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Sir Ernest Woodford Birch

Updated: Apr 12


Sir Ernest Woodford Birch, KCMG (29 April 1857 – 17 December 1929) was a British colonial administrator who served as the eighth British resident of Perak (1904–1911).


In January 1893, he was appointed as the Secretary to the Government of Perak. He was instrumental in introducing a new land survey system into Perak and in urging forward the Kerian irrigation scheme. In May 1894, Sir Ernest was granted furlough leave and returned to duty in August 1895. On the departure of Sir Frank Swettenham on leave, Sir Ernest was appointed as the Acting British Resident of Perak.


During his office as the Acting British Resident of Perak, he called the first meeting of the State Council, over which he presided, for 2 November 1895 the twentieth anniversary of his father's murder. He reminded the Sultan and the chiefs assembled of the day and of the event. In June of the following year, he reverted to his substantive appointment as the Secretary to the Government, and in February 1897, he went to Negeri Sembilan to appoint as Acting British Resident in succession to Martin Lister and, upon Lister's death, he was confirmed the appointment and filled the office until May 1900. He arranged the agreement, by which the Yang di-Pertuan of Sri Menanti, who had long been estranged from other chiefs, was recognised by them as the constitutional head of Negeri Sembilan. During his short administration, Negeri Sembilan's revenue grew from $552,000 to $1,085,000 and a new land and survey system was introduced and public service was greatly improved.


In recognition of his valued services, in 1900 he was knighted by Queen Victoria at Windsor with the CMG. He became the principal representative of the British North Borneo Company and posted as the governor in 1901. During his two years and eight months served in North Borneo. He worked arduously for the welfare of the country. He travelled over the whole territory in North Borneo, and introduced numerous settlers, built a new town at Jesselton and converted the country from lawlessness to peace. In December 1904, Sir Ernest returned to England, and in February 1904, he was appointed as the British Resident of Perak. During his administration in Perak, he had successfully reorganised the administration in Perak, and established various clubs and introduced many sports to the state. He also served as Chairman of the Eastern Smelting Company Limited, founded by Chung Thye Pin, Eu Tong Seng and others. He died 17 December 1929 in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex.


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