Friday, November 23, 2012

Bidadari (18 November)

I never stepped into Bidadari before when it was a cemtery. I had no interest back then and it was one of biggest regrets never got to experience and see the rich heritage that the place had to offer and now long gone except in people's pictures. I decided to take a leisurely nature walk in Bidadari for my very first time on a Sunday morning and that became a rewarding experience for me, for the many birds i saw as well as getting to see a solitary Variable /Finlayson's Squirrel on my very first visit there.

Variable or Finlay'son Squirrel in Bidadari
Variable Squirrel 
Getting there
Bartley Station was the nearest train station for me and only a 50 meter walk along Bartley Road before arriving to Bidadari (the malay cemetery section). It didn't take me long to spot the many variety of birds there. The first birds we saw was a group of 5 Black Baza flying in and landed on the branches of large Albizia trees above me.

There were plenty of cuckoo's spotted there, however i was very rusty in their identification. I hope i got the identification correct.

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo 

Oriental Cuckoo 

Oriental Cuckoo 

Laced Woodpecker (Female)

A pair of Dollar birds 

The beautiful trees in Bidadari 
History of Bidadari 
Bidadari is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit widyadari meaning "nymph of Indra's heaven" or houri, a similar meaning in Persian mythology. Prior to it being a cemetery, the estate belong to one of the wives of Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor. Her palace, Istana Bidadari sat on the 18 ha land before the colonial government acquired it on 1904 to turn it into a municipal cemetery. The graveyard was separated in sections for Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Singhalese. Believed to have more than 140,000 graves, it was closed in 1972.

Development plans
The Bidadari housing estate, according to a  URA/HDB report, will have a park and be cyclist-friendly, retaining its hilly and lush landscape and incorporate the historical aspects of the former 93 ha former cemetery site and complement the existing Bidadari Memorial Garden. As mentioned earlier, Bidadari ceased burials in 1972 and the tombs was exhumed through the early 2000s. Some 12,000 private and HDB homes will be developed on the site bounded by Bartley Road, Upper Serangoon Road, Sennett Estate and Mount Vernon Road. The new township could come up as early as 2015, with flats completed in 2018.

In meantime, i will plan more visits there before this place goes forever and become a permanent concrete jungle.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ubin nature walk (10 November)

Back again in Ubin for another leisurely walk. While waiting in the jetty in Changi Village, i observed a number of man and woman returning from Ubin with boxes of durian. As observed in my previous trip there on October 13, the durians having finally dropped and as the saying goes, early bird catches the worm.

A quick check with one of the shops in Ubin that sell coconuts and other drinks, a local Ubin durian fetches $6 a kg...!! I kept my focus on spotting the nature life rather than durians.

Below are just a few of the wildlife i manage to "capture" during my day there. We saw a beautiful flying lizard, but unfortunately i could not get a shot of it.

White-rumped Sharma 

Intermediate Egret  in flight

From top left, clockwise - Grasshopper, Golden Orb Spider, dead (?) snake
leaf cockroach 

With Ubin Island becoming a popular destination for locals and tourist alike, the roads do get crowded with cyclist who rent bicycles to explore Ubin. On one of this roads, we stumbled upon a snake ( i suspect it's a Striped Bronzeback) with blood oozing out of its head. It was probably was rolled over by a bicycle. Upon closer inspection of its body, there was a bulge in its middle indicating it fed on something just recently. So, a last meal before getting killed.

Cockatoo's in Changi Village 
Changi Village Hawker Centre (No 2 /3 Changi Village Road) is going through upgrading changes from March 2012 to December 2012 with hopefully a much cooler hawker centre to welcome us. The previous changes was a total fail, with poor ventilation and in most instances eating in that place on a warm and humid day a chore. Most visitors had to eat at the various coffee shops along Changi Village Road. This gave me the opportunity to check out the Angsana trees along the road and the "residents" that called it home. The most striking one is of course the Tanimbar Cockatoo (Cacatua goffini). I manage to catch site of a pair who made a nest in one the crevices of Angsana Trees.

