British presence in North Borneo started with the occupation of Labuan island by the British government in 1847. It was made into a naval base for the British navy in its campaign against piracy in this part of the world. In Owen Rutter's book British North Borneo : An Account of its History, Resources and Natives published in 1922, he described how piracy, slavery and headhunting activities in North Borneo had almost depopulate the country and this was further aggravated by the shortage of food when peaceful tribes abandoned all agricultural activity for fear of raiding parties.
In 1865, the United States Consul to Brunei, Mr Charles Lee Moses, obtained a ten years cession of large territories from the Sultan of Brunei. Unfortunate for him, the United States government was not interested in North Borneo. Hence, the rights to these territories were transferred to the American Trading Company of Borneo which was headed by Mr Joseph W. Torrey.
Torrey and associates attempted to set up a settlement in Kimanis which they called Ellena. Their enterprise failed because of disease, desertion and lack of financial backing.
In 1872, "Labuan Trading Company" established itself in Sandakan. The partners of this company were Mr J.D. Ross, Mr Carl Schomburgk and Mr W.C. Cowie who would eventually become the Managing Director in BNBCC.
Mr W.C. Cowie was a Scott and an adventurer. It was reported in the Straits Time dated 30 January 1902 that at one time, the Sultan of Brunei ceded the peninsula of Muara to him for service rendered. He was the White Rajah over the territory but he soon found himself bored with inaction and sold the territory to Rajah Brooke. In 1877, Torrey sold his rights to Baron Overbeck and Alfred and Edward Dent albeit that the lease had expired. Undaunted, the trio took over the lease and formed a syndicate to revive the lease. They successfully obtained in perpetuity 'certain' of the Sultan of Brunei's rights in North Borneo on 29 December 1877.
1) Mr Harrington G. Forbes, Secretary
2) Sir Charles J. Jessel, Bart., Vice Chairman
3) Mr Richard B. Martin, M.P., Chairman
4) Mr William C. Cowie, Managing Director
5) Mr Edward Dent
Standing in the centre is Captain W. Raffles Flint and standing at the far right at the back is Mr A.T Wardrop. Among them are Dayak (or Dyak as they spelled it in the old days) Jubilee Police Contingent who were in England to take part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration.
|Staff of North Borneo Military Police|