August 30, 2009
Sibu News : Bukit Lan or Hill of Cassia
Photo by Meng Lei - showing a holiday hut in Bukit Lan by a pool.
Bukit Lan has a lot of historical significance for the Foochows. The Second Rajah granted a large tract of land to the Foochow community in the hope that an agricultural school would be started and the well known Foochow agriculturalists would make that area very progressive. In a way the Rajah also hoped that the Foochows would influence the Ibans in the growing of vast tracts of rice like in China thus creating first British rice bowl in South East Asia.
Due to some economic changes this grandiose plan never took off. Instead the Foochows prospered by the growing of a new crop : rubber.
However the Rev. James Hoover did start a boys' school and an agricultural school in Bukit Lan. Later he and a few Foochows started a rice mill. My grandfather was part of his committee in the setting up of the machinery for rice hulling and milling. Very much later Rev. Ling Ung Choong was named principal of the boys' school if I am not mistaken.
The agricultural station was set up by Rev Davis and later missionaries like the Wiants and the Heaths took over the running of the agricultural school and station. A Methodist mobile clinic was also based in Bukit lan to provide home nursing and clinical services to farming folks and the Ibans in Bawang Asan and Tutus and the Foochows in Bukit Lan.
As for me I was fortunate enough to be able to serve as interpreter for a few months when Miss Mona Pengelley was the nurse there. One fabulous moment was when I looked through a window I saw this small man flying down the slope of Bukit lan on his bicycle. He was actually too small for the huge bike.
Miss Mona knew what he was in a hurry for. She grabbed her medicine bag and ran down the stairs all ready to deliver a baby - I cannot remember how many children this man had now but I can still remember Miss Mona saying that he had many many babies then. He then offered to put Miss Mona on the saddle of his bike and he would pedal her to his house which was in the "ow san" or land behind the hill. But any way Miss Mona decided humourously not to be "lumbang" (riding on the bike) and the two of them rushed away. I was not asked to go with her or else it would have been my first delivery of a baby!!
Another remarkable memory of Bukit lan was the house owned by Mr. Hii King Hing who was the Assistant Principal of Methodist School Sibu for many years. I remember his family and especially his mother who scrubbed their stairs with a steel brush until they were sterile and white!!
The Hiis were very friendly and warm people. And they too had a very big family. They had twin boys too! The girls were all very helpful Christians and they were really generous and kind. Their brother Charles Hii King Lee was my classmate and he has become a very successful banker in Australia. God has really blessed their family bountifully because of their faith in Him.
Later as we grew up and got married we lost touch with each other. Like the motor launches which used to ply in the Rajang river we have all been berthed here and there and perhaps many of us in different parts of the world.
Miss Mona Pengelley is now residing in Cornwall which is at the south western tip of England. And I am sure many Foochow and Iban mothers would remember her kindly ways.
Lan in the Iban language means leprosy. Lan to the Chinese is the word meaning orchid. But some how Bukit Lan remains a name and the Hill of Cassia is the other often quoted name.
Today Bukit Lan continues to be part of the Methodist Church property and is now a retreat for pastors and missionaries and church members. It is a beautiful place 25 minutes and 25 km away from Sibu. I have yet to go there.