Golden trail

Aussie re­tiree Vic­tor Bibby has traced his lin­eage back to his fa­mous great grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Bibby, a gold miner in Raub, Pa­hang.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PEOPLE - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@ thes­tar. com. my

RE­TIRED Aus­tralian army aero­nau­ti­cal engi­neer, Vic­tor Bibby, 7 3, is a grand­fa­ther who loves telling great grand­fa­ther sto­ries. Not many peo­ple can show off quite as well. He has been to Malaysia twice to trace his fam­ily roots and has suc­cess­fully found the link back to his great grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam Bibby, a fa­mous gold miner from Raub, Pa­hang.

He went the ex­tra mile and wrote a book, Go lden Raub: W il­liam ’ s Sto ry, pub­lished on Jan 1, 2015 , to hon­our his an­ces­tor, and pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for Wil­liam’s descen­dants who are ea­ger to find out more about their great grand­fa­ther.

Vic­tor hardly knew his par­ents, let alone his grand­fa­ther or great grand­fa­ther. His father was Fred­er­ick James Bibby and his grand­fa­ther, Fred­er­ick Al­fred Bibby.

Great grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Bibby ( 1837 - 1900) was born in Liver­pool, Eng­land. In 185 8, Wil­liam – then just 21 years old and an ap­pren­tice tool­maker – left the coun­try to seek his for­tunes in Aus­tralia, and later in the Fed­er­ated Malay States ( now Malaysia).

From 185 9 through to 1889, Wil­liam worked as a miner, quartz crusher and mine man­ager in Vic­to­ria and Queens­land, Aus­tralia. He al­most even made a name for him­self – ask some­one from the north­west of Queens­land and they just may re­mem­ber Bibby of Clon­curry.

In 1889, Wil­liam was hired by the Bris­banebased Raub Syn­di­cate, to de­velop a gold mine in Raub, Pa­hang.

Wil­liam had nine chil­dren. Ex­cept for his youngest son, who died at six weeks of age, his five sons and three daugh­ters came with him to the Malay States. His sons were said to have worked at the Raub gold mine, too.

Vic­tor, a fourth gen­er­a­tion Bibby, was born in Rom­ford, Eng­land, but was sent to be raised in Angli­can Swan Homes, an or­phan­age near Perth, Aus­tralia, when he was seven. His father, how­ever, came to visit of­ten. This or­phan­age helped to care for mi­grant chil­dren and Vic­tor was there for eight years. Three gen­er­a­tions of Bib­bys were gold min­ers.

How­ever, Vic­tor could not imag­ine him­self go­ing down that path as well.

“If you ever get the chance to go down a mine with no lights, you can imag­ine how it af­fects you. I don’t know how the min­ers coped!” says Vic­tor in an email.

Vic­tor has been to Raub, one of the old­est towns in Pa­hang, twice. He likes the “sim­plic­ity” of the town which flour­ished in the early 1800s as a gold min­ing set­tle­ment. He has vis­ited the Raub Aus­tralian gold mine, the Sem­pam Hy­dro­elec­tric Power Sta­tion, Raub Hole, Ni­bong shaft ruins and Bi­lut River.

On his first trip, he felt nos­tal­gic when he saw an old road sign­post, Bibby Road, named after his great grand­fa­ther. The road has since been re­named Jalan Tun Razak.

“It was nailed to a beam of an old shop­house at the junc­tion where Jalan Tun Razak meets Jalan Lipis,” he says. He was touched by the town folks sen­ti­men­tal­ity in try­ing to pre­serve a part of his­tory.

The sec­ond trip to Malaysia was with new­found rel­a­tives of his gen­er­a­tion. He felt it was much more re­ward­ing to share the ex­pe­ri­ence with them.

Down mem­ory lane

When he was in his 20s, Vic­tor was given two pho­to­graphs by an aunt ( the el­dest daugh­ter of Wil­liam’s sec­ond son, Harry Thomas) who lived in Syd­ney. One was that of “a stern- look­ing man” ( Wil­liam Bibby) and the other, “a strange look­ing house” ( the bun­ga­low for man­agers in Raub).

At that time, Vic­tor had just grad­u­ated from army school and did not think much of the pho­to­graphs. He only thought of re­trac­ing his roots when he re­tired at 66.

In 2009, he be­gan search­ing the archives of news­pa­per of­fices in Mel­bourne and Queens­land, as well as in Kuala Lumpur and Sin­ga­pore, to find out more about Wil­liam.

“I met peo­ple who had an­ces­tors who knew of Wil­liam or his fam­ily both in Raub and in Aus­tralia. They be­came new friends,” says Vic­tor, who has a daugh­ter, a son and four grand­chil­dren.

How­ever, he was dis­ap­pointed at not be­ing able to find Bibby’s Cot­tage in Mal­don, Vic­to­ria, that was men­tioned in records. “It was the place Wil­liam and his wife, Ellen Amelia, first lived and where their first two chil­dren were born. It was men­tioned in the Town Di­ary and in the of­fi­cial Rate Books,” he adds.

He says: “The book I have writ­ten about my great grand­fa­ther is an af­fir­ma­tion of where I came from and ( a re­source) for my chil­dren. I took four years to write it.

“The fris­sons dur­ing such vis­its were touch­ing – relics from Wil­liam’s time ac­cu­mu­lated by the min­ers from Castle­maine, Vic­to­ria, where my grand­fa­ther was born and read­ing ac­tual cor­re­spon­dence about Wil­liam and one of his let­ters, as well as read­ing about my father’s birth ( in Kuala Lumpur), at the Malaysian Na­tional Archives.”

In Queens­land, he was thrilled to watch “an out­back dawn at Wil­liam’s Gilded Rose mine in Clon­curry and vis­ited the site of his Crush­ing Mill and Spec­i­men Hill mine in Castle­maine where the main tun­nel still ex­ists.”

Vic­tor is cur­rently vis­it­ing Raub; this time with his daugh­ter, Kather­ine, to meet up with lo­cals who helped him on his jour­ney to trace his roots.

He says: “I wanted a next gen­er­a­tion mem­ber, my daugh­ter, to go through the ex­pe­ri­ence of vis­it­ing her ‘ past’ so she would know that it was not just words in a book.”

Vic­tor ( right) with Vin­cent Bibby, is a grand­son of Harry Thomas Bibby, Wil­liam’s sec­ond son who worked as a min­ing engi­neer in Raub.

In July 1889, Wil­liam Bibby ( 1837 - 1900) was hired by the Bris­banebased Raub syn­di­cate, to de­velop its con­ces­sion as a gold mine in Raub, pa­hang. — pho­tos: VIC­TOR BIBBy

Vic­tor ( sec­ond from right, back­ground) and mem­bers of his fam­ily vis­it­ing Raub in 2011. Vic­tor’s cousin, su­san Thomas ( left), a grand­daugh­ter of Harry Thomas Bibby, Wil­liam’s sec­ond el­dest son, is point­ing at an old street sign, Bibby Road, nailed to a beam on an old shop­house.

( left to right) Vic­tor with his sib­lings Don­ald ( de­ceased), peter and Bar­bara, and their father, who was vis­it­ing them in Free­man­tle, Western Aus­tralia.

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