Thursday, December 18, 2014

House of Tan Yeok Nee

The house of Tan Yeok Nee at 101 Penang Road (known as Tank Road road in the past) was once the house of Mr. Tan Yeok Nee. Constructed in 1882, over 100 labourers were employed and the house finished its construction within 3-4 years at a cost of $300,000. Tan Yeok Nee has intended to house his family there after bringing over his ancestral tablet from China over. However when the colonial government acquired part of the land for railway tracks, Tan Yeok Nee decided to sell the place and he eventually return to China. It was said that his return to China was also a result of his second son receiving a commission from the Chinese government.

The land and house was acquired for the building of the railway during the colonial rule and became the station masters house. In 1912, it was entrusted to the Anglican Church under Bishop Ferguson Davies and became the St. Mary's Home for Eurasian girls for a period of 20 years. Later it became the Salvation Army's Headquarters in 1938 and for a short spell occupied by the Japanese army before being returned to the Salvation till it was eventually sold in 1991 to hotelier Teo Lay Swee. It then later changed hands and Wing Tai Consortium bought it and was them who embarked on the massive restoration works in 1999 at a cost of $12 million that eventually led to the building being awarded the Architectural Award in 2001. It has changed hands several times since then. It was gazetted a National Monument in November 29, 1974.
1952 Street Directory 
The last courtyard house in Singapore
With a plot area of 2445 m²  (26,000 sq ft) , the open air courtyard (following the traditional Chinese Chou Zhou style courtyard houses) , its gables ( depicting the five elements), roof ridge with decorative elements that uses cut and molded pieces of pottery / ceramic or Jian Nian (剪黏)  and the main hall timber joints among others were restored during the restoration works in 1999 and in other parts of house, an auditorium, lecture hall and classrooms were added as it takes on a new lease of live as an educational institution, the Chicago Booth School of Business.

This traditional Chinese Courtyard house was said to be one of four ever build in Singapore. This was highlighted in various newspaper articles (Straits Times, January 12, 1936) as well as Sir Song's book, One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. The other 3 houses highlighted:
  1. Tan Seng Poh house in Hill Street, erected in 1869 and for many years used as the Chinese Consulate.
  2. Seah Cheo Seah's house in Boat Quay, built in 1872 and occupied by family of the late Seah Eu Chin
  3. Wee Ah Hood's house in Hill Street, built in 1878, owned and occupied by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. 
Former house of Wee Ah Hood (Chinese Chamber of Commerce) 
However, as i was going through various sources, i came across pictures of the house of Goh Sin Koh, a influential timber and saw mill merchant and chief partner of Guan Loo and Co and chop Tek Guan who lived during the late 1880's to early 1900's period. Located at Sin Koh Street (now expunged), this courtyard house was said to be built in 1896 and now no longer exist.
source: National Archives 
source: National Archives 

Images of Tan Yeok Nee house
Last courtyard house in Singapore (source: NewspaperSG) 
Courtyard (source: NewspaperSG)
Roof in disrepair (source: NewspaperSG)
Carved Panels 
Temple House (source: NewspaperSG)
Roof and wall carvings 
House of Tan Yeok Nee (source: NewspaperSG)
Tan Yeok Nee House today
roof carvings
cut and molded pieces of pottery / ceramic or Jian Nian (剪黏)
Open air courtyard
ornate rain pipes

close up of beautiful motive of figs and bid 

Chinese Gable end with ornate rain pipe 
Chinese Gable end depicting the wood element
Chinese Gable End depicting the water element
Ornate carvings at entrance
main hall timber decoration 
roof drainage in the form of  a koi

About the man 
Tan Yeok Nee ( Tan Hiok Nee) was born 1827 in Jin Sha village in Shang Pu (present day Caitang) of Chaozhou. He came down from China at an early age and became a cloth peddler plying his trade in Telok Blangah, where the Temenggong's family became a regular customer. He became friends with Temenggong Abu Bakar (eventually the Sultan or Maharaja of Johor). Fast foward to 1866, Tan Yeok Nee was already by then a rich gambier and pepper merchant in Boat Quay under the chop Kwang Hong and managed to obtain extensive kang-chu  (Kangchu) rights in Johore.

