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As Long as We Remember...

May 7, 2014

The Search for Ali Part 2

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have been going through the Cash Books looking for Ali. What are they, you may wonder, and who was he?


Ali was the assistant to Alfred Wallace, who was here from 1855-1862. Wallace devised the Theory of Evolution completely independent of Charles Darwin. The two would share the honors in a presentation before the Linnaean Society (a big deal) in London. Mr. Darwin would go on to hog all the credit, until Wallace finally received his due recognition in the 1990s.


The Cash Books are set of records kept by James and Charles Brooke when the colony was being founded in 1842. They are a month by month description of income and expenditures by the administration. I have covered the years 1870-1884 and I am now working on 1854-1870.


Income came mainly from opium. The Chinese were great opium freaks and spent most of their money buying the stuff. Aarack (a rice wine) came in second with gambling a close third. There were miscellaneous income such as bird nests, rice and rubber a distant fourth.


The expenditures list the amounts for each European in the colony. For example, the Rajah usually got very little, but this was made up in house hold account which was also quite large. The list of Europeans included Charles Fox, Charles A. Johnson, Robert McHay, Walter Johnson, Henry Steele, William Manley, Joseph Middleton and Charles MacIntosh. They had their salaries listed and not much else.


The frustrating thing was that the locals had their salaries listed as Malays, Natives or Coolies. That was all. Nothing else listed in one lump sum. The Court, ruled by the locals, had six different people and they were listed but only by title and not by name.


This provides a problem in that I need to find names of the local inhabitants. Sometimes a name does pop up, and it is those names I am looking for. Ali Chick appears in January 1855 and then again in January 1859 and then in 1870 and finally dies in 1880. And that is all I have. Was it the correct Ali? No, because he shows in 1859 when he was supposed to be with Wallace somewhere in Batachi, Indonesia, where he rode out the monsoon.


I do have another Ali that I am tracking. His name is Ali Lecell and so far his name does follow the Wallace trip. However, he better not show up in the records until after 1862 when Wallace returns to England. I am now on 1860.


The Cash Books also provide a glimpse into the lives of the Rajah. The ship HMS Dido arrived and it cost the Rajah $116 for cigars. An African Squad sailed into the port. The effects of smuggling cost $22.65. The Borneo Company was formed in 1856, although I can find no record of it until 1857. Doming was the name of a local. Tobacco came from Sambas, Java and Pontianak, although I am not sure whether this was the name or the source.


I plan to continue my search this week covering the years 1860 to 1870. I am hoping Ali will show up as Ali Lecell.


Wish me luck!


...Life is good. . . . .


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