Colonial Singaporeans Celebrated April Fools’ Day Too!

With April Fools’ day just a couple of day away, this seems like an apt revelation as any! Newly recovered documents that dated to the founding of Singapore in the 1800s have shown that the the pranking traditions of April Fools’ wasn’t just alive and well back then, it was encouraged even, with prominent members of society partaking in it!

Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it?!

Believe it!

One of the earliest examples of this tomfoolery was credited to none other than William Farquhar himself, sent in 1821. Part of a recently unearthed find of old letters previously though lost from the British Museum, the letters showed that April Fools’ isn’t just a new tradition!

April Fool's

In the letter sent to the King of Riau, Farquhar mentions how he had fooled his assistants with practical jokes involving both the King of England, the Church of England and the East India Company.

Farquhar talks about how he spiked the communal wells with strong rum, making villagers drunk without realizing it. Other hysterics Farquhar participated in (or directed), including making an official decree that all employees of the East India Company turned up to work dressed in their nightwear and making it so that seashells were paid as wages instead of the local currency.

While these may seem like relatively tame subjects to us, back in the 1800s, these were the holy trinity of untouchables. You simply do not make jokes about your liege, your religion and your company!

In fact, April Fools’ doesn’t seem to be a uniquely Western (in this case, English) phenomenon. It seems like Farquhar’s antics also inspired other figures of the time to do similarly, as described by the Sultan of Brunei in this letter to Farquhar from 1821.

April Fool's

The Sultan of Brunei mentioned how he made his closest advisers panic by suggesting that he wanted to abdicate the throne and hand over the reigns to the firstborn daughter of a random family.

For nearly a week he kept the ruse up, resulting in his most senior confidants contemplating a violent rebellion and coup d’etat.

Ironically, that worked out well for him, as he had suspicions that some in his inner circle weren’t as loyal to him as he’d like. The ‘joke’ actually highlighted the disloyal advisers, which made it easier for him to ‘replace’ them.

Oh yeah…that took a dark turn quick.

You know what all this proves?

That you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet…because not a single thing in this post is real!

Happy April Fools’!

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