National Library Singapore Launches Exhibition on William Farquhar, Singapore's First Resident and Commandant (1819 - 1823)

Release Date : 03 Apr 2010


Exhibition highlights include a lithograph of William Farquhar dated in the 1830s, donated to the National Library by a Farquhar descendant

The National Library Singapore today launched an exhibition that presents William Farquhar's military career, his role in the history of Malacca, his interests in the flora and fauna of the Malay Peninsula and his contributions made to the development of early Singapore as the first Resident and Commandant from 1819 to 1823.

Close to 70 exhibits are on display and Singaporeans will have the opportunity to go beyond text books in understanding William Farquhar's often-untold role in the development of early Singapore at the exhibition. Visitors can expect to view original exhibits loaned to the National Library Singapore by William Farquhar's descendants. They include a writing box that Farquhar used to keep his stationery, original letters written to family members by Farquhar as well as a colour portrait and a lithograph. More details of these items are provided in Annex A.

Dr Heather Lumsden, the great-great-granddaughter of William Farquhar, who attended the exhibition launch said, "My family is especially happy to be involved in the exhibition because we lived in Singapore for 10 years in the 1950s and have very happy memories of our time here, as well as pride in the amazing achievements of Singaporeans. They have continued the pioneering spirit of William Farquhar, turning a deserted island into a thriving commercial centre of the 21st century. I am particularly honoured and pleased to be here today as the last direct descendant of William Farquhar to have been born here and to have lived in Singapore until 1960." 'The Rajah of Malacca' portrait, on loan from Mrs Wendy Lumsden, mother of Dr Heather Lumsden portraying Farquhar in the colonel uniform of the Madras Engineers, was presumably drawn around 1828 at the time of his marriage to Margaret Loban.

Mr David Sangster, another descendant of William Farquhar, who is residing in Scotland, generously donated 'The Rajah of Malacca' lithograph done in the 1830s to the National Library of Singapore. The lithograph was done by an artist-lithographer, M Gauci (1774 – 1854) and adapted from the colour portrait drawn by John Graham around the time of William Farquhar's marriage to Margaret Loban in 1828.

"I hope my gift of the lithograph to the National Library Singapore will be permanently available as a reminder of the part my great-great-grandfather played in founding the colony", said Mr David Sangster in an email to the National Library.

Acknowledging the support and contributions of many to this exhibition, Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive of National Library Board, said: "This exhibition presents an opportunity for Singaporeans to learn more about William Farquhar and his contributions in developing early Singapore into a thriving trading port. The National Library is grateful to the descendants of William Farquhar who have contributed to the exhibition by coming forward with personal items of William Farquhar. This exhibition is a great opportunity to understand Singapore's roots and to see how far we have progressed."

The exhibition is organised by the National Library Singapore and Singapore Heritage Society. It will be held at the Promenade, Level 7 at the National Library Building from 3 April to 31 August 2010 from 10am – 9pm daily excluding public holidays.



  1. The Rajah of Malacca (Colour Portrait). This colour portrait by John Graham shows Farquhar in the uniform of a Colonel of the Madras Engineers, presumably drawn around 1828 (the time of his marriage to Margaret Loban). The portrait is now in the possession of Ms Wendy Lumsden, the wife of James William Farquhar Lumsden, the great-grandson of William Farquhar. This is the first time this portrait is being displayed in public.
  2. The Rajah of Malacca (Lithograph). This lithograph was produced by artist-lithographer, M Gauci (1774 - 1854) in the 1830s based on the colour portrait drawn by John Graham. This lithograph was donated to the National Library Singapore by Mr David Sangster, the great-great-grandson of William Farquhar.
  3. William Farquhar's personal writing box. William Farquhar's personal writing box made from walnut wood is now in the possession of Mr Guy Atkins, the great-great-great-grandson of William Farquhar.