James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1843 – The Seribas


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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here or search our library here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1843 – The Seribas

One result of the defeat of the Seribas was the increased influence of the English ruler. Sherif Sahib of Sadong now thought it prudent to return to the Sow tribe of Dyaks fifty of the women and children whom his people had seized, and although this was but an instalment it was something gained.

In a few lines written on November 14, [1843], Brooke sketched the policy which he wished the English Government to pursue. ‘If we act, we ought to act without unnecessary delay. Take Sarawak and Labuan, or Labuan alone, and push our interest along the coast to Sulu, and from Sulu towards New Guinea, gaining an influence with such states (and acquiring dormant rights) as are clear of the Dutch on the one hand and of the Spaniards on the other.’ But this policy was neglected, and to some extent it is now too late to carry it out.

In December [1843] Brooke again visited Singapore, and there he shortly afterwards received news of his mother’s death. Though affectionate to all his relations, his love and tenderness centred in his mother, and her loss was the more acutely felt, as, from a mistaken feeling, the seriousness of her illness had not been reported to him.

Whilst visiting Penang Brooke joined in an expedition to punish some piratical communities on the coast of Sumatra; and as a guest on board H.M.S. Wanderer he went with the boats that were sent to attack the town of Murdoo. A strong current swept the captain’s gig under an enemy’s stockade. There was no help for it, so Brooke sprang out and led a rush upon the fort, during which he received a gash in the forehead and a shot in the arm. Reinforcements coming up, the place was soon captured. On the return of the expedition to Penang the ship’s crew begged the captain’s permission to man yards and give three cheers for their gallant guest. Here he met Captain Keppel on his way to Calcutta, who promised to pick him up at Singapore on his return and visit Sarawak again, and chastise the pirates of Sakarang.

Brooke therefore waited, but was again disappointed, as the Dido was ordered to China, and he had therefore to remain in the Straits until the end of May, when Captain Hastings gave him a passage over to Borneo in the Harlequin.

This long absence had encouraged his enemies, who now hoped that they were free from their troublesome neighbour. Sherif Sahib, however, though boasting as loudly as ever, did not feel secure in Sadong, and therefore prepared his vessels to remove himself and all his immediate following to the interior of the Batang Lupar river, where he would be in touch with the other Arab adventurers who commanded the different districts of that mighty stream. As a defiance to Sarawak, he invited all the Sakarang Dyaks to meet him at the entrance of the Sadong river, and there they rendezvoused to the number of two hundred Dyak bangkongs and Malay war boats. Some mischief was done along the coast, but Brooke surprised one of their expeditions and captured several of their war vessels.

During Brooke’s absence from Sarawak, his new house on the left bank of the river had been built on a rising knoll between two running streams, with the broad river flowing below. It was a pretty spot, and now he could write, I like couches, and flowers, and easy-chairs, and newspapers, and clear streams, and sunny walks.’ Here and there were planted and tended with uncommon care some rose plants, the Rajah’s favourite flower. “All breathes of peace and repose, and the very mid-day heat adds to the stillness around me. I love to allow my imagination to wander, and my senses to enjoy such a scene, for it is attended with a pleasing consciousness that the quiet and the peace are my own doing.’

 Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John


Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner