In Memoriam: Datuk Peter Jenkins

After the Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) post on the book review of The Planter’s Bungalow, BWM received these heartfelt tributes for the late Datuk Peter Jenkins and would like to express their gratitude and thanks to the following contributors, who are active members of BWM – Puan Sri Elizabeth Moggie, Ruby Loo, Johan Abdul Razak and Dato’ Henry Barlow. The BWM family extends their heartfelt condolences to Datin Waveney Jenkins and family.

Photo: Peter (2nd from left) at a lecture by Professor Malcolm Grant on 18 April 2001.

A Personal Recollection by Puan Sri Liz Moggie: 

The recent posting of Jendela Warisan with its ‘Going Back in Time’ review of the Planter’s Bungalow brought to mind that stalwart supporter of built heritage Datuk Peter Jenkins. Peter died on 8 April 2020, at his home on the Isle of Man. His wife Waveney immediately communicated the sad news to BWM Past President Elizabeth Cardosa who circulated it to Badan members and to the much wider community of Peter’s friends, colleagues and acquaintances throughout Malaysia.

My family’s friendship with Peter and Waveney goes back to 1980, before we became members of Sahabat Warisan Malaysia some years later. While Waveney was the ‘front liner’ for Badan, Peter was always very much in support. What is generally not known is related by Waveney in an article in the May-June 2013 edition of the former Buletin Warisan entitled “Memories of the Birth of BWM”. It was in fact Peter who (in the absence of Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard) chaired the first ever meeting of the nascent BWM. The meeting was held in the Jenkin’s home at No. 259 Jalan Ampang with those pioneers seated in the family dining room around a “green rattan gloss-topped table”. When the Jenkins vacated their beloved No. 259 they donated this same table to the Jalan Stonor H.Q. where it has had several uses over the years. It is still there – truly a heritage item!

My memories of Peter range beyond the confines of heritage world. Peter was well known in his position as Executive Director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (or ‘Mikki’ as it was better known) and as a cricketer of note, devoted to the game as it used to be played on The Padang (now Padang Merdeka). As well as his business contacts, he had close contacts with the legal fraternity, the planting community and, through Waveney, to the art circle. I recall Peter having a huge network of friends throughout the Peninsula. It was Peter I would get in touch with if I wanted to contact someone in a particular town or in a particular field – he would always know that person or would know someone who would.  And he was ever helpful – he would sit back, draw in his breath, his trademark bushy eyebrows would twitch and he would give you his full attention and the benefit of his wide knowledge.

One of Peter’s great triumphs was the 150th Commemoration of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry. My history is vague but I seem to recall it had its beginnings in the Penang Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. At any rate, Peter organised a grand dinner in K.L. in 1987, which was a splendid occasion. The tall table centrepieces were specially made of wrought iron, painted white, with orchids cascading down – I suspect the design of those may have been Waveney’s contribution. They were sold off afterwards and I have two.

Some years ago, I visited Peter and Waveney in the Isle of Man. We had grand chats and it was obvious that their interest in the progress of conserving Malaysia’s built heritage had not lessened from the time they lived here. Peter and I shared a very personal interest in our Antipodean connection. His grandfather had been killed when the New Zealanders went into action in September 1916 at Flers on The Somme – whereas my father had survived.

Shortly after receiving the news of Peter’s death I re-read TWO FIVE NINE – Recollections of a Garden off Jalan Ampang.  In it is to be found the essence of Peter’s character – his quizzical, humourous but incisive perspective on life, I must admit to glossing over his generous supply of the Latin names of his beloved trees and shrubs. The Planter’s Bungalow is a book to which I have frequent recourse – a mine of information as well as a delight to read.

TWO FIVE NINE – Recollections of a Garden off Jalan Ampang

One other priceless contribution to the cause of Heritage came from Peter and Waveney as they departed Malaysia. This is the gift to the Resource Centre of a set of large Ordnance Survey maps of each of the Peninsula States. I remember the occasion (but not the date) when Peter and Waveney presented these, beautifully rolled up, to a former Past President, Tun Ahmad Sarji.

Peter and Waveney – your combined contribution to BWM will always be lovingly remembered.

Tribute by Ruby Loo:

I met Peter Jenkins over thirty years ago, most likely through his wife, Waveney Jenkins, possibly at a Sahabat Warisan Malaysia event.

Since then, I had gotten to know him better, especially at their house at 259 Jalan Ampang when I would be there for discussions concerning Badan Warisan Malaysia projects, the lime plaster courses for the restoration of the Istana Jahar, in Kota Bharu, in particular. I was recruited into that project I suspect, not just for my technical knowledge, but mainly because I was able to understand Waveney in English, talk to the old specialists in Hokkien, and convey the information to Waveney in English and the Malay tukangs in Bahasa Malaysia.

Whilst the late Chen Voon Fee and Waveney were splitting hair on technical issues, most times, Peter would engage me in talks about composting!

I had expressed a keen interest in their amazing bamboo grove at 259 on my first visit, and Peter had explained that the plants in their garden were the result of his own compost, and his composting adventures just took off from then.

I always remember these evenings fondly because the Jenkins introduced me to my favourite tipple, presented as a medicinal nightcap – Drambuie.

