Erskine Murray's Fatal Adventure in Borneo, 1843-44
The career of Sir James Brooke, the "White Raja" of Sarawak, who a hundred and twenty years ago carved out a kingdom for him self on the west coast of Borneo, is familiar enough; few, how ever, have heard of another adventurer, contemporary with Brooke, who likewise tried to make a career for himself in Borneo and whose venture, tragic though its outcome was, also had an effect on the history of that part of the world. This was James Erskine Murray. Murray, a member of a noble Scots family, was
... born May 4, 1810, the second son of the 7th Baron Ellibank. He became a lawyer and was admitted as an advocate at the Scottish Bar where he practiced for a few years. In 1843, inspired no doubt by the increasing interest in Asian affairs arising from the Anglo-Chinese war and the British occupation of Hong Kong and by the attention given in the British press to Raja Brooke's activities, he bought the brigantine Warlock and in her sailed to Australia and thence to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong he sold the Warlock and, entering into partner ship with a merchant named Bowra, purchased two ships. These were the schooner Young Queen, 90 tons, Captain A. Hart, also referred to in some documents as the Yonge Queene, and the brig Anna, 200 tons, Captain H. Lewis. According to a subsequent statement by a participant in Murray's adventure, it was general ly understood in Hong Kong that Murray projected an expedition in emulation of Raja Brooke's occupation of Sarawak.1 With this prospect before them, plenty of seamen were willing to serve under him. He thus met no difficulty in manning his two ships with a total of forty seamen in addition to officers. Both crafts were heavily armed; the Young Queen carried an 18-pounder pivot-gun amidships, a 12-pounder pivot-gun on the forecastle, two 4-pound stern chasers, and six small pivot-guns on either broadside capable of discharging shot of one pound weight or charges of grape-shot. The brig Anna carried four 4-pounders on either broadside and a pivot-gun on the top gallant forecastle. Pistols, cutlasses and boarding-pikes were also provided. Stores and trade goods were taken aboard, but the heavy armament and the unusually large number of the two crews left barely room for a week's provisions and water.