Kellie's Castle, Batu Gajah
|A Castle long in the making....|
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, , stately columns. Moorish arches and walls embellished with Greco-Roman designs. There was rooftop courtyard for parties and even an elevator, the its kind in the country. But was never to be completed. Work halted in December 1926 with the sudden demise of its owner, William Kellie-Smith. The estate on which it was situated was sold and the unfinished mansion soon surrendered itself once to the jungle.
Today, the rediscovered mansion, popularly known as Kellie's Castle, still stands, having survived the ravages of time. It reflects the pioneering spirit of the early colonialists and the romanticism of a bygone era. Who was Smith and what prompted him to construct this palatial building?
Born in Dallas, North-Eastern Scotland to a farmer and his wife on March 1, 1870, William Kellie-Smith travelled to Malaysia, then Malaya, at the tender age of 20 to seek his fortune. Kellie was his mother's . Smith was engaged by an estate owner named Alma Baker to help in the construction of public roads in South Perak. With this share of the profits from the venture, he bought 1,000 acres of jungle land in the Kinta District, and cleared it to plant rubber.
He later named the estate Kinta Kellas, after his home farm, Easter Kellas.
In 1909, Smith built his first mansion, Kellas House - a symbol of his prospering rubber estate venture. later, with a birth of a son and heir, Smith laid the foundation stone to the second mansion that proved to be his ultimate folly.
His wife, Agnes, sold the estate and with the passing of time, and the end of colonial rule, the castle soon faded into memory.
Located on a ridge beside a meandering river near the town of Batu Gajah, Kellie's Castle is easily spotted from the Batu Gajah - Jalan Gopeng. Etched against the blue sky, much of the structure is still intact.
Over the years, the sturdy castle appears to have waged battle against the undergrowth. Although once creepers sprout from its exterior and gnarled tree roots fill the compound, the interior is undamaged. Only the spiders and insects make home of the empty rooms.
Despite signs of decay, the castle exudes a certain air of dignity and grandeur. Moving from room to room, one can imagine the rich furnishings that would have filled the stately structure, had it been completed. As we wander castle, there is a eerie feeling of being watched. Sunlight streams through a series of arches on the two main floors, casting ghostly shadows on the verandah running the length of the building.
Perhaps, there is some truth to the local legend that the spirit of Old Man Kellie still wanders along the corridors... temple was completed but the castle was never to be realised. Tragedy struck again. On a visit to Lisbon, at 56, Smith died of pneumonia.