I found an interesting journal written by one Marshall Creswell who traveled to Sarawak sometime in 1856. The document is freely circulating in the internet, so I'm going to reproduce it here and I will highlight parts that I found interesting. For your information, I downloaded the document from www.scribd.com.
So, join me for a trip to Sarawak of old -
Credit of course to the original author and to Mr Martin Laverty who transcribed and annotated this piece. Annotation at the bottom of page.
Credit of course to the original author and to Mr Martin Laverty who transcribed and annotated this piece. Annotation at the bottom of page.
as serialised in the Newcastle Courant, 18th January - 12th April, 18781
From Dudley Colliery to Borneo
by Marshall Cresswell
In the latter part of December, 1856, while working at a pit in the course of sinking near Sherburn Station3, in the County of Durham, I heard of my employer (the late Wm.Coulson4) wanting three or four sinkers5 to go to Borneo on an engagement for three years. Not knowing whether it was east, west, north, or south, nor even caring a great deal, I resolved to apply for the situation, and after two or three interviews with our junior employer, I was duly engaged to go on an expedition in a land I had never even heard of before. When the first week in January had passed, I learned that the vessel I was to go with was chartered to sail from London about 1st or 2nd of February, and in the interval I made all sorts of inquiries about the distance it was, and how long it would take us to go, and what sort of clothes we would need, and several similar matters which I thought might be of interest to me. As January was drawing to a close, I left Sherburn to spend a few days with my father and mother, who were living at Dudley Colliery6, leaving my address with Mr Coulson, who arranged to send me word when I was to proceed to London. The 1st of February passed and the 2nd came, but with no word for me to take my departure.
Impatiently I waited till the 6th, when I received a letter stating that I was to go to Durham, and thence to London. After bidding my father and mother adieu, and shaking hands with my brothers, sisters, and neighbours, I left Dudley as though I had been going to a neighbouring colliery to work. I reached Durham at five o'clock in the evening and saw Mr Coulson, who supplied me with money to pay my fare to London, and wishing me God speed in my journey, and every success on arriving at my destination, I thanked him kindly and bid him good bye. I left Durham at 7.40 P.M. By express, changing at Belmont, and was comfortably seated in a second-class carriage till I reached York. There I again changed carriages, and was told that I would change no more till I arrived at King's Cross. On our arrival at Peterborough, the guard told us there would be ten minute's stay for the engine to get water and passengers refreshment. I thereupon entered the refreshment room, where a young lady was in attendance. Taking up a small orange I asked the price, “Twopence, sir,” was the reply. I laid down the money, and at the same time said, “Wey, hinney, aw cud a'bowt five like that in Newcassel for tuppence.”7 We were soon all reseated, and a shriek from the engine's whistle announced we were again in motion for the great Metropolis.
At times I had the compartment to myself, and at other times a half-dozen or eight fellow passengers. I did not care to talk to any of them, as few of them seemed to understand the Tyneside vernacular; so I now and again let a little spirits down to keep my spirits up, often wondering how much further I had to go before I reached London. As my watch indicated the hour of five A.M. I found I had safely arrived at King's Cross. On walking outside the station I engaged a cab to drive me to No. 9. Mincing Lane, and in less than half an hour I was standing at the office door of the Borneo Company (Limited)8. All being shut up, and being rather weary, I went to an inn close by and got a bed, and after having four hours' rest I went to the company's office, and met with two of my fellow-passengers, who had been sent by Mr Coulson, and who were then arranging with the company's secretary for lodgings till the vessel was ready to sail. He gave us a note to go to the London Dock eating house, where we had everything we could wish for; and, after doing ample justice to the good things offered us, we spent the most of the day on board the Gwalior9, the ship we were to go with, which was lying in London Dock, taking in stores, water, &c., and making preparations to sail. After purchasing various articles that were necessary for the passage, such as soap, bed, bed-clothes, and a few light clothes for tropical wear, we finished the day in the enjoyment of the social glass.
Next morning being Sunday, after breakfast the three of us from Durham engaged a man to take
us up to the West End; and, taking a boat at London Bridge, we were soon at Westminster, viewing from the river the dome of St.Paul's, Barclay and Perkins's Brewery, and several other places which were interesting to see. On getting our feet again on terra firma, we proceeded to view the Houses of Lords and Commons, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, where we heard a portion of an excellent sermon. On leaving there we wended our way into Pall Mall, where our guide pointed out the residence of the Duke of Cambridge, Northumberland House, and several residences of some of the highest gentlemen in our land. Trafalgar Square was the next place which was most interesting to us – to look at the monuments in commemoration of the greatest warriors England ever produced. The remainder of the day was spent in roving anywhere our guide chose to take us; and towards night we landed back at our lodgings weary and fatigued.
On the Monday morning we all met at the company's office, and found there were two miners from Airdrie, and a lawyer belonging London, in addition to the three of us from Durham, which made six passengers altogether. We all got our agreements signed and stamped, and were informed that the vessel was then on her way to Gravesend, and we were to go by train, and enter into our new floating place of abode, where we were told she would be lying at anchor. The six of us walked over London Bridge, and booked for Gravesend, where, on our arrival, as we walked out the station, we were accosted by six or eights stalwart-looking watermen with, “What vessel do you want?” I whispered to one of our party, “They've shoorly nawn we were comin'.” On replying we wanted the Gwalior, they all with one voice said they knew where she was lying.
We bargained with two of them (who were mates, and most likely to take care of us) to give them 6s. to carry us safe on board. Our party now consisted of eight, and the hours of postmeridian not being far spent, we went to a respectable hotel to have a drop of that which cheers as well as inebriates, as we thought it would be some time before another similar opportunity was offered to us. Although we all indulged rather freely, the watermen did not render themselves incapable of performing the duty they had taken in hand, and at seven o'clock we were all safe on board the Gwalior, there to stay until we reached some foreign land we knew not whither.
25th January. From London to Rio de Janeiro – II
The next morning we expected to weigh anchor and set sail, but were detained in consequence of some slight mistake in our captain's manifest, but enjoyed ourselves very much all day looking at the number of ships and steamboats that passed up and down the river. Our bill of fare being fresh meat and soft bread, with other things to correspond, we thought if that was to be our diet we should be the happiest men alive. The following morning, at daybreak, our captain came on board, and brought with him a strong, robust, weather beaten, respectable-looking man, who seemed to have weathered the gales of fifty winters. We soon learned he was the pilot, and after partaking of breakfast he took his stand on the break of the poop, and with a voice that might terrify a nervous man, exclaimed, “All hands at the windlass.” I looked at him with amazement and said to one of my mates, “Aw say, Jerry, what dis he say?” He replied, “Noo, how is aw te knaw; aw understand nowt but English.” However, we soon found out what he had said, for in less than a minute every one of the sailors were on the forecastle, and dividing themselves equally at two handles, commenced to sing a song which was really delightful to hear, and might be heard a mile distant. After ten minutes singing and clanking of the windlass our vessel was floating down the river with the stream, and soon they had the anchor hanging at the bow of the ship.
Then was the time confusion commenced, and we passengers were glad to keep out of the way. The pilot certainly tested the strength of his lungs, and all hands seemed anxious to obey his orders. Not one of us landsmen understood a single word he said, and we were astonished to see the dexterous manner they spread the sails and put the yards in a position to suit the wind. As we glided down the river all hands seemed to be busy, and appeared to know their work. The first and second mates working as energetic as any man on board, the captain at the same time, remaining in his cabin, and did not appear to take any acting part whatever. I asked the steward the reason of the captain's absence, and he said we should not hear the captain give a single order while the pilot remained on board. Towards noon we were out of the Thames, and at night dropped anchor in Margate Roads where we lay till daybreak next morning, the clanking of the windlass and the sweet voices of the sailors again indicated preparations being made to resume our journey, and at eight o'clock A.M. We were gliding along before a steady breeze.
The steward brought us a list of our rations, which showed our allowance of porter was a quart per diem for each man, and two bottles of grog per week for the six of us. Dover soon appeared in sight, and the day being rather cloudy we could not see the coast of France, which we all had a desire to do. As we passed Dover and got into the English Channel, the pilot shouted from the poop, “Get your letters ready.” Being anxious to send another letter home, all of us that could write were hard at work till he was ready to leave us. As we one by one handed him our letters, his two men had his boat already alongside, and, wishing us a hearty good-bye, he stepped down a rope ladder into his boat, and on us giving him three cheers, he left us in charge of our captain and crew.
Brighton was then in sight, but in less than an hour we lost sight of land entirely. By this time we found out the real nature of our diet, and our Cockney companion (William Baulsam), who appeared to have never had any hardships to encounter, exclaimed in a very serious manner, “I can't tackle that there junk” (salt beef). My Durham mate (George Noble) said, “When thoo com here did thoo expect thoo wis comin tiy a London eating hoose?” “If I did, I'm suck'd in,” was the reply.
As we left the land of our birth behind us, we ceased to see ships, and our vessel soon began to ship seas, which made us remember the old adage, “It is not all plain sailing;” and we were told that we were in the Bay of Biscay, I could not conceive how they knew, as I saw nothing to indicate a bay at all, only a mountainous sea before us and an angry threatening sky above us. I thought if we were then in a bay, I did not care much about bays. On the 21 st of the month a French vessel hoved in sight, and the weather being a deal more favourable, our chief mate with four of his men lowered a boat and told us if we had letters ready he would try to get them sent home for us. We each sent a note with him only to be brought back and given to us, as the Frenchman would not take them. The 25th brought the islands Porto Santo and Madeira in sight, and at either we could have comfortably spent a few days had we been permitted to do so. On passing the Canary Islands we began to be highly interested in seeing large numbers of porpoises, dolphins, bonetas, and flying fish. The last seemed to be pursued by the dolphin and boneta, and would rise up in shoals like a flock of sparrows from a stackyard. On hearing the report of a gun, several of the fish flew on board our vessel, and were a dainty morsel to those who had the good fortune to pick them up. As we drew near the Equator, we were several days without having a breath of wind, and only at intervals on other days, when we had squalls, accompanied with heavy rain and terrific thunder and lightning, so that we had the disagreeable misfortune of being nearly three weeks in making a hundred miles advance, which certainly made it a weary, tedious passage.
On the 1st of April we crossed the equator, and had winds more favourable. On the 15th we passed the Island of Trinidad, and were spoken with by a vessel called the Emerald, bound for Falmouth, which our captain told to report us well. On the forenoon of the 19th, while we were enjoying the pleasure of a fresh breeze, and imagining everything was in our favour, the captain came on to the poop and called out, “Take in all stud sails and furl the royals.” This order had scarcely been obeyed when foretopmast, maintopmast, mizentopmast, and flying jibboom were all carried away with a tremendous crash. At that moment I thought destruction was to be our doom as I looked at the bulwark broken away by the fall of the huge heavy masts and the vessel nearly on her beam ends. This incident made me imagine I should never have any desire to be a sailor, as all the poor fellows were harassed till sunset in clearing away; and our captain decided that we should go to a port called Rio de Janeiro to get our vessel repaired. We were then 1,400 miles from it, and from the rate we were sailing at, minus our masts, we knew that it would be some time before we reached that place of refuge. On the 2nd of May, while at our dinners, we heard the joyful shout of “Land ahead.” We all rushed to the forecastle, and what we were told was land seemed to be be a mere speck on the water. As we got nearer it appeared larger, and at six o'clock, P.M., we were abreast Cape Frio.
