Sungei Road

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A dutch tomb in Bukit Brown.

Nearby the roundabout and affected by the 8-lane highway is a simple tomb that belongs to a Mr Tan Tang Hoaj. He died at the age of 65.  What is unique about this tomb is that the inscriptions are in Dutch.

On the tombstone head it says: 
Ter herinnering aan onzengeliefden vader 
(In memory of our beloved father)
Tan Tang Hoaj 
Oud 65 Jaren gestorven 
(died at age 65)
Vroum  
(wife)
Lim Boon Nio 


On the tombstone shoulders are the names of his sons and daughters (left), son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws (right)



The proximity of the Netherlands (Dutch East Indies) colony, Indonesia  with British Colony of Singapore facilitated trade and business dealings. In my earlier post i mention the graves of "Capitan" China Wee Chim Yeam from Bengkalis as well as "Majoor" Wee Boon Teng of Selat Panjang. Both places are from Sumatra. Both are chinese community leaders with titles bestowed upon them by the Dutch.

His stake number is 960.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ho Siak Kuan (Bukit Brown)

Ho Siak Kuan (Ho Sek Kuan ) (1865-1946) , M.B.E., C.H.,  was born in Canton and though of Teochew parentage, was educated in Cantonese. This was partly due to the fact his mother was Cantonese.  (In in his retirement celebration, he spoke both in Cantonese and English). When arriving in Singapore, he studied in St. Andrew's Mission School and later Raffles Institution. His ability and skill in English and winning awards in Chinese, impressed Mr William A. Pickering (the first Chinese Protector) so much that after Siak Kuan left school, he was offered employment to enter Government service as a student interpreter. He eventually rose the ranks to become the Chief Chinese Translator.

A Civil Servant 

Ho Siak Kuan was the Chief Chinese Translator for the Straits Settlement Government and later as a reward for his years of service, the Assistant Secretary for Chinese Affairs (also called as Assistant Protector of Chinese) during the time, where the Secretary was Mr. D. Beatty. When he retired eventually in 1926-1927 period, he was in the government service for 42 years.

In honour of his receiving the M.B.E., from the the Governor at that time (Sir Laurence Guilemard), a tea party was thrown for him at Yat Lum Club at which Mr. Eu Tong Sen, O.B.E., presided among many well-wishers for being the first Chinese to climb the ranks of the Civil Service. Among the work he has done included providing expert evidence for the Opium Commission and also for the Committee for Chinese Marriages.

On his retirement , the Chinese community leaders such as Mr See Teong Wah, J.P., and Mr Boey Kok Leong, J.P., representing the Chinese Chamber, Commission of the Peace, Chinese Advisory Board and the Po Leung Kuk  gave their addresses in English and Chinese to thank him on behalf of the Chinese community for his 42 years of service building close links between the colonial government and the chinese community and the Chinese communities philanthropic work in supporting the various relief funds.
Ho Sek Kuan (mid 1930's - early 1940's)
(Photo courtesy of Alan Ho)


Awards and Philanthropic work 

Ho Siak Kuan was awarded the M.B.E. (1925) - Membership of the British Empire for being the Chinese Secretary, Straits Settlement  and later a Certificate of Honour (1927) from the Governor of the Straits Settlements.

He was also a shareholder in Lee Wah Bank, Limited in which the chairman was Mr.Eu Tong Seng and a shareholder in the Oversea Chinese Bank, Ltd. He donated various amounts to various funds such as the Prince of Wales's War Relief Fund (1915), British Red Cross Fund(1916), Malaya Patriotic Fund (1939), Chinese Girls School (1908) Rangoon Road Fire Relief Fund (1924) Child Welfare Society (1925) among others.


Siak Kuan Road and family home

There is a road named after him, but it has already been expunged (probably now part of Changi Airport) and it was located off Somapah Road near Upper Changi Road. See picture of a beautiful outhouse with a bridge that leads to it. The picture is also interesting as it shows at the bridge, a Japanese visitor (in suit and armband) posing with Ho Siak Kuan.

