Tuesday, March 27, 2012

See Tiong Wah and family (Bukit Brown)

See Tiong Wah / See Teong Wah ( 薛中华 ) (1886-1940) was the eldest son of Mr See Ewe Boon. He received his early education in St. Joseph's Institution and joined his father's bank has an assistant in 1901 and eventually succeeded him as the Camprodore of Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation in 1909. He was also very active in public activities and eventually went on to become a Justice of Peace (J.P) and Senior Municipal Commissioner. Tan Kheam Hock and See Tiong Wah were Municipal Commissioners at the time where demands for a chinese public cemetery came about and after Tan Kheam Hock passed away in 1922, See Tiong Wah petitioned for the widening of Kheam Hock road. Essentially, both Tan Kheam Hock and See Tiong Wah were credited for the formation of the Bukit Brown Chinese cemetery.

See Tiong Wah
See Tiong Wah

Public involvements
1909-1940: Campradore of Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation
1920: elected Vice President for St.Joseph Old Boy
1919-1920, 1923-1924:  Chairman of Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
1924 : Chinese Advisory Board, Secretary of Chinese Affairs -Hokkien (Hokkien huay kuan)
1926 : Chairman, The Eastern United Assurance Corporation, Limited
He was the Commissioner from 1916 and served for  many years before retiring at 1930.
During that time he was involved in a number of areas:
1920 - Municipal Committee President for Public Works and Conservancy
1922- Roads,etc and Finance and General Purposes
1924- Rating and Burials, Burial Grounds and Finance and General Purposes\
1929- Committee of Appeal
He was in a committee looking into controlling opium usage.
The President of China conferred him the third order of the Crop Chia Ho

He collected funds for the Red Cross Fund, "Great War", Union Jack Club, Y.W.C.A Lunch and Rest room fund, Geylang Fire Relief Fund, Junior Library, "Our day fund, 1918", British Red Cross Fund ( Treasurer for the Chinese Community organising assistance), St. Andrew's Medical Mission and more.

Interesting events from the papers
In 1917, a Chinese hawker age 15 was killed by a car owned by See Tiong Wah, but when the accident happened, only the driver was present. The car then collided with a tree and overturned in a drain,
In 1923, some secret society members went to See Tiong Wah's house in Balmoral Road at night and removed the brass plate outside the gates in which his name was inscribed.

Family connections
See Tiong Wah's grandfather is Mr. See Eng Wat ,who was born in Melaka and was from an old established family that came from China 300 years ago and founded the house of Gim Hin. See Eng Wat was one of the earliest Chinese British subject merchants in Amoy. He married Ong Joo Ee (neo) and had two sons, of which i will focus on, See Ewe Boon and See Ewe Lay.

See Ewe Boon in 1890 became the Comprador of Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and held this position till his death at 1909, age 50. He did however groom his successor- his son, See Tiong Wah to take over.

See Ewe Lay was also a well known personality, being the founder and proprietor of the first Chinese Daily called Lat Pau, founded in Dec 1881 and lasted until March 31, 1932. He married one of the daughters of Mr Chia Ann Siang. He died in 1906, age 55.
Lat Pau 
See Tiong Wah himself married Miss Khoo Heng Neo, third daughter of Khoo Cheng Tiong on 24 April 1904 in a largely watched public wedding procession at Telok Ayer and Cecil Street. Khoo Cheng Tiong has also a son by the name of Khoo Seok Wan, a famous poet and literary scholar (also buried in Bukit Brown)

See Tiong Wah passed away in May 2, 1940 in his residence in 10/23 Balmoral Road at the age of 55. He left behind his wife- Khoo Heng Neo, son, See Bong Him, Mary See, Helen See and Lucy See.

See Tiong Wah

See Tiong Wah's family

Mrs See Ewe Lay and Mrs See Ewe Boon

Mrs See Ewe Lay and Mrs See Ewe Boon are buried together in the same cluster.
Son: See Bong Him
See Bong Him married Miss Lim Kheng Geck, daughter of Mr & Mrs Lim Nee Soon.

