Sunday, January 13, 2019

Miss Yeo Tiam Wee (Bukit Brown)

Miss Yeo Tiam Wee died on 22th September 1933. Her marble headstone with beautiful decorative tiles has a huge crack that span across the tomb putting it danger of crumbling away. From the marble stone, one can make out very clearly the words; "In Loving Memory of Miss Yeo Tiam Wee, died 22st Sept 1933 No 417". What was not listed was the age of Miss Yeo Tiam Wee when she passed away. A quick check on the burial registrar, she was 30 years of age when she died and when was buried in Hill 3 C, plot 417. That is all the information we have for now.

Miss Yeo Tiam Wee

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chia Ong Cheng (Lao Sua)

Chia Ong Cheng's (1864- 1908) tomb lies close to the Bukit Brown marker (that marks the original Bukit Brown Hill in the old survey map of 1898 - Map of the Islands of Singapore and its dependencies). Today we colloquially call this place as Lao Sua. Mr. Chia Ong Cheng's tomb was once covered partially by a fallen tree but now is cleared. What is clearly visible is on the tomb shoulder in English, "In Memory of Chia Ong Cheng, born Aug 12, 1864 , died Oct 3, 1908". Chia Ong Cheng was 44 years old when he passed away.

Tomb of Chia Ong Cheng in Lao Sua

In a newspaper article titled Government Scholarships dated 1883, i get an important insight that Chia Ong Cheng (he would have been 19 years of age then) was a Raffles Institution student that topped the list for the Government English Scholarships 1882. However beyond that, i don't any information at the moment what happened beyond his school years. That been said, from old articles we know that Chia Ong Cheng had enough wealth to purchase property in No 326 Serangoon Road (97,000 sq ft freehold) and No 7 Upper Wilkie Road (9,960 sq ft freehold). After Chia Ong Cheng passed away there was an auction of his jewellery and possessions.

Chia Ong Cheng of Raffles Institution(source: NewspaperSG)

Auction Sales (source: NewspaperSG)

Property Sales (source: NewspaperSG)

Property Sales (source: NewspaperSG)

Material Culture (Stone carvings and inscriptions)

Bat (fu 蝠)
On the headstone of Mr. Chia Ong Cheng's tomb are 5 bats and bats are deemed to be a symbol of happiness and. The Chinese for bat (fu 蝠) sounds identical to the word for good fortune(fu 福). Five bats together represent the ‘Five Blessings’ (wufu 五福): long life, wealth, health, virtuousness and a wish for peaceful death.

Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿)
On the central panel of the altar table are the carving of Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿). They represent the three values of good fortune, prosperity and longevity, represented by the three characters in the panel. Fu/Fortune refers to blessings that include health, heirs, or virtues while Lu/Prosperity goes beyond material wealth, and is reflected in "wealth" in intellect, influence and social status. Shou/Longevity of course is for the blessing of long life. 


Raffles Institution. (1883, February 5). The Straits Times Weekly, page 5
Land Sale. (1902. October 29). The Straits Times, page 4
Property Sales. (1902. October 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 3
Chinese Symbols. British Museum (Accessible Online as pdf)
Wufu. Wikipedia (Accessible Online)

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Lim Peng Chin and family (Bukit Brown)

It was an newspaper article dated 23 March 1914 which describes that during a funeral procession of Lim Ho Puah whose mortal remains were shipped back to China via the ship Hong Moh. During the procession, a heavy shower happened and people scrambled to prevent the valuable coverings, banners and flag from getting wet. However the decorated silk coffin cover (said to be worth $200) went missing. A man said to be in possession of the pawn ticket of the silk cover approached Lim Peng Chin for money to recover it. The long story short, the man was charged for dishonestly holding stolen property. Interestingly enough, that is the only story i could find about Lim Peng Chin, whose beautiful tomb lies in Hill 4 Division A.
Madam Tan Po Neo nee Mrs. Lim Peng Chin

