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