Vol 22 – The Sabah Society Journal – (2005)

The bulk of this journal comprise a miscellany of articles and essays based on recent dedicated research into Sabah’s still nebulous past. These articles are largely tributes and descriptive accounts covering the pre-colonial and colonial era before 1950 and are significant for their contribution in filling the still large gaps in Sabah’s historical record. The highlights of this journal would be the commemorations and tributes to the people and personalities who have in different ways enriched Sabah’s history.

The year 2005 is a landmark year for the Sabah Society for it embarked on perhaps its most ambitious project to date. To mark the 60th Anniversary of the infamous Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches in 1945 The Society organized a commemorative march which followed as close as possible along the original route taken by the ill-fated POWs. The march was specially organized to pay tribute to both the people of Sabah for their many personal sacrifices made during World War II and the POWs who died in the forced marches. A group of 34 people took part in the commemorative march which began in Sandakan on 16 August and ended in Ranau on 25 August, 2005. A plaque was placed at the Ranau memorial and a dedicated information leaflet by The Sabah Society to commemorate the event was distributed at the closing ceremony of the march. The leaflet contained little known information on many local unsung heroes who deserve mention, and for that reason it is reproduced in this journal.

The Sabah Museum also celebrated this year the centennial of the Atkinson Memorial Clock Tower, one of Kota Kinabalu’s few remaining historical monuments of any significance, with a revamp of its internal mechanisms and outward appearance. The history of this once definitive landmark is described in the commemorative article on the clock tower.

The reappraisal of the “Pirate Priest” reflects the painstaking research that has been carried out to vindicate this much maligned character of Sabah’s earlier pre-colonial history. The author’s chronological narrative and explanation of the character and fascinating circumstances of Don Cuarteron’s life succeeds in casting doubts on the spurious label for the priest.

G.C. Woolley’s chronicles of life in North Borneo through his diaries, miscellaneous collection of plate photographs and artifacts are irreplaceable historical treasures for the state, providing also a continual resource for research. The explanation in the article on his missing diaries help de-mystify the gaps and presents a more revealing account of life in the months leading to the war, and in closing months after that.

Exploration into the early opium trade in North Borneo provides additional glimpses into the nature of the business when it was legitimate in the early days of the Chartered Company administration. The opium trade was very lucrative and provided an important channel to raise Government revenue despite its known deleterious effects on the users, rampant especially among the labourers at the time. Use of the drug was finally banned after the war.

The lighter side of malaria research is revealed in this intriguing expose of how it was conducted in the early days of the programme in Sabah. The pioneering research into the habits of the mosquitoes transmitting the parasites and causing the disease was initiated before the war. Continued efforts to control malaria after the war resulted in the establishment of the Borneo Malaria Research unit in the late 1940s, and its activities including its pre-war prelude provide the principal source of this witty account.

The article on the Dulit Partridge illustrates the importance of good documentation and maintenance of biological specimens as historical resources for research in the future. The evidence in historical records and specimens which was overlooked for more than a century now confirms that the Dulit Partridge is also found in Sabah, that the bird is not just confined to the mountains of Sarawak.

The Sabah Society would like to thank the authors for their contributions in this journal which has evolved into a largely historical issue, and also to Ms. Stella Moo-Tan for her valued editorial assistance in this volume.

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