Friday, April 05, 2013

Kung Tian Siong and family (Bukit Brown)


Kung Tian Siong and Siauw Mah Li 
Kung Tian Siong (T.S. Kung) was born in 1876 in Malacca. He later was educated in Anglo Chinese School in Singapore. T.S Kung was the managing proprietor of the Empire Cinema, manager of the Liberty Hall and director of Pontianak Gold Dredging Concessions, Limited. He was also the managing director of the Harima Hall, during which the manager was Tan Chong Chew.

The President of the Straits Chinese Recreational Club, he was also a committee member of the Chinese Swimming Club and secretary and manager of the Garden Club and a member of the Straits Chinese British Association. He was a staunch Christian and a preacher who preached in Geylang and Bedok Methodist Church.

Cinema magnate and preacher man 
Empire Cinema was open in 1916. It was located at the junction of South Bridge Road, Tanjong Pagar Road and Neil Road (opposite Kreta Ayer Police station). T.S. Kung sold of the theatre in March 19, 1928.  He also bought Harima Hall (located at North Bridge Road) from Mr. K. Harima in 1918. He was also the manager of Liberty Hall. 
Empire Cinema (Kung Tian Siong -left)
(source: Linda Lim's MGS school days)

Newspaper clippings
(source: NewspaperSG)
37 Emerald Hill
Mr. T.S. Kung stayed in 37 Emerald Hill before it was eventually occupied the Hon Dr Lim Boon Keng. Dr Wu Lien Teh (Ng Lian Tuck) also once stayed at the residence of T.S. Kung in Emerald Hill  in 1922 while on transit back to Peking (Beijing). 37 Emerald Hill also became the second site for the Singapore Chinese Girls School after it's original site in Hill Street (now Central Fire Station) was taken back by the government. Singapore Chinese Girls School was located at this premise from 1925 until 1994. The current premise is occupied by Chatsworth International School.
Straits Times, August 1921
(source: NewspaperSG)
37 Emerald Hill 
Mr. Kung Tian Siong (T.S. Kung) passed away in May 1958 and was buried in Bidadari Christian Cemetery.   

Wife 1 (married from 1898-1911): Madam Siauw Mah Li - First batch of Methodist Girl School (MGS) 
Siauw Mah Li (Seow Mah Lee) was from Medan, Sumatra. She was adopted at the age of six by Sophia Blackmore who in 1887 founded the Methodist Girls' School in Singapore. The story goes that Siauw Mah Li's mother died when she was an infant and her father, wanting her to have a proper education and to learn English, brought her to Miss Blackmore making her one of the first chinese girl to be educated and taught at MGS. Siauw Mah Lee was the first wife of  T.S Kung. Their children were Miss Kung Kim Neo, Miss Kung Gek Neo and Miss Kung Gin Neo. Siauw Mah Li died in Perak in 1936

Wife 2 (married from 1912-1926): Madam Lie Sio Nio (Nona) and 72th generation of Confucius Family  
After the divorce from Siauw Mah Li, T.S. Kung remarried Lie Sio Nio (Nona). She passed away after a long illness  in 1926 at the age of 48 at her residence in Ben Ledi, 55 Tanjong Katong. She left behind many landed property in Singapore and Java. She had several brothers and sisters in Java. The funeral was carried out in European style and covered with flowers. Several other cars had to be utilised to carry the wreaths. The procession consisted many cars extending nearly half a mile and arrangements for funeral done by Singapore Casket Co. On her tomb in Bukit Brown, it is inscribed that they are 72th generation of Confucius family inscribed on the headstone. 
Lie Sio Nio's hearse with wreaths
(source: NewspaperSG) 

T.S Kung with his daughters and son-in-laws
(source: NewspaperSG) 

Lie Sio Nio and the empty tomb of Kung Tian Siong

In memory of Lie Sio Nio 
Family
Mother- Mrs Kung Chow Ching nee Ten Ah Kun Chow 
Mrs Kung Chow Ching passed away at the age of 83 on March 20, 1920 at her residence in 8-1, Palembang Road. She has two sons, Mr T.S. Kung and the late T.C. Kung. She is buried in Bidadari.

Brother - Kung Tian Cheng (T.C. Kung)
Kung Tian Cheng was born in Malacca in June 17, 1879 and was educated in Anglo-Chinese School, Singapore and later India. He became a junior clerk in Raffles Library in 1895. In 1900 he was the chief clerk and interpreter at the Chinese Protectorate in Penang. He came back to Singapore to be the chief clerk of Raffles Library, an active member of the Chinese Straits Association and contributor to the Straits Chinese Magazine. In 1910, he went to China and travel extensively. He became a managing editor of Republican Advocate (Shanghai) in 1912 and a year later editor of the Peking Daily News. It was during this time he became the translator for Yuan Shi Kai. In 1914, he became the chief librarian to the Presidential Library and a member of Yuan Shi Kai personal staff. He was about to start on Yuan Shi Kai's biography when he died in Peking on January 19, 1915. In his life, he was prolific writer and counts Dr Morrison, Professor Giles, Wu Ting Fan, W.W. Yen and Dr. Ho Kai.