Tan Yeok Nee was appointed Major China of Johor around 1870 and also went into partnership with Cheang Hong Lim and Tan Seng Poh in the Singapore and Johor Opium and Spirit Farms. He became a prominent Teochew leader in both Singapore and Johore. There is a street in Johore named after him.
Tan Yeok Nee / Tan Hiok Nee
His influence in Johore waned on what could possibly other influential Chinese leaders banding together and had him removed, forcing him to consolidate his power back in Singapore. In an article dated 1883, there was also mentioned of a Mr. Tan Ah Choo (head of the Ghi Hin / Ghee Hin) and Tan Eng Cheng (manager of Gambier and Pepper Society) who were arrested while been entertained at Tan Yeok Nee's residence and eventually deported out of the colony for what is to be believed to be opium smuggling.

Tan Yeok Nee eventually returned to his home town and died in May 21, 1902 at the age of 75.
All his sons died earlier than him. His wealth was devised to his 8 grandsons (Tan Chin Boon, Tan Chin Teat, Tan Chin Toon, Tan Chin Yeow, Tan Chin Boo, Tan Chin Wee and Tan Chin Ngoh), of whom Tan Chin Boon, Tan Chin Teat and Tan Chin Yeow by the time they were adults already well known within the Teochew community.

Untitled. (1883, February 20 ). The Straits Times, page 2
Domestic occurence announcement. (1937, December 9). The Straits Times, page 2
Finest house in Chinese style. (1937, September 19). The Straits Times,
Untitled. (1981, November 18). The Straits Times, page 33
A home of their own. (1982, September 22). The Straits Times, page 11
Mansions from the past. (2002, March 28). Today Afternoon Edition, page 33
House of Tan Yeok Nee. [website]. Preservation of Monuments Board.
River House at Clark Quay.[website].URA
Tan Hiok Nee (Tan Yeok Nee). [website].Infopedia
Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press
House of Goh Sin Koh, 1896. [website] Historic Chinese Architecture in Singapore

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Birdwatching in Bidadari - Local residents ( December 2014)

This is the continuation article of my previous on Birding in Bidadari for the month of December. Bidadari plays home to not only migrant birds but also beautiful resident birds. Below are some of the ones i manage to capture a shot of so far. The list not exhaustive of course, but birding is such, sometimes you can spot many birds and other times, you make do with what that comes your way.

I will continue adding pictures of my other sightings in future December visits if any. 

Lesser Flameback Woodpecker (Female)
Lesser Flameback Woodpecker (Female) 

Hill Myna 
Dollar Bird 

Koel (Male)
Koel (Female)

Spotted Dove

Lineated Barbat

See also previous post on Bidadari :
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Blue-winged Pitta (December, 2014), posted on December 14, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari (November 9, 2014), posted on November 9, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Jambu Fruit Dove ( December 6 ), posted on December 6, 2013
Birdwatching in Bidadari ( November 3, 2013), posted on November 3, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Muslim Cemetery), posted on October 17, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Alkaff Gardens and Lake), posted on October 8, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Birdwatching), posted on October 14, 2013
Bidadari (17 December), posted on December 18, 2012
Saving Bidadari, posted on December 5, 2012
Bidadari (7 December), posted on December 9, 2012
Bidadari (18 November), posted on November 18, 2012

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Birdwatching in Bidadari - Blue-winged Pitta ( December 2014)

I took leave from work to do more bird watching in Bidadari from 10th to 12th of December as the clock is ticking down before they start development at this place. Parts of the old Christian Cemetery is already hoarded up and you can see that works are under way for its future residential development. As the migratory season is well underway, i hope to see has many migratory birds as possible.

Blue-winged Pittas 
The most interesting sighting this month is of two Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) at two different undisclosed locations in Bidadari. On December 12 i saw both of them ! They were really pretty and although i didn't get good and clear photos of them, nevertheless i must share my joy of seeing them in this blog !
The first Blue-winged Pitta i saw on December 11 and 12
Underneath the shrub 
The second Blue-winged Pitta on December 12
Very skittish, it came out only for a short while 
I managed to catch sight and photographed the Drongo Cuckoo, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo and finally the Rusty-breasted Cuckoo during this period as well.
Drongo Cuckoo  
Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo 
Rusty-breasted Cuckoo 
Juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo with its grub 
The flycatchers i caught sight of included the Asian Paradise Flycatcher and the Asian Brown flycatcher. 
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Asian Brown Flycatcher with dragon fly in mouth 
Asian Brown flycatcher
The only raptor i spotted this time around is the Black Bazza,
Black Bazza 
Black Bazza 
Unfortunately the only shrike i saw this time around in Bidadari was a Brown Shrike. 

