Sunday, 3 December 2017

Henry Walker, Commissioner of Lands, British North Borneo

I am quite glad to acquire these incoming postcards to Sandakan recently. They were sent to Henry Walker and his wife. Henry Walker was Commissioner of Lands BNB between 1892-1909. He died on 13 February 1930. Both Walker and his wife were commemorated by an inscription at the base the pulpit in St Michael Church in Sandakan. 

Henry Walker (National Archives)

base of pulpit at St Michael Church

By the time he retired in March 1909, he had been working in North Borneo for 26 years. He joined the service in December 1882. He started as a land surveyor and swiftly became the Acting Commissioner of Lands in September 1883. His other duties included a stint as the editor the BNB Herald between 1894 and 1896.
In 1899, he identified a suitable plot of land just across from Gaya Island for a new township within reach of the west coast railway. Gantian had failed in this respect. He called it Jesselton after the vice chairman of the ruling chartered company. But Sir Charles Jessel never set foot in North Borneo and Jesselton in particular. Henry Walker died in February 1930.  
This series of postcards also shows the transition from an undivided back to a divided back postcard. The first divided back postcard was issued in Britain in 1902 and it was soon followed by France and Germany. It was not until 1907 when USA followed suit. To this day, picture postcards still adhered to this format. Prior to 1904, most postcards have a blank border on the picture side which was where messages were usually written. Postal regulations forbade any writing on the address side or otherwise a higher letter postage rate would applied. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A long misplaced biscuit tin of stamps and Sabah postmarks of 1971

Recently, I found my long "lost" biscuit tin of stamps that I collected in my teens. In it are mostly stamps cut from envelopes by my sister who was working in the local forestry department in Sandakan. It is a treasure trove of postmarks of 1971. It is not fully comprehensive but does contain some fairly uncommon postmarks.

The postmarks shown here in consecutive order are Tambunan, Tuaran, Membakut, Bandau, Tenom, Kota Belud, Ranau, Tamparuli, Lahad Datu, Railway TPO 1, Beaufort, Papar, Tanjong Aru, Keningau, Semporna and Tawau. The common ones like Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Labuan and Kudat are not shown. Tambunan and Membakut are the most difficult ones here I think.

Kunak postmarks could not be that common and this is a page full of them including some nice multiples. It is situated on the south eastern coast on the road between between Tawau and Lahad Datu on its way to Sandakan. The area was previously known as Mostyn. Kunak had a thriving local timber extraction industry in those days which resulted in frequent correspondence with the main forestry office which was in Sandakan. In the early 1970s, it was mainly a timber camp and a few shops. Nowadays there is hardly any forest there after been overwhelmed by the oil palm plantations. There is also cocoa which the Mostyn Estate was known for together with hemp. Hemp cultivation is probably not current but it was depicted on the 4c purple stamps of 1950 and 1954. The area is also known for its thriving fishing industry. 

Among the many hundreds of stamps in the tin, there were some which I set aside years ago. They include these colour variations which are not classify as far as I know. 1971 was a transitional year from the much better printed orchid issue to that of the butterflies on glossy paper. It is a nightmare trying to find a good postmark on the butterfly issue as the ink did not stick well. It tended to be faint or smudged. And the postmarks were changed in the major towns to a smaller and more mean less attractive version as seen above on the 6c stamps.

Not many of these flimsy registered receipts survive in the damp hot conditions of the far east, I think. They are collectible. These two show the transit from English to Malay on official stationary. You can see my KK Airport post office receipt here.

There were only a few North Borneo stamps in this tin but this pair of 1954 10c has the "extra chimney" variety on the upper stamp which is present once on a sheet of 100 at the top of the right hand corner ie R1/10. The postdate of 26 NOV 1957 implies that this variety is also present in later printings of this stamp. We know it was originally in the first printing because I have 2 first day covers with this variety. 


I might as well include the very uncommon Kuala Penyu cancellation. It is shown here with the cancels from Ranua and Kota Belud. They were all from 1964 when the Sabah Malaysia cancellations were first used in July.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Early postcards of Labuan in colour

For someone who started by collecting stamps only, I somehow managed to accumulate many covers and now also a collection of postcards. The following Labuan postcards were probably printed in the 1910s by a yet unnamed publisher. This group of 7 is unusual in that they are in colour which is my preference. There are probably 9 or more different cards in this series which are well described by the caption.

Temporary Fish Market Labuan

The caption in the corresponding black and white postcard is placed in the middle in the upper part of the card and reads differently as Labuan. Railway line & Bridge.

Beach Street, Labuan

Coolies Discharging Coal, Labuan

Beach Street & Railway Line, Labuan

In the corresponding black and white cards, the caption differs slightly as Labuan. Fishing Boats.

Again the caption in the black and white card is slightly different with Labuan. A road to the Race course. 

This is the back of the card. The format and wording is very similar to the 1920s postcards published by Max Hilckes of Singapore as shown below it. So it is my belief that these coloured were also published by Max Hilckes at an earlier date.

