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Royal Occasions

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The other momentous event in 1957 was the decision made by the oil company to relinquish some 75% of the land concession in the hinterland of Sarawak after explorationary surveys had shown no indications of oil. These 36,650 square miles were in fact not due for relinquishment untill 1968. In Miri-Lutong the company had also released five sites from the Land Reserve - one for the open market, one for the slaughter-house on the Miri riverfront north of the town, one for a stone-crushing and storage plant south of Kuala Miri on the coast near the Chinese Middle School area, one for a municipal labor line on the east of Miri and one for a Roman Catholic church near pangkalan wharf, east of the Lutong housing area.

1958 saw the opening of the Miri Community Hall, towards which the company had contributed more than half of the cost. Soon after the opening a party from the Malayan Teacher's College in Penang paid a visit to Miri. The local Education Officer naturally took them on a tour of the new Hall, the pride of Miri. On reaching the storeroom he explained that the four lockers there were to be used for storing equipment belonging to various local organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Guide, etc. To demonstrate, he pulled open the Boy's Scout lockers to reveal - beer bottles. Staggered but undaunted he tried the Red Cross locker and lo and behold! before him stood a row of unopened whisky bottles. It is reasonable to assume that he did not care to try the fourth. Subsequent investigation revealed that these lockers were temporarily being used by an organization that had nothing to do with those for which the lockers were intended, so community leaders in Miri could breath again.

In 1959 the quiet placidity of Miri was rocked by two royal visit. The first one was by Prince Philip and as Miri had not been so honored since the Rajah came before the War, the post was kept busy with frantic letters between the Government and company officials regarding program and protocol. And then, just to make sure nothing went wrong, a rehearsal drive through town and reception at the Community Hall was held, with a member of Senior Staff (still today addicted to Miri Amateur Dramatics) acting as Prince for the day. So well did he assume his princely role as he graciously acknowledge the cheers, salutes and salutations from the crowd that he must heave earned more than a few muttered curses from his colleagues and friends who had had to remain their ordinary commoner selves, albeit furbished in lounge suits for the men and long white gloves specially flown out for the ladies. He recalls how at the dress rehearsal "Official Reception", company officials and their wives lined up to shake his hand and answer his courtly queries after their health and life in Miri, walked past him with dignity and then rushed back to the end of the queue to do it again - like film extras used to swell. The real visit itself ended with a cultural show on the GCM Padang (field), fireworks on Canada Hill and an impromptu party at the GCM when the dinner jacketed gents and their white gloved ladies having a quiet drink at the bar were descended upon by Temenggong Gau and his men in full Kenyah warrior regalia, armed with several jars of vintage borak.

The other royal visitor was the first Yang Di-Pertuan Agung of Malaya, who came to Miri on a one-day visit, the tail end of his tour of Sarawak. Most of the celebration took place in Miri and much to the disappointment of the local oil company employees, he did not tour the refinery.

Source & excerpts : The Miri Story

Next: Coming of Age

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