Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chee Soon Keng (Bukit Brown)

Chee Soon Keng is a storekeeper and a racing horse owner. His residence was at No 19 Tanglin Road. He is however better known as a horse owner and racer. He won the Governor's cup with his horse, Your Highness (Little). An interesting story was also shared in a newspaper article on how he managed to acquire his winning horse called Birthday Gift (formerly called Acol). It was during a birthday party organised by him, when he highlighted that his current purchase, Raisbeck (Your Lordship) was not as expected. He thought the horse Acol was much better. Upon hearing this, the owner of Acol sportingly offered to do an exchange. A handshake later, Acol and Raisbeck changed owners. A happy Chee Soon Keng said it was a pleasant birthday gift, and promptly changed the name of Acol to Birthday Gift. Events later proved what a stroke of luck it was for Chee Soon Keng and Birthday Gift has won 6 races and $47,900 in stakes. Chee Soon Keng was also the Patron of Oleh Oleh Party together with Messrs. T.W. Ong and Chua Liang Chuan.
Chee Soon Keng (1936) 

Chee Soon Keng and Coronation II  (1964)
The Williamson Memorial Cup and Trophy
won by horse Coronation II (September 6, 1958)
Chee Soon Keng and horse Royal Guard (August 31, 1960)
(photo courtesy of Paddy Chew) 
Lawsuit for maintenance in 1933
A very public lawsuit gave also insights into the personal life of Chee Soon Keng. Miss Lye Wan Choon, a woman claiming to be his secondary wife, accused Chee Soon Keng for not paying maintenance at the rate of $30 per month for the past two years. She met him when she was a "singing girl" in Smith Street and has cohabited with him for the past 19 years. She however denies his allegation that she has misconducted herself during this period. She became Chee Soon Keng secondary wife in 1914 and alleged that he has since acquired 5 other "wives" and has failed to provide maintenance to Miss Lye since October 1931. She also claimed that they had gone through a proper wedding ceremony.

When Chee Soon Keng was cross-examined, he shared that owning to a slump, he was not well off as he used to be, but he was not in serious difficulties. He kept 3 motor cars, a few race horses and 3 mistress. At one time, he had about a dozen mistress. Chee Soon Keng went to claimed that he had arguments with Miss Lye Wan Choon in 1916 and 1920. The final incidents that broke the straw was in 1930, when he discovered that she was paying frequent visits to an actor who was on short stay in Singapore after arriving from China. Chee Soon Keng, has by that time given her $6,000 worth of jewellery, which he found that she had pawned some of them. The final straw was when he found out she has been travelling to Kuala Lumpur to meet a man there. The judge ruled to eventually to discharged the claim of Miss Lye Wan Choo although there was moral obligation. 

Death
Chee Soon Keng passed away on February 16, 1967 at the age of 67. He is survived by his son, Chee Kim Hoe and daughters, Chee Kim Neo, Chee Swee Neo, Chee Haow Wan and 1 grand daughter, Chee Chye Lin and 3 grandsons Chee Guan Chye, Chee Guan Hock, Chee Peng Hock.
Tomb of Chee Soon Keng
Family

Parents 
His Mother is Madam Tan Suan Neo, wife of the late Mr Chee Boon Eng. She passed away at her residence "Swandale", 19 Tanglin Road on June 7, 1931 at the age of 67. Her son, Chee Soon Keng was buried beside her in Hill 3 Division B.
Madam Tan Suan Neo (mother of Mr Chee Soon Keng)
Wife: Madam Song Swee Lan
Madam Song Swee Lan passed away at the age of 71 on November 1, 1977. She is survived by her only son, Dr. Chee Kim Hoe ; daughters,  Chee Kim Neo, Chee Swee Neo, Chee Haow Wan ; daughter-in-law: Dr. Joyce Chee Yam Mui ; grandchildren, Chee Guan Hock, Chee Chye Lin and Chee Peng Hock. Brother, Song Lai Hong and sister, Song Swee Wan. Cortege left from No 5 Victoria Park Road.