Son: See Boon Leong 
See Boon Leong (died 1937) at the age of 32. His eldest son, See Boon Leong was not mentioned in his obituaries as he died much earlier at age 32 in 1937. He was the managing director of Lat Pau. He married in May 1927 Miss Sng Eng Neo, the only daughter of the late Mr Sng Teong Geok (Compradore of P&O Banking Corporation).
See Boon Leong and wife Sng Eng Neo

Mr and Mrs Sng Teong Geok
(parents of Sng Eng Neo)
Son: See Boon Kee
See Boon Kee, second son, died on April 14, 1914  at the age of 4 years old, .

Son: See Bong Lin
See Bong Lin, third son, (died on February, 1921)
See Bong Lin died from pneumonia.

Daughter: Mary See Chye Geok
Mary See Chye Geok, eldest daughter (died on January 5, 1924) at the age of 20.
Mary See Chye Geok married Mr Gan Khek Keng. She died at the early age of 20 on January 5, 1924 from eclampsia at No 26 Oxley Road. On the day she died, she gave birth to a son, Gan Cheow How. She is buried in Bukit Brown. Affected by the road her tomb's peg no is 1924.
Mary See Chye Geok and
son, Gan Cheow How
Gan Khek Keng

Daughter: Helen See
Helen See married Mr Gan Khek Keng after her sister Mary passed away.

Daughter: Lucy See Chye Hong
Miss See Chye Hong alias Lucy See married Mr Chen Su, the eldest son of a one time Provincial Governor of Shantung (General Chen Tiao Yuen). Lucy See /Lucy Chen was the third Chinese lady from Malaya to qualify as a Barrister-at-law.
Lucy See and Chen Su
(source: NewspaperSG)
Siblings of See Tiong Wah
See Tiong Wah's sister, See Siew Lan was married to Chew Swee Lin (third son of Mr Chew Jim Him of Chop Ghee Teck)  in 1925. See Tiong Wah's younger brother, See Teong Quee died of septicemia in May,1922 at a young age of 23, leaving behind a widow, a son and 2 daughters.

See Tiong Lok ( 薛中禄), brother - peg number 1541
See Tiong Lok 
See Tiong Teow ( 薛中朝 ), brother
See Tiong Teow
See Tiong Wah, See Boon Leong and wife Sng Eng Neo (peg 1917), See Tiong Lok, See Tiong Teow, Madam See Ewe Lay and Madam See Ewe Boon (peg 1918), Mary See (peg 1924), Gan Khek Keng (peg 1925) tomb are staked and threaten by exhumation.

Uncle: See Ewe Wan / Seet Yew Wan
Passed away at the age of 55 on 1927.
See Ewe Wan (peg 1932)
Wife: Lim Poh Neo
Sons: See Tiong Geok, See Tiong Heng, See Tiong Hoe
Daughters: See Ming Guat Neo, See Ming Suet Neo, See Ming Keng Neo, See Ming Choo Neo

Untitled. (1917, September 13). The Straits Times, page 6
St.Joseph's Old Boys. (1920, June 15). The Straits Times, page 10
Untitled. (1923, February 14). The Straits Times, page 8
Untitled. (1923, December 12). The Singapore Free Press, page 8
Deaths. (1924, January 7). The Straits Times, page 8
Advertisements.(1924,January 7).The Straits Times, page 8
The use of opium in Malaya. (1924, November 22). The Straits Times, page 9
Untitled. (1924, December 31). The Straits Times,page 10
Domestic occurances.(1927, May 13). The Singapore Free Press, page 8
Untitled. (1929, January 7). The Straits Times, page 8
Lady Barrister. (1930, February 15). The Straits Times, page 17
Untitled. (1930, August 9). Malayan Saturday Post, page 16
Mr See Tiong Wah. (1940, May 3). The Straits Times, page 10
Death.(1940, May 3).The Straits Times, page 10
Tribute to former Commissioner. (1940, June 1). The Singapore Free Press, page 2
Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
中华今代名人传 = Biographies of prominent Chinese / prepared under the editorial supervision of A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow. Burt, A.R. Powell, John Benjamin, 1888-1947. Crow, Carl, 1883-1945.
Shanghai : Biographical Pub. Co., [1925?]
Khoo Cheng Tiong[website]. from Singapore Infopedia.
Lat Pau [website]. from NUS Library.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bukit Brown roundabout in the past

