A port named after Dickson
Published on May 9, 2010 | by asiaone.com
PORT Dickson in Negri Sembilan is well known around the country. It is a place many make a beeline for with family and friends, especially on long weekends. The beaches are not as pristine as those along the east coast of the peninsula but they are picturesque enough, and more importantly, just a short drive away for those from the Klang Valley.
But most would not know how the name of the town came about, or anything about its history.
Long-time residents of Port Dickson would be able to shed some light on the matter.
All one has to do is ask and they will be more than happy to sit down for an illuminating chat.
Long ago, Port Dickson was called Tanjung (cape) by the local Malay villagers as it was located near a cove.
There were also those who called it Arang, which is coal in the Malay language, as there was once a large coal factory there prior to the tin mining days.
In the 1820s, tin ore was discovered. It was found to be particularly abundant in an area called Lukut within the Port Dickson district.
This attracted many Chinese immigrants there.
The British saw great potential in the area. Due to its rapid development, the Federation States of Straits Secretary Sir John Frederick Dickson gazetted Tanjung as a strategic port. This was because it was a suitable and practical location along the shipping routes.
Tanjung replaced the port in Pengkalan Kempas.
In 1891, a 39km railway line was built connecting Tanjung and Sungai Ujung (now known as Seremban) to transport various types of goods such as spices and rice to the river port of Sungai Ujung.
With the opening of the railway line, the British renamed Tanjung to what it is called now — Port Dickson — after Sir John Frederick Dickson.
The railway line and sea port played an important role in the export trade of tin ore.
When tin ore dwindled, Port Dickson became a holiday destination for British officials and their families. The rest, as they say, is history.
There are many long-time residents and “old families” in Port Dickson. Some families have resided in the town from the 1900s.
Ajaib Singh Gill, 82, explained how his family came to settle in Port Dickson.
“My grandfather, Tota Singh Gill came to Singapore in 1898 from Punjab. He brought his family (my father, Ginder Singh Gill, was 4-years-old then) to settle down in Malaya in 1904.
“He was working for the Straits Trading company in Seremban at that time.”
Ajaib said after his father finished his Senior Cambridge at St Paul’s School in Seremban, he moved to Port Dickson to work for a trading company.
“After retiring from the company, my father started his own transport business called Ginder Singh Transport with a fleet of 120 cargo lorries, tankers and buses.
“My brother went on to study medicine in Singapore and came back and opened the town’s first clinic, PD Clinic.
Ajaib said he completed his primary education in Port Dickson before continuing his secondary school in Seremban.
“I studied engineering in England and returned home to help my father in the business,” he said.
Ajaib also proudly showed a picture of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and his daughter Indira Gandhi, taken at their home in Port Dickson.
“They came to Malaya in 1937 for a nationwide Indian Congress meeting and my father was a member in the party.
“Nehru and Indira came to our house for tea during their short break in Port Dickson and I still remember that day vividly even though I was only 9 years old,” he said, adding that Indira was only about 20 years old at that time.
Ajaib, who has five children, lives in the house his father built in 1925, with his wife Rajinder Kaur Gill, 79, and youngest daughter Kiran Kaur.
He reminisced about the “good old days” when Port Dickson had crystal clear waters and clean beaches.
“People from as far away as England used to talk about how beautiful PD was.
“Friends and family who visited loved spending time in this quaint town and they would have a great time along the beach. But now, I am concerned over the cleanliness of the beach. It has become dirtier over the years.
“I hope the authorities would do something about it and restore Port Dickson to its glory days.”