Bukit Brown

Bukit Brown

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Goodbye Sungei Road / Robinson Petang / Thieves' Market finally ?

It was a market in the 1930's known to the locals as "Robinson Petang" or Evening Robinson, a reference to the once famous and upmarket Robinson store, but in the case of this open air market, it caters to the working class or the poor or for those looking for a "steal" or bargain. Another consideration was usually the working class can only shop after they finish work in the late afternoon, hence "petang" where brisk business takes place from 3 pm till dusk. It gain another more notorious  name as the Thieves' Market, not only for the "steal" or bargain that can be made there, but this name was further cast in stone post Japanese occupation, where it saw most of the looted goods being hawked and that included army surpluses, such as radio, army stretchers, uniforms, tents, mechanical parts, electronics, etc. In the 1970's it was also a tourist attraction and a place for antique hunting or bargain buys. Today, you can still find the Singapore Armed Forces uniform for sale still.

Sungei Road / Robinson Petang 1935

The end of an area

In various newspaper reports dated 1982, saw its closure officially for the then 161 license traders (and unknown number of unlicensed traders) since it started said 50 years ago and in fact the Ministry of Environment workers tore down the stores but yet Sungei Road market refused to disappear totally from Singapore's social history, with reports of its revival again as early as 1985.

Sungei Road Market (with Rochore River and New Singapore Ice Works in picture
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Sungei Road Market
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Sungei Road Market e
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Sungei Road Market stalls been demolished
(source: NewspaperSG) 

A future for Sungei Road Market aka Robinson Petang aka Thieves' Market ?

My recent visits to Sungei Road shows me a small group of stall holders holding on stubbornly to their trade that they have been actively done for many years despite evidence of the development taking place around them including the impending opening of the MRT station. This break neck pace of development leaves no room for this hawkers to continue anymore within the area, as it is slated for residential development. Future generation will remember this place only in photographs, personal blogs and online documentation by National Heritage Board's Roots.sg

Below are some of the pictures of the place i took this year. For the younger generation who never visited Sungei Road Market and grew up spending their time in malls and online shopping, this place will not likely be missed and seems more like a nostalgic novelty. However harsh that may sound, the fact remains - another chapter of Singapore's interesting past is coming to a close, replaced by more housing to cater for people's aspiration for urban living.


Untitled. (1935. October 13). The Straits Times
Market of Surprises.(1949, September 22). The Straits Times, page 9
Robinson Petang. (1953, October 2). The Straits Times, page 4
Thieves Market goes off the map. (1982, August 11). The Straits Times, page 8
"Robinson" Petang tinggal kenangan. (1986, July 30). Berita Harian, page 10
Sungei Road hidup kembali, (1985, October 1). Berita Harian, page 8

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ong Ban Teik and family (Bukit Brown)

Ong Ban Teik /Ong Ban Teck/ Ong Ban Taik was a Cantonese man who passed away at the age of 72 on December 3, 1941 at his residence in 26 Petain Road and is survived by a son, Ong Kuan Seong, daughter, Ong Kam Lin, son-in-law; Khoo Kim Swee, grandsons; Khoo Pek Hean, Khoo Pek Guan, Khoo Pek San.  His tomb is at Block 5 Division D, plot 83. 

Ong Ban Teik 

Wife: Ng Yew Kim
Mrs Ong Ban Taik nee Ng Yew Kim passed away at Tan Tock Seng Hospital at 10:40 am , 25 February 1943 ( 61 years old) leaving behind a widow, 1 son, Ong Kuan Seong, one daughter, one son-in-law, Khoo Kim Swee of 26 Petain Road, 3 grandsons, 1 granddaughter and1 grand daughter-in-law. She is buried in Bukit Brown in Hill 2 Section C, plot P14

Son: Ong Kuan Seong
Ong Kuan Seong was an employee of the Asiatic Petroleum Company and in 1925 there was news of him passing the Intermediate Examinations held by the Corporation of Accountants, Glasgow.