I will continue posting pictures of my other sightings in my next article featuring the local residents of Bidadari. 

See also previous post on Bidadari :
Birdwatching in Bidadari (November 9, 2014), posted on November 9, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Jambu Fruit Dove ( December 6 ), posted on December 6, 2013
Birdwatching in Bidadari ( November 3, 2013), posted on November 3, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Muslim Cemetery), posted on October 17, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Alkaff Gardens and Lake), posted on October 8, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Birdwatching), posted on October 14, 2013
Bidadari (17 December), posted on December 18, 2012
Saving Bidadari, posted on December 5, 2012
Bidadari (7 December), posted on December 9, 2012
Bidadari (18 November), posted on November 18, 2012

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tay Geok Teat and family (Bukit Brown)

Tay Geok Teat was born in Malacca in 1832. His father, Tay Song Quee , a native of Cheang-chew came down from China and settled down in Malacca in the early 1800's. In 1863, the firm Geok Teat & Co. was established in Battery Road as Warehousemen and Commission Agents. The partners are Tay Geok Teat, Tan Kim Tian, Tan Sam Chie and Chia Ann Siang. By 1868, he was sole proprietor of Geok Teat & Co. Tay Geok Teat  was in the Chinese Advisory Board and was a founding member of the Straits Settlements Association in 1888. He also served as Municipal Commissioner in 1892 for one year (after being nominated by Tan Jiak Kim and seconded by Lee Cheng Yean) before he passed away in 1893.

Tay Geok Teat traveled with Lee Cheang Yean (father of Lee Choon Guan) around Europe in 1883 especially the manufacturing towns , some of them included Birmingham and Glasgow. He also travelled extensively to China and paid a visit to Japan. He was fond of music and his favourite instrument was violin. After he returned from Europe he started a band composing of his family members and his grandchildren.
Tay Geok Teat
source: Singapore and Straits Settlements 1881
Tay Geok Teat passed away on April 21, 1893 and was buried in Alexandra Cemetery before reinternment in Bukit Brown after Alexandra was redeveloped , His wife passed away in October 1892 and it was said that after the death of his wife, Tay Geok Teat was said to have lost interest in public affairs. After his eventual death in 1893, he is survived by his only son, Tay Kim Tee and 10 grandchildren.
Mr. Tay Geok Teat 
Son: Tay Kim Tee 
In 1871, he took his son, Tay Kim Tee into the business and after Tay Geok Teat's death on April 21, 1893 , Tay Kim Tee took over Geok Teat & Co. and run it until 1906 when it was eventually closed down due to administrative action by his own sons suing him for large sums of money representing the residual property of the estate of the late Tay Geok Tat. He passed away on June 9, 1906. The remains left from No 78 Amoy Street to their family burial ground in Alexandra Road. Among his sons left behind were, Tay Boon Teck and G.B. Taye. (George Bennet Taye alias Tay Boon Guan).
Mrs. Tay Kim Tee
Son: Tay Boon Teck
Tay Boon Teck of Singapore Electric Tramways Ltd passed away at the age of 45 on April 29, 1922 at his residence in No. 371 Alexandra Road. He left behind 1 wife and 5 children. 

Will disputes
When Tay Geok Teat passed away, his will named his wife and son as the main beneficiary and the grandchildren as the secondary beneficiary. Since Tay Geok Teat's wife passed away before him, Tay Kim Tee applied for probate of the will. However, a person by the name of Leong Ah Tin, asserted that his 13 year old daughter "married" Tay Geok Teat, 15 days before his death and therefore the will should be void as a result of a subsequent marriage. The claim was eventually discharged.

source: NewspaperSG
[research on-going]

Summary of the week. (1893, April 25). The Straits Times Weekly Issue.
Reme Court. (1893, August 22). The Singapore Free Press
Deaths. (1922, May 1). The Straits Times
Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. E. Lee (Ed.). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
The Singapore and Straits directory for 1881, containing also directories of Sarawak, Labuan, Siam, Johore and the Protected Native States of the Malay Peninsula and an appendix. [website] BookSG
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