An Australian from Sydney once Called Tawau “A Beautiful Lotus Land” His Home
An Australian man named J. E. Capstickdale from Sydney used to call Tawau his home, after spending parts of his life there. His short story and testimonials of his times in Tawau were published on a few Australian newspapers such The Sydney Morning Herald, The Queenslander and even on New Zealand’s Hawera & Normanby Star in 1922.
Read the article below -
RICH BORNEO: WONDERFUL ISLAND
Borneo, that equatorial and verdant island that is only known to most Australians as being the birthplace of the celebrated “wild man,” has an enthusiastic champion in Commander J. E. Capstickdale, R.A.N.R., who after two and a half years as a planter and logger on the island, has returned to Sydney. The story of his success in that romantic region is interesting. A naval reservist, he was mobilised at the commencement of the war and while on service he called at Borneo on one or two occasions. The visitor explained that the trade of Borneo was being fairly well exploited by Australians. However, England and the Continent would certainly make a bid to recapture the market.
‘Arafura’ was operated by Eastern & Australian Steamship Co. Ltd.
He was struck by its beauty and possibilities, so that when he was released from duty he decided to risk there his all—a capital of a few hundred pounds. His friends told him that he was “crazy,” advised local investment, anything but that, but he did not heed them. Yesterday he arrived in Sydney with the Arafura’s holds crammed full of timber. There are 1000 tons, or a quarter of a million feet, of mahogany and cedar, with a little camphor wood and he has more than trebled his capital during the two and a half years he has been domiciled in Borneo—at Tawau, to be precise.
“I will never leave Borneo,” he remarked to an interviewer. “It is my lotus land. Tawau, where I live, is on the harbour of Cowie, sheltered from the sea, without rocks and deep and large enough to shelter the navies of the world. It is the finest harbour in the world; we have the finest soil in the world; it is the easiest place to make money, and has a beautiful climate without any tropical fever. Indeed Tawau is that glorious, perfect place that exists in every man’s imagination.”
As an evidence of the productivity of the soil, Mr. Capstickdale remarked that in a radius of 30 feet he had cut 11 trees from 8 to’ 14 feet in circumference, and from 120 to 150 feet high to the first branch. It is a fine class of timber, and the haulage of the huge logs out of the hold of the vessel yesterday provided an interesting spectacle. The visitor claims that his country, which is quite mediocre in his estimation, will yield 11 million tons of commercial timber from 31 square miles.
Tawau was once a coconut haven
Cocoanut plantations bore so prolifically, he said, that there was “a ton of money in them,” even at the presents low market value of copra, and the trees reached maturity at between 3.5 and 4 years. The social life of Borneo is very restricted, and the amusements confined to the local equivalent of Australian “at homes,” but that life is not cheerless there is evident from the anxiety of Mr. Capstickdale and his wife to get home.
This wasn’t the first time Tawau was described as such by outsiders, as evident in this story we posted 2 years ago about a lady from Melbourne, Australia who wrote about her trip to Tawau.
In today’s context we may see this as an exploit to Tawau’s natural resources but nonetheless Tawau still remains beautiful and a truly blessed land.