Ho Siak Kuan's "outhouse" at Siak Kuan Avenue.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Ho)
The photo below is Siak Kuan Villa. This beautiful villa is located somewhere in Changi.

Siak Kuan Villa
(Photo courtesy of Alan Ho)


From various papers
(source: NewspaperSG)


Death and Uncertain future for his tomb 
Ho Siak Kuan passed away at the age of 81 on 21st August,1946 in his residence at No. 156 Neil Road. He left behind 3 sons, Dr. Ho Siu Khan, Ho Siu Peng and Ho Siu Fan and 2 daughters.

Burial and funeral wreaths for Ho Siak Kuan at Bukit Brown
(Photo courtesy of Alan Ho)
Ho Siak Kuan's unique triple tomb


Dr Ho Siu Khan (tomb furthest away  and not connected to the triple tomb of his parents)


All of tombs have been identified for exhumation as they are affected by the 8 lane highway. Their stake numbers are 1061 -1064.

Family 

During my research I discovered another son, Ho Siew Choon, then stated as the 3rd son who married Miss San Oi Leng. But there was no mention of this son in his burial notice. It is likely he passed away before his father but further research drew blank. Ho Siak Kuan is buried with his two wifes (who died in 1962 and 1967 respectively) and his son Dr Ho Siu Khan. His tombstone is the easiest to find as it is located near the roundabout and it is unique, has it is a triple tomb with roofing.

Dr. Ho Siu Kan died at the age of 76 on 13 April 1958 at No 43 Bournemouth Road. (postnote: I have not completed my research on him as yet. Will return to do so.)

Mr Ho Siew Lim, the second qualified Chartered Accountant to come out of Europe was another find mentioned in the Newspapers dated July 6, 1926 (The Singapore Free Press) that was also listed as a son of Mr Ho Siak Quan,M.B.E.


Tua Pek Kong Temple 

Another thing to note is that behind the triple tomb used to be a Tua Pek Kong Temple which was demolish sometime after the cemetery closed for burials.

Ho Siak Kuan's cluster of tomb and the temple of Bukit Brown
as shown on map, using main gate as reference.  


[Update : On March 12, 2012 - Mr Alan Ho emailed me and with his help and photo contributions, I am able to share rare photos of his great grandfather, his home and finally his burial. Look how bare Bukit Brown looked back then in 1946 compared to now. ]

References
Social and Personal. (1916, January 17). The Straits Times, page 8
Lee Wah Bank. Limited (1923, October 5). The Straits Times, page 10
Birthday Honours. (1925, June 3). The Straits Times, page 9
Matters Chinese. (1926, January, 14). The Singapore Free Press and Merchantile Advertiser, page 16
Mr Ho.Siak Kuan. (1926, October 30). The Straits Times, page 9
Matters Chinese. (1926, November 22). The Singapore Free Press and Merchantile Advertiser
Chinese Protectorate. (1927, March 11). The Straits Times, page 12
Certificates of Honour. (1927, June 6). The Straits Times, page 8
Death. (1946, August 23). The Straits Times, page 4

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nature Ramble by Dr Ho at Bukit Brown

Nature Society Singapore (NSS) organised another great event on the 19th February 2012. This time it is a nature ramble, led by Dr. Ho Hua Chew around the places in Bukit Brown affected by the 8 lane highway plus an additional bonus for those who are not tired out...a side trip to Kopi Sua, located near Mount Pleasant Road. I was definitely up for the challenge !


Let the Ramble begin
We started at 8 am and about 25 people joined this session when we started off. The place we started at the gates of Bukit Brown was already brimming with life ! On what i think is a wild cinammon tree, there were a number of snails going about it's business and we also spotted the eggs of the snails.  A caterpillar obvious to the surroundings, is munching away. The calls of the straw-headed bulbul and call and sightings of the banded woodpecker interrupted us but it was a welcomed interruption.

Dr Ho reinforced the importance of Bukit Brown as a green lung and important area that contributes to an healthy ecosystem such as:
  • the absorption of C02 as the wooded areas of Bukit Brown becomes more forested
  • a natural "rainfall sponge"retaining some of the heavy rainfall preventing floods in other lowland areas
  • a home to native fishes and forest bird life. (More about the birdlife and native fishes later).

Wild cinnamon tree brimming with life 

Hill 2 
We walked towards Hill /Block 2 where the 8-lane highway will one day disfigure this lovely hill and the stream that flows down it. Bukit Brown is made of 8 hills in which its valley feeds the natural streams around it. Dr Ho highlighted the numerous swallows and swifts flying above. Among the swifts found here is the Edible-nest Swiftlet.

To the layperson without a scope or binoculars it is hard them apart, but a very general guide:
Swallows: tend to fly closer to ground, distinctly broader wings. sometimes perch
Swifts: tend to fly higher, narrower sickle shaped wings, rarely perch.

[Left] Ficus benjamina and its beautiful leaves
[Right] a fungi that looks like a street lamp on the branch of a rain tree.  

The leaves of the ficus benjamina tree caught my eyes, as when the sun shines on it, a beautiful glow seems to form on its leaves, adding to the beauty of the surrounding areas in hill 2. Another wonder of nature that caught our eye is this "Street lamp" fungi that is growing on a branch of a rain tree.  "Street lamp" is a name i gave it ! don't blame the NSS folks.

A lovely stream and Hill 4 
As we made our way towards the next affected area, the lovely matured rain trees never fail to catch my eye. There was another big group nearby led by Raymond Goh of a.t. Bukit Brown and api that focuses on the rich heritage and stories of Singapore's early pioneers.
[Top] The Ramblers under the shade of a huge rain tree
[Bottom] Raymond Goh guiding another group  

As we made a left turn towards Hill 4, we stopped to enjoy the view of a valley with a stream that flows through it. A participant familiar with native fish life mention that such streams harbour native species of fishes such as the spotted barb, danios and swamp eel.

I have also seen posting of a researcher finding  a swamp eel and a box terrapin in the streams here. This streams are life to dragonflies and of course higher up the food chain, birds such as collared and white throated kingfishers.


In Hill 4, Mr. Goh Si Guim, a member of NSS and an experienced guide shared his knowledge of the fauna. He highlighted two forest trees, commonly known as Mahang that have made its way back to Bukit Brown woodlands among other trees. They are the Macaranga Gigantea (Giant Mahang) and the Macaranga hypoleuca. The difference can be clearly by the size and color of its leaves. Gigantea with its larger leaves and hypoleuca whose underside is silverish in color and smaller leaves.


[Left] Macaranga Hypoleuca [Right] Macaranga Gigantea
We seat for a while to rest and contemplate the potential destruction of this hill as a result of the impending 8 lane highway. I shared with the rest that along this road sometime back, i saw a Grey-headed fish eagle perched on a large tree. Dr Ho was pleasantly surprised of my encounter, saying that the Grey-headed fish eagle is listed as critically endangered in Singapore. As for me, i am just a happy trooper to have caught sight of this majestic bird in Bukit Brown.


[Left] Si Guim contemplating the destruction looming
[Right] Malayan Banyan and its prop roots 

Onwards to Kopi Sua
Kopi Sua means Coffee Hill in Hokkien. It's name is derived from the day's when it was a coffee plantation managed by George Henry Brown in which Bukit Brown got its name from. Our ramble through a wooded area in Bukit Brown, crossing a small wooden bridge over a crystal clear stream brought us to Gymkhana Road then Mount Pleasant and parallel to Onraet Road is the beautiful Kopi Sua. This is the tail end of our ramble and this is an area rarely explored by most visitors with beautiful Albizia and even durian trees aplenty. This area is made infamous with the news of the escape of Mas Selamat from the Whitley Detention Centre nearby.

Bukit Brown to Kopi Sua
We finally reach a hill overlooking the expressway (PIE). The sky was bright blue and we finally finish our ramble, experiencing so many wonderful places and taking in what mother nature has to offer. We sat /stood to ponder the faith of this hill as well taking in the view before saying one last goodbye, for now.

On our way back, we were rewarded with a sighting of a Changeable Hawk Eagle (dark morph) perched on a tree near the future Bukit Brown MRT. It is said that it is nesting around this area.

[Left] Top of the hill in Kopi Sua
[Middle] A trail along Kopi Sua, a huge fig tree for shade
[Right] Majestic Albizia trees. 

Dragonfly 

Area we covered - i didn't mark the trail we covered
A parting word, "we never miss someone or something till its gone" rang through my mind during this enjoyable nature ramble. The tombs erected by their love ones that now co-exist with mother nature's comeback (the trees, birds, wildlife) , is something that we should not be take for granted. I am proud to be a part of a group helping to safe and preserve this place.






Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quadruple tomb cluster of Tan Peck Jim (Bukit Brown)

While helping a friend look for his great grandfather's tomb at Hill 4 Division B, a quadruple tomb caught my eye. I seen a number of triple tombs, but it is not often i see quadruple tombs, or essentially 4 tombs in a row. This cluster belongs to Mr Tan Peck Jim, his two wives (Low Siong Bee and Wee Cheng Neo) and her mother (Mdm Chua Poh Neo).

Quadruple tomb of Tan Peck Jim 
Starting from the left is his first wife, Mdm Low Siong Bee (died 15th June 1937), followed by his mother, Madam Chua Poh Neo (died 17th Feb 1941). The third is Mr Tan Peck Jim (died 7th October 1955) and the last is the tombstone furthest away from the picture is the 2nd wife, Madam Wee Cheng Neo (death date not listed).  Three of the tombstone heads are of the neo-classical hokkien tombstone design.



A "shipwrecked" mystery
Another thing that caught my eye was the English inscription written on Tan Peck Jim's mother tomb.
Inscription on Madam Chua Poh Neo's tomb
It reads,
 "In filial devotion to the memory of Tan Kang Whye, shipwrecked on 19th June 1897 and of his wife, Chua Poh Neo R.I.P 17th Day of February 1941".

Shipwrecked ? What happen in 1897? Did Tan Kang Whye drown at sea and body was not found?



The family 
Originating first from Malacca, their residences in Singapore is in No 25 Crescent Road and Mr Tan Peck Jim was the general manager of the Overseas Assurance Corporation Limited. When the company first incorporated in 1920, he was the Secretary. The chairman of the company was Dr Lim Boon Keng, O.B.E.,  directors include Lim Nee Soon, Ong Boon Tat, Seah Eng Lim, Tan Ean Khiam, Siew Qui Wong and Li Chwee Chian.


His first wife died in 15th June 1937 leaving behind 1 son, Kim Hock and 2 daughters, Kim Choo and Kim Suan. His mother, Madam Chua Poh Neo was next to pass away on 17th Feb 1941, 2 days after the fall of Singapore ! (she left behind two sons , Peck Jim and Peck Hoe and two daughters ( Peck Eng and Peck Kim).

Mr Tan Peck Jim himself passed away on  7 October 1955 at the age of 64. Together with his second wife, Mdm Wee Cheng Neo, they had another son, Kim Siew and another daughter Kim Hua. It is unknown when Cheng Neo died.

