Sarawak should count their blessings that the hazy days are over and must thank Mother Nature as it prepares to send the annual North-East “Landas” monsoon in our direction starting November.
After the haze which was one of the worst in recent times, we can expect to receive showers of blessing which will replenish the burnt padi fields heralding a new spring.
To think of it, I first arrived in Kuching December, at the height of the Landas 52 years ago.
The Landas toughened our resolve as my younger brother and I were sent to Sarawak—third class by ship from Port Klang--where we were shacked up in the lower deck for three days and two nights.
As tough as we thought we were, we initially had to ride out the stormy South China Sea and suffering in silence in the ship’s hull, we survived on an apple and some water throughout the journey.
A few days before Christmas of 1967, a Marine police speedboat with my parents and senior officers approached our ship which had arrived near Santubong. We hopped on hoping to take a ride back to our new home next to Fort Margherita.
However, my mother challenged me and said: “Sandy (my nickname) lets swim to Santubong village,” and dived into the sea heading for the beach 150 yards away.
I followed suit in my underpants and as I reached the Santubong shore I was stung by a jelly fish.
But I survived to tell this tale after my father’s right hand Iban officer Supt Ramsay Jitam came to my rescue--he urinated on my burning black and blue leg, this being the antidote since vinegar was not available!
And that was how I arrived in Sarawak-- in a Baptism of Fire.
I was fortunate to be born into a family of a compassionate father who was the posthumous child of Scottish miner Alexander Hector Ritchie from Aberdeen—home of Scottish national hero and King, Robert the Bruce.
The oldest son of a wealthy battle ranch owner from Old Meldrum; William Ritchie owned 146 acres of land and had six servants. Alexander was the oldest in a family of 14 siblings where four of the older children died young.
In 1901 Alexander left Scotland to seek his fortune in Malaya but fell ill 13 years later and died at the age of 36.