His son, Kung Lock Hai married Miss Wong Yee Lin, daughter of Wong Ah Thiam, a prominent businessman.
[From left] Kim Neo, Gek Neo and Gin Neo at their residence
in 37 Emerald Hill (source: Linda Lim's MGS school days) 
Daughter: Miss Kung Kim Neo / Mrs Tan Hock San / Darling Kim Neo
Miss Kung Kim Neo married in 1922 at Wesley Church and reception was held at her father's residence in 37 Emerald Hill Road. Kung Kim Neo passed away on March 14, 1935. She is survived by her husband, one daughter, Happy Tan and 2 sons, Jolly Tan and Douglas Tan. She is buried in Bidadari Cemetery.

Daughter: Miss Kung Gek Neo / Mrs Ooi Chor Nooi / Edna Gek Neo
Kung Geok Neo married in 1926 to Mr Ooi Chor Nooi, (R.B. Nooi) a journalist based in Singapore and they had 4 children. In 1947, R.B Ooi put a petition to court for a dissolution of his marriage on grounds of bigamy, that she, after leaving Singapore for Penang in September 1942, met a Mr Cheah Guan Chye whom she married and registered that marriage in Ipoh. He also claimed $1,000 from Kung Geok Neo on grounds that the court case will have an affect on his reputaton as a journalist. A counter-petition was raised by Gek Neo that her husband committed adultery with 3 women and that he was cruel to her. She also claimed that if bigamy was committed at all, it was done with knowledge and blesssing of R.B. Nooi.

In a High Court case ruling the same year, Kung Gek Neo successfully divorced his husband on grounds of adultery. She was granted custody of the two children and Ooi ordered to pay the cost of proceedings.

She remained married to Cheah Guan Chye. Cheah Guan Chye was in 1948 training to be a engineer for the Malayan Airways in Singapore.

Daughter: Miss Kung Gin Neo / Mrs Lee Choon Ngee / Susie Gin Neo
Mrs Lee Choon Nghee (seated in the middle)
(source: NewspaperSG)
Mr Lee Choon Nghee was sportsman (swimmer, waterpolo) and a Captain in the Singapore Volunteer Corps. He retired in 1960 from teaching at Anglo Chinese Primary School in Coleman Street after 38 years of service and is remembered by his students as a tall, muscular and bespectacled person that cut an inspiring figure in his Captain's SVC uniform.

Their eldest son, Michael Lee Boon Peng married Edna Watson, daughter of Mr & Mrs. J.H. Watson at Doncaster, Yorkshire in May 19. 1956. He was a lecturer in the Department of Engineering in the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Their second son, Lionel Lee Boon Quee graduated from US in medicine and eventually became a brain surgeon. Their two daughters are Barbara and Dorothy. Barbara, a former school teacher was the first Singapore Chinese girl to make a name for herself in British films.
Barbara Lee
(source: NewspaperSG)

Erratum (July 29, 2013)
Linda Lim (great granddaughter of T.S Kung and Seow Mah Lee) corrected my mistake in assuming Seow Mah Lee and Lie Sio Nio were the same person. They were in fact different individuals. I sincerely apologise for my error in assumption and thank Linda for writing in.

References
Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Empire Cinema. (1916, December 19). The Singapore Free Press, page 10
Advertisement. (1918, August 13). The Straits Times, page 5
Untitled. (1921, August 8). The Straits Times, page 9
Untitled. (1922, April 4). The Straits Times, page 9
Social and Personal. (1922, March 18).The Straits Times, page 8
Advertisement. (1922, May 13). The Singapore Free Press, page 2
Deaths. (1926, October 13). The Straits Times, page 7
Late Mrs T.S. Kung. (1926, October 18). The Straits Times, page 10
Funeral of the late Mrs T.S. Kung. (1926, October 30). Malayan Saturday Post, page 24
Chinese Swimming Club at Home.(1929, October 12). Malayan Saturday Post, page 18
Garden Club. (1932, November 14). The Straits Times, page 12
Untitled. (1934, August 27). The Straits Times, page 12
Wedding Of Singapore Descendant Of Confucius.(1935, March 14). The Straits Times,  page 18
Bigamy alleged in Divorce case.(1947, July 17). The Singapore Free Press, page 8
Wife's conduct irreproachable. (1947, October 14). The Singapore Free Press, page 5
Chinese volunteers in the concentration camp.(1947, April 22). The Straits Times, page 8
Advertisements. (1956, May 19). The Straits Times, page 6
Barbara's big film role surprise for father. (1958, September 20). The Straits Times, page 9
Dad off to see "Suzie Wong"daughter. (1960, April 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
A century of Cinemas, Movies and Blockbusters.[website].Remember Singapore
The first chinese girl in MGS.[website]. Bukit Brown Heritage Park
Lim, Linda [pdf]. Linda Lim's MGS School days.Retrieved from http://www.mgs.sch.edu.sg/documents/0000/2021/Linda_Lim_MGS_Schooldays_4-20-10.pdf

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