Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Neo Tiew alias Leong Hou Chou (Bukit Brown)

Nestled in a quiet section of Hill 2 Division B that is still undisturbed by the 8 lane highway is the dual tomb of Madam Lim Jiah (wife of Mr. Neo Tiew) and Madam Ong (his mother) from Lam Ann (南安).  It was discovered by Raymond Goh and shared on the Bukit Brown facebook group after he cleaned up the tomb and identified them. Mrs Neo Tiew (believed to be the first wife) née Mdm Lim Jiah, passed away on 23 Mar 1927 at the age of 45. Her distraught husband Neo Tiew was said to have written the epitaph on the same day of her passing. Neo Tiew's mother Mdm Ong date on the tomb was mentioned as March 29, 1944.
Madam Lim Jiah (Mrs Neo Tiew)  

Epitaph at Madam Lim Jiah 

Madam Ong (Neo Tiew's mother) 

Dual tomb recently cleared 
Kingdom of Neo Tiew 
Neo Tiew (梁宙) alias Leong Hou Chou . O.B.E. , S.C.H  was described as man with hand of iron that ruled over the village of no crime in the Kingdom of Neo Tiew. The 1953 article went on to describe that Neo Tiew came down from China 37 years ago. A young former Colonel in the Chinese Army who built his house in the jungle far away from the city which grew into a travellers' inn and later after the war grew into a village of Thong Hoe which grew into the kingdom of Neo Tiew that comprise of Neo Tiew Road, Neo Tiew Lane, Nam Hoe Village and Thong Hoe Village at the end of Ama Keng Road. The villagers who stayed there described the village of Neo Tiew has having its own "police" force equipped with 6 pairs of handcuffs and 14 shotguns which was said was meant for the tigers rather than the criminals. The villagers fondly described Mr Neo has been more than a "sheriff" of his village. He also helped set up a primary and a child and maternity clinic as well. During the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), Neo Tiew assisted the Rural Board in establishing a volunteer police for the Lim Chu Kang area.

Singapore Rural Board (Western Region) Volunteer Police (photo donated by Neo Ah Chap)
source: National Heritage Board 

Neo Tiew (age 70) source: NewspaperSG
He has been honoured by King George VI with a certificate in recognition of his loyalty and work in keeping peace in Lim Chu Kang area in 1951. He was the recipient of the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1954 in commemoration of the Queen's Birthday. There are also other plaques, certificates and medals which record of his contributions to the Kuomintang and to the community in general.
Order of the British Empire and certificates (source: NHB)
Chiang Kai Shek connection
Neo Tiew  described that when General Chiang Kai Shek passed away, he was invited to attend the funeral but he sent his son as the representative. Neo Tiew further gave valuable insight that he and Chiang Kai Shek were in the same unit of the Chinese Army before the Chinese Revolution and Chiang was his junior. Neo Tiew said he quit the army to come to Singapore to search for his father who had remarried, but having not found is father settled down in Singapore.
Neo Tiew in a Chinese Army uniform
(source: NewspaperSG)

During the Japanese invasion of Malaya, one version of the story goes that Neo Tiew heard that the Japanese were after him and he fled to China, leaving behind 45 relatives which he never saw again. They were all massacred. In another interview, Neo Tiew shared that he didn't actually fled but was recalled to China together with about 200 other people. The convoy of ships  was hit by bombs and as a result, 4 of the 5 ships were sunk. His ship eventually made it on to China. He returned back to Singapore 2 years later and despite the tragedy of the massacre he started anew, remarried and settled down, setting up sundary shops. The shops became landmarks of the area it served so much so that the villages which grew around them were named after the shops, Nam Hoe and Thong Hoe Villages.

His son, Neo Ah Lark was among the survivors of this massacre and in 1993 was a representative from Singapore who attended a forum on war reparations for people in the Asia Pacific held in Tokyo. In that forum, he shared that his mother, five brothers and 2 sisters died. He was only 9 years old of age when his family decided to move from Lim Chu Kang to Bukit Timah, a house with bomb shelter, thinking that will be safer against daily bomb attacks from Japanese planes. That decision proved costly. When Bukit Timah was overrun, the Japanese soldiers arrived at their house and pulled the Neo family from the bunkers and started to stab one after the other with their bayonets.
After killing 10, the soldiers rested but later continued. By the time it ended,  Neo Ah Lark lost 33 of his family members (including a 2 month old baby). Through heavenly intervention, he survived (with deep cuts on his inner thighs) and was pulled out from the heap of bodies by a servant who was badly hurt. There was also another survivor of that incident, his nephew.