Other parrots in Singapore:  Parrots in Singapore, posted on April 17, 2011

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tan Swee Kee (Bukit Brown)

Tan Swee Kee (Tan Swee Khi / Tan Swee Khee / Tan Swi Khi) was one of the founders and directors of Sze Hai Tong Bank. He was the Bank's Manager in 1911 and later on, the Assistant Manager and Secretary in 1916. Tan Swee Kee was also a business partner with Seah Peck Seah, Lim Kim Seng and Seah Whah Ngee in the firm Chin Huat Hin Oil Trading Co (Seah Peck Seah and Co, proprietors ). His son, Tan Boon Kiah married one of Seah Peck Seah's daughters.

Tan Swee Kee's tomb 
Sze Hai Tong Banking and Insurance Co. Ltd was established in January 1907 with its head office in No 58 Kling Road. The Chairman and Managing Director was Leow Chia Heng. The manager in 1916 was Lee Wee Nam and Tan Swee Khi was the bank's Assistant Manager and Secretary. The Board of Directors in 1916 included Mr Seah Peck Seah, Mr Seah Eng Cheang, Chan Teck Hee, Tan Boon Kiah (his son), Wee Cheow Keng, Teo Teow Peng.

Board of Directors in 1911
(source: NewspaperSG)
In 1911, in a wedding reception for Mr and Mrs Seah Liang Seah's third daughter, Mrs Tan Swee Kee gave 2 gold hair-pins as a wedding gift.

Tan Swee Kee passed away on May 20, 1924 at 3:35pm, aged 62 at No 63 Cuppage Road. He is survived by 2 sons, Tan Boon Kiah and Tan Boon Yong. Tan Boon Kiah worked at the Sze Hai Tong Bank and Tan Boon Yong, the Netherlands Indian Commercial Bank. When he died, he left behind 500 shares of the bank, the family home in Cuppage Road, land and house in Punggol and shares in 2 or 3 chinese firms.

Tan Boon Kiah
Tan Boon Kian married one of Mr and Mrs Seah Peck Seah's daughter. (If you recall my previous article,  prominent teochew leader and director of Sze Hai Tong Bank, Mr Low Peng Soy married another of Mr and Mrs Seah Peck Seah's daughter, Miss Seah Hoh Ngoh.)

Tan Boon Kian was found guilty in March 1936 for criminal breach of trust for the amount $103,752.90 , the former Assistant Manager and director of Sze Hai Tong, was sentenced to prison for 3 years.

Tan Boon Yong
Tan Boon Yong became a bankrupt at the age of 48  in 1932 with total liabilities totalling $343,776.  A total of $200,000 was as a result of guaranteeing overdrafts for 4 four firms which eventually failed. He was finally discharged from bankruptcy in 1938.

What happened to the two brothers later on ? It's a mystery to me, for now.

Tan Swee Kee's tomb 

Tan Swee Kee's tomb is unique and located in Hill 2 Division D

Advertisements. (1911, January 23). The Straits Times, page 10
Wedding Reception.(1911, October 27). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Advertisements. (1914, July 13). The Straits Times, page 6
Advertisements. (1916, January 7). Malayan Tribune, page 15
Advertisement.(1924, May 28). Malaya Tribune, page 6
Advertisement.(1924, July 7). Malayan Tribune, page 6
Advertisement. (1924, July 24). The Singapore Free Press, page 6
Deaths.(1933, July 26). The Straits Times, page 10
Three year's imprisonment for Tan Boon Kiah. (1935, March 16).The Singapore Free Press, page 9
Reasons for bankruptcies. (1938, January 8). The Singapore Free Press, page 3

Friday, November 09, 2012

Leong Seng Ngian and family (Bukit Brown)

What started as a research about the unique tomb of Mr Leong Seng Ngian (Leong Sen Ngian) and Madam Chia Kwee Chwee located at Hill 4 Section B, ended with me getting more details about their son-in-law, Mr Ng Seng Choy. The large square marble tomb, erected on April 3, 1938 has a beautiful eulogy dedicated to their parents by their 5 daughters. Leong Seng Ngian / Leong Sen Ngian passed away at his residence, No 53 Cantonment Road. He was at one time, a race horse owner and a proprietor of a large goldsmith business established by his late father.

