Friday, June 15, 2018

Chen Ngian Chin and family (Bukit Brown)

Chen Ngian Chin passed away on 18th February 1935 at the age of 74 at his residence in  No 31, Branksome Road. He is the father of Chen Djat Thiam, Dr. Chen Ah Poh, Chen Thiam Chion and Chen Thiam Chit. What is unique of this tomb is that it mentions that Chen Ngian Chin is from Batoeroesa, Banka (or Bangka Island off Sumatra, Indonesia ). He is buried in Hill 3 Division D, plot 816. I am unable to find much information about Chen Ngian Chin.

Chen Ngian Chin

Chen Ngian Chin of Batoeroesa, Banka


Son: Dr Chen Ah Poh / Dr. A. P. Chen
Dr Chen Ah Poh studied in Anglo Chinese School and obtain his medical degree in 1920. Being in private practice (Universal Surgery, Middle Road) for many years, he retired in 1965. During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, a settlement was created in Endau, Johor to move the Chinese civilian population from Singapore to this place coined as New Syonan. Dr. Chen Ah Poh was the resident medical officer tasked with keeping the new population alive and healthy with the limited resources available.

Dr Chen was also a life member of the Singapore Medical Association and was once a regular doctor visiting many plantations, factories and companies in Southern Johor. In the article, "Singapore Grand Old Doctor dies 88", Dr Chen passed away at his Wilkinson Road home, off Tanjong Katong Road on 1 December 1974. He is survived by his wife, Madam Ho Khee Moei, 64, a daughter, 3 sons, one whom is also a doctor in private practice.

Dr. Chen Ah Poh 
Mrs. Chen Ah Poh nee Chia Kim Lian passed away on 2 February 1955. She leaves behind her husband,  mother and 5 children; (Chen Jan Khiat, Chen Jan Chong, Chen Jan Jee, Nellie Chen, Chen Jan Thye.)

Dr. Chen's daughter, Nellie married Rev. Colin King on September 4, 1948.

Marriage notice of Nellie Chen 
Another article feature Dr. T. J. Chen (probably Chen Jan Thye) who was away from Singapore for 10 years in Britain and has return for good. The article gives inside to Dr. T. J. Chen who left Singapore in 1950 to join University College, Dublin and stay on in Dublin until his returned.
Dr. T. J. Chen with his wife, Nellie and son, Thomas
There was a report of the birth of son (Chen Choon Leong) on April 17, 1944, whose parents are Mr and Mrs Chen Jan Jee. Mrs Chan Jan Jee was mentioned in the article to be a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Tan Hock San.

Domestic Occurrences. (1935, February 19). The Straits Times, page 2
Birth. (1944, April 19). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Health of New Syonan Settlers in safe hands. (1944, April 25). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Singapore Grand Old Doctor Dies, 88. (1974, December 2). The Straits Times, page 11

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lim Kow Nah (Bukit Brown)

Lim Kow Nah passed away at the age of 66 on 19th September 1936 at his residence in No. 40 Outram Road leaving behind his wife, 9 sons, 3 daughters, 4 daughters-in-law, 5 sons-in-laws and 30 grandchildren.  Lim Kow Nah was a shareholder of the Oversea Chinese Bank in 1936 and in 1922 bought 25 acres of freehold rubber land in Thomson area for $7,800. In 1935, Lim Kow Nah bought freehold land of 92,223 sq ft for $80 in Tiong Bahru Road.

Mr. Lim Kow Nah
Block 4 Division A @1.340041,103.824945


There was an engagement notice between Mr. Lim Kim Swee, son of the late Mr. & Mrs Lim Kow Nah with Miss Khoo Choo Neo, daughter of Mr & Mrs Khoo Tiang Hong on 23 July 1953.

Property Sale. (1922, May 18). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Singapore Properties sold by auction. (1935, August 30). The Singapore Free Press. 
Domestic Occurences. (1936, September 22). Malayan Tribune, page 12

Kow Hock San and family (Bukit Brown)

Kow Hock San passed away on 15th May 1929 at his residence in No 20, Ann Siang Hill. He leaves behind a son, Khoo Beng Whatt and 2 daughters; Kow Choo Neo, Kow Hup Neo; 2 son-in-laws; Messrs. Tan Koon Hong and Lee Cheng Tee.
Grandsons: Kow Leong Watt and Kow Poh Hock
Granddaughter: Kow Poh Neo

Kow Hock San in the burial registrar was listed at 66 years old when he passed on. He is buried in Hill 1 Division B plot 265.

Mother: Khoo Ong Neo
Khoo Ong Neo passed away at the age of 90 on 3 May 1925 at her residence at No 83 Club Street. She leaves behind 1 son, Kow Hock San, 1 grandson, 2 granddaughters, 2 great grandsons, 2 great granddaughters to mourn her lost.

Daughter: Kow Choo Neo
Kow Choo Neo nee Si Besar nee Mrs. Tan Koon Hong passed away at the age of 80 at her residence, No 141A Kallang Airport on 21 October 1962. Madam Kow Choo Neo tomb lies close by her husband's Tan Koon Hong's tomb in  Bukit Brown, Hill 4 Section C plot 1380 and 1400. She was 56 years old when Tan Koon Hong passed away at 63 years old. Tan Koon Hong was a cashier or banker for Chartered Bank of Singapore.

Kow Choo Neo is survived by 1 son; Kow Leng Huat, 2 daughters; Tan Poh Neo, Tan Kim Geok.
Grandsons; Tan Chin Guan, Kow Chin Geok, Kow Chwee Hock
Granddaughters; Kow Whatt Neo, Kow Whatt Eng,
Great-Grandson; Jeffrey Kow Hock Guan.
Mrs. Tan Koon Hong nee Madam Kow Choo Neo (Si Besar)

Daughter: Kow Tiam Neo
The engagement of Miss Kow Tiam Neo, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs Kow Hock San of 83 Club Street to Mr. Lee Cheng Tee, second son of the late Mr. Lee Seng Joo and Mrs Lee Seng Joo of 30 Neil Road.


Probate and executor of Kow estate went to Lee Ho Neo and Lee Cheng Tee. The late Kow Hock San address was listed as No. 20, Ann Siang Hill.

Domestic Occurrences. (1926, May 16). Malaya Tribune, page 8.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Brothers buried side-by-side (Bukit Brown)

I was exploring Bukit Brown during Qingming (aka Tomb-Sweeping day) to observe the traditional practice as well as to suss out stories from descendants who visit Bukit Brown. I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Chew Hay Teck (89 years old) who was born in 1935 to a family of  9 or 10 siblings. He and his family were in Bukit Brown for Qingming. Mr. Chew Hay Teck came across to me as a sprightly gentlemen and after a brief introduction, he shared with me that he is visiting his two brothers who are buried side by side and has been doing so every Qing Ming. His eldest brother (who he refers to as Tai Cheong) was one of the early civilian victims killed by the Japanese bombing of Singapore when  the bomb hit their family home in Chin Swee Road. Fortunately, the rest of the family members including Chew Hay Teck (who was only 7 years old then ) did not share the same fate when the roof collapsed and killed his eldest brother. The other plot without a headstone lies his 3rd or 4th brother by the name of "Ah Mou",  a brother who Mr Chew Hay Teck remembered and described fondly as the most intelligent of all the siblings because he did well in school and during the Japanese occupation, even manage to learn and was able to speak Japanese. Unfortunately, Ah Mou didn't survived to see the surrender of the Japanese. Ah Mou died of illness and was brought to the plot beside his brother and secretly buried.

Chew Hay Teck paying respects to his brothers

Paying respects to their two Uncles 
In my conversation with the younger family members of Chew Hay Teck, his son and nephew present shared that they were only puzzled that the tomb of their Uncle Tai Cheong, didn't have the same surname, but that didn't matter during our entire conversation as they went through the Qing Ming rituals with respect and shared with me that both Uncles were very pleased with the offerings and have finished consuming them after a nephew threw 2 coins only once for both tombs to check and confirm that they have finished eating. I thanked Mr Chew and the family for sharing their family story as we went our separate ways.

Neo Chye Cheong (civilian victim of first bombing by the Japanese on Singapore)

Victim of first bombing by the Japanese on Singapore 

The story does not end with my parting with the Chew family. In the comfort of my home, i learn that the first air raid on Singapore was carried out by 17 Japanese planes from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, launched from Japanese-occupied Saigon, Vietnam. It took place on 8 December 1941, and left 61 dead and 133 people injured (source: Infopedia). I moved on to check the burial registrar to find out the name of the person buried in Hill 4 , Division 6 plot 338 where "Tai Cheong" lies buried. From the digitised burial records of Bukit Brown, searching was easy and the name, Neo Chye Cheong, died 8 December 1941, age 27 came out which match closely to the inscription on the tomb as well. What i did not have was the cause of death and address.