6 months after the dreadful ordeal and surviving by begging on the streets, Neo Ah Lark found his sole surviving sister who was married and escaped death as she was living apart from the family.

Neo Tiew with his family members (source:NewspaperSG)

Calligraphy scroll in memory of the sacrifices of Neo Tiew's family in the anti-Japanese war
source: National Heritage Board 

Neo Tiew's family gravestone epitaph calligraphy scroll
source: National Heritage Board. 
The gravestone calligraphy scroll with an epitaph mourning the death of 35 members family was written by Chen Cheng, the Secretary-General of the Kuomintang (KMT) Youth League of the Three Principles of the People (YLTPP). Neo Tiew was a Chinese community leader who supported the anti-Japanese war and was head of the Singapore branch of the KMT YLTPP.

Mr Neo Tiew, OBE, SCH passed away at the age of 92 on November 13, 1975. Described as the former chairman of rural council and and early pioneer of Lim Chu Kang, he is survived by many sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It was said that he had more than 160 children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren ! Neo Tiew was said to have married 6 times, each time after a wife died (in succession). Another article listed that when
he was passed away, he was survived by 2 widows.

The cortege left from 25-C, Jalan Gemala and he was buried in Boo Lim Cemetery, Choa Chu Kang.

This blog post is not meant to be a family tree of Neo Tiew, but rather i felt it might be useful to note those as i discover them that were mentioned during my research.

Wife: Lim Teng Neo
Neo Tiew, 18 years old married his first wife, Lim Teng Neo when she was 16 years old in China. She was to be the 1st of 6 wives.

Mr. Neo Ah Lark 
He was 9 years old when he witness his mother, five brothers and 2 sisters killed. He survived and at the age of 62 recounted the tragedy of the massacre in 1993. Less then a year later, Neo Ah Lark passed away at the age of 63 on January 3, 1994.He is survived by his wife, Kang Siew Yong, three sons (Neo Gim Chuan, Neo Gim Pheow, Neo Gim Hong), 3 daughters, (Neo Soh Hoon, Neo Soh Ann, Neo Soh Hong) and grandsons and granddaughters.

Mr Neo Ah Chap 
Neo Ah Chap was the person who donated numerous artifacts of Neo Tiew to the National Heritage Board. He was the Marketing Director of Tan Chong International Ltd since 1977 and one of Tan Chong Motor Holdings Executive Directors. His brother-in-law, Tan Kheng Leong is also an Executive Director.

Miss Neo Peh Hoon
Miss Neo Peh Hoon, 5th daughter of Mr and Mrs Neo Tiew married Mr. Tan Kheng Leong (eldest son of Mr and Mrs Tan Kim Hor on  Sunday, 10th December 1967.

Man with hand of iron rules the village of no crime. (1953, March 8). The Straits Times
Big Land Owners Ask to be heard. (1953, December 16). Singapore Standard
Singapore. (1954, June 10). The Straits Times
Advertisement. (1967, December 9 ). The Straits Times.
A grandman recalls his past. (1975, April 22). New Nation
Death. (1975, November 17). The Straits Times
The Big Boss. (1975, November 23). New Nation
When tigers roamed free and thieves got paraded. (1986, December 9). The Straits Times.
Cry of war victims. (1993, September 6). The New Paper
He lived to tell horror of family massacre. (1993, September 6). The Straits Times.
Obituary.(1994. January 5). The Straits Times.

The National Collection. National Heritage Board

Postnote: my resources are based on English Newspaper articles. There are other rich sources in Chinese websites which are not reflected here. Examples include

[research on-going]


Souw Chuan Neo said...

I am a descendant of Neo Tiew and I would like to thank you upon enlightening me of my family tree.

Rojak Librarian said...

You are so welcome Souw Chuan Neo.

Colour Junction Tanglin Mall said...

Hi! My name is Tan Heng Suan, I did my primary school education in Ama Keng Primary School from1962 to 1967.
One of my classmate, Neo Kay Boon happened to be the son of late Mr Neo Tiew.
I would like to keep in touch with Kay Boon. Would you kindly help me to link up with him. Thank you!