Lim Loh (also known as Lim Chee Gee), born in Nan Ann, Fujian Province, was a famous architect, building contractor and brick-maker that was responsible for the building of Victoria Memorial Hall, Parliament House (old Parliament House) and Goodwood Park Hotel. He had offices in 31,Upper Macau Street and a business called Chop Teng Seng Hin at No 4 Telok Ayer Street. He owned a rubber plantation where he built 3 bungalows for his family to stay and owned Royal Johore Tin Mining Co. shares as well as Godowns in Raffles Square. In summary, he was famous in his own right for being a "towkay" and an industrialist responsible for iconic buildings of Singapore, but people today remember more the deeds of his son, Lim Boh Seng.
Lim Loh vs "Daily Advertiser"
In a very well known libel case, Lim Loh successfully sued Daily Advertiser for $5000 and retraction and apology in 1894 for an article the Daily Advertiser wrote in March 30th about an incident involving him buying a mistress from a brothel and also for abusing her. Lim Loh felt that the article has sullied his good name and reputation. In that article, Daily Advertiser reported that Lim Loh went to a brothel in 67 Upper Hokkien Street to collect his "concubine" by the name of Ghok Seng that he paid for $600 and when the woman refused to follow him as she said that he has already 6 concubines at home, Lim Loh was said to have abused her with his slipper and also demanded the $600 back.
The court case shed light on a time where opium smoking and acquiring concubines by wealthy man were common. If the woman were not acquired directly from China, they were acquired by brothels. Hence, the formation of the Po Leung Kuk (Society for the Protection of Women and Children) that you might have read in my other post was a timely one.
Nye Rai (Primoon) vs Lim Loh
In a long and complex case, where Nyre Rai claimed that a property in Raffles Place belong to his father, Prah Primoon Sombat and therefore rightfully him, the High Court of Appeals squashed Nye Rai's appeal, and that the land and subsequently property was bought in a rightful manner by Lim Loh from Khoo Tiong Poh (at a public auction of the decease's property). When Khoo Tiong Poh was alive, he made a sworn declaration that the said property actually belonged to Phya Wichit, the Rajah of Tongkah, in the name of Primoon, his secretary at that time. Khoo Tiong Poh further said that he bought the property from Phya Wichit. What i found more interesting, is not the case itself but rather the amount of problems it caused for the British courts and lawyers having to pronounce the Siamese and Chinese names as mentioned in a Straits Times newspaper article dated December 27, 1901.
|Nightmare to Judges and Lawyers alike in pronouncing names|
Lim Loh contributed to various funds including the Diamond Jubilee Memorial (1897) and King Edward Memorial Fund (1911). Another lesser known contribution was of his donation in the building of the Hong San See Temple in Jalan Mohammed Sultan, in which he was not only one of key benefactors but was also the contractor of this Heritage Temple.
|Hong San See Temple|
Death and Remembrance
Lim Loh died in November 1, 1929 at the age of 78. Five of his wives are said to be buried with him although a recent article listed him with six wives and 28 children (19 sons and 9 daughters).
|Close-up of the tomb picture|
Descendants of Lim Loh recently reunited in 2008 to commemorate the memory of their patriarch by donating a oil-on-canvas portrait of Lim Loh to the Singapore Art Museum, painted by renowned Master painter, Xu Beihong. One of the surviving children, the 6th daughter (Madam Grace Soon) shed more insights about her father, Lim Loh physique: that he was tall and thin (just like the picture) and insights to an industrial accident in a brick factory that led to his right hand being crushed and eventually replaced. The picture however showed him holding a fan with his right hand. She also remembered that they lived in a comfortable and big bungalow in their rubber estate and were driven around by chauffeurs and had their own personal chef. Because of the large number of children, Lim Loh even bought a bus to to shuttle them to school.
Xu Beihong (1895-1935) was in 1927 commissioned to paint pictures of prominent personalities and being not well off then, he did his best to do has many works including Lim Loh and Tan Ean Kiam. The medium was oil on canvas and its size 116x77cm. An interesting note was that Xu Beihong sign the painting using his English signature "Poen". Another interesting fact was that Xu Beihong and Lim Loh's son, build a bond of friendship as it was Lim Bo Seng that helped organised an art exhibition in 1939 with sale proceeds for the China War relief.
|The Potrait of Lim Loh|
Son: Lim Bo Seng
|Lim Bo Seng|
It was during this period, Lim Boh Seng became very active in the anti-Japanese activities and when Singapore fell in 1942, he fled to Chungking, China and join the resistance forces that returned to Malaya called Force 136. Arrested in March 1944 and tortured and imprisoned by the Kempetai in Batu Gajah where he eventually died in June 1944 at the age of 35. He was posthumously awarded the rank of Major-General.
|Lim Bo Seng memorial|
Local Libel Case. (1894, June 13). Daily Advertiser, page 3
Supreme Court. (1894, June 14). Daily Advertiser, page 3
Supreme Court. (1894, June 19). The Straits Times, page 2
Advertisements. (1897, December 13). The Straits Times, page 4
Lim Loh Case. (1902, January 21). The Straits Times, page 3
Advertisements. (1912, June 14). The Straits Times, page 12
Advertisements. (1912, March 5). The Straits Times, page 16
Contractors pay tribute to father figure Lim Bo Seng. (1988, January 15). The Straits Times, page 11
Art donation turns into family reunion. (2008, August 16). The Straits Times, page 42
Rare gift for Museum. (2008, August 14). The Straits Times, page 8