Monday, June 30, 2008


British surveyor recalls challenge rebuilding Sabah


Those who worked with the Lands and Surveys Department in early 1960 to 1970 may know John Albert Fryer very well. Before he returned to his country in 1970, the Briton worked in Sabah for more than 20 years in the surveying field. He was also a Director of the Department for four years. Fryer, who was born in Weymouth, England on January 17 1925, is making a return visit to Sabah. He said that when he first came to Jesselton (now known as Kota Kinabalu), it was a very challenging time for him as a surveyor. “Our main job at that time was to rehabilitate the country after the destruction of the war. We had to plan and rebuild both North and South,” he said. “The big job was to establish the land titles because they were all taken by the Japanese and we have to reconstitute them,” he added. Fryer studied in Portmouth Northern Secondary School from 1936 to 1941. Thereafter he went to Winchester School of Architecture until 1943, and from 1943 to 1945, he was at the Camborme School Of Mine. He later joined the army, and with his background in architecture and engineering, he was posted to Singapore as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers from 1946 to 1948. After his army service was over, he went back to England. He attended and passed the one-year surveying course at the University College London. In February, 1950, he arrived in Jesselton and worked for the Survey Department. He was sent to assist Tuaran to do town planning for Kiulu. “The first thing I did after I came here was to build up the town. It was hard to build a new town after it had been destroyed,” he said. Sharing his achievement during his time in Sabah as a Director of the Lands and Surveys Department, Fryer said there were a lot during that time. “Some of them were town planning, land registration system to construct a road from Ranau to Sandakan and a route up to Kudat, besides training a lot of local people as surveyors,” he said. In March that year, he was sent to Tawau to do a topographical survey for the town planning and to survey the boundaries of the Borneo Abaca Hemp Estate. He returned to Jesselton in September and became the Surveyor General’s Administrative Assistant until 1951. Three years later, he was given the job of placing a survey beacon up on top of Mount Kinabalu. “It was not easy for us to build the triangulation point on top of Mount Kinabalu. It was an interesting job. At that time there was no route to the mountain, but we managed to place a triangulation point there,” he said. “I remember my team took 10 days to come up and down to the place. This was part of our achievement, and I am glad about it,” he added. “From May 1957 to May 1958, I was posted to the interior and become the district surveyor in Keningau,” he said. In November 1960, he was again posted to Jesselton as a headquarters officer. In 1964, he became the Deputy Director and subsequently the Director of Lands and Surveys Department from 1966 to 1970. Just before he left Sabah in 1970, he was the president of the Sabah Designated Officers’ Association. After 38 years later, he re-visits Sabah. “It is very different. There are so many changes ... and I almost lost my way as there are so many roads. Sabah grew very fast ... and the situation is now much better compared to my time here,” he said. “It is so easy. I am very happy here,” added a smiling Fryer when asked whether it was difficult for him to adapt with the new version of Sabah.