Happy 145th birthday Kuching!


The old quarters of Kuching city, where the old well was located. — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: Today is the birthday of this city as on this date in 1872, the second White Rajah Sir Charles Brooke officially named the capital of Sarawak, ‘Kuching’.

However, this key historical date has been ignored and there is no record of any event held to mark the birth of the city.

Brooke could have changed the name of the state capital to Kuching to avoid what must be a confusion caused by a single name for his raj, capital and the river that flows through it.

The similarity of the city’s name to the Malay word for ‘cat’ spawned a long running rigmarole over its origin and the people overlooked the fact that until Aug 12, 1872, the capital of Sarawak was located by the bank of Sarawak River.

It is likely that the name ‘Kuching’ has nothing to do with cats, as there was a part of the town referred to as ‘Koo Ching’, which means ‘old well’, by the Chinese residents.

It was the place where the townsfolk drew their fresh water.

It was only in 1895 when the settlers of the fledgling township got treated piped water from a water reservoir, built at a place where the present Reservoir Park off Jalan Budaya is.

When people had an alternative and a better source of water supply, the old well was covered up and a new street, Upper China Street, was built in the area.

One of the shops along the street is actually sitting right above where the old well was.

Whatever, the debate on the origin of the name Kuching should not overshadow the official birthday of the state capital.

The city councils should consider marking this day with some events – after all, it falls in the middle of the annual Kuching Festival.