Marudi is a quiet town in Sarawak famous for its kueytiaw noodles.
But did you know this town was once called Claudetown (sometimes spelled as Claude Town) not Marudi?
It was named Claudetown after Claude Champion de Crespigny who was the Resident of Baram district.
Who was Claude Champion de Crespigny?
An initial Google search of Claude Champion de Crespigny will lead you to Wikipedia page describing a British soldier and polo player. (This de Crespigny, however, committed suicide in 1910 at the age of 37.)
Marudi’s de Crespigny was born in 1829 to Reverend Heaton Champion de Crespigny and his wife Caroline.
He joined the Royal Navy in 1844 and became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain.
Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah appointed him as the Resident of the Fourth Division (Baram and Trusan) in 1883.
Before that, he was the Resident of the Third Division (Rejang, Oya, Mukah, Matu and Bintulu).
His administration was made up of two junior officers, 30 rangers and a few native police officers.
In 1882, de Crespigny recorded in his diary that there were 18 hand-dug oil wells at the mouth of Miri river.
He noticed that the locals mixed the oil with resin to caulk their boats.
The Brooke government didn’t put more thought to this observation until de Crespigny’s successor Charles Hose came along.
de Crespigny died on Dec 28, 1884.
Claudetown in the 1880s
The first foundation of Claudetown was laid on July 19, 1882.
In 1885, Charles Brooke visited Claudetown and it already had 45 attap shophouses.
The population throughout the whole of Baram area back then was mainly made up of the Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan, Berawan, Kiput, Sebop, and Seping.
The first group of Chinese immigrants who arrived in town were the Hokkien.
They came down from Kuching in 1882 to trade.
By 1888, there were 300 Hokkiens and Teochews living in Claudetown.
Then in 1905, a Malay named Dato Sharif Hamid from Simanggang (known today as Sri Aman) introduced rubber planting in the area. Now, there is a primary school SK Dato Sharif Hamid named after him.
From Claudetown to Marudi
So why did Claudetown change its name to Marudi?
According to Miri’s official government website, it was later renamed to Marudi after a small river flowing through the town.
But local historian Chang Pat Foh had a more amusing story behind the name Marudi.
After the discovery of oil in Miri, the administrative centre of the Fourth Division was relocated from Claudetown to Miri.
Miri people back then used to tease those from Claudetown in the Iban language, “Malu dek, Kubu Claudetown udah pindah ngagai Miri.” (How embarassing for you, your fort has been moved to Miri).
Then, slowly people started to call the town “Malu dek” which eventually became Marudi.