This is the thirteenth installment in our series on Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904). He was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. Below is an account of his observations on the advancements and social changes in Sarawak since his first visit in his command the ‘Dido’ some years earlier – all due to Rajah Brooke – the first White Rajah of Sarawak (see our earlier piece on James ‘Rajah’ Brooke).
Memoirs of Henry Keppel – 1867 – The Sarawak River
In the ‘Salamis,’ to which Harry had transferred his flag, he passed the Sarawak River, with its bold headlands and magnificent scenery. He could not but compare the state of things existing there with that on his first visit in the ‘Dido,’ all due to the powerful administration of Rajah Brooke.
In  piracy, slavery, and head-hunting were the order of the day. The sail of a peaceful trader was nowhere to be seen, not even a fisherman’s hut, along the length of this beautiful coast. Far into the interior the Malays and Dyaks warred on one another.
Now how different! Huts and fishing-stakes are to be seen all along the coast; the town of Kuching, which on the visit of the ‘Dido’ had scarcely 800 inhabitants, now has a population of over 20,000. At least 250,000 of the aborigines who called themselves warriors are now peaceful traders and cultivators of the soil. The jungle is fast being cleared to make way for farms; and, to prove what industry can do, Miss Burdett-Coutts has taken a tract of 500 acres of jungle far from being the most productive soil that could be found where everything that is likely to thrive within the Tropics will be introduced into this model farm. Fruits, such as pineapples, bananas, mangosteens, and oranges are doing well, and rice and sago, mulberry trees to feed silkworms, are all flourishing.
Excerpt from Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West – 1905
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