Justin Trudeau paid Fort Canning a visit as his great-great-great-great-grandmother was William Farquhar’s daughter

A bit of history between him and Singapore.

Belmont Lay | November 15, 10:19 pm

Former pot smoker and now Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to Fort Canning Park on Nov. 15 afternoon.

He took a short walk across the grounds to the brick walls where a memorial plaque of his great-great-great-great-grandmother Esther Farquhar Bernard has been placed.

This visit came two days after meetings with several business groups and Asean leaders.

This is Trudeau’s first trip to Singapore in his current capacity.

Justin Trudeau’s connection to Singapore

Esther was the daughter of Major William Farquhar, the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore from 1819 to 1823, and Antoinette “Nonio” Clement, a Malaccan woman of French-Malay descent.

Trudeau spent a few minutes gazing at the plaque.

He then stooped down to take a video with the plaque that he sent to his family members.

He was presented with a plate bearing a drawing of a kingfisher from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings from the National Museum of Singapore.

He was also shown the memorial plaque of another family member — William Clark Farquhar, a grandson of Major Farquhar.

Trudeau said: “It was a very touching moment to see the history of my family, to appreciate all the criss-crossing, weaving links that make up each of our stories.”

Fort Canning and William Farquhar

Fort Canning Hill also has a special connection to Major Farquhar.

When he first arrived here with Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, he had climbed up the hill and hoisted the Union Jack.

It was Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, now 70, who had found the historical connection with Farquhar.

She was approached by producers of a Canadian television programme featuring famous Canadians tracing their genealogical roots, and took a trip here to learn the details.

Mrs Trudeau’s discovery was featured in a 2008 Canadian television programme.

It revealed that Major Farquhar’s daughter Esther married a British army officer in 1818.

He later left her.

The show said she had a tough life in Singapore, raising five children and dying at the age of 41, with nothing to her name.

The National Library helped with her research and her ancestor’s grave was located.

Fort Canning to be restored

Fort Canning Park is set to be restored.

In the early part of 2018, 18 trees were planted in the soon-to-be Farquhar Garden. It will include plants originally grown by Major Farquhar.

When completed in June next year, it will take over the current Stamford Green.

Dialogue with students

Earlier in the day, at a dialogue with National University of Singapore students, Trudeau said semi-seriously that Major Farquhar was more important in establishing Singapore as he had shaped Singapore as a trading post between 1819 and 1823.

His quip drew laughter.

Trudeau said: “I’m not horribly biased, I will defend my fifth-time great-grandfather.”

He also mentioned how Farquhar had been dismissed from Singapore in 1823 after a a bitter quarrel broke out between him and Stamford Raffles.

Trudeau said the harbour was apparently filled with little boats and people lining the shores to say goodbye to Farquhar when he was banished.

 

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