Leong Seng Ngian was survived by his widow (Madam Chia Kim Chwee), five daughters, 4 son-in-laws
  • Leong Seng Nyong (Mrs. Ng Seng Choy)
  • Leong Swi Nyong ( Mrs. H.K. Chia)
  • Leong Toong Nyong (Mrs. Phang Khin Cheung )
  • Leong Pow Nyong ( Mrs. Wong Yew Loong )
  • Leong Tinn Nyong
Madam Chia Kim Chee passed away on December 11, 1970.
Tomb of Mr Leong Sen Ngian 
Mr and Mrs Ng Seng Choy (Ng Sen Choy and Leong Seng Nyong)
Leong Seng Nyong, the eldest daughter, married Ng Seng Choy in January, 1910 at 142-8 Orchard Road.
Ng Seng Choy was born in Penang and studied in Penang Free School. He came over to Singapore in his early 20's to help in his father's (Ng Seak Foon) mining business. In Singapore, he founded Wing Loong Tailor, before becoming a Municipal Commissioner for 10 years and finally a banker (Chung Kiaw Bank).

Ng Seng Choy, J.P, M.C, O.B.E was appointed a Municipal Commissioner in 1932 and awarded the Certificate of Honour in 1938 by Sir Shenton Thomas and Order of the British Empire in 1951. He was also a member of the Chinese Advisory Board and sits in many Chinese organisations such as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Po Leung Kuk (1933)
Ng Seng Choy getting an autograph from Tan Chin Tuan during
his Order of British Empire Ceremony in 1951. In the middle is Mrs T.W Ong
(source: Newspaper SG)
He played a pivotal role in the formation of the Island Country Club and is a well known host and socialite for various towkays, pioneers and Malaya leaders (e.g. Sultans) in his seaside home at Changi. (There was even a road named Wing Loong road in the east coast that existed before the East Coast land reclamation). He was the President of the Hoi Tin Association (located at Upper Nanking Street). Hoi Tin Dramatic Society was responsible for raising for thousand of dollars for the Children's Welfare Society, Central Floods Relief Fund and several schools especially Yang Ching /Yeong Ching School (Club Street) as well the Kwang Wai-siu Free Hospital.

In August 29, 1957, while on the way to Chung Kiaw Bank (he was the Vice-Chairman), Ng Seng Choy was kidnapped at gun point half a mile away from his home. His wife managed to escape and hurried home and called 999. What ensued was was a police chase, a fierce gun battle at Lorong Melayu. Policeman, Sgt. Ng Hong Hai and Cpl Idris bin Ibrahim  exchanged fire with Lee Ah Cheong alias Ah Lek until Ah Lek was finally hit in the chest and was wounded. After Sgt. Ng Hong Hai handcuffed the kidnapper, Ng Seng Choy was found in a sack in the car. He was unhurt.The kidnapper, Lee Ah Cheong alias Ah Lek was hanged for his crimes in February, 1959.
Sgt. Ng Hong Hai
(photo courtesy of Ng Wei Chern  [his grand daughter] )

Ng Seng Choy died at the age of 73 in 1960 at his residence in Win Loong Road, Changi after being ill for several months. He was cremated at Yio Chu Kang Crematorium after a service at the Bedok Methodist Church.

Mrs Ng Seng Choy (Leong Seng Nyong ) was in the women's committee for the Women and Girls' Protection ordinance and founder of the Chinese Ladies Association. At the age of 86, in July 1978, she had to testify in her wheelchair against his nephew, Morris Wong Chan Fah for cheating her of $15,000 when he bought a house in Siglap Plain on her behalf in 1976. He was sentenced to 15 months jail.