 A fellow "Brownie" (Simone Lee), whom i know spent some time in the National Archives going through the microfilm of the Bukit Brown Burial Registry of people who died just before and the weeks after the fall of Singapore was the person i went to next to find this two missing information to confirm the oral account. It was from her that help confirmed that Neo Chye Cheong died of WAR OPERATIONS and the address listed was 22 Hare Street.
Hare Street and Chin Swee Road (source:
The final piece of the puzzle was the road name that Chew Hay Teck shared with me and this closely matches the burial records of Neo Chye Cheong and that he was indeed one of the first civilian victims' of the bombing of Singapore on 8 December 1941.

Once again, it is a reminder that Bukit Brown Heritage Park contains a treasure trove of stories of Singapore's past. The intangible cultural heritage of Qing Ming practice is a useful way where stories of the family get pass on from one generation to another. If you destroy this space, it will indeed be a tragedy as many stories and traditional practices get destroyed with it along with the rich flora and fauna. I am fortunate enough to hear this story from Chew Hay Teck, a man who survived through the Japanese occupation and was so willing to share with me the story of his two brothers who lay buried in Bukit Brown, one with a headstone while the other without. Their story is not forgotten.

Remembering Neo Chye Cheong 

Friday, April 06, 2018

Tan Swee Hoe mansion in Batu Pahat

The status of Tan Swee Hoe's mansion at 160 Jalan Kluang, Batu Pahat was finally revealed! The mansion that was once owned by Tan Swee Hoe's descendants was sold and the rumors circulating at one point of time was it was going to be demolished. In fact various readers of my blog sent me pictures of the mansion after it was sold where the rooftop of the building and the interiors was completely stripped.
Tan Swee Hoe's mansion (minus the roof)
Well it was finally revealed in various Malaysian papers (Sin Chew Daily, Johor China Press) that it was purchased by His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor. It was reported in the papers that the Sultan of Johor plans to restore the building and turn it into a Heritage Centre featuring the artefacts of the Johor Chinese community as well as as artefacts from China as a strong symbol to reaffirm the long relationship between the Johor Sultanate and China.

About Tan Swee Hoe

Tan Swee Hoe
Tan Swee Hoe came to Singapore as a young boy and worked his way up, eventually becoming one of founders of Ho Hong Bank, and later a director of Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC)  after it merged with it. He was also for two terms, the president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Batu Pahat, shareholder of Ho Aik Steamships. Tan Swee Hoe was a member of the Council of State, Johore and received a title S.M.J (Setia Mahkota Johore) from the government of Johore in 1929 for his contributions. He owned several property in Singapore and Batu Pahat. Tan Swee Hoe passed away at the age of 67 year old at 11:00 am on July 29, 1939 at No 759 Grove Road, Singapore and is buried on August 6, 1939 in Bukit Brown, Hill 4, Division C, plot 1684. He is survived by 2 widows ( Madam Lim Lai Hua and Madam Yap Ann Nim), 6 sons (Tan Suan Khiong, Tan Suan Chee, Tan Suan Chew, Tan Suan Chuan, Tan Suan Kok and Tan Suan Poh) and 6 daughters, 4 sons-in-law (Yap Leong Teck, Chiok Eng Khiam, Lim Bock Seng and Phay Chong Whatt), 3 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren.For the name of the sons there are spelling variants as further research indicate the the middle name Suan is also spelled as Swan. One of his wife, Madam Lim Lai Hu passed away in January 25, 1941 at 10:10 pm at the age of 46 at 759 Grove Road.

A view of the mansion and its grounds (with roof intact)
160 Jalan Kluang, 83000 Batu Pahat,  Johor
160 Jalan Kluang, 83000 Batu Pahat,  Johor

Beautiful Entrance Columns

Close to his mansion is a major street, and the name of the Street is Jalan Tan Swee Hoe (1.861872, 102.952064) and a Chinese Temple whose patron was Tan Swee Hoe and its renovation was made possible by one of Tan Suan Khiong's son.

Further Reading
Tan Swee Hoe (Bukit Brown), posted on 5 August 2012 
Tan Swee Hoe (Batu Pahat), posted on 19 February 2014

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Soh Hong Soon and family (Bukit Brown)

Soh Hong Soon tomb is very interesting as it is a large tomb that is very close to the tar road but yet often missed and overgrown. The only article i found of Soh Hong Soon was an article that that states that Soh Hong Soon passed away at his residence, No 3 Stanley Street on 22 June 1928 at the ripe old age of 94. He is the father of Soh Peng Lim and grandfather of Soh Yew Guan. On the tomb itself it states that Soh Hong Soon is born on 27th May 1835 and passed away on 22 June 1928. Listed are the name of  1 son; Soh Peng Lim, 3 grandsons: Soh Yew Chin, Soh Yew Guan, Soh Yew Kiat, 1 grand-daughter; Soh Chit Choo, 3 great grandsons; Soh Giow Sian, Soh Giow Chuan, Soh Giow Poey. Unfortunately, i do not have much information at the moment about Soh Hong Soon. 

