Friday, 24 June 2005

Lest We Forget Part 1

Years ago, I travelled hours on the train to Liverpool when I heard that there’s a community of old Malay sailors there.
Posted by Hello I was also told about the memorial that was built right at the bank of the Mersey River in memory of the war dead – among them sailors from the Malay world whose services were much sought after by ship captains to work in ships cruising the oceans in the early part of the last century.

As I have written earlier here and here, many died at sea in harsh stormy weather, in the relentless battle at sea and they are forever lost in that big graveyard at the bottom of the ocean. On my numerous trips to Liverpool, I’d list down the names – Malay names of sailors who must have come from Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia- and wondered what happened to them. I'd talk to many who are willing to share. My interest in them and their untold stories have never diminished.

Many who survived, were kind enough to share with me their stories.

Those who survived Posted by Hello
The few articles that I have written about them have had numorous interests, especially when it resulted in the reunion with families who thought that they must have perished at sea. One letter I received was from a daughter of an old sailor who never returned. The father left when she was still in her mother’s tummy. She wanted me to find the whereabouts of her father and went to the extent of blaming herself for her father not returning.

But one email from a Dr B has made me look at these stories more seriously. My articles had triggered some interest in him and since then, we have become friends. We met several times and we talked about nothing else but the Malay sailors.

Dr B came again to London last week. He is at the moment spending time with the Malay community in Liverpool, part of his research. I envy him the time he can afford to be with them, tapping in on their experience.

Anyway, we met up last week. And he said he was visiting the Commonwealth War Memorial in London. At that point, I pushed all my work aside and took the train to meet him in Tower Hill.

Just at the doorstep of Tower Hill Station, in front of the Tower of London, is this big memorial with 24,000 names of sailors who died at sea! And I didnt even know about it!


Posted by Hello
Both of us were gobsmacked. We didnt expect it to be that big- and names to be that many. So, Dr B and I, - a odd pair – if I must say so, left with aching neck, having to look up the cloumns and columns of names listing ships and names of those who perished. Many with just Hassan B, Ismail A, Omar....

There were signs of relatives who had located their loved ones – and this you see from the flowers and poppies stuck by their names. Posted by Hello
Others from our part of the world are just another name, another victim. Their relatives still did not know of their fate, or about this memorial.

We wondered, looking at other people there eating ice cream on the bench opposite and seeking shelter from the harsh sun that was out that day, we wondered whether we were the only ones interested.

Nursing our aching necks, we crossed over to a cafe in front of the Tower of London. Sipping our Avian and watching the tourists do their tourist bit, I thought out loud,” Isn’t this funny! How English this piece of history is right before our eyes, but both of us are interested in that big monument right opposite it!”

But needless to say, both have strong links to each other...one the result of the big British Empire that brought many to their door steps from across the world.
My interest in the Malay sailors have led me to scour the book shops and libraries and I found this. An interesting read about the influx of foreigners to the British shores. Posted by Hello
Dr. B is English, but he lives out in the East. I am from the East and I live here in the west. He is more comfortable being out there as I am here. He is young while I am, er, well... but we have been brought together by this one interest – the Malay sailors.

We parted company that sunny evening, with many more things left unsaid. He has gone back to Liverpool to be among the Pak Ciks and will return to Singapore soon. How I wish I can attach a bluetooth to his head – and extract whatever he has stored in there!

But we will meet again, no doubt - we promised each other, this August- and the stories of the Pak Cik sailors will be given another airing.

44 comments:

zaireen said...

Aiks...pic only? no write-up???

mommy@lif said...

hi k teh, tq for visiting my place.. 'rumah' kita sempoi je.. posting pon takde lah sekerap k teh & cronies :) terharu pulak! you and maknenek are very helpful.take care!

faux diamante said...

tu la kan..mana la tahu one of them tu pak menakan kita kan?

i have great respect for malay sailors of old, sanggup jadi kuli atas dasar cinta pada laut.

anedra said...

they have so many stories to tell I bet! We have one in the office now..a Malay Captain who just came back from years in Liverpool with an English wife in tow. Can't stay on land for long..he's already out at high seas working on our vessels. Very dashing old man I must say too!

born-again drama queen said...

sailors have interesting personalities. i've a colleague who's married to a seaman..he's cool and calm, and exudes vibrant character. yang kelakarnya, wife dia kata dia slow and steady macam kapal dia..
v. interesting piece, kak teh.

anedra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
drbubbles said...

kakteh,

pernah melawat memorial di hadapan liver building tu.sayu juga membaca nama nama kelasi melayu yang hilang di lautan ketika pechah perang dulu.

