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Charles Hose and his love affair with Sarawak

Fort Hose Marudi 1
A plaque at Fort Hose marking the date it was opened in Marudi.

Fort Hose in Marudi was named after Charles Hose, the then Resident of Baram.

Born in 1863 in Hertfordshire, he was the son of clergyman Thomas Charles Hose.

As a young man, he continued his study at Cambridge University but never completed his degree.

With the help of his uncle, George Frederick Hose, the bishop of Singapore, Sarawak and Labuan, Hose landed a job in the Sarawak civil service.

The fort – now officially renamed and repurposed as the Baram Regional Museum –  is a significant remnant of the Brooke era in Sarawak which ended about 80 years ago.

Apart from his work as a British administrator, Hose contributed a great deal to Sarawak as a zoologist and ethnologist.

Hose and his love for nature

Hose lived in Sarawak for 24 years and spent his free time researching natural history and ethnography.

He enjoyed exploring the rainforest and became an avid collector of plants and animals.

His collection can be found in the British Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge.

An amateur photographer, Hose also captured photos showcasing people and scenery of Sarawak.

To commemorate his work as a zoologist, several species were named after him including Hose’s frog (Odorrana hosii), Hose’s tree frog (Philautus hosii), Hose’s palm civet (Diplogale hosei) and many more.

Fort Hose Marudi 2
Some of the photographs taken by Charles Hose himself displayed at Baram Regional Museum.

Hose and the birth of Baram Regatta

During the Brooke administration, fights among tribes were rampant in the Baram region.

Hose decided to hold a peace conferenceat his fort in April 1899 which led to the birth of the first Baram Regatta.

The regatta, a longboat competition among the tribes, is still continued to this day. Only now it includes other activities such as cultural performances, beauty pageants and so much more.

After his 18-year service in Marudi, he was promoted to serve the supreme council of Sibu.

There, he also helped in peace negotiations between Iban rebels in 1904 and warring Ibans from the Rajang and Batang Lupar in 1907.

Hose and the Kelabit people

According to former headmaster and author Sagau Batubala, the name Kelabit was a misnomer Hose had given to the people living in the highlands south of Mount Murud.

As Resident, part of his responsibilities included listing down all the races living in Baram.

When a group of villagers paid a courtesy call to the newly appointed Resident in his office at Fort Hose in 1901, Hose asked them where they were from, which leader of the group answered “Pa’ Labid”, the name of their village.

Dutifully, he then asked them what their races were, to which the leader answered “Orang Pa’ Labid.”

Hose was believed to have misheard the word ‘Pa’ Labid’, writing it down in his record book as ‘Kalabit’.

From that moment on, Kalabit became the race name for the ethnic community we now know as Kelabit.

A side view of Fort Hose.
After being razed to the ground, Fort Hose was rebuilt according its original dimensions. The fortress as it stands today.

Hose and the discovery of oil in Miri

Hose is cited by Rasoul Sorkhabi in GEOExpro, a petroleum geoscience magazine, to have played a significant role in the discovery of oil in Miri.

After his appointment as the Resident of Baram, Hose started mapping oil seeps in and around Miri.

He reportedly gave his findings to the Brooke government, but an English consultant geologist said an oil exploration in Sarawak was a no-go because of its poor logistical conditions.

Hose then retired and returned to England where he whosed his map of oil seeps to Charles Brooke.

The late Rajah gave his permission to continue the exploration, so Hose went to discuss the idea with Anglo-Saxon Petroleum, a part of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

The meeting was a success and Charles later signed the first Sarawak Oil Mining Lease in 1909.

Eventually due to the rapid oil discovery activity, the Resident’s Office was moved from Marudi to Miri in 1912.

A portrait sketch of Charles Hose. Credit: Public Domain.
A sketch portrait of Charles Hose. Credit: Public Domain.

Hose and his many publications

Hose spent his retirement in Norfolk writing about Sarawak and its people.

Some of his significant publications are ‘The Pagan Tribes of Borneo’ (1912), ‘Natural Man’ (1926), and his memoir ‘Fifty Years of Romance and Research, or, a Jungle-Wallah at Large’ (1927).

He died at the Hutton Nursing Home in 1929.

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