Next day (May 3rd) we were safely anchored in the port of Rio de Janeiro.
1st Feb III
The next morning we were sadly disappointed to know we could not get ashore until the Customs officers came on board our vessel, and we had to remain where we were until the morning of the 5th, when our captain took us ashore in his own boat. We first of all sought to change our English money into Brazilian coin, where each of us got nine milreis for a sovereign. We then resorted to a hotel, and as brandy was the same price as rum and whisky, we fancied that stimulant as a refreshment. After the six of us has consumed two or three bottles we felt its mighty influence, and proceeded to have a look through the town. We had not gone far until we came to a crowd of people, and ascertained that the occasion was eight human beings being disposed of by public roup10. We did not feel inclined to bid for such merchandise, neither did we feel disposed to stand to see who the purchasers were, but proceeded on, and were delighted to see the handsome orange, banana, and several other trees in front of the houses, and to enjoy the fragrance that proceeded from the fruit thereon. As we grew tired with walking we again had recourse to hotel comfort, and to use the words of a local song I have written11 on the subject
Aw lost maw mates and senses tee
Bi strolling bi mawsel man;
An where aw went or what aw did
Aw really cannot tell man
Two blackies fand me in the street,
An gat us up on te maw feet.
When aw began to cum aboot,
Aw fand maw pockets cleen cut out;
Maw watch and money awl was gyen;
The byuts fra off maw feet was tyen,
At Rio de Janeiro.
Had I been found on the streets of Newcastle in that position, I have no doubt I should have been mulcted12 in the penalty of ten shillings and costs. Not so with those natives of a strange land. They seemed more to sympathise with me, and took me to a place I thought was the police station, spread a mat and signed for me to lie down. As I could not tell a word they said, I had the pleasure of spending the remainder of the night on the soft side of the flags.
At daybreak my friends acquitted me with a courteous shake of the hand, and in my stockinged feet I wended my way to the hotel where we had first enjoyed ourselves, and there found four of my mates who had each been enjoying a comfortable bed. I was fortunate enough to have a pocket inside my waistcoat where I had my purse containing £5 10s. In gold, and my first business was to purchase a pair of boots and hat, and after breakfast the five of us went out for another stroll through the town. We had gone but a short distance when we met our captain, who told us our other companion was on board before he left the vessel, minus his duplex lever watch and guard, topcoat, and money. I then thought I had little reason to complain at my loss.
We spent that day without the aid of any of the liquid which we had indulged so freely the day before, and towards night we went on board our vessel as respectable looking as we had left it the morning before. Next morning we passengers commenced to work on board along with seven slaves our captain had engaged, for the purpose of removing the cargo from the after part to midship. We were to have two milreis per day, equal to 4s. 6d. In English money. On the Sunday following we again went ashore, and visited the interior of the Emperor's chapel, and after 10 o'clock A.M. We were astonished to see the shops all opened, and business being transacted the same as any other day of the week. Respectable looking men playing at cards and dice in the street, bullocks drawing heavy laden carts, and niggers trotting through the streets with heavy loads on their shoulders, singing to the music of a rattle one of them, in front of the others, carried in his hand. On going to the base of the Sugar Loaf Mountain we saw large numbers of slaves blasting granite rock, saw mills were in full motion, and paviours repairing the streets, all of which showed that the Brazilians pay very little regard to the Sabbath. After spending a comfortable day viewing the town we got safe on board towards night.
We resumed work with the slaves next morning, and continued on the whole of the week. Our vessel was at length taken alongside the guardship to get the masts up. We passengers were paid for our work with the Brazilian paper money, which we had to take on shore to get changed, with considerable loss to ourselves. After leaving the guardship we lay alongside a French frigate, and on Sunday, the 24th of the month, as I sat looking over the bulwark admiring the beauty and fertile appearance of the Brazilian land, the frigate discharged one of her big guns right in my face. I rolled on the deck, and with a sigh, exclaimed, “Aw wonder if aw's ony warse.” I scarcely had gathered myself up till bang went another. I then thought it was time to take refuge in the half-deck. By that time off went another. I then inquired of the mate the reason of their firing upon us. “Oh,” said he laughing, “they're firing a royal salute in honour of Her Majesty's birthday.” After the frigate had discharged 21 guns, Her Majesty's ship Madagascar, which was about two cable lengths from us, fired 21 more. They then commenced at the fort and discharged 21 also. The Frenchmen's splendid band afterwards played “Rule Britannia,” and in return the Madagascar played the French National air.
Every day boat loads of oranges, bananas, pumpkins, melons, and other kinds of really delicious fruit came alongside our vessel, and we certainly all had our share of them while we were there. When our vessel had nearly got into its original form, the water tank came alongside and all the empty casks and tanks were filled with fresh water. On the 26th we were taken in tow by a steamboat, and in a few hours were again on the South Atlantic, and bade farewell to Rio de Janeiro.
We had a few days favourable wind till the beginning of June. Then for nearly a week we had a bitter foul wind blowing right in our teeth. On the 20th we had a strong gale to encounter, with the sea mountains high. Not a stitch of canvas was spread except the fore and maintopsails under close reef, and in this lamentable position we continued for twelve hours, the ship being pumped every two hours. At 7.30 P.M. It was discovered by the carpenter sounding the pump that our vessel had sprung a leak, and nearly two feet of water in the hold. All hands were immediately called out to the pump, and the poor sailors were kept busy till daybreak next morning, when they were all worn out with fatigue. The steward came into the halfdeck and said to us, “The captain wishes to speak to you passengers as soon as convenient.” After breakfast we went to his cabin and he began:- “Now, lads, you can see the fearful position we are in, and it is our duty, if possible, to keep the vessel afloat until we can reach some port. If she gets any worse I much fear we shall have to take to the boats and leave her to founder. I therefore ask each of you to lend a helping hand at the pump as our men are now all worn out with fatigue.”
We all with one voice promised we should assist at the pumps, and do what we could to assist the sailors. In the forenoon the wind abated. The pump was allowed to stand an hour, and it was found that the vessel had made nineteen inches water. Our captain then considered he would lighten her by casting away part of the cargo, which consisted chiefly of red iron. A cable chain, sixty fathoms in length, was the first article we threw overboard, and, in addition to that, we cast away 18 tons 15 cwt of iron that day, besides keeping the water out. Our captain told us he would proceed on to the Cape of Good Hope, as it was on our route. After we had cast away 59 tons 10 ½ cwt of cargo, the vessel was found to make only eight inches per hour. After this we were on duty night and day, with the sailors, to give assistance at the pumps. We then had very favourable weather, and had time to amuse ourselves by catching Cape pigeons13, with a morsel of fat pork and a pin tied to the end of a string, which we cast over the taffrail, and had no difficulty in dragging them on board when they swallowed the bait. The Cape pigeon is a pretty bird, and nearly the size of a duck. Had they been as delicious in taste, we might have had a few dainty dishes while drawing near the Cape for our half-deck resembled a farm-yard with the number we had walking about it. As they were not good for food, we soon tired of them. Albatrosses were very numerous, but are not so easy to capture. They are about the size of a goose, and, when their wings are spread, extend from twelve to eighteen feet. Like the Cape pigeons, they are useless for food. A few of them might meet with a welcome reception at Tynemouth Aquarium14, if any of the Shields captains would take the trouble to capture them.
On the 2nd of July we were overtaken by a strong gale, and were again under close-reefed topsail. It is almost inconceivable for any landsman to imagine how a vessel keeps above water in a gale of wind. To see mountains of water coming rolling towards you it makes a stranger feel as if the vessel would be buried to rise no more. The man at the wheel is most to be pitied in such cases. He has to have a strong rope tied round his body and lashed to the upright connected with the wheel, and at times he is entirely submerged. While he had this storm to encounter we were making only two or three knots an hour, and it was with difficulty we could manage to keep on our feet at the pump. On the morning of July 3rd Table Mount was in sight, and as the sea was nearly as rough as it was the day before, we had to keep from the land to save ourselves. Simon's Bay was the next port he suggested going to, but as the weather was no better there he said if we were clear of that land we could reach Singapore without having any more bad weather to encounter. As our vessel did not make any more water and he agreed to pay us the same wages as the sailors we were quite willing to assist at the pumps and proceed on our journey.
It may be better imagined than expressed to rise up day by day and see nothing but the sky above and the water beneath. We were in that position till August 12th, when a land called Christmas Island appeared in sight. Although we knew we should not stop at it, it cheered our hearts and reminded us we were yet in the land of the living. At 5 o'clock A.M. a voice from the forecastle called out, “land ahead.” On inquiring of the officers what land it was, we were told it was Java Head. The vessel was hove to till daybreak, when we entered the Straits of Sunda. On reaching the town of Anger, several boats came alongside our vessel with yams, sweet potatoes, pine apples, fowls, ducks, and even monkeys for sale. We got a good supply of eatables, which we considered a godsend, and which were really a treat, as we had been confined such a length of time to salt beef, pork, and maggoty bread. We had Sumatra at the north and Java at the south of us, and after passing through the Straits of Sunda, islands were so numerous that we had to drop anchor at sunset, and only sail in the day time.
On the 19th, after sailing a few miles, we saw a vessel ahead of us off the Island of Banca a total wreck, and while wondering if any lives had been lost, we ran aground ourselves off the Island of Sumatra. We learned afterwards that the wreck was a vessel called the Transit, and had been conveying 500 troops from Singapore to some port in China, and that no lives were lost15. About mid-day we found we were lying in eight feet of water, and our vessel drew15, so that we were compelled to lie till high water; and at six o'clock P.M., with the aid of the kedging anchor, we got our vessel off, and dropped anchor in 14 fathoms water. On the 22nd we again crossed the equator, and the rain poured down in torrents. The like of it I never saw in my life before. At a distance of about three miles we perceived two waterspouts. The next day we passed through the Straits of Rhio, and got a Malay pilot on board; and on the afternoon of the 24 th we were safely anchored in the harbour of Singapore.
We did not delay a minute, but engaged a boat to take us ashore, and found the company's director, Mr Harvey, in the office, from whom we met with a welcome reception. Mr Robert Coulson16 was also present, and took us to Captain Stainbank's bungalow, where we got comfortable lodgings. We were all so glad to have our feet once more on land that, after we had satisfied a craving appetite, we had a jaunt through the town, and being comfortably seated in the London Hotel we sat till a late hour talking of the adventures of the past. Next day we all went on board the Gwalior to bring our traps ashore, and had our dinners on board with the captain and mates. On the dishes being removed and glasses substituted, we drank success to the captain, officers, and crew, wishing they might have a taut ship and a fair wind home. We then shook hands with the whole ship's company and returned ashore, and went to the company's office to get arrangements made to proceed on to Borneo, as we had yet a distance of 500 miles to go. No one could give us any idea when we should get away, so we had to remain till we got further orders. We were told, however, what tropical clothing we wanted, and that we should have to get it there, as we could not get anything of the kind in Borneo. We accordingly all went to a tailor's shop, and ordered two dozen pairs of trousers each, two dozen shirts each, and numerous other articles, the buying of which we afterwards found was a great mistake, as we were charged twice their value. What household furniture we wanted, such as chairs, tables, chests, earthenware, and cooking utensils, we had to purchase as well. It was also found necessary to engage each a cook of the male sex, as one of the feminine was not to be had. In three or four days we were all ready for orders to proceed on to Borneo.
