Hendry Ridney.

The Malayan Rubber industry originated in 1876 when Henry Wickkham, a young adventurer living in Brazil, managed to smuggle 70,000 rubber seeds down the Amazon and 3000 of them found their  way to Ceylon. Eventually 22 plants reached Singapore and were planted in the Botanical Gardens. The Resident, Hugh Low, took some back to Perak with him, and, when coffee failed in the 1890's and 1900's, planters decided to try a new cash crop.

Rubber seeds
It was then that Henry Ridley was appointed Director of the Botanical Gardens at Singapore. He was a remarkable and energetic man, and greatly influenced the experimental aspect of rubber production in Malaya. In 1893 he developed the tapping of trees, and it was his practice to stuff rubber seeds into the pockets of planters and others, begging them to make a trial. A Chinese merchant later recalled that, among planters, he earned the name of "Mad Ridley" or "Ruber Ridley".

However, upon his retirement during the rubber boom in 1911, at the age of 55, he was known as the "Grand Old Man of Singapore", a title that was a little premature, as he was to live to be almost 101 years old.

In 1905 Malaya produced only 200 tons of rubber, but by 1920 this had risen nearly 1,000 percent to more than 175,000 tons annually, becoming the government' s largest single source of revenue, there being a 2 1/2 percent ad valorem duty on rubber.

Flowing World War I, the Malayan Rubber industry suffered from over production in a market of lower demand. Consequently prices fell despite the burgeoning automotive industry and its demand for this product whit such remarkable capabilities. The price of $4.00 per kilo in 1910 dropped to $1.00 a kilo in the post-war period.

The Rubber Growers Association, which represented estate interests in Malaya, began to urge the British Government to intervene, and eventually the "Stevenson Plan" commenced on the 1st November, 1922.

Restritive quotas for production were introduced, but the Ducth East Indies, a major producer, remained outsite the agreement, and no system of restriction of production could succeed without Ducth concurrence.

The Ducth view was that they had "Commercial Rubber" with low overheads. They had done their homework, and would not subsidize the "Imperial Rubber" of Malaya, with government regulations that created inefficiency and lack of research.

To Be Continued...


  1. The first rubber tree still growing healthily near the District Office in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. It was planted in 1877 :)