Daughter: Ong Kam Lin
Ong Kam Lin received a wind-fall of $1,666,66 from a prize pool of $5,000 cross word puzzle prize that was shared among 3 people in 1955 !
The Straits Times, 27 November 1955, Page 5

Son-in-law: Khoo Kim Swee 
Khoo Kim Swee is associated with Oriental Cinema and was a avid tennis and billiards player. For Billiards, he played for Aston Athletic Club and won the Junior Championship in 1936 of the Singapore Billiards Association
Khoo Kim Swee (left) 
Malaya Tribune, 20 April 1940, Page 14

Syonan Shimbun, 2 August 1943, Page 2

Domestic Occurrence.(1943, February 26).Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Untitled. (1925, September 16)The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), page 6
Advertisements. (1941, December 4).Malaya Tribune, page 10


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Soh Leng Neo (Bukit Brown)

Madam Soh Leng Neo passed away on March 19, 1934 at No. 1 Lorong 36 Geylang at the age of 78 years. She is survived by her sons, Wee Giang Tye and Wee Giang Kiat. Madam Soh Leng Neo is buried in Hill 3 Division D, plot 239. Listed on her tomb are also the name of her daughter; Wee Chik Neo, Grandsons; Eddie Wee, Elec Wee, Charlie Wee, William Wee, Wee Mak Kim and Granddaughters: Wee Pin Neo, Amy Wee, Rani Wee, Irene Wee, Millie Wee

Son: Wee Giang Tye /Wee Giang Thye
In a newspaper article dated 1958, Wee Giang Tye, then 67 was reported as the oldest staff to serve the Netherlands Trading Society's Singapore Branch.  He studied in Raffles Institution and started working there when he turned 17 years of age at monthly salary of $30.

Son: Wee Giang Kiat
Wee Giang Kiat (Kechut) passsed away on  28 March 1968. He was a Vice-President of the Forget-Me-Not Party in 1929.


Deaths. (1934, March 20). The Straits Times, page 10
Mr. Wee Serves Bank For Nearly Half A Century. (1958, May 1).Singapore Standard, page 3

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seet Beng Tee (Bukit Brown)

Seet Beng Tee (6 January 1895 - 22 July 1924) was described as a popular young chinese businessman and brother of Mr. Tan Beng Chiang (a boxing promoter ). Seet Beng Tee had business in mining, estates and owned several properties in Singapore. Like his late father, Mr. Seet Tiang Lim, Seet Beng Tee has ties with the various Sultan's of Kedah, Kelantan and played host to them and prior to his illness, was a guest at the Sultan's Palace in Kedah.  Seet Beng Tee passed away at the age of 29 on 22 July 1924 at 2 am at his residence in 41 Desker Road. He was described to be ailing for the past year and was in poor health for many months prior to his death. He is the son of the late Mr. Seet Tiang Lim and is survived by his mother. He is buried in Hill 1 A, plot 66.

Seet Beng Tee's wife pre-deceased him and he has no children. From the tomb nearby Mr. Seet Beng Tee, i know that the name of his wife is Roseline Oey (1896 -1923) (Oei Po Tian , age 28 , 3 May 1923, Hill 1 plot 65). However engraved on Seet Beng Tee tomb are the name of two children , Seet Chong Kiat and Chwee Chin. In short, there is a discrepancy between what is reported in the papers and inscribed in the tomb. Reading further, i found a court ruling that gives insight that the children of Seet Beng Tee were adopted at infancy.

Seet Beng Tee 

Roesline Oey  / Oei Po Tian (wife of Seet Beng Tee)
passed away 3 May 1923


Father: Seet Tiang Lim
Seet Tiang Lim was born in Malacca of an old Straits Chinese family, but for many years resided in Singapore. He was at one time a merchant of the syndicate that has license from the Spirit and Opium's farm (before the government took it back under the Monopolies Department). Seet Tiang Lim is a close personal friend of the Sultan of Kelantan and as always played host when the Sultan visits Singapore.

Seet Tiang Lim passed away on 4th December 1922 at the age of 65. His residence was at No. 104 Selegie Road. The trustee and executor of his will was Seet Beng Tee (who passed away on  22 July 1922). On 15 August 1924 it was transferred to Seet Beng Hong / Seet Beng Ong.


Saturday, December 2. (1922, December 2). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Death. (1922, December 6). The Straits Times, page 8
Mr Seet Beng Tee, Popular Yong Chinese Businesman dead. (1924, July 22). Malaya Tribune, page 7
Advertisement. (1926, October 4). The Straits Times, page 3
Adopted Children. (1929, February 14). Malaya Tribune, page 11