WANDERINGS IN SOUTH EASTERN SEAS
The Golden Legacy Article
written by Rozan Yunos
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, November 29, 2015
THERE are not many books about Brunei written in the past. The few that are written are cherished. Almost all of these books were written by men authors and there are times we missed the views from the gentler side. However there is one chapter of a book describing Brunei, if not an entire book at least, written by a lady author. The book is entitled ‘Wanderings in South Eastern Seas’ and it was published in 1924 by T Fisher Unwin Ltd of London. The author was Charlotte Cameron.
Charlotte Cameron was described as an intrepid traveller. In that book, she listed the itinerary of places she had visited from 1910 to 1923 where for each visit, she wrote a book and the list include “Twenty-four Thousand Miles in South America” in 1910; “The Imperial Durbar at Delhi” in 1911; “Russia” in 1912; “Twenty-seven Thousand Miles in Africa”in 1913; “War Work Lecturing from the Atlantic to the Pacific“ from 1917 to 1918; “Twenty Thousand Miles in Alaska and Yukon” in 1919; “One Hundred Thousand Miles in the Southern Seas” in 1921 to 1922; and “Wandering in South-Eastern Seas” in 1922 to 1923.
Who was Charlotte Cameron?
One Indonesian blogger has written extensively about her and published his writings in a blog called ‘NaratasGaroet’. He was interested in her because she also wrote about a number of places in Indonesia that she travel to in that same book.
What we do know about Charlotte Cameron is that she was a very rich woman from England as she could afford to travel around the world during those years. Her full name was Charlotte nee Wales-Almy Cameron. She was born in either 1872 or 1873 and was first married to Major Donald Cameron, who died about 1901. She re-married on May 19, 1901 to Ernst Auguste George Jacquemard de Landresse but this was apparently a very short-lived second marriage, that she did not use the name of her second husband. Cameron died in 1946.
During a visit to Australia, many of the media who covered the arrival of Cameron reviewed her books which she has written up to that time. In a review of her book, ‘A woman’s winter in Africa’ (1913), which is a record of the trip ‘Twenty-seven Thousand Miles in Africa’ Sydney’s Freeman Journal noted that Cameron was the most intrepid woman traveller since the time of Mary Kingsley.
In that winter travel around Africa in 1913, Cameron started from Mombasa on the east coast to the extreme towards Sierra Leone in the west. In six months she recorded the 26,000-mile journey down the coast as well as a thousand miles across Rhodesia to Victoria Falls.
Traveling for her is an adventure. She wrote “when there runs through your veins the blood of sailors, soldiers, adventures, and hardy pioneers, yours is not a temperament that rejoices much in rest. Having seen most of this wonderful world, you have an unquenchable desire to explore yet farther”.
The Brunei that she wrote in 1923 was an interesting place. His Royal Highness Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II ibni al-Marhum Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin, was reigning then as the 26th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
He ascended the throne as the eldest son of Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. When his father died in May 1906, the responsibility of the Sultan was in the hands of the Council of Regency as he was only 17 years old then.
It was only in 1918 that His Royal Highness was coronated as the 26th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II took a great deal of interest in the progress of the country, encouraging advances in agriculture, medicine and education.
Charlotte Cameron noted that the year before her visit, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales came over to Brunei in March 1922 and “… upon his arrival, the Sultan, with an attendant holding the yellow fringed umbrella of State, made his first speech in English to the Prince, saying it was a great pleasure to welcome him to Brunei…”
Cameron also wrote about the royal etiquette and customs of Brunei including the types and sizes of candles to be lighted during the presence of the royal family and the pengiran peranakans and noted that the candles of the Resident and the Pengiran Bendahara were exactly the same in weight and height.
She noted that the Sultan was very proud of the British, and acknowledged the benefit that has accrued to his kingdom from their association. She got it wrong though when she said that Brunei has had a British Resident for more than 60 years. It was only in 1906 that the British Resident was in Brunei and by 1923 it had only been 17 years and not 60 years as she had written.
She also wrote about Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II’s visit to Singapore when the Prince of Wales was there. Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam was taken around to see the sights of Singapore. The British Resident noted that His Royal Highness Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam was the “most dignified of all the Sultans present” during that visit. Cameron observed that the Sultan “is descended from men who have ruled since the 14th century, so it is evident that blood does tell”.
She wrote about a royal custom of Brunei then which was the presentation of cigars. A huge ‘Brunei’ cigar is at least a foot long and is made of the best native tobacco. It was said that the Sultan presented a Brunei cigar to the Prince which was a foot and a half in length and the Prince gallantly accepted it.
She also noted that Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam “having mixed more or less with English people, appreciates the fact that to keep fit one must exercise, therefore every day he is rowed to the mainland and, accompanied by his yellow umbrella bearer, he indulges in a five-miles constitutional…”
Cameron also wrote about the time when British Resident Lucien A Allen invited the Sultan and the royal family for a Christmas celebration. The Sultan with his two sons (later to become Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III) and with a number of attendants came for what she described as an unprecedented event.
In the rest of that chapter about Brunei, Cameron wrote about Brunei. She described many things about Brunei including the padians, the silversmiths and the weaved brocades with gold threads. She described the padians “…the market women of Brunei wear immense hats. As they sit in their canoes, you might imagine a village of mushrooms to have sprung up…”
She also talked about ‘Kutch’ (cutch) works factory. She talked about “… battles raged about Brunei and volumes of history have been written…” She described the throne in the audience hall of the palace as a quaint and beautiful throne in silver and gold. It was from this throne that the Sultan made his first short speech in English to welcome the Prince of Wales and on which he was coronated in 1918.
That short chapter was a glimpse into Brunei in 1923. The British Resident Lucien Allen described the year in his annual report as “… one of undeniable prosperity for Brunei and the prospects of the future are still more bright…”
The writer of The Golden Legacy column – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website about Brunei at bruneiresources.com.
The Brunei Times