Various news clippings of the family





References
Overseas Assurance. (1920, September 23). The Singapore Free Press, page 200.
Advertisments. (1921, August 17). The Singapore Free Press, page 5
Mrs Low Siong Bee's Funeral. (1937, June, 22). The Straits Times, page 10.
Death. (1941, February 17). The Straits Times, page 2.
Deaths. (1955, October, 8). The Straits Times, page 6.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wong Chin Yoke - a war hero (Bukit Brown)

Today, 15th February 2012 is the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore and this article is timely. Mr Wong Chin Yoke ( Wong Chin Yok) is buried in Hill 4 Division A where the tall Sikh guards are located, has an interesting story alerted to me recently by a posting on facebook by Raymond Goh that he was a war hero, and that got me researching further.
Wong Chin Yoke

King's Police Medal 

A detective constable for many years, rising up the ladder from a grade 5 detective in 1921 to the rank of Inspector in 1928. In 1938, he was awarded the King's Police Medal (the highest honour for policeman) for his role in suppression of subversive organisations in the Special Branch (Political Intelligence). He played a huge role in the clean-up of communist in 1929 and 1933. The previous year, 1937, he was one of the recipients of the Coronation Medal.



A dent in his record 

In an accident in 1924, he accidentally shot his wife in the head. She died in the hospital and he was charged with causing death by a rash act. Six years later in April 19, 1930, Asiatic Inspector Wong Chin Yok remarried to Miss Kung Yu Cheng (alias Madam Keong Chai Haat / Keong Chai Ha ) at No 51 Kreta Ayer Road.

Wong Chin Yoke's tomb and photo

The Sikh Guards guarding Wong Chin Yoke's grave area
Fall of Singapore, betrayal and death
Wong Chin Yoke left with 10 men before the fall of Singapore in 1942 to Indonesia to start an underground resistance movement. He was betrayed and then caught and eventually killed by Japanese in 1943. His body was whisked away by a friend from the Japanese Military hospital and buried. 

11 years later, his remain were re-interned. The ashes of Mr Wong Chin Yoke was buried with full police honours in Bukit Brown on 21st September 1954. Among those present were his close friends, colleagues from the Special Branch, his wife and 2 daughters, Amy Wong Soo Chin and Wong Geok Chin.
Mdm Wong with her daughters mourning
over the ashes of Wong Chin Yoke
(source: NewspaperSG)
Police honor send off for Wong Chin Yoke
(on the right is his wife with hands covering her ears)
His family
Her wife and children during the war had to leave their house in Goodman Road and live in a small room in Emerald Hill. Struggling as a widow to bring up and educate 3 child, she also had  to content with the fact that their house was illegally squatter by someone else. She and her oldest daughter, Amy Wong sued successfully for the return of their family home in Goodman Road.

His son, Wong Cheng Siong died young (1937) and his buried beside him. His parents (father and mother, Tong Ah Ee, died April 7, 1957 age 91) are buried in the same row

In an obituary dated June 21, 1990 of Madam Kong Chai Sai who passed away at the age of 83. Listed are her deceased husband, Wong Chin Yoke, son : Wong Meo Kee, daughter-in-law: Sion Eng Eng , daughter: Amy Wong Soo Chin, Christine Wong Geok Chin,
son-in-law: Johnny Cheong Kim Lee, grandsons: Alan Wong Kwan Sing, Anthony Cheong Kwang Ming, Andrew Cheong Kwang Yang,  grand daughters: Diana Wong Chia Ling.
This means that the young boy buried beside him was not the only son. There is another son that survived him by the name of Wong Meo Kee who married Sion Eng Eng and had children by the names of Alan Wong Kwan Sing and Diana Wong Chia Ling.


Road named after policeman
There is road near Onreat Road called Wong Chin Yoke Road.  Both roads are name after prominent police  personalities during the British Colonial times. One of French descent (Rene Henry de Solminihac Onraet) was the Inspector-General and the other, chinese is the person you have been reading about !
His grave is not affected by the 8-lane road for now.

