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An update from Jimmy Hendrick (46-49)
Following a most enjoyable year at ICTA I was dispatched to Sarawak, together with Norman Orr and Robin Kirk, in August 1957. My first tour of three years was spent as Divisional agricultural officer in the remotest administrative Division I could possibly have been sent to! The Fifth Division bordered on Brunei, British North Borneo (Sabah) and Kalmantan (Indonesian Borneo) and included the world-famous Mount Mulu national park. Having been thrown in at the deep end, with virtually no administrative experience, little knowledge of any local language and seldom visited by my superiors from far-away headquarters in Kuching, I had the most marvellous time imaginable. Being rather lazy I was forced with alacrity to learn Malay, the lingua Franca, and the rudiments of typing and filing in order to survive. But the greatest joy was the freedom to roam around that marvellous and exciting country where access was only by river in an outboard-powered canoe or on foot along jungle tracks. Having said that, I was privileged to fly on the first flight ever made into the interior, on that magnificent invention of Scottish Aviation, the Twin Pioneer. Landing on a precarious grass strip five thousand feet up in the mountains, it took a mere forty-five minutes flying time, although it took a full two weeks to trek out again!

Following this marvellous introduction to Sarawak and its many tribal groupings I was returned to Kuching and ‘civilisation’ where I did various duties at headquarters, including Principal of the School of Agriculture. In 1964 I was asked to develop a system of farmer training and for this purpose I was again dispatched to a remote area in the great Baram river basin where a community development scheme based on crafts was to be converted into an agricultural training centre. I remained there for eighteen months trialling three-month courses in basic agriculture for young farmers and their wives. Meanwhile I had married and brought my wife and two young sons with me. The Centre being very remote we had to depend a lot on our own resources and with this in mind we lived off the land and grew our own vegetables and poultry.

In 1966 I developed the Farmer Training projects nationwide, setting up seven centres, three farm institutes for more advanced courses and a youth settlement scheme for those who had completed courses and were landless. At this time I became involved in the American Peace Corps and also VSO and had some twenty volunteers assigned to me. With these I developed the 4H young farmer’s clubs movement, which latterly became the biggest youth movement in the country. As assistant director of agriculture for agricultural education I also developed agricultural publicity in the form of the usual advisory leaflets and so on, but also a regular Farmers Bulletin in English, Malay, Iban and Chinese and a local version of The Archers for Radio Sarawak.

In 1970 I was given the option to continue in Malaysian Government service or retire. Because of political problems within the country, the fact that Indonesian ‘Confrontation’ assaults were growing in intensity and the need to educate my children I took the latter option and, with great regret at leaving the country I had come to love and respect so much, we migrated to Western Australia. By this time my wife and I had three children, two boys and a girl. Then two wonderful things happened to us. My wife gave birth to a baby girl, a ‘dinkum Aussie’ and I had the honour to be awarded the MBE for ‘Services to the Rural Youth of Sarawak’, presented to me in the New Year’s Honours by Sir Douglas Kendrew, Governor of Western Australia.

Following initial teething problem we eventually settled in the Eastern Hills above Perth with a nice house and seven acres of jarrah forest near the little town of Mundaring. I worked for a local plant nursery and became particularly fascinated by the indigenous native flora, which was not only drought resistant but had some of the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. Closely kin to South African flora the native Western Australian was worth developing for garden use in place of the usual English roses and lawns which required prodigious amounts of water to grow and I specialised in this field and was elected President of the Eastern Hills Wildflower Association, which I had helped establish.

Because of family problems and the higher education needs of my children we decided to migrate once more, to England. Being jobless for a while, I finally bought up a glasshouse nursery in Somerset and settled down to grow tomatoes and chillies for the London market. I was particularly unlucky in this venture because, in my second year, Somerset was hit by the worst blizzard in half a century and I lost many of my best houses. Having left my CV with the Ministry for Overseas Development, someone must have seen it because, just as I lost my tomato business, I had a telegram from the World Bank inviting me to take up a post as training officer on an integrated agricultural development project in central Nigeria. It was a godsend. So on 17th January I left snow-bound England for a steamy, hot continent to which I had never been before.

The Ayangba Agricultural Development Project was one of several initiated by the World Bank in Nigeria. Situated near the junction of the Niger and Benue rivers it was a region of upland oilpalm forest crying out for development. My duties were to train young Nigerians as agricultural advisers to farmers in the region. For this purpose I had charge of three farms for the training of both young men and women. I also introduced mobile training units, van-based staff who could tour the villages with visual aids such as film projectors and give talks in the local languages to farmers in the evenings.

On the completion of my three-year tour I was offered a year’s extension by the Benue State government and then was offered a training job with the Federal Government’s Department for Rural Development. This lasted a further year on completion of which I returned to England.

In 1984 I went to Brunei to see old friends including the Director of Agriculture at the time, who offered me a job in the staff training college and I duly went out the following year as the course coordinator for the Brunei National Diploma in Agriculture. The Brunei Diploma was recognised by British universities, representatives from whom would come to Brunei and vie with each other to offer places for our students. My duties consisted of lecturing, sometimes in the Malay language, supervising field work, organising excursions and outings to places of interest and setting and marking examinations. I had taught agriculture to students on the Youth Training Scheme in England for a short while but it was wonderful and refreshing to be teaching these students in Brunei who desperately wanted to learn, so my job was made a pleasure. I worked for the Brunei government for six years, from 1985 until my retirement in 1991 and then returned to England where I bought a series of houses, never being quite able to settle until I found a black-and-white cottage at the end of a half mile drive in the beautiful West Somerset setting. Meanwhile my dear wife passed away and I now live with a wonderful companion who I had come to know more than half a century previously when I was a student.

I now indulge myself in personal interests such as walking the beautiful Quantock Hills to watch the wildlife, including the large herd of Quantock red deer, gardening and trying for self-sufficiency in vegetables, working out my family genealogy on the internet and writing up my reminiscences of a wonderful life with HMOCS and the various governments whom I served. What great blessings the privilege of having been able to attend that marvellous institution ICTA has brought me!

 

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