Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tan Gim Wee and family (Bukit Brown)

Tan Gim Wee was a pawnbroker of chop Teong Moh at No 472, North Bridge Road and from 1899 -1909, there were several mentions of auctions of unclaimed pawn items that took place in a very much regulated business even back then. In 1909, Tan Gim Wee got into trouble for taking into his pawnshop, 2 large stolen brass candlesticks without declaring or informing the police despite the fact a circular was sent out, He was fine $8 as well as losing out on the $4 advance he gave. The candlesticks was returned to the original owner.

Mr Tan Gim Wee and Madam Pang Say Nah 
He was the Secretary of the Yew Gee Hean Association in 1921. (The President of the Association during that year was was Seah Kim Soh). He also purchased several land and house in Geylang Road area.


Tan Gim Wee passed away on December 24, 1931 at the age of 53 at his residence in No. 203, Geylang. He leaves behind his widow, 3 sons, 3 daughters, 3 son-in-laws, 1 daughter-in-law and 11 grandchildren. His wife is Madam Pang Say Nah.

The tomb is very ornate and art deco in design and features also a pair of Punjabi /Sikh Guards. The font type that inscribes their names are also unique.

Tomb of Mr and Mrs Tan Gim Wee

Mr Tan Gim Wee and Madam Pang Say Nyah
Block 3 Division A @1.337192,103.824726
Unique Fonts used


Son: Tan Beng Chye, Tan Beng Hian, Tan Beng Moh
Daughters: Tan Bee Hong, Tan Bee Huan, Tan Bee Luan
Son-in-laws: Lim Nee Eng, Lim Hock Yan, Teonh Kim Eng,

Mother-in-law: Madam Chia Wan Neo
Madam Chia Wan Neo passed away at the age of 78 on December 6, 1932 at her residence in No. 12, Lorong 4 Geylang Road. She is survived by two daughters,  Mrs Tan Boon Pah and Mrs. Tan Gim Wee, 5 grandsons; Quek Chek Yan, Tan Teng Chye, Tan Beng Hian, Tan Beng Moh, 7 granddaughters and 34 great grandchildren. She is buried in Bukit Brown.

Madam Chia Wan Neo (Hill 1)

Pawnbroking in Singapore

With the Chinese migrants came the system on borrowing and lending money via pawn shops. The early records of pawnshop in Singapore was in 1872, the Sheng He Dang (生和当) opened by Lan Qiu Shan (蓝秋山) and his partners at Jalan Bukit Merah. A government licensing system for pawnbrokers was established as early as 1822 during the administration of William Farquhar and the Pawnbrokers Ordinance passed in 1898 (during Tan Gim Wee's time of operations).  Initially dominated by the Hokkiens and Teochews, the Hakkas in the 1920's were the major owners of this pawnshops. If you are interested to read more, there are links i referenced below including one of how a pawnshop receipt looks like.

(research on-going)


Property Sales. (1908, May 28). The Straits Times
Trouble of Brass Candlesticks. (1909, January 27). The Straits Times
Untitled. (1921, September 13). The Straits Times
Acknowledgements. (1931, December 29). The Straits Times
Domestic Occurrences. (1931, December 24). TheStraits Times
Pawnbroking in Singapore. (website). Infopedia
A receipt from Keng Hin Pawnshop. (website).
Monylending: A short history. BiblioAsia. Volume 3. Issue 1 April 2007 , p 22-27 (Eng Chuan, Ong)

Teo Kim Eng (Bukit Brown)

The large tomb and jovial picture of Mr Teo Kim Eng got me curious about him. His story is an interesting one. Teo Kim Eng (张金荣), a Hokkien businessman from Lam Ann, first came to Singapore at age of 12  and started working as a labourer and eventually earn enough to start in his own stall at the age of 17. By 20,  he was the owner of a thriving business and is the owner of Chop Guan Choon (源春号), a big tobacco wholesaler firm. He is the owner of a chain of rubber estates and houses.

