Culture

What happened in January according to Sarawak history?

Patricia Hului

Did you know that the name January comes from the Roman god, Janus? He is always depicted with two heads with one head looking back on the year before and the other looking forward to the brand new year.

Let us look back into Sarawak history and see what happened in the month of January:

Jan 22, 1851: Consecration of St Thomas’s Church Kuching

Bishop Daniel Wilson

The first Anglican missionary, Reverend Francis Thomas McDougall first arrived in Sarawak in 1848.

He came here on the invitation of the first White Rajah of Sarawak James Brooke.

Brooke gave the missionary a hill covered in dense jungle to build a church upon.

McDougall started the construction of a wooden church to accommodate up to 250 people.

On Jan 22, 1851, the Bishop of Calcutta, Daniel Wilson consecrated the church in honour of St Thomas the Apostle.

Bishop Francis McDougall

Jan 4, 1856: Sarikei was burned down by the Ibans from Julau

The Ibans from Julau resisted the Brooke government and on Jan 4, 1856, the so-called rebels burnt down Sarikei bazaar.

In response, James Brooke set up a fort in Sarikei in the same month to suppress the upriver Iban people.

It was built to serve Brooke allies led by locals Abang Ali and Abang Asop.

Jan 19, 1864: Britain recognises Sarawak as an independent state

As part of Britain’s recognition of Sarawak as an independent state, the British appointed George Thorne Ricketts as the first consul.

Ricketts was a former soldier who served with the British army in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from 1849 until his retirement from the army in 1858.

Prior taking up the job as a consul in Sarawak in 1864, Ricketts worked in the consulate at Monastir (now Bitola in the Republic of Macedonia) and as the acting consul-general at Belgrade, Serbia.

He worked in Sarawak for two years before he was transferred to Manila in 1866.

Jan 3, 1876: Second Gambier and Pepper Proclamation issued

Chinese farmers had been planting pepper and gambier in west Sarawak way before 1870s.

To further encourage these agricultural activities, Charles Brooke issued a proclamation regarding the gambier and pepper plantation in January 1876.

The proclamation offered gambier and pepper planters 99 years leaseholds at nominal rentals.

The second White Rajah also waived export duty and on pepper and gambier for the following twelve years for those who brought their own capital to Sarawak.

Jan 13, 1884: Belaga Fort completed

On Jan 13, 1884, the Belaga Fort was officially declared completed by the Brooke government.

It was later named Fort Vyner after the third White Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke.

Jan 20, 1884: The Great Fire of Kuching

On Jan 20, 1884 at 1:05 am, a big fire started from the intersection between Attap Street (present day Carpenter Street) and China Street.

The fire continued to spread and consumed much of the shophouses.

Only at 6am, the fire was put out by rain.

In the end, a total of 160 shophouses were burnt.

Jan 3, 1885: Cession of Trusan to Sarawak

Trusan river was the first district within the Fifth Division to be acquired by the Brooke in early 1885.

Reportedly, 20 Sarawak produce collectors went to Trusan to buy some jungle produce a year earlier. They were killed by the Murut people there.

The Sarawak government complained to the Sultan of Brunei but the sultan said he could not do anything about it.

Instead, the Sultan ordered the holder of tulin (hereditary private property) rights in Trusan to surrender the area for an annual payment of $4,500.

Then in 1885, the Trusan river basin was officially ceded to Sarawak.

Jan 1, 1897: Dog licensing introduced in Kuching

Also in January 1897, Sarawak dollar was worth one shilling and eleven pence.

January 1899: Cambridge expedition to Torres Straits visits Limbang and Baram

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

A small group of Cambridge scholars led by the anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon arrived in Sarawak as guests of Charles Hose, the then resident of the Baram district.

During their expedition, they took hundreds of photos of the people and places of the Baram, Limbang, Brunei and Kuching.

They even caught the famous Marudi peace-making ceremony 1899 in photos.

It is reported these rare photos of Sarawak have remained in storage at the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Alfred Cort Haddon

January, 1901: Arrival of the first Foochow immigrants in Sibu

In May 1900, Christian scholar Wong Nai Siong acted as the harbour master to signed a resettlement contract with the Brooke government.

By September that year, he began recruiting villagers to immigrate to Sibu.

Then on Dec 23, 1900, the first batch of 91 Foochow immigrants departed for Sibu.

They arrive in January 1901. However, some of them changed their minds during the journey leaving only 72 people arrived in Sibu.

January, 1905: The cession of Lawas

Charles Brooke signed an agreement with British North Borneo Company (BNBC) which saw the official handover of Lawas river to the Brooke government in exchange of 5000 pounds and several administrative areas around Brunei Bay to BNBC.

BNBC had obtained the administrative rights of the Lawas river from Brunei Sultanate on Sept 7, 1901 in order to stop the smuggling of weapons against the BNBC government in North Borneo.

Jan 13, 1928: Simanggang bazaar destroyed by fire

Simanggang bazaar was destroyed by fire on Jan 13, 1928. Then, a new bazaar consisting of 48 shops was completed in December 1929.