Friday, September 08, 2017

Tan Beng Hong and family (Bukit Brown)

Up on Hill 3 Division D is the family cluster which includes the ornate tomb of Tan Beng Hong (plot 29) , Mrs Tan Beng Hong (nee Ong Say Neo) (plot 13) and two of his sons, Dr. Tan Eng Han (plot 13B) and Tan Eng Thye (plot 13A). I have very little insights into what Tan Beng Hong does but in an article detailing the life of Tan Eng Han, it mentions that when Tan Beng Hong's business in Boundary Road failed, his son Tan Eng Han who as that time a medical student, had to wake up  early morning and at times, walk (or hitch a ride on bullock carts) to the Sepoy Lines to attend lectures.  He supplemented his income by catching frogs to sell to medical students so as to supplement his small scholarship grant. At one time, he contemplated giving up his studies to take a job as a Sanitary Inspector with the Government.

Tan Beng Hong passed away at the age of 68 at No. 40 Boundary Road on 9 May 1935 leaving behind his widow, 6 sons (Tan Eng Chiang, Tan Eng Hoey, Tan Eng Eam, Tan Eng Guan, Tan Eng Han, Tan Eng Thye ), 3 daughters (Tan Pat Neo, Tan Sip Chia, Tan Kim Hwa) and 12 grandchildren (Tan Seng Liong, Tan Seng Hock, Tan Seng Hin, Tan Seng Giap, Tan Seng Tiong, Tan Seng Pauw, Tan Seng Liam, Tan Seng Chiat, Tan Seng Ghee, Tan Choo Neo, Tan Nah Choo, Tan Nah Chee, Tan Nah Lian, Tan Nah Moey, Tan Chwee Neo, Tan Beng Neo)

Mrs Tan Beng Hong (nee Ong Say Neo) passed away at the age of 83 on 24 September 1953 at No. 40 Boundary Road. She is survived by 5 sons ( Tan Eng Hooi, Tan Eng Eam, Tan Eng Guan, Dr. Tan Eng Han, Tan Eng Thye ), 1 daughter, 1 son-in-law, 17 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Tomb of  Mr and Mrs. Tan Beng Hong 

Dr. Tan Eng Han
Dr. Tan Eng Han was educated in Raffles Institution before receiving a $15 scholarship to study in King Edward VII College and joined the government service (Tan Tock Seng Hospital).  After his retirement from Government Service, he started his own private practice  at Selegie Road. In 1956, he went to United States for an operation related to stomach cancer. He died in 1958 after two months of illness. Dr. Tan Eng Han passed away at his residence 19 Lim Tua Tow Road at the age of 66 on 11th April 1958. He is survived by sons; Tan Seng Hin, Tan Seng Tiong, daughters; Tan Nah Moey, Tan Nah Lian, Tan Geok Choo and 1 son-in-law, Djoe Thay and 1 grandson.
Dr Tan Eng Han 

Tan Eng Thye
The only information i found on Tan Eng Thye that matches the period of time was on a Tan Eng Thye who was in 1931 a Manager of Kim Leng Rubber Estate. Tan Eng Thye passed away at the age of 63 on 30 January 1961. He is survived by sons, Tan Seng Giap, Tan Seng Liam, Tan Seng Chiat and daughter, Tan Ghee Neo
Tan Eng Thye
[research on-going]

Domestic Occurrences. (1935, May 9). Malayan Tribune
Advertisement. (1953, September 26). The Singapore Free Press, page 13
He trapped frogs to be a doctor. (1958, April 12). Singapore Standard.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Tan Bedah (Bukit Brown)

Located in Block 1 Section C, plot 320, is a simple tomb. If you take a closer look the name of the occupant is Didah or Bidah who departed this life on 2nd September 1926. The burial confirms a record of a female of 85 years of age that was buried in the exact plot on 3rd September 1926, but the name i see is Tan Bedah. Is she a local Malay woman married to a Chinese man with the surname, Tan ? Another interesting point to note is the tomb is all in English. That is my theory for now. Bukit Brown continues to hold many mystery and stories waiting to be uncovered.

In Memory of Didah

Burial Registrar

Monday, August 28, 2017

Coolie lines (Bukit Brown)

One of the rich source of pictures was a collection of aerial photographs taken by the Royal Air Force in 1959 and made available from National Archives Online. The photo below is an aerial close-up on an area which is now part of the highway been built, but what can be clearly seen is a building close to the tarmac road of Hill 3 and turning into Hill 4. From the Masterplan of 1958, this structure was labeled as Coolie lines and one can clearly make out the location is the same and it confirms that it existed.
Coolie line structure between Hill 3 and Hill 4 (1959)
Coolie line structure listed in Master Plan for Singapore 1958 (source: URA) 

In  August 1929, there was at tender notice to invite for the building of two blocks of coolie lines at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The tender was eventually awarded to Lian Hup Co. for the amount of $6,200 for the erection of the coolie lines in Bukit Brown.