I got to know Peter even better when he commissioned both Voon Fee and myself sometime in the early 1990s to redesign and refit the offices of The Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Wisma Damansara, Jalan Semantan. Peter was very meticulous, which makes for a very good client! We completed the project to everyone’s expectations!

I didn’t see much of both Peter and Waveney after Peter retired, but was there for the site visit of Kampong Warisan, where they eventually moved to, before relocating to Genting. Both of them were very impressed with the concept, design, and especially the landscaping of the development; but what can be more exciting than their restored kampong house?

Voon Fee kept me posted on the developments of the Planters’ Bungalow project, and I last saw all three of them during the book launch in 2008.

I saw Peter; with Waveney again in 2010 sometime, when I brought a Scottish friend to meet them during one of their visits back here. My friend was born in Batu Gajah and grew up in the bungalow at the Jabor Valley Estate in Terengganu, and its nearest town is Kuantan, which was featured in their book.

Although I haven’t been in direct contact with both the Jenkins, I am lucky to had been constantly updated of their well-being by Elizabeth Cardosa, and know of Peter’s battles with Parkinson’s, and Waveney’s unceasing care.

I know first hand the devastation caused by the disease, and I know also that the man I fondly remember fought it daily, heroically, to the end.

We shall all miss this giant of a man, in more ways than one.

Datuk Peter John Laidlaw Jenkins, PJN & Datin Waveney Jenkins.

Tribute by Johan Abdul Razak:

There isn’t much more I can add but neither is there ever enough one could write about our dearly beloved Peter.

I got to know Peter during my younger days in the early ‘90s as a strapping bachelor who had all the time in the world and was now and then running errands for Waveney. I recall transporting some artefacts for Waveney from the old Majestic Hotel to an eminent benefactor who was funding its restoration.

The Planter’s Bungalow – A journey down the Malay Peninsular

On the rare occasion I had turned up at their lovely quintessential colonial-like bungalow at 259 Jalan Ampang, Peter would invariably be lurking in a quiet corner totally absorbed in his reading. As a young man I found those thick bushy eyebrows a touch intimidating. Reticent, inscrutable and impenetrable.

But as the saying goes, behind every successful person is a supportive spouse and Peter certainly played that role to the hilt to the effervescent Waveney, enabling her to be the driving force at BWM during the early days.

It was during these years that BWM saw some key projects like the restoration of Gedung Raja Abdullah in Klang and the acquisition and restoration of Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman, which now stands today at BWM’s premises. Not forgetting the Magnum special draw, which raised almost a million ringgit, which funded many projects and kept BWM going for many years.

It was in his quiet and completely behind the scene ways that Peter had enabled, facilitated and contributed vastly to BWM’s early successes.

He will be dearly missed by us all. Rest in peace Peter.

Photo: Peter (standing left) and Waveney (standing right) during a picnic at Genting Tea Estate on 22 March 1998.

Tribute by Dato’ Henry Barlow:

I first met Peter and Waveney Jenkins soon after I came out to Malaysia in 1970, almost certainly at the house of the late John Skrine – a lovely old traditional bungalow in Jalan Pinang, with fine views out over the race course – now the site of the Twin Towers.

We met socially over the next ten years or so, not infrequently at their house at 259 Jalan Ampang, a humming center of social and artistic activity. Moreover it was a favourite stopover for students in their gap year making their way, as economically as possible from UK to Australia. I never knew who I might meet there: backpacking students, leading Malaysian artists, or heads of important international firms operating in Malaysia, seeking Peter’s advice, as head of MICCI.

Peter was the ideal person to head MICCI with his enormously broad range of friends and acquaintances from all areas of Malaysian life.

As Peter’s retirement from MICCI approached in 1996 the arrangement for 259 Jalan Ampang came to an end. They were looking for accommodation where they could stay for a few weeks each year when they returned to Malaysia. They enquired whether I knew of anywhere suitable.

As it happened my manager’s bungalow at Genting Tea Estate was vacant. It suited them down to the ground, so they moved in and significantly modernized the house. Both were keen gardeners, and they rapidly established an extremely attractive garden round the house, planting fast growing trees in strategic spots to block the less attractive parts of the view down the valley near Pahang entrance to the Karak Highway tunnel. Ten years on the garden has come into its own and grown up most attractively.

Waveney, as always on the lookout for traditional Malay houses to preserve, rapidly acquired one from Perak. This was carefully dismantled, all the parts being labelled to facilitate reconstruction on the bungalow lawn. It was used as Waveney’s office and additional accommodation for the regular flow of visitors.

Their return visits to Malaysia from about 1998 to 2011 were always too short, often amounting to no more than 4-5 weeks a year – but filled with social activities, catching up with and entertaining friends at the bungalow.

I always looked forward to the Sunday evenings when they were in residence, when on alternate Sundays we had dinner together, at their bungalow or mine. How pleasant it was, as their guest, sitting by candlelight on their verandah to enjoy Waveney’s excellent cooking and Peter’s stimulating conversation with a glass of wine, followed by a welcome Drambuie: all safe in the knowledge that there was no drive home – only an admittedly steepish hill to totter up: and in diarist Samuel Pepys’ words: ‘and so to bed’.

We shall miss you, Peter.

Datuk Peter John Laidlaw Jenkins, PJN

Full accreditation for this article goes to Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) email: & Chris Syer President of the Malaysian British Society (MBS).

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