Friday, 1 September 2017

More Stamps

This is a continuation of the previous post showing some more highlights from a recent collection that I bought.

As usual most old collections have a fake SG2. Genuine items are very uncommon and in my estimation, probably not more than 2 dozen are in existence. There is not a single mint copy that passes my scrutiny. A genuine copy would be from the very first printing of SG1 which is referred to as Transfer A. Most fake mint copies are from Transfer C, a later printing. Genuine copies should also be perf 12.
The above adhesive is perf 14 and is from the 1886 issue. Bar cancels were not current during the short use timeline of SG2 and so any copy with a bar cancel is a forgery until proven otherwise. This was because SG2 was used for a very short time in early April 1883 when the very first cancellers had not arrived. Only pen cancels were used in those early days of North Borneo postal history. With regard to the fake surcharge shown, the obvious abnormality is the deformed lower circle of "8" in "8 Cents". There are also other differences. Unfortunately, this same fake surcharge is the one illustrated in the SG catalogue. 

This is D1, the undated double circle from Kudat and is quite an uncommon cancellation. This is my second copy after many years of searching. It is only found in stamps issued in 1883 but it did not come into use until early 1884. No cover is known apart from a large front piece. Here we have SG3 and the other similar double circle cancellations found on this stamp are those from Gayah and Sandakan.   

This pair of surcharged high values are not uncommon but they both have very nice Sandakan cancels. The one with the Two Cents surcharge is D3, usually in red and on the Eight Cents surcharged stamp is D4 which is unusual. I believed most of these postally cancelled stamps were cancelled by favour ie by the postal clerk at the request of the collector/dealer.

This is the complete 1891-92 surcharged set. Most collections would be lacking the first stamp of this set because it is one of the most expensive stamps from North Borneo. There was only 1 sheet of 50 of the 8 cents "postage below" surcharged with "6 cents." made, out of which I think, less than 20 survived. The variety with the large "s" is unique and is the second most expensive stamp from North Borneo. My copy is not certified but I think it is genuine. There are fakes in existence, so beware. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Recent acquisitions

It is about time that I show some good stamps. I bought a good collection of North Borneo recently. There are some really interesting items in it. I shall show some of the others at another time.

This is the 1886 set which is lacking the 4c value which I have elsewhere in my collection. There are two very desirable items in this small group. It does not include the half cent magenta which is moderately valuable. The 1c orange is expensive used. The one here has a part 14 bar cancel but look at the perforations. It is perfed gauged 18 as compared to the normal of 14 for this set. It is not listed by Stanley Gibbons or Steven Tan. There is one mention in an early copy of the Sarawak Journal. The other desirable item here is the 8c green with the light blue smudge of a cancellation. Connoisseurs of North Borneo cancellations would recognised our much beloved Silam cancel. 

These two values were surcharged in September 1886 for revenue as well as postal use. The half cent looks postally used with a part bar cancel and also also part of a red cds which would have been from Sandakan. The 10c adhesive is mint.  

Thursday, 3 August 2017

From Nagoya to Jesselton to Labuan to Kuching

This is a rather interesting cover that was acquired recently. It was supposed to be sent from Nagoya in Japan to Kuching in Sarawak via Singapore but somewhat took a different and a very much longer route.

It was postdated at Nagoya as 11.4.17 using the Japanese traditional date system. Japanese in common with Chinese reads from right to left and so this translates as 17 April in the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Yoshihito in the Taisho era. This era began in 30 July 1912. So the conventional date of posting in Nagoya would have been 17 April 1923.
It arrived at Jesselton (D13) on 20 May 1923 and then transited at Labuan on 27 My 1923 ( D10 time code D) before arriving at Kuching on 6 JUN 1923 (D17). The whole journey took 7 weeks which was much slower than mail from Europe. It probably would have taken about 2 weeks going via Singapore.
The strange thing is there was no regular boat service between Jesselton and Japan. A Japanese ship called on Sandakan monthly and also the Eastern & Australian line dropped by Sandakan between Australia and Japan. It was quite possible this letter passed through Sandakan but did not received a backstamp. The reason why this route was taken remained unanswered but it should be a rare cover in this instance.  

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Magistrate Court Lahad Datu fiscal cancellation and others

This is the MAGISTRATE'S COURT B. N. B. fiscal cancellation for Lahad Datu. Similar format cancellations are also known for Jesselton, Kudat, Tawau, Beaufort, Papar, Tuaran and Kinabatangan. There are quite likely others.

This is a rather interesting unknown cancellation on a NB stamp with "3 CENTS" clearly seen. Was it from NB? Was it a foreign postage due cancellation. Postage due marks are normally denominated in centimes as per UPU regulation. And also PD marks and instructions have to be clear and are normally applied on an unmarked part of the envelope.
The size of this cancellation is similar to that of Sandakan PD2 , the lion postage paid 1 cent cancellation used on the newspaper wrapper for the BNB Herald. The bit of the bar seen at the top on the left resembles end part of the plinth where the lion in PD2 rests. The basic foreign newspaper rate was increased to 4c from 2c  some time in 1921 but by November 1921, 3c was the basic local and foreign rate newspaper carriage rate. This remained the case up till WWll. By this time, the BNB Herald was published at Jesselton.