Mr and Mrs Teo Kim Eng 

Philanthropist and "Kepala"

Prior to war, Teo Kim Eng contributed to the Malayan Patriotic Fund, London Air Raid Relief Fund and China Relief Fund. He is a millionaire but prefers to be known as a "kepala" of his 100-acre holiday resort in Tampenis. Mr. Teo Kim Eng was observed to be working with his labourers in his estate and was seen during weekends spending hours working under the hot sun, shirtless and armed with a changkol (hoe).  When a journalist who went down to his estate to interview Teo Kim Eng, the millionaire, he introduced himself as the kepala here.

Mr. Teo's estate of bungalows consist of various amenities such as a swimming pool and a dance hall and he opens it up freely to friends and picnic parties. It was reported in 1947 that he refused an offer of $14,400 a year to rent his bungalows in the estate.There are many articles of different groups (e.g Chinese YMCA, Eclipse B.P. , ) holding their events in Teo Kim Eng Villa in Punggol and Teo Guan Choon Villa in 10 mile off Tampenis Road.

Guan Choon & Co. 

Teo Kim Eng company is Guan Choo & Co. located at 149 Cross Street. There were many articles of his company renting out various seaside bungalows own by him. In 1956, 1 year after his death, Guan Choon & Co is associated with Teo Song Lian. If i follow the thread of Teo Song Lian  and the company, there was an article in the Business Times 1988, where Teo Song Lian as Chairman of Guan Choon & Company Pte Ltd sought for the company to be winded up voluntarily.


There was an acknowledgement notice in February 1942 by Teo Kim Eng of Chop Guan Choon, 149 Cross Street, thanking relatives and friends who attended the funeral of his wife. However the name of the wife was not mentioned.

Teo Kim Eng passed away in 12 April 1955 and is buried in Bukit Brown Hill 3 Division A

Tomb of Mr and Mrs Teo Kim Eng 


There are roads named after him and his company, Teo Kim Eng Road and Jalan Guan Choon (expunged)
Jalan Guan Choon (Pasir Ris) -expunged

Teo Kim Eng Road 

(research on-going)


Acknowledgment. (1927, February 160. The Straits Times
This millionaire prefers to be known as a "Kepala". (1947). Sunday Tribune.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Song Ong Siang and family (All Saints Memorial)

Sir Song Ong Siang was the the eldest son of Song Hoot Kiam and Phan Fung Lean. He served as a voluntary preacher and succeeded his father Song Hoot Kiam (when he died in 1900), as an elder of the church. He also served as Chairman of the Chinese Christian Association for many years and was a strong advocate for educational reform, helping in the formation of the Singapore Chinese Girls' School and becoming one of the members on the Board of Governors and its Vice-president.

Sir Song Ong Siang achieved many first. He was as earlier mentioned, the first Chinese to be Knighted. As a young boy, he was a brilliant student. He excelled in his studies and was the first recipient of the Queen's  Scholar but was disqualified due to the fact he was underage. The honor instead went to another distingushed person, Dr. Lim Boon Keng. He did eventually became a Queens Scholar in 1888 and was the first Queens Scholar to study law. He went on to establish the law firm, Aitken and Ong Siang. He was the first Chinese Captain in the Straits Chinese Volunteer Corp. Sir Song Ong Siang, to me epitomised the model colonial resident that the British sought to nuture and groom as British subject; a loyal and contributing member of the British Empire,
Captain Song Ong Siang and  Mrs Song Ong Siang (source: a20)

Sir Song Ong Siang and  Lady Helen Song Ong Siang (source: a20)


Sir Song Ong Siang passed away on September 29, 1941 at the age of 70 and his wife, Helen Yeo Hee Neo passed away on February 28, 1951 at the age of 65. Both were buried in Bidadari. When Bidadari cemetery was claimed for further development, they were moved. The niche can now be found in All Saints Memorial.

Sir Song Ong Siang and Lady Helen 

Tomb of Sir and Mrs Song Ong Siang in Bidadari
(source: National Archives Online )


Wife: Yeo Hee Neo
Miss Yeo Hee Neo, second daughter of the late Yeo Poon Seng and Mrs Yeo Poon Seng of No. 2 Stanley Road married Mr. Song Ong Siang on 28 September 1907 at the Presbysterian Church in Orchard Road.  The reception was held at the "Hollandia", No 4 Llyod Road.

Daughter: Grace Margaret Song
Grace Margaret passed away at the age of 14 on February 17, 1908 at 4, Lloyd Road. She was interred in Bidadari Cemetery.  

Adopted Daughter: Lily Nancy Song 
Their adopted daughter Lily Nancy Song passed away on April 14, 1944. 

Lily Nancy Song

Father: Song Hoot Kiam (1830-1900)
Song Hoot Kiam, (1830-1900) was a Straits born Chinese originally from Malacca. He was one of the first 6 Chinese converts of the Protestant mission and a pupil of Dr James Legge (later a Professor of Chinese Studies in Oxford University). Song Hoot Kiam was brought to Scotland to be educated and was baptised in 1847. Upon returning, he served with Reverand Benjamin Keasberry as a voluntary preacher and as the Treasurer of the Church. After his first wife's (Yeo Choon Neo) death, Song Hoot Kiam married Phan Fung Lean from a Penang Christian family in 1870. Their eldest child was Song Ong Siang. Song Hoot Khiam was to marry a third time leaving behind a total of five sons and nine daughters when he passed away in October 1900.
Song Hoot Kiam 

Aunt: Song Oon Leang 
Song Oon Leang (aunt of Song Ong Siang) passed away on November 14, 1917 at the age of 85. She was interned in Bidadari Cemetery.

Sister: Song Kee Nee
Miss Song Kee Nee passed away on November 8, 1919 at the age of 47.

Brother: Song Ong Joo
Song Ong Joo married Miss Lim Hian Neo (daughter of Mr Lim Koon Yong of Messrs. Braddell Brothers in April 1913. (Madam Lim Hian Neo is also known as Henrietta Lim ). Song Ong Joo passed away on May 26, 1962 while Madam Lim Hian Neo passed away on January 28, 1972.

Sister-in-law: Yeo Yam Neo (Mrs Tan Soo Bin)
Born 3 November, 1896, Yeo Yam Neo passed away on 23 December 1944. Yeo Yam Neo married Tan Soo Bin (the second son of Tan Jiak Kim).  In a Strait's Times article dated May 11, 1936, Mrs. Tan Soo Bin was identified as the first Singapore Chinese woman to fly from Europe (she flew from Amsterdam with the K.L.M ).
Mrs Tan Soo Bin 

Sister-in-law: Dolly Yeo Lim Neo 
Dolly Yeo Lim Neo is the youngest sister of Yeo Hee Neo and Yeo Yam Neo. She passed away on 31 October 1947
Dolly Yeo Lim Neo 


Prinsep Street Church
On the front facade of the beautiful red brick building of Prinsep Street Church is a marble stone that marks that the church was built in 1843 and rebuilt in 1930. The stone to commemorate the rebuilding of the church was laid by Song Ong Siang, Esq, C.B.E , V.D. , M.A., L.L.M, on March 5, 1930. Six years later he was knighted the K.B.E, becoming the first Straits Chinese to reach knighthood.
Commemorative Stone at Prinsep Street Church 
One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore
Sir Song is  the famed author of the book, "One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore", a book that captures the contributions of local chinese spanning across 1819-1919 and a book that many researcher still use today, including amateur history enthusiast like me.


An interesting wedding. (1907, September 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 10
Death. (1908, February 18). The Straits Times, page 6
Straits Chinese Wedding. (1913, April 26). The Weekly Sun, page 6
Death. (1917, November 15). The Straits Times, page 6
Acknowledgement. (1919, November 11). The Singapore Free Press, page 6
Death of Sir Song Ong Siang in Singapore (1941, September 29). The Straits Times, page 8

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Madam Lim Nyonya (Lao Sua)

One of the marble tombs that caught my attention is the tomb of Madam Lim Nyonya who passed away at the age of 52 on February 20, 1956. She is survived by her daughter Nancy Peck, her son-in-law, Khoo Kim Swee and grandchildren, Khoo Geok Lin, Khoo Keng Lin, Khoo Keng San

What strikes me is Madam Lim incorporated the term "Nyonya" in her name probably as indication that she was a Straits Born lady. Another probability is that it was a term of endearment for her by the people who know her. Many Straits born Chinese refer to themselves as Baba (men) or Nyonya (women) to differentiate themselves from the subsequent wave of Chinese migrants. There are many research materials written about the Baba's and Nyonya's and their customs, there is no need to mention it here.  

Madam Lim Nyonya

A search for Madam Lim Nyonya drew blank, but her daughter; Nancy Peck was able to provide me with the names of Madam Lim Nyonya's grandchildren.

Nancy Peck passed away at the age of 70 on July 7, 2000. She is survived by her husband; Khoo Kim Swee,

Sons: Khoo Keng Lin, Ernest ; Khoo Keng San, Derek
Daughters-in-law; Bay Sok Jua ; Chan Hui King, Penny
Daughters: Khoo Geok Lin, Valerie ; Khoo Keng San, Derek
Sons-in-law: Chua Choon Chuan, Samuel ; Lee Cheow Chuan, Kavlin ; Yu Wen Miin, Alfred
Godsons and Goddaughters:
Ng Tze Wei, William, Koh Beng Poo, Anthony Teo, Ng Tze Chiew, Diana

The names of Nancy Peck husband and children matches the name of the tomb of Madam Lim Nyonya, confirming the family relationship.

Greater Bukit Brown guided trail 

The tombs in Lao Sua or Greater Bukit Brown are part of the future guided walks we plan to do or have already started in the past but to a lesser extend. Lao Sua is another large area of historical significance managed by the Hokkien Huay Kuan but subsequently sold to the Government under the land reclamation act for future development. First established after the old Tiong Bahru Cemetery was full, it was through the efforts of pioneers like Gan Eng Seng, Tan Beng Swee, Chia Ann Siang who donated money to create this cemetery cluster for purpose of burial of their immediate family and also other Chinese of the Hokkien dialect.

The stories are continuing to evolve, so do bear with the possible mistakes (if any) during the writing process of the stories. With more people in the community with better insights, i am sure more can rediscovered and the stories of the long forgotten past remembered again and piece back together bit by bit.

Stories from the Lao Sua / Greater Bukit Brown trail (more to come)
Chua Soon Leong and family (posted on 2016, July 13)
Tan Soon Neo (posted on 2016, July 11)
Yeo Lock Gee (posted on 2015, March 5)
Song Chit Neo (posted on 2014, May 14)
Wan Eng Kiat (posted on 2014, May 16)
Wee Theam Tew (posted on 2012, October 29)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chua Soon Leong and family (Lao Sua)

One of the most beautiful engraved and decorated pair of tombs are the tomb's of Chua Soon Leong (died September 1920) and his wife Madam Tan Hiang Guat Neo (died July 10, 1910 age 35). Chua Soon Leong was the President of the Tiang Ho Kok Association and it was in one of the meetings held in July 1915, a motion was passed to invest £100 (out of the association's fund of £1000) on the British National War Loan.

Chua Soon Leong

Mrs Chua Soon Leong nee Tan Hiang Guat Neo

Names of the children engraved in English 

Names of the children engraved in English - Chua Seng Hock, Chua Seng Neo, Chua Eng Bee 

Family Benefit Society

Chua Soon Leong was mentioned to be an auditor in rotation for the Family Benefit Society in February 1916. This society founded in 1913 by its founder Mr. Geo Ritchie of Messrs. Whiteaway, Laidlaw and Co, grew from 33 members with a capital of $60 to 500 members and a capital of nearly $5000 (in 1915). The made up of members include Europeans, Eurasians, Chinese and Indians. It was non-sectarian, non-denominational -advocating no religious order and no distinction to race, class and creed. Its objective was to bring comfort and relief to families when the main bread winner is sick or unable to work or has passed on. It does this by getting its members to save money every month into this mutual thrift fund.

Straits Born Loyalties 

It was with the backdrop of World War I, when prominent Chinese towkays and leaders gathered on September 29, 1915 to discuss how the Straits-born Chinese community can be galvanised as Chinese British subjects to support the King and the British Empire for its war efforts beyond the Prince of Wales Relief Fund, Aircraft Fund, etc. There were many speakers on that day, held at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and among them were Koh Siang Lim (Chairperson), Hon. Dr. Lim Boon Keng, Mr. Tan Jiak Kim, C.M.G. , Messrs Seah Leang Seah, Song Ong Siang, Ching Keng Lee, Gaw Khek Khiam, Seet Teong Wah, Yeo Hock Hoe, Lee Choon Guan, Chia Hood Thiam, Thiong Song Lim, Sye Jim Chan, K.S. Keat, Lim Nee Soon, Lee Pong Seng, Tan Soo Bin and many others.

One of the questions raised (and this was by Chua Soon Leong ) was who will look after the families of the ones who have gone to served. It was thus Dr. Lim Boon Keng standing on behalf of the Straits Chinese British Association who gave a moving speech on the ways the Chinese can actively contribute.

How the Straits born Chinese can help 


Father: Chua Cheng Chwee
Close to Chua Soon Leong tomb cluster is another large tomb that belongs to his father, Chua Cheng Chwee, a Qing dynasty tomb dated as 1891.

Mr. Chua Cheng Swee 

Wife: Tan Hiang Guat Neo (1875-1910)
Madam Tan Hiang Guat Neo passed away at 6 am, 10th July 1910. She was 35 years of age. On her tomb are listed the names of the children, listed as follows:
Sons: Chua Seng Hock and Chua Eng Bee
Daughter: Chua Seng Neo

Son: Chua Seng Hock (1891-1949)
Chua Seng Hock studied in Raffles Institution. Chua Seng Hock passed away at the age of 58 at his residence in No 126 Chin Swee Road on 8th July 1949. His wife is Madam Koh Geok Choo. Koh Geok Choo is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Koh Tiang Yang.

Madam Koh Geok Choo passed away on September, 1980. From the obituary notice, we can see the names of their children.
Sons: Chua Peng Swee, Chua Peng Guan, Chua Chye Soon, Chua Boon Hor, Chua Kwee Yang.
Daughters: Rose Chua, Lily Chua, Chua Bok Lan, Chua Lye Neo
Sons-in-laws: Chan Boon Hock, Stephen Lai, Francis Heng, Ho Boon Ann
Daughters-in-laws: Lim Soon Ai, Cecilia Chua, Ng Sai Hong, Phang Mui Keow, Koh Ah Gek.
The cortege left from 31 Ripley Crescent ,

Daughter: Chua Seng Neo / Mrs Lim Han Hoe  (1897-1978)
I know very little of  Chua Seng Neo on when she got married or passed away. However, Chua Seng Neo married Sir Dr Lim Han Hoe, CBE, JP (27 April 1894 – 23 March 1983). He was a prominent Straits Chinese and doctor of that time. Born in Singapore in April 27,1894. He is the second son of Mr. and Mrs Lim Cheng Sah, a landowner. Lim Han Hoe studied in St.Andrews, Raffles Institution and later King Edward VII College of Medicine. He went to Scotland to join the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicans and later Edinburgh University. He practiced at St. Andrew's Hospital, Scotland 1918. Returning to Singapore in 1919, he took up a job as ship surgeon with China Mutal Steamship Company and later as a General Practice for Amoy Dispensary. 

In 1940, he was appointed as a member of the Executive Council before moving up to the Legislative council. In 1941, he made it the King's birthday honors and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. 

During the Japanese Occupation he was arrested and sentenced to seven years imprisonment at Outram Prison for the crime of listening to Allied Broadcast. Fortunately he survived it.  

Dr. Lim Han Hoe 

Son: Chua Eng Sim 
A tomb behind the Chua Soon Leong cluster belongs to an infant by the name of Chua Eng Sim who was listed to have passed away at the age of 162 days on 10 am, Tuesday, 18th March 1913. The name of his parents are also mentioned at the tomb of the tomb: Chua Soon Leong (father) Koh Geok Chew (mother).

Chua Eng Sim

Family of Chua Seng Hock

Son: Chua Peng Swee /Alan Chua Peng Swee (died 1976)
Chua Peng Swee (nephew of Dr & Mrs Lim Han Hoe) got engaged to Miss Lim Soon Ai (daughter of Mrs Lim Kim Tian and the late Mr Lim Kim Tian) in 1945. In October 1947, they got married at St. Andrew's Cathedral. Alan Chua Peng Swee passed away on 12 August 1976. His niche is in Mount Vernon Block 1 C 10.

Daughter: Rose Chua / Rose Chua Eng Tin (1919-2005)
Chua Seng Hock's eldest daughter Rose Chua (who is the niece of Hon. Dr & Mrs Lim Han Hoe) got engaged to Mr. Chan Boon Hock (the only son of Madam Cheong Guek Keow and the late Mr. Chan Chin Wah) in 1941.  Rose Chua Eng Tin passed away at the age of 86 on 22 January 2005.


[It is from here, we can established that one of Chua Seng Hock's sister married Dr. Lim Han Hoe. A check on gives a mentioned of Chua Seng Neo (1897-1978) being the spouse of Dr. Lim Han Hoe ]

Tomb Embellishments

The tombs of Mr and Mrs Chua Soon Leong are embellished or decorated with lovely statues, carvings and decorative tiles. In a future article, i will write and give more insight to this area as well.  (so look out for it in a future post). 

Greater Bukit Brown guided trail 

The tombs in Lao Sua or Greater Bukit Brown are part of the future guided walks we plan to do or have already started in the past but to a lesser extend. Lao Sua is another large area of historical significance managed by the Hokkien Huay Kuan but subsequently sold to the Government under the land reclamation act for future development. First established after the old Tiong Bahru Cemetery was full, it was through the efforts of pioneers like Gan Eng Seng, Tan Beng Swee, Chia Ann Siang who donated money to create this cemetery cluster for purpose of burial of their immediate family and also other Chinese of the Hokkien dialect.

The stories are continuing to evolve, so do bear with the possible mistakes (if any) during the writing process of the stories. With more people in the community with better insights, i am sure more can rediscovered and the stories of the long forgotten past remembered again and piece back together bit by bit.

Stories from the Lao Sua / Greater Bukit Brown trail (more to come)
Tan Soon Neo (posted on 2016, July 11)
Yeo Lock Gee (posted on 2015, March 5)
Song Chit Neo (posted on 2014, May 14)
Wan Eng Kiat (posted on 2014, May 16)
Wee Theam Tew (posted on 2012, October 29)


Straits Chinese and War (1915, September 30). The Singapore Free Press
Acknowledgments. (1920, September 11). The Straits Times
Advertisements. (1941, July 18). The Straits Times
Advertisements. (1945, December 8). The Straits Times
Knighthood for Doctor Lim Han Hoe. (1946, January 5). The Straits Times
Around the Town. (1947, October 2). The Morning Tribune, page 10
Seven Malayan's in Birthday Honors List. (1941, June 12). The Singapore Free Press
Death (1980, September 12). The Straits Times

Monday, July 11, 2016

Tan Soon Neo (Lao Sua)

One of the tombs discovered on the new Lao Sua (Greater Bukit Brown) trail for future guided tours is the tomb of Tan Soon Neo (1889-1914). Tan Soo Neo is the eldest daughter of Tan Hap Seng and the wife of Mr. Chew Eng Ho / Chew Eng Hoh.

Tan Soon  Neo (Mrs Chew Eng Ho)

Tan Soon Neo (1889-1914)
Her father, Tan Hap Seng (25th July 1868- 24th March 1934) is the son of Mr. Tan Kim Tian who came from Malacca to Singapore at the age of 15. Tan Kim Tian founded Tan Kim Tian and Son Steamship Company, the first local Chinese company that build and purchase steamships. At its pinnacle was said to have owned 11 ships with a tonnage of over 80,000 tons and also 3 large modern steamships.Tan Kim Tian and Sons was one of the most prosperous shipping firms in Singapore. Tan Kim Tian passed away on December 18, 1882. His son, Tan Beng Wan carried on as managing director until he died in 1891 on Christmas Day at the age of 40 at his residence in Botan House, Neil Road. After Tan Beng Wan passed away, the company was managed by Tan Hap Seng  together with his brothers Tan Hap Leong and Tan Hap Swee.

Under Tan Hap Seng's stewardship, he together with his brothers Tan Hap Leong and Tan Hap Swee decided to join forces with T.C Boogardt, a shipowner and they formed a private company called Tan Kim Tian and Co. In 1903, the company went into voluntary liquidation. The company and its ships was eventually bought over by its biggest lender, Oei Tiong Ham in 1905. Taking many risk and unprepared for the commercial world, Tan Hap Seng was first made a bankrupt at the age of 38 and remained a bankrupt for 21 years during which he work as a chinchew (camprador) on a boat. He was finally discharged  as a bankrupt at the age of 60 in 1927. His brothers ( Tan Hap Leong and Tan Hap Swee) were discharged much earlier in 1906 & 1907.

Tan Hap Seng passed away at the age of 66 years old on 24th March 1934 and is buried in Bukit Brown, Hill 3 Division C plot 199.

Tan Hap Seng in Bukit Brown
Tan Hap Seng/ Tan Hup Seng
(source: NewspaperSG)

Source: NewspaperSG

Untitled. (1914, September 26). The Straits Times 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Francis Thomas (All Saints Memorial)

While exploring the niches in All Saints Memorial i came across this niche with a lovely wedding picture that you see below. The niche belongs to a western man and a chinese lady. Not knowing the person, i took a picture to read up further on Francis Thomas and Catherine Eng Neo Thomas.

Born in April 1912 in Westcote, England, Francis Thomas (1912-1977) was the fourth child in a family of six children of Rev. J A Thomas and Mrs. Thomas in Westcote, Francis was the third son in the family. The others were Mary (eldest), David, Michael, Anthony and Christopher).

Francis Thomas  was a well known Educator, Politician and Minister. He became a member of the Labour Party of Singapore in 1948, President of the Labour Front (1950) and became the Minister of Works and Communications (1955-1958) in the Labour Front Government under Mr. David Marshall and later Lim Yew Hock. He resigned in 1959 and returned back to his teaching position.He was the Principal of St. Andrew's School in 1963, succeeding from Mr. Tan Lye Whatt.

Francis Thomas passed away at the age of 65 on October 12,1977 due to cancer.

Wedding picture (taken at the niche of Francis Thomas and Catherine Lee)

St.Andrew's School Alumni

Francis Thomas joined St. Andrew's School as a tutorial staff in 1934 after attending an interview in London and have since then been closely associated with the school, moving up its ranks until becoming the Principal of the school in 1963 till 1974. He announced his retirement in 1973 with plans to officially retire in 1975. By then Francis Thomas was a teacher for 41 years.  Despite his retirement, he continued teaching until eventually he passed away in 1977.

A rousing farewell to the retired Principal Francis Thomas in 1974 (source: NewspaperSG)

The War Years

Francis Thomas was in the Engineers branch of the Singapore Volunteers and was assigned to the Bomb Disposal Unit. He became a Prisoner-of-War after the fall of Singapore and was at Changi before moving to the Burma Railway (October 1942) and finally Japan (in the outskirts of Nagasaki where the second atomic bomb dropped). Fortunately for him, he survived his imprisonment and the atomic bomb, when the war ended. After recovering in England, he returned to Singapore in the beginning of 1947 and returned to St. Andrew's School as a Housemaster.
Niche of Francis Thomas and Catherine Eng Neo Thomas in All Saints Memorial 

When Francis Thomas passed away at the age of 65 on October 12,1977, he is survived by his wife, Catherine Lee Eng Neo and five daughters, ( Kim Choo, Yvonne Thomas, Margaret Thomas, Ann Thomas and Judy Thomas ).


Wife: Catherine Lee Eng Neo /Catherine Eng Neo Thomas (1909-1999) 
It was as Housemaster of St. Andrew's House, Francis Thomas met Catharine Lee Eng Neo who was a Matron and they eventually engaged (Madame Lee Eng Neo was the youngest daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Lee Cheow of Pekan Pahang and Singapore ) and married in 1948.

Catherine Lee Eng Neo passed away on September 22, 1999.

(source: NewspaperSG)

Daughter: Elizabeth Thomas (September 3, 1949 - January 16, 1950)
Their first child, Elizabeth passed away 3 months old.

Daughter: Margaret Thomas
Margaret Thomas was involved in the reprint version by Ethos of Memoirs of a Migrant in 2013. Memoirs of a Migrant was first published in 1972 by University Education Press. Below was a picture taken of Margaret Thomas in 2001 (49 years old) with the road sign named after her father. Margaret was then the Vice President of (ex-deputy director of Business Times)

Margaret Thomas in front of the road sign named after his father (source: NewspaperSG)

Daughter: Yvonne Thomas 
The only article i found of Yvonne Thomas, was of her when she was 17 year old in 1956 returning to Singapore on a two month holiday and being greeted by her parents. At that time, she was a student of Wychwoold School, Oxford.

Yvonne Thomas (source: NewspaperSG)


Francis Thomas Award 
The Francis Thomas Award was first presented to the Shaw Foundation for their contributions to Children Charities. The award, named after Francis Thomas was to commemorate his dedication and service when he was the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Children Charities. The award was presented by the First Lady, Mrs. Sheares.

Francis Thomas Drive
Francis Thomas Drive, a road leading into St. Andrew's School was officially named on September, 1980 after him.

An honest man with great work ethics
"The only honest man in the Labour Front"- Lee Kuan Yew's description of Francis Thomas in 1958

A Singaporean Pioneer and Nation Builder
"There is plenty I regret in my life. I have done things i ought not to have done; i have left undone things I ought to have done. But i do not regret coming here and being a citizen of Singapore. It is a piece of good fortune for which I owe gratitude to my fellow citizens. " - Francis Thomas, June 1971 (Memoirs of a Migrant).


Memoirs of a Migrant. (Francis Thomas). Singapore : Ethos Books, 2013
Engagements. (1948, August 3). The Straits Times
It's back to school for Thomas. (1959, February 2). The Straits Times
Yvonne is back for holidays. (1956, July 27). Singapore Standard
Memoirs of a Minister. (1971, March 1). New Nation
"The only honest man in the Labour Front". (1971, March 1). New Nation
A rousing Goodbye to St.Andrew's Principal Francis Thomas. (1974, March 13). The Straits Times
Ex-Minister Thomas dies. (1977, October 12). The Straits Times.
2,000 pay respects to Francis Thomas, (1977, October 15). The Straits Times
Francis Thomas to retire in 1975. (1973, June 28). The Straits Times.
The first Francis Thomas award. (1978, October 1). The Straits Times.
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Sunday, July 03, 2016

Another escapee bird (King Quail)

Interestingly enough, we found another escapee bird, the second one this year ! Roughly three months ago on March 19, i found on the void deck in my area a Green Cheeked Conure and called ACRES ( Animals Concerns Research and Education Society ) for help.

Last night, my neighbour saw a bird and together we managed to corner it just outside my house ! The bird was not weak but was indeed very shy and very difficult to catch because of its small size and it manage to hide in various corners of the common corridor areas. After finally securing it, i called ACRES again fearing that this escapee (probably someone's pet would be killed by a cat or dog eventually). The volunteer on duty picked up the phone and wa sat my doorstep within 40 minutes ! Yet again amazing work from this group of volunteers. Initially i thought the bird was a button quail, but later after asking a experience bird photographer, i found out it was a King Quail or Blue-breasted Quail (Coturnix chinensis) and the King Quail is female. It is my first step seeing this beauty up close.

King Quail in the capable hands of the ACRES volunteer 

King Quail in the capable hands of the ACRES volunteers 

Caught the King Quail at last

The next day ACRES called me to inform me that if the Quail was doing ok, it will be released to the wild, if not it will be passed over to the Jurong Bird Park.

About King Quail (source: Singapore Birds)

Also known as King Quail. This is a small bird, in fact the smallest of the Old World Quails. Difficult to see in the field due to it shy nature, always hidden among the tall grass. Male has a blue breast, rusty belly, black throat and white moustaches. Female is slightly larger and generally brown with dark bars. The only bird that it may be confused with is the Barred Buttonquail, which belongs to another order. Sighted at Changi, Lor Halus, Neo Tiew, Pulau Punggol, Punggol, Sungei Buloh, Tuas.

Rare resident breeder
Local subspecies: chinensis
Length: 12-14 cm
Habitat: Grassland
Distribution: India, China, SE Asia, Australia
Breeding: All year round
Diet: Grains, seeds, leaves, insects, worms


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