Passing through the famous cemetery gates, one would arrive to what we know today as the roundabout. This is the area where Nature Society, All things Bukit Brown, API, people who organise activities are likely to meet before heading on their way. You do also see L plate drivers going their rounds around the roundabout to familiarise themselves on wheel control ! On the tarred ground, you will see remains of paper burnings and other offerings as well. This was busy roundabout indeed.

Underneath the shade of the majestic rain tree, this was a lovely place to gather and LTA in their exhumation process, decided naturally they would set up office here as well.

But what was this place used for when Bukit Brown was still a cemetery and there were daily burial processions?

The photo below, sheds some light that there used to a long shaded hut that people would gather prior to actual burials. My suspicion is that is located alongside the rain tree. This photo was taken during the funeral procession of Mr Lim Kim Seng, M.B.E, J.P, the well known Teochew community leader.

Bukit Brown -date 1967 

Go back even further, this rare pictures below , proves that this long shaded huts existed even during 1925, just a few years after the opening of the cemetery in 1922.

At that time, it was the funeral procession of Mdm Sng Sye Chan in 1925. If you have read the earlier blog, Mdm Sng Sye Chan is Mr Lim Kim Seng's mother. Mr Lim Kim Seng's father was not buried in Bukit Brown has he died in China.
taking shelter from the rain in a hut that use to exist in Bukit Brown in 1925
Taking shelter from the rain -Bukit Brown 1925
Bukit Brown 1925
Hut located next to a slope
It was hard to come by photos of Bukit Brown in the past and i thank James for sharing this through me, so that we all can remember.

Bukit Brown roundabout (prior to March 2012)

Bukit Brown roundabout (June 2013)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Road that will cut through Bukit Brown to proceed

LTA has released the plans a while ago that they are going ahead with the road that will change Bukit Brown forever. It is with a sad heart i share this with everyone, especially those who helped to change the perception of Bukit Brown that this place is not just an abandoned cemetery but truly Singapore's first heritage park, where nature and the stories of Singapore's pioneers co-exist.

By LTA-affected area of graves

Do make time to visit this magical place and if possible, help pass the message to other's of what we are going to lose if nothing is done.

Visit All things Bukit Brown and Nature Society for more upcoming events.

----------------------------------LTA and URA's joint press release--------------------------------------

LTA finalises alignment of new road across Bukit Brown 
Fewer graves affected than earlier estimated; More time for next-of-kin to register claims; Preliminary documentation for affected graves completed

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Together to the grave - a doctor and his mother (Bukit Brown)

In one of my trips to Bukit Brown, Block 3 Division B, plot 450, i came across a cluster of family graves, with a fence and gate. The way the plaques or memorial stones were laid out got me curious and what i uncovered was a tragic story.

Double tragedy
A family dinner for the Tan's at a house by the sea in No 135/136 Pasir Panjang Road on 7 February 1968, ended on a sour note, when Madam Siew  Lin Neo, 72 years of age suddenly collapsed after dinner. Desperately trying to revive Madam Siew was her eldest son Dr. Essel Tan Sin Lian, 47. He did not manage to save his mother. Grief stricken, he was heard repeating "It's no use being a medical man, if i can't even revive my own mother". He took the death of her mother very personally, so much so that he blamed himself and it took it as a personal failure. He also subsequently collapsed and was brought to the General Hospital where he died at 3:45 am, 8 hours after the death of his mother on 8 February 1968. Both laid in coffins side by side and were later interned in the family plot of Dr Tan's father, Mr Tan Hock Ann who died in 1942.