Ms.B said...

One of my favourite topics in Choc-a-blog .. your Malay sailor instalments! Keep them coming, please! :)

MassyLassy said...

Kak Teh! I never knew! It will be wonderful to hear many stories from them! If only!

Kak Teh said...

zaireen, u datang terawallah - script belum siap!
alifr's mommy - janganlah terharu.banner you cantik!
nazrah:betul tu!
anedra: i thought I know him..wrong person lah.
neff: cool and steady macam kapal? ya - walaupun nampak lambat - berjalan juga.
Is: tak ambik gambark?
blabs: i hope there's more
Mas: yes..am really obsessed.

pembacha said...

baru teringat dalam last week i read in Berita Harian or something about this man balik kampung to trengganu every year. Last name Musa. English wife. Became sailor when he was 12 or 13. anyone came across?

Anonymous said...

A very touching story KT....hope there's more

Ely said...

a great eye opener kak teh. remember u did an article on rantauan tv?

good job!

bibliobibuli said...

Am fascinated too Kak Teh, and one day nothing less than the whole story (written by you) is going to satisfy.

narfnarf said...

i greatly admire those who are brave enough to pursue adventure like that. awaiting the next piece in eager anticipation.

thinktankgal said...

OOh...this will be a good book when it is all compiled....Will this be published as a book? All the best and look forward to the stories - perhaps can propose to the Hallmark Series?? :)

OOD said...

Kak Teh,
wouldnt it be so wonderful if you could help link the names to their families again? At least the fate of long-lost datuks will be known!

Aahhh.. this piece makes me feel all romantic, malays from the earlier generations were such fine sailors!

Could the memorial be carved out from Tenggang after he turned to stone?

Lollies said...

oooo I know one sailor in Liverpool. He opened up a "warung" of sort. I fancy the way he talks. I think his name is Pakcik Osman. Another one I know is Pakcik Md. Nor.

I have also met a pakcik in Liverpool. He had Parkinson disease. Pity I didn't remember his name.

If you do find out about them, do give a write up. I like top know what they are up to.

nourclaire said...

I've read about them years ago on papers but never knew that many perished...it wasn't highlighted..Thanks for the insights, Kak Teh!

Kak Teh said...

pembacha, Pak Chik Ngah Musa was one of those I inteviewed for a programme in RTM years ago. He is from Trengganu and now works in the mosque in Liverpool.
anon: yes, there's more..keep your interest going and that will help me along.
ely, yes, that was the celebration by the monument.
sharon, sharon, sharon - yes, I hope that day will come too . and i have started in my own little way.
ayu...next one? hmmm..soon, soon!
thinktankgirl - insyaallah, insyaallah and more ginko for me to trigger off my memories. I have loads of interviews on tapes and videos...so, insyaallah!
OOD, why do you thinkI go chasing old sailors? I thought they are romantic. One day we'll catch up with each other as they are slowing down and my pace too is not that fast!
Lollies - yes u told me once before. Pak Cik Mad Nor is in the picture - he is in red batik.
nour - yes, my articles appeared n the papers several times.

anasalwa said...

beautiful piece kak teh. thank you for sharing with us.

Atok said...

I remember, in one forum attended by our Ambassador a couple of years ago, one Liverpool sailor pakcik asked/told his story.

It was in the 70's or 80's gitu, lupa dah. One day he travelled down to London to renew his Msian passport. Tiba London dah tengahari. Went to the Embassy. The officer at the counter kata he was late, kena datang again the next day. (For those yg tak biasa, urusan at the counter hanya di sebelah pagi, then, petang utk collection shj).

He was so furious, dahla dtg jauh2 from Liverpool, nak kena stay kat London for the next day. Duit pun takde for hotel, etc. He was really pissed off. Out of anger, he straight away went to apply for a British passport.

Now he regrets it. 'Yelah, masa tu saya muda lagi, mudah panas baran', katanya.. and we all in the room laughed. He added, dia sekarang dah tua... ntah esok lusa mungkin akan pergi buat selamanya, and all he wanted was, to be a Msian citizen again (legally).

Unfortunately, the Ambassador told him nicely... it's not possible. Sedih to see the pakcik's frustrated face.

nour said...

So that was you! Oh k.teh...I'm so blessed! hugs*

Anonymous said...

hurry kak teh, you know what I mean.

