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Prince LeeBoo of Belau Statue

Prince LeeBoo of Belau Statue

  • 0 Stars.

 

Located on the campus of the Palau Community College

is a memorial to Prince LeeBoo.

 

Prince Lee Boo was born in one of the Pacific Islands

and is buried in St Mary's churchyard.

When he lived the world was still being discovered,

and the Pacific Islands were no easy

exercise for an explorer of that time.

 

The Islands themselves are very difficult

to plot and even more difficult to sail around.


"None but a seaman can realise how terrible was

the sound of the waves breaking on the coral reef,

mingling with the shouting of operations

our dangerous situation made necessary."


The story of how a Pacific Island prince came to be buried

at St Mary's begins in September 1782,

when three Rotherhithe men sailed out of Falmouth aboard

the East India Company's packet the Antelope.

 

They were, in addition to Captain Wilson

his son Henry and his brother Mathias.

Theirs was a secret voyage,

perhaps the first voyage of an East India Company Ship

to round the Horn and cross the Pacific from east to west.


Less than three weeks after departing the coast of China,

on the stormy night of 9th August 1783,

The Antelope, was blown off course was

wrecked on the reefs of a group of islands

Captain Wilson named the "Pelews".

Later these became known as the Palau Islands

and more recently, the Republic of Belau.


Carving from Belau, depicting the wrecked sailors and their island hosts

 

 

Prince Lee Boo and Rotherhithe


Although he lost his ship,

Captain Wilson and all but one of his men

saved themselves by using the ships two boats

and an improvised raft to traverse the reef.

 

They took refuge on Ulong,

(which the English spelled Oroolong),

a nearby island which was at that time uninhabited.

It was in the southern portion of a chain of islands ruled by

chiefs whose highest-ranking member was titled Ibedul.

The English came to know the chief as Abba Thulle.

 

Two of Abba Thulle's brothers were among

the first to visit the shipwrecked Englishmen.

They had with them a Malay, and, by good fortune,

Captain Wilson had with him a man from Macao

who could converse with the Malayan.

Thus communication was possible from

the very beginning and a friendly relationship was initiated.
 

It was soon agreed that Oroolong could be regarded

as a sanctuary for the men of the Antelope,

and that trees on the island could be felled for the construction

of a vessel in which they could return to China.

After a visit from Abba Thulle,

whom the English regarded as a King,

it was requested that in exchange for this hospitality

the English would help in subduing

rival island villagers who were causing problems for the king.
 

With their firearms,

the English were able to assist the king's forces

without suffering any casualties themselves

and with very little loss to the king.

Captain Wilson, busy on Oroolong

overseeing the construction of the vessel, did not participate.

The few men he sent to accompany the king's expeditions

were able to quell the "enemy" with a few well aimed shots.

 

Abba Thulle often visited the Englishmen's shipyard

on Oroolong bringing food, without which the men

of the Antelope might not have survived.

In so doing he had the opportunity to observe

Captain Wilson and his men at work.

He had seen the English sawing felled trees into timbers.

He had seen wood salvaged from the Antelope applied

as planking for the new vessel

and the Antelope's boom converted into a mast.

 

He had observed the Englishmen using their tools:

the grindstone, the forge, bellows and anvil.

He had seen the cooper at work skilfully repairing water casks.

Perhaps because Abba Thulle was an expert wood carver himself

and carried an adze on his shoulder,

almost as a badge of honour,

he greatly admired the craftsmanship

and the diligence of the English.

 

He explained to the Captain that he was humbled

by what he had seen; that, in short,

he hoped his son could learn what the English knew

and requested that his second son,

Lee Boo, travel with them and become an Englishman.

 


When the English were ready to launch their vessel,

she was named the Oroolong.

This was at the suggestion of the king

who gave them paint and had his artisans paint

and decorate her in the local manner.

Upon departure, and after tearful farewells,

the Pelew islanders surrounded the Oroolong

in their canoes and offered more food than could be carried,

pleading, "take only this from me - only this from me."

