James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1857 – Determination

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 – Determination

The unanimous determination of the assembly was to remain faithful to the Rajah, but they were divided as to the course to be pursued. Patah, however, unfortunately, cut the knot of the difficulty by manning a light war boat with a dozen Malays, and proceeding at once up the river, attacked and captured a Chinese boat, killing five of its crew. In the meantime all the women and children had been removed from the town, and some trading prahus were manned and armed but imperfectly, as the Chinese had taken away the contents of the arsenal, and the chief portion of the crews of the war boats were engaged in conveying the fugitives to Samarahan.

Patah’s bold act was no doubt well meaning, but was decidedly premature, as the Malays, being scattered, could not organise any resistance, and urgent entreaties were made to the Rajah to return and head this movement. He complied, as he could not even appear to abandon those who were fighting so bravely for him; but he knew it was useless, and arrived at Kuching to find the rest of the English flying, the town in the hands of the Chinese, and smoke rising in every direction from the burning Malay houses.

It appears that when the news reached the Chinese that the Malays were preparing to resist their rule, they determined to return immediately to Kuching, and attack them before their preparations could be completed. They divided their forces into two bodies, as they were now recruited by several hundreds of men from other gold workings, and had forced the agriculturists established at Sungei Tungah to join them; in fact, their great boats could not hold half their numbers, so one body marched by a new road which had been opened to the town, while the other came down by the river.

As soon as the Malays saw the Chinese barges rounding the point above the town they boldly dashed at them, forced them to the river banks, drove out the crews, and triumphantly captured ten of the largest cargo boats. The Chinese, better armed, kept up a hot fire from the rising ground, and killed several of the boldest Malays, among others Abang Gapoor, whose disbelief in his kinsman’s story enabled the rebels to surprise the capital, and who to his last breath bewailed his fatal mistake; and one who was equally to be regretted, our faithful old follower, Kassim. The latter lingered long enough to see the Rajah again successful, and he said he died happy in knowing it. Notwithstanding their losses, the Malays towed away the barges, laden, fortunately, with some of the most valuable booty, and secured them to a large trading prahu, anchored in the centre of the river. Having thus captured some superior arms and ammunition they could better reply to the fire of their enemies who lined the banks.

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