Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tan Cheng Siong (Bukit Brown)

Mr Tan Cheng Siong (Mr. Tan Cheng Siang) , J.P. was the General Manager of the Overseas Chinese Bank Ltd. He was a committee member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Visiting Justice of Peace for the Po Leung Keuk and St. John Island, member of the Chinese Advisory Board, Chairman of the Soon Keck S.S.  Co. Ltd, Chairman and Managing Director of the United Sawmills Ltd. In United Saw Mills, Mr. Tan Cheng Siong peers were Dr. Lim Boon Keng (Chairman of Directors), Dr. S.C. Yin, Mr. Lim Nee Soon, Mr. Ong Peck Hock, Mr. Goh Soo Kee and Mr. Lim Koon Tye.


Mr. Tan Cheng Siong passed away on October 19, 1922 at his residence in 60 Cecil Street at 10 a.m at the age of 42. He is buried in Bukit Brown, Hill 1 Division E, plot 136.

Tan Cheng Siong 


Wife: Madam Wee Chia Neo
Mrs Tan Cheng Siong nee Wee Chia passed away at No. 12 Perumal Road off Race Course Road, Singapore on  November 24, 1934 at the age of 52. She leaves behind one son, Tan Seng Hwee alias Tan Peng Kian alias Tan Ah Sye, two adopted sons, Tan Chin Tuan and Lim Ah Hui, one daughter (Tan Siew Hua) and one grandson. She is buried in Bukit Brown Hill 3, Division D plot 824

Wife: Lee Guay Eng
Madam Lee Guay Eng is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Chin Seng (Madam Chua Neo Neo). Madam Lee Guay Eng passed away at the age of 78 on March 4,  1965 at her residence in 530 Upper East Coast Road. Chief mourner was her eldest son, Mr Tan Chin Tuan, managing director of the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation. She is survived by sons: Tan Chin Tuan, Tan Chin Guan and daughter: Tan Siew Hua
Grandsons: Tan Keng Siong, Tan Kheng Yan, Tan Kheng Leong, Tan Kok Peng, Tan Kok Heng, Tan Kok Chye. Grand-daughters: Tan Kheng Liak, Tan Kheng Choo, Tan Ai Lian, Tan Ai Kheng, Tan Laye Choo, Tan Laye Gek. Madam Lee Guay Eng is buried in Hill 5, Division D plot 36 and 37.
Madam Lee Guay Eng 


Son: Tan Seng Hee / Tan Seng Hwee 
Mr. Tan Seng Hee /Tan Seng Hwee married Miss Jessie Lim, daughter of Mr. Lim Kian Beng, manager of the Ho Hong Steamship Company Ltd. The marriage took place on February 26, 1938 at 8 Angullia Park and was officiated by Dr. Lim Boon Keng. Over 600 attended and among those included Sir Song Ong Siang and Lady Helen, the Hon. Tay Lian Teck,  Mr. S.J. Chan, Mr. S.B. Tan, Mr. Ong Tia Teng, Mr. Chew Hock Long and Mr. Chua Keh Hai.

Tan Seng Hwee passed away at the age of 47 on November 25, 1962 leaving behind is wife, Jessie Lim Neo Swee, two sons, Tony Tan Keng Yam, Francis Tan Keng Leong and 2 daughters; Mary Tan and Betty Tan. Tan Seng Hwee is buried in Bidadari. One of of his son's, Tony Tan Keng Yam is the current President of Singapore.

Son: Tan Chin Tuan
Tan Chin Tuan, then Assistant Secretary of the Chinese Commercial Bank married Miss Wee Helene, daughter of Mr. Wee Theam Seng, manager of the Chinese Commercial Bank on September 18, 1926. When the Chinese Commercial Bank merged with Ho Hong and Overseas Chinese Bank  in 1933, to become OCBC, Tan Chin Tuan became a manager in OCBC, moving up its rank until he eventually retired as Chairman in 1983, and being its honorary life president thereafter. Tan Chin Tan was also the Deputy President of the Legislative Council from 1951 to 1955.

