Mempakul postmark of North Borneo - The Stamps Journal

Mempakul postmark of North Borneo

Mempakul is a small town situated on the shore of Brunei Bay and was an important customs and telegraph station during the British colonial rule and served as a seaport in Province Dent. Postmark from Mempakul proves elusive and a challenge to collect.

Early History

North Borneo

During his visit to Mempakul in early 1890s, John Whitehead wrote:

“When visiting Mempakol for the first time a stranger would wonder to himself why such a miserable site had been selected for the few shops, Government buildings, and native hovels which compose this station; but as it commands the entrance of the Padas and Kilias Rivers, where the sago industry is extensively carried on, the flat swampy nature of the country being suited to the cultivation of this useful palm, and employing a large population, the duties on exports and imports are considerable; it also has the advantage of close proximity to Labuan, that island being about one hour’s sail distant: but for all these advantages a more miserable and unhealthy spot I have seldom seen.” (Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, John Whitehead, published 1893)

Sago cultivation was one of the primary economies in Mempakul in early 1890s. The magistrate of Province Dent, J.G.G. Wheatley in 1894 reported that between 1890-1893, Mempakul had $268,730 returns for sago flour and $74,249.35 for raw sago. These were exported to Labuan by native schooners which were then sold in Singapore at a price of $2.55 per pikul (~60.48 kg).

On the completion of the Singapore-Labuan- Hong Kong cable in April, 1894, the mainland of Borneo was joined to Labuan by a cable covering a distance of about 10 miles to Mempakul.

Although initially served as an important port connecting mainland North Borneo to Labuan, today its historical function is replaced by the nearby town of Menumbok.


The Mempakul cds is always fascinating because they are not easy to come by. Only a few covers known to bear the Mempakul cds and these can be counted by fingers.

The following pictures are some of the Mempakul postmarks that I am fortunate enough to obtain and keep:

Type D2 postmark (In use from 29.09.1896 – 09.11.1900)

Of course it’s always great to have a bull’s eye cancel on a stamp, not to mention from a small town of Mempakul, being one of the rarer cancel to obtain in North Borneo philately.

Type D3 and ?D4

It would be nice to seen the bottom half of the two postmarks above to see their dates of usage. The one on the right is slightly curious because it is struck in blue ink with somewhat fuzzy and irregular appearance. Two of these postmarks were picked up from the recent SSS auction. For the oval of bars postmark from this town please read an entry here.

Comments are appreciated as always.

Become a member of the Sarawak Specialists Society (SSS)

aThe society was founded for the furtherance of the study of the stamps and postal history of Sarawak, Brunei, North Borneo and Labuan. It is the authoritative body on the philatelic study from these territories and is the meeting place for collectors worldwide. It publishes a quarterly journal called The Sarawak Journal and half yearly member-only auctions. Membership costs only £15 per year.



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