Son: Chee Kim Hoe
Chee Kim Hoe graduated with distinction from St. Joseph's Institution having passed his Senior Cambridge in 1951 with 8 distinctions and 1 credit. He also has the distinction of being the first overseas Singapore student at University College, Dublin to gain first class honours in 4 subjects. He was 20 years old at that time. Chee Kim Hoe passed his first medical examination with honours in physics, chemistry, zoology and botany. Despite a difficult 6 years medical course, he managed to do a degree in philosophy. In May 1956, Chee Kim Hoe, only son of Mr and Mrs Chee Soon Keng married Miss Joyce Kwan Yam Mui, daughter of Mr and Mrs Kwan Yin Siong.

Dr. Chee Kim Hoe passed away at the age of 72 on September 23, 2006.
Chee Soon Keng and his son Chee Kim Hoe
(photo courtesy of Paddy Chee)
Chee Soon Keng and his son Chee Kim Hoe
(photo courtesy of Paddy Chee) 

Chee Kim Hoe 
Son-in-law: Ong Siow Leong 
Ong Siow Leong passed away on May 20, 1952 and his survived by his wife and 2 sons, Ong Guan Bee and Ong Guan Chye and 2 daughters. He is buried in Seh Ong cemetery.

No 19 Tanglin Road and the Armenian Connection 
19 Tanglin Road
An interesting thing to note, is about the owners of No 19 Tanglin Road in the past. It was the the residence of Michael Sarkies Martin (5 November 1859 – 18 April 1922), a prominent merchant and his wife,  Madam Mary Anna Martin (10 June 1869 – 17 August 1945) up to his death in 1922 and probably changed hands to Chee Soon Keng after his estate was sold off.  His wife, Mary Anna Martin met her demise in a internment camp in Sime Road (near Bukit Brown cemetery) as a civilian Prisoner of War during the Japanese Occupation on August 17, 1945.

Headstone of Michael Sarkies Martin
(at Armenian Church)

Headstone of Mary Anna Martin
(at Armenian Church)
[clarification on October 13, 2013] A grandson of Mr Chee Soon Keng emailed to clarify that the house illustrated in the picture is most likely No 21 Tanglin Road (and not No 19 Tanglin Road) before the site was developed as the second phase extension of Tanglin Shopping Centre. No 21 Tanglin Road house was purchased from a  Mr  Evan Wong , who came from British Guiana, and founded the accounting / audit firm bearing his name. Mr Wong may have purchased the house from the Armenian family (Michael Sarkies Martin ) before selling it to Chee Soon Keng. They never stay at this house, which was used as a boarding house most of the time.

The family stayed at 'Swandale' 19 Tanglin Road, till the late 1960s when Tanglin shopping centre was developed.

[addition to article on November 15, 2014] Chee Kim Hoe's eldest son, Paddy Chee Guan Hock connected with me and shared photos of his father and grandfather. He also shared with me how the family home of his grandfather, Chee Soon Keng looked. I will to thank him for sharing this lovely pictures.
No 19 Tanglin Road "Swandle"
(photo courtesy of Chee Soon Keng )
No 19 Tanglin Road -view from driveway and marble statue from Italy
(photo courtesy of Paddy Chee) 
A section used as Chee's Clinic for Women
(Photo courtesy of Paddy Chee) 
References
Deaths. (1931, June 10). The Straits Times
No legal claim. (1933, September 4). The Straits Times 
Maintenance claim. (1933, September 1). The Straits Times
Former Singing Girl. (1933, August 24). The Straits Times
Racehorse owner sued. (1933, August 31). The Straits Times
Mr Chee got his birthday wish. (1951, June 1). The Straits Times
A University Degree is just a "sideline". (1954, August 15). The Straits Times
Advertisement. (1956, May 15). The Straits Times
Oleh Oleh Party. (1960, September 19). The Singapore Free Press 
Coronation II's win brings back memories of 1937. (1964, December 8). The Straits Times. 
Deaths. (1977, November 2). The Straits Times

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