James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Paku

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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 – Paku

During our stay on the districts of Paku, we lost some men from the over-confidence of the sons of the Orang Kaya Tumangong of Lundu, who advanced to clear the path by which we were to march on the town. They were stooping to pull out the ranjaus when the Seribas, headed by Lingire, sprang upon them, and cut down two, while the third son escaped, as a party of our Malays poured a volley into the enemy and killed several of them. However, we advanced next day and laid their country waste, our native contingent loading themselves with plunder. Having showed the pirates that no defences could prevent our punishing them, it was decided to carry out the original plan and attack those Sakarang and Seribas Dyaks who lived on the Kanowit, a branch of the great Rejang river, about a hundred miles from the mouth of the latter. These men were most feared by the inhabitants of the Sago districts, which were situated near the western entrances of the mighty stream.

Many of our native allies now left us, as they were loaded with plunder and were not provisioned for so long a voyage; so we proceeded with the Nemesis, the English boats, and our principal Malay war prahus, and as soon as we appeared on the Rejang fresh bodies of natives began to join us, eager to retaliate upon those who had so often attacked them and captured their trading vessels. The Rejang is a splendid river, destined some day to be an important highway of commerce, as its various branches open out a large extent of country, and it penetrates further into the great island of Borneo than any other stream on the north-west coast.

The Nemesis towed many of the boats up to the entrance of the Kanowit branch, and anchored there whilst the expedition pushed up to attack the great pirate chief Buah Ryah, who had established his quarters in the interior of this broad river. We advanced rapidly, and were within one day’s pull of his forts, while Captain Brooke, with the light division of fast-pulling boats had reconnoitred some miles ahead, and found that the pirates were beginning to show in great numbers, which made us feel assured that we should soon be in touch with the main body. We landed to inspect a large village house, which was surrounded by a cotton plantation, and found it well built, and full of baskets of the skulls of the unfortunates who had been surprised by these marauders. I counted three hundred heads in one village. We then fell down the river to join Sir James Brooke and the English force, in great spirits at the prospect of coming in contact with the enemy next day. We were therefore astonished to hear, on our arrival, that it had been decided to give up the object of our expedition and return.

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