Penang Story Lecture: Armenians in Penang by Nadia Wright
Talk and Afternoon Tea held at the E & O Hotel, Saturday, 20 July, 3.00pm
Penang’s Armenian Community
The Armenians were but a small minority in Penang’s cosmopolitan history. Nadia Wright gives a brief cultural account of them, describing their contributions to Penang’s development, and the demise of the community. She comments on leading figures in the community and existing reminders of the early Armenian presence.
Chennai, Dhaka, Kolkata, Mumbai, Singapore and Penang share more than one thing in common. All old trading cities, they were settled by Armenians and each still has an Armenian street. In Penang, it is called Lebuh Armenian. Armenians originating from Persia had arrived in Penang by 1800. They were but a small minority, numbering fewer than 180 over the next 150 years, yet they played a noticeable role in Penang’s economic and civic life. Nadia Wright gives a brief cultural account of the Armenians, explaining their names, and trading connections. Giving statistics on their numbers, Nadia discusses Armenians’ contributions to Penang’s development, and the factors leading to the demise of the community. Nadia comments on the early merchants. These include the philanthropic Carapiet Arackell; generous doyen of the community Catchatoor Galastaun, who largely funded the Armenian Church, and the Anthony family whose members formed the mainstay of the community for three generations. As well, there are the hoteliers spear headed by Martin and Tigran Sarkies, not forgetting Dr Thaddeus Avetoom and the Georgetown Dispensary, and the jewellers: the Ipekdjians and the Gregorys. Nadia looks at what has been lost: the Armenian Church, parsonage and graveyard, and what remains. This includes the E&O Hotel, the stock broking firm of A.A. Anthony, plus the inevitable tombstones.
About Nadia Wright
Dr Nadia Wright is the author of the book, Respected Citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia (2003). Originally from New Zealand, Dr Nadia Wright graduated with an MA in History from Otago University, then settled in Melbourne where she taught Secondary School English. Nadia spent the mid-1980s in Singapore, where she gained an MA at the National University of Singapore and began researching the Armenian community there. Returning to Australia, Nadia continued her research culminating in her book on the Armenians and another she co–authored on the Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid. In 2012, Nadia was awarded her PhD from Melbourne University with a thesis challenging the accepted roles of Raffles and Farquhar in Singapore’s founding.
The Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) is a non-profit non-government organization (NGO) established in Penang in 1986. Since its inception, the Trust has been committed to the vision of preserving Penang’s heritage for future generations. PHT played a pivotal role in the nomination of George Town to UNESCO World Heritage status.