William Farquhar should be honoured with a road

From ‘Name a road to honour Farquhar’, 3 June 2017, ST Forum

(Tay Zihan):  While Sir Stamford Raffles was the founder of Singapore, Lieutenant-Colonel William Farquhar was the First Resident Minister from 1819 to 1823. It was he who governed the new settlement in the absence of Raffles, who was stationed in Bencoolen.

Among other challenges, Farquhar had to work within a limited budget. To fund the administration, he raked in revenue through the sale of licences for vices such as gambling dens and gaming houses, and through the sale of opium and alcohol.

Raffles was furious when he returned to Singapore and saw what was happening, as he regarded these activities as immoral.

Despite the prosperity achieved through Farquhar’s diligent planning and governance, he was sacked.

…Other colonial residents are remembered by landmarks, such as Crawford Street, Crawford Lane, Crawford Bridge after John Crawfurd; Church Street after Thomas Church; Raffles Institution after Sir Stamford Raffles.

Singapore used to have a Farquhar Street. It was located between Beach Road and North Bridge Road. However, it was expunged in 1994 due to street realignment and site development.

Shouldn’t we consider naming another road to honour this man who laid the foundation of modern Singapore?

Despite having a surname that was the butt of jokes when I was in primary school, I don’t remember learning much about Farquhar’s role in transforming Singapore. He’s like the Garfunkel and Oates of our founding history, playing second fiddle to a character whose contributions have been disputed in recent days, a man who has his name stamped on an iconic hotel, a stinky flower and a range of health supplements among other testaments.

I’m guessing part of the reason why we don’t have a Farquhar Institution is that he’s being portrayed as the disgraced Scot here, running afoul with Raffles’ ‘lofty ideals’, though according to some accounts, Farquhar was the reason why Raffles decided to stay on in 1822. He was also credited as being the one who even suggested taking a look at Singapore during their scouting expeditions. Farquhar was also doing the dirty work as First Resident, keeping what Raffles deemed an ‘insignificant fishing village’ alive for 3 years while the boss was far away in Bencoolen. The fact that Farquhar resorted to gambling among other sins should not be something to frown upon these days anyway. It would in fact be hypocritical. Because M-fucking-BS that’s why.

The loss of Farquhar Street is indeed unfortunate. We still keep the controversial Petain Road. We name, rather inexplicably, roads after other countries (Hongkong Street, Holland Road). We have roads dedicated to Victorian royalty (Margaret Drive, Coronation Road, Duchess Road). Yet, nothing to honour a man who spent some years of his life holding the fort while the master is away making a name for himself.

A blogger from ‘Second Shot’ uploaded an old map bearing what was then Farquhar’s legacy in the Bugis area. Its erasure is sadly symbolic of how Raffles, the raffish George Michael of their Wham-like partnership, sent him packing for failing to turn the port into the crown jewel that it was intended to be.

Instead of arguing over whether Brit colonisation was worth celebrating over and why LKY was better than all these Englishmen combined, why not recognise individual effort where credit is due?

LTA, is the MRT station naming exercise still on?

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