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 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 conserved and this place as an UNESCO World Heritage site one day. 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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Coolie lines (Bukit Brown)

One of the rich source of pictures was a collection of aerial photographs taken by the Royal Air Force in 1959 and made available from National Archives Online. The photo below is an aerial close-up on an area which is now part of the highway been built, but what can be clearly seen is a building close to the tarmac road of Hill 3 and turning into Hill 4. From the Masterplan of 1958, this structure was labeled as Coolie lines and one can clearly make out the location is the same and it confirms that it existed.
Coolie line structure between Hill 3 and Hill 4 (1959)
Coolie line structure listed in Master Plan for Singapore 1958 (source: URA) 

In  August 1929, there was at tender notice to invite for the building of two blocks of coolie lines at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The tender was eventually awarded to Lian Hup Co. for the amount of $6,200 for the erection of the coolie lines in Bukit Brown.

Strait Times 1929

The coolie line buildings would have housed the municipal workers hired to maintain Bukit Brown Cemetery and would have included people tending the grass, drains as well as the buildings that made up the area. However i have no prove of that, only a hunch. If you have evidence and if you have access of the floor plan of the building or even photos of it, do share it with me.

Advertisement. (1929, August 1). The Malayan Tribune, page 7
Municipal Activities. (1929, August 28). The Singapore Free Press, page3
Master Plan for Singapore 1958. URA
Part of Series of  Aerial Photographs from East to West showing: MacRitchie Reservoir, Lornie Road, Bukit Brown Cemtery by Royal Air Force. National Archives of Singapore

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ng Whoey (Lao Sua)

It started with a post on facebook of a black and white postcard of a tomb with the words "Chinese Cemetery that was put on sale on ebay (it was sold eventually on August 13, 2017). From the picture, we can clearly make out the occupant of the tomb based on the text of the tomb shoulders; "In Loving Memory of Ng Whoey, born 1858 died 1918 Age 61"  and "The Beloved Father of Ng Kah Ghee and Ng Swee Chee, Built 1920).

Postcard with caption Chinese Cemetery, Singapore  (from ebay)

Tomb of Ng Whoey (closeup)

Within a week, the ever resourceful Raymond Goh together with local area expert knowledge from Soh Ah Beng (a tombkeeper familiar with the Loa Sua), they found the actual tomb and its location is at Greater Bukit Brown or what we term as Lao Sua. The tomb that was built in 1920, 2 years after the death of Ng Whoey is now rediscovered again.
The tomb of Ng Whoey uncovered (photo courtesy of Raymond Goh)
I don't have any information on Ng Whoey, but one of the son who erected the tomb in 1920, Ng Kah Ghee was a well known business man whom was once buried in Bukit Brown.

Son: Ng Kah Ghee 黄佳宜 (1885-1941)
Ng Kah Ghee was the managing director of chop Bee Huat or Bee Huat & Co, a company that supplies motor oil for a booming transportation industry. He was also the Vice President of the Socony Athletic Club for a number of years after it was formalised around 1929 (Socony is short form for Standard Oil Company New York). He also held position in a company called Standard-Vaccum Oil Co which is a close business partner or supplier of Bee Huat Company's petrol stations.

Ng Kah Ghee (黄佳宜) and Ang Ah Pee (汪亞扁)

Mr Ng Kah Ghee pased away on May 26, 1941 at his residence at No 23, Lorong 27-A Geylang at the age of 56 while Mrs Ng Kah Ghee passed away on Aug 11, 1955. They were buried in Block 5 Division B and have since was exhumed since they were affected by the highway.  He left behind 5 sons ( Ng Cheng Hoe, Ng Cheng Ann, Ng Cheng Kiat, Ng Cheng Chwee and Ng Cheng Bok ) and 5 daughters. He was also survived by a brother and 2 sisters.

Ng Kah Ghee. (Rojak Librarian). posted on May 16,2012
Grave Number 1192. Ng Kah Ghee Ang Ah Pee. (Bukit Brown Documentation Project)
Death of Mr. Ng Kah Ghee. (1941, May 27). The Malayan Tribune, page 12

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hoe Eng Watt (Bukit Brown)

Hoe Eng Whatt or Hoe Eng Watt Hoe is the son of Mr and Mrs Hoe Hoon Seng. In an article dated May 15, 1907 for Botanic Gardens, Hoe Eng Watt was one of the recipients of rubber seeds from botanic gardens to encourage growth of this crop in this region for rubber.

Mrs Hoe Eng Watt nee Koh Keng Hay
Miss Koh Keng Hay married Mr Hoe Eng Watt. The widow of the late Mr Hoe Eng Watt passed away at the age of 57 at her residence, No 193 Marine Parade Road on December 17, 1939. She is survived by her elder brother, Koh Hoon Teck, her 2 sons;  Hoe Cheng Yan, Hoe Cheng Hin, 1 adopted son; Koh Keng Leng, 4 daughters and 4 son-in-laws; Chin Chye Fong, Ee Kim Guan, Peck Teck Chee, Lim Chong Beng, 2  daughter-in-laws. She is buried in Block I Division B, plot 83

Her parents, Koh Lian Ghee passed away September 3, 1936 age 82 and Madam Wan Chin Neo passed away October 25, 1938 age 75.

Mother: Mrs Hoe Hoon Seng nee Madam Tan Gin Neo
Mrs. Hoe Hoong Seng, passed away at the age of 64 years at her son's residence (residence of Hoe Beng Whatt), 140 Rangoon Road on 29 April 1917. She was buried at the 4th mile, Bukit Timah Road Chinese Cemetery. She is survived by 3 sons, one daughter and several grandchildren. With the rediscovery of Mrs. Hoe Hoon Seng tomb at Lao Sua, we know the names of the children as well; Mrs. Hoe Hoon Seng is survived by 3 sons ( Hoe Beng Whatt, Hoe Choon Whatt, Hoe Eng Whatt ), 1 daughter ( Hoe Cheng Neo ), and several grandchildren.

Death. (1939, December 18). The Straits Times, page 2
Annual Report of Botanic Gardens. (1907, March 15). The Straits Times, page 3