This is rather unusual and probably uncommon. It is the Sibu Linotype used on 20 May 1946 on a pre war non BMA overprinted stamp. The 1934-41 set was reissue for postal use on 26 April 1946 at the insistence of Rajah Charles Vyner when the BMA stamps were running out. He was against Sarawak becoming a colony. One would not expect to see this prewar set of stamps with North Borneo or Brunei linotype cancellations as they would not have been valid for use in those two countries. The Sarawak linotypes were largely replaced in July 1946 by Australian type and star cancellations.


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Walter George Darby (6.8.1865-7.2.1938)

Following on from Edward Ellis Abrahamson, we have an even bigger business character in Walter George Darby. He took over the running of the China-Borneo Company when Abrahamson left in July 1891. He arrived initially in September 1889 on the SS Memnon from Hong Kong to work as the accountant for the China-Borneo Company. Through his contacts, he also set up Darby & Co with interests in shipping, insurance, plantations etc. He was by far the wealthiest expatriate locally in those days. He continued to wield enormous power when he was in charge of Harrisons & Crosfield which took over most of the assets of the China-Borneo Company in 1919. He was definitely more influential and powerful than the Governor himself. He was also credited with importing the first motor car into North Borneo in 1914. It was believed to be a Chrevolet Baby Grand Touring. It was used for the short distance between his residence, Palawan House and work. Roads were almost non existent in North Borneo and there were 4-5 miles of road in and around Sandakan. The car was a great luxury and a grand gesture of power. 

Really a lot can be written about this card. It is full of wonderful information about the route and time it took for its journey from Suriname, a former Dutch colony on the north eastern Atlantic coast of South America, to Sandakan in North Borneo. The markings are quite clear. It went from Suriname to Le Havre, then to Paris, to Singapore via Penang, then to Jesselton and finally Sandakan. The whole journey took less than 2 months which was pretty remarkable. 
The important thing was that the card was addressed to Walter George Darby. There is scarcely any postal history around involving Darby directly as far as I know. There are a lot of post cards addressed to Mary Dolla Darby, the daughter, some of which are from her mother. Darby's wife was Violet Beeston who was the daughter of Captain Richard D Beeston, chief  of the Sandakan constabulary. They married in 1900. Violet Beeston was a contemporary friend of Ada Pryer as mentioned in her diary.

This pair are examples of postcards to Dolla Darby, the daughter. They were posted in Singapore on the same date and transited Jesselton before arriving in Sandakan. It has Jesselton D2 and Sandakan D8. They both showed the area in Singapore frequented by most expatriates.

Tuck's postcards were popular in those days and this was sent from UK to Dolla. It has Jesselton D2 and Sandakan D11. 

This was an incoming postcard from Manila in the Philippines. It went per SS Changsha and sent c/o Harrisons & Crosfields which was managed by Walter Darby.

S S Changsha
With this postcard, the S S Changsha arrived at Sandakan on 2 December 1921. It plied the route between Hong Kong, Manila and Australian ports. It was part of the Australian Oriental Line. It was delivered in 1886 and made its final voyage in November 1925 and sent to the breaker yard a year later.

This was a photo used as a postcard sent in 4 April 1937. The photo was the only one of W G Darby that I know. By this time, he was looking frail and he died less than a year later. His grave is marked by a modest tombstone in St Mary Churchyard, Warbleton, East Sussex near to Markly, a country estate which he inherited from his grandfather in 1931.
After almost 29 years in North Borneo, Darby retired in August 1918 and left for England.  They returned for visits in 1919 and 1921.  From 1928, there were frequent visits to North Borneo both for business and leisure including revisiting the very popular picnic excursions to Taganak, now part of the Philippines turtle islands when it was returned after WWll. On a clear day, Taganak can be seen in the distance from the Buli Simsim area of Sandakan.
During his retirement, he was chairman of Cowie Harbour Coal Co Ltd, Membakut Rubber Ltd, North Borneo State Rubber Ltd, Marudu Rubber Ltd as well as managing director of British Borneo Timber Co.
The postcard was written by the mother, Violet Darby to their daughter, Dolla who was Mrs Curteis by that time. She married Sir Gerald Curteis in 1936 when she was 34 years old. Mary Dolla Curteis died in Tunbridge Wells at the grand old age of 91 in August 1992. She had 3 children including 2 older girls who were twins. W G Darby also had a younger son Selby, named after his brother, but it is unclear what happened to him before or after the family left Sandakan in 1918.

Taganak Is in the distance and Berhala Is in the foreground, that is how near Philippines is to Sandakan.