owl painting

At the beginning of the 20th Century there were only about 150 Europeans among Kuala Lumpur’s 20,000 population. By 1911 the expatriates numbered 1396.

There were two distinct types of expatriates:
civil service officers… and businessmen/planters, and the civil servants felt grossly underpaid. Among their petitions for more equable salaries and benefits was the curious observation that to function properly, “a K.L. household ‘required’ at least 7 servants.”

Malaria was a scourge. In Selangor alone, estate death rates reached one in five, and until the disease was controlled in the 1920’s, planters and foremen expected to spend one week a month laid up with malaria.

Kuala Lumpur’s first Presbyterian service was held in February, 1902, by Rev. William Murray, the doyen of Presbyterianism in Malaya. In 1910 the K.L. congregation resolved to establish a church, and in 1915, the Presbytery of London North recognized K.L. as a Preaching Station with a remarkable young man, Rev. A.D. Harcus, as Minister-in-Charge. Shortly, the K.L. congregation was made a fully sanctioned Charge, and on 11 October 1916, Rev. Harcus was inducted as the first pastor of St. Andrew’s.

Barely a year later the foundation stone of the Church building was laid. (The plain granite block is simply inscribed “1917”. Beneath it is a box containing a bible, hymn book, history of the congregation, some Malay coins and a 3 October 1917 edition of The Malay Mail.)

On Wednesday, 17 April 1918, St Andrew’s was opened for public worship.

The span of the new parish was enormous, over half as large as England. Its boundaries ran from the fringe of the Indian Ocean to the shore of the South China Sea, and from the southern edge of Negri Sembilan to the border of Perak. Those boundaries are still the ones in effect today.

Meanwhile, war raged in Europe. By its end, 26 former planters, miners, and government officials from Selangor alone had been killed. Their names were memorialised on a brass plaque mounted on a wall in St. Andrew’s.

The rubber and tin markets thrived, and so did Harcus and St. Andrew’s. In particular the Church’s outstation ministry was galvanized, with regular services held in key locations throughout central Malaya.

So far-flung was that ministry that by 1934, St. Andrew’s first three pastors had travelled a total of a quarter-million miles covering outstation responsibilities. The Church’s Malay driver, Pa’at bin Siboon, drove the ministers every mile of their outstation rounds – and had never had an accident!

In 1921, world rubber and tin prices fell, throwing Malaya into a recession so severe that by 1922, over 30,000 Chinese workers had to he repatriated.

Early in the first slump year, the foundations of the Manse were laid and by October the house was ready for occupancy.

On 28 February, 1922, Rev. Harcus married Veira Lickley Spark of the Malayan Nursing Service and in 1923 he was called to the important London parish, Ealing.

Harcus set the pattern for the life St. Andrew’s would lead. To that pattern, each succeeding minister has brought his own unique vision and capacities; and time and time again…special courage.

Under his 1915-1923 leadership the Church and Manse were built, the K.L. and outstation ministries established. He also somehow found time to be a leader in the K.L. music world, and to demonstrate his skills at rugby, golf, cricket, tennis – and as star goalie for the Selangor Club’s soccer team.