James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1857 – Abang Buyong

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 – Abang Buyong

The confusion which reigned throughout the rest of the town may be imagined, as, startled by the shouts and yells of the Chinese, the inhabitants rushed to the doors and windows and beheld night turned into day by the bright flames which rose in three directions where the Rajah’s, Crookshank’s and Middleton’s large houses were all burning at the same time.

It was at first very naturally thought that the Chinese contemplated a massacre of the Europeans, but messengers were soon despatched to them by the Kungsi to say that nothing was further from their intention than to interfere with those who were unconnected with the Government, which refinement of policy shows that the plan had been concocted by more subtle brains than those possessed by the gold workers of Bau.

The Rajah had, as soon as possible, proceeded to the Datu Bandhar’s house, and being quickly joined by his English officers, endeavoured to organise a force with which to surprise the victorious Chinese; but it was impossible. No sooner did he collect a few men than their wives and children surrounded them and refused to be left behind; and being without proper arms and ammunition, it was but a panic-stricken mob. So he instantly took his determination, with that decision which had been the foundation of his success, and, giving up the idea of an immediate attack, advised the removal of the women to the left-hand bank of the river, where they would be safe from a land attack of the Chinese, who could make their way along the right-hand bank of the river by a road which ran at the back of the town.

This removal was accomplished by the morning, when the small party of English under the Rajah walked over to the little river of Siol, which falls into the Santubong branch of the Sarawak river. At the mouth of the Siol the Rajah found the war boat of Abang Buyong, with sixty men, waiting for him, which was soon joined by six others and many canoes, for no sooner did the Malays of the neighbouring villages hear where the Rajah was than they began flocking to him. He now started for the Samarahan, intending to proceed to the Balang Lupar to organise an expedition from the well-supplied forts there. On their way they rested at the little village of Sabang, and to the honour of the Malay character I must add that never during the height of his power and prosperity did he receive so much sympathy, tender attention and delicate generosity as now, when a defeated fugitive. They vied with each other as to who should supply him and his party with clothes and food, since they had lost all; and if to know that he was enshrined in the hearts of the people was any consolation to him in his misfortunes, he then had ample proofs of it. No wonder that in reading these accounts the Daily News, hitherto so hostile to him, should say, “We have sincere pleasure in proclaiming our unreserved admiration of the manner in which he must have exercised his power to have produced such fruits.”.

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