15th February. Singapore to Borneo
Every morning after breakfast we took a walk to the company's office in Commercial Square to hear if there was any word for us to take our departure; and having a small river to cross, we generally met ten or a dozen Bengalee boys inviting us to go in their boats, giving us a good assurance that theirs was best. On getting seated in the one we selected, the other boys would plunge into the water, having no wearing apparel to divest themselves of, for all were in a nude state, would swim after us like ducks. Generally being provided with a few quarter and half cents, we would throw them in the water for them to dive after, an in nine cases out of ten they would succeed in bringing them to the surface. The inhabitants of Singapore consist of persons from all over the world, including large numbers of English, and there are more Chinese than all other nations put together. At that time tigers were very numerous in the outskirts of the town, and it was almost a daily occurrence for a man or two to be missing, and nothing to indicate what had become of them. On reading a daily paper called the Bintang Timor, in the company's office one morning, I saw there had been two cows devoured in parks, and nothing left but the hoofs to tell the tale. There was a premium of twenty dollars given to any person who destroyed a tiger, and many went on the daring expedition more for sport than the prize.
When the mail boat arrives, which occurs twice a month, a flag is hoisted on the top of the hill which can be seen all over the town, and like wildfire the news is spread. It might be thought that something serious had happened as pedestrians are on their way from all parts of the town to the post office – two or three scores Malays, or Bengalees, with each a sack over their shoulder with the name of the firm they represent printed on, and after being shown inside the office they patiently wait till the name of their firm is called out. To see the sacks of newspapers and letters handed out it may well be wondered when they will be read.
On the morning of September 7th, we learned at the company's office that they had chartered a schooner called the Water Lily, to take us to the mouth of the Maratabas River, in Borneo. We soon got all our traps on board, and next day bade Captain and Mrs Stainbank good bye, went on board our new lodging, which was owned and commanded by Captain Bush; and on the morning of the 9th we glided away from Singapore with a steady breeze. On the 13th we arrived at the mouth of the river, where we got all our goods and chattels taken on shore, and left in charge of some Dyaks, who lived close by. The appearance of these natives was more curious than any we had yet seen. The women wore a skirt reaching from their waist to the knee, and that constituted the whole of the dress, and they looked anything but prepossessing. They were of low stature, and of dark copper colour, their lips had a filthy appearance, as we afterwards learned from eating Betel nut. The men's clothing is even less than the women's, for they go nearly naked. I thought if these were a specimen of the natives we should have a strange lot to deal with. Captain Bush, before leaving, had us sent away to Sarawak in two small boats managed by four of the natives, and after being six hours on the water, going at a rapid rate, we reached the town of Sarawak at two o'clock A.M. The men that had charge of us took us to Mr Tidman's house, the company's secretary for Sarawak, who got out of bed and made us as comfortable as he could.
In the morning, after breakfast, I had a letter handed to me from home, informing me of my father's death, which had taken place seven weeks after I left home. We were then informed of the fearful insurrection which had been going on in Sarawak, and had subsided only three months before. The Rajah's (Sir James Brooke) house had been burned to the ground. We were shown the site where it stood, and another was then nearly completed a short distance from it. He had had a handsome library of 2,000 volumes destroyed, besides every article of household furniture. He, along with his suite, fled into the jungle for their lives, and without any clothing save that which they had on their backs. A pair of trousers was made for the Rajah of Dyak cloth, which I now have in my possession. We were told the Chinese insurgents had gone into the house of an Englishman named Richard Millington, and murdered two of his children besides a young man they cruelly mutilated. The Dyaks were brought from all parts of Rajah Brooke's territory and fought like demons, not sparing a single Chinaman they met with; and after fifteen hundred of them had lost their heads peace was restored.
On the morning of the 15th the five of our party intended for the coal mine were sent away in a large boat to a place called Simunjun17 and the Cockney sawyer to a place called Santubong. We again reached the mouth of the Maratabas river, and got all our traps on board the boat and lay there all night. At day break we set off on our journey, and on going a short distance we saw a steam vessel coming towards us, which inquired of us if the Rajah was at home. We replied in the negative, and told them he was at Labuan. We afterwards learned that the vessel was a steam yacht the British Government was making a present of to the Emperor of Japan, and was on its way to that country with Commodore, now Admiral, Keppel on board. We were again soon on the open sea, and sailing along the coast all day till sunset we dropped anchor and lay till next morning when we entered the Sadong River. We admired the picturesque scenery as we sailed slowly up. Forest for miles in extent on both sides, and infested with thousands of monkeys, ourang-outangs, snakes, boa-constrictors, deer, wild hogs, and several other animals. In the afternoon, after being seven months and eight days from London, we arrived at Simunjun Mountain, the place of our destination.
The Simunjan mountain is two miles from the Sadong River, and arriving there we found our employer, Mr Peter Duguid, (a gentleman from Aberdeen), was at Labuan, with the Rajah Sir James Brooke. A man named Walter Harvey, who was left in charge of the mine, who directed us where to work till Mr Duguid's return. The whole of the miners were Chinamen, so were the joiners and blacksmiths, and the seam of coal they were working was at the base of the mountain, and varied in thickness from 18 inches to 5 or 6 feet, the quality of which was considered to be equal to any Newcastle coal. There was another seam near the top of the mountain, two feet in thickness with a considerable quantity of good saggar18 clay beneath it, which I would say may be worked to great advantage by any enterprising gentleman, who may think well to invest in such an undertaking. The mountain is about three miles in length and about two in breadth, so that the area is sufficient to guarantee its working of long duration. Moreover, I have no doubt that fifty or sixty fathoms of bore rods would find something worth sinking for. The top of the mountain is all jungle or forest, with trees of enormous size, several of which were gutta percha trees, and had been felled and bled for the valuable substance extracted from them. Iron wood trees are very plentiful, and I imagine would not be so easy to fell. Their diameter varies from four to eight or nine feet. I never saw one of them cut down. I tried my hand one day to cut a small piece off to send home in a letter, and after striking two or three blows, to my surprise I lost upwards of an inch from the blade of the axe without making an impression on the tree.
The whole of the Rajah's territory is an extensive jungle, containing hundreds of thousands of tons of valuable timber which may never be used by human hands, and I may say not more than one per cent of the land is cultivated, yet it is one of the most fertile countries on the face of the earth. Pine apples, melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, bananas, and all other fruit trees that will grow in a tropical climate will bring forth fruit in abundance. Yams and sweet potatoes are plentiful. The sweet potatoes may be planted any day in the year. The leaf very much resembles the ivy leaf in this country, and will creep along the ground several yards if not gathered every now and again and laid on the furrow where it is planted. On taking a few of them up for use, before leaving the ground the furrow may be arranged, and a few small pieces of the potato top stuck in the ground like cabbage plants, and in four or five months a beautiful crop is again ready for use, so that nearly three crops may be produced in a year, and a small piece of ground keep a family in continual supply of fresh potatoes.
Sugar cane grows in abundance, and almost every morning, as the Chinamen came to work, a number of them would have a piece a half a yard or two feet in length chewing. One of my companions remarked one morning that we never saw men at home eating pick shafts on their road to work. Rice is the chief article of diet in Borneo, and all classes, from the Rajah to the poorest peasant, have it to almost every meal. Two crops of this article are produced in the year. Sago also grows in abundance, and the Borneo Company (Limited) have a manufactory in Sarawak, from whence they export some hundreds of tons every year to the United Kingdom. The company planted cotton which had every appearance of producing an abundant crop when I left to come home.
On the arrival of Mr Duguid from Labuan, Noble and Atkinson were appointed to superintend the making of the railway, Alexander McCulloch to open a mine at the top of the mountain, and James Gibson and myself to look after the mine at the base. The coals we were getting out of the mine we laid in a heap till the railway was prepared for their transit. When we had been there a few weeks, and fed on rice and curry, with fowls for butcher's meat, and had suffered the most excruciating torture from the bites of the mosquitoes and sandflies, we for the first time went to visit a Dyak village up a small river off the Sadong river, and on landing a number of boys and girls , from six to ten or eleven years of age, were playing quite naked. On seeing us they ran into their houses screaming as if terrified. We learned that the reason they were afraid was that we wore clothing. On being ushered into one of their dwellings we were each kindly invited to seat ourselves on a sort of mat spread upon the floor. Chairs or seats of any kind there were none in the whole village. On looking round we saw a bed that I should have called a shaky down in each corner of the house, and two or three small chests with a few cooking utensils. These constituted the whole of their household furniture. Their ornaments consisted of nearly a score of human skulls, hanging at the house tops, which, on beholding, I nearly turned sick, though I was told by one of our party I must say were handsome if I did not wish to offend. By this time I had, with the aid of a vocabulary, learned a good many words in the Malay language, and of course had to say they were bagus (good). I learned there were several of those heads taken off Chinamen's shoulders during the insurrection, and afterwards prepared, as the custom is, by taking the whole of the interior out and smoking them over a wood fire. When properly dried they are considered to be in a state of preservation for any length of time. We found all the houses in the village decorated nearly in the same manner with numbers of human skulls, and some that had been left to them as relics by their ancestors. A Dyak never goes out of his house without his parang by his side. Notwithstanding the nude state he goes in he must at all times have it with him. It is something like a cutlass, and he carries it in a wooden sheath. When walking in the jungle he can cut his way and make road for himself through the bush as fast as an ordinary man can follow him, and with it can fell a tree three or four feet in diameter in an astonishingly short space of time, so that it is not surprising that it goes so easily through a Chinaman's neck. The weapon is valued according to the number of heads it has taken off, and varies in price from one to twenty dollars. Although they can neither count nor reckon, the Dyaks know the value of money, and if any of them bring fowls, rice, bananas, or any little article to sell, they know when they get their money all right. They know nothing about the date of any period of time. If you ask their age, they will tell you perhaps so and so. Or if you ask the age of their children, they will tell you how many times the rice has been cut since they were born, and you may reckon half as many years as the times it has been cut. The natives are very expert in throwing a spear, which they have to do when they go deer hunting. They are very numerous, and have no game dealers to dread, nor big boys in blue to fear. If they see a deer twenty or thirty yards distant, almost as sure as the weapon goes out of their hands it will strike the animal; and very often they would bring deer's flesh to us to sell, which we never failed to buy, as it was really delicious.
