Through a collection of letters written to his best friend and to his father in England, and from his own personal diary entries, John Dodd’s memoir offers a fascinating and amusing glimpse of life as a colonial rubber planter.
With true stories and confessions that would make even Somerset Maugham blush, we discover what life was really like for young colonial planters in late-1950s Malaya. Increasing daily rubber output may have been their goal but for the young planters the bigger picture of chasing girls and finding a ‘keep’ was of much greater importance.
But life was more than just a series of stengahs in the clubhouse, dalliances in the Chinese brothels of Penang and charming ‘pillow dictionaries’ – there were strikes, riots, snakes, plantation fires and deadly ambushes by Communist terrorists to contend with. Set against the backdrop of the Emergency period, the rise of nationalism and Malaya’s subsequent Independence, A Company of Planters is a very personal, moving and humorous account of one man’s experiences on the frequently isolated rubber plantations of colonial Malaya.
“A Company of Planters presents a very personal account of life in Malaya during the late 1950s, during the period when independence was won. The style of A Company of Planters is novel and effective. It comprises three sources through which Dodd tells his story. One is in the form of letters he wrote to his father, the second of letters to Norman, a close school friend, and the third of Dodd’s diary entries at the time. This structure works surprisingly well in that it gives an intriguing, multi-dimensional view of life in Malaya. A thoroughly good read, especially for those with an interest in the history of the period and for those brought up on Somerset Maugham’s stories of the East.” Asian Review of Books, Hong Kong
About the author
After working on a mixed farm in the UK and then in East Africa, John left for pre-independence Malaya at the age of twenty-one to work on a rubber plantation as an assistant manager in a group of companies. He planned on staying for only one four-year tour of duty, but remained there for almost thirty years, working with oil palms, cocoa and coconuts. This was followed by a transfer to the Congo where he worked in a senior plantation position until his retirement eight years later. Now semi-retired and living permanently in Malaysia, he works as a self-employed, independent planting advisor for various companies and has worked on plantation projects in Sabah, Sarawak, Sumatra, Kalimantan, PNG and Côte d’Ivoire. John Dodd was awarded the MBE in 1991 for services to agriculture.