June 3, 2011

A Doctor's Borneo - Derwent Kell

My aunt Maggie lend a copy of Derwent Kell's A Doctor's Borneo to me yesterday and I finished reading all 165 pages of it today! The book actually belongs to another aunt of mine, Tina Kisil whom is the author of Footprints in the Paddy Fields (yes! please click on the link and buy her book! :P).

Derwent Kell is the pen name of Dr Marcus Carlyle Clarke (9 June 1912 - 20 November 2000). He was an Australian medical doctor who in 1938 was appointed District Surgeon of Kudat, British North Borneo after answering an advertisement in the Australian Medical Journal. He was about 25 years old then. 

North Borneo was leased to the British North Borneo Company in 1881. Hence, when the good doctor landed on the shore of North Borneo in 1938, it was only 57 years ago that North Borneo fell to the hands of the British. I am pretty sure he would have heard or read about the head hunting savages of Borneo and I cannot help but wonder whether he had any trepidations or second thoughts as he saw the landscape of North Borneo in the horizon as the ship he was on board slowly made its way towards land. From his own account, friends laughed and probably thought he was mad when they found out that he was going to North Borneo.     

In the book, he retold the many adventures he had with his fellow expatriates and locals including natives. The tone of his writing suggested (at least to my humble opinion) that he did not have a patronizing or sense of superiority over the locals and natives. Instead, I only sensed fondness when he reminisced about the many interesting characters he encountered in North Borneo. Through his book, I got a glimpse of how North Borneo was like in those early years! It helped that there were adequately enough pictures of old North Borneo in the book. I am tempted to reproduce them here but decided against it out of respect to this kind adventurer who treated the locals and natives with dignity and braved the tough terrains of the then very virgin jungles of North Borneo to bring medicine and treatment to the people. 

I am amazed that in the course of his duty, he had covered/traveled large area of North Borneo when even I, in this day and age with good roads(relatively) and modern transportation has only covered at best, 40% of Sabah! 

The good doctor said that he had a wonderful time in North Borneo that it came to a stage that he got bored of having a good time everyday and contemplated leaving North Borneo! North Borneo must had been like a paradise then! The only other people I know who took paradise for granted was Adam and Eve who got themselves booted out of the Garden of Eden when they ate that damn APPLE! Fortunately, the good doctor did not leave. 

I highly recommend this book for any amateur historians like me. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...