On his 90th birthday in 1998, his nephew, (former Deputy Prime Minister and the current President of Singapore) Tony Tan Keng Yam, described him as a man who had been 'scrupulously honest' in his business dealings, and who had 'lived his life as an honourable man'. There is a building within the Anglo Chinese School (ACS) Barker Road named after him. For his 91st Birthday, multi-millionaire Tan Chin Tuan, 91, offered to each healthy Singaporean aged over 90 a $1,000 gift. Over $1.2 million was eventually given out. Tan Chin Tuan passed away at the age of 98 on November 13, 2005.

Helene Wee and Tan Chin Tuan
(source: National Archives) 

United Saw Mills. (1915, July 16). The Singapore Free Press, page 5
Advertisement (1917, January 6). The Straits Times
The late Mr Tan Cheng Siong, J.P. (1922, October 20). The Singapore Free Press, page 6
Advertisement. (1924, February 13). The Straits Times
Death.(1934, November 25). The Straits Times, page 12
Chinese Wed. (1938, February 27). Sunday Tribune
Death. (1952, November 26) The Straits Time, page 22
Big crowd at funeral. (1965, March 8). The Straits Times
$1.2 m. (1999, December 7). The Straits Times

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Qing Ming in Bukit Brown (March 26, 2016)

Qing Ming 2014 marks the year that many tombs were moved to make way for the 8 lane highway and for many descendants is was last opportunity to pay respects in-situ to their ancestors. Two years have since passed. What has changed ? The affected tombs are now long gone now but what remains are the traditions of tomb visiting by the descendants of Bukit Brown.

Related Post

Last Qing Ming for some residents(Bukit Brown). (Posted on April 1, 2014)
Qing Ming at Bukit Brown. (Posted on April 6, 2012)
Exhumations in Bukit Brown. (Posted on July 8, 2014) 

Qing Ming rituals preparation

A busy day in Bukit Brown 

Not forgotten -Hill 4  Division B

Not forgotten- Hill 3 Division C

Hill 3 Division 2 (Pauper's Section)

Stories from descendants

Sometimes (with their permission of course), you are able to chat with descendants who came down to Bukit Brown to find out stories about their ancestors buried there. As i was passing a jungle path, i came across four gentlemen preparing an elaborate offering, but what made this unique compared to others was that there was no headstone in front at all ! They explained that their grandfather and granduncle (surname ONG) were buried there during WWII. They were unfortunate victims of a massacre that took place in Bukit Batok area.This story was recounted to them by their parents. It is very heartening to see that despite more than 70 years, the grandchildren did not forget them despite the lack of headstone being present.

Busy day for Tomb keepers

Qing Ming is also the busiest time for the tomb keepers, who are offering cleaning or grass cutting services or helping descendants relocate the tomb of their ancestors and finally for families who engage their services in maintenance throughout the year, collection of payment.

Parting Pictures 

How many more Qing Ming will Bukit Brown have ? I don't have the answers, but i hope for a long, long, time still to come.

Not forgotten, but how much time do i have left to rest in peace

Not forgotten 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour (My Community Heritage Trail) - Part II

The folks behind My Community invited me for a newly launched trail curated by them called the Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour. The meeting point was Holland Village MRT and that portion of the tour experience was covered in my earlier article post, Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour -Part I. This article continues from where we left off.

The First Flatted Factory & former Tanglin Halt industrial estate

Block 115 Commonwealth Drive is Singapore’s first flatted factory. Built at a cost of $1.5 million, the groundbreaking ceremony of the five-storey factory was inaugurated on 30 May 1965 by then Minister for National Development, Lim Kim San. The flatted factory was important infrastrutre light industry and key source of employment especially with its location within housing estates allowing for a ready supply of labour and encouraged women to enter the labour force.

Madam Noorsia who now works as a cleaner in her estate, was one of the women who found work from this light industry which opened in her neighbour. She recollected to us of  her memory working for Wing Heng a company that use to have it office there (probably Wing Heng Plastic Industries Pte Ltd at 115-A Commonwealth Drive #02-01)

Madam Noorisa

The flatted factory under construction
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Ministry of Education (MOE) Heritage Centre

Opened in 1 September 2011, the MOE Heritage Centre showcases the milestone of Singapore education from the early 19th Century until present. Located at the site of the former New Town Primary School and Permaisura Primary School at Commonwealth Drive, it is open for public access on Friday's from 9 am-5 pm. Other than the exhibits (both indoor and outdoor), i truly enjoyed the enthusiasm and rich stories from my docent, Mr Goh Bian Koon, 73 years old. A former Principal of St. Patrick ( 1995-1997), Mr. Goh Bian Koon spent 37 years in education and helped reviewed the History Curriculum at the Ministry level.