Dr Essel Tan Sin Lian
(source: NewspaperSG)
Dr Essel Tan Sin Lian was the deputy Director and district surgeon of the St.John Ambulance Association. He was the last graduating batch from the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1949 before the college became University of Malaya.
136 and 132 Pasir Panjang Road (photo 1993)
(source: PictureSG)

Family plot in Bukit Brown
Tan Hock Ann (father of Dr Essel) is the first Chinese to be appointed as Deputy Registrar to the Supreme Court in 1924, succeeding a Mr T.B. Cocker. Prior to this, he was the Chief Clerk of the Supreme Court in Penang. He was a member of the Chinese Association, Straits Chinese Literary Association (1913) and contributed to various funds such as the: Chong Nam School Building fund, War fund, etc. He died on 6th April 1942, age 51, leaving behind 8 sons ( Dr. Essel Tan Sin Lian, Tan Sun Choon, Tan Sun Meng, Tan Sun Soo, Tan Sin Seng, Tan Sin Whatt, Tan Sin Ho, Tan Sin Cheng)  and 3 daughters (Tan Geok Neo, Tan Guek Neo, Tan Guek Choo).

Family plot with intact gate but no fence. 

Tan Hock Ann

A mystery of the 3 missing tomb
As you enter the family plot you will notice 3 memorial plagues supported by steel "pegs" and that's about it.Madam Seow Lin Neo and Dr Essel are there close-by each other and from the death dates you can see they died 1 day apart. The third plague belongs to a Mrs Tan Kim Leong (Mdm Ong Geng Neo, died in 1944, age 81). Mrs Tan Kim Leong (Madam Ong Geng Neo) passed away on November 2604 (1944) at No. 3 Spottiswoode Park Road. She is survived by one daughter-in-law (Mrs. Tan Hock Ann), 1 daughter, 1 son-in-law, 19 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren. But why no tombs for the 3 of them? A mystery indeed waiting to be uncovered.

Mrs. Tan Hock Ann nee Seow Lin Neo who died on 7th February 1968 was listed to be survived by his son, Dr. Essel Tan, Tan Sin Seng, Tan Sing Whatt, Tan Sin Ho, 2 daughters, Tan Geok Eng, Tan Geok Neo, 3 daughter-in-laws; Helen Ee, Lim Bee Hiang, Lim Soh Hiang, and 1 son-in-law, Chee Yew Chew and 8 grandchildren to mourn her loss.

Mother and son buried close-by but why no tomb? 

Chinese Court Supreme Appointment. (1924, November 13). The Singapore Free Press. page 7
C.G. gives a funeral oration.(1950, April 30). The Straits Times, page 9
Together-to the grave-a doctor and his mother. (1963,February 9). The Straits Times, page 9.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ong Soon Tee (Bukit Brown)

Ong Soon Tee (Dec 1871-1946 ), was the son of Ong Ewe Hai, a merchant and proprietor of Ong Ewe Hai and Co, located at North Boat Quay, (a company that has extensive business dealings with Sarawak and agent for Singapore Steamship Co.). Ong Soon Tee took over his father's business together with his brother Ong Tiang Soon, after his father passed away in June 1895 at the age of 64. He was appointed Justice of Peace (J.P) by the Straits Settlement government in 1915.
Mr Ong Soon Tee
(same picture used for his tomb)

Ong Soon Tee was also in the board of directors of Eastern United Assurance Corporation Limited in 1926 at a time where See Teong Wah and Gaw Khek Khiam was the Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively. By 1936 he was the Chairman of the company. He also had businesses in tin mining and  bought various properties as well.

