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How the officiating day of Kuching Old Courthouse went down in 1874

After the second White Rajah Charles Brooke ascended the throne in 1868, he started to look for the administrative center for Sarawak government.

He then picked the current location of Kuching Old Courthouse.

The construction started in 1868 and completed in 1874.

When it was finally officiated in 1874, the courthouse was one of the most majestic buildings in Sarawak.

Even though it is widely known as the old courthouse, the building housed several government agencies back in those days.

An unnamed writer wrote an article how the courthouse was officiated more than 100 years ago in The Sarawak Gazette on June 7, 1949, and here how it went:

Kuching was a gay place on the June 3, 1874; it was a fine day and the town was suitably beflagged.

At 8am a salute of 21 guns was fired from the Fort and all vessels in port were dressed overall whilst the firing of crackers and banging of guns continued throughout the morning.

The day was the birthday of His Highness the second Rajah and the big event was the opening of the new government offices, the same offices which are in use today.

A guard of honor composed of men of the Sarawak Rangers was mounted in the corridor of the court house and the opening ceremony was carried out by Captain William Henry Rodway, Acting Resident of Sarawak, ably supported by the Datu Bandar.

After the opening ceremony the health of Their Highnesses the Rajah and Ranee was proposed by Captain Rodway, there was another 21 gun salute, more crackers, more firing, and obviously a good time was had by all.

In the evening there was dinner at the Rajah’s Arms Hotel and the proceedings were enlivened by the band of the Sarawak Rangers who plated by kind of permission of the Commandment.

The new government offices took no less than seven years to build and they are described by a contemporary as being “a very handsome plain building suitable for the purpose; and if boasting of no great architectural beauty, is free from blemishes and bad taste and is not an eyesore.”

The courtroom measured 64 feet by 42 feet, the roof was open, and lined with wood deeply stained, which, with the heavy rafters and belian beams showing, all dark stained, gave a handsome, grave and heavy appearance suited to a court.

Adjoining and behind the dais was the Resident’s office, 22 feet square and next to that was another room occupied by the Government Printing Press.

At the end of the building, were four fine lofty rooms; the Treasury, the Post Office, the Audit Office and the Shipping being accommodated in them.

And there you have all the Government offices in Kuching in 1874.

Kuching Old Courthouse in 2019.

It would be interesting to celebrate the anniversary of Kuching Old Courthouse every June 3 to promote the conservation of the building. What do you think KajoMag readers?

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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