There are more war heroes in Bukit Brown. Tay Koh Yat comes to mind and his story was well described in a recent blog from a.t Bukit Brown and from an article i wrote about him previously.

References
Untitled. (1924, January 14).The Straits Times, page 8
Matters of Chinese Interest. (1930, April 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 12
CERTIFICATES OF HONOUR FOR NINE STRAITS SETTLEMENTS RESIDENTS. (1938, June 10). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) Page 7
Coronation Medals for Malayans. (1937, May 26).Singapore Free Press
Fifteen Malayans in new honours. (1938, January 1). The Singapore Free Press, page 1
Mainly about Malayans. (1938, January 9). The Straits Times
War hero's ashes flown back to Singapore. (1954, September 20). The Straits Times
Colony police hero buried. (1954, September 22). The Straits Times
Tenant ordered to return house to he owners. (1965, June 19). The Straits Times

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lim Kim Seng (Bukit Brown)

Lim Kim Seng, M.B.E, J.P. (1884-1967), his two wives; Teo Nghee Cheng and Sng Chew Lan together with his mother, Madam Sng Sye Chan were buried in a Teochew cluster of tombs located at Hill 2, Division D. While exploring that area, his tomb which was inscribed with the title M.B.E. and J.P caught my attention because M.B.E means Member of the British Empire and J.P. means he was a Justice of Peace, an indication that he was not an ordinary man but a Community leader for the Teochews.
Mr Lim Kim Seng wearing his M.B.E.
medal proudly.
photo courtesy of
Mdm Lim Soo Eng [his daughter]
and James  [his grandson] 
Impact in the Community - Ngee Ann connection
Lim Kim Seng sat in Licensing Board of Justices, which was a Board by the British Colonial government that granted and renew licenses for bars. He was also in the board for the Secretary of Chinese Affairs. Lim Kim Seng together with Mr Ching Kee Sun and Mr Chua Poh Chua were appointed in 1930 on the Committee of Po Leung Kuk (a Society for the Protection of Woman and Children ).

Ngee Ann Primary School has its roots in 1940 and was founded by Ngee Ann Kongsi's Board of Directors, Mr Lee Wee Nam, Mr Yeo Chan Boon and Mr Lim Kim Seng who set up a girls' school in a bungalow owned by a Kongsi member at River Valley Road. It's genesis was the Ngee Ann Girls' School. In 1967, it started accepting male pupils and eventually became its current namesake.

Lim Kim Seng was in the board of directors  in Overseas Assurance Corporation.

Ngee Ann School c.1971
(source: a2O )
The Singapore Free Press- 1926
(source: NewspaperSG)
Lim Kim Seng's M.B.E in 1954)
(source: London Gazette)
Death and uncertain future
Mr Lim Kim Seng, M.B.E , J.P.,  passed away at the age of 83 on 20th August 1967 at 45 Cuppage Road leaving behind his 2 wives (Teo Nghee Cheng and Sng Chew Lan) , 4 sons (Lim Eng Tong, Lim Eng Kee, Lim Eng Hock, Lim Eng Kiong), 1 adopted son and 4 daughters.

His mother (Madam Sng Sye Chan) died on 29th May 1925. His first wife (Madam Teo Nghee Cheng) died on 17th March 1971 while his 2nd wife (Madam Sng Chew Lan) died on 9th May 1971.

Madam Teo Ngee Cheng died on March 17, 1931 at the age of 85, leaving behind a sister, 4 sons  (Lim Eng Tong, Lim Eng Kee, Lim Eng Hock, Lim Eng Kiong), 1 adopted son (Harold Teo Thuang Quee), 4 daughters (Lim Guek Eng, Lim Luang Eng, Lim Kwee Eng and Lim Soo Eng).