We were all this time driving two winning headways, or as we called them there, levels, into the interior of the mountain to prove the seam at the base. We commenced work at seven o'clock each morning, and worked till eleven o'clock, when all hands went to dinner and resumed work at one o'clock, and continued till five. At 5.30, as the scorching sun of the day was near the horizon, an animal somewhat resembling a frog began to croak, and hundreds of others sounding in chorus, made such a noise that we thought at first they were some sort of wild beast. The sun rises at six o'clock and sets at the same hour, so that we had twelve hours daylight, and the same time in darkness all year round. There is no twilight after sunset as we have in this country, but a change in a few minutes from bright day to utter darkness. The fireflies then make their appearance, and are seen in hundreds; they are about the size of our house fly, and shine in darkness exactly like the glow-worm. By the river side they are more numerous than at any other place. All the enjoyment we had after dark was to read the newspapers we had sent from home, or the letters we perhaps had perused fifty times over. I had the Newcastle Guardian sent to me direct from the office all the time I was away, and often the North of England Advertiser, Weekly Chronicle, Courant, or any paper a neighbour kindly presented to my mother to send to me. While we were enjoying the pleasure of reading news from home we were tormented with the mosquitoes either singing grace before meat into our ear or satisfying their appetites from some part of our bodies. It did not matter what clothing we wore for protection they would bite through it, and Noble always declared they would bite through an inch deal. We were many times driven to bed to evade their attacks by the curtains we had hung all round for the purpose of escaping from them; yet, notwithstanding all our vigilance, we often found in the morning three or four clinging to the interior of the curtain. “What cannot be cured must be endured,” and we had to endure this all the time we were there, for no remedy had been discovered when we left to come home.
We spent the New year in a more solitary manner than we had been accustomed to do, and instead of frost or snow, as we had in the previous New Year, we had a scorching hot sun above us with the barometer indicating 120 or 130 degrees of heat. As we passed Mr Duguid's house and saw the roses in full bloom, we remarked we had never seen roses blooming on New Year's day, and one of our party thought if we were saying when we went home we had seen the like, “sum wad call us big leers.”
On the 11th of January, our companion McCulloch shot an orang-outang of immense size. Having been informed by one of his men at the outskirts of the village, he got his double-barrelled gun and soon found its whereabouts. He loaded both barrels with ball and discharged them, without any apparent effect. He fired again several times, when the animal succumbed and fell to the ground. He had it carried to the mouth of the mine, and was found to weigh 10st 6lb; and lying on its back with arms extended, it was 7ft. 1 in. fro finger end to finger end, and around the muscle of its arm 18 in. Its hair was fully six inches in length, and the carcass had every appearance of that of a human being after the skin was taken off. It was not a common occurrence to see the orang-outang, or man monkey, so near the village, although they are more numerous in the interior of the jungle. The other kinds are to be seen at all hours of the day, often in groups of ten or a dozen, and no one, unless they saw, could believe the distance they can leap from one tree to another.
Although we had no stir at our new year, the 12th of February was the Chinamen's New Year's
day, and they resolved to keep it in commemoration. They had a fortnight's holiday, feasting, drinking, dancing and gambling, and of course the work was at a standstill. With the exception of Atkinson and myself, our companions all went from home to spend the holiday; and we having nothing to do set off one morning at daybreak to go as far along the base of the mountain as time would permit s to get back before dark. When we got about a mile from home we saw large numbers of flying foxes, and lots of very large birds. The screaming of wild deer, and the grunting of wild hogs, together with the chattering of scores of monkeys made us imagine we quite far enough. We came to a stream of water, and spent a couple of hours gathering up pretty stones, and lots of things which we thought looked like diamonds from the sand in the bed of the stream, and returned home quite proud about the discovery we had made. When we landed home and had put off our garments to bathe, as was customary for us to do two or three times a day, we each got between thirty and forty leeches off our bodies as full of blood as it was possible for them to be. Our diamonds turned out to be nice little pieces of quartz – nothing better. The pretty stones were only pebbles, but handsomely variegated in colours, but not a single ruby amongst the whole lot. After partaking of a good feed of rice, curry, and fowl, we were, however, well satisfied with the day's excursion.
The Chinamen's excessive drinking and feasting led on to dissipation and crime, as it does in all parts of the world. On the 17th of February, three of them waylaid a countryman on their own on the railway between the Sadong River and the Simunjun Mine, robbed him of three gold rings he wore on his fingers, and all the money he had in his possession, cruelly murdered him, and afterwards carried him about a quarter of a mile into the jungle, where his body was found next morning. They were all arrested and conveyed to Sarawak to await their trial.
After a week of the holiday had passed, our companions began to draw back home, and my companion in the mine, James Gibson, brought with him a young orang-outang, three or four months old, which he bought of some Dyaks abou the Kling Kang mountains. It was the greatest curiosity I ever met with in my life. If we took it in our arms and fed it and nursed it for awhile, when we put it down it would cry like a child, and utter the most piteous sighs and moans. Gibson kept it in the cooking house, and as it was a little extra work for his cook to feed it, he soon terminated its existence. The Dyaks told Gibson the way they got it. The two old ones came regularly to their garden and got the fruit, and having provided themselves with a gun, watched their return, and shot the female through the head with the young one clinging to its breast. The male then made himself scarce, and the Dyaks got the young one while licking the wounds of its dying mother. The next night, and several nights afterwards, the father returned and howled in a manner most lamentable to hear, till at length they destroyed it also.
On April 1st we got the workmen engaged by contract, and the railway ready for coal to be sent to the river, which was drawn in waggons by buffaloes kept for the purpose. A brig, called the Wild Irish Girl, came and loaded with coals, which was the first we sent to Singapore. On the 11th the company's steam vessel arrived, commanded by Captain Skinner, who had for his engineers Mr Wm.Turnbull of Tanfield, first; Mr Wm.Walker, from Shotton Colliery, Durham, second; Wm.Yates, from Thornley, third; and Wm.Batey, from Marley Hill, fourth. It was a real pleasure to us to meet a company all belonging the same neighbourhood as ourselves. They brought with them the three prisoners to be tried for murder, and at one o'clock P.M. next day their trial commenced, and lasted till five P.M., when they were found guilty and sentenced to death, and at six o'clock the same evening the sentence was carried out. The mode of execution there is with the use of a dagger called by the Malays a “kris,” about 22 inches in length, which is thrust into their body between the shoulder blade and collar bone, going direct through the heart. A single plunge puts it up to the haft, the culprit staggers and then falls to rise no more. An eye-witness to this horrible scene told me next day, when they were brought out of the fort to o be executed that they all made a rush to the executioner each of them wanting to die first. When they had been all operated upon and lay side by side weltering in their blood, my informant told me it made him sakit (sick) to see it. The next morning their bodies were taken from where they fell to the oposite side of the river and all buried in one grave without either coffin or ceremony.
The Sir James Brooke, steamer, was loaded with coal, and while preparing to sail we enjoyed the company of our friends from the neighbourhood of “Canny Newcassel,” talking of our places of abode at home, asking each other if they knew so and so, and wondering if we should ever again see Earl Grey's Monument19, or ever have the pleasure of walking over the High Level Bridge20 again. Towards the end of April, the whole of the Europeans left Simunjun Mine except Atkinson and myself, to go to the Antimony Mines, up the Maratabas river, many miles above Sarawak. Atkinson was then in charge of the railway, and I in charge of the mines. Both lived in one house, and thought one cook would do for us both; and we got on very well together.
One morning at daybreak he knocked at my room door. Being awake, I inquired, “Is that thoo, Jerry.” “Yes,” says he: “howay here mun; be sharp.” Drawing on my trousers and at the same time asking what he wanted, I followed him into his room, where a large black snake 7ft. 6in. In length lay on the floor in the corner. I called the cook, and each of us armed with a long stick, we soon succeeded in killing it. A few days after this, when going down the railway with his men, Atkinson picked up a young flying fox, brought it home, and declared he had found the old 'un himself. Neither of us had had one in our hands before, but as we saw a good many of them when in the jungle I knew at once what it was. Scarcely a day passed without our seeing snakes, and we were careful when walking in grass lest we might tread upon them, as a bite from them is considered fatal. One day when walking up the mountain to the mine, near the top two deer sprang out of a thicket in front of me, and never having seen any before, it was not till I recovered from the fright they gave me that I knew what they were, but felt exceedingly thankful they were going from me instead of coming towards me. The deer are a little larger than the goats we have in this country, with horns of moderate size.
On 26th of April a Dutch man-of-war came to load with coal. It was adapted for the purpose of going up rivers in shallow water, as pirates were very numerous about the coast of Borneo and in the Sooloo Sea. The Dutch were doing all they could to suppress their nefarious system of plunder, and, as I was informed by one of the lieutenants a considerable amount of mischief they were doing. While the Dutch vessel was loading with coal, I had three lieutenants and the doctor paying me a visit. I took them through the mine, and they all said they had never seen the interior of a coal mine before. I provided each with a pick to try his skill in mining; and when they all had satisfied themselves in hewing, they gathered up pieces of coal and said they would send some home to their friend in Holland. They could all talk good English; and after they had undergone a refreshing wash, we enjoyed a drop of real French cognac, which I fortunately had by me. I learned from them that they had five prisoners (pirates) on board. They were going to take them to Sambas, where they would undoubtedly be executed. Sambas is the principal town in Dutch territory of Borneo; and I learned from them that all pirate prisoners were taken thither to be tried, and, if not executed, sentenced to long terms of penal servitude. The Dutch were extending their roads and cultivating land by convict labour as quickly as they could, and by this time I have no doubt many thousands of acres which were then jungle are now transformed into fertile rice-producing land. I was informed by a Chinaman who lived in Sambas, and undergone a term of punishment, that offenders were sentenced to six and twelve months hard labour for any petty theft they committed, and if their characters were bad, to two, and four or five years. The prisoners were taken in groups to work on the roads or cultivate land, and fed on rice and salt fish, which was better diet than some of them could afford who had their liberty, and on the expiration of the term of their sentence they were presented with a cent for every day they had served, which gave some of them an opportunity of commencing business, and earning an honest livelihood if they felt inclined to do so.
Soon after the Dutch vessel left we were visited by the Bishop of Sarawak, Captain Brooke – now Rajah21 – and nephew to Sir James Brooke, and two or three other gentlemen, accompanied by our employer, Mr Duguid. Having heard of their arrival while in the mine, I came out. A Dyak boy was standing in European attire at the entrance, and I accosted him in the Malay language, “Ada tuan Bishop suda datang” - Has the Bishop now arrived? Imagine my surprise on hearing his reply, when he said, “Yes, sir; he has gone up to Mr Duguid's house” I was so delighted to hear a Dyak boy speak the English language so fluently that I asked him where he had learned it so well. “Oh, sir,” said he, “I learned it at the Mission School in Sarawak, where I have been since I was a child, and I can talk the English language equally as well as the Malay.” He knew very little of his parents, as they had died when he was very young, and he was taken to the Mission School and brought up there. I learned there were about eighty children, boys and girls, in this school where they were fed, clothed, and educated, at the expense of the Mission. There were a master and two young lady teachers, in addition to a matron, cooks, and nurses. They were all taught arithmetic, grammar, and geography, in the English language; and this boy being, as far as I knew, the only Dyak pupil they had, they were taking great interest in him, no doubt in expectation of his becoming a missionary among his own people. The whole of the boys and girls could speak the English language more or less, according to the time they had been there, and of course they could all speak the Malay language as well as it was the principal language of the country. All foreigners were obliged to learn Malay if they intended to remain there any length of time.