Mr. Goh Bian Koon , docent at MOE Heritage Centre

Blocks 85 & 86 Commonwealth Close

Commonwealth was the first precinct in Singapore which launched HDB’s “Home Ownership for the People” scheme. The scheme was introduced in February 1964 by then Minister for National Development, Lim Kim San, to encourage a “property-owning democracy” in Singapore and enable Singaporeans in the lower middle-income group to purchase their own homes. Three blocks of new 16-storey and 12 blocks of new 10-storey flats were put up for sale, a total of 1,726 3 room units and 342 two-room units. The three-room units were priced at $6,200 and two-room units $4,900.  By the end of 1964, 2068 units where made available for sale.

Block 85 and 86 Commonwealth Crescent -then and now

Balloting Ceremony for the Home Ownership for the People
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

The VIP Block 

Block 81 Commonwealth Close, completed in 1964, is a 16-storey ( colloquial name: Chap Lak Lao) block where our guides shared that in the 1960s and 1970s, foreign dignitaries were brought to this block for panoramic views of Queenstown which showcased Singapore’s success in public housing (hence the name, VIP Block). Among these distinguished guests include Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1965; Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, in 1968; then Crown Prince Akihito, in 1970; and Spiro Agnew, then Vice President of USA in 1970. I researched further and manage to find some pictures of the VIP that visited Queenstown as part of their official visit.

Duke in Queenstown ( Prince Phillip with Yusuf Ishak and Lim Kim San)
source: NewspaperSG Straits Times, February 20, 1965
Crown Prince Akihito meets Hanako in Queenstown on February 28, 1970.
With them are Hanako's sisters (from left) Irene, Jean and Grace
(source: National Archives )

Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India (1968)
source: National Archives of Singapore 

Spiro Agnew, then Vice President of USA in 1970

Panoramic view from the 16th floor of 81 Commonwealth Close (VIP Block) 

Ridout Tea Garden 

Ridout Tea Garden (former Queenstown Japanese Garden) was Singapore’s first Japanese-themed community garden. The landscaped garden was opened in 1970 to provide more recreational facilities for Queenstown residents. On June  26,1978, a huge blaze engulfed the entire garden. HDB rebuilt a new garden in 1980 at a cost of $500,000 and reopened it as Ridout Tea Garden (after a road nearby it and to avoid naming confusion of the Japanese Garden in Jurong).

Ridout Tea Garden 
Remnants of the Japanese Garden wall from the 1978 fire

To be continued 

Check out my own research findings on some of the houses in Ridout Estate

Signing up for a My Community Heritage Tour

All tours organised by My Community including this one are available for interested participants to register for the free, through, or call Queenstown Community Centre.

Commonwealth & Holland Village   Every third Sunday
Labrador & Alexandra                      Every 2nd and 4th Sunday
Tanglin Halt and Margaret Drive     Every 2nd and 4th Sunday

(correct as of 10 January 2017)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour (My Community Heritage Trail) - Part I

The great folks behind My Community invited me yet again for a newly launched trail curated by them called the Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour which was launched today on March 20th, 2016. My Community have been working hard to promote and document the social memories and heritage of communities in Queenstown, Dawson, Alexandra, Commonwealth and finally Holland area which neighbourhood's are undergoing transformation.

You can read about the other Heritage Tours that My Community organises from my previous post
Dawson & Alexandra Heritage Tour - Part I , posted on April 5, 2015
Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour-Part II , posted on April 5, 2015
Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part I) , posted on July 28, 2014
Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part II), posted on July 30, 2014

Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour

The meeting point for the tour was the Holland Village MRT Station with another series of different sites to immerse into. What i enjoy about My Community's tour is the fact they get real people who lived in the Community to interact with us when given a chance. Below are some of the places, i got see and learn as well as people i interacted with, which i manage to pen down my thoughts. Our knowledgeable guides,  Huang Eu Chai and Choo Lip Sin were very good in unraveling the stories that i am now able to also share with you.

