Thursday, January 18, 2018

Master Victor Chan (Bukit Brown)

Master Victor Chan died at the age of 7 and half years old on Hill 4 Section C, plot 596. The tomb is not easy to miss as it is one of the lucky ones that just missed exhumation as it lies just outside of the parameter of the 8 lane highway. The marble tomb has a pair of beautiful peacock tiles as well. Victor Chan was born on 29 May 1930 and passed away on 6 August 1938. Who are his parents ? Does he have siblings ?

Peacock tile

Friday, January 12, 2018

Notice of Scattering of Unclaimed Remains (Bukit Brown)

In December 2014, public exhumation of  just over 3900 graves at the Bukit Brown and Seh Ong Cemetery affected by the 8 lane highway was completed and out of this, Land Transport Authority received claims for about one quarter of the affected (1,263 in a report by Today on 7 Aug 2013) and for the rest of the unclaimed remains, they were kept for a period of 3 years. That three years have come and gone. In today's The Strait Times, Land Transport Authority published another important milestone, a notice of scattering of unclaimed cremated remains of the remaining 2000 + that were not claimed by descendants since then. This is the final call for them to be claimed before they are disposed off at sea on 26 April 2018.

Postnote: As of 12 January 2018, about 3,400 out of 4,700 graves have yet remained unclaimed.

Affected tombs, long gone

Source: Straits Times (12 January 2018)

A New Year but the same resolute- Save Bukit Brown !

Time has run out long ago for those affected and the New Year 2018 marks another reminder that time is counting down for the rest of the yet unaffected areas. There is still so much to do to change the mindset of the population at large and the Government of the value of preserving Bukit Brown as a Heritage Park that could be potentially be earmarked as Singapore's next UNESCO World Heritage site. In short, the battle goes on to raise awareness. Below are some of the pictures of the affected tombs that are no longer in Bukit Brown today.

Affected tombs, now gone

Affected tombs near Lornie Road 

Affected tombs from the old cemetery in Tiong Bahru 

Broken stones


Clearing the tombs after exhumation

Parliamentary Question by Ms. Janice Koh (Bukit Brown). Rojak Librarian posted on 9 July 2013
Exhumation of Bukit Brown graves to start in Oct. Today (posted on 6 August 2013)
Bukit Brown Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rojak Librarian (posted on 2 April 2013)
Unesco Heritage site bid - Why not Bukit Brown too? Rojak Librarian (posted on 14 April 2013)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Madam Chia Wan Neo (Bukit Brown)

Madam Chia Wan Neo (married to 馮 ) passed away on December 6, 1932 at 11 am at her residence No 12, Lorong 4, Geylang Road at the age of 78 years old. She is survived by 2 daughters, Mrs. Tan Boon Poh and Mrs Tan Gim Wee, 5 grandsons ( Quek Chek Yan, Tan Teng Chye, Tan Beng Chye, Tan Beng Hian & Tan Beng Moh ), 7 grand daughters and 34 great grandchildren. The daughters maiden names are Pang Lim Neo and Pang Say Nyah. The family of the late Madam Chia Wan Neo thanked members of the Geylang Straits Chinese, Asiatic staff of the Henry Waugh & Co. Ltd., Chinese staff of Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, members of Sundries & Provisions, friends and relatives for their attendance.

Her tomb is located in Hill 1 Division B (close to the Wayfinder Introduction marker). 

Madam Chia Wan Neo

Daughter: Pang Say Nyah (Mrs Tan Gim Wee) 

Pang Say Nyah husband, Tan Gim Wee was a pawnbroker of chop Teong Moh at No 472, North Bridge Road and from 1899 -1909, there were several mentions of auctions of unclaimed pawn items that took place in a very much regulated business even back then. He was the Secretary of the Yew Gee Hean Association in 1921. (The President of the Association during that year was was Seah Kim Soh). He also purchased several land and house in Geylang Road area.

Son: Tan Beng Chye, Tan Beng Hian, Tan Beng Moh
Daughters: Tan Bee Hong, Tan Bee Huan, Tan Bee Luan
Son-in-laws: Lim Nee Eng, Lim Hock Yan, Teonh Kim Eng,

Mr Tan Gim Wee and Madam Pang Say Nah 

Daughter: Pang Lim Neo (Mrs. Tan Boon Poh)
I am not able to pin down for sure who Tan Boon Poh is although there are several articles mentioning of Tan Boon Poh during the period.

Deaths. (1932, December 7). The Straits Times
Domestic Occurrences. (1932, December 14). The Straits Times

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bukit Brown Wayfinder Trail (Bukit Brown)

The Bukit Brown self-guided wayfinder trail was touted by the Straits Times as the first self-guided trail guide. Well, factually it was not. When i first explored Bukit Brown, there was already a self-guided trail guide that was put in place by the Asia Paranormal Investigators ( way back in 2011 as part of the Save Bukit Brown Project. It was thanks to this initiative and the birdwatching tours organised by Nature Society, Singapore that made me grow fond of this place and raise my awareness of the importance of this place as a heritage park.