Lim Kim Seng (top) Sng Chew Lan (wife no 2 -bottom)

Top Picture (left -1st wife Teo Nghee Cheng and right - Lim Kim Seng)
Bottom Picture - Mother- Sng Sye Chen 
Stakes are attached beside their tombs indicating they are slated for exhumation. Lim Kim Seng - no. 1930; Teo Nghee Cheng (first wife) - no. 1914; Sng Chew Lan (second wife) - no. 1926; Sng Sye Chen (mother of Lim Kim Seng) - no. 1931. His tomb was just above See Teong Wah, who has a family cluster of more than 10 tombs.

Corrections done: [21 Feb 2012]
A grandson of Mr Lim Kim Seng (James) highlighted to me i got the sequence of the first wife /2nd wife wrong. Teo Nghee Cheng is in fact the first wife, while Sng Chew Lan is the 2nd wife. (and of my spelling error to her name- Sng Chew Lan and not Liang).

James has also help confirmed that Lim Kim Seng did indeed worked in Overseas Chinese Assurance.
[This article has been updated on the 21st February with image and corrections made possible with help of Mr Lim Kim Seng's grandson, James] 

References
Advertisements. (1926, May 20). The Singapore Free Press, page 15
Mr Lim Kim Seng. (1940, October 8).The Singapore Free Press.
Visitors to Homes. (1952, January 9). The Singapore Free Press.
Untitled. ( 1930, March 10). The Singapore Free Press and Merchantile Advertiser
Colony to have 77 new bars. ( 1951, December 19). The Singapore Free Press
Deaths. (1967, August 21). The Straits Times, page 16
Deaths.(1971, March 18). The Straits Times, page 26
Ngee Ann Primary School [website].
Ngee Ann Kongsi. [website].
Supplement to London Gazette, January 1, 1951 [website].

Cost of a coffin in 1920's (Bukit Brown)

During one of my research on Bukit Brown, i became curious and wanted to find out what is the average cost of a burial for a layperson during the 1920's.  I came across this article that highlights Mr Aw Boon Haw (manufacturer of Tiger Balm) who gave away 300 coffins for relatives of the deceased and also free passage back to China for living persons above the age 60 to return to their birth place.
Straits Times and The Singapore Free Press
(source: NewspaperSG)

From the article, the gem that was gathered other than the philanthropy spirit of Mr Aw is the cost of a simple burial ceremony for a person in the late 1920's. As you can see, a simple burial at the time can cost as much as $27, with the bulk of it going to Coffin cost -$18.


Cost of living in the 1920's
How much can $18 buy you then and how easy can one make that kind of money? Well, in 1923, a tin containing 50 individual imported cigarettes cost 85 cents,  a night out in the movies -50 cents, a pair of tennis shoe's from Tan Kah Kee's company -$1.30 and finally an office shirt -$2.00.
Advertising of different items in the 1920's
(source: NewspaperSG)

Researching further, using an example of an unmarried rickshaw puller in the 1920's as a yardstick, coming as a "sinkeh" to Singapore, he has to fork out roughly $1.00- $1.60 to rent a small space in a lodging house in town that cramps together over 100 people in a 3 story house. The take home pay for a rickshaw puller is between 80 cents - $1.00 per day. The average amount saved by him per month after taking into account the cost of living expenses and bearing no circumstantial issues (e.g. sickness that might robbed him of his strength and ability to work, or worst still, his savings), is about $6-$8. This money is used by him to save or remit back to China or spend on himself or family.

 In a 1941 Straits Time article, Mr A. Kingdom Ward, a botanist who spend many years in China made a salient observation in which i quote "that in the West, the concern is on the cost of living, while in China or for the Chinese, it is the cost of dying".

So, now at least we know how much, roughly a simple tomb in the pauper section at Bukit Brown cost and the amount of hard work the love one of the deceased is likely to fork out back then.



Reference
Offer of Free Coffins. (1927, August 22) The Straits Times
Search for the Chinese "Coffin Tree". (1941, September 11). The Straits Times
Warren, James Francis.(2003). Rickshaw coolie: a people's history of Singapore, 1880-1940. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pages 46-48.

