Sunday, 13 November 2011

Labuk & Sugut

The Labut & Sugut is one of the rarer of North Borneo postmarks. It probably ranks with Gantian and Tangkulap but below that of Sipitang and Ambong. I have been fortunate to have a stamp with a full on fairly legible franking.
This is what Owen Rutter wrote in his book, "British North Borneo" in 1922. He was working in the North Borneo civil service between 1910 and 1915.

"The Labuk and Sugut district, which forms part of the Sandakan Residency, is of vast extent and embraces the country
drained by the Labuk and Sugut and Paitan Rivers ; it joins 
the district of Marudu in the north and the Interior Residency 
in the west. Until recently the head-quarters of the district 
were Klagan, on the Labuk River, seven hours from Sandakan 
by launch, but owing to the difficulties of the bar and the fact 
that the station was continually being flooded it was moved 
to Beluran, in Labuk Bay. Although the Labuk River is 
nearly two hundred miles long, rising near the Ranau Plain in 
the uplands of Kinabalu, it is not navigable for more than 
fifteen ; the Sugut, which also has its source in the neighbour- 
hood of Kinabalu, is divided from the Labuk by a lofty range 
of hills, whose highest point is Mount Mentapok, 9,000 feet. 
It is worse than the Labuk for navigation, for no launches can 
get across its bar. Paitan, near which is the island of Jam- 
bongan, is reached in two days' march from Klagan, but with 
this exception nearly aU the traveUing has to be done by native 
boat, which has not made the district greatly sought after by 
officers in the Government service. The country, a region of 
vast, gloomy forests, is sparsely inhabited save in the neigh- 
bourhood of the rivers, where villages of Orang Sungei, or 
River Folk, are to be found." 
There is also a very good description of the arduous journey up the Labuk river in the late 19th century by Frank Hatton in dairies published posthumously by his father in :
North Borneo: Explorations and Adventures on the equator (1886)

The postmark was in use between 1903 and 1907 and postmarks outside this range were probably CTOs. The question I have is why is this postmark called Labuk & Sugut and  
not Klagan? I wonder whether it was a mobile type post office postmark rather than a 
town cancellation. As described above, this is a vast area and travel and communication 
was difficult even by river. Scattered thinly across this region were tobacco estates and 
timber concessions. The district officer in remote areas was very often a jack of all trades. It is possible that on his travels to visit his constituents in the far corners, he oblingingly 
brought along some postage stamps and the datestamp and acted as a postmaster of 
sorts. There he carefully applied the chop in the centre of the stamp. Well, he should 
have the time to do so as there would not have been many letters posted from this region.

click to enlarge.
This area is nowadays largely oil palm country.

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