Somewhere near Batu Gajah, suburb of Ipoh, stood the Kellies Castle surrounding by river.
It was intended to be the hub of social life for the area's wealthy colonial planters and administrators - a grand mansion with a six-storey tower, wine cellar, and stately columns. Moorish arches and walls embellished with Greco-Roman designs.
There was to be a rooftop courtyard for parties, a helicopter landing space and even the first shaft lift in the country to connect the underground tunnel up to the top floor.
William Kellie Smith, born in Dallas, North-Eastern Scotland to a farmer and his wife on 1st of March, 1870. At the tender age of 20, he traveled to Malaya (old name of Malaysia) to seek for his fortune.
This had proven to be a wise choice, since he was soon engaged by an estate owner to help in the construction of public roads in South Perak and gathered some fortune from his share of the venture's profits. With this capital, he bought over nearly 1000 acres of jungle land in the Kinta District, and cleared it to become rubber estate named.
Followed by his success in rubber plantation, the Smith brought over his family to stay at his first mansion in Malaya, Kellas House which built in 1905 as symbol of his prospering rubber estate venture.
Later in 1915 with the birth of a son and heir, Smith decided to build the Kellies Castle (just in front of the Kellas House). It is believed to be a gift for his wife or for the birth of his son - Anthony.
70 tough workers, mostly from Madras, were employed. Bricks and marble were imported from India. But the construction work was not smooth, a mysterious illness (Spanish Flu) broke out and killed many of the workers.
The superstitious Smith was told that a temple must be built to appease the gods. He immediately transferred his workers to build a Hindu temple nearby, and there is an underground tunnel lying beneath the castle to the temple.
This tunnel was discovered accidentally during a road widening exercise at the 6th kilometer stretch of the Gopeng-Batu Gajah road in 2003. An excavator broke through the timber structure and revealed a section of a tunnel. The passageway is about 1.5m height and 1m wide. The tunnel is believed to go under the river and connecting the castle to the Hindu temple.
Anyway, this tragedy didn't stop the construction of the castle. But the sudden death of Smith on a visit to Lisbon in 1926 had made a halt to it. He was died of pneumonia. His wife, Agnes, with a broken heart made the decision to sell out all of the Smith's properties in Malaya and moved back to Scotland sadly.
There have been many myths or legends or rumors spreading around about the mysterious castle.
Some say that the Smith's spirit still wandering inside the castle, especially along the corridors, guarding his great mansion. And that's why much of the structure still intact after so many years.
Some say there are lots of "spirits" wandering around the castle since workers died during the construction and people died during the 2nd world war.
It is believed that there are 4 underground tunnels. One is connecting the Kellies Castle to the Hindu temple 500m in the west, one is connecting to the main gate garage in the south and one is connecting to the road in the east.
How about the last one? It's still undiscovered. There are rumors about this secret tunnel had been used as an execution hub of the Japanese army in World War II. And some say it was the secret tunnel being used by Chen Ping (the famous communist leader in Malaya) in between 50s to 60s.
Some say the Smith's car is parked in one of the tunnels.
All these years faded into memory, the castle has been reconditioned to serve as a visitor spot. It's just about 20 minutes drive from Ipoh.
I just went to Kellies Castle for the third time during Chinese New Year holiday in 2009 to update information for you, such as the ticket price. And I found that I really enjoy the scenery and breeze at the rooftop.
Anyway, just as a reminder, don't forget to look for the information tag on the walls.
|Visiting Time:||Everyday 9am to 6pm|
|Ticket Price:||Foreign Tourist - RM5|
|Adults - RM4|
|Students/Children - RM3|