Self-guided trail by API in 2011

Fast forward to 18 November 2017, the self guided Wayfinder trail launched concept and goal is very much the same, but with a huge difference as well. What makes this initiative different from the one i experience in 2011 is the role of the Government in this. It saw various civic society groups, (All Things Bukit Brown, Singapore Heritage Society, Nature Society, Singapore ) working closely with a multi-agency working group, chaired by the Ministry of National Development, along with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, National Parks Board and the Land Transport Authority to make this launch possible. It was a long journey and through that journey we saw many lost battles (e.g. failing to the stop the 8 lane highway being built) and little sweet victories on the way (e.g Bukit Brown Exhibition by the Documentation Team, Bukit Brown, Our roots Our Future, 2014 World Monuments Watch and WWII Book launch).

As for the future of Bukit Brown, it will remain till date uncertain, but neverthless such engagements with government agencies and with the public as a whole (through guided and self guided tours ) continue to give hope that the future generation of leaders of Singapore will have a change of heart and take concrete action to conserved this place as an UNESCO World Heritage site . The event itself was graced by Desmond Lee, (Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development) and in my interaction with him during the self guided walk trail, he clearly showed knowledge and also honest interest in the heritage around him. I was impressed when he remembered some of the areas that we were about to show him  (he came with residents or students of his GRC sometime back). Not to forget, he was the person who graced the WWII@Bukit Brown book launch as well.

Minister Desmond Lee launching the event 

Raymond Goh with Minister Desmond Lee 
The information board and trail sign in my opinion are well done and placed without taking to much space and being an eye sore to the area. The downloadable self-guided booklet contain many nuggets of information of the tombs selected for the tour. As an online pdf, this provides the opportunity to add the many other trails and tombs, once if this self-guided service is proven successful. I have been to many cemeteries around the world and i wish they would have provided as detailed information as what i have seen from this self-guided booklet. Kudos to all who were involve in this and here's hoping to many more co-operation of various parties to create more awareness of this beautiful place rich in heritage and nature.

No 7 -The fig and the door gods 

No 4- Chia Hood Theam and Wife 

New and old guide sign post.

So, if you always wanted to visit Bukit Brown but never found the opportunity to join a guided tour, fret not, you can do it on your own now ! Download it from Singapore Heritage Society's website.
"Start exploring and in that process i hope you will just like me, fall in love with the beauty of Bukit Brown and the many stories told and waiting to be told !"

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chew Ah Kak (Bukit Brown)

In the Malayan Tribune article dated 9 June 1941,  it was reported  that Mr Chew Ah Kak passed away at the age of 75 on June 7, 1941 at his residence in No 158 MacKenzie Road. He is survived by 2 sons (Chew Siew Boon alias Koh Siew Boon, Chew Bah Kah), 1 daughter (Chew Boo Neo),  1 son-in-law, 3 daughter-in-laws, many grandchildren. From the tomb, we can gather the names of the grandchildren which include grandsons; Chew Boon Leong, Chew Peng Yam and grand daughters; Koh Sai Tin, Chew Jin Neo, Chew Peng Choo.
Chew Ah Kak 

Grave of Chew Ah Kak 

Wee Bros Undertakers

As i was taking a closer look at the marble stone on the altar table, i noticed that the marble slab had the name of the mason who was probably commissioned to erect the tomb. This is somewhat rare for me as usually the marble slab would usually be carved with just the name and date of death of the deceased. The name of the company was Wee Bros. Initially i thought it was Wee Brothers Steamship Co. but i realised that company was in existence from 1893-1929, so it was more likely to be Wee Bros. who was an undertaker and monumental masons and marble merchants based at No 155 Selegie Road.

The Proprietor and Manger of Wee Bros. was Wee Un Teck and Wee Un Teck passed away on May 1941 and is survived by his widow Madam Tan Siok Bee.  Madam Tan Siok Bee passed away on 29 June 1956 at the age of 78, leaving behind two sons, Romeo Wee Hong Kiat alias Ah Kow and Tommy Wee Hong Leong alias Bong Soo, two adopted sons, Tan Hong Hock, Lee How Yew, 2 daughters, 3 adopted daughters, etc.

There was mention of a Wee Hong Heng (Henry) of Wee Bros at 155 Selegie Road, who passed away due to his injuries in 15 February 1942 and is survived by his wife, baby daughter, mother, brothers and sisters. He passed away a day after the fall of Singapore but it was only reported in the Syonan Shimbun on 12 March 1942. The baby daughter is likely to be Cecilia Wee who passed away on 24 March 1942 (slightly more than a month after her fathers death).

Romeo Wee Hong Kiat of Wee Bros passed away on 3 October 1956 and is survived by his wife (Dursilla Seet Hock Neo), 2 daughters (?, Lucy Wee Geok Poh), 2 sons (Samuel Wee Chin Chye, ), a brother (Tommy Wee Hong Leong alias Bong Soo). The cortege left 155 Selegie Road for Bidadari.

