Mr Bibby, Raub Gold Mine, Hydropower And The Pahang Rising

From Mr Victor Bibby website...

This posting is a story of William Bibby (1837-1900) the Australian gold miner migrated from Liverpool who built and modenised Raub town on gold riches. 

William Bibby believed in Raub, gave Raub hope against all obstacles, hardness, despite political turbulance caused by Pahang Rising.

He was the type that we get from northern England and lowland Scotland, the men who are contractors, ironmasters, and engineers- men such as Carnegie of Pittsburg, and Arroll of Glasgow.

But his ultimate purpose in Malaya was always the same. He worked for Raub as some other men work for love and fame, for wife and family; he worked fiercely and jealously: for he loved Raub.

Kipling’s poetry who said: ”They will judge me by my work.” Bibby’s work was chiefly Raub.


Mr. Bibby, born further north, was brought up in Liverpool. An engineer by trade, Mr. Bibby served his time at the London and North Western Rail way Company’s works at Crewe, thence proceeding to Laird’s Works, at Birkenhead. Strong and hearty, and eager to get out of the calm, methodical ruts of home, Mr. Bibby, at the age of 21, left for Australia to try his fortune there.


After twelve months of knocking about in Melbourne, mostly amongst machinery, he got his first appointment as a mine manager. This was in 1859, at Christies Reef Gold Mines, Castlemaine, Victoria. This was the commencement of a long and varied mining experience, gained from Queensland in the north, to Victoria in the south, from Cape Otway to Cape York. He had worked as a Hatter that is, he had worked on his own account; and he had been connected with some of the largest mines in Australia. The last mining he did was at Croydon, in the extreme north-west of Queensland. At the time he was offered the position at Raub, Mr. Bibby was a-man-about-town at Brisbane.


With Mr. Bibby’s entrance into the Straits begins the first chapter in the real history of the Raub Gold Mining venture. The syndicate-founded upon lie piled on lie was registered in Queensland, on the 12th November, 1889, as the Raub Australian Syndicate, Limited, and Mr. Bibby was invited to become the first manager. He accepted the position, and, after the barest possible lapse of time for preparation, he arrived in Singapore in the beginning of September 1889. He brought with him a staff of eight Europeans, and a considerable amount of machinery.

The agent in Singapore, seeing the machinery remarked, with justifiable misgiving. “You have brought a lot of machinery with you, but you will never get it to Raub.” “Then it will be a bad place to get to,”replied the indomitable Bibby; and, though introduced to a good many people who shared the same opinion as the agent, he was not discouraged. Sending two members of his staff by way of the Pahang River to ascertain what that route was like, Mr. Bibby set out via Selangor with the others. At that time, within a few miles of the Gap, as the pass from Upper Selangor into Pahang is called, but for the rest there was nothing but the native track. Everywhere was the impenetrable jungle, and Mr. Bibby saw that it would be utterly impossible to get heavy machinery into Raub by such a route. So little was the country known at that time that it was only with the greatest difficulty, and by paying ridiculously high rates, that Mr. Bibby and his followers were able to get men to carry their luggage, while they had all that they could do to get through at all. Beaten in one direction, Mr. Bibby decided to try the other. The river route remained to be attempted, and he sent a party down-stream to try and dispose of some of the snags with which it was blocked.


Here it may be well to recount Mr. Bibby’s first impressions of Raub, related to a representative of the Straits Times by the veteran manager in an after-dinner chat. It was at the end of that memorable month of September that Mr. Bibby reached Raub. There was absolutely nothing to be seen. Had I not had, he remarked, all these people with me under an engagement with the Company, I would have turned the next morning and gone straight back again. I was never more disappointed in a place in all my life. And yet there were all sorts of stories afloat in Australia as to the fabulous wealth of the place. One would have thought that there was nothing else to do but to back carts into the ore, and to get ounces and ounces to the ton. In Brisbane, the only trouble seemed to be as to how I was going to get all the gold to a place of safety. At a meeting of the syndicate, one of those present said to me: Mr. Bibby, the only difficulty seems to me to be how we are going to get all this vast amount of gold into a place of safety. Well, I said, my trouble has always been to get the gold; there need be no trouble about the safety of it. Well, as I told you just now, I was so disgusted with the place that I would have stayed not another day if I could have got away. But there were men to be considered, and I could not run away with any credit to myself. There was nothing for it but to remain and do the best I could. Everything looked most disheartening at that time. In my first report, I wrote: I do not know where I can go to get a ton of stuff that will pay the cost of crushing it. As for the lodes that were payable, they were conspicuous by their absence. There was nothing but jungle and swamp, swamp and jungle; and the colour of gold was nowhere to be seen. All that could be seen in the direction of mining was the old Raub Hole. That was full of water. It had not been touched for years, and Rajah Impi had ruined himself in the attempt to work it. However, there was nothing else for it but to start and make an effort, and I never started in a place with less hope of being successful when I started here. Under these adverse circumstances, so well related by Mr. Bibby, the now prosperous mining operations at Raub commenced.


