The Don of Uncle

My great uncle Don used to live in Borneo! He was unfortunately captured during the war by the Japanese and put in a civilian prisoner of war camp near Kuching, in Sarawak. However, he possibly escaped and when found by the Japanese was shot at the side of the road with 3 other guys. His body was left there in a shallow grave, and when found by the Chinese after the war, was moved to a cemetery near Kota Kinabalu, in Sabah.

Being in KK for one day, i set out on an ambitious quest to find said grave, with only a few hours to do it! I started at the tourist information office, who sent me to the National Archives of Sabah, who sent me to a cemetery just out of town. They said i should take a taxi…however, jumping on the local bus, i met a woman who lives right next door to the cemetery who showed me the way!

After strolling around for about half an hour i was at a loss. I noticed another cemetery next door, but when i tried to go there, i was confronted by a number of barking dogs. On another attempt a few minutes later, i was met by the guy who runs the cemetery who explained it was a private cemetery that hadn’t opened yet, and the one i had come from had only been open since the late 1950’s – hence why i couldn’t find my uncle!

He then offered to drive me in his own car to another cemetery, and then not finding him there, to another, and another, and another…until he eventually dropped me off, over an hour later, at the last cemetery. I made my way through, and just as the thunder started roaring it’s way across the sky, i found the grave!

5 hours of searching through amazingly complexly laid out cemeteries, which are not in chronological order of birth or death, and are not in alphabetical order…being shown the whole way by these two very friendly Malaysian guys…found me standing at the right grave (or at least at another Don Macdonald’s grave who died on the 6th July 1945 – you never know…there could be two!).

I managed to hitch a free lift back into town too…which was great. Oh…forgot to mention, the lady that showed me to the first cemetery also offered to drive me back into town on her way to pick her kids up from school…and i got a free lift into town from the airport yesterday off another two very friendly guys (jumping into a black car, on a deserted road late at night when you’re on your own in a strange country, is not always a good idea…but it worked out ok for me yesterday!).

So far i love this place. Everyone is so friendly and so keen to help. The public buses have DEFINITELY seen better days – but they are cheap and reasonably reliable!…failing that…stick your thumb out for a few minutes and i’m sure you can hitch a lift! Getting the night bus to Semporna tonight will see me diving in Sipidan tomorrow morning!! One of the best places in the world to go diving – thanks mum!

4 thoughts on “The Don of Uncle

  1. You’re very welcome – enjoy it (but make sure they remember to pick you up again – I’ve seen that film!)

  2. hey Ferg – so interesting to see our Uncle Don’s grave, and sad too to think of a family member so far from home. I would likie to go and visit the grave myself so remember to keep that map. k x

    ps those turtles sound amazing! not so keen on the sharks myself but….

  3. Hi Fergus,

    Is the MacDonald ribbon still on the grave where I left it a year last February. We too took ages to find the place and now have detailed instructions logged.

    I loved Borneo in general, but particularly Kuching and the rest of Sarawak in particular.

    Your very distant cousin


  4. Hey…yeah the ribbon is still there blowing in the wind. So far i really love Borneo too – the people are so friendly and i’m having just an amazing time here…!

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