The Continuing Curious Case of Ali Wallace

By Tom McLaughlin

Ternate, Indonesia – As some of you know who have been following my commentaries, I have been on a search for Ali, the assistant to Alfred Wallace, the great adventurer who, in 1858, published the Ternate paper.

This paper, along with those of Charles Darwin, was the beginning of evolution in science. It is stated in the Malay Archipelago that Ali married and later moved to Ternate. While here I hired a car and driver to find him.

My first stop was at the palace of the Sultan of Ternate. At the back of this small edifice, I was introduced to Haji Muhammed Saleh, who held the keys to the palace. He was ancient, about 80 or so years, and was dress in white. He pronounced the memorized speech that the first Sultan was from Arabia and his mother was a local. He was from Iraq and formed the Sultanate in 1257.

I asked him about Mr. Wallace, and he said he was an Englishman who had come to Ternate to teach the people to love animals. He said nobody was with Mr. Wallace and he stayed in a house that was still in town. We visited the home called the Wallace House, which had a well in the back and an alley named after him. Across the street, an old lady, Hajah Jah, had lived where Wallace had lived. Her great-grandmother had rented the house to him.

After the audience and many goodbyes, I asked the driver to take me to the cemetery in the wild hope that I may stumble across the grave of Ali Wallace. The cemetery was huge with stones indicating the oldest graves and U shaped enclosures made of blue, dark blue or white tiles, the most recent. Most of the graves I saw dated back to about 1990. The metal banners had long since been stripped away on most of them.

There are trees in the graveyard that produce a white odiferous flower. The flowers land on the ground and stay there for a couple of days where they are collected by a group of ladies. They are then sold the perfume dealers.

There ladies, ranging in age from about early thirties to ancient, fanned across the graveyard and wondered what a white man, very rare in these parts, was looking for. I told them the grave of Ali Wallace. One ancient took me out of the graveyard through a warren of streets where I met the keeper of the graves. He knew of one grave where a white man was buried. Ali was not white, but a very dark brown. I followed him back and on the straight road though the grave yard met my wife and three year old son, Dzul.

One of the ladies told Suriani that she knew where Ali Wallace’s grave was. She took us back through the graves and pointed to two rocks. One was shaped in the form of a male at the head while the other was a foot stone. Surrounding the grave was a tiled U. She said that two Malay men from Jakarta and a white man had said this was his grave and they left just a week before I arrived They said the Malay had said he was related to Ali Wallace and was able to point out the grave.

By now all of the ladies had gathered together and confirmed the story and even said they knew that had paid for the small tomb like enclosure. They also said they said the Doa (Islamic prayer) at the site.

We tried to trace who bought the tomb and that brought us to Dr. Ahmad Aziz, a long retired but very young and tall Arab like medical person. He was also stunned by the story, but added Ali look like he was of Indian descent and could have traveled with the Indian people on the island. He had no idea as to who purchased the new grave U or what it was all about.

I would like to try and find out who the two Malays and white person were and what evidence they have that this is Ali’s grave.

…Life is good. . . . .

Reposted with permission from The Tentacle.

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