Stamford Raffles had many sides to him, including being a “psycho” boss to William Farquhar

There are many sides to everything and everyone.

By Tanya Ong | July 6, 2017

As the founder of modern Singapore in 1819, Stamford Raffles is often remembered positively for being the one who laid the foundations for the development of our island into a port city.

But author Nadia Wright challenges the dominant narrative and image of Raffles in her new book, William Farquhar: Stepping out from Raffles’s shadow. 

In a review of Wright book by the Straits Times, Wright is said to highlight that Raffles had mistreated his subordinate William Farquhar, who was the first British Resident of Singapore in 1819. In fact Wright was quoted saying that Raffles was in fact a “psycho boss”. 

In case you don’t know about the story of Raffles and Farquhar, here is a very brief summary of their story:

Farquhar accompanied Raffles on his mission to establish a British trading port in Singapore. He was appointed by Raffles as Singapore’s first Resident and Commandant.

In his role from 1819 to 1823, Farquhar contributed a great deal to the daily administration of Singapore, but these often went against Raffles’ instructions. Both men were known to have fallen out, which resulted in Farquhar’s ultimate departure from Singapore in 1823 to a large turnout from the population to bid him farewell.

Wright was quoted in ST, saying of Raffles:

“Raffles was duplicitous, deceitful, hypocritical. His dispatches about Farquhar were full of innuendo which he couldn’t back up.” 

“He claimed that Farquhar opposed him the whole time, but Farquhar said, ‘If you are unhappy, why didn’t you tell me? I would have corrected things.'”

“And when Raffles started selling off land in Singapore, Farquhar was so upset. He said, ‘You cannot do this, this land is not yours to sell, we are leasing it from the Temenggong and the Sultan (of Johor).’ And Raffles said, ‘Hah. More of your opposition.'”

The differences that Raffles and Farquhar have are well-known, but seldom seen from a perspective like Wright’s.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest that Raffles did have an ego, and did go to the extent of stealing credit for some of Farquhar’s work, as we have pointed out before

But as we have seen lately in the Lee siblings’ spat over their late father’s home at 38 Oxley Road, all conflicts in human relationships are complex and can be seen differently from many angles.

By the way, according to Wright, “Farquhar” is pronounced as “Far-ker”.

Here are totally unrelated but equally interesting articles:

Top 8 moments from short local films that will make you proud of our film industry

These are the most difficult things a Singaporean employee has to learn

Top image from Wikipedia.

Related article: 

Here’s how @therealraffles would behave on social media, unfriend @will.farquhar

1819 is a labour of love by Mothership.sg where we tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!

About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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