When Mr Duguid and Mr Russell the geologist, were going away to Sarawak they gave me strict orders top push the winning headways or levels on as fast as possible, as they were anxious to prove the seam at the base of the mountain. This was done with no better result as at times it was only 18 or 24 inches in height, and at other times five or six feet of good marketable coal. We continued with all hands in the mine working by contract until the 13th of June 1858, when a gentleman from Staffordshire named Wm.Walters arrived, who was a practical mining engineer, and had been manager at several collieries in Staffordshire. He surveyed the interior of the mine and a good part of the exterior of the mountain; and on the 22nd another gentleman named Smith, from the same place came, accompanied by Mr Duguid, who was to have full command of the whole of the works at Simunjun. He predicted that we should have to substitute locomotives for Buffaloes, and instead of 20 or 30 tons of coals per day we should have five or six hundred. I am sorry to say his prediction was not verified, as his alteration of the men's systems of working brought them out on strike which lasted a fortnight. He soon found that John Chinaman was not so servile and flexible as the laborious miner in Staffordshire, and he had to allow him a little of his own way. While the strike was pending Mr Walters, Atkinson, and myself were working in the mine preparing a part of it, where the coal was good, to commence the system of long wall working. When the men resumed work this was found to answer well, and according to the number of men working, a greater amount of coal was produced.
As Mr Walters had a desire to visit a Dyak village we set off one Sunday morning after breakfast and went down the Sadong River, taking with us two Malay men to manage the boat, and on getting near the village we saw the Bore two or three miles distant, coming rolling up towards us. This is an influx of the tide which is very different from anything in the North of England. It is often four or five feet above the ebbing stream, and would submerge a small boat if coming in contact with it. The natives are all well used to it, and take precautions accordingly. At night time it may be heard many miles distant. We got safe on shore, and viewed with interest the houses which were raised eight or nine feet from the ground on huge piles of wood driven into the earth. The outer part of the dwelling consists of sticks tied together with green rattans, covered with dried tree leaves. The roof is of the same material, and it is surprising how well the inhabitants are protected from the heavy rains. The floors are of boards. A dozen expert Malays can build the same number of houses in a week or ten days. We walked up the trunk of a small tree raised at an angle of 45 degrees, with niches cut a foot apart, and so reaching the entrance were ushered in and comfortably seated on the floor of a Dyak habitation.
After having a little conversation with the inmates of the house, I looked round and saw that the
furniture very much resembled that of the Dyak houses we had previously visited. Directly above my head hung fourteen human skulls in a cluster, to represent a trophy of great importance. As I looked at them I asked how they became possessed of such treasures, when one of the men drew his parang from its sheath, and said, with an air of pride, that he had cut five of them off during the insurrection; and he then went through a portion of their war dance, wielding his weapon to show us how they proceeded in their fiendish actions. As I had no desire to have my own head added to the number, I told him I was perfectly satisfied that he had obtained them valiantly.
By this time I was enabled to talk the Malay language very fluently; and the men, six in number, desired us to tell them something about our country. Three women who were present wished to hear a little about England also. As my friend Mr Walters had not learned the language, I had all the talk to myself, and I told them that England was nothing like Borneo; there was no jungle, and nearly the whole land was cultivated to produce food to eat. This statement seemed so strange to them that they wondered how men could be forced to cultivate the whole of it, and even if that were so how could the food be consumed. I then told them that the population of one town alone in England – London – was more than the whole of the population in the three territories of Borneo. I also told them that when a man got a wife, he had not a large sum of money to pay to his bride's parents as they had there, but in some cases she had a dowry. The men seemed to be very much amused at this statement, and the women thought there must be little encouragement to parents after having all the toil they had in rearing their children. I then gave them some account of the seasons in England, and in describing winter, said that ponds and lakes were often so that people could walk on top of them, and amuse themselves by having iron attached to their feet, passing over it at a rapid pace. On making this statement, it seemed to five of them to throw discredit on all I had said before, as they with one voice exclaimed, “Mana, buli!” (impossible). Did I imagine they were going to believe that anyone could walk over the top of water; or that water could turn into a solid substance? I assured them that it was so, and one of the others confirmed my statement, by saying that he had heard a white man relate the same story some time before. The others declared if it were so, they had never heard of such a thing, and would like to visit England to see such a curiosity.
On promising to pay them another visit at a future period, to tell them something more about our country, we bade them good-bye, and descended the trunk of the tree, taking care not to lose our equilibrium; and having entered the boat, over which an awning had been spread to protect us from the sun, we returned safe to Simunjun Mountain.
A short time after this one of our buffalo drivers, a Hindoo, while under the influence of arrack, in which they often indulged, fell before a laden waggon and had his arm run over, which necessitated his being sent to Sarawak to have it amputated. This was followed by another accident in the mine. A Chinaman lost his life by a fall of stone, which caused a great deal of consternation amongst the other workmen. It seemed to me a sudden change to see a man go to work at seven o'clock in the morning, healthy and well, and laid in his grave at four o'clock in the afternoon of the same day.
On the 24th of July Mr Robert Coulson arrived at Simunjun, having come from Singapore to Sarawak in the company's vessel (Sir James Brook), and a good many of our workmen were pleased to see him, as they knew him when the mine was opened out. Numbers of Dyaks came to see him who had heard of his arrival, amongst whom he distributed a large collection of brass finger rings set with quartz, and had the appearance of the genuine article set with rubies. These presents pleased them as much as if they had been real gold. On the 15th of August the steam vessel again arrived at Simunjun to load with coal. Mr Duguid, Dr Conroy, and Mr Harvey, the company's director from Singapore, came with her, and I was told to prepare to go to Sarawak with her, and thence to a place called Bedi to the Antimony Mines. As the vessel did not leave till the 21 st, I had ample time to prepare for my departure. I was exceedingly sorry to leave my highly esteemed friend, Mr Walters, whom I found to be an honourable gentleman, and could have spent the whole of my life working under him. I assisted in loading the vessel, and when nearly ready I got the whole of my goods and chattels on board, and was very comfortable in company with the engineers. My old friend Jerry was then left in the house alone, and seemed to be rather concerned about having no one beside him he could talk to. I left the cook along with him, however, and engaged a boy Mr Coulson had brought from Singapore who could speak English, and, after bidding Mr Walters, Jerry, and some workmen good-bye, I left Simunjun Mountain and went on board with my newly engaged cook.
I was rather surprised to find the ship's crew was recruited from so many nations. I was told by one of the engineers that the ship's company consisted of men from sixteen different countries, chiefly Malays, Siamese, Bengalees, Hindoos, and Javanese, and yet the Malay language was used in working the vessel. On the morning of the 21st all seemed bustle and confusion, the stokers getting the steam up and the sailors washing decks. At two o'clock in the afternoon we were under weigh, and as we steamed down the Sadong river I took a farewell glance at the Simunjun Mountain. We got to the mouth of the river at sunset, dropped anchor, and lay till daybreak next morning, when we were soon a couple of miles out on the sea, and gliding along the coast of Borneo. As we entered the mouth of the Maratabas river, I examined the Dyak houses very minutely which we had visited when we were landed there by Captain Bush. On going up the river, we saw scores of monkeys in the jungle on both sides, some groups of which seemed to be holding a conference, and others, as if they were playing at hide and seek, leaping from tree to tree. About mid-day we reached Sarawak. There I got all my traps ashore, into a room on the ground floor of Mr Duguid's house, where I was to stay till I took my departure for Bedi.
Next day, August 23rd, there was a great feast among the Chinese in Sarawak, with music and singing in all parts of the town, and the streets studded with stalls and gambling tables, where licensed gamblers were plying their vocation with cards and articles made of brass, like dice in shape, but much larger with a cover to slide over the top. I was informed that a man had a monopoly in the gambling, and that through him alone licenses could be granted to as many as applied for them. If any were known to gamble in private houses or in any other place in the absence of a man duly licensed they were liable to be punished by law. At night the beating of gongs and firing of crackers together with the uproarious noise of the populace might have made a stranger imagine that a revolt was in contemplation. Boxes with mechanical figures, something like “Punch and Judy,” were to be seen on the street exhibited by Chinamen, who were very clever in the art. After spending a day at the Chinamen's festival I retired to my lodgings at a late hour.
As I knew I should spend a few days at Sarawak, I had a walk as far as the road extended outside the town, which was not more than two miles. There were several Malay cottages by the road side, with beautiful gardens in front of them, growing pine apples, melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, and several other kinds of fruit together with cocoa nut and betel nut trees, which were delightful to look at. I had a stroll round the exterior of the town, and went to the opposite side of the river, where the Rajah's house stood. The Rajah at that time was in England, and during his sojurn there he delivered a lecture in the Music Hall, Nelson Street, Newcastle. I found the inhabitants of Sarawak were nearly all Malays and Chinese. The latter were very industrious in cultivating land, growing yams and sweet potatoes, and they sold at a very reasonable price.
On the morning of the 30th August, my respected friend, Mr James Gibson, arrived from Bed[i] sick. As I looked at his pallid face and sunken cheeks I almost imagined that he would soon follow two Englishmen, Wm.Channon and David Daley, who had died that morning. They were buried the same day, as is customary there in such cases. I had orders to go to Bedi in the same boat he had come in, and while my traps were being conveyed to the boat, I spent the whole of the time beside him, and he assured me that Bedi was not such a healthy place as Sadong. After bidding him good bye, and hoping he would soon be restored to health, I left him and proceeded to the boat, where all was ready for our departure. My cook had a bed laid in the stern, which made our journey up the river exceedingly pleasant. The banks on both sides were decked with ferns eight or ten feet in height, and bamboo canes 15 ft. to 20 ft., which made the scenery very picturesque. When we had gone five or six miles up the river we met Mr Russel, the geologist, and Mr Gunn, the manager of the Antimony Mines at Bussan and Bedi on their way to Sarawak. Mr Gunn instructed me to take Gibson's place until his recovery; and as the boatmen used their paddles with all the skill they possessed, we reached Busan an hour before sunset where I met my other friend from Airdrie, Alexander McCulloch.
While our evening meal was being prepared, I, with Mr McCulloch, had a look round their antimony mines, where they had upwards of a hundred tons of ore ready to send to Sarawak, and nearly as much undressed; and on seeing the ancient style they had to keep the water out of the mine, with the wooden buckets attached to huge posts and beams over the top to work like a seesaw, I thought that a little donkey-engine would do more work than fifty Chinamen. After partaking of the repast provided, and enjoying a little friendly conversation, varied with mosquito torture, we retired for the night, and in the morning, after breakfast, I learned we were twelve miles from Bedi, which I was told I had better walk, as there was a good footpath through the jungle, and if I went in the boat it would take us nearly till sunset, for the men would have to pull against the stream the whole distance, and would have several rapids to encounter. McCulloch despatched a guide along with us, and at seven o'clock we set off – three of us – to pad the twelve miles through the jungle. When we had got about half the distance we came to a village called Bauh, where there were upwards of a hundred Chinamen engaged in seeking gold, which they got from sand by washing it. I never heard of any nuggets being found, but I was told they earned a good livelihood by the dust they extracted from the earth and sand. They often found large pieces of native antimony ore which they could always sell to increase their earnings. I have been informed lately that a great quantity of cinnabar has been found in that locality, and that this is making it one of the most populous places in Rajah Brooke's Territory. Lots of diamonds have also been found in that neighbourhood, besides jasper and other valuable stones.
