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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

A Free Passage in a Ship to Singapore

A Free Passage in a Ship to Singapore,

where I hoped to meet one of my brothers commanding a large vessel expected to be at that port. On the passage I was treated with the greatest kindness by Captain and Mrs Bell, and learned most of the nautical terms required to work a ship in the language used all over the Indian seas. My brother had left Singapore, but Captain Wallace had furnished me with a letter to Captain Scott, the Master Attendant at that port, a much respected gentleman, who had been in office since the formation of the settlement, and was beloved by all the European inhabitants of the Straits Settlements and by visitors to Singapore. This dear old gentleman took me at page 18 once under his roof, and treated me with almost parental care. In him I had a judicious and affectionate friend until his death, at the great age of 84 years, an unusual span of life in a tropical climate. The beautifully-situated settlement of Singapore, founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in the year 1819, was for many years confined to the riverside and seashore; but now it has spread inland, and every swelling hill is capped with pleasant villas and gardens, where tigers used to creep, and even now they are not very far off; and it is not very long since the waters of this now great emporium of Eastern commerce were haunted by rapacious Malay pirates, ready to pounce on defenceless native craft, pillage them, and carry their crews into slavery in Borneo, After remaining for a short time at Singapore, which I frequently revisited later on, I obtained a passage to Batavia, the elegant and extensive capital of Java, and the seat of Government of the Dutch possessions in the Indian Archipelago; but I was again disappointed in not meeting my brothers, both of whom had gone away from Batavia on long voyages to other parts of the East. I had, however, a letter of introduction from Singapore to a Dutch merchant, who received me very kindly; but in the course of a few hours Mr Thomas Wilson, who came from the neighbourhood of Dundee, and was then a successful merchant in Batavia, having heard of my arrival, said that he remembered me as page 19 a child in Scotland, and cordially invited me to stay at his finely situated house outside the city. This gentleman was to me a true friend, as well as a judicious adviser and ready helper. For years, in sickness and in health, his house was my home whenever I was at Batavia as an officer and commander of ships in those seas.