Anglo Chinese School Pioneer Student
Ong Soon Tee was one of the first batch of 13 Chinese students of Bishop Oldham (then Rev. W.Oldham)  founder of  Anglo Chinese School (ACS) in Malaya when it first started out in 1886 in Amoy Street.His fellow school mates included: Tan Cheng Tee /Tan Cheng Tit, Koh Kim Beng, Lim Tay Bee and Tan Cheng Kee. In 1914, Ong Soon Tee was also elected as the President of ACS Old Boy's Association.
Tribute to Bishop Oldham
(source: NewspaperSG) 
$45,000 for a 46,000 sq ft freehold property in No 39 Cairnhill
(source: NewspaperSG)

Pioneer in the formation of the Chinese Girl School 
Ong Soon Tee was elected Secretary of the Chinese Girl School (Sing Po Chung Kwo Hsio Tang) located at Hill Street in 1899.  The President then was Lew Yuk Lin (Chinese consul) and vice presidents; Khoo Seok Wan and Tan Hap Seng, Treasurer; Tan Boon Liat. He was an strong supporter of social and education reform especially for woman, so much so that despite his workload, he took over as Honoury Treasurer as well when Mr. Chia Hood Theam resigned from the position. He was a prominent member of the Chinese Philomathic Society and of Mr. Salzmann's Violin Party.

Chinese Girls School
(source: a2o)
He donated generously to various fund raising campaigns such as British Red Cross Fund (1916), Straits Chinese Decoration Fund (1922), Jubilee Fund Donations (1935), Malaya Patriotic Fund (1939), London Raid Relief Fund (1940),etc, but i must say that the one that shine the most was his contribution to the Singapore Chinese Girl School that enabled woman to be educated formally.

Mr Ong Soon Tee passed away on 10th February 1946 while Mrs Ong Soon Tee (nee Mdm Teo Choon Neo) passed away on 23rd Feb 1953 at 46 St Patrick's Road, both leaving behind 5 sons, Ong Siow San, Dr Ong Siow Hian, Ong Siow Kee, Ong Siow Giap and Ong Siow Hin. Both are buried in Bukit Brown, Block 4 Division A, plot 424.

His first wife, Madam Wee Ong Neo passed away in May 7 1912 at the age of 37.

Ong Siow San (Ong Siow Sian) volunteered in the Great War, while Dr Ong Siow Hian gained his medicine doctorate from Hong Kong University.
Ong Soon Tee and his wife Teo Choon Neo
Ong Soon Tee and his wife Teo Choon Neo 
Tomb of Mr and Mrs Ong Soon Tee
Bukit Brown Cemetery Connection
Ong Soo Tee's father is Mr Ong Ewe Hai. In 1872, three Ong Clan's men, Ong Kew Ho, Ong Ewe Hai and Ong Chong Chew bought land totalling 221 acres for the purpose for dwelling, farming and as burial grounds for $1,500. The land was named Seh Ong Sua. Around 1918, the Municipal Government acquired 98 acres of this land to become a public cemetery.
Ong Ewe Hai

Chinese Girls School (1899, April 24). The Singapore Free Press, page 1.
Chinese Girls School. (1908, March 26). The Straits Times, page 7.
Property Sales. (1919, May 13). The Singapore Free Press, page 10.
Advertisements. (1926, November 6).Malayan Saturday Post, page 27.
Eastern United Assurance. (1936, September 15). The Singapore Free Press, page 10.
Local Tribute to Bishop Oldham. (1937, April  12). The Straits Times, page 13.
Death. (1953, February 24). The Straits Times, page 7.
Song,Ong Siong.(1984). One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chew Boon Lay (Bukit Brown)

Chew Boon Lay (周文礼) (1852-1933) was born in a small village in Changchow, Amoy. He became an orphan in his late teens and decided to take up his uncle's invitation to come over to Siam (formerly Thailand). He laboured hard under this tyrant of an uncle who paid him nothing and made him work from dawn to dust.