Wife: Madam Tan Po Neo
Madam Tan Po Neo passed away at the age of 58 on June 1, 1936 at No 28 Scotts Road. She is survived by an aged mother, 2 sons; Lim Hock Seng and Lim Hock Kheng, two daughter-in-laws, 2 daughters; Lim Liang Neo, Lim Yang Choo, 2 son-in-law, Ong Siow Han and Choa Teck Wan, 1 brother, Tan Hock Ann and 12 grandchildren (among them, Lim Cheng Chuan, Lim Cheng Ean, Lim Cheng Teck, Lim Khoon Neo, Lim Geok Kiat).

Father: Lim Ho Puah  / Lim Hoa Puah
Lim Ho Puah was born in Amoy in 1841 and joined Wee Bin & Co. He worked hard as an employee and won the attention of Mr. Wee Bin and eventually became his son-in-law.  Lim Ho Puah, JP. rose to become a Senior Partner of Messrs. Wee Bin & Co. a prominent company which at its height owned a rice mill and 30 steamers and many other business. He was a member of the Chinese Advisory Board and the Po Leung Kuk. Lim Ho Puah passed away on February 10, 1914 at the age of 74. He is survived by 11 sons and 4 daughters. His remains were shipped back to China. Probate of the will went to his two sons; Lim Peng Siang and Lim Peng Mau.

Son: Lim Hock Seng
Lim Hock Seng of Ho Hong Steamship is the eldest son of Lim Peng Chin. Lim Hock Seng is President of the Amateur Sporting Association and residence was listed as 85-A Teluk Kurau. He was also known to be a well known dog breeder having participated in many dog shows.

There was a notice stating the mutual consent of dissolvement of marriage between Lim Hock Seng of No. 28 Scotts Road and his secondary wife, Khoo Lian Kim alias Khoo Ah Thoe of No. 11-B Eng Watt Street on April 15, 26064 or April 15, 1943. However, the lawyers of Madam Khoo said otherwise in a noticed dated April 27, 2604 and the notice was misleading as no time did Madam Khoo Lian Kim alias Khoo Ah Thoe entertain any though of dissolving the marriage much less consenting thereto. What was the eventual outcome, is not known to me, but from oral accounts from family descendants, he remarried.

Lim Hock Seng passed away at the age of 46 on April 9, 1946  at his residence in No 28 Scotts Road and is survived by his widow, Meggie, two sons, Lim Cheang Chuan and Lim Cheang Ean and two daughters; Lucy (Lim Khoon Neo) and Jennie. He is buried in the same plot as his parents, in Bukit Brown.

Lim Hock Seng 

Residence of Lim Hock Seng (source: NewspaperSG)

Lim Hock Seng with his Alsatian (1934)
(source: NewspaperSG) 

Lim Hock Seng's tomb in Bukit Brown

Deaths.(1926, May 10).The Straits Times, Page 7
Marriage Of Chinese Sportsman. (1927, November 26).The Straits Times,Page 6
Champion Dog at Malayan Kennel Association's Annual Show. (1931, August 1). Malayan Saturday Post
Singapore Dog show. (1934, May 29).The Straits Times.
Death. (1936, June 6). The Straits Times.
Siong Boo A.A. Officers. (1938, May 15).The Straits Times,Page 31
Advertisement. (1944, April 21). Syonan Times
Advertisement. (1944, April 27). Syonan Times
Death. (1946, April 10). The Straits Times.
Untitled. (1947, August 14). The Straits Times, page 5
Marriage. (1949, May 11).The Singapore Free Press

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Lee Kip Ghee and family (Bukit Brown)

Lee Kip Ghee alias Katong, son of the late Mr. Lee Chim Teck and Mrs. Lee Chim Teck pased away peacefully at his residence, No. 40 Amber Road on Sunday, 4th March 1934 at 6 am at the age of 26, leaving behind his mother, wife and two sisters. He is buried in Bukit Brown, Hill 3 Division C, plot 234. At Lee Kip Ghee's tomb, the name of his daughter is mentioned, Miss Lee Swee Gek. From, i gathered that Lee Kip Ghee's wife name is Ong Guat Eng and that he is the brother of Lee Joo Ghim; Lee Joo Hin and Lee Joo Teck. His sisters are listed as Lee Joo Ghim, Lee Joo Hin and Lee Joo Teck.

