Monday, April 07, 2008

Archer Road or Just "Achar Lok"?

Growing up in Sibu, one just cannot help but read English names with a Hokkien or a Foochow or a Malay accent. Very few would read/say the word "Archer" quite that well phonetically. We simply said, "The Methodist Girls' Hostel is situated along Achar Lok." A lot of boys used to hang out at the little playground, which has now been swallowed by a huge government building, just to catch a glimpse of the Methodist girls walking back to their hostel. And the Methodist Lady Teachers' Apartment Block was also situated along Archer Road.

With Borneo Post already carrying a very good column on the people behind the road names, I would like to give my humble take on Mr. John Beville Archer 1893-1948.

Like most Colonial officers, JB Archer came to the east as a young man. He started as a cadet in the Sarawak Administrative Service at the age of 19, in 1912. His last held post was that of Chief Secretary of Sarawak in 1939.

Born in 1893, in the UK.He attended Victorial College, jhersey and H.M.S.Worcester.
Extremely tall at six feet and dark haired,he was a disciplined administrator. According to Poritt, he placed a notice on his desk, " DO IT NOW".

On record, he was engaged by the second Rajah who was visiting England at the time. Obviously the Rajah was impressed by Archer's love for riding and hunting.

His first posting was Sibu, but his real training was in Oya and Mukah. He actually become an authority on Melanau culture and customs. Having served in these places for ten years, he was transferred back to Kuching where was served as Acting Editor of the Sarawak Gazette. He was appointed a District officer in 1925. A District Officer at that time was powerful. In 1930 he was made Resident of Second Division. He also served for a while as the Resident of Fourth Division.

Asun actually surrendered to him in person in Simanggang.

During the Japanese Occupation he was interned with many others at the Batu Lintang Camp. He suffered the usual tortures but he survived by working very hard.

After the war, he volunteered to stay in Kuching. He was made the Political Adviser to the British Borneo Civil Affairs Unit. In 1946, the Rajah appointed him Chief Secretary. It was a difficult task for him because he did not agree to the cesssion of Sarawak to the Colonial Office and yet he had to cast his vote in favour of it as President of the Council Negri. He became ill after that and finally took his own life.

He had been a dedicated administrative officer in all respects. And probably towards the end, he saw changes which could not be considered reasonable to his state of mind at that time as he was already quite ill. Probably when he laid down all his cards, he saw that there was really nothing left for him in a country which he had loved so much. And going back to England could also mean a life of loneliness and most probable oblivion.

In Sibu, the Third Division he loved so much, a road bears his name, Archer Road.

Reference : Porritt,Vic. "Optimist Fiddler - JB Archer,1893-1948", Sarawak Gazette , June 1995 Issue.

8 memories:

Unknown said...


Last night I watch the old movie "Combat" on TV. I still remember vividly the wording "starring Rick Jackson, Vic Morrow". That brings to mind tv programme in the old days like "Zorro", GIlligan Island, Six Million Dolar man, Bionic woman, Mission Impossible, etc, etc

By the way, you minght be interested in the following website or even link them to your website:

Unknown said...

Sarawakiana, you might be interested to write tv programmes in the past or having a tv in the past (black and white and then colour) and how it evolves into video and cd and now vcd! How technology has changed!!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

thank you for dropping by. If I write about old movies, may be I will start another blog.

But I still have many topics to cover on, about, for, Sibu. Hope you will continue to give me tips.

I really appreciate your comments.

Unknown said...


Thanks for your reply.

What I meant is how tv influence families in Sibu in the past until today. How the programmes affect everyone. Starting foirst with black and white tv and then someone try to add colour screen in front of the b & w tv and then colour tv appeared. Then video (poor quality) and lots of Chinese series (remind me of chinese comics) and then cd then vcd.....

I Am Sarawakiana said...

ok. Now I see. Yes, lots of stories, gossips, and how children flocked at people's houses just to watch the movies and tv series...

ah...those were the days..we bought my first huge two door black and white tv just to watch the Mohd. Ali fight and about 30 people came to watch!!

Unknown said...

I reckon if you are keen to know further about JB Archer, his surviving daughter still lives in Sibu. So happened that i spoke to someone of close to me about him this morning.

Unknown said...

What is his daugther name?

Unknown said...

What is his daugther name?


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