We looked for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes at a party working, and then proceeded on our journey, and when Sol had nearly reached the meridian we arrived at our future abode, where I found my friend George Noble and a fine intelligent young fellow from London, named Leslie Stephens, who had gone from home in the Sir James Brooke steam vessel about two years before. The house they lived in was on the bank of the river, and after having my mid-day bath in it and dinner over, I had a walk with them to the mine, which was at the opposite side, about three quarters of a mile distant. I was given to understand that I was to take charge of this mine, as Noble was to look after a new one at the same side the house stood, about a mile and a half off. Stephens acted as timekeeper and cashier. There were a few houses near the mine where the workmen lived, and one larger than the others I learnt was kept for a hospital. On visiting it, I found ten or a dozen invalids, who were attended by a man kept for the purpose, which sadly confirmed what my friend James Gibson had told me, that it was not so a healthy a place as Sadong.
I viewed the mine and found that the water was kept out in the same way as at Busan, with 10 wooden buckets and 20 men – ten at a time – each party working half an hour and resting half an hour. While the weather was fair the water could be kept out and the men in the mine at work, but when it began to rain it rose so rapidly that the work was entirely stopped. The ore got out of this mine was considered to yield 65 or 70 per cent of antimony, and the only means of conveying it to the river was by Chinamen carrying it on their shoulders in baskets attached to the ends of a long flexible piece of wood, each calculated to carry 133 lbs. At a time. Thence it was taken to Sarawak in boats and shipped for the United Kingdom along with several other sorts of goods, such as sago, rice, black pepper, gutta percha, saffron wood, and nickel silver. While I had charge of this mine, I visited the sick men in the hospital two or three times every day. Some of them recovered, while others went the way of all flesh. As we had the river to cross to the mine, we kept a boat for the purpose of conveying us backward and forward. The Chinamen waded across up to the armpits in water, and when a freshet was in the river they would swim like water dogs, as they were all first class swimmers, having been to taught to swim from their infancy.
One day one of our blacksmiths was swimming across, there being a little freshet in, and our purser, Mr Stephens, was bathing in the river at the same time. When the former was about half-way across he gave a fearful scream, and went down the river at a more rapid pace than it was possible to swim. Stephens, who was not more than two or three yards from him at the time, and being an excellent swimmer, set off in pursuit of him, as he imagined the man was taken with cramp. When the blacksmith had gone about twenty yards, and uttering most fearful yells, he disappeared, and was never more seen. Although search was made for his body for several days afterwards it was never found, and we concluded that he had been attacked by an alligator and dragged underneath the water and devoured. These animals were very numerous two or three miles further up the river, and one or two of them were often seen on the bank close to our house, On hearing any noise approaching they would make into the water with all speed. The wild deer were more numerous than at Sadong, and their cry was to be heard at all hours of the night, and we were often favoured with their flesh from the Dyaks. One day, on being visited by a few Dyaks, who were selling bananas, Indian corn, and other articles, I looked at one article among the rest that had the appearance of parings cut from a horse's hoof when a smith is going to shoe it. I asked what it was, and was told that it was birds' nests, and got an assurance it was delicious as food. Being induced to buy some of it, I asked my cook if he knew how to cook it. He replied in the affirmative, and on eating it I think I never in my life had anything more palatable than it was, and afterwards I had many times had a meal from birds' nests.
On 17th Sept., when I got home from work, I was surprised to see my friend James Gibson sitting in the house. He had recovered from his illness, and found his way back to Bedi, where he commenced duty with Noble at the newer west mine, it being understood that I was to remain at the east mine, which, however, was only kept on working for a week longer; for on the 25 th of the same month, Mr Gunn, the manager, came and told us that we were to stop the east mine, and that all hands were to go to the west mine. A new house had been built there with four rooms, and large dining room, with verandah. Gibson and I removed our goods to the new house, and Stephens stayed in the old one at the river side.
I found we were then in the midst of a group of small mountains, or as Mr Russell called them, “Wee bit hillocks,” varying in size from one to three or four miles round the base. There were five of these within two miles of our house, and strange to say they were all nearly hollow, there being several caves in every one of them, where you might enter and walk for hours without coming back to the same place. On one occasion when our workmen were laid off with heavy rain, Mr Russell told Gibson and I to get a lamp and a cutlass and prepare to go with him. Without asking any questions we got the articles named. He then told us he was going to take us into the interior of the hillock. We then inquired what the implements of war were for. “Oh,” said he, “for fear we meet any beasties, snakes, and boa-constrictors, which are very numerous in those caves;” and we learned afterwards it was necessary to have something of the sort with which to defend ourselves. We left home after mid-day, and proceeded to the cave, on entering which we got our lamps lighted, and for thirty or forty yards the Diluvium had every appearance of being performed by manual labour. After walking about a hundred yards inside we had to creep ten or twelve yards on our hands and knees, and it was with difficulty we kept our lamps from going out, owing to the current of air that was passing. We walked for about three-quarters of an hour, sometimes having a roof 8 ft. or 10ft. Above our heads, and at other times only 3 ft. or 4 ft. At length we came to an extensive open space. On looking at it we might suppose it had been made expressly for a circus company to perform in. It was 50 ft. or 60 ft. in height, and in circular form of 100ft. or 80 ft. diameter. There were scores of birds flying about in all directions, which I afterwards learned were a species of swallow, and built the edible nests I had previously bought of the Dyaks. The rock was limestone, and there were several pillars standing here and there that looked as if they had been finished by an experienced sculptor. As we took a seat to rest ourselves we heard what sounded like the heavy fall of water. Mr Russell asked if either of us “had ever seen sick a braw place” as that. I replied that I had. He said he would like to know where it was. I told him the interior of Newcastle Theatre Royal22 was “a lang way bonnier place than that.” He thought it “was'na fit to be compared tilt;” and so the matter rested After seeing all we could he gave us each a piece of limestone rock about 28 lb. Or 30lb. In weight, and told us that he should send them to the British Museum. As we were hugging them out nearly exhausted by their heavy weight, I told Gibson I thought “two big styens” might be found a deal nearer London Museum without sending them such a distance. On our return home we were ready for our dinners, and a drop from the square black bottle from Amsterdam, which we had in store at the time.
We kept the mine working night and day, and in the meantime made a tramway of wooden rails, which the bogies ran on exceedingly well. It was what is called Bilyun23 wood, and is, I imagine, a little harder than oak or beech. It answered admirably for the purpose, as iron rails were not to be had without sending home for them. What ore we had sent to the river had to be carried, however, until the tramway was finished, and this labour was frequently interrupted for whole days with the rain, which always fell in torrents, and when we had thunder it was terrifying to hear, the mountains all around us making the sound of it considerably louder. At night, about sunset, there always seemed to be a fog hanging over the hills, and after sunset the temperature was quite cold. The excessive heat of the day, followed by the chilly damp air of the night, made it a very unhealthy locality to dwell in; and I soon found my appetite was not so good as it had been, while I also began to diminish in weight. In the meantime death swept off several Chinamen among our workmen. On the 10th of October my old friend, Jerry Atkinson, arrived, and told us Mr Smith was about to condemn the Simunjun Coal Mine, and that he would soon return to England. Jerry took up his quarters in one of the rooms of our house, and we were now all engaged in looking after the works and preparing the tramway to the river-side. There were good lodes of antimony in the mine, which might have been easily got had it not been for the immense quantity of water we had to contend with. Arsenic, orpiment24, and quartz were mingled with it, but what was got of these was only consigned to the rubbish heap. I many a time thought that if the arsenic and orpiment could have been extracted from the quartz, the company could have found a market for it also. Since we left I hear that large quantities of cinnabar have been discovered a short distance away25.
One Sunday morning after breakfast, Noble, Stephens, Gibson, Atkinson, and myself had a walk two or three miles into the jungle, armed with one single and two double-barrelled guns. A few monkeys were all that we shot, and these were eaten by some Chinamen, who ate all the monkeys they could get. They would also eat a dog or rat as soon as they would a pig. Indeed, Noble had a dog he brought from Simunjun affected with mange. This he gave to a Chinaman to destroy, and paid him ten cents for the job. The man and his companions had, however, two or three days' feasting on the animal, as they declared the disease only affected the skin. Eating and smoking opium seemed to be all they delighted in. Some of the Chinamen were as much addicted to this bad habit of smoking as men at home are addicted to intoxicating drink. In fact, our cooks many times indulged so freely in this luxury at night that they could not rise in the morning to get our breakfast ready in time, and the consequence was that we were obliged to dismiss them. I had also to dispense with the cook I got from Mr Coulson for this offence. The next I engaged I had him for three months. He attended to me well for the first two, but he took care to have a month's wages paid in advance. The result was that the third month he got even worse than the man I had before. He not only spent his wages on opium, but got on to gamble as well. I may mention here that our workmen were paid once a month, and when the pay-day came a licensed gambler always made his appearance with a board under his arm, his name painted on it in red letters, with licensed gambler added. Of course it was out of our power to prevent them gambling, or we should certainly have done so. Besides this, if I gave the cook a dollar to make any small purchase, I never got any change returned as the articles always amounted exactly to the dollar, so that I was glad to get rid of him a week before the time for which he was paid.
On the 8th of November, I received a box from home, containing flannel shirts, socks, strong shoes, a watch, small clock, and several other articles, along with some garden seeds – namely, leek, onion, lettuce, carrot, and radish seed – which I had sent to try if they would grow in a tropical climate. As I had no time to attend to gardening myself, I sent some of each seed to Mr Grant, one of the principal gentlemen under the Rajah, a native of Berwickshire, who took great interest in a beautiful garden he had. As far as I know, nothing but the radish seed ever made any progress, and I heard of him having radishes ready for use within a month of the time of the seed being sown. Mr Duguid's gardener in Sarawak also tried some of the seed with a similar result. I have no doubt that if leeks and onions were planted under a shed to protect them from the sun they would also grow, for eschalots grew in abundance.
The trees around where we lived were larger than any I had previously seen. Most of them were upwards of a hundred feet to the first branches, and more than another hundred to the top of the tree. One stood about thirty yards from our house. We took the trouble to measure the circumference of this, and found that it was 32 feet 6 inches. It was the largest I ever saw, but I heard of one at Santubong which was between thirty-nine and forty feet in circumference. Another large tree stood about sixty or seventy yards distant. A group of fifteen or twenty monkeys appeared on its branches every evening at half-past five. As regularly as the time came, they came also; and night after night for weeks they were there and remained until sunset. We many times said they had important business to transact as they were so punctual to their time in assembling. One night Gibson distributed about an o[u]nce of number one shot amongst them, when they all took leg ball except one, which sat for five minutes licking its arm and then went after the others. But notwithstanding this interruption they met with, they still continued to meet as before. We had three of the tribe quite tame, and these we kept for amusement, two of them female and one male. The latter delighted in doing mischief. If he could get into the fowl house among the fowls he would make them fly in all directions, and if there was an egg to be found he would have it. He was once seen by one of our cooks coming out, walking upright, with an egg in each han and one in his mouth. The cook ran after him, and he threw the two down he had in his haands, but got clear off with the one in his mouth.
