Guide to the Diary of Henry E. McCallum (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

McCallum, Henry Edward, Sir
Diary of Henry E. McCallum (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
Collection Number
3 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Diary of Henry McCallum recording four journeys in the Malay Peninsula, June – November 1895. (unpaginated)

The entries are written on the right hand pages of an exercise book, with additions written on the left hand pages. In the first three journeys McCallum accompanied the governor, Sir William Jervois, and a few other officials, notably Frank Swettenham (1850-1946). Swettenham, who eventually became governor of the Straits Settlements, was fluent in Malay and was the unofficial adviser to the sultan of Selangor at Langat. He acted as interpreter in the governor's meetings with Malay chiefs. The diary is, to some extent, a travel diary, recording daily activities and McCallum's impressions of villages, houses, roads and topography. The longer entries, however, focus on discussions between British officials, negotiations between the governor and the Malay rulers, and McCallum's own understanding of the political situation in Malaya and the relations and tensions between rulers, factions and states.

The diary discusses in detail the landscape, revenues, tin-mining, opium farming, transport and community relations of the Malay States and in particular the political conflicts and governments of the States. It includes verbatim reports of talks between Jervois and Rajahs and other native rulers. Jervois and McCallum were especially concerned with the weaknesses of the Resident system instituted by the Treaty of Pangkore (1874) and the murder of Birch led to strong criticism of Jervois' policy of annexation by Lord Carnarvon, the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed at the private residence of Brigadier W.J. Jervois, East Sussex, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1981 (AJCP Reel: M1184). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Brigadier J. Jervois. Sussex, England

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Australia: Emigrant voyages; Birch, J.W.; immigration to; McCallum, Henry E.; Melbourne, Victoria: immigration to; Officials; Pahang, Malaya; Penang, Malaysia; Perak, Malaysia; Straits Settlements


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 298, p112.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Edward McCallum (1852-1919) was born in Yeovil, Somerset. He was educated at the Royal Military College, Woolwich, and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1871. He spent three years at Chatham and then worked in the Fortifications Office at the Horse Guards in London. In 1875 he went to Singapore as private secretary to the Sir William Jervois, the governor of the Straits Settlements. In this position he became heavily involved in the politics of the Malay Peninsula, particularly after the murder of James Birch, the first British Resident in Perak.

In 1877 McCallum's term as private secretary ended when Jervois was transferred to South Australia. He returned to the Straits Settlements in 1880 and served there for 17 years, becoming one of the major figures in the early history of the colony. He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1883 and major in 1890. He was Deputy Colonial Engineer in Penang from 1880 to 1884 and Colonial Engineer and Surveyor General from 1884 to 1897. He was responsible for new defence works in Singapore and designed public buildings, such as the Raffles Library and Museum (1887). He played a key role in introducing electricity to Singapore in 1892. He was president of the Municipal Commission and the Fire Commissioners, special commissioner in Pahang (1891) and commandant of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery.

McCallum was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1897 and retired from the British Army in 1900. From 1897 to 1913 he held a series of vice-regal posts, being governor of Lagos (1897-1899), Newfoundland (1899-1901), Natal (1901-1907) and Ceylon (1907-1913). He was knighted in 1898.

Item Descriptions

Visit to Penang, Perak, Pahang, Singora (Thailand), Patani, Kelantan, 19 June 1875 - 28 June 1875 (File 1)

The diary records the voyage from Singapore to Malacca and Penang, meeting with Frank Swettenham and discussions about the situation in Selangor, inspection of forts at Malacca, meeting with James Birch, the British Resident at Perak, and discussions on the situation in Perak, the debts of the Mantri [Menteri] Ngah Ibrahim, Chinese tin mines at Langat, the actions of Sir Andrew Clarke, the previous governor, in Perak, the Treaty of Pangkore (1874), Sultan Abdullah and his relations with Birch, the possibility of forcing Abdullah to abdicate, public finances, relations between Chinese and Malays, and the possibility of a large influx of Chinese if the British were to control Perak.

Visit to the eastern Malay states, 12 July 1875 - 21 July 1875 (File 2)

The diary records a journey from Singapore to Pahang, Terengganu, Singora, Patani [Pattani] and Kelantan. (Singora and Patani were in the southern region of Siam.) It refers to discussions with Swettenham about the effects of a possible annexation of Perak, a meetings with Raja Bendahara at Pahang, Sultan Omar Raiayat Shah at Terengganu and Sultan Muhammad at Kelantan, impressions of the country near Singora, Malay and Chinese villages, discussions about boundaries, and discussions and reflections on a possible annexation of Perak.

Visit to Perak, 31 August 1875 - 13 September 1875 (File 3)

The diary records a journey by Jervois, Birch, Major John McNair, Dr Anderson and McCallum from Singapore to Malacca, Langat, Matang and Taiping. It refers to the situation in Perak, the formation of a council of chiefs, the British residency at Taiping, the role of Captain Tristram Speedy, the assistant British Resident, relations between Chinese and Malays, debts incurred by Chinese during the recent war, financial transactions, tin mines, the transport of tin, and the organisation of coolies. There are descriptions of the road to Taiping, villages, buildings, farms, and a journey on elephants along a jungle path to Sardang. The latter entries give a very detailed account of meetings between Jervois and Sultan Ismael, Raja Yusuf, Maharaja Lela, the Mantri Ngah Ibrahim, Raja Bendahara, the Laxamana and other chiefs, with verbatim summaries of their discussions and noting their support for or opposition to British annexation of Perak.

Visit to Perak, following the murder of J.W. Birch, the British Resident. (incomplete), 5 November 1875 - 8 November 1875 (File 4)

The last part of the diary records the first four days of an expedition to Perak following the murder of Birch by followers of Maharaja Lela at Pasir Salak on 2 November 1875. The entries summarise discussions with H. Plunkett, the superintendent of police at Penang, reports on the events leading up to the murder, speculation about the role of Sultan Abdullah, and accounts by Lieutenant Thomas Abbott who witnessed the attack.