William H. Read



William Henry Macleod Read, K.C.N.L., C.M.G., affectionately known as WH,  (b. 7 February 1819, Scotland–d. 10 May 1909, England) was an established businessman and an active contributor to political and social interests during the almost 46 years of his life in Singapore.1 Treasurer of Singapore’s first public library and an honorary police magistrate, Read was one of the strongest advocates for the transfer of the Straits Settlements to the Colonial Office in London.2 He wrote a book, Play and Politics, Recollections of Malaya by an Old Resident which was published in London in 1901. Read Bridge and Read Street are named after him.3

Early life
William Read’s father was Charles Rideout Read, a co-partner at A. L. Johnston & Company. The younger Read came to Singapore on 12 September 1841 to join and takeover his father’s company, which was Singapore’s leading merchant house of the day.4 When his father retired and returned to England in 1842,  William Read became co-partner, and when business partner Alexander Laurie Johnston retired in December 1841, Read continued as its head, until he himself retired to England in 1887.5


Known as WH by his good friends, Read first resided at Battery Road, before moving to Beach Road, and then to the old nutmeg estate, which is the present location of the Istana.6

Extremely active in commercial, social and public affairs, Read was one of the early political agitators rooting for the transfer of the Straits Settlements from British India control to the Colonial Office in London.7 He was also the first honorary police magistrate and president of the municipality.8 He was the Consul for the Netherlands from 1857 to 1885 for which he was awarded the title, Knight Commander of the Netherlands Lion (K.C.N.L).9

Retirement and death
On 28 February 1887, after almost 46 years in Singapore, Read finally returned to England. In 1901, he penned Play and Politics, Recollections of Malaya by an Old Resident, dedicated to Sir Andrew Clarke, former governor of the Straits Settlements. The book was published by Wells Gardner & Co. in London.10

Read died on 10 May 1909 at the age of 91.11 In 1911, Governor Sir John Anderson, G.C.M., unveiled a memorial tablet in memory of Read in St. Andrew's Cathedral for his outstanding contributions to Singapore.12

Accomplishments
23 Feb 1843:
An excellent amateur jockey, Read won $150 cash at Singapore’s first derby, the Singapore Cup.13

Mar 1843: Organised Singapore’s first regatta.14
1844: Treasurer of Singapore’s first public library, housed in the Singapore Institution.15
1845:  He was the second person to be initiated into the first Masonic Lodge, before becoming the first provincial grand master.16
27 Mar 1846: Elected trustee of the Singapore Institution (later renamed The Raffles Institution).17 Also elected to the committee of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and later became its chairman.18
April 1851: Appointed honorary secretary following a public meeting held to establish the first Sailors’ Home.19
5 May 1854: Start of the Chinese riots that lasted 10 to 12 days. In his position as first special constable during the riots between the Hokkien and Cantonese clans, Read was able to get well-known trouble-makers to settle matters peacefully.20
24 May 1854: As worshipful master, Read officiated the Masonic religious ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone at Raffles Lighthouse.21
8 July 1854: First to join the Straits Settlements Volunteer Corps, where Read remained active for 25 years until 1879.22
1857: Appointed consul for Holland in Singapore – the first such appointment.23
1859: Served as sponsor, amateur actor and president of the Corps Dramatique.24
1865: Chairman of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce.25
1867: Became the first non-council member of the Legislative Council at the transfer of the Straits Settlements from British India control to direct Crown control. 26
1873: As leader of the Freemasons’ Eastern Archipelago, District Grand Lodge, on 29 March, the Right Worshipful District Grand Master W. H. Read officiated the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone at Clyde Terrace Market. 27
Feb 1886: Awarded the title of Companion of the Order of St. Michael & St. George (C.M.G.) by Queen Victoria.28
28 Feb 1887: Laid the first cylinder for Read Bridge, before retiring and returning to England the same year.29
1901: His book, Play and Politics, Recollections of Malaya by an Old Resident, was published in London.30

Publication
Play and politics recollections of Malaya by an old resident. (1901). London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. Retrieved from BookSG.



Author
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367–369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements 1826–1867: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Death of Mr. W.H. Read. (1909, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Death of Mr. W.H. Read. (1909, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
3. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
4. Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements 1826–1867: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
5. Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements 1826–1867: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367, 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367–369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
8. Death of Mr. W.H. Read. (1909, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
10. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
11. Death of Mr. W.H. Read. (1909, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. The Read Memorial. (1911, February 28). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367, 387. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
14. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
15. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367, 419. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
16. Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements 1826–1867: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
17. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 135–136, 139. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
18. Turnbull, C. M. (1972). The Straits Settlements 1826–1867: Indian presidency to crown colony. London: Athlone Press, pp. 24–25. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
19. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
20. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 585. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
21. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 520. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
22. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867.. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 607. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Death of Mr. W.H. Read. (1909, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
24. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 748. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
25. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 774. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
26. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
27. The Masonic ceremony. (1873, April 10). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
29. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
30. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Colonial administrators
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Pioneers--Singapore--Biography
William Henry Macleod Read, 1819-1909
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators