Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Pied Fantail)

The next generation of Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) chicks were seen again almost a year one from the last time i saw them. This time round, they were still hatchlings compared to my previous posting back in May 2015 when they were already juveniles getting ready to fly and way oversized for the nest that it was hatched on.

Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) feeding buuterfly to its young

Can see they are hungry

While exploring the Park, was happy to see the Spotted Wood Owl again, although i saw only one.

Spotted Wood Owl 

Spotted Wood Owl

See also previous post on Pasir Ris Park
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Pied Fantail) May 24, 2015, posted on June 14,2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Buffy Fish Owl). June 8, 2015, posted on June 13, 2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (May 3,2015), posted on June 14,2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (February 20, 2015), posted on March 1, 2015
A stroll in Pasir Ris Park, posted on January 24, 2014
Red Jungle Fowl spotted in Pasir Ris Park, posted on March 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2016

Loke Yew Bee (Bukit Brown)

Loke Yew Bee was the Secretary of the Heap Eng Moh Steamship Co. He was also the President of the Sepoy Lines Funeral Association. An article in 1930 mentions that the 17th annual general meeting was held in his residence in 155 Neil Road. The patron of the association at that time was Lee Hoon Leong. Loke Yew Bee was also a patron of the Penang Chinese Union (other patrons include Yeoh Guan Seok, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh).

Tomb oF Loke Yew Bee in Hill 4 Division B, plot 281 

Heap Eng Moh Steamship is the steamship company owned by Mr Oei Tiong Ham, the famous Sugar King, Steamship owner and Mayor of Semarang.

1923 Article 


Loke Yew Bee, (a Cantonese) passed away on October 2 1937 at the age of 64 at his residence in 33 Blair Road. He leaves 1 daughter; Loke Soo Geok and two son-in-laws, Low Teck Seng and Lim Hock Chuan, 1 grandson; Low Poh Huat and one grand daughter Dorothy Lim.

His wife, Madam Lee Saw Khim (Lee Soh Kim) passed away on May 4, 1936 age of 54 at Blair Road leaving behind her husband, her son, Master Loke Soo Hee, 1 surviving daughter (Mrs Lim Hock Chuan alias Baby Loke), 2 son-in-law, Low Teck Seng and Lim Hock Chuan, 1 grandson and 1 granddaughter. She is buried in Hill 4 Division A, plot 286.

Son: Master Loke Soo Hee 
In a spate of 1 year, both husband and wife passed away. I also notice that Master Loke Soo Hee was not mentioned when his father passed away in 1937.  What happened to him?

Daughter:Mrs Low Teck Seng
Mr Loke Yew Bee and Mr Low Teck Seng beg to thank their many friends, Penang Union, Poih Siang Picnic Association and Amateur Sporting Association who attended the funeral of Mrs Low Teck Seng on November 12, 1922.


Acknowledgment. (1922 November 14). The Straits Times
Advertising. (1923, October 18). The Straits Times
Funeral Association. (1930, March 4). The Straits Times
Death. (1936, May 6).The Straits Times
Death. (1937, October 3). The Straits Times.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lee Hong Neo (Bukit Brown)

Madam Lee Hong Neo passed away at the age of 80 on March 25, 1940 and is buried in Block 4 Section C plot 2014. The names of two sons are mentioned in her tomb, Koh Eng Hoe and Koh Eng Tiong. Also visible are names of her grandchildren, Koh Choon Hong and Koh Chew Bock.

Madam Lee Hong Neo 

Madam Lee Hong Neo's tomb being enveloped by a Banyan Tree

Names of son and some of the grandchildren still visible


The death notice is the first evidence and the names of the sons match. So do the year of death of Madam Lee Hong Neo matches the Year and Month of the notice below as well in the Bukit Brown burial registrar.

Burial registrar entry matches the location and plot number


I will start with the family members of Madam Lee Hong Neo that were easily discernible from reading the names of her son and grandson. One of her grandson scored many first in the legal domain, being the colony first Chinese District Judge and Deputy Public Prosecutor.

Son: Koh Eng Tiong 
I do not have much information about Koh Eng Tiong, but interesting enough, Koh Eng Tiong's son, Koh Choon Hong whose name appears at the tomb as the grandson of Madam Lee Hong Neo scores many mentions. Koh Choon Hong, born in Malaya, studied in Anglo Chinese School, Singapore. He went on to study law in Emanuel College, Cambridge in 1925. Called to Bar in June 1929, Koh Choon Hong was admitted to the Colony Bar in 1932. He went on to be an Assistant Official Assignee. He became the colony first Chinese District Judge and in July 1940, Koh Choon Hong was appointed Deputy Public Prosecutor in 1940, the first Chinese to receive this position.

Koh Choon Hong was appointed Referee of Titles by the Perak Government during the Dinding retro-cession back to Perak and was the Custodian of Enemy Property during World War II. In 1945, he served as a Major in the Intelligence Section of the British Army, Commissioner in Malayanisation Commission; Secretary-General, Labour Party (1954);  the Vice-President of the Singapore People's Alliance (1956). He stood for elections in the 1959 Singapore Legislative Assembly Elections and won for the Joo Chiat Constituency.

Singapore Free Press November 13, 1925 , p 8. 

Koh Choon Hong 

Straits Tmes July 1, 1937

Another interesting note was that Koh Choon Hong stood for the 1957 Legislative Assembly By- Elections as an Independent Candidate. He lost to Lee Kuan Yew of the People's Action Party.

Koh Siok Puay and Koh Siok Tian, daughters of Koh Choon Hong
Koh Siok Puay and Koh Siok Tian 

Son: Koh Eng Hoe
<still researching>

Chinese Dinner For Singapore's New Knight.(1937, July 1)The Straits Times. Page 20
Mainly About Malayan. (1940, July 28). The Straits Times, Page 8
S'pore Assemblyman's daughter wins Perth beauty title. (1961, October 25). The Singapore Free Press, page 4

Birdwatching in Ubin (April 9, 2016)

Took leave on Friday (April 9) to do some birdwatching. Decided that Ubin will be a good choice as it will be less crowded and indeed it was a great decision. Some of the birds i managed to get photos of included: 
  • White-bellied Sea Eagle
  • Oriental Pied Hornbill
  • Pink-necked Green Pigeon
  • Dollar Bird
  • Straw-headed Bulbul
  • Olive-winged Bulbul   

White-bellied Sea Eagle

White-bellied Sea Eagle 

Oriental Pied Hornbill feasting on ripen figs

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Pink necked Green Pigeon (Female)

Dollar bird

Straw headed Bulbul 

Olive winged Bulbul 
While on my leisurely, stroll, the clouded monitor was doing the same foraging for food, unafraid as there very few people out and about

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Trumpeter Hornbill in Bidadari (April 18, 2016)

The news of the sighting of the Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator) in Bidadari was a big surprise to the birding and bird photography community. This is because the Trumpeter Hornbill is not local to this region but a native bird of Africa.

I manage to see the hornbill this morning before heading back to work. I am happy to see it feasting from ripen fruits of a fig tree showing its ability to survive in a foreign environment (at least for now), but also concerned that the global trade on wildlife bird (especially parrots, macaws etc.) is a huge treat to the native wildlife population numbers. This solitary Trumpeter Hornbill is a prime example of a victim of this trade. It's also interesting to note that this bird chose Bidadari as its sanctuary, showing again evidence of the importance of this place as a bird sanctuary.

Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator) in Bidadari
Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator)

Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator) in Bidadari
Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator)

Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator) in Bidadari
Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator)

Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator)

Trumpeter Hornbill spread (source: Birdlife International) 

See also previous post on Bidadari :
Birdwatching in Bidadari (January 10, 2016), posted on January 20, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (December 20, 2015), posted on December 20, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (November 9, 2015), posted on November 16, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (October 31,2015), posted on November 12, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (October 11,2015), posted on October 17, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (Javan Munia) May 2015, posted on May, 24, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (February 2015), posted on March 06, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (January 18, 2015), posted on January 21, 2015
Birdwatching before New Year 2015, posted on on January 01, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Raptors spotted (December, 2014), posted on December 26, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Local Residents (December, 2014), posted on December 16, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Blue-winged Pitta (December, 2014), posted on December 14, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari (November 9, 2014), posted on November 9, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Jambu Fruit Dove ( December 6 ), posted on December 6, 2013
Birdwatching in Bidadari ( November 3, 2013), posted on November 3, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Muslim Cemetery), posted on October 17, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Alkaff Gardens and Lake), posted on October 8, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Birdwatching), posted on October 14, 2013
Bidadari (17 December), posted on December 18, 2012
Saving Bidadari, posted on December 5, 2012
Bidadari (7 December), posted on December 9, 2012
Bidadari (18 November), posted on November 18, 2012


BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Bycanistes bucinator.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

WWII@Bukit Brown - the book is finally out !

"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love
only what we understand; and we will understand only
what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968.)

9th April 2016 marks another important day for the members who make up All things Bukit Brown aka Brownies. It was the day we launched our book on one facet of Bukit Brown rich history from a World War II  perspective.

The book launch was graced by Senior Minister of State Mr. Desmond Lee, Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and very well attended by members of the public, descendants of some of the personalities written about in the book, generous donors and Singapore Heritage Society members. The quote above was part of  his speech and indeed meaningful, as our effort's to teach society at large on the importance of Bukit Brown as a nature and heritage site is something we have been trying to do and hopefully the Singapore society and its appointed leaders will have a change of heart and come together to proactively help conserve Bukit Brown.

Senior Minister of State, Mr. Desmond Lee gracing the WWII@Bukit Brown event 

Senior Minister of State Mr. Desmond Lee addressing the audience

Catherine Lim addressing a packed URA auditorium 

Catherine Lim and Claire Leow (Editors) with the rest of the editorial team of the book
(photo by Lawrence Chong) 
An interesting, informative and interactive panel discussion chaired by Darren Koh (Associate Professor, SIM University) took place in conjunction with the book launch with panelist which included: Kok Heng Leun (Nominated Member of Parliament), Chua Ai Lin (President of Singapore Heritage Society), Jon Cooper (Battlefield archaeologist at Adam Park) and Claire Leow (Co-founder of All Things Bukit Brown).  on "Community Engagement - Shared Experiences".

Panel discussion

The book is available online via Ethos Books, Singapore and in major bookstores by end April.

Related reading: Book Launch-WWII@Bukit Brown

Speech by SMS Desmond Lee at the Book Launch of "World War II @ Bukit Brown"
09 Apr 2016 05:30 PM

A very good afternoon to all of you.

I am pleased to be here at the launch of the book, “World War II @ Bukit Brown”.

This book, co-published by the Singapore Heritage Society and Ethos, with a partial grant from the National Heritage Board, is a fine example of how the community can come together to celebrate our history and our heritage, as well as pay tribute to our pioneers.

All Things Bukit Brown

In my constituency, Jurong, we have this practice that whenever we give out prizes or awards to students, we try to weave in something educational or something meaningful, as far as we can.

We come up with a smorgasbord of choices. If you like the environment, we take you to Pulau Hantu; if you like to put yourself at risk, we go rock-climbing; if you like to understand more about history, we take you to Bukit Brown. We let them decide where they would like to go.

In late 2013, on 21st December, a group of very thoughtful young people signed up for the walk to Bukit Brown. We brought them there to appreciate our heritage and to better understand the issues surrounding Bukit Brown, because it was then very much in the public eye.

Two days ago I attended a landscape architecture conference, and I suggested for our green environmentalists to talk to our students about green conservation. It is a very different topic from today, but this lady whom I know, put this quote on screen, and I think it is apt for today as well. She was quoting a famous person who said, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. And we will understand only what we are taught.”

As far as Bukit Brown and the deep history that surrounds it, what better way than on a guided tour by our Brownies.

During the visit three years ago, we learnt about the history and heritage of our pioneers from the stories shared by the Brownies.

Over the years, we have all been very impressed by the passion demonstrated by the Brownies, as they have contributed so much of their personal time, personal energy and expertise to research, document and share the history of Bukit Brown with the rest of us in Singapore.

They are an example of what the community can do to connect with, and to celebrate our history. But if we reflect on it, although Bukit Brown is a cemetery, their work is so much more than just about the past. It is also very much about our future.

The research that the Brownies did led descendants to approach them for help to identify their ancestors’ resting places, and from there, an opportunity to open up conversations about their personal and family stories, which they then shared for the benefit of posterity.

I understand that some of the descendants are here. Some of your stories and stories of your forefathers have made their way into this book. This book is a testament to the hard work and effort the Brownies had invested over the years.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Qing Ming in Ubin Island (April 10, 2016)

It started out with a simple tour to various places around Pulau Ubin, but when we arrived at Kampong Sungei Tiga Chinese Cemetery, i noticed there were a number of visitors there paying respects to the dead buried in this cemetery. Fortunately for me, the family i approached were willing to share with us their stories of their anscestors who was buried there.

Mr. Chen Zhi Ming (陳志明) in his early 50's, was once a resident in Pulau Ubin, having the opportunity to experience kampong living, growing up there and studied in Bin Kiang School. He now like many former residents resides in Singapore Island. He is visiting with his Uncle, his brothers and sisters, his son and daughter, nieces and nephew to pay respects to his Grandparents.

Mr. Chen  Zi Meng and sister performing acts of filial piety at the tomb of Madam Zhang Gui Qing 

A Samsui Woman and Quarry Worker

From Mr. Chen Zhi Ming's account, his grandmother, Madam 張 Zhang Gui Qing (1913-1992) is a Cantonese and hails from Guangxi (廣西) She arrived in Singapore probably in the late 1920's or early 1930's as a young lady together with many other womenfolk who came from that province during that period of time to seek employment. She worked in the construction industry as a Samsui woman. Madam Zhang eventually married, raised a family and settled down with her husband in Ubin Island. Both worked at the granite quarry while supplementing that income with farming. Her husband, Mr. Chen passed away much earlier in 1967.

A photo of a Samsui Woman at work (source: PictureSG) 

A Kampong Childhood

Mr. Chen Zhi Ming, the eldest of 3 or 4 siblings, said that he moved from the squatters at Changi area to Ubin when he was 4. Like his grandfather, his father work at the quarry in Pulau Ubin too. Mr. Chen Zhi Ming attended Bin Kiang School when the mode of teaching was in Chinese. He is still in contact with the school alumni and proudly whipped out his camera to show recent pictures of the school former students with their teachers.

He gave insights of how they commuted in the past prior to motor powered bumboats, they will just row their sampan across the Straits Channel. Another anecdote was how Mr Chen supplemented his pocket money by collecting conch (sea snails or gong gong) or other shellfish and then selling it at Changi.

After the closure of the quarry, school and later in 2005, the ban in keeping live poultry in Ubin; it became difficult to sustain economic life in Ubin. After they moved to Singapore Island, their kampong house was eventually demolished.

Alumni of Bin Kiang School 

Students and Teachers of Bin Kiang  School, Ubin 1963

Filial Piety in action 

What touched me, was how the young family clan members of Mr. Chen were present in observing the Qing Ming ceremony and everyone was busy doing their part keeping this tradition alive for generations to come. I noticed also other family members in  Kampong Sungei Tiga Chinese Cemetery busy paying their respects as well.

Paying respects of Mr Chen and Madam Zhang 

The younger generation playing an active part in maintaining the Qing Ming traditions

Two different families paying their respects 

"I remember coming here when the durian tree was only this size"

On my way out, a lady paying respects with her family shared that she remembers when the tomb of her ancestor was built, the girth of the durian tree behind her was only the size of the difference between the length of her two raised hands.

The girth of the durian tree then and now

The person buried here is not forgotten 

Mrs Tan Cheng Kee (Bukit Brown)

Madam Ong Whye Gann (Mrs. Tan Cheng Kee) passed away at her house in No 67 Waterloo Street on January 25, 1927 at the age of 50. Her husband, Mr. Tan Cheng Kee, J.P is the eldest son of Mr.Tan Keong Siak. Tan Cheng Kee was a Chinese pioneer in the motion picture film industry in Singapore and was the proprietor of Alhambra Theatre, Marlborough Theatres and later Palladium Cinema. Mr. Tan Cheng Kee passed away on September 12, 1939 at his residence in 319, East Coast Road and the funeral left from 67 Waterloo Street to Bidadari Cemetery. He is survived by a son, Tan Soon Lay, a daughter, Josephine Tan, son-in-law Wee Guan Hong and 1 daughter-in-law; Yeo Siok Tin and 3 grandchildren. This would explain why the double tomb has only the name of Madam Ong Whye Gan etched on its beautiful marble stone that was once engulfed by a tree growing on it but now repaired and restored by the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Tan Cheng Kee.

Madam Ong Whye Gan  nee Mrs Tan Cheng Kee 

Only 1 tomb is etched while the other is empty 

Chinese Pioneer of early motion pictures
Another early pioneer that comes to my mind is Mr. Kung Tian Siong, proprietor of Empire Cinema (opened in 1916). Back to Tan Cheng Kee, Alhambra Theatre's ownership was transferred from Mr. Fernard Dreyfus to Mr. Tan Cheng Kee on July 8, 1909. Tan Cheng Kee further expanded his business to include Marlborough Theatres and later Palladium Cinema. Palladium was purchased from Mr.Cowan in May 1918 for $25,000.

Alhambra in Beach Road (source: PictureSG)

Singapore Street Directory 1954 


Daughter: Josephine Tan
Miss Josephine Tan, daughter of Tan Cheng Kee and niece of Mrs Lee Choon Guan,  married Mr. Wee Guan Hong, son of Mr and Mrs. Wee Tiam Hock at the Church of St. Teresa, Kampong Bahru on November 1935.

Wee Guan Hong, Joseph passed away at the age 78 on 28 November, 1987, leaving behind is wife, Madam Josephine Tan, sons; Joseph Wee Ban Huat, Peter Wee Ban Kheng, daughter-in-law; Doreen Tan Nya Nya, grandchildren; Paul Wee Hock Kee, Michelle Wee Ming Shing, Geraldine Wee Ming Chien.

Miss Josephine Tan and Mr Wee Guan Hong.

Son: Tan Soon Lay
Mr. Tan Soon Lay, the only son of Tan Cheng Kee married Miss Yeo Seok Tin, only daughter of the late Mr Yeo Kang Swee and Mrs Yeo Kang Swee and niece of Mr. and Mrs Ong Peng Hock. Their wedding took place at  Church of St. Teresa, Kampong Bahru on October 1936.

Madam Yeo Seok Tin passed away on 1st March 1981 leaving behind her husband, Tan Soo Lay, sons; Benedict Tan, Dominic Tan, daughters; Adelene Tan, Christina Tan and Mary Ann Tan, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Tan Soon Lay, Joseph passed away at the age of 69 on 6th Jan 1984 leaving behind,
sons; Benedict Tan Eng Wee, Dominic Tan Eng Kiat, daughters; Adelene Tan Kim Lian, Christina Tan Kim Geok and Mary Ann Tan Kim Imm; son-in-law; Tan Khoon Choon; daughter-in-law; Hedy Tan and grandchildren. 

Mr Tan Soo Lay and Miss Yeo Seok Tin

The tomb of Madam Ong Whye Gann (Mrs. Tan Cheng Kee) has been dutifully restored by her descendants and is also remembered in this blog post.

Untitled. (1918). The Straits Times
Untitled. (1924, July 29). The Straits Times.
Domestic Occurrences. (1927, January 26).The Singapore Free Press
Untitled. (1935, November 17). The Straits Times
Untitled. (1936, October 12). The Straits Times