James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1857 – Extraordinary Escape

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.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1857 – Extraordinary Escape

An amiable and promising young officer, Mr Nicoletts, who had but just arrived from an outstation on a visit to the Rajah, was lodged in a cottage near; startled by the sound of the attack, he rushed forth to reach the chiefs house, but was intercepted and killed by the Chinese, who severed his head from his body, and bore it on a pike in triumph as that of the Rajah. Mr Steel, the Resident on the Rejang, and an experienced officer, quietly looked through the window of his cottage, and seeing what was passing, slipped out of the house, and soon found himself sheltered by the jungle; and the Rajah’s servant, whose shouts had drawn the Chinese towards him, had to display very unwonted activity before he could reach the protecting forest and join Mr Steel.

The other attacks took place simultaneously. Mr and Mrs Crookshank, rushing forth on hearing this midnight alarm, were cut down, the latter left for dead, the former seriously wounded. The constable’s house was attacked; he and his wife escaped, but their two children and an English lodger were killed by the insurgents.

Here occurred a scene which showed how cruel were these Chinese. When the rebels burst into Mr Middleton’s house he fled, and his wife, following, found herself in the bath-room, and by the shouts was soon convinced that her retreat had been cut off. In the meantime the Chinese had seized her two children, and brought the eldest down into the bath-room to show them the way by which the father had escaped. Mrs Middleton’s sole refuge was a large water jar, which happened to be full, and she only raised her mouth above water to draw breath; there she heard the poor little boy questioned, pleading for his life, and heard his shriek, when the fatal sword was raised which severed his head from his body. With loud laughter these fiends kicked the little head from one to the other, and then rushed out in pursuit of Mr Middleton. Fortunately the bath-room was in darkness, so the mother escaped unseen. The Chinese then set fire to the house, and she distinctly heard the shrieks of her second child as they tossed him into the flames. Mrs Middleton remained in the jar till the falling embers forced her to leave it. She ran to a neighbouring pond and, fortunately, was thus sheltered from the savages who were rushing round the burning dwelling. Her escape was indeed extraordinary.

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