In the beginning of December Atkinson and myself had severe bilious attacks, followed by ague, which affected us very much. We often took emetics, but found no good result from them; but we had abundance of quinine, which we took regularly, and got a little relief from it. We continued doing duty as long as we could, but getting gradually worse we were at length confined to our room. On the 28th of December a boat was provided for us, and we were sent away to Sarawak, where we arrived about five o'clock in the evening, and found there Mr Russell and Mr Duguid, who gave us each a room on the ground floor of his house. After a few days we began to recover, and were soon able take a walk through the town, which we did once or twice a day. While we were there we seldom saw our cooks from half-past five in the evening till daybreak next morning, and if Jerry's was bead before we came to Sarawak he was ten times worse afterwards, for he got into the town at night and drank arrack and smoked opium till he was so bad that he could not rise out of bed next morning. Three days in succession I had to instruct my cook to make his breakfast, as his did not appear till 12 o'clock.
We spent the whole of January, 1859, in Sarawak, and towards the end of the month a vessel called the Constance, which was chartered by the company, came to take a cargo of sago, rice, gutta percha, damur, battens, buffalo and deers' horns, antimony ore, black pepper, and saffron wood to London. We were advised to go to London with her, and as it would be some time before we might have another opportunity, we thought it would be better for us to return to England rather than incur the risk of permanently impairing our constitutions by returning to Bedi. On the 3 rd of February we set off in the morning in a large boat to go to Bedi for our goods and chattels, and got as far as Busau, where we stayed all night. The next day was far spent when we arrived at Bedi. What we intended to take to Sarawak we got to the river, and most of what we had we left with our companions. On the 5th, Atkinson returned in the boat with our traps. I stayed till the 6th, when my friend James Gibson, accompanied me to Sarawak in a small boat. There being only one house in the town where spiritous liquor was sold, kept by a Chinaman named Achick, who had a monopoly of the sale in the whole territory, we went thither to have a parting glass. Meeting there a young man named Charles Wishart26, from the neighbourhood of Bathgate, we sat till we swallowed a large quantity of the best Old Tom which Achick had in his possession. I cannot give much account of leaving Achick's tavern, but next morning I found myself in a bed in Wishart's house, and on awakening felt a burning thirst. I sprang out of bed and seized a bottle which was standing on a table, and said to Wishart, who was dressing himself, “Is this drinking water, Charlie?” Without looking round he replied “Yes.” I thereupon filled a tumbler, and drank it off, and replenished the glass again, drank again, when I imagined the liquid had a strange taste, which I remarked. Charlie then looked round, and asked “Where have you got it?” I pointed to the bottle, when he, in an excited manner, said, “By heavens, if you've drunk that you're poisoned, for that's a lotion of sulphate of zinc I'm using for my complaint.” Without a moment's delay I hastened off to Mr Duguid's house, whither I saw the Bishop was wending his way as I was [filling the tumbler] 27. Overtaking him, I said “Bishop, please give me an emetic as quickly as possible, or I'm poisoned.” he was a jolly, kind-hearted gentleman, and always fond of a joke. Trying to imitate the Tyneside vernacular, he said, “Poisoned, man; what's thoo poisoned thawsel with?” I excitedly replied, “I've drank Charlie Wishart's lotion by mistake.” He then asked the doctor who had made up this bottle, and who beside him, what quantity of poison there was in the mixture. When he had been told he said, “It'll not poison th', but thoo'll be rather sick for a day or two. An' let me tell th' to be mair careful what theoo drinks.” Sure enough I was sick for two or three days, and at times I thought I should have to send for the doctor.
My friend Gibson returned to Bedi, and Atkinson and I made preparations to leave Sarawak in the Constance. We learned that our companion, Wm.Baulsam, the sawyer, had already been put on board to go home. He was exceedingly sick and scarcely expected to recover. On the 9th, we got our traps sent on board the vessel, and after bidding Mr Duguid and all acquaintances good bye, we bade farewell to Sarawak. The whole of that day and part of the 10th, they were engaged taking in gutta percha and rattans, and on the morning of February 11th we weighed anchor. The Constance was a finely built barque of between five and six hundred tons, and her draught of water about 17ft. As we got near the mouth of the river we ran aground, and lay till next morning. Anchor was weighed at daybreak, and about mid-day we lost sight of Borneo. We then learned that there was more cargo to take in at Singapore, and that we should stay there two or three weeks. We had fine weather and a pleasant passage, and about half-past four in the afternoon of the 15th we again dropped anchor at Singapore. We stayed on board the remainder of the day, and were quite amused at the large number of bumboats which came alongside our vessel to sell fruit of all kinds, besides coral, shells of every description, Malacca canes, parrots, cockatoos, paroquets, and scores of other things. The next day Jerry and I went ashore to the company's offices, and got arrangements made with Mr Gilfillan, the company's director to have Mr Baulsam brought ashore and taken to the hospital, and to have lodgings ashore ourselves till the vessel was ready to sail. He agreed to allow us a dollar a day, and we were to seek lodgings for ourselves. These terms we readily accepted, and got accommodation at the European Coffee House. We returned to the Constance to look after Baulsam, and while on board a Malay diver went down, minus either diving suit or bell, and examined the keel of the vessel, which he found to be considerably damaged by her running aground in the Maratabas river. Baulsam was safely taken on shore and conveyed in a gurry (cab) to the hospital, where he was decidedly more comfortable than in the half-deck of the Constance.
Next morning, when we went to the company's office, we learned that Captain Ellis was going to transfer his cargo and passengers to another vessel, and have the Constance put into the Victoria Dock to be repaired. The dock had only been finished a short time before, and the Constance was the first vessel repaired in it. We then learned that it would be five or six weeks before we left Singapore, which would give us ample time to see the whole of the town. The next time we went on board we found the other vessel lying alongside her, and all hands hard at work removing the cargo from the Constance to the Beatrice, which I soon learned was a vessel belonging to Messrs Burnett and Son, a firm in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I went on board to see the captain and have our traps placed in our berths. In course of our interview, the captain asked me where I belonged, I replied, “Newcastle-on-Tyne, sir.” “Aw thowt thon did hinny, as syun as aw heard thaw tongue,” said he, as he shook me cordially by the hand. “I hope,” he continued, “We'll have a pleasant passage home.” On inquiry I learned that our captain was Thomas Patterson, of Carr's Hill, Gateshill-on-Tyne; the mate, John Edward Dodds, of North Shields; second mate, Octavious Laing, Gateshead-on-Tyne; the cook and one of the sailors named John North, belonged to Sunderland; and there were two apprentice boys of Newcastle, one named Thomas Oliver, now draughtsman for the Hetton Coal Company, Hetton-le-Hole; and the other William Slee, now a fruiterer carrying on business in some part of Newcastle-on-Tyne. I learned from Captain Patterson that the boy Slee had had a very narrow escape with his life a short time before. He fell from the maintopgallant yard, and had it not been for an awning spread over the vessel he would inevitably have been dashed to pieces on the deck. He was removed on shore to the hospital, where he remained three weeks, and was then able to rejoin the vessel. I certainly was gratified to know I was to be among so many hailing from the same locality as myself, and after having a little conversation with most of them Jerry and I returned to our lodgings at the European Coffee House.
As they sold bottled ale and porter at our lodgings, at 40 cents per bottle, we often had a visitor whose company interested us. They were generally officers of vessels who had a day's liberty on shore, and had been either in China or up the Bay of Bengal, and had perhaps encountered a typhoon or a cyclone. One morning, the Master-at-Arms of Her Majesty's man-of-war Esk came to our lodgings having charge of eight fine, strong, healthy looking young lads, who had a day's liberty on shore. On parting, the Master gave me an invitation on board his vessel; and the next morning, after breakfast, I engaged a sampan for the purpose of taking me on board and bringing me back. On going up a ladder that hung down the side of the ship, an officer on duty, to whom the sentry had reported, asked my business. I told him I wished to see the Master-at-Arms. He very courteously directed me to where I would find him and as I walked along the deck I might have imagined I had entered a large tailor's workshop, had it not been for the large guns which studded the deck. An awning was spread over the vessel nearly from stem to stern, and fifty or sixty stalwart looking sailors were using the needle with as much dexterity as any tailor I ever saw. The deck was as clean as a newly scoured kitchen table, and the guns as bright as hands could make them. All the men on board except the officers were barefooted, and as clean as ministers about to enter the pulpit. I descended a flight of stairs where I found the Master-at-Arms. He took me through the whole of the engineering department, and showed me the magazines where the ammunition was kept. He told me there were upward of 300 men on board. A few were at work cleaning the guns and exterior of the ship. Those that were doing this sort of work he told me were blacklisted for petty offences. After seeing through the whole of the interior of the Esk I returned to my lodgings.
Next morning, I went to the company's office in a gurry, and told Mr Gilfillan I wanted a trifle of money for Mr Baulsam, as he had not a cent to purchase any little thing he might need. After getting six dollars, I proceeded towards the hospital and bought a quantity of oranges for him, which I tied up in a large handkerchief and put inside the gurry. I then went to another shop to purchase some pine apples, and, while doing so, a pune (policeman) came to me with the oranges in one hand, and the baju collar of a Chinaman in the other, and asked me if the oranges were mine. Knowing the handkerchief so well, I said they were. He told me I must go to the police station with him, as he had seen a Chinaman steal them out of the gurry. He reprimanded the driver (a Bengalee) for not looking after my property while I had him engaged. I was told at the police station to be at the Court House next morning at eleven o'clock, and then went on my mission to the hospital, where I found Baulsam, who seemed to be very down-hearted. On asking him he was he said he thought he was somewhat better himself, but the man who lay in the bed next to him had committed suicide during the night, and the horrid spectacle he saw in the morning he could not forget. On leaving I promised to visit him again, and finished that day's proceedings in a Hindoo theatre, where I did not understand a single word that was said.
Next morning my first business was to go to the Court House, and I never before saw such a motley group in a court of justice. About a dozen cases were disposed of before mine was called, and all the evidence was given through an interpreter, of which there were at least half-a-dozen. In some of the cases evidence was given in four different languages, all of which had to be interpreted into Malay and finally into English. After learning that the Chinaman who stole the oranges was to spend his next month in prison, I left. Every morning about seven o'clock a company of about a hundred Sepoy convicts were brought along the street, four abreast, past where I lodged, and the noise of their chains might be heard at a great distance. These men were extending and repairing the roads at the outskirts of the town, superintended by a sufficient number of armed Englishmen to keep them in order. During the Indian Mutiny a great number of the prisoners had been sent to Singapore, where they were serving their terms of penal servitude. On the 3 rd of the month, after getting settled about my lodging money and other trifling matters, I went to the hospital to pay a final visit to my friend Baulsam. He was a good deal better than when he entered that institution, but not sufficiently recovered to join the ship to come home. In the evening I went on board, and soon became acquainted with all hands. It was interesting to see so many boats come alongside our vessel with all sorts of curious articles for sale, as well as fruit of every description – boat loads of splendid pine apples at a cent and a half each, and melons at about 10 cents each. In the evening Captain Patterson came on board with a Malay pilot, and long before daybreak all hands were called on deck, when the steward appeared with a large pot in one hand, and a very small one in the other, and shouted at the top of his voice, “Grog O!” When the sailors had all been served, the captain called out, “Man the windlass,” and in twenty minutes we were, by the light of the moon, gliding before a steady breeze, and leaving behind us the harbour of Singapore.
12th April Concluded from last week.
