Friday, 25 March 2011


St. Helena, Bencoolen, Looking West, May 2010
In 1685 the British East India Company established a pepper trading centre and garrison at Bencoolen on the southern part of the west coast of Sumatra, after which this hill was named. St. Helena and Bencoolen were linked through the EIC by trade and personnel.
Isaac Pyke was Governor of St Helena from July 1714 to June 1719 when he was transferred to Bencoolen as Deputy Governor. He returned as Governor of St. Helena from March 1731 and died in office in July 1738.  During his second term of office he was accused of arbitrary conduct, white inhabitants were ignominiously whipped and imprisoned for trivial offences, he gave full scope to his own tyranny and was judged unfit to be any longer trusted with the power he had so grossly abused. The Court of Directors of The East India Company dismissed him but he died prior to the receipt of their orders to this effect.  From Brooke History of St. Helena to 1806.
From the St. Helena Records June 24th 1736. Francis Everest Governor of Bencoolen died at St Helena on his homeward passage.
In October 1815 Stamford Raffles the Lieutenant-Governor of Java and an East India Company employee, was recalled to London to explain the sale of Government land to bolster a shaky paper currency.  (He had joined the EIC as a junior clerk in London in 1795, aged 14.)  He sailed from Batavia on 25th March 1816 and en route to England his ship called at St. Helena and he visited Napoleon, arriving in London on the 16th July, a four month passage.

In February 1817 The EIC Directors exonerated him from dishonourable motives and confirmed his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of the West Sumatra Residency at Bencoolen and in May 1817 he was knighted.  Benkulen (sic) was, declared Raffles the most wretched place I ever beheld.  It was not a popular destination, only the disgraced and the truly desperate found their way there. Four of the five children born to Raffles and his second wife Sophia died in infancy at Bencoolen.  Indian convicts were first transported to Bencoolen in 1787.  In 1819 Raffles was sent by Lord Hastings (Governor General of India 1813-1823) to acquire Singapore and this led to negotiations with the Dutch conducted in London and concluded by a treaty in 1824.  Under this treaty the British withdrew from Sumatra and the East India Company ceded Bencoolen to the Dutch, who on their part transferred all their possessions in India including their factories at Dacca, the settlement of Malacca with the British given undisputed possession of Singapore.  Following this treaty and the British withdrawal the Bencoolen convicts were transferred to Penang and Singapore.  See The Honourable Company John Keay Harper Collins 1991

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