Rgds
Lydia

red said...

kak teh, your melayu sailor instalments really intrigue me...
i hope this will be a great project of yours...like a jejak kasih kinda thing...

possible to get the media involved? or even start a website of sorts for this people...and their families to trace/track one another...some of them i'm sure dah nak maghrib...sniffs..sniffs..i'm sorry...

tenah said...

Kak Teh, is there anything written on Awang who was on Magellan's ship that went around the world and was attacked in the Phillipines?

iJun said...

Kak Teh! Nak tanya skits... what is it with you and Malay sailors? Did I miss something? As a child, I was told how my arwah atok, when he was young Bugis pirate, kidnapped my grandmother, who was a Minangkabau princess, and married her. Entah betul ke tidak tak tau la tapi dengar citer gila best! Hehe!

Atok said...

Tenah, i'll dig up a piece on that Awang. I had it somewhere... Enrique of Malacca or in Panglima Awang in Malay literature.

zaireen said...

At last, I read the whole article..heheh..

Tu lar KT, next time, u can post 'under-construction' notice..hehe..
Eh..write more abt sailors.. I luv to hear that..eh..read la

Kak Teh said...

anasalwa, its a pleasure.
atok, i believe many of them are still malaysian or singaporean. memang adalah yang dah tukar and certainly susah nak tukar balik tu.
Lydia: I know, I know.
red: at the moment i dont thinkada apa-apa. I have writtena few and did some features for TV and radio - that is all.
tenah: atok is seeing to that. I am looking forward to that too.
Ijun: perhaps u can learn a bit abt his style, eh?
zaireen, have you read the others that I put in the entry?

Atok said...

Tenah, KT & others,
Here we go, from my e-friend, good old Sabri:

http://www.sabrizain.org/malaya/port3.htm

tenah said...

tumpang lalu....
Atok, thanks for digging this out, I've always wondered abt this *old sailor* and to have it written with references, excellent. I was taught from young that the Malays are the *cautious* race, we do not take risks and lead stable albeit boring lives. I'm beginning to think otherwise

Ewok said...

did you find any female sailors? i'm not jesting ok, i'm curious as I would love to work on ship

faux diamante said...

ewok, u'd be safe if u do make it as a marine. u have the zeal of a male SEAL(think steven seagal)

kakteh busy ya?

Kak Teh said...

ewok, kalau ada pun, tak sempat kita jumpa! ..imagine in a sea od male sailors out there for months and months?
nazrah: yeah and yuks! thanks.

zaireen said...

KT, dah baca dah yg dulu tu...

hartini said...

Kak Teh, that is one very interesting project you have been working on. Do you have your previous articles online? If not, can scan for us who ummmm didn't/don't buy and read Malay paper? *hehehe* Sorry lah, I am more of an internet person than a paper person ;)

Malay sailors... a rare community now isn't it. Maybe someone should try to create a movie based on this. It will open up new insights into the Malay history of its people and those lost at sea. Dah jelak lah, asyik Erra Fazira love stories je... but can make this one as a love story too lah, as long as it's not Erra as the kidnapped princess and Yusri as the sailor... :D melalot pulak I ni...!

Anonymous said...

K.Teh, thanks for the news. My hubby kenal pak cik kat liverpool tu. Mesti dia terkejut dengar berita ni.

Israd said...

Assalamualaikum Kak Teh

It would be great if you could write a book about them.

Kak Teh said...

zaireen, i have somemore yang belum tulis..tunggu ye
hartini: the rest of the story ada dalam blog ni - i think march edition kut. yes, pls lah no more era fazira - not in my film hehe!
anon: glad you enjoyed it.
salam israd: insyaallah -s atu hari nanti.

Bustaman said...

Years ago I met a Malay sailor who lived in New York. He was from Nesang Pat, Kuala Terengganu.
It would not surprise me if we were to find a Malay in every port.
I will be waiting to read Mr.B's findings.

PKD said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the kimster said...

Dulu masa di Cardiff (once a great port, I was told. Ntah ye ntah tidak.) we met some of the pakciks yang pernah jadi sailor. Very friendly.

Yang sedihnya ada one of them kata "pakcik bukannya tak nak balik cari keluarga di Malaysia. Tapi dah lama duduk sini dan pakcik bukannya ada duit nak balik ke sana."

Agaknya life is like that. We make our decisions and live our lives. One fine day kita bangun dan bertanya, whatever happened to the life that we once knew?

Kak Teh said...

pok ku, yes i am sure there are many more that we have not uncovered.
kimster, i have written to you and would really like to talk to you more abt this.