian ex-workers was detected by the paranormal experts. Apart from feeling a weird slight chill in the room, we were quick to believe their claim because after all, workers perished onsite during the Spanish Flu pandemic. In addition, our guide told us that the experts felt the presence of Agnes, the wife, roaming around. There was no presence of Sir William’s spirit, however.
Some may dismiss Kellie’s Castle as plain ruins from long ago or a grand plan of a wealthy man that simply never came to fruition. Nonetheless, it is the engrossing stories that make it equally fascinating and mysterious. Merely reading or hearing about the stories won’t do though, so do schedule a visit. Who knows whose spirit you might feel?
How to get there: Kellie’s Castle is in Batu Gajah town. From Kuala Lumpur, a bus from Pudu Sentral (Puduraya) Bus Station or an electric train from KL Sentral may be taken going to Ipoh, Perak. From Ipoh, the most convenient way to reach Kellie’s Castle is to take a taxi because the place is only 14 kilometers south, or more or less a 30-minute drive away.
Photos were borrowed with kind permission from Kirk of Philippine Anatomy and Beyond.
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