KUCHING: Lady Roberta Simpson, a descendant of the Brooke family who used to rule Sarawak, has fulfilled a lifelong dream by making her first visit to the state.
Simpson, 82, is the granddaughter of Vyner Brooke, the third and last Rajah who ruled from 1917 to 1941.
Since arriving on Sunday (July 28) with her husband, Sir Kyffin Simpson and daughter Heidi, she has been struck by the warmth and hospitality of Sarawakians.
"I don't know what my expectations were, if I had any. I knew the history (of Sarawak) and the history of my family. I didn't know where I fit in exactly because that was some time ago.
"But coming here and meeting the people has been one of the most amazing, wonderful things in my life.
"The people of Sarawak are so warm and have welcomed me. I understand now why my grandparents talked so much about Sarawak, because they loved the people, " Simpson told reporters at the Old Court House here on Thursday (Aug 1).
She was accompanied by her cousin, Jason Brooke, the director of the Brooke Trust and a great-great-grandson of the second Rajah, Charles Brooke.
Simpson said she used to hear stories about Sarawak from her mother and grandmother when she was growing up, but found herself too busy to come until now.
However, after meeting Jason last year, she felt she had to visit Sarawak, even if it took three days to travel here from Barbados, where she lives.
"My mother used to talk to me a lot (about Sarawak), and I think one of the reasons I didn't want to come when I was younger was that she told me stories about finding cobras in her bed or about the crocodiles.
"But the stories that impressed me most came from my grandmother, who talked to me about the people and the different ethnic groups. She was a painter and did beautiful portraits.
"She used to tell me that the women of Sarawak were the most beautiful women in the whole world, " Simpson said, adding that Sarawak more than lived up to the stories.
During her time here, Simpson and her family have visited the Astana, Fort Margherita, Sarawak Cultural Village and Bako National Park, among others.
An author of three children's books, she also had the opportunity to read her stories to schoolchildren.
She will be going to Sibu on Friday (Aug 2) for a few days before returning to Barbados.