Saved by heavenly intervention 
On a faithful evening, 3 years after being practically been a slave, a visitor was said to have stole a sum of money and this uncle put the entire blame on Boon Lay and threatened to turn him to the police. Practically in desperation, he came up with an idea to win the money through a stake on a lottery. Borrowing 1 tical from his sympathetic aunt, he prayed before Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and in a moment of delirium or what is said a miracle, he heard two characters been spoken to him. He won, paid his uncle and with whatever left over vowed never to work for his uncle again and went on to strike it on his on.

Saved by heavenly intervention..again  
He went out to become a clerk at a sailing ship plying between Bangkok and Singapore. He was a man with a clear mission and after a number of years decided to strike it on his own, buying an old junk after consulting Mazu, the goddess of all seafaring persons that said that he will have a prosperous voyage.
Well, his old junk sprung a leak after setting sail. Not wanting to incur losses by returning, he persevered, his crew almost mutiny against him seeing that the leak was becoming worst and that Boon Lay was still refusing to return.

Boon Lay, holding a statue of Mazu at one hand and an axe , prayed one last time for intervention and somehow through another intervention or act of miracle, the leak resided and the threat of sinking subsided. Upon reaching Singapore, he found out the reason the leak resided was because a black sea snake had plugged the leak !

Biscuit King 
His luck continued after he decided to stay on in Singapore to be a merchant, and after some time he started manufacturing soap (chop Leong Tye) and later Ho Ho Biscuits.

He eventually founded Ho Ho Biscuit using modern machinery in 1898 at 33 Chin Swee Road.  The business expansion was a result of the Go (later changing their names to Gaw) family from Semarang, Indonesia who chanced upon this biscuits  and wanted to partner with Boon Lay, providing valuable financial backing (useful in a time where there are no banks yet) and leverage on Boon Lay's expertise to expand their business on an international level. Four years later, Ho Ho Biscuit won a prize in the International Food Fair in Hanoi.
Ho Ho Biscuits , June 7, 1936 Advertisement
(source: NewspaperSG)

Cost of various biscuits in Ho Ho Biscuit Factory
(source: Lat Pau , July 24, 1923)

When Chew Boon Lay eventually retired from active management in 1918, the management of the factory passed on to Mr Gaw Khek Khiam (managing director) and his eldest son, Chew Hock Seng, (manager). It's factory also expanded to Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1931.

He also expanded into buying land especially marshlands and former gambier lands around Jurong area and also in Kukup  and Kota Tinggi area, Johor - turning it into an upcoming cash crop of that time, Rubber !
It was said that he started a brick-making factory in Pulau Tekong  around 1912, but because of high fatality rate among his workers there, he decided to sell it rather than commit more workers to their deaths.

He married Miss Ong Cheng Neo, a nonya from Melaka. The Chew clan household was at 141-A /B Devonshire Road. After his death on 2th June 1933, the responsibility of the Chew family household went to his eldest son, Hock Seng. The estate distribution or probate were handled by Hock Seng and Hock Lee.

Chew Boon Lay left behind his wife, six sons, three daughters, six daughters-in-laws, three son-in-laws, 52 grandchildren. He is buried in Block 3 Division B.

If you find this article interesting and want to research further, do check out the family tree book of Mr Chew Boon Lay, published by his descendants which contains a rich number of photos of him and his family, including his children and grandchildren.

3rd June 1933, Straits Times
(source: NewspaperSG)

Advertisements. (1885, February 25). The Straits Times, page 26
Notice. (1933, December 9). The Singapore Free Press, page 2
Domestic Occurrences.(1933, June 3). The Straits Times, page 10
Ong Chwee Im, Chew Kheng Chuan, Chew,Evelyn.(2002). Chew Boon Lay: A Family Traces Its History : A Family Album. Singapore: The Compiler.

Family day in Bukit Brown

For the past 3 months, there were ad-hoc activities and free guided tours to Bukit Brown. For the month of March, which coincides with 1 week of school holidays, the various societies such as Nature Society, api.sg and facebook individuals with a passion to save Bukit Brown (e.g. All things Bukit Brown and SOS Bukit Brown) have gotten together on 11th Mar 2012 and created a series of activities to get more people, especially families to come down to Bukit Brown. There were free heritage tours,birdwatching walks, plant walk guides, treasure hunt for children, painting session, haiku, storytelling and a horse by the name of Astroboy was even present to lend support.