The difficulties of transport on the Semantan River were manifold, and they were heightened by the fact that Mr. Bibby was boycotted by the Orang Kaya Pahlawan of Semantan, a powerful Malay Chief, who afterwards headed what was called the Pahang Rising. Machinery intercepted by rebels on the Semantan and smashed and thrown into the river. Most of the Malay labour bolted.The Chief wanted cukai sort of royalty on every transaction between Mr. Bibby and the natives. Mr. Bibby, quite ignorant of the means by which these chiefs raised their revenue, flatly refused to pay. He would see the Orang Kayah in a particularly warm place first! This was a mistake, as Mr. Bibby was afterwards quite prepared to admit.

The fates continued to be cruel, for in 1891 came the great flood, which destroyed the whole of the Raub workings, and Mr. Bibby had to begin all over again. Then in December, 1892 came the Pahang Rising and for eight months Raub was in a state of siege. Mr. Bibby’s house was turned into a fort and was stockaded with huge timbers. The mining staff left their houses and joined Mr. Bibby in his stronghold, and every man slept with rifle and ammunition by his side. Afterwards Col. Walker, of the Perak Sikhs arrived, and controlled the arrangements for the defence of the place. Mr. Bibby used afterwards to laugh at the precautions they took. But it was no laughing matter then. It was believed at first that the rebellion was going to be general all over the State. The danger at Raub, as it was afterwards transpired, was more imaginary than real; but in the disturbed state of the country, it was impossible to get accurate information. For twelve months almost nothing was done, except to crush a little of the ore from the Western Lode.


Then in 1893, came the accidental stumbling on the enormously rich chute in the new Raub hole, and Mr. Bibby, having now plenty of money at his disposal, began to prospect in various portions of the concession. Eventually, he settled upon Bukit Koman as the principal place for development work, and the wonderful success of this mine is a fact known to everybody. From this time the property steadily developed.


For a long time Mr. Bibby had foreseen serious difficulties arising from the enormous consumption of wood for motive power, and he began to consider the possibility of substituting water power and electricity in place of costly timber consuming steam engine. In 1896, Mr. Bibby formulated his ideas on the subject, and after consideration by the company the scheme was accepted. One of the main reason for his visit to England and the United States was to ascertain the best methods and the most effective machinery for carrying the scheme into execution. Briefly the scheme (which is now in course of execution) is to generate electricity by means of the Sempan River, which is about seven miles from Raub in a south-westerly direction, and from thence to transmit the electricity to Raub by cable over rough, mountainous country. This scheme originated in the brain of Mr. Bibby; unfortunately he has not lived to see it brought to completion.


At Pulau Tawar the party met the Sultan of Pahang, who arrived with his large family, which comprises a numerous retinue of wives. The Sultan is a fine looking man of about 60, and Mr. Brown of Raub and his friends were hospitably entertained by his Highness, though Mr. Brown avers that he found digestion somewhat impeded by his Oriental attitude on the floor. On reaching Pekan, which is the capital of the Pahang province, the party stayed at the Residency, Mr. Rodger being most hospitable. The town is being wonderfully improved since the British protectorate was proclaimed, whole quarters being demolished and the space thus created being laid out in good streets. It is at this place that the syndicate has been cabled as having lately arrived. Mr. Brown predicts a great future for the province, which is marvellously rich in minerals, in agricultural land, and in forests of teak and mahogany.


Anonymous said…
Usin mana tak muncul2 ni? Tengah minum dgn Dr Hamzah ke? Cis, belakang mengata, depan lembik tengkok.
usin gampang said…


Victor Bibby said…
Accreditation again please, particularly using my website Banner!
Victor Bibby said…
I see you have added some words referring to my website. The URL link might have been more appropriate.
Thank you anyway.

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