Soh Hong Soon 

Soh Hong Sonn tomb in Block 3 Division A
Beautiful decorative sculpture 
Son: Soh Peng Lim 
Soh Peng Lim was a Secretary of the United Singapore Rubber Estates, Ltd. The first general meeting of the company was held on 3rd January in its registered office at 10 Boat Quay. The chairman was Tan Chay Yan and its directors include notable personalities such as Tan Jiak Kim, Dr. Lim Boon Keng, Lee Choon Guan, Choa Giang Thye, Seah Eng Kiat,Yow Ngan Pan and Chan Kang Swi. The estates are in Serangoon and Seletar areas and the company property is 6368 acres with 1785 acres planted.

There was an article in 1956 where Mr Soh Yew Guan and family thanked the staff of Messrs. Rodyk and Davidson and relatives who sent wreaths and attended the funeral of Mrs Soh Peng Lim nee Madam Koh Sim Tian, age 91 on 24 September 1956

Grandson: Soh Yew Guan
I have yet to find out information on Soh Yew Guan but discovered instead more information on his children, Soh Giow Sian, Soh Giow Chuan, Soh Giow Poey and Soh Poey Lan.

Great-grandson: Soh Giow Sian 
The was a notice of engagement on 2nd March 1946 between Mr. Wille Soh Giow San (eldest son of Mr and Mrs Soh Yew Guan) and Miss Ruby Lim (only daughter of Mrs. Woo Ching Po)

Great-grandson: Soh Giow Poey
There was a notice of marriage on 26 September 1959, between Harold Soh Giow Poey (third son of Mr and Mrs Soh Yew Guan ) and Molley Pang Keng Leen (only daughter of Madam Tung Ah Woon and the late Mr. Pang Hwee Kok).

Obituary notice of Harold Soh Giow Poey

Great-grand daughter: Soh Poey Lan
Marriage was announced in 1948 between Joy Soh Poey Lan (only daughter of Mr and Mrs Soh Yew Guan and Mr. Robert Tan Keng Chuan ( second son of Tan Khoon Hong and the late Mrs. Tan Khoon Hong)

Singapore Rubber Estates. (1910, January 4). The Straits Times, page 7
The United Singapore Rubber Estates, Ltd. (1910, April 20). The Singapore Free Press, page 2
Deaths. (1928, June 22). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Singapore Chinese Wedding. (1948, March 31). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Advertisement. (1956, September 26). Singapore Standard, page 2

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Tan Sian Keong and family (Bukit Brown)

Tan Sian Keong (1881-1941) was associated with chop Keat Bee and Co. and was also a Director of the Oversea-Chinese Bank, Limited. Oversea-Chinese Bank (OCB) was formed in 1919, with a paid-up capital of $5.25 million and its Board included many well known Chinese leaders including Dr. Lim Boon Keng (Chairman when it was first established), Lim Nee Soon (Chairman for several years), S.Q.Wong, Au Keng Chong, Tan Ean Kiam, Dr. S.C. Yin, Chua Hong Jian, Oei Teck Seng, Liew Hong Seck, Oei Yok Kie, Khoo Kok Wah, Yap Geok Song and others. In 1932, the directors of the Oversea-Chinese Bank (est. 1919), Ho Hong Bank (est. 1917) and the Chinese Commercial Bank (est. 1912) went into talks with merger in mind to strengthen the bank in the aftermath of the Great Depression. These talks led to the formation of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), which was incorporated on 31 October 1932.
Tan Sian Keong and Seow Guan Neo

Oversea-Chinese Bank Board of Directors (1923)
Tan Peng Jin and Neo Yit Wah sprucing up the tomb of their grandparents 


Tan Sian Keong was listed as 61 years of age in the burial registrar when he passed away on 9 September 1941. He is buried in Block 3 Section A, plot 191A. Listed are the names of his wife, Seow Guan Neo and Lim Poh Toh, sons; Tan Hong Ghim, Tan Hong Piow, Tan Hong Teck, Tan Hong Koon, daughters; Tan Kheng Cheong, Tan Kheng Eng, Tan Kheng Tiew, grandsons;  Tan Peng Kian, Tan Peng Koon, Tan Peng Hin, Tan Peng Hui, granddaughter, Tan Hui Cheng.