 I myself volunteered my time for the event by being a guide. Many other volunteers also came down and offered their time and effort to save this lovely place in their own ways.

If you missed the session on 11th March, there would be another one on 18th March. See you there!

Free Guided tours

Storytelling and exercises for children and tours 
Photo opportunity with the
"star" of Bukit Brown
Astroboy the horse ! 

See below activities for the month of March and do your part to save Bukit Brown Heritage Park.  

Monday, March 05, 2012

Communal trenches of war victims in Bukit Brown

World War II and the invasion of Singapore by the Japanese military forces were dark times. During the period before and after fall of Singapore, there were many deaths, and many of the dead were put into communal trenches, some of these happen to be also at Bukit Brown.

Records of individual burials continued until 12 Feb 1942, then stopped for a while (reflecting the chaotic week leading to fall of Singapore on 15 Feb and the records continued again on 24.2.1942. Also interesting to note that burial records written from March onwards, the entry date started to reflect the Japanese Koki calender which starts from 660 BC, so 1942 would have been listed as 2602 or simply 02

4 fallen soldiers
An interesting find i made is a record entry of 4 soldiers-yes an entry that mentions 4 soldiers buried together at Block 1 Section A plot 340B on 27.03.1942. In this case, definitely evidence of casualty of the war and graves of unknown warriors.

Mass Burials 
As i scan through the archive records of the Burial registers, list of mass number of bodies brought to Bukit Brown became more frequent in the earlier months after the fall of Singapore. I found out from history enthusiast Raymond Goh that S.M.C means Singapore Municipal Council and records were kept of this lorries carrying dead bodies to Bukit Brown. Were they victims of torture of the Japan Administration?  Unless further research is done and the bodies are found, this remains for now a mystery on what caused their deaths.

There is ongoing speculation from the history enthusiast such as Raymond Goh, who interviewed  recently the children of a surviving caretaker who was eyewitness to this trenches being filled with bodies on the location of one of these trenches. Will continue to ask where this possible trenches are and post this pictures at a later date.

Extracted from the Burial records of Bukit Brown

S/N 8063 20.03.2602 -   6 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper Section
S/N 8068 20.03.2602 -   19 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper Section
S/N 8086 20.03.2602 -   19 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper Section
S/N 8109 21.03.2602 -   15 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper Section
12 bodies brought into Bukit Brown by Singapore Municipal Council lorry on 22 March 1942
On the 22th alone, 34 bodies were brought in. 
S/N 8130 22.03.2602 -   6 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Trench
S/N 8133 22.03.2602 -   16 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Trench
S/N 8138 22.03.2602 -   12 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper section
S/N 8162 23.03.2602 -   ? bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper section
S/N 8166 23.03.2602 -   12 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Pauper section
S/N 8222 24.03.2602 -   7 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Trench
S/N 8230 24.03.2602 -   17 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Blk 1 Section A
S/N 8326 26.03.2602 -   20 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Blk 1 Section A
S/N 8381 27.03.2603  - 4 soldiers -Blk 1 Section A plot 340B

27.03.1942 - specific mention of soldiers buried
in this case 4 soldiers buried in Block I Section A
S/N 8652 03.04.2602 -   11 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Trench
S/N 8678 04.04.2602 -   6 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Trench
S/N 8687 04.04.2602 -   9 bodies brought by S.M.C. lorry -Trench

Thursday, March 01, 2012

They died young (Bukit Brown)

As you take a leisurely stroll along Bukit Brown, do take a closer look at some of the smaller tombs and sometimes you see a young face staring back at you or noticed that that the dates showed that they died at a very young age.

The tomb architecture also differs in style depending on their parent's belief, influence and socialisation. The two images below, are good example as it show tombs of chinese, but also tombs that have western influences (heart shaped tombstones of babies Tan Leng Neo and Ruby Tan).

