The James Logan memorial was officially dedicated on 20 October 2009 in front of the High Court building in Penang.
Photos by Anil and Logan family
Some Penang residents might know James Logan as a colonial-era lawyer (who took up the cause of the underdog against officialdom) and newspaper proprietor. Few, however, realise that he was also a brilliant geologist who coined the term Indonesia. James and his brother Abraham are buried at the same spot in the Protestant Cemetery nearby.
Among those involved in the dedication were “the doyen of the Penang Bar” Lim Kean Chye, High Court Judge John Louis O’Hara, representatives of the Penang Bar, the new Penang Heritage Trust president Khoo Salma Nasution and other heritage activists.
The last three photos in the slideshow above are of Abraham’s grandson, Robert A Logan (1900-1994), who was head of the English College in Johor Bahru.
Adding colour to the occasion, Abraham Logan’s descendants travelled all the way from KL, Johor and Australia to attend the event. Among the family members standing in front of the memorial are Robert’s son George from JB, Robert’s grandchildren including Irene (in blue), who is carrying on the family tradition as a lawyer working with the Australian police, great-grandchildren and others present standing next to the memorial.
Who exactly was James Logan?
Logan, James Richardson (1819–1869), lawyer and newspaper proprietor, was born at Hutton Hall, Berrywell, Berwickshire, on 10 April 1819, the son of a gentleman farmer, Thomas Logan, and his wife, Elizabeth.
A clever ‘extra scholar’ at Duns Academy, he trained with an Edinburgh barrister, and after a short spell planting indigo in Bengal moved to Penang in 1839, where he was admitted as an advocate in December 1841. His elder brother Abraham followed him to Penang and was admitted to the bar in April 1842, but soon moved to Singapore , where James joined him in partnership the following year. The brothers were to work closely together for nearly thirty years and were buried in the same grave. Abraham became editor-proprietor of Singapore ‘s premier newspaper, the Singapore Free Press, secretary to the chamber of commerce, member of numerous public committees, and a champion of constitutional reform.
In 1853 the more studious and reserved James returned to practise law in Penang, where he was made a justice of the peace and was much in demand as a lucid petition writer, an effective leader of deputations, and as a legal spokesman for the European and Chinese communities in opposing irksome official restrictions.
In 1855 the brothers bought the Pinang Gazette, with James as editor, and their newspapers became particularly influential in the absence of representative institutions. In powerful editorials James argued Penang’s case, criticizing dictatorial East India Company and government of India officials, championing free trade, and urging strong policies to protect commerce in the Malay states and Sumatra .
James Logan died in Penang at the home of his son Daniel, the solicitor-general, on 20 October 1869. His funeral that same day was attended by the entire European community and leading Asians; he was buried in the protestant cemetery, Penang, and a monument was erected in front of the supreme court by open subscription lamenting his untimely death as a public calamity: ‘Unselfish to a degree he spared neither time nor money to promote Penang’s welfare’.
But Logan ‘s most lasting memorial was his Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, always known popularly as Logan ‘s journal. A fellow of the Geological Society of London, a member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and corresponding member of the Ethnological Society (of London) and the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, Logan contributed articles to prestigious journals of learned societies in London, Edinburgh, Calcutta, and Batavia.
His own journal, the first attempt to promote a scientific periodical in the Straits Settlements at a time when most of the Malay peninsula was unexplored by Europeans, was unique in being conceived, edited, and financed single-handedly. Logan drew on the considerable expertise of officials, clergy, naval and military officers, lawyers, doctors, surveyors, businessmen, and planters of diverse nationalities, including one prominent Chinese merchant, while he himself contributed articles on a wealth of subjects: geology, exploration, piracy, Malay customs, aboriginal peoples, ethnology, and comparative philology.
An indefatigable, ever inquisitive traveller, Logan braved hardship and often danger, which undermined his health. Sometimes he returned a living skeleton, fever-racked with malaria, which eventually killed him. Twelve volumes of Logan ‘s journal were published between 1847 and 1859, until waning public enthusiasm and financial strain impelled Logan to abandon the journal and concentrate on public causes and the Pinang Gazette.
But Logan ‘s enterprise inspired the formation in 1878 of the straits (later Malaysian) branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, with Daniel Logan as first vice-president, and the new society obtained a government grant to buy Logan ‘s library. In his inaugural address, the president pledged to continue Logan ‘s work, while avoiding the mistake of trying to carry the burden alone. While most of his geological and linguistic research was superseded or updated, Logan ‘s journal remained of lasting interest to historians and anthropologists and the entire series was reprinted in 1970.
Source: C. M. Turnbull, ‘Logan, James Richardson (1819–1869)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004