Lee Kip Ghee
source: NewspaperSG

Mrs. Lee Kip Ghee nee Madam Ong Guat Eng passed away on 25th February 1977. She is survived by her daughter, Mrs. Gek Wee, a son-in-law, Dr. J.S. Wee, 3 grandchildren, Soon Mee, Hui and Lyn.
Is the picture below, Madam Ong Guat Eng (Mrs Lee Kip Ghee) and her only daughter, Miss Lee Swee Gek (Mrs. Gek Wee) ? I can't be 100% sure but the time period seems correct.

source: NewspaperSG

source: NewspaperSG
Dr. J.S. Wee (son-in-law of Mrs. Lee Kip Ghee)


Father: :Lee Chim Teck/Lee Chim Tek 
Lee Chim Teck / Lee Chim Tek (1883-1927) was a director of the Nyalas Rubber Estates, Straits Monte Carlo Club and partner in Lim Chim Tek & Co. Share brokers (34, Winchester House/ 16 Collyer Quay). Lim Chim Teck passed away on January 5, 1927 at 3:30 am at his residence in 81 Amoy Street at the age of 44 years old. The funeral of Mr Lim Chim Teck took place on Sunday, January 9, 1927 from 81 Amoy Street to Bukit Brown. His widow was Madam Chee Seok Goh 徐淑娥. Lim Chim Teck's tomb is located in Bukit Brown, Hill 1 Division B.

Grandfather: Mr Lee Keng Kiat (Lee Keng Keat)
Mr Lee Keng Kiat was the son of Mr Lee Quee Lim and was born in Malacca in 1851 and educated in St. Xavier's Institution, Penang. For many years, Lee Keng Kiat was associated with the firm Keng Yong Brothers and later joined Straits Steamship Co has its sub-manager until his retirement in 1911. Lee Keng Kiat had the honor of representing the Chinese merchant community in congratulating the Sultan of Johore on July 8, 1886 on the assumption of his title as Sultan, has been recognised by Queen Victoria The address was read in English by Lee Keng Kiat and contained more than 150 signatures. In 1900, he was elected as a member of the committee of the Straits Chinese British Association, the year of the associations formation. His intense patriotism was demonstrated in 1901, when at the age of 50, he enlisted as one of the original members of the Singapore Volunteer Infantry (Chinese Company). (S.V.C).

 Lee Keng Kiat passed away on February 9, 1917 at the age of 6 at 81 Amoy Street, leaving behind 5 sons. Two of them, Lee Chim Tuan and Lee Chim Huk were still on the active list of the S.V.C. Lee Chim Teck was no longer active. Lee Keng Kiat was buried in the family burial ground in Serangoon Road. His brothers are Lee Keng Yam, Lee Keng Yong, Lee Keng Liat and Lee Sek Long.

Lee Keng Kiat

Friday, December 21, 2018

Cheah Kuan Oon (Kopi Sua)

Cheah Kuan Oon (謝寬溫) / Chia Kuan Oon is buried in the Hokkien Cemetery complex at Whitley Road colloquially known as Kopi Sua. From the tomb, you can see his name and the date of death, 6th July 1962 and the names of his children, sons; Cheah Soon Seng, Cheah Poh Chwee and daughters; Cheah Cheng Siew, Cheah Siew Bee, Cheah Siew ? . The obituary notice from newspaper archives (7th July 1962) list his age has 53 and the cortege left from 58 Jalan Chengkek and that he is survived by his wife, 2 sons, 3 daughters and 1 brother. However the very same obituary notice also states that Mr. Cheah Kuan Oon was originally supposed to be buried in Bulim Cemetery. This was not the first instance where the papers state the deceased in one cemetery while in fact the actual tomb was not located there.

