Penang’s First

It’s time for Penangites to be proud of its history on being many of the firsts in Malaysia, and some in South East Asia too…

  • Religion – 1734+
  1. Masjid Jamek Batu Uban is possibly the oldest mosque in Penang and the oldest surviving mosque in Malaysia if present claims on the structure to have been built as early as in 1734 are verified. The builder was named to be Laksamana/Nakhoda Intan Nam Tunku Patis Batang or also known as Haji Mohammad Salleh a seafarer from Acheh, Northern Sumatera (now part of Indonesia). This will make it much older than the more popular Kapitan Keling Mosque (also in Penang – 1801) and Kampung Laut Mosque (in Tumpat, Kelantan – 1730s, but moved from its original site to Kampung Nilam Puri in 1960s). If such claims are proven to be correct, the history taught in Malaysian school books all these past few decades would have to be changed, specifically on the part that claims that British Sir Francis Light established the first civilized settlement on the island of Penang which might turn out to be 42 years later.
  2. St George ‘s Anglican Church on Farquhar Street, established in 1816, is the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia and the only building from Penang that was declared one of the 50 National Treasures by the Malaysian Government.

  • British Outpost (1786)
    First in the then Malaya and South East Asia
  • Public/Governance Services – 1807+
    1. The Royal Malaysian Police was established when King George III awarded Penang a ‘Charter of Justice’ in 1807 to form the police force and the Court of Justice.
    2. The Municipal Council of Penang Island (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang), is the successor of the Municipal Council of George Town, which was established in 1857 as Malaysia’s first local authority.
    3. George Town, the state capital of Penang, became a city by a royal charter granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 1 January 1957, becoming the first town in the Federation of Malaya to become a city.
    4. Covering 738 km², the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai) is the largest local authority in Malaysia.
    5. The 2,562-hectare Penang National Park in Teluk Bahang gazetted in 2003 is the world’s smallest national park
  • Education (Schools) – 1816+
    1. Penang Free School founded by Rev. Sparke Hutchings in 1816, is the first and oldest English School in South East Asia.
    2. The Sekolah Kebangsaan Gelugor in Penang founded in 1826 is the first Malay school to be established in Malaysia.
    3. The St Xavier’s Institution established in 1852, is the first school established in Malaysia to be administered and fully owned by the La Salle Brothers.
    4. Convent Light Street or the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, a girls’ school established by a French Sisters’ Mission in 1852, is the oldest girls’ school in South East Asia.
    5. Chung Hwa Confucian School founded by Cheong Fatt Tze in 1904, was one of the oldest formal Chinese Schools established in South-east Asia as a result of influence by the educational reforms in China in early 1900s. Mandarin is the school’s medium of instruction.
  • Media – 1837+
    1. The country’s first newspaper made its appearance in Penang in 1805 – the Prince of Wales Island Gazette. This was followed by the Penang Gazette, first published in 1837.
    2. Malaysia’s oldest Chinese newspaper still in circulation today, Kwong Wah Yit Poh or Kwong Wah Daily (光华日报) was founded on 20 December 1910 by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in Penang.
  • Entertainment/Sports – 1864+
    1. The Penang Turf Club, established in 1864, is Malaysia’s oldest horse racing and equestrian centre.
    2. The Penang Players Music and Drama Society, the oldest English amateur theatre group in Malaysia, was founded in the early 1950s by a group of expatriates residing in Penang.
  • Finance/Banking – 1875+
    1. Standard Chartered Bank, the oldest bank in Malaysia, opened its doors in 1875.
    2. Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (now known as HSBC) and UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland (then ABN AMRO) also opened among their earliest branches in Penang, in 1885 and 1888 respectively.