Thambi Magazine Store

The iconic magazine and newspaper store in Lorong Liput, Holland Village is still standing proud despite mounting pressure from the online media and changing behaviour of people's reading habits. I got to meet Sam ( Mr P. Senthilmurugan ), eldest son of the late Periathambi G who passed away in 2013. Sam shared that his father expanded into providing magazines in addition to newspaper delivery because of the British soldiers and their families who stayed in Chip Bee Gardens requesting for magazines.  Sam's grandfather who came from Indian started delivering newspapers when this area was just a village, so that means Sam is third generation newspaper and magazine vendor !

Sam and his family members of Thambi Magazine Store

Chip Bee Gardens

Chip Bee Gardens was a British Army Military estate established in the mid-1950s to house the British army personnel and their family. The estate comprised of six blocks of apartment flats, semi-detached houses and two rows of shop houses. Before the ground floor of these shop houses were converted for retail in 1978, they served as a mess hall for the British soldiers to socialise, play billiards and conduct meetings. Now, what i see are cafes, restaurants, dentist, galleries mixed with residential. Princess Margaret (sister of Queen Elizabeth) visited this estate in 1972.

Princess Margaret visiting Chip Bee Gardens estate in 1972

Former Eng Wah Open Air Cinemas 

Located at 3 Lorong Liput, the former Eng Wah open-air cinema was established in the mid-1950s specialised in Chinese Wayang, which was popular among the local residents. The theatre was created by arranging rows of benches each rented for 50 cents per show. The theatre was closed in 1985 and is in the process of being demolished.

Former Eng Wah Open Air Cinema (then and now)

Block 41-43, 45-47 Holland Avenue “ Red Bricks” Blocks

Built between 1970 and 1974, the Buona Vista Neighbourhood Centre comprised of two clusters of four-storey shop buildings and a wet market. The shop buildings have exposed red brick walls and are colloquially known as red house or ang chu (Hokkien: 红屋). I remembered this place too before turning to what it is now.

The old market at Holland Village (source: National Archives)
As we continued to make our way through Holland Avenue, the hilly terrain reminded that much of the hills beyond Holland Village was once cemetery grounds as well.

Aerial view of Holland Village with a Chinese cemetery in the foreground
(source: National Archives )

Shuang Long Shan Wu Shu Memorial Hall & Ying Fo Fui Kun Cemetery

Located at 9 Commonwealth Lane, the cemetery at Shuang Long Shan Wu Shu Ancestral Hall is Singapore’s last remaining Hakka cemetery. The origins of the Ancestral Hall and its surrounding 88-acre cemetery was established in 1887 for Yin Fo Fui Kun clansmen from Jia Ying (Chinese: 嘉应 ) prefecture in Canton, to have a place for burial and ancestral worship.

In  the 1960's cemeteries around this area were all acquired for the development of townships in-line with Government to house its residence in proper homes instead of kampungs and quarters. Other infrastructures including schools, industry and social places (places of worship, hawker centre and wt markets) were the blueprints for the satellite townships, e.g. Queenstown. The only concession given was for this last Hakka cemetery in view of the fact that the Hakka people had “no other cemetery.” 4.5 acres as a reburial site for 99 years was allocated to this place you see surrounded by HDB flats showing that the dead can co-exist in harmony with the living.

Ying Fo Fui Kun Cemetery

Qing Ming 

Ancestral Tablet 

Commonwealth Crescent Neighbourhood Centre

Built at a cost of $180,000 in the 1960's, the  Commonwealth Crescent Neighbourhood Centre was officially opened on 29 May 1965 by then Minister for Labor, Jek Yuen Thong. The neighbourhood centre comprised of 26 shop units arranged around a quadrangle and 84 hawker stalls in the wet market.

Commonwealth Crescent 

One of the long time pioneers i got to meet here is Mr. Ong Choon Kwee, the proprietor of Sin Palace Hair Dressing Salon. He has been serving the grooming needs of the male residents of Commonwealth Crescent neighbourhood for the past 50 years (not only hair cut, shave, nose trimming, fish out ear wax & finally tongue scrapping).