 Madam Leong Seng Nyong (Mrs Ng Seng Choy)
Madam Leong Pow Nyong (Mrs. Wong Yew Loong)
Leong Pow Nyong passed away on January 20, 1950. She is survived by 3 sons, Morris Wong, Sunny Wong, Raymond Wong and an adopted daughter, Daisy Leong.

Miss Leong Tinn Nyong 
Leong Tinn Nyong passed away at the age of 46 on August 18, 1953 at her residence in No 53 Cantonment Road. She is survived by her mother and 3 elder sisters. The religious ceremony was held at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church and cremation at the Old Japanese Crematorium off Old Yio Chu Kang Road.

Not forgotten 
Sometime mid this year, descendant's of Mr Leong Seng Ngian restored the marble tombstone to it's former glory by cleaning away the years of dust and grime away from the beautiful marble.

Tomb of Leong Seng Ngian
Photo taken on 1st February 2012 

Tomb of Mr and Mrs Leong Seng Ngian
Photo taken in October 2012

Some day, Some time, Our eyes shall see,
The faces we love so well, 
Some day their hands will clasp in ours,
And never say farewell.

The tomb is located in Hill 4, Division B, in front of the quadruple tomb of Mr Tan Peck Jim.

[February 19, 2013- Sgt. Ng Hong Hai's grand daughter, Ng Wei Chern read this article and shared the photo of her grandfather in police uniform]

Chinese Marriage. (1910, January 11). The Singapore Free Press, page 5
Hoi Tin Association's great charitable work.(1934, November 2). The Singapore Free Press, page 11
Ng Sen Choy. (1935, February 11). The Straits Times, page 12
Advertisements. (1937, May 11). The Straits Times, page 2
Acknowledgements. (1937, May 13). The Straits Times, page 2
Certificates of Honour for Nine Straits Settlements Residents. (1938, June 10). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Untitled. (1951, June 8). The Straits Times, page 1
In memoriam. (1951, January 20). The Straits Times, page 6
Advertisement. (1953, August 18). The Singapore Free Press, page 16
Battle for Ng Seng Choy. (1957, December 4). The Straits Times, page 4
Ng Seng Choy (man who escapes kidnap dies). (1960, May 21). The Straits Times, page 18
Cheating case: woman, 86 testifies against nephew. ( 1978, July 28). The Straits Times, page 9

Monday, November 05, 2012

Sungai Buloh (October 27)

A lovely Saturday morning and I made a long overdue trip to Sungai Buloh to see what are the migratory birds from the Northern Hemisphere (Japan, China, Siberia)  that have arrived to Singapore. I was gamely rewarded with a sighting of the Bar-tailed Godwit at the main hide, 1A (the hide directly after the main bridge)

Bar-tailed Godwit
Other sightings spotted here were groups of Whimbrels, Marsh Sandpipers, Little Egrets and 3-4 Intermediate Egrets. The Bar-tailed Godwit i saw was the only one and it was very active, hunting for mud worms, etc in which during my observation, it caught a few.

At observation point 1.2, the beautiful and large Milky Stork's were busily feeding gave me some good shots, but very few of them looking up. There were 5 Milky stork's feeding in that group, one of the largest i seen so far in a group.
Milky Stork's busily feeding 
Observation point 1B drews more rewards, with sightings of 2 more Milky Storks (different from the below) preening themselves and a solitary Otter catching its breakfast for the day. Right below where i was standing, was a water snake (sorry i haven't check what tye of snake it is). There, we sighted the Reef Heron together with a Chinese Egret (a globally threaten bird), feeding on the rocks on the Johore Strait, but i am not able to take close up shots of it because of the great distance, but a birdwatcher with a spotting scope allowed me to take closer look of it. The Chinese Egret definitely drew the attention of several bird photographers.
water snake 

Milky Stork preening itself 
Other waders that were present included the Pacific Golden Plover, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank and Marsh Sandpiper.

