If the Funny Names Blog existed in 1850, it would have been a big blog, because back then everyone had amazing names. Well, actually it wouldn’t exist at all, because they didn’t have blogs yet, but perhaps it would have been an exceptionally thick book of nominal wonderment.
One of the people requiring a few pages of said book would have been Sir Stamford Raffles. Among his many accomplishments, he was involved in the British war effort against the Dutch in the island of Java in Indonesia. Sir Raffles was joined in the leadership of the campaign by Admiral Robert Stopford, General Frederick Augustus Wetherall and, best of all, Colonel Rollo Gillespie. Together these finely named men won the war in 44 days and stabilized the region.
Stamford Raffles is probably best known as the “father of Singapore”, as he was a key figure in its founding in 1819. He was closely involved in drafting the nation’s constitution, which among other things outlawed slavery. This was in 1823. He was also heavily involved in designing the city, engaging in perhaps the very first modern attempt at urban planning. His other accomplishments included the founding of the Zoological Society of London and the London Zoo, as botany and zoology were his major passions in life.
There was much to admire in Sir Raffles. He was an opponent to the slave trade at a time when this was not a common position, particularly as he was a Briton doing much of his work in the Far East. Amazingly, after he died he was refused burial in his local parish church because of his opposition to slavery, as the vicar’s family had made their fortune in the Jamaican slave trade. And the church is always right, as history has shown.
The respect towards Raffles can be seen in the number of things named after him, from the Latin names of seven species of plants and animals (including the Olive-Backed Woodpecker and the Red-Crowned Barbet – watch our for them in the forthcoming sister blog, “Funny Bird Names”), ten different educational institutions and numerous landmarks in Britain and in Asia. Perhaps most impressively (or not), Singapore Airlines business class is named “Raffles Class”. So now you know.