 

The voyage to China took just eighteen days.

Lee Boo was seasick at first and perhaps a little homesick too.

But he was well cared for by the ship's surgeon,

Mr Sharp, and Captain Wilson gave him a sailor's outfit

that he could wear to protect himself from

the cool November weather.

 

By the time the Oroolong reached Macao,

Lee Boo had tied several knots in the cord he carried,

with him as a kind of journal on which to record those things

he wanted to remember to tell his father

when he returned to Pelew.


At Macao, and then at Canton,

Lee Boo received his grounding in things European.

He saw, for example, his first mirror and stood transfixed,

viewing himself as if by magic.

He was shown his first cows, sheep, goats and, best of all,

a horse that he could ride even

though it refused his gift of an orange!

 

  Lee Boo in turn won the admiration of the men

of many ships by his skill at throwing a spear.

But, more than anything else,

he endeared himself to his companions

and to all who met him by his warm and friendly manner

and the sincere regard he expressed

for the Englishmen he came to know.

 

 

Lee Boo in England

 

After the long voyage to England aboard

the company's Indiaman, the Morse,

the ship arrived at Portsmouth on 14 July 1784.

 

By then Lee Boo was already able to provide

his own description of his ride by coach to London

saying that he had been put into "a little house

which was run away with by horses - that he slept,

but still was going on: and whilst he went one way,

the fields, houses, and trees, all went another.

 

Upon arrival in London Lee Boo was taken

to the home of Captain Wilson in Paradise Row in Rotherhithe.

Here he was given his own bed-chamber

and lived with the Wilsons as one of the family.

He went with them to church services at St Mary's here;

it was said he understood the intent of the people

at prayer even if he did not comprehend all that he saw.

 

During his visit to England Lee Boo met with

the London poet George Keates

and witnessed Vincenzo Lunardi's first balloon flight.

For most of the five months and thirteen days

that Lee Boo spent in England he attended school

at an academy in Rotherhithe,

where according to Keate's

" his application was equal to his great desire of learning;

and he conducted himself there with such propriety,

and in a manner so engaging,

that he gained not only the esteem of the gentleman

under whose tuition he was placed,

but also the affection of his young companions."

 

In mid-December of 1784

it was discovered that Lee Boo had the smallpox.

Captain Wilson called in Dr James Carmichael Smyth,

who was later appointed "Physician extra-ordinary to the King".

 

But even so Lee Boo could not be saved from the illness

that claimed more lives in London

at that time than any other disease.

Before he died on 27 December,

Lee Boo spoke to his surgeon friend

from the voyage of the Oroolong, Mr Sharp.

"Good Friend, when you go to Pelew,

tell Abba Thulle that Lee Boo take much drink

to make smallpox go away, but he die:

that the Captain and Mother very kind - all English very good men;

was much sorry he could not speak to the King

(his father) the number of fine things the English had got."

 

Lee Boo was buried where he now lies - in the churchyard

to the left of the entrance to St Mary's,

in Captain Wilson's family grave.

The entry in the parish register for 29 December 1784,

reads: Prince Lee Boo buried from Captain Wilson's

Paradise Row 20 (The "20" refers to his age.)

 

 

In 1892 a memorial plaque was placed in St Mary's

to keep alive the memory of Lee Boo and the people of Pelew who,

under their "Rupack or King", showed "no little kindness"

in their treatment of the men of the Antelope.

 

 

Finally in 1912,

the London County Council accepted

a recommendation from

the them Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey

and renamed that portion of Neptune Street

that lay closest to St Mary's "Rupack Street".

 

Thus in symbolism at least,

Lee Boo is not alone in London,

and Rotherhithe has not forgotten that distant royal family

who earned a place in British history.
 

Captain Wilson died at the age of 70 years

and was buried at Colyton, Devonshire in 1810.

 

 

Commemorative stamp issue:-

 

 

 




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Prince LeeBoo of Belau Statue

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