Saturday, 6 August 2011

Silam post office

Rightly, this may be the most sought after postmark of  North Borneo. Potentially, it is also the most beautiful of postmarks but unfortunately, the ink used does not adhere properly. Very often it appears as a smudge. The hand stamp has been applied upside down on this stamp. One should see most of the lion except the tail and also quite a few the words can be deciphered.  This post mark would look at its very best intact on an envelope. There are 3 colours recorded, blue, black and orange red. Most of the examples are in blue. Orange red is quite rare and black is even more uncommon even though I think this is probably a variation of the blue shade. I have seen copies with a blue black variation in colour. To the learned, it is also described as a negative seal. This is because the image is contained in the inkless part of the postmark.
Silam stills exist and is probably smaller than in its heyday as it is now known as Kampung(village) Silam. It lies 10 miles to the south west of  Lahad Datu on the coast of the Darvel Bay near the trunk road between Lahad Datu and Tawau. This road also runs north to Sandakan. It came into existence as an experimental garden in 1881. Tobacco grew very well in the area. Many estates were set up largely ran by Dutch companies and at one stage, tobacco accounted for a very significant percentage of overseas exports from North Borneo. However, with time, demand and value declined especially after WW1 and most of the tobacco estates went bust. By June1899, Silam was noted by the British North Borneo Herald, in its fortnightly review, to be in terminal decline due to lack of produce and and having a very poor harbour. 
The Silam strikes were first used in 1888, apparently as a mail bag seal surcharging the top of a batch of letters. The mail were then sent on to Sandakan to be sorted and a secondary date stamp  of Sandakan applied. The post office was closed in December 1895 and the mail operations transfered to Lahad Datu which was outgrowing its neighbour. It appears that the postmark continued to be used in Lahad Datu up to 1897. It really intrigues me as to why Silam was able to use such an unique and beautiful hand stamp (lucky for us!). Who authorised it, designed it etc etc?  
Of recent interest, the cancellation of a coal fired power station to be located at Silam is certainly good news for the surrounding environment.
Click on map to see Silam  
GoogleEarth: One could see a side road leading from the main trunk road with some houses or shops on either side. This leads onto a village/kampung built on the shallow bay on stilts presumably. There are about 50 houses here. The surrounding area is given mostly to planting with oil palms but it is good to see that there are still some large areas of what looks like secondary forest.  

My second Silam! Let us hope there are more out there. It was described as black but it is more bluish gray.

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