Strait Times 1929

The coolie line buildings would have housed the municipal workers hired to maintain Bukit Brown Cemetery and would have included people tending the grass, drains as well as the buildings that made up the area. However i have no prove of that, only a hunch. If you have evidence and if you have access of the floor plan of the building or even photos of it, do share it with me.

Advertisement. (1929, August 1). The Malayan Tribune, page 7
Municipal Activities. (1929, August 28). The Singapore Free Press, page3
Master Plan for Singapore 1958. URA
Part of Series of  Aerial Photographs from East to West showing: MacRitchie Reservoir, Lornie Road, Bukit Brown Cemtery by Royal Air Force. National Archives of Singapore

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ng Whoey (Lao Sua)

It started with a post on facebook of a black and white postcard of a tomb with the words "Chinese Cemetery that was put on sale on ebay (it was sold eventually on August 13, 2017). From the picture, we can clearly make out the occupant of the tomb based on the text of the tomb shoulders; "In Loving Memory of Ng Whoey, born 1858 died 1918 Age 61"  and "The Beloved Father of Ng Kah Ghee and Ng Swee Chee, Built 1920).

Postcard with caption Chinese Cemetery, Singapore  (from ebay)

Tomb of Ng Whoey (closeup)

Within a week, the ever resourceful Raymond Goh together with local area expert knowledge from Soh Ah Beng (a tombkeeper familiar with the Loa Sua), they found the actual tomb and its location is at Greater Bukit Brown or what we term as Lao Sua. The tomb that was built in 1920, 2 years after the death of Ng Whoey is now rediscovered again.
The tomb of Ng Whoey uncovered (photo courtesy of Raymond Goh)
I don't have any information on Ng Whoey, but one of the son who erected the tomb in 1920, Ng Kah Ghee was a well known business man whom was once buried in Bukit Brown.

Son: Ng Kah Ghee 黄佳宜 (1885-1941)
Ng Kah Ghee was the managing director of chop Bee Huat or Bee Huat & Co, a company that supplies motor oil for a booming transportation industry. He was also the Vice President of the Socony Athletic Club for a number of years after it was formalised around 1929 (Socony is short form for Standard Oil Company New York). He also held position in a company called Standard-Vaccum Oil Co which is a close business partner or supplier of Bee Huat Company's petrol stations.

Ng Kah Ghee (黄佳宜) and Ang Ah Pee (汪亞扁)

Mr Ng Kah Ghee pased away on May 26, 1941 at his residence at No 23, Lorong 27-A Geylang at the age of 56 while Mrs Ng Kah Ghee passed away on Aug 11, 1955. They were buried in Block 5 Division B and have since was exhumed since they were affected by the highway.  He left behind 5 sons ( Ng Cheng Hoe, Ng Cheng Ann, Ng Cheng Kiat, Ng Cheng Chwee and Ng Cheng Bok ) and 5 daughters. He was also survived by a brother and 2 sisters.

Ng Kah Ghee. (Rojak Librarian). posted on May 16,2012
Grave Number 1192. Ng Kah Ghee Ang Ah Pee. (Bukit Brown Documentation Project)
Death of Mr. Ng Kah Ghee. (1941, May 27). The Malayan Tribune, page 12

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hoe Eng Watt (Bukit Brown)

Hoe Eng Whatt or Hoe Eng Watt Hoe is the son of Mr and Mrs Hoe Hoon Seng. In an article dated May 15, 1907 for Botanic Gardens, Hoe Eng Watt was one of the recipients of rubber seeds from botanic gardens to encourage growth of this crop in this region for rubber.

Mrs Hoe Eng Watt nee Koh Keng Hay
Miss Koh Keng Hay married Mr Hoe Eng Watt. The widow of the late Mr Hoe Eng Watt passed away at the age of 57 at her residence, No 193 Marine Parade Road on December 17, 1939. She is survived by her elder brother, Koh Hoon Teck, her 2 sons;  Hoe Cheng Yan, Hoe Cheng Hin, 1 adopted son; Koh Keng Leng, 4 daughters and 4 son-in-laws; Chin Chye Fong, Ee Kim Guan, Peck Teck Chee, Lim Chong Beng, 2  daughter-in-laws. She is buried in Block I Division B, plot 83

Her parents, Koh Lian Ghee passed away September 3, 1936 age 82 and Madam Wan Chin Neo passed away October 25, 1938 age 75.

Mother: Mrs Hoe Hoon Seng nee Madam Tan Gin Neo
Mrs. Hoe Hoong Seng, passed away at the age of 64 years at her son's residence (residence of Hoe Beng Whatt), 140 Rangoon Road on 29 April 1917. She was buried at the 4th mile, Bukit Timah Road Chinese Cemetery. She is survived by 3 sons, one daughter and several grandchildren. With the rediscovery of Mrs. Hoe Hoon Seng tomb at Lao Sua, we know the names of the children as well; Mrs. Hoe Hoon Seng is survived by 3 sons ( Hoe Beng Whatt, Hoe Choon Whatt, Hoe Eng Whatt ), 1 daughter ( Hoe Cheng Neo ), and several grandchildren.