Monday, February 06, 2012

"Majoor" Wee Boon Teng (Bukit Brown)

Born in Singapore in 1864, "Majoor" Wee Boon Teng alias Oei Boon Teng, was educated at the Lye Fatt English school before going to Sumatra to join his uncle, Kapitan Wee Leong Tan alias Wee Tan, a well-know trader. Kapitan Wee Leong Tan's youngest son is Capitan China Wee Chim Yean.

In 1890, Wee Boon Teng was appointed "Luitenant China" of Selat Panjang, a place in east coast Sumatra, and after twenty years' of service, he received the silver medal. In 1915, he was promoted to "Capitan China" and awarded the Netherlands East Indies or Dutch colonial gold medal. Before he retired in 1925, he was promoted to the rank of "Majoor" (a Netherlands East Indies title for Major).

Majoor Wee Boon Teng and his wife, Soh Gim Neo
(source: NewspaperSG)
Wee Boon Teng was a trustee of the Kim Mui Hoey Kuan (Hoo Chay Beoh Society), a society for all Chinese from Kim Mui district from the province of Fukien, China - now part of Taiwan. He celebrated his golden wedding in 1937, at the age of 73. Two years later he passed away. 

Death
Wee Boon Teng passed away on May 2, 1939 at his residence, No. 5 Kim Yam Road, off River Valley Road at the age of 75, leaving behind 2 wives (one who is buried with him- Soh Gim Neo, died 82 years in 1948), 5 sons and 4 daughters. He is buried in Block 3 Division A, plot 670, 100 meters into the jungle away from the main road.

Madam Soh Gim Neo died at the age of 82 on October 27, 1948 at her residence in No 5 Kim Yam Road.
Majoor Wee (left) and his wife 
5 sons:  Wee Sin Wie, Wee Sin Choe (Managing director of Cheong Koon Seng & Co. Ltd), Wee Sin Ann, Wee Sin Oon, Wee Sin Poh and one adopted son, Goh Cheng San (Manager of United Chinese Bank Limited),

4 daughters: Wee Koon Neo (Mrs Ong Hong Guan), Wee Peck Lian (Mrs Lim Seng Kiang), Wee Swee Choo (Mrs. Khoo Eng Wah)  and Wee Swee Neo (Mrs. Chia Chiow Eng).

Grand sons: Wee Chwee Leng, Wee Chwee Swee, Wee Guan Chye, Wee Bock Suan, Wee Bock Keng
Grand daughters: Wee Kim Neo, Wee Chwee Kim, Wee Chwee Hok, Wee Bock Neo 

His tomb is flanked by 2 sikh guards.
Sikh guards at Majoor's grave
Son: Wee Sin Choe
Born in 1899 in Selat Panjang, Sumatra, he come down to Singapore in 1911 at the age of 12 and studied in Anglo Chinese School. In January 1920, he partnered with Cheong Koon Seng to established the Cheong Koon Seng & Co, Auctioneers, Appraisers and House agents at No 8 & 10 Chulia Street. In 1933, it became a limited company with Wee Sin Choe as its Managing Director. It became one of the best known auctioneers and appraisers in Singapore and was involved in appraisals of many big estates for the not only rich and prominent people but also for the colonial governments Estate Duty Department. During the Japanese occupation in 1942, Mr Wee Sin Choe's company continued as usual.
Wee Sin Choe's daughter, Wee Kim Neo and bridal attendant
(source: NewspaperSG)

Majoor  title on Wee Boon Teng's tomb


References
Mainly About Malayans. (1937, May 30). The Straits Times. 
News in Brief. (1939, May 3). The Singapore Free Press and Merchantile Advertiser 
Domestic Occurence. (1939, May 2). The Straits Times.
Cheques for Two Funds (1940, Nov 18). The Straits Times
A Majoor Discovery. from Bukit Brown.org