Wife: Seow Guan Neo
From the oral accounts of Tan Sian Keong's grandson (Tan Peng Jin), Tan Sian Keong was born in China and came down to Singapore to build his career. His first wife, Seow Guan Neo was also born in China and had bounded feet. From the marriage of Tan Sian Keong and Seow Guan Neo, they had two boys; Tan Hong Ghim and Tan Hong Piow. From the marriage of Tan Sian Keong and his second wife, Lim Poh Toh they had two more boys; Tan Hong Teck and Tan Hong Koon and 3 daughters; Tan Kheng Cheong, Tan Kheng Eng, Tan Kheng Tiew. Tan Sian Keong was born on 20th June 1881  and passed away on 9th September 1941. His first wife, Seow Guan Neo was born on 27th March 1880 and passed away on 21st Jan 1940.

Wife: Lim Poh Toh (Madam Lim Toh Neo)
The tomb contains the name of Madam Lim Poh Toh but no date of birth and death. From the oral accounts of Tan Peng Jin, a grandson of Tan Sian Keong, her grandmother passed away after Bukit Brown was closed for burials. This is confirmed by an obituary notice i found stating Madam Lim Toh Neo alias Lim Poh Toh passed away at the age of 89 on 12 December 1978. She is survived by her sons: Tan Hong Teck and Tan Hong Koon; Daughters: Tan Kheng Cheong, Tan Kheng Eng and Tan Kheng Tiew, son-in-laws: Tay Eu Chee and Michael Yu Wen Peh; daughter-in-laws: Teo Choon Hwee, Maureen Lee and Doris Ko; 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. The cortege left from 354 River Valley Road for Mount Vernon Crematorium.

Son: Tan Hong Ghim
Tan Hong Ghim studied in Raffles Institution and started his career as a clerk in Overseas Chinese Bank in 1920 and 7 years later became its sub-accountant. When OCBC formed in 1932. he was the assistant secretary. Tan Hong Ghim was the branch manager for several new banks opened at various years including the branch manager of the Malacca Street Branch (1955). There was a notice of marriage between Mr. Tan Hong Ghim of the Overseas Chinese Bank Ltd (eldest son of Mr and Mrs. Tan Sian Keong of Keat Bee and Co. ) to Miss Teo Hee Luan (eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs. Teo Chong Siong of Teo Guan Kee and Co.) The marriage will take place at Goh Loo Club at No.70-1 Club Street on 23 March 1923.
Tan Hong Ghim 

Tan Hong Ghim receiving his British Citizenship papers (1951)

Son: Tan Hong Piow
I do not have much information on Tan Hong Piow. However there is an obituary notice of Madam Teo Peck Toh nee Teo Choon Hwee who passed away on 16 June 1999 at the age of 92. She is the husband of Tan Hong Piow (listed as deceased).
Mrs Tan Hong Piow

Son:  Tan Hong Teck 
Tan Hong Teck passed away at the age of 78 on 3rd February 1999. He is survived by his wife; Maureen Lee. The surviving siblings are listed in the obituary noticed below.
Tan Hong Teck 
Son: Tan Hong Koon
Tan Hong Koon passed away at the age of 87 on 4 Dec 2012. His wife, Doris Ko Suat Ghee has already passed on. They are survived by sons; Tan Peng Lam, Albert, Tan Peng Jin, Daughters; Tan Hui Kenh, Tan Hui San, Son-in-law; Ting Peter; Daughter-in-law; Ong Siaw Pua, Maria, Neo Yit Wah. The grandchildren names include; Tan Liang Ann, Nicholas, Tan Wei Ching, Pamela, Tain Wei Kuan, Dena, Tan Wei Qiang, Christopher; God-granddaughter; Sim Xin Hui, Angelyn.
Tan Hong Koon

Daughter: Tan Kheng Eng
Tan Kheng Eng passed away at the age of 89 on 22 August 2007. From the obituary notice one can map also the family tree.
Tan Kheng Eng

[Research on-going]

Domestic Occurrence. (1923, March 14). Malaya Tribune, page 6.
Announcement. (1923, March 13). The Straits Times, page 8
Branch Manager. (1955, June 24). Singapore Standard, page 10
Deaths. (1978, December 14). The Straits Times, page 26
Untitled. (2007. August 23). The Straits Times, page 39
Untitled. (2012. December 5). The Straits Times, page 16