Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Wee Tiam Ghee (Bukit Brown)

Wee Tiam Ghee / Wee Thiam Ghee was born in Singapore and was the proprietor of Sin Choon Kee  Brick Works at 13 and half milestone. This eventually grew and became Jurong Brickworks. Wee TiamGhee was also a building and infrastructure contractor, winning several colonial tenders. Among one of the biggest tender hw won was the erection of five houses in the Swiss Cottage Estate. The tender was worth $138,350 and 20 houses for Subordinate Staff between Kampong Java Road and Bukit Timah Roads at $189,000. He was also the President of Udang Gala Association in 1913. 
source: NewspaperSG
In 1932, there was an article with the headline, "Fifty million bricks a year", which give insights of the number of bricks being produced by the various brick kilns in Singapore. 3 brick companies were given special mentioned and they included; Tekong, owned by Tan Kah Kee ; Jurong by Wee Tiam Ghee and the Hock San brickworks and finally Alexandra Brickworks. There was also a glowing account of the quality of Jurong Bricks being employed in increasing quantities by the Public Works Department, the Municipality and on military and naval works in Singapore. 

Tragedy
source: NewspaperSG
In 1934, tragedy happened. Wee Tiam Ghee died in an apparent suicide. In an inquest, a number of eyewitness including his nephew testified at court. His nephew shared that Wee Thiam Ghee had business worries and behaved strangely. There was an incident where he even seized a shot gun but his nephew seized it back. Wee Tiam Ghee rushed out of the house and and his nephew tried to bring him back. According to various eyewitness including of the passengers of the car that struck Wee Tiam Ghee; they saw a struggle between two people (Wee Thiam Ghee and his nephew) in the middle of the road. As the car approach closer, Wee Tiam Ghee broke loose and flung himself in front of the car. An ambulance was called but Wee Tiam Ghee passed away before arriving to the hospital. 

Death
Wee Tiam Ghee passed away at the age of 47 on January 21, 1934. His wife, Madam Koh Chin Neo passed away at the age of 47 years on  August 2, 1938. They are buried in separate tombs but side by side in Bukit Brown together with Mr Wee Tiam Ghee's mother, Madam Thng Peah Neo. Both Mr and Mrs Wee Tiam Ghee are survived by two sons: Wee Choon Guan and Wee Choon Swee.

The 3 tombs are one of the more unique and beautiful tomb in Bukit Brown with the tomb mount (Mu-xiu or 墓袖) done with lovely curves and front decorated with lovely peranakan floor tiles (with ying/yang motive) in addition to the intricate carvings on tombstone/shoulder and altar stone.
Mr Wee Tiam Ghee 's tomb
(note the curved tomb mount and decorated floor tiles)
Mrs Wee Tiam Ghee
(nee Madam Koh Chin Neo)
Madam Thng Peah Neo (mother of Mr Wee Tiam Ghee)
Family
Mother: Madam Thng Peah Neo ( Mrs Wee Seah )
Madam Thng Peah Neo passed away at the age of 61 on April 25, 1925 at her residence in No 53 Craig Road. She is survived by 1 son, (Wee Thiam Ghee ), 1 daughter, (Wee Kan Neoh), one daughter-in-law, 3 grandchildren and 1 son-in-law ( Lee Seng Hock)

Sister: Wee Kan Neoh 
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Son: Wee Choon Guan
Wee Choon Guan, son of the late Mr and Mrs Wee Thiam Ghee married Miss Chan Siew Choo, daughter of Mr and Mrs Chan Kok Seng in April 1940. Wee Choon Guan passed away at the age of 81 on January 5, 2001.
Wee Choon Guan and Chan Siew Choo
(source: NewspaperSG) 
(source: NewspaperSG) 
Son: Wee Choon Swee
<no information>

Story from the Panel
The romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinu (weaver girl and said to be the heavenly daughter or princess of the Jade Emperor) and Niulang (a cowherd, mortal human) ,who fell in love, married and had a child. The Jade Emperor angry at the reunion separated them by creating a river (the Milky Way) thus making Zhinu unable to return. Jade Emperor took pity and allowed them to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. The love tale of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine's Day)

Zhinu and Niulang (Weaver Girl and Cowherd)
The fate of Jurong Brickworks
After the death of Wee Tiam Ghee, Jurong Brickworks changed ownership to Mr. Chan Wah Chip and Mr. Koh Eng Poh.  Wee Choon Guan (who in 1940 became Chan Wan Chip's brother-in-law) became a managing director in the 50's after the passing of Koh Eng Poh. Jurong Brickworks became a Private Limited company in 1954. After Chan Wah Chip passed away in 1977, the company went over to the hands of Mr. Chan Tai Chuan, one of his sons.

Bricks industry in the 1930's
Bricks have been made in Singapore for many years by the many chinese owned kilns. On a organised scale, the major players in the 1930's include Mr. Tan Kah Kee at Tekong, Hock San at Alexandra Road and Wee Thiam Ghee at Jurong. The biggest player by far during this period was Alexandra Brickworks, Ltd with their main works in Pasir Panjang, Singapore and branches in Johor, Ipoh and Butterworth. It's capacity was said to be fifty million bricks a year. Hock Ann Brick Works, a chinese factory that produces bricks by machinery on the other hand produces 60,000 bricks a month (or 720,000 a year), with it's entire consumption almost solely for local consumption.
Bricks ! Bricks ! Bricks
(source: NewspaperSG)
By 1954, it was reported that Singapore nine brick factories was suffering a crisis due to the use of concrete blocks for Singapore low cost housing, the concrete flats.

References
Untitled. (1913, October 25). The Straits Times
Municipal Affairs. (1924, August 13). The Singapore Free Press.
Advertisement. (1929, June 27). The Straits Times
Advertisement. (1930, April 1). The Straits Times
Fifty million bricks a year. (1932, January 2). The Singapore Free Press
He flung himself in front of car. (1934, February 1). The Singapore Free Press
Malayan Weddings. (1940, April 25). The Straits Times
Brick factories faces trade crisis. (1954, February 1). The Singapore Free Press
Family business, father and son. (1981, August 8). The Business Times
Obituary. (2001, January 6). The Straits Times.

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