Left - Teo Soon Lam (died Sept 10, 1941, 6 months) notice the broken headstone
Right - son of Wong Chin Yoke (born/died-?)

Left - Tan Leng Neo (born April 1, died Aug 26, 1937)
Right- Miss Ruby Tan ( 6 months, died Oct, 25 1944)
Ruby Tan was the only daughter of Mr Tan Huck Wan, while Wong Chin Yoke's son ( Wong Meow Kee) was his only son as well.  If you notice Teo Soon Lam's headstone looks broken, well it was ! This was because a huge African Tulip tree that used to block its tomb from public view, uprooted one fine day and damage poor baby Soon Lam's tomb. We would not have discovered it unless the tree uprooted. The tombstone was, i believe repaired by some kind hearted soul. 

Below picture (stake 857 A), is tomb of Lauw Tjhat Pin, daughter of Mr. Lauw Pek Tjin and Madam Wee Kim Sian. Her father, Mr Lauw Pek Tjin who is Indonesian born, works for Braddel Bros.(a company still in existence today) was very active in badminton from 1926 and played in competitions all the way to when he is past 60 years of age ! Her mother, Mdm Wee Kim Sian is one of 6 the daughter's of Mr and Mrs Wee Theam Seng. ( Mr Wee Theam Seng was one of the oldest Straits Chinese Christians and a prominent  banker, was the manager of Chinese Commercial Bank up till 1925 ). One sister, Helen Wee married Mr Tan Chin Tuan, while another, Madam Wee Yew Neo married Mr Kwa Siew Tee ( father of Madam Kwa Geok Choo). 
Miss Lauw Thjat Pin -born 31st Aug 1922 died Sept 1922
remembered by her parents 

Lauw Pek Tjin (in his 60's)

One of the most popular tomb photograph by people is the tomb of Tan-Kang Bee Chew who died in 1940 and erected by his brother Tan-Kang Ah Chew who later became the Managing Director of Nanyang Chinese Factory that had 7 factories that produced 400-700 tons of ice per day for the domestic and fishing industry (used for preserving seafood and fish). Fishery in the 60's was an important industry then and ice played an important role. 
This tomb is also famous for the angel and subsequently a dragon that keeps it company and many have noted the dragons and angel have a knack of changing position ! The photo i have below was taken in 2008, before the dragon mysteriously arrived. 
[Photo taken in 2008 before the dragon appeared ]
Tan Kang Bee Chew, died in 1940  at the age of 10 years.

Register of Burials 
I did ask myself, how many children were buried in Bukit Brown?  Looking at the National Archive Burial records, the numbers indicate - many !

A sample death registry list with children listed 

Two baby boy, twins -died at childbirth 

Mortality rates and reasons for death
The next thing that got me thinking was how many and reason for the premature death of this children. I went down to National Library, Level 11 to check for this records and found on Microfilm some basic overview on the numbers and causes of death. It took me 2 minutes before i got reacquainted on how to use the Microfilm reader, but after putting it in, it all came back to me.

Just looking at some of the data compiled from years 1928-1938, trend is that for every 1000 births, 150-200 babies die, and the leading causes of death across the board  includes infantile convulsion, unspecified fevers, pneumonia, beri beri and malaria.
Straits Settlements- Annual Report on the Registrations and death for the year 1938
(available on Microfilm). 

Principal causes of death
(available on microfilm)

Death.(1950, April 12). The Singapore Free Press, page 12
Death of retired Banker. (1950, April 13). The Straits Times, page 7
Two grandfathers,60-plus,set a date to clash (1960, Oct 22). The Singapore Free Press, page 10.
400 tons of ice sold daily. (1969, March 21). The Straits Times, page 14.
Annual report on the registration of births and deaths.(1938, 1940-54,1938-1947). Straits Settlements. Registration Dept. Microfilm copy shelved at: National Library NL15463