Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ngo Yam Bee (Bukit Brown)

The setting of this story begins on a Tuesday night, October 1908 in Orange Villa located Tai Jin Road (possibly now Tai Gin Road), the residence of Mr Ngo Yam Bee. This was the location used for a queue (an appendage of servitude of the Qing dynasty) cutting function. The person who had his queue cut was no other than Mr Koh Hoon Teck, the secretary of Cornwall troupe who not only cut of his queue, he discarded his chinese robes for full European wear as well. Mr Koh Hoon Teck is buried nearby Mr Ngo Yam Bee (a fellow Cornwell troupe member) in Bukit Brown.

Cornwall Minstrels
Cornwall troupe of amateur minstrels were formed in November 1904, its members being young Straits Chinese and their musical instructors, also Straits born Chinese. Most of the members stay in Cornwall Street neighbourhood, hence the name of the troupe. During 1905 and 1906, the troupe performed as entertainers in numerous events such as weddings, private parties in residences and at fund raising or charitable events. Messrs. Lim Kian Hock, Koh Hoon Teck, Ngo Yam Bee and Tan Tiang Seng were the core people during its short existence. Cornwell minstrels were the recipients of several silver trophies, which are in the custody of it last president, Mr Kwek Beng Chiew.

Tomb of Mr Ngo Yam Bee

There were many groups or minstrel bands that played old-time English classics and used stringed instruments and costumes. This bands or troupe mushroomed in 1930s wherever Peranakans lived. Some of the well-known bands include: Cornwall Minstrels, Wales Minstrels, Merrilads, Springdale and Forget-me-not. Members usually met regularly in patrons' or members' houses. The Minstrel bands performed at social parties. They also put up sketches and stage shows, sometimes for charity. Minstrel activities came to a halt before the World War 2. Oleh Oleh Party survived after the war and died out by 1960s. Peranakan plays were put up by Gunong Sayang Association, (in which Koh Hoon Teck was well known) survived till this day.

Bukit Brown connections
Ngo Yam Bee was also a member of the Straits Chinese Recreational Club. He played an important role in the collection funds for the Chinese New Year Entertainment (1912) in aid of the Chinese Red Cross Society. Leading personalities that i wrote about in the past were also involved, e.g. Lee Choo Neo, Tan Kheam Hock, Tan Boo Liat, Chia Hood Sang (brother of Chia Hood Theam).
Chinese Red Cross Society

Ngo Yam Bee's two other brothers are Ngo Yam Chiang and Ngo Yam Liang. Ngo Yam Liang (youngest brother) married the eldest daughter of Mr Gan Keng Wee of Singapore in November 1911.

Mr Ngo Yam Bee passed away at the age of 49 at his residence in No. 70, Emerald Hill Road on May 7, 1926. He leaves behind 1 widow, 2 sons, Ngo Seng Kiat and Ngo Bin Keng, 4 daughters (Ngo Kim Neo, Ngo Hwee Neo, Ngo Quee Neo, Ngo Hoo Neo) , 1 son-in-law, Lim Hock Seng and 2 grandchildren. His tomb is located at Hill 1, Division B. In front of his tomb is the tomb of Koh Hoon Teck.

Fallen marble plate that i had to turn around and cleaned

Discards the Queue. (1908, October 15). The Singapore Free Press, page 5
Chinese wedding. (1911, November 18). Weekly Sun, page 7
Advertisements. (1912, March 1). The Straits Times, page 8
Deaths.(1926, May 10). The Straits Times, page 7
Cornwells Garden. [website].PictureSG
Gunong Sayang Association. [website]. Infopedia


PChew said...

Thanks for the article. You must have put in a lot of work for it.

Rojak Librarian said...

Thank you PChew for the kind words. Glad to share what i learned.