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10 stories in The Sarawak Gazette that made us go “What the?!”

If you have been following KajoMag, you’ll know that we love The Sarawak Gazette.

The gazette was a pet project of the Second White Rajah Charles Brooke established in 1870.

Its first issue dated Aug 26, 1870 featured a summary of Reuter’s telegrams on the Franco-Prussian War in a three-page leaflet.

The Sarawak Gazette is an important part of Sarawak history as it contained information on commodity prices, agricultural information, anthropology, archeology and so much more.

Amidst these everyday topics, there are some news in these old publications that can leave one perplexed, and amused.

Here are 10 news (at least!) in The Sarawak Gazette that made us go “What the?!”
1.The man who was deported from Sibu (February 1, 1928)

Philip Hu a species of Christian Scientist or revivalist came from Singapore and held religious meetings but his ritual upset his converts especially the women that he was deported at the request of the leading Foochows.

2.A machine to attract male mosquitoes to their deaths? (February 1, 1932)

Professor Eliher Thomson, General Electric wizard, has found a death lure for mosquitoes that would be perfect if the female of the species were not more wary than the male. Discovery of a device that imitates the hum of the female mosquito lures millions of males to death, he says, but the female won’t give it a glance. And the sad part is the female is the one that stings. And what is now needed is for some one to tune a motor to sing in the baritone of a male mosquito and the problem is solved.

3.This Sarawak Gazette ad disguised as a PSA against pipe smokers (March 1, 1932)

Pipe Smokers Beware!!
Death lurks in disease-forming tobacco habit
Pause, consider
Examine your pipe mouthpiece under a microscope!!
Just imagine what germs lurk in its dark hollows, so close to your Lips, Gums, Teeth
Are they already infected?
Are you a social menace??
Do you notice people draw away from you?

Statistics show you have but little chance of escape from dread sino-escholtzia which takes it toll of four out of five adults over the critical age of 20.

Your only chance lies in our free treatment. Thousand cured-millions of testimonials- a crossing sweeper writes “I suffered for years and tried everything.

No one would think of crossing at my crossing. I was destitute. Then I tried your treatment two years ago and since then have used no other. (Original letter can be seen if required).

Cut out the coupon carefully, using the dotted line, with a pair of nail scissors, a sharp knife or cigar cutters and post NOW together with 3/6 in stamps (obtainable at any Post Office) and we will send you free illustrated booklet entitled.

4.“Build a longhouse together or get fined!” (February 1, 1929)

Tamanok Uyaw, of Kuala Medalam, complained that his people are scattering and will not agree to come together and build one house. He was told he may order them to build a house of about 15 doors near the site of Tama Suling’s old house, and to warn them that they would be fined if they did not obey his orders.

5.That time when the Public Work Department’s motor roller (or in this case, the horse) fell into the Sarawak river (May 1, 1929)

That rare phenomenon, a runaway roller, was observed on the 11th, when one of the PWD motor rollers took a bit in his teeth and bolted down the causeway known as Pengkallan Sapi and fell in the water. Whether he mistook the river for Becher’s Brook or the Canal Corner, it is not certain, but he is evidently not the stuff Aintree horses are made of.

6.When cattle were the casualties on the road (December 2, 1929)

Another valuable head of cattle belonging to the Government Dairy Farm was so seriously injured by a motor bus the other day it had to be destroyed.

Although in this case it was not altogether the fault of the driver, it is noticed that motor vehicles never go slow when passing the Government Farm. Notices are being put up 50 yards from either side of the entrance asking drivers to observe this rule.

7.‘Tiga ekor’ versus ‘Tiga buah’ (May 1, 1931)

On the 13th a squadron of three flying boats commanded by Squadron-Leader Livock arrived at Pending, leaving for Brunei early on the 15th.

The flying boats circled over Kuching before landing, and their arrival was announced by our domestic staff “downing dishes” with a glad cry of — “Ah! Datang tiga ekor!” Since aeroplanes of all kinds are referred to by Malays either as Kapal bilun or kapal terbang, surely datang tiga buah would have been correct; we referred the point to our leading Malay purists, who regretfully came to the conclusions that the inhabitants of Kuching do not know their own language. What a pity.

8.When the lottery first came to Sarawak (March 1, 1941)

Shortly after the drawing of the first Sarawak Lottery, an old Chinese appeared in the Chinese Secretariat, produced three tickets, and complained that the shop from which he had bought them had refused to give him his prize. A list of the winning numbers was brought and when it was pointed out to him that none of his tickets had been drawn he said, quite seriously with great emphasis, “That is very strange!” Then he thought for a moment, and added philosophically, “Well, I suppose there’s nothing for it but to go and get my three dollars back”.

9.In an article entitled ‘Police Cause Riots’ (May 1, 1935)

According to the Birmingham Mail, the Dyak Police employed to direct the traffic in Sandakan, North Borneo, were the cause of so much fighting among Dyaks of other tribes, who resented their position, that they were relieved of duty and replaced by imported Indians.

10.“A Perilous Mistake” (October 2, 1922)

An American scientist nearly hanged himself on the bedpost by means of his braces. It is believed that in a fit of absent mindedness he mistook himself for his trousers.

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Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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