Wee Hong Leong (Bong Soo) passed away in April 1977.

From the website of Peace Casket, i got another insight that the Peace Casket was formerly known as Wee Bros. Established in 1923 and known then as Wee Brothers, it was founded by Mr Wee Un Teck, and for a large part of its history, it was kept within the Wee family. In 2001, Mr Peter Yan & his wife Ms Chow Hsun Cheng took over ownership and management and renamed the company Peace Casket.

There are some graves in Bukit Brown in which the tomb masons do leave their "calling card" via a stone marker. Hopefully more stories will crop up about them as well.

Domestic Occurence. (1941, June 9). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Advertisements. (1928, May 26). Malayan Tribune, page 26
Births, Marriages and Death. (1928, May 14). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Domestic Occurence. (1942, March 12). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Domestic Occurence. (1942, March 27). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Death. (1953, June 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 16
Death. (1956, October 4).The Straits Times, page 6

Friday, September 08, 2017

Tan Beng Hong and family (Bukit Brown)

Up on Hill 3 Division D is the family cluster which includes the ornate tomb of Tan Beng Hong (plot 29) , Mrs Tan Beng Hong (nee Ong Say Neo) (plot 13) and two of his sons, Dr. Tan Eng Han (plot 13B) and Tan Eng Thye (plot 13A). I have very little insights into what Tan Beng Hong does but in an article detailing the life of Tan Eng Han, it mentions that when Tan Beng Hong's business in Boundary Road failed, his son Tan Eng Han who as that time a medical student, had to wake up  early morning and at times, walk (or hitch a ride on bullock carts) to the Sepoy Lines to attend lectures.  He supplemented his income by catching frogs to sell to medical students so as to supplement his small scholarship grant. At one time, he contemplated giving up his studies to take a job as a Sanitary Inspector with the Government.

Tan Beng Hong passed away at the age of 68 at No. 40 Boundary Road on 9 May 1935 leaving behind his widow, 6 sons (Tan Eng Chiang, Tan Eng Hoey, Tan Eng Eam, Tan Eng Guan, Tan Eng Han, Tan Eng Thye ), 3 daughters (Tan Pat Neo, Tan Sip Chia, Tan Kim Hwa) and 12 grandchildren (Tan Seng Liong, Tan Seng Hock, Tan Seng Hin, Tan Seng Giap, Tan Seng Tiong, Tan Seng Pauw, Tan Seng Liam, Tan Seng Chiat, Tan Seng Ghee, Tan Choo Neo, Tan Nah Choo, Tan Nah Chee, Tan Nah Lian, Tan Nah Moey, Tan Chwee Neo, Tan Beng Neo)

Mrs Tan Beng Hong (nee Ong Say Neo) passed away at the age of 83 on 24 September 1953 at No. 40 Boundary Road. She is survived by 5 sons ( Tan Eng Hooi, Tan Eng Eam, Tan Eng Guan, Dr. Tan Eng Han, Tan Eng Thye ), 1 daughter, 1 son-in-law, 17 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Tomb of  Mr and Mrs. Tan Beng Hong 

Dr. Tan Eng Han
Dr. Tan Eng Han was educated in Raffles Institution before receiving a $15 scholarship to study in King Edward VII College and joined the government service (Tan Tock Seng Hospital).  After his retirement from Government Service, he started his own private practice  at Selegie Road. In 1956, he went to United States for an operation related to stomach cancer. He died in 1958 after two months of illness. Dr. Tan Eng Han passed away at his residence 19 Lim Tua Tow Road at the age of 66 on 11th April 1958. He is survived by sons; Tan Seng Hin, Tan Seng Tiong, daughters; Tan Nah Moey, Tan Nah Lian, Tan Geok Choo and 1 son-in-law, Djoe Thay and 1 grandson.
Dr Tan Eng Han 

Tan Eng Thye
The only information i found on Tan Eng Thye that matches the period of time was on a Tan Eng Thye who was in 1931 a Manager of Kim Leng Rubber Estate. Tan Eng Thye passed away at the age of 63 on 30 January 1961. He is survived by sons, Tan Seng Giap, Tan Seng Liam, Tan Seng Chiat and daughter, Tan Ghee Neo
Tan Eng Thye
[research on-going]

Domestic Occurrences. (1935, May 9). Malayan Tribune
Advertisement. (1953, September 26). The Singapore Free Press, page 13
He trapped frogs to be a doctor. (1958, April 12). Singapore Standard.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Tan Bedah (Bukit Brown)

Located in Block 1 Section C, plot 320, is a simple tomb. If you take a closer look the name of the occupant is Didah or Bidah who departed this life on 2nd September 1926. The burial confirms a record of a female of 85 years of age that was buried in the exact plot on 3rd September 1926, but the name i see is Tan Bedah. Is she a local Malay woman married to a Chinese man with the surname, Tan ? Another interesting point to note is the tomb is all in English. That is my theory for now. Bukit Brown continues to hold many mystery and stories waiting to be uncovered.

In Memory of Didah

Burial Registrar