Dusun, Murut and Bajau on the first North Borneo stamps
Published on: Saturday, January 09, 2021
By: British North Borneo Herald
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FEB. 2, 1931

On the 1st January, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the British North Borneo Company’s administration of this territory will be commemorated by a special series of postage stamps. It is not our wish, nor our custom, to eulogise every new issue which appears, but we are going to state, here and now, that the forthcoming North Borneo set, of which we are able to illustrate die-proofs, is one of the most beautiful which has been made – the designing and the colouring being superb.

And that is a conservative statement since many may consider it the most beautiful of all. North Borneo has always given us attractive postage stamps but these excel anything that they have offered us before.

The germs of the British North Borneo Company, the last of the great Chartered concerns of the Victorian era which did so much to consolidate the Empire, were sown in 1877, when Sir Alfred Dent, then unknighted, on behalf of a private syndicate, acquired by cession from the Sultan of Sulu the northernmost portion of the island.

Early in 1881, with a view to the territory being taken over by a Chartered Company, the British North Borneo Provisional Association was formed.

The desired Royal Charter was soon obtained, on 1st November, 188q, and the new North Borneo Company was authorised to commence is administration, which, this year, reached its fiftieth anniversary of successful trading and legislation.

Seven years later, in 1888, the British Government conferred on the State the boon of British Protection. Small territorial additions have from time to time been made to the State, which now covers an area of 31,000 square miles and is thus roughly the size of Ireland.

The commemorative set of stamps, which will be withdrawn from issue on the 31st December, 1931, consists of eight values, all in two colours, with eight different designs.

The work of production has been left in the able hands of Messrs. Waterlow and Sons, Ltd., the printers of North Borneo’s current issue, who with these new stamps, have once more enhanced their reputation.

The stamps are in sheets of 100, and are on unwater marked paper, the various values and colours being as follows (the centre in all cases being in black):-


3c. Green 6c. Orange 10c. Red 12c. Blue 25c. Mauve $2 brown $5. Claret.

3 cents. The head of  Murut (male), one of the three main groups of the native population, the other two of which are the Dusuns and the Bajaus. Contrary to popular belief, the territory is by no means entirely populated with Dyaks, who actually only from a small proportion of the people.

6 cents. The head of an Orang-utan, the anthropoid ape which is the original “Wild Man from Borneo.”

10 cents. A Dyak, one of the native warriors of Borneo, who have had fame brought to them in the past because of their head-hunting proclivities.

12 cents. Mount Kinabalu, the sacred mountain of the natives, where the spirits of the dead are said to dwell, and which is also supposed to be haunted by the spirit of a Chinese Prince who lost his way in its forests. 

25 cents. The clouded leopard (felis nebulosa), one of the rarest of the Borneo fauna, which is much sought after by the natives for its beautiful skins. 

1 dollar. The Company’s coat-of-arms. 

2 and 5 dollars. Modifications of the above. 

[EDITORIAL NOTE — For the loan of the die-proofs from which the illustrations have been made, and the notes from which this article is constructed, we are indebted to the British North Borneo Company.] 

[EXTRACT from Messrs Stanley Gibbons’ Stamp Monthly for December 1930.]


Mrs Matsuo a Japanese widow living alone on her coconut Estate at Tanjong Aru, being alarmed by the persistent barking of her two dogs, came out to learn the cause, which proved to be an exceedingly angry hamadryad. 

The snake had reared up with extended hood after the manner of its kind and was being attacked by both dogs. 

To the widow, who owned no firearms and was perforce a helpless witness, it seemed that one dog was bitten on the tail by the snake and retired from the contest, but as that dog still lives there is some doubt as to the accuracy the of the bite.

A fight to the death then took place between the remaining dog and the snake, who faced each other with open mouth both eager for that first bite, and the first bite was simultaneous, for the snake’s head darted into the dogs open mouth, and the dog closed his teeth into the head killing it instantly. 

Mrs Matsuo greatly relieved at the outcome of the struggle made much of her dog before going into the house to find a suitable tit hit, but alas when she returned to reward the victor her faithful protector lay dead.


Tuaran is not kind to the unhappy chronicler of these notes: it provides him with little news to report, few events to describe and seldom any humour to record. 

Never is he favoured with those enviable “scoops” for which Fleet Street is ever alert and of which there seems to be unending supply but not for him. 

The visit to Jesselton of H.M.S. Kent and Petersfield provided us with the one bright episode of an otherwise dull month. 

Now the Dusun and Bajau women, who daily offer their wares for sale in the Market Place, are as a rule a quiet and passive crowd, and not easily disturbed by affairs of the world; but the approach one morning of a certain high Government official, accompanied by three naval officers, was apparently too much for them and with one accord they fled screaming, leaving the market deserted. 

And it was some hours before they could be persuaded to return. 

His Excellency Admiral Sir Arthur K. Waistell K.S.B., Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, and Lady Waistell, accompanied by the Honourable Mr W.C.M. Weedon, paid a short visit to Tuaran on the morning of January 18th; having soon exhausted the possibilities of the Tuaran shops, they returned to Jesselton.


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