On the 17th April we entered the Straits of Sunda, when several boats came alongside our vessel with yams, sweet potatoes, shells, fowls, ducks, and several other articles for sale; a good many of which were bought by the whole ship's company. Next day we got through the Straits into the Indian Ocean, and as we lost sight of the land we knew it would be some time before we saw any more. We had very fine weather till the 2nd of June, when we were overtaken by a heavy gale, which carried away part of the starboard bulwark. At ten o'clock on the night of the 24 th we had our main top gallant mast carried away, which caused much consternation among all hands. On the 2 nd of July a very large whale was close alongside our vessel. I had seen several of these monsters at a distance, but never before had an opportunity of examining one so minutely as on this occasion. It was fully as long as our vessel. At six o'clock on the morning of the 4th, we sighted the island of St Helena. We were not more than two miles past it when the steward entered the fore-cabin and told us that our captain had lost his speech, and appeared to be very ill in his bunk. Had it been possible to return to the island I have no doubt the mate would have done so, but as the wind blows there continually in one direction, when a sailing vessel gets past the anchorage there is no possibility returning unless taken in tow by a steamer, consequently ours was kept on her course. It was soon made known to all on board that our captain had been paralysed, and could not come out of his cabin, and that a sailor named Matthew Wayman, belonging London, was also very ill in the forecastle, and had been off duty for a considerable time. All hands seemed to be much concerned about the captain, and whenever the least change in him was perceptible it was soon known by all on board.
On the 8th of the month we began to draw near Ascension Island, and at six o'clock on the evening of the 9th we were safely anchored in the roadstead. Next morning my friend Jerry and I went ashore with Mr Dodds, the chief mate, and had a walk of two or three miles from the town, but as far as we went there was nothing to be seen but burnt stones and broken bottle glass. The whole island seemed to be barren, and is supposed to have been a volcano. It is about seven or eight miles across, and it was only on a hill that we saw before us that vegetables will grow, the other parts of it being entirely barren. As it is a naval and military station, all provisions are imported, and there is no water but what falls from the heavens, and this the residents always ave in abundance, and keep in tanks made for the purpose. There is a mechanics' institute, where we spent a couple of hours very comfortably, reading newspapers, but were sorry that there was not a single Newcastle paper amongst the whole lot.
On the 11th, water and coals were got on board our vessel, and a doctor from Her Majesty's vessel Tortoise, came and examined our captain, and repor[t]ed that he was dangerously ill. On the 12 th a line of battle ship called the Boscawen, with Admiral Grey on board, and its tender, the Hydrid, came in and dropped anchor a short distance from where we were lying. Our captain's illness was now detaining us, and every day he was visited by doctors and officers from Her Majesty's vessels, Viper, Trident, and Conflict, and nearly all the vessels in the harbour. On the 16 th of the month a conference was held on board the Beatrice, by the commander and some of the officers of the Boscawen and Tortoise, and the captain of the British barque Eleanor, who decided to take Captain Patterson on board the Tortoise, and send him home in Her Majesty's gunboat Conflict, Mr Dodds in the meantime to take command of our vessel to bring her home. The next morning, July 17th, a boat with a doctor from the Tortoise came alongside our vessel, and the captain, though deprived of speech, seemed to be conscious that he was being taken from his vessel.
On the following day after breakfast Mr Dodds gave orders to man the windlass, and at nine o'clock we were under weigh. We had favourable weather for a few days, and on the 24th we signalled the Woodcote, from Moulmein to Falmouth, 79 days out, in 1°21 north latitude, 22°18 west longitude. At nine o'clock at night one of our sailors, Matthew Wayman, died. On the forenoon of the following day one of his shipmates sewed his body up in canvas and deposited a bucketful of sand at his feet for the purpose of sinking the body, which was then carried on deck and laid on the main hatchway, with the ensign spread over it. At four o'clock in the afternoon Mr Dodds appeared on deck with the Church Prayer Book in his hand, and gave orders for the vessel to hove to. When his order had been obeyed, the corpse was laid beside one of the port-holes on a deal board and all hands called to witness the funeral ceremony, which was gone through with much solemnity. When he came to the words “We commit his body to the deep,” the corpse was dropped through the porthole, and as soon as he finished the ceremony he closed the book, exclaiming, “Now, lads, square the yards.” And in a few minutes we left the body of poor Wayman far behind.
We had squally weather and foul winds till August 4th, when we got the north east trade wind. About this time the water we had to use was fearfully bad, the bread was riddled with maggots, our coffee was exhausted, and, worst of all, the flour was mingled with myriads of weevils, which made the dough we got sickening to look at. As we got into cold weather, the cockatoos died one by one. Thus we spent day by day till September 10th, when the joyful shout of “Land on the port bow” was heard. It was a glorious sight as we knew it was the land we had been sailing to for five months and seven days. On the 11th we passed the Isle of Wight about mid-day, and a boat came alongside with some potatoes to sell, which were thankfully accepted by all on board. On the 12th we passed Dover, and got a pilot on board in the evening. On the 13th we were taken in tow by a tug boat, and got a far as Gravesend, where we dropped anchor and lay till next morning, when, after breakfast, Jerry and I went ashore and took the train to London. On arriving in London we delayed no time in going to the office of the Borneo Company, Limited, in Mincing Lane, which we found in No. 27 instead of No. 9, where it was when we left. Mr Crawford, the company's secretary, at once recognised us on entering, and before we had time to ask any questions he told us Captain Patterson died on the 21st July, and was buried at Ascension Island. I took a passage to Newcastle on board the Bruiser (Capt. Ellis), which left Newcastle Wharf on the Sunday morning, Sept. 20, and on the following morning we were lying safely moored at the Quayside.
I have since learned from Mr Robert Coulson, who left Sarawak only two years ago28, that the Rev Mr Chambers, who was in Sarawak as a missionary while I was there, is now Bishop of the Straits Settlements, as well as Labuan, and that Sarawak is now in a more civilised state. A short time prior to Sir James Brooke's death he made his nephew, Charles Johnson Brooke (brother of Capt.Brooke), Rajah, and I understand, in the event of him dying without issue, the territory will fall to the English Crown. The Sarawak Government are at present working the Simunjun coal mine on a small scale, to supply a steam vessel they have of their own; and antimony and cinnabar are produced more abundantly than when I was there, and everything seems to be prosperous in Sarawak at the present time.
1.Transcribed and annotated by Martin Laverty. November 2010.
2. Marshall Cresswell (or Creswell) was a Northumbrian, born on 18th January, 1833, in the village of Fawdon Square (7km NNW of Newcastle upon Tyne) and started work in the pits at the age of 9. (Folk Archive Resource North East: FARNE) and died in 1889 (Allan's Illustrated Edition of Tyneside Songs and Readings, 1891). He published “Local and other songs, and recitations, etc. composed by Marshall Creswell, Dudley, Northumberland. With introductory autobiography.” in 1876 (Allan), and a second edition in 1883 (FARNE). The accounts published in the Newcastle Courant are, presumably, taken from this autobiography. Census returns suggest that he was born in 1837, named after his father, a colliery under viewer at Fawdon, and lived with his grandparents in Durham (1841) and then Bellingham (1851), where he was still a scholar at the age of 14.
3. Sherburn Colliery was 4 km east of Durham.
4. William Coulson (1791-1865) is listed in Whelan's History, topography, and directory of the county palatine of Durham (1856) as a Master sinker, living at Grange in the City of Durham. He was lauded for his help in the rescue efforts for the Hartley Colliery Disaster of 1862, which were even reported in Singapore.
5. A sinker was a miner involved in digging, inspecting, and repairing vertical shafts used to access minerals at depth.
6. Dudley Colliery was 10 km. north of Newcastle
7. Although we would probably characterise this dialect as Geordie today, in this article it is twice called “Tyneside vernacular”. This is in accord with the Oxford English Dictionary which records the first use of Geordie - for a pitman or miner – in 1876, although it is thought that the term had been used in a somewhat derogatory manner by Londoners since 1826, when George Stephenson, also from just outside Newcastle, had given evidence to the Parliamentary Commission on Railways. If Cresswell had referred to a “geordie” it might well have been a reference to the variety of miner's safety lamp invented by the same George Stephenson in and used in the NE of England instead of the very similar Davy lamp.
8. The Borneo Company was set up in London as a joint stock, limited liability company in 1856, although there had been a Borneo Company run by John Harvey, operating as agent for James Brooke, in Singapore since 1851.
9. The Gwalior was well-travelled: there is this story of a voyage to New Zealand in 1852 (from: Brett,H, 1924,White Wings)
10. Roup = auction
11. Pitman's visit to Rio de Janeiro to the tune “The Pawnshop bleezin”
12. Mulcted = fined
13. Cape pigeon, or Cape petrel , still a common sea bird of the Southern Ocean
14. The Tynemouth Aquarium and Winter Garden was opened in 1878
15. The loss of the Transit on the 10th July, was covered in some detail in the Illustrated London News (reproduced in Tate, D.J.M (1988) Rajah Brooke's Borneo) and elsewhere The ornithologist L.H.Irby was one of the troops bound for China when wrecked, but then diverted to deal with the Indian Mutiny
16. Robert Coulson was William Coulson's son, stated in the Singapore Free Press at the time of the Hertley Colliery disaster (1862). He had been employed by the eastern Archipelago Company in Labuan in 1851, where the manager, James Motley, considered him a troublemaker. He was at the Simunjan mine when A.R.Wallace stayed there in 1855. Wallace wrote that he was a Yorkshireman (My Life, vI, p341), but probably just mistook the unfamiliar accent. In 1864, Wallace wrote in support of a project to support Coulson in searching for evidence of the antiquity of man in the caves of Borneo: the money went to a A.H.Everett, a naturalist and administrator, instead.
17. The place now called Simumjan is considerably further inland than the location of the mines, which was much closer to the mouth of the Simunjan River.
18. Saggar clay – a pottery-making term, more often referred to by geologists as fireclay
19. The 2nd Earl of Howick in the County of Northumberland (Charles Grey, he of the eponymous tea) graces the 41m. high column of Grey's Monument (by E.H.Baily who also designed Nelson's Column in London) unveiled in the centre of Newcastle in 1838.
20. The High Level Bridge, opened in 1849, takes the railway across the R.Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle's Central Station; it also has a road and footpath on a lower deck.
21. Captain Brooke was the heir apparent in 1858, but was disinherited in favour of his younger brother, Charles. This mistake is corrected by Cresswell in the penultimate sentence of this series of articles.
22. Newcastle's Theatre Royal had been opened in 1837 23 Bilyun = belian, or ironwood, Eusideroxylon zwageri
24. Orpiment is a soft golden mineral – arsenic trisulphide.
25. Cinnabar, mercury sulphide, was mined by the Borneo Company at Tegora, a hill between the Bungoh range and the limestone hills S of Bau
26. Charles Wishart later went to Singapore, where he became an important figure in the New Harbour Docks ['Charles Wishart was born the 7th May 1835, and died, at the age of seventy, on the 26th November 1905. He came East at the early age of twenty, and spent some time in Borneo.' - Makepeace et al. (1931) One Hundred Years of Singapore]
27. This repeated phrase looks like a printer's error. 28 If Robert Coulson left the east in 1876, he would have 25 years associated with it He appears to have gone back to the coal mines in Labuan in 1860, and to have been a civil engineer in Singapore in 1875.