Cheah Kuan Oon tomb at Kopi Sua

Syonan Police Force and Japanese Collaborator 

From the engagement notice of Mr. Cheah Kuan Cheang to Miss Chew Lian Neo published in 21 November 1944 in Syonan Shimbun a couple of important nuggets can be gathered, which helped to established who and what role Cheah Kuan Oon played when he was alive.


  1. Cheah Kuan Cheang is the youngest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Cheah Soo Tuan and brother of Cheah Kuan Oon. In that article, Cheah Kuan Oon was mentioned to be a Keibu in the Syonan Police Force  (Keibu probably equates rank of an Inspector )
  2. Miss Chew Lian Neo is the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chew Hock San and grand daughter of the late Mr and Mrs. Chew Boon Lay
Cheah Kuan Oon (Chia Kuan Oon / Chia Kuan Onn ) as a Keibu (Inspector) in the Syonan Police Force was reported to have collaborated with the Japanese Occupiers and committed crimes of torture and criminal intimidation. A Post War Crimes Court found Cheah Kuan Oon guilty and sentenced him to a total of 2 years and 6 months. In his defence, Cheah Kuan Oon testified that he admitted to have tortured, stripped a woman by the name of Goh Piak Keng who was accused of being a Communist but said that he carried out the orders for fear of repercussions from the Japanese masters.

source: NewspaperSG

It was also during this trials, i read about how at the early stages of occupation, Japanese officers took 20 police detectives to the East Wharf (Tanjong Pagar Docks) and machine gunned them. Some tried to escape by jumping into the water and of the 20, 17 were murdered by the hail of bullets.

War Crimes Murder Inquiry

Post Japanese occupation, there was a War Crimes Court murder enquiry trial that charged and eventually gave the death by hanging verdict for Sgt. Major Aikichi Toyoda (a member of the Kempeitai attached to the Central Police Station) who ill-treated and tortured many local civilians and was charged to have caused the death to some of those held captive. Among those who have died were Wahab, Arumugam and Wee Cheng Woo. Many well known residents of Singapore such as Mr. Tan Thoon Lip, Mr. T.W. Ong, Mr. Tan Cheng Chuan, Mr. Wee Sin Choe, Lim  were among the people that were named to be have subject to torture by Toyoda. The ill treatments took place from February 20 - December 31, 1942. Ibrahim bin Omar (former Inspector of Police and head of the Malay Section of the Special Branch at the Central Police Station) was charged for abetment of murder. Wahab  (a member of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force) died in the lock up of the Central Police Station due to the repeated beatings in the early period of the Japanese Occupation. During this beatings, Wahab eventually lead his captors to a spot in Lorong 35, Geylang where weapons and ammunition were buried ( 3 revolvers, 3 rifles, hundreds of pounds of ammunition, hand grenades, an a Lewis Gun). Among the many witness called was a lorry driver who gave witness that during his time of service with the Japanese Special Branch of Police, he had carried about 20 corpses from the Cells of the Central Police Station to the Cemetery in Tiong Bahru. (and he was not just the sole driver employed for the purpose). He gave witness that he was the lorry driver on the day that dead body of Wahab placed in sack was brought out from the cell which was accompanied by Ibrahim bin Omar and a Japanese officer of the department.

source: NewspaperSG

Toyoda was sentenced to death on 8th July 1946 and the hanging took placed on 16th August 1946. The sentence was carried out at Changi Prison.

