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. 

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