Thursday, 10 January 2013

Goebilt, Brooketon & Muara

The English sounding names of Goebilt and Brooketon probably evokes a mental image of picture postcard towns and a congenial life style. This was far from the truth as these were actually places of toil and grime.

Goebilt was the site of a jelutong estate not far from Kuching which was backed by the Goelets and Vanderbilts, rich American families of the day. The name was a clever use of part of both names. Jelutong is a hard wood tree from which latex can be extracted. The factory was started in 1910 during the rubber boom but was eventually closed some 20 years later due to the decline in the price of rubber.
The cancellation is normally in violet and is one of the rarer postmarks of Sarawak. It was in use between 1910 and 1924.  There was actually no official post office and the hand stamp was kept in the office on the estate. Our friend, Ha Buey Hon, was the chief clerk. Hence most of the surviving postal history of Goebilt would have had something to do with him. 

Date of 15 MAR 1900. Only 1900 where the year was in 4 digits. The year is invariably smudged to varying degrees as shown here. This 1900 CDS is said to be scarce and has numerals which are smaller than the other letters and numerals (ref SJ v59 p133).

Brooketon was named after Rajah Brooke of Sarawak even though this was and still is part of Brunei. He took over the concession for mining coal from William Clark Cowie in 1888. As a sign of the murky politics of the day, Brooke had total run of the place using his own officers and police. At the time, a weakened Brunei in disarray, was under pressure from both Sarawak and the British North Borneo Company who were both expanding their territories at its expense. 
This cancellation(1898-1907) is probably the most popular of the Sarawak postmarks. Even though it is relatively more common in comparison to Goebilt for instance, it still commands a fair premium. The cancels dating from before 1900 was very much harder to find and as such are much more valuable.
The Brooketon cancellation has the unique distinction of being available on all the four territories of British Borneo. It is very more uncommon on Labuan, Brunei and North Borneo stamps. The circumstances as to how this all came about remains unclear even though much of it was probably paquebot usage as there was a regular steamer service to Singapore after the mail was transported there by native craft. No postal history exists with this cancellation as far as I am aware and probably a significant portion of postmarked items were cancelled by favour.

These are all examples of D1 which was in use in 1909 only. It is one of the "curved" year postmarks of Brunei. Muara came into being after the closure of the Brooketon post office which was located about 2 miles away.
Surprisingly, it only has a rating of  20 in Proud's book. The 1907 25c stamp has a SG catalogue value of £48 and its good large part cancel should enhance its value significantly.
What gets even more interesting is that the Stanley Gibbons catalogue states that the stamp in the middle, the 5c in black and orange was issued in 1916. So how did it manage to have a 1909 cancellation? It would seem that D1 was a "loose" handstamp which was deployed to cancel adhesives by favour long after it has ceased its function in the post office. This was the case for the earliest of Brunei handstamps in general as Brunei was economically a very quiet place with little commercial mail.

A present day map of Brunei. The Malaysia bit is more accurately Sarawak which encircles Brunei. It also cuts it into two sections due to a historic policy of progressive annexation of territory. The district around Bangar is known as Temburong and has a nice desirable postmark. A bit more about Brunei postmarks can be read here.

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