W.R. Dibb’s family in Siam
Before being transferred to Phrae, Mr. W.R. Dibb had as his second wife, Miss Nue Oun-Daj (a local woman), who was called ‘Lao’ in those days. While they were never officially married, they had lived together for more than ten years. This may be due to the fact that in those days a European who married to a local would be most probably accused of ‘going native’ and would be ostracized by the elite European community. Such situations would be difficult to accept for any European living in northern Siam at that time. This kind of attitude was shown in a correspondence of Merrifield and Archer, about Louis T. Leonowen’s behavior, as mentioned by Bristowe in his book ‘Louis and the King of Siam’ which read:[i]
“W.J. Archer, the Vice Consul, who had regarded him as his closest friend in Chiengmai, thought ‘he was going native’ when he met him driving openly in the streets with Chao Chum beside him and Chao Phat in front on his way to make merit at a Buddhist temple. ‘To hell with Archer’, Louis must have thought when he received no further invitations to his home because of openly displaying a local wife.” (Note: W.J. Archer was a British Vice Consul in Chiang Mai from 1886 and later became Consul from 1896-1897)
One more passage in the same book can be interpreted along the same lines:
“Macfie was 43 before he was officially married in 1913 and was very hurt that his friends did not call on his Lao wife”(Note: D.F. Macfie was a manager of Borneo co. ltd. in Chiang Mai since1899. His wife name was Kam Mao. The couple had together three children, all born before they were officially married. He died in Chiang Mai in 1945)
The same attitude can also be noticed from the following advices gave to Leigh Williams, a newcomer, by a senior teak wallah during Christmas holidays in Lakon: [ii]
“You wouldn't believe what some of these fellows (foresters) spend on the wenches. They get all sentimental and chivalrous-like about them, instead of regarding them as a bloody but necessary nuisance!.........These girls, though they know more about prevention than most people, always try to have a kid as soon as possible, as they think it gives them a hold on you. Then the kids must be clothed and fed and educated. Why, some of these chaps even send them to school in Europe. So you watch it, my boy, or you'll find yourself a not-so-proud father in no time!"
As Ms Nue’s grandchildren we could still remember her as a small, gentle and kind lady. She wore long hair and always combed it to the back of her head and tied it into a bun. She usually wore a white blouse made of sheer lace and a local style, dark striped, skirt. Mr. Dibb and Ms Nue had four children, in addition to an elder son from Mr. Dibb’s previous Thai wife. Tragically two of their children, Bun Yen and Bua Kieng, died at very young ages in Phrae.
[i] Bristowe, W.S., Louis and the King of Siam (London: Chatto & Windus, 1976).
[ii] Leigh Williams, Jungle Prison (Andrew Melrose, Stratford Place, London, 1954)