Death. (1939, December 18). The Straits Times, page 2
Annual Report of Botanic Gardens. (1907, March 15). The Straits Times, page 3

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Newspaper mentions of the Rojak Librarian (2017)

The feature on the front page of Tabla! is on the "Sikh Guards of Bukit Brown -The presence of their statues among the ornate tombs of the Chinese is testimony to a shared heritage frozen in time". The article is by Madam Vandana Aggarwal who was inspired to write after seeing this statutes while participating in the free tours organised by the volunteer group All Things Bukit Brown. To keep the story short, i met up with her and gave her and Rakesh Kumar a personal tour of of some this statues. The article was eventually published on Tabla! on August 4, 2017 on the main page and continued on pages 6 to 11.

For the full list of Indian/Sikh Guards of Bukit Brown, do read my article: Punjabi/Sikh Guards at Bukit Brown, first posted on Dec 11, 2011.

Tabla! August 4, 2016 (Available Online)

The Newpaper August 6, 2017 (Available Online)

The article was also picked up by two other papers, The online version of  Newpaper (Singapore) and The Tribune, (online newspaper from India).

About Tabla!
tabla! is aimed at the Indian diaspora, with 30,000 copies being given out free each Friday. The paper is named after the popular two-piece Indian percussion instrument and is published by the Tamil daily newspaper Tamil Murasu, a paper under the Singapore Press Holdings.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book launch : A penniless boy: Chew Joo Chiat

It started out with misinformation published on a mainstream print media that Chew Joo Chiat had only 1 daughter jolted Philip Chew, now 82 years of age and a great grandson of Chew Joo Chiat on his journey to correct this and other misinformation online about Chew Joo Chiat. The book launched today is not just about Chew Joo Chiat, but is a testimonial and drive of Philip Chew in what was initially a fact-finding mission became a search for his roots and reconnection of family ties and bonds. Philip Chew to me stands as an inspiration to others for his drive to learn, picking up skills like blogging at the age of 73 back in 2008. He is a role model for both young and old. The book is available for purchase from the book publisher, Ethos.

Philip Chew sharing about his book

A penniless Boy: Chew Joo Chiat 
One of the guest speakers for the launch was Raymond Goh who helped Philip Chew in the rediscovery of the tomb of Chew Joo Chiat's two wives ( Lim Heon Neo (died 1896) and Tan Quan Neo (died 19th April 1927) ). He shared on how he helped Philip Chew in this rediscovery from the Bukit Brown and greater Bukit Brown Cemetery.
Raymond Goh sharing on his discovery to a captivated audience

About Chew Joo Chiat 

Chew Joo Chiat, (周如切 ) a Hokkien from Amoy, came to Singapore as a penniless boy, but through a mixture of sheer hard work, business acumen and marriage to a peranakan family, he went on to be a plantation owner of coconuts and rubber in the area called Confederate Estate where Joo Chiat is and expanded to be Property Tycoon leaving behind properties and houses (mostly) in the East Coast District of Joo Chiat estimated to be worth a million dollars in 1926 and it another article dated 1930, 4 million dollars. What started with plantation grew into streets with buildings. The streets were named after him as when the colonial government wanted to build roads expanding to the east, Chew Joo Chiat gave it away without seeking compensation. It is believed that his business acumen came to play, predicting that with government building roads and infrastructure, he could make even more money renting or selling houses in this area as well  as to transport his copra and rubber easier. Indeed a shrewed man and aptly nicknamed as the "King of Katong".
Chew Joo Chiat
The book contains other rich "inside" stories on the family of Chew Joo Chiat which include stories of Chew Joo Chiat role in the Tong Meng Hui, what happen to Chew Joo Chiat's wealth and the story of good karma repaid during Japanese Occupation by her daughter, Chew Quee Neo when a Japanese Major knock on her door.

About the author

Philip Chew was born in Joo Chiat Road in 1935 and went to Raffles Institution and obtained a school certificate in 1954. He was a clerk in Singapore City Council and later, a Health Inspector in Ministry of Health. Philip retired in 1993 and spent his senior years volunteering. As earlier highlighted it was through his passion to get out the correct information online,  Philip Chew at the age of 73, learned how to blog from his cousin and since 2008, is the author of two blogs. My Golden Years and My Chew Joo Chiat Story. His dedication and labour of love for close to 10 years accumulated with the launch of his first book, "A Penniless Boy, Chew Joo Chiat" which sets straight the story of of his great grandfather, an early pioneer of Singapore whose name is remembered as a street name.