Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Yangon, Global City (1853-1962)

late 19th Century
Scotland's deep ties to Myanmar

The majority of the top companies in Yangon (then Rangoon) in the late 19th and early 20th century were Scottish. Golf and whiskey in Myanmar are of course legacies of this connection. Thousands of Scots lived and worked in this city over several generations and may have constitued as much as 80% of the total "European" population in colonial times.  At the Edinburgh Festival several years ago I gave a talk that was attended by a couple of hundred people,...

The Jewish community of Myanmar

One of Myanmar's least known minority communities are the Myanmar Jews. There have likely been Jews in Myanmar for many hundreds of years, perhaps since ancient times. The first Jew known to Myanmar history was Solomon Gabirol, who served as an officer in the army of King Alaungpaya (c.1755). Jonas Goldenberg, a Moldavian Jew, made a fortune in logging as a business partner of the Mandalay court under King Mindon. 

Many Jews who arrived in the 19th century were Baghdadi...

The Goan community of Myanmar

Rangoon was once home to a sizeable community of Goans (from then Portuguese Goa). The building in the picture was one of the biggest Goan businesses in the city: E.M de Souza's chemists (pharmacy) at 465 Dalhousie Street (Mahabandoola). The building now belongs to Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. Sadly, the portico is gone.

The Minton Mansions Hotel

The "Minto Mansions", now demolished, once considered the best hotel in Rangoon together with the Strand. It was located at the corner of Halpin Road and Leeds Road (opposite where the Children's Hospital is today). Boasted the "only French chef in the Indies" (M. La Claie).

A Rangoon municipal tax receipt c. 1930s

An interesting piece of fiscal history from 1930s: A Rangoon municipal tax receipt. A total of 10 rupees and 14 annas, divided into "general", "conservancy" (ie sanitation), "water", and "lighting" taxes, was paid by the owner of 122 Evanson Street (now Myayagon Street). An assessment and a payment was made on a quarterly basis. (A rupee or kyat was almost equal to a US dollar at the time).

St John's College, Rangoon

St John's College, Rangoon - taken I think just before the war, around 1939-40, but I could be wrong. St John's and several other schools in Burma were amongst the best in Asia until the 1970s.

The old Whiteaway Laidlaw department store at the corner of Phayre Street (Pansodan) and Merchant Street.

The building has been demolished. I'm afraid the new one being built now will not look very nice.

1940s - 1970s
Silver Grill Jazz Club of Barr Street

Once Rangoon's top night spot: the Silver Grill at 82 Barr Street (now Mahabandula Garden Street), a black-tie restaurant and jazz club that was popular with foreigners and Burmese alike both before and after WW2 (and with Japanese officers during the war). Originally owned and managed by the Armenian Peter Aratoon, it later became the State Commerical Bank. The building was demolished, I think in the 1970s (please correct me if anyone knows). This painting was painted by Mr Godley...

One of Yangon's most beautiful homes

A priceless treasure. One of Yangon's most beautiful homes at 86 Natmauk (formerly Park Road). It is said to be once owned by ICS U Kyin.

A photo of the old Royal Hotel

This is a photo of the old Royal Hotel at 619 Merchant Street between Brooking Street and 42nd Street (now the Gamon Pwint shopping centre between Bogalay-zay St and 42st). It was once considered the best in Rangoon together with the Strand and Minto Mansions. At least the building is still standing.

Shafraz Road Rangoon c. 1920.

Shafraz Road is now "Bank Street". The building on the left has been replaced by the Bank of India (later Central Bank and now Myawaddy Bank, soon to be the new Stock Exchange).The Court House on the right was remade into the "New Law Courts" and the Treasury (divided by a WW2 bomb) is now the Pensions Office and the District Court.

Dalhousie Road (now Mahabandoola Road) c. 1940, near Theingyi-zay (originally the Sooratee Burra Bazaar

Merchant Street (Rangoon) c. 1980. (photo credit: Constance Wilson)

Rangoon's Ritz cinema c. 1961

The cinema was located at the corner of Sule Pagoda Road and Bogyoke Aung San Street (now the Sakura).

When it was good to take a side-car. (Corner of Pansodan and Strand Road, 1995)

Hledan before Hledan Center

April 1661
Somewhere at the bottom of the Yangon River: the "Koning David" ship

Somewhere at the bottom of the Yangon River: The "Koning David" a Dutch "East Indiaman" (ship) that had sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia and then to Pegu before sinking just off the coast of what is today Yangon in April 1661. The ship belonged to the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company) and its captain was Kornelis Rob of Amsterdam. The enterprising Dutch then had a fairly substantial business operation in Myanmar (Burma), with offices...

Yangon c. 1760.

The map shows the old town to be more or less an island, with the Sule Pagoda across a bay on a small promontory to the north. The town was surrounded by teak stockade 12 feet high, with several gates and two brick roads (the Shwedagon Pagoda Road and Minister's Road) both eventually leading to the Shwedagon (with forests and tigers in between).The old town included (Portugese) Roman Catholic and Armenian churches as well as a mosque, and a governor's...

1824 - 1850s
Sule Pagoda c. 1824

The Sule Pagoda prior to British rule was on an island, connected to the 'old town' of Yangon by a wooden bridge. The old town in the 1820s (running approximately from today's Sule Pagoda Road to Theinbyu and down to Strand Road) included the Governor's (Myowun) residence, a custom's house, Roman Catholic and Armenian churches, several mosques, and the homes of government officials and foreign traders.In the 1850s British planners drained the area and created the grid pattern of streets...

Tiger Alley

Before the flyover: the part of U Wisara Road that extends north from Dhammazedi (formerly Boundary Road) was in British times called "Tiger Alley". It was the main path that lead from Rangoon to Kemmendine (or Kyimindaing - then a separate village). This is the first photograph of Tiger Alley, taken in 1855 by the photographer Linnaeus Tripe, who accompanied the British embassy to King Mindon later that year. It was called "Tiger Alley" because in the 1850s is was...