Families were provided an allowance by the Department of Defence, variable depending on rank, to hire domestic help. Amahs (domestic servants) did most of the housework for the wives, including assisting with children. A family with two amahs would have one as a cook and one as a domestic amah. Often the families became very attached to their amahs and vice versa, so much so that when separation came at the end of the tour, the break was often a very tearful one.
Gardeners (or kebuns) were also hired to care for the gardens. Our gardener's name was Subiah. He was Indian and he was wonderful. He could never do enough to help and when we returned on our second trip to Malaysia 4 years later, we ran into Subiah in George Town by accident. The meeting was to say the least, effusive. He honoured us with his hospitality by taking us to his favourite local cafe, introducing us to his family and friends and showing us at first hand, part ofhisway of life. It was a very special meeting and displayed the affection which was generally held between the hired help and the families.
Kechic (Che) Bin Yusof. Malay amah to Matuschka's in Jalan Bahaudin from 1968-1970. On our reposting in 1973, we searched for Che and very happily found her. She also was thrilled to come to work with us again. When we relocated to Robina Park several months later in 1974, she continued to work with us, but after a time the travelling became too much for her and she had to leave. We missed her greatly but we hired another amah in Mary, an Indian. Mary doubled as part-time cook for us too.
One Amah Found!
To help reinforce the message of the affection with which the amahs were held, here is a story sent from Lynne Miles, who lived in Penang in 1960. Lynne went back to Penang in 1992 and went to great lengths to track down her amah - a heartwarming story with a touching end!