[research on-going]

Death. (1962, July 7). The Straits Times, page 10
Advertisement. (1944, November 21). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Corpses removed from police cell. (1946, May 17). The Straits Times, page 3
Toyoda, "The Brute" Charged. (1946, July 4). Indian Daily Mail, page 4
Toyoda Sentenced to Death. (1946, July 9). The Straits Times, page 5
Inspector Denies he beat Wahab. (1946, July 12). The Straits Times, page 5
Detective tells Court how he survived Jap firing squad. (1946, August 28). The Straits Times, page 5
2 1/2 years gaol for ex-Inspector. (1946, August 29). Malayan Tribune, page 3
Legal Tool Database. Reference from
Cheah Kuan Oon (謝寬溫). Reference from

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Chia Seng Quee (Bukit Brown)

While exploring Hill 4 Division A, i came across a tomb that was covered with creepers. Clearing it i uncovered the tomb of Chia Seng Quee who died on 24th November 1936 at the age of 37. The headlines of the papers reads "Man dashed to death in Singapore Street fall from high building".Chia Senq Quee was Straits-born Chinese and a senior clerk with the Great Eastern Life Insurance Co. for more than 14 years. He was earning $175 a month and was witness to have reach work on the 24th November at 8:30 am and left his personal belongings and a letter behind. Chia Seng Quee died as a result of multiple injuries sustained in the fall from the Bank of China Building in Cecil Street. Witness reporting hearing a loud thud and saw the body of Chia Seng Quee, who was dressed in a white tunic suit in a mutilated condition with his head smashed.

Madam Chua Kim Neo (widow of Chia Seng Quee) who was dressed in black and with tears in her eyes gave her evidence in English during the courts inquiry in December. She said her husband was 36 years old and they lived in Still Road, Katong and have been married for 8 years. Her husband left the house at 7:45 am on the morning of November 24 after having recovered from Malaria a few days ago. She went on to describe that there was no financial problems nor did they quarrel. The Singapore Coroner, Mr. W. McQuarrie eventually returned a verdict of suicide.

Chia Seng Quee's tomb at Hill 4 Division A, plot 700

Chia Seng Quee's tomb (before clearing)

From the tomb of Chia Seng Quee, i can make out the name of 1 son (Chia Cheng Poh) and 3 daughters ( Chia Poh Neo, Chia Cheng Neo, Chia Hiah (?) Neo). Another interesting bit of nugget that was shared with me was Mrs. Chia Seng Quee nee Chua Kim Neo who passed away in 8th August 1980 is likely the daughter of Chua Kim Teng. (father of Chua Jim Neo and maternal grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew).

High Building (Bank of China / Great Eastern Life Insurance Co.)

Reading the tragic story on how Chia Seng Quee ended his life. A couple of questions came to my mind. (1) What did the content of the letter read? (That remains a mystery to me for now) and (2)  Where was this high building in Cecil Street located and how did it look like and how tall was it actually?  One thing for sure, the Bank of China that is located in Battery Road was not the high building that comes to mind as it was constructed only in 1954. Bank of China was established in 1936 and had its office leased in the ground and mezzanine floor within the premise of the Great Eastern Life Building in Cecil Street at No. 12 Cecil Street, the very place that Chia Seng Quee works.

source: NewspaperSG

Great Eastern  / Bank of China at No 12 Cecil Street

(source: PictureSG)

[research on-going]

Malaya's own life assurance co. (1935, October 8). The Straits Times, page 15
Untitled. (1936, June 16). Morning Tribune, page 2
Man dashed to death in Singapore Street fall from high building. (1936, November 24). Malayan Tribune, page 11
Death Fall from Window of City Office. (1936, December 12). Morning Tribune, page 23
Widow's Tears at Inquest. (1936, December 12). Malaya Tribune, page 14
Suicide Verdict. (1936, December 16). Malaya Tribune, page 8
$715,000 land deal. (1937, May 10). The Straits Times, page 12

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tan Chian and family (Kopi Sua)

The tomb of Tan Chian (alias Tan Kwee Chian) was identified by Raymond Goh while we were exploring an area of the Hokkien Cemetery near Mount Pleasant colloquially known as Kopi Sua. While searching through the newspapers archives, we can slowly piece together the story of Tan Chian (1876-1944) and his family. Tan Chian (alias Tan Kwee Chian) passed away at his residence at No. 19 Scotts Road at the age of 68 on November 3, 2604 (the Japanese koki calender for 1944). He is survived by 7 sons, ( Messrs. Tan Beng Kee, Tan Beng Thong, Tan Beng Wah, Tan Beng Teck, Tan Beng Guan, Tan Beng Ghee and Tan Beng Hui), 4 daughters, 1 son-in-law and 14 grandchildren.

