Suburban feel

After the departure of the redoubtable James Lloreno, Kong Miew had married Vazeline and moved out to a house in the village. Thereafter we had a series of Chinese cooks who came and went with monotonous regularity.

Finally, after the arrival of the Cocos Islanders, we were lucky that one of them agreed to come and cook for us. This was Mahid. He and his family were to become a permanent feature of our household for the rest of our time in Sabah. In addition to being an excellent cook, Mahid was also the Cocos Islanders’ Imam. He was responsible for officiating at the rites of passage of all the Cocos Islanders, and he was an important man in the community.

For some months after the family arrived, we employed a Bugis amah, Jarah. Her husband worked in our sawmill. They had a young daughter Athi, who became a great friend to Catriona and Fiona. She was a pretty child but sadly, she was deaf and dumb.

The three children were inseparable. When, in the monsoon, the river spilled over its banks and flooded our compound, to the depth of a foot or so, the three children played happily in their small dug-out canoe for hours. They could soon swim like fish.

Young John Wyngarten next door, at 12, was too old to play childish games. However, his father started up a scout troop among the youngsters in the area, and he soon made friends of his own age.

Olive could speak Malay of course, from our days in Johore, as could Catriona; and it was only a matter of weeks before Fiona was chattering away in Malay as well, with a strong Cocos Island accent. With Athi being completely deaf and dumb, it was a source of continual amazement to us how they all managed to communicate with each other.

With the horse and the two puppies and the geese, the compound became a rather busy place. Sadly, our first gardener, my friend Urut Turut moved back upriver to plant his padi, and he never came back to work for us again. I missed his cheerful face.

The next family to come up the river on the Puyoh, was Kenganathen’s wife Geck Moi, and their children. Geck Moi was our dear friend from our days at Kluang, and the whole family was pleased to see her.

With the arrival of Olive, Jean Wyngarden and Geck Moi and their young families, I felt we had now entered phase two of the project. Tungud was becoming quite suburban.

Datuk Leslie Davidson
Author, East of Kinabalu
Former Chairman, Unilever Plantations International

This is the second part of an edited chapter from the book published in 2007. It can be purchased from the Incorporated Society of Planters; email:


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