Mr. Ong Choon Kwee (Sin Palace Hair Dressing Salon)
Mr. Lim Thiam Choo is synonymous with Queenstown Poh Pia having served numerous Queenstown residents for the past 49 years. He first started out as an hawker peddling along the streets at Tanglin Halt, Margaret Drive and Commonwealth Crescent. He is now retired and his eldest son i recall sells handmade popiah skin in the double storey hawker of Commonwealth Crescent. You can read his story from My Queenstown's blog.

Lim Thiam Choo (Queenstown Popiah)

To be continued

Look out for my next article, Commonwealth and Holland Village Heritage Tour (My Community Heritage Trail) , posted on March 23, 2016.

My Community Tours (updated on 14 Jan 2017)

Commonwealth & Holland
Village heritage tour

Every third Sunday

sg or email

Labrador & Alexandra
heritage tour

Every 2nd and 4th

Tanglin Halt & Margaret Drive heritage tour

Every 2nd and 4th

Call for Volunteers

My Community is recruiting volunteers who are interested in community heritage and love guiding heritage tours, curating exhibitions or researching on community history. Interested participants can fill in application forms to participate in their volunteers' workshop which takes place from 8.45am to 4pm on 24 & 30 April 2016 at Queenstown Community Centre and email The workshop trains prospective volunteers on basic oral history interviews, basic guiding and research techniques.

Alternatively, participants can join them at an open house from 1pm to 4pm on Saturday, 26 March 2016 at Queenstown Community Centre auditorium where their volunteers will share our experiences on guiding, curating, researching and events organising. Register for the open house:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The day i found an abandoned or escapee bird (Green Cheeked Conure)

I was walking in my neighbourhood today when i spotted a beautiful exotic bird on the ground (my initially impression was i thought it was some sort of Budgie. It was alive but was very weak and did not fly away although i approached it cautiously. The bird was either sick or in shock or worst, both. Nearby was a plastic corner with peanuts on the ground leading me to jump the gun to think that it was an abandoned bird. With further hindsight, another possibility was another person found it and brought water and nuts (unfortunately this nuts were not for bird consumption but look more for human consumption ones). Whatever the case was, it  was very obvious the owner was not present and the bird is in danger (to shock and exposure or the possibility of been killed by domesticated pets in the neighbourhood).

After waiting for 20 minutes i decided to take action, by first calling the Animals Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) Wildlife Crime / Rescue Hotline -9783 7782 . It's hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ! I called but initially couldn't get through but was very impressed that they called me back within minutes.

Reading advice online on first aid for birds gave me some ideas of do's and don't of dealing with birds in distressed and this was reaffirmed by the calm voice of the ACRES Volunteer i spoke too.
Handling the bird with your bare hand is usually a no no and since the ACRES folks have only 1 van and are handling a number of cases, they were unable to get to me immediately. The next course of action was to find a box to at least place the bird in. I found a clean one luckily at the block opposite this (in the green recyclable bin) and carefully approach the bird to get it to go into the box. After 2 tries, i manage to get the bird to go into the box without manhandling it.

With the container of water in the box and closing the lid of the box, (of course after creating the necessary air ventilation holes) i left the bird alone after i brought it back home. I checked on the bird every hour to see if ok, and has the hours passed, it seem to be much better. Finally 3 hours (exactly on their estimate time they said they will get to me) i got a call from ACRES to say they were here. A quick check by them told me the bird was ok. I am a bit sad to see it go, but i am sure ACRES are better equipped and have more knowledge to handle it.

A birder like me prefer to "capture" them with my binoculars and camera rather than keep one in a cage, no matter what urge i had to "adopt" this beautiful creature, it is better in my opinion not too and leave it in the hands of people more skilled and responsible. I am not making any statements on caged bird ownership (to each their own i suppose), but personally, i rather admire birds in the wild than keep one caged. As the bird i found is an exotic non-local, they can never be released to the wild in Singapore even if it regains it health.

Parting note

In the safe and capable hands of ACRES, i see hope that at least the bird will find a home maybe at the Jurong Bird Park or adopted by people who are skilled enough to care for it and shower the necessary attention. While writing my thoughts on my blog, i researched further and found that this bird is likely to be a Green Cheeked Conure (sometimes called the Green Cheeked Parakeet), an exotic bird originating from South America.

Thank you to the volunteers from ACRES, who seem to work tirelessly round the clock to safe animals in danger. If you are touched by the efforts, you can donate to their cause.