According to the MPSP president, Province Wellesley is still the gazetted name of mainland Penang though the council itself is known as Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP).
When formal documents are required, the Malay text uses Seberang Perai while the English version uses Province Wellesley.
When Maimunah took up her post in MPSP, she said she asked longtime council staff why the council was called MPSP if the gazetted name was Province Wellesley.
The staff replied that that it had been that way for as long as they could remember.
Maimunah made those remarks at the recent Seberang Perai Story forum on Saturday, organised by MPSP, Penang Heritage Trust and Think City.
The MPSP itself was formed after the Local Government Act (Peruntukan-Peruntukan Sementara) 1973 merged three county councils for North, Central and South into the Local Authority Managing Body, Seberang Perai and later, when the Act was passed in 1976, the merged entity was renamed MPSP.
The Butterworth Town Board (upgraded to Butterworth Town Council in 1952) and the three rural councils were first set up by the colonial state government in 1913. In 1962, the Butterworth Council merged with the County Council North.
Both the names – Province Wellesley and Perai – came about at different stages of the history of the territory.
Province Wellesley was named after Richard Colley Wesley (‘Viscount Wellesley’), the British colonial governor general of India (1798-1805). The British East India Company acquired the mainland strip from Kedah in 1800 purportedly in exchange for British protection for Kedah against external attacks.
The strip was later expanded under subsequent agreements, so that mainland Penang today is significantly larger than the original territory acquired, the Seberang Perai Story forum was told.
As for Perai, we will take a look at the possible origins of that name in another post.