Brooke Dockyard & Engineering Works Corporation


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Brooke Dockyard, A Heritage In Perspective

By Ir. Zuraimi Haji Sabki
Board Member

It almost seems ironic that Brooke Dockyard was formed in the same year as the Titanic sunk, may be an earlier realisation on the Importance of having repair facilities for the white Rajah’s boats.

Records stated that Brooke Dockyard was planned in 1907 at about the same time as the Railway. Excavations commenced in 1907 but was brought to a halt in 1909 when the contractor absconded (nothing new here!). Work was finally completed in 1912 and the Dock Declared open by the Ranee Muda on 31st May that year.

The delightful account of the function, which follows, was given by the Ranee Sylvia in her autobiography “ Sylvia of Sarawak”.

We had not been in Sarawak long when I was asked to perform the ceremony of opening the new Drydock.I shall never forget the ceremony as long as I live. It has been announced in pamphlets and the Sarawak Gazette as one of the most important events in the history of the Sarawak Public Works Department. This did not tend to encouragement, help me to feel at my ease. Vyner was nervous. He has always been stricken by any public ceremony and his restless timidity infected me, so that 1 was already in a bath of perspiration. We all three sallied forth at 5 p.m and proceeded in a boat upriver, until we arrived at he entrance to the dock. A bugle call from the boat heralded our arrival and the gate of the dock was flung open.We were than paddled To the steps inside the gate, up which was ascended to the Hias prepared for our reception.

After having been presented with an enormous bouquet of wild orchids which was smothered in ants, I was then invited to declare the new Dock open . I can remember so well stepping forward and saying in a voice that sounded like a hinge wanted oiling. I declare this dock now open and name it Vyner Brooke.

Hubbub that ensured was incredible. Vyner had prepared a magnificent speech, which he endeavored to deliver. But in the meantime, the Chinese and Malays had gone crazy with excitement and activity. They plunged into the water with ropes between their feet, they swarmed upon the platform laughing and screaming to one another instruction and wishes of good will. Vyner’s speech was spoken but unheard. He did not dare to look at one another, we were on the borders of hysterics”

Many years since then, a lot has happened to Brooke Dockyard. It has to change and metamorphosis itself to withstand the test of time amidst a fast changing business environment. Nevertheless is is a Sarawakian heritage that has endeared the passage of time. We are sure in so many years, it has many stories to tell. It can be a story of as the Ranee Muda implied, a source of joy for the local populace for Brooke Dockyard may be the earliest form of industrial employment in Kuching. Apprentices were recruited from the nearby kampongs. There are many examples of people employed from grand father to grand son, a continuing line of employment heritage.

Another story was also relating to Brooke Dockyard’s involvement during the confrontation years in early 1960s. The dry dock played an important role as a focal point in repairing all type of military vessels.

From its humble beginnings at Market Street, Brooke Dockyard has now embraced new challenges at its Sejingkat Yard.The landscape may differ but certain similarities still remain. It must still become the pride of the Kampung people here and also provide the employment opportunities for the eager and able from the Kampung. That heritage should not be forgotten for a symbiotic relation between an organization and its outlying social structure is an essence of survival, a survival that must stem from the time tested virtues of hard work, willingness to adapt changes and mutual respect for each other.

I am sure with that in mind, we can look forward to an exciting future ...

Last updated: June 2017

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Lot 1010, Block 8, Muara Tebas Land District, Demak Laut Industrial Estate Phase III, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia   Tel:432353 Fax:432352

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