Tan Kwee Chian 

Tan Chian alias Tan Kwee Chian 

Tan Chiam alias Tan Kwee Chian 

Tan Chian  (alias Tan Kwee Chian) was a timber merchant and sawmill propertier with company under the name of Chop Chye Hin, Beach Road. He was also a shareholder in the Chinese Commercial Bank. Mr. Tan Chian was granted a certificate of naturalization by the British Colonial Government in 1919. This means he was granted naturalization at the age of 43. From the article, this could also mean he came from China at the age of 19. Tan Chian was also mentioned in a 1936 article to be one of 3 well-known Straits Chinese (the other being Mr. Teo Soo Piah and Mr. Ong Hock Thye).  who went on a world tour, starting on a ship called President Adams for Europe, and from there tour Europe for 40 days before crossing to New York on the Queen Mary. After a tour of Canada and US, they will set sail from San Francisco to China. 

When Tan Kah Kee fled Singapore from the advancing Japanese invasion (he was targeted man for being the Nanyang leader responsible for the China Relief Fund ), he and many other anti-Japan activist fled Singapore to first Sumatra on motor launches that belong to Tan Kwee Chian.

19 Scotts Road "Lochaber"

Tan Chian's residence was in No 19 Scotts Road and the name of its house, "Lochaber" which is likely named after an area in the Scottish Highlands. Why was it named so and how the house looked like on picture would have been interesting. Other properties purchase that i could make out includes a 99 years old leasehold land and house at 91 Upper Nankin-Street, 1,120 square feet for $10,500 in 1920. He bought land and a business premise, 2,365 sq feet at 215 South Bridge Road for $49,000 in 1922
source: National Archives


Son: Tan Beng Kee
Tan Beng Kee (eldest son Mr and Mrs Tan Chian of 36 Cairn hill Road) engaged Miss Chua Bee Neo (youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chua Hong Ing) of No.96 Owen Road. The marriage took place on December 2, 1924. 

Son: Tan Beng Thong
The marriage of Tan Beng Thong (second son of Mr and Mrs Tan Chian) to Miss Cheok Sye Huay (second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cheok Cheng Kee) took place on 16 June 1926 at "Lochaber", 19 Scotts Road. 

Grandson: Tan Hock Seng
Tan Hock Seng (eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Tan Beng Kee and eldest grandson of the late Mr. Tan Chian and Mrs. Tan Chian of 19, Scotts Road) engaged Miss Happy Lim Keng Wah (second daughter of Mr. Lim Seow Eng and the late Madam Tay Keng Guan and grand daughter of the late Mr. Lim Peng Siang and Mrs. Lim Peng Siang of No. 10 Bukit Pasoh Road on 24th December 2604.

[research on-going]

Gazette Items. (1919, May 5). Malayan Tribune, page 7
Chinese Commercial Bank. (1923, December 28). The Singapore Free Press, page 12 
Births, Marriages, Deaths.(1924, November 29). Malayan Tribune, page 6
Domestic Occurrences. (1926, June 14). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Start of Opium Enquiry. (1929, October 23). The Straits Times, page 11
World Tour. (1936, July 26). Morning Tribune, page 2
Death. (1944, November 8). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Domestic Occurrences. (1944, December 25). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Tan Kah-kee: The Making of an Overseas Chinese Legend.By Ching Fatt Yong, Julio Antonio Gonzalo, Manuel Maria Carreira