Pacific Golden Plover 
When at the bird hide's or huts, it is good to look up at the roofing above to spot for any snakes. At one of the hides, we saw the beautiful Paradise Tree Snake, a mildly poisonous snake to humans, but deadly to small reptiles.

Paradise Tree Snake 

unable to identify

The juvenile Estuarine Crocodile (estimated 1 meter long) basking on a log behind some trees was the icing on top of the cake for today's great outing of the birds, reptiles and a mammal i saw today.

Estuarine Crocodile 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Tan Keng Lee (Bukit Brown)

It was the first case of adalin poisoning to appear in the courts and the deceased was Miss Tan Keng Lee, 26 years of age and daughter of the late Mr Tan Tiong Seng, a General Manger of Overseas Chinese Bank.  The coroner gave a verdict of suicide after conducting autopsy of the deceased and from the facts provided during cross examination of witnesses, she died as result of overdosing herself with adalin (a drug commonly used for headaches).

Miss Tan Keng Lee / Tan Keng Bee tried to take her on life on 2 separate occasions, with one serious enough that kept her unconscious for 3 days. Finally,on August 1, 1933 she was found unconscious near her father's grave in Bukit Brown and died 4 days later without regaining consciousness.

Miss Tan Keng Lee

(source: NewspaperSG)
"Suicide girl"
Witness account from Mr Samat bin Haji Abdullah (the grave caretaker of Mr Tan Tiong Seng's tomb who lived and worked in Bukit Brown) and Madam Lim Kee Neo (Miss Tan Keng Lee's mother), painted a story of a girl depressed and upset after her father's death in 1930. Seeing this change, her mother sent her to China for a change. Miss Tan Keng Lee returned 10 months later but had a relapsed. Desperation led to the family,calling to both doctors and of Chinese Priest called to "drive the spirits away".

She recovered and was engaged, set to be married. Unfortunately, she had a sudden illness and the marriage was postponed. On August 1, 1933, at 8 am in the morning, Miss Tan Keng Lee sought permission from her mother to go out  for shopping. She was driven out by the family driver and when he returned at 1 pm with the children from school, Miss Tan Keng Lee was not with him. While the driver was relating the story, grave caretaker (Samat) arrived to inform that Madam Lim Kee Neo that her daughter was lying unconscious in his house after appearing giddily in his house at noon. She died with recovering 4 days later.

"Suicide girl" was the name the Bukit Brown group of enthusiast ("Brownies") coined for her initially, but hopefully with this article we can now know her as Miss Tan Keng Lee,an unfortunate girl who died because of her mental illness. Her tomb, located at Hill 3 Section D, plot  974/ 991 is not easy to find although close by to her parents due to the heavy foliage growing around her tomb.
Foliage growing around the tomb 

Mr. Tan Tiong Seng was the General Manager of Overseas Chinese Bank until the time of his death on September 4 , 1930 at the age of 59. He came to Singapore 40 years ago and from a clerk, worked his way up. He has considerable number of property and left behind a widow and 7 children.

Madam Lim Kee Neo ( Mrs Tan Tiong Seng) passed away at the age of 91 on February 28, 1968, leaving behind 2 sons, Tan Kheng Chuan, Tan Tee Chock, daughters; Tan Cheng Hiong, Tan Kheng Yan, Tan Poh Tee, Tan Kheng Yean, Tan Kheng Hwe, Tan Kheng Chwe and Tan Kheng Wan, 3 sons-in-law, 2 daughters-in-law,34 grandchildren, 21 great grand children. The cortege left from No 15 Draycott Drive.
Their tomb is located at Hill 3 Sec D, plot 811/828/971

The recently cleared tomb of Mr Tan Tiong Seng 
Mr Tan Tiong Seng. (1930, September 6). The Straits Times, page 12
Over father's grave. (1933, August 17). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Girl who pined for her father. (1933, August 17). The Straits Times, page 12
Advertisement. (1968, February 29). The Straits Times, page 16