James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Buah Ryah

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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.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Buah Ryah

As dinner was over, we removed to a short distance from our chiefs to have our meal in quiet, and to express to each other our indignation at the decision to which our naval commander had come. Some others joined us, equally disappointed. Towards the end of the meal, I could not help raising my glass and saying aloud, ‘Oh, for one hour of bonnie Keppel’ Captain Farquhar sprang up and came over to us to inquire what I meant. We told him why we considered his determination very detrimental to the cause, as we were approaching Buah Ryah’s stronghold. He urged, however, the fatigue of his men, who had been pulling many days in succession against a strong current. We proposed a day’s rest, but on a hint from Sir James I gave up the discussion. He thought as I did, that Buah Ryah would, with some reason, proclaim that we were afraid to attack him, and would be thus encouraged to hold out. This actually happened, and thus the pacification of these districts was delayed for many years.

There is no doubt that the English sailors were really tired, and possibly also dissatisfied, as all the skirmishing was done by our native contingent, who forged ahead of the slow-pulling men-of-war’s boats. How we missed the special boats of the Meander. The sailors, however, might have been sure that had there been any real fighting ahead, all would have waited for them. As we gloomily fell down the river we met thousands of natives who were coming to join our expedition, and who were desperately disappointed that Buah Ryah had not been punished. When near the mouth of the Kanowit we were hailed by the inhabitants of the villages we had destroyed. A conference ensued; they showed their faith in the white man by boldly pulling out to our prahus. They did not attempt to deny their piracies, but promised amendment; and most of these chiefs kept their word.

As we returned towards Sarawak the native chiefs of all the trading towns on the coast came to express their unbounded thanks to the English Rajah and to the Queen’s forces for the punishment they had inflicted on the pirates, and the prospect it held out of trade being carried on free from danger of pillage and death.

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

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner