Sunday, January 29, 2017

Madam Ong Sin Keow (Bukit Brown)

Madam Ong Sin Keow, second wife of Mr. Tan Hood Swee, passed away on 31 July 1933 at the age of 50. On her tomb is listed one son, Tan Yew Jee. She is buried in Hill 3 C, plot 412A.

Madam Ong Sin Keow (second wife of Mr. Tan Hood Swee)
Madam Ong Sin Keow (second wife of Mr. Tan Hood Swee)

Husband; Tan Hood Swee
Tan Hood Swee is the son of Tan Kim Teck. Tan Kim Teck ( a produce merchant and Government Contractor ) who passed away on 28th July 1912 at the age of 69 at his residence in No 12 Yan Kit Road. He is survived by 5 sons, 2 daughters and 26 grnadchildren. He was buried in Tiong Bahru Cemetery. In the obituary notice, it mentions also that Tan Kim Teck is the father-in-law of Kho Keng Chuan.  From there i gather that Tan Yew Neo (wife of Kho Keng Chuan) is the daughter of Tan Kim Teck and sister of Tan Hood Swee.

In 1895, there was an account of Tan Hood Swee (cashier at Messrs. Lambert Bros. and son of Government Contractor, Tan Kim Teck) who rushed to the aid of a Major McCallum, who injured himself in the head when the horse of his paladin bolted as he was getting out of it. The only other info i have was about Tan Hood Swee and a brankruptcy notice taken on him in 1933.

Son: Tan Yew Jee /Harry Tan Yew Jee (1915-1987)
Tan Yew Jee (Harry), the youngest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Tan Hood Swee married Miss Ong Kim Kee (Maggie Ong) second daughter of Madam Lim Chiam Neo and the late Mr. Ong Leong Watt on 16th October 2602 (1942).  Harry Tan Yew Jee passed away at the age of 72 on 27 September 1987. He is survived by his wife, Ong Kim Kee, children and children in law:
Lilian Tan
Michael Tan /Rosalind Chua
Fanny Tan Eng Geok / Steven Lim Kwee Beng
Jeannie Tan
Doris Tan
God daughters 
Wong Poh Poh, Pearl Chong
Grand Children
Alwyn, Ivan, Fiona

source: NewspaperSG

Harry Tan Yew Jee (source: NewspaperSG)

Local and General. (1895, November 27). The Mid-day Herald, page 3
Death. (1912, August 1). The Singapore Free Press, page 65
Funeral of Well Known Towkay. (1912, August 10). The Weekly Sun, page 6
Advertisement. (1933, June 9). Malayan Tribune, page 7
Advertisement. (1942, October 14). Syonan Shimbun, page 3
Obituaries.(1988, September 27). The Straits Times, page 32

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ho Siong Tong - A grave once lost is now found again (Wayang Satu Cemetery)

I wrote back in 2014, an article titled Volunteer Soldiers Buried in Bukit Brown - a journey of rediscovery . It was about the Chinese volunteers that were either buried or once buried in Bukit Brown. In the article, i also mentioned in passing about a Private Ho Siong Tong whose empty tomb lays in Kranji War Memorial and tomb inscription mentions that he was buried at that time in Wayang Satu Chinese Cemetery but whose grave is now lost. The "missing" volunteer soldier is no longer missing as his tomb was rediscovered by Raymond Goh recently behind the small jungle off Trevose Place. Raymond Goh brought me to the location of the tomb of Private Ho Siong Tong after i saw a post on his amazing discovery.

From the in-situ tomb, we know that Private Ho Siong Tong was 22 years of age when he passed away on active duty and that he died on 12th June 1915 and finally the tomb was erected by the Officers, N.C.O's and fellowmen of the Singapore Volunteer Infantry, Chinese Company.

Private Ho Siong Tong tomb rediscovered 

Private Ho Siong Tiong empty tomb in Kranji

From Sir Song Ong Siang's One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore, we get a glimpse about what happened to Private Ho Siong Tong.

Military honours was accorded to Pte. Ho Siong Tong ( a son of the late Ho Yiang Moh) at his funeral on 14th June 1915. He was one of the Guard at Kallang Reservoir and on 11th June 1915 was reported missing. His cap and boots were discovered at the edge of the reservoir and his body was found floating 2 days later. He was buried in Wayang Satu Cemetery at the expense of his sister, Mrs Tan Moeng Tho and fellow Volunteers raised a tombstone over his grave".
Excerpt from Sir Song's book

Newspaper mention (source: NewspaperSG)


Finding out about Ho Siong Tong hit a blank wall. Other than the fact he died while on guard duty, i know very little about him ( whether he was married and had children). However it was fortunate that two names were mentioned, his father; Ho Yiang Moh and his sister; Mrs Tan Moeng Tho. It is his sister, that gave me an interesting insight on woman during that time. From my research and mapping of names and rechecking again, i found out that she was a lady who was married 3 times successively (something rare at that time and in my opinion also rare today). 

Father: Ho Yiang Moh / Ho Yang Moh

Ho Yiang Moh was for many years a shroff of the Chartered Bank. He was also a councillor of the Celestial Reasoning Association, (a society that encourages the advancement of literature by both the improvement of English and Chinese literature and regular debates)

Sister: Mrs Tan Moeng Tho (Ho Shiok Chui / Ho Sok Choo Neo)

In the article above, it was mention that, Private Ho Siong Tong had a sister, Mrs. Tan Moeng Tho. So what's her maiden name ?  It is from the Newspaper archive resources, that i got to find also more about his sister, a Mrs. Tan Moeng Tho (nee Ho Sok Choo Neo). Further research, i found out that in March 7, 1909 , there was an article of  Mr Tan Meong Tho marrying Ho Shiok Chui Neo (widow of Mr. Wee Siang Tat ).

source: Straits Times March 12, 1909
source: Straits Times October 12, 1915
The name, Wee Siang Tat ran a bell as well. He was the only son of Mr.Wee Boon Teck (grandson of Wee Bin ). Wee Siang Tat married Ho Sok Choo Neo in 1896. Wee Siang Tat passed away at the age of 26 on March 14, 1901,

Ho Sok Choo Neo was in short successively the wife of the late Mr. Wee Siang Tat and the late Mr. Tan Meong Tho and finally Mr. Wee Siak Leng in 1928 after finding an article of a quiet ceremony that took place at 28 Killiney Road when Wee Siak Leng (son of Mr and Mrs Wee Nam Huat) married Ho Sok Choo Neo (daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Ho Yang Moh and widow of the late Tan Mong Thoh)
1 Feb 1928
Ho Sok Choo Neo passed away on 18 September 1931 at the age of 57 at 114 Killiney Road leaving behind 4 sons, Tan Jat Min, William Tan, Tan Tat Min alias Edward Tan and Tan Kong Min alias Farrer Tan and 2 daughters, Tan Swee Eng alias Wee Boolat and Tan Puteh and one son-in-law. Chua Tian Chong. Burial took place at Buona Vista Cemetery. Madam Ho Sok Choo Neo held considerable wealth and a snap shot of this can be seen from an advertisement article in 1951 (20 years after her passing, putting up for auction properties under her estate).

source: NewspaperSG
For now, Private Ho Siong Tong's tomb in this location remains safe and no longer lost.. until more development happens.

location of Ho Siong Tong's tomb 


Untitled. (1915, June 15). The Straits Times, page 6
Society and Personal. (1928, February 1). Malaya Tribune, page 8
Death. (1931, September 25). Malaya Tribune, page 8
Chinese Estate Claim. (1934, August 23). Malaya Tribune, page 17
Million Dollar Estate Case. (1940. July 24). Morning Tribune, page 6
Claim Should never have been made -Chief Justice. (1940, August 3). Malaya Tribune, page 4
Important High Court Ruling on Adopted Sons. (1941, March 7) Malaya Tribune, page 5

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Labrador & Alexandra Heritage tour (My Community Heritage Trail) - Part II

My Labrador and Alexandra Heritage Tour continues with a visit to the houses in Alexandra Park. On the way, we pass by the SP Jain School of Global Management at 10 Hyderabad Road . It  was the former Institute of Dental Health (IDH) and before that, the former Officers’ Mess for Gillman Barracks. After the British military withdrew in 1971, the buildings were handed over to the Singapore government, who converted the officers’ mess into office buildings for the Dental Health Education Unit in 1973. In 1977, the Public Works Department completed a $5 million 6 storey building annex to house additional facilities for the IDH. Designed in Classical architectural style, the two buildings feature large windows and doors which allowed for proper air circulation.

SPJ Jain Global Management 

IDH grill gates (a reminder of the building past)

The military estate at Alexandra Park evolved over half a century. The earliest houses dated from around 1905 to 1906 while the majority were constructed in the 1930s for senior medical staff in
the Royal Army Medical Corps working in Alexandra Military Hospital. When you walk there you will at awe at the different architectural style ranges from tropical Edwardian to Art Deco and a series of Public Works Department’s plantation style houses on Canterbury and York Roads. The whole feel to the place is like stepping into England itself and not Singapore !

Plantation style houses 

Art Deco house of No 1 Cantebury Road 

Beautiful Lattice Ventilation of 6 Russel Road 
Yes, this is Singapore 

Alexandra Industrial Estate - The former Archipelago Brewery Company

The former Archipelago Brewery Company at Alexandra Road was Singapore’s second brewery.
Built at a cost of $2.25 million, the brewery was opened on 3 November 1933 and produce the well-known Anchor Beer. The site was chosen for its close proximity to the railway tracks, which provided convenient transportation for the export of its beer. Brewing took place at the main plant where Anchor Point Shopping Centre now stands. Bottled beer was  then transported via a wooden conveyor belt across an overhead bridge to the canning line, where IKEA stands today.

In 1939, the Archipelago Brewery Company was annexed by the British Government as enemy
property. In 1941, Malayan Breweries, a joint venture between Fraser & Neave and Heineken, took over the assets of Archipelago Brewery Company and the Anchor Beer brand. Production ceased in 1990 when operations were relocated to Tuas. The brew master house was gazetted for conservation in 1993.

Map where you can see the Rumah Bomba Circus and the Archipelago Brewery
(source: National Archives Singapore)  

It was in front of the former brew master house, we got to meet Mr. Ng Moey Moey, 79 years old who joined when he was 18 years old and work there for 38 years ! He proudly showed us all the long service medals he got as well as a Favre-Leuba watch he received when he finally retired after working in the boiler room where the beers were brewed.

Ng Moey Moey in front of the heritage plague (if you look carefully you will see him
in the picture as well  

Ng Moey Moey proudly showing his long service medals 

Alexandra Industrial Estate - Alexandra Fire Station 

The Alexandra Fire Station was officially opened on February 25, 1954 and served the newly minted Queenstown area as well as the industrial estate around the area. Some of the early action it saw included the Bukit Ho Swee Fire (1961), Robinson Department Store Fire (1972) and in recent years the Shell Pulau Bukom Fire (2011). The old Fire Station building no longer exist after it was replaced with a joint complex housing the 1st SCDF Division, Alexandra Fire Station and Queenstown Neighbourhood Police station in 1st June 2005.

During our visit we got to hear first hand from fireman such as Mohd Fadzli on the work they do and also some hands-on on the equipment they use. I personally got to try on the oxygen tank fireman wear when they enter smoke ridden rooms. The firemen in Alexandra Firehouse are equipped to handle Hazmat  (Hazardous materials and items) as well. I am very impressed by the professionalism of the team and their enthusiasm in educating us of their work.

Alexandra Fire Station during construction 

The great volunteers and guides of My Community 
Mohd Fadzli and his fellow team mates showing us
the difference between the modern and old hose

Tiong Ghee Temple and Boh Beh Kang village 

Located at 1085 Stirling Road, this temple was rebuilt in 1973 after the original village temple in Bo Beh Kang  (无尾港 or No Tail River when translated from Hokkien) was demolished to make way for the Mei Ling Estate. Bo Beh Kang  (无尾港 or No Tail River when translated from Hokkien) got its name of the stream and fresh water swamps that dominate the terrain, but locals could not locate the source of that water

Mr Ang Beng Tet, 88 years who was long time resident here in the past, shared with us in Hokkien of how as a young boy , he experience bombing and stories of the Japanese soldiers that were stationed in the former Buller Camp.  Although 88 years of age, what impress me about Mr. Ang is his drive to continue to contribute and be active and to share his experience. He is a good example of a Senior who gives back willingly to the community.

Tiong Ghee Temple 

Mr. Ang Beng Tat

This ends my write-up about this tour which i really enjoy when the marry stories of its heritage past with the stories of the people who lived through that period.

You can read about the other Heritage Tours that My Community organises from my previous posts:
Commonwealth and Holland Village Tour - Part I, posted on March 20, 2016
Commonwealth and Holland Village Tour - Part II, posted on March 23, 2016
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 (correct as of 14 January 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


Monday, January 16, 2017

Labrador & Alexandra Heritage tour (My Community Heritage Trail) - Part I

I joined the latest tour by My Community for a newly minted heritage trail curated by them called the Labrador and Alexandra Heritage Tour on January 13th, 2017. My Community, if you recall is a registered charity group that have been working hard to promote and document the social memories and heritage of the communities in Queenstown and surrounding it. The meeting point was very accessible, the Labrador MRT and we got to walk along a very scenic mangrove trail called the Berlayer Creek Mangrove Trail that brings you eventually to Labrador Nature Reserve. NParks online guide (in pdf format) gives you more details about this nature trail.

Keppel boardwalk
At Labrador Nature Reserve,the first thing you will spot coming into the Nature Reserve is a rather 6 meter high replica structure that symbolically represents the granite outcrop that use to exist there in the past before it was eventually destroyed by the Straits Settlements Surveyor, John Thomson, in August 1848, to widen the channel for larger vessels to sail through.

Long Ya Men or Batu Berlayer

Long Ya Men, (龙牙门) or Dragon’s Teeth Gate or Batu Berlayer (Sail rock in Malay) refers to a series of granite outcrop in Keppel Harbour, comprising of two rocky outcrop near the present site of Labrador Park and its opposite shore of Tanjong Rimau (Sentosa Island), which served as a gateway to the western entrance to Keppel Harbour. Old Chinese navigational charts including the one used by Zheng He during his voyages uses this former granite outcrop as navigational marker for the Chinese fleets as they sailed through the Straits of Singapore.
Batu Berlayer 

Berlayer Beacon

The next structure we see is the Berlayer Beacon, an unmanned beacon that was used to guide ships approaching the Keppel Harbour. Built in 1930, i was told it was not in its original position but placed here as one of the many reminder's of Singapore's past and present role as an important maritime entrepot.
Berlayer Beacon

Fort Pasir Panjang and the Labrador Battery

The next series of landmark focuses on Labrador Nature Reserve's heritage past where the Pasir Panjang Fort was located and its hilly geographical layout was acknowledged by the British Administrators as an important site to built a fort complex to defend the western entrance to the New Harbour (before it was renamed as Keppel Harbour) . The other fort complex was built on the opposite entrance of the harbour, Fort Siloso at Sentosa.

Fort Pasir Panjang and Labrador 1892
(source: National Archives Singapore)

The Pasir Panjang Fort itself was said to have been completed around 1878, however subsequent enhancements over the years added on the emplacements, underground bunkers for ammunition storage and living spaces for the soldiers who manned the guns and defended the fort.

Wall of the Brick Cutting 

Machine Gun Pill Box at the beach
Just before the start of World War II, there were 2 large 6 inch guns with the ability to fire 46 kg shells over a range of 16 km. Contrary to popular misconception that the guns were fixed facing the sea, the Labrador battery guns could be traverse and fire inland. However their effectiveness was limited by constraints of concrete barriers making 360 degree traverse difficult in some cases, coupled with inland obstructions (e.g. other hills, buildings, trees and valley). The final difficulty that blunted its effectiveness was that most of the batteries kept Armour Piercing shells (effective against ships) by not effective against infantry movements which requires High Explosive shells.

Gun Emplacement 

Labrador Battery War Memorial Plague 

Former Alexandra Brickworks and Former Gillman Barrack

Located at the junction of Alexandra Road and Pasir Panjang Road, Alexandra Brickworks (established 1899) was the first brickyard in Singapore to produce high quality bricks using modern machinery on a large scale. The bricks were used in the construction of many iconic buildings including the former National Library at Stamford Road, General Post Office, St. James Power Station, Tiong Bahru SIT flats and Gillman Barracks. During the Japanese Occupation, the Alexandra Brickworks was renamed Syonan Renga Kozyo and its operations resume in May 1942 until Japan's unconditional surrender. Post war, competition for cheaper bricks from neighbouring countries and cheaper concrete technology eventually led to its decline. In November 1972, the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) purchased Alexandra Brickworks Company’s freehold land for $13.5m. A year later, Alexandra Brickworks ceased production.

Alexandra Brickworks (source: NewspaperSG)

The Gillman Barracks was built in 1935 and was named after the late Major General Sir William Web Gillman. It housed the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment and later the 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment.

Gillman Barracks was eventually "sold" off to the Singapore Armed Forces in 21 August 1971 for a ceremonial amount of $1. Today this place is that plays host to NTU Centre for Contemporary Art and is a contemporary art cluster for local and international galleries.

Gillman Barracks 

Gillman Barracks swimming pool (source: NewspaperSG) 

Barracks sold for $1 (source: NewspaperSG)

During the tour, the guides shared on the area around Alexandra and Pasir Panjang Park (today known as Kent Ridge Park) being scenes of many pitted battles during World War II which saw heavy losses on both sides.

The battlefield stories and the contina wire i saw as we were walking towards Alexandra and Gillman brought back memories of  the heroic action of the 1st Malay Brigade of the Malay Regiment led by 2nd Lieutenant Adnan Saidi who saw combat action in Bukit Chandhu (Opium Hill) nearby here as well as the stories of the battle that took place at Adam Park and Bukit Brown.

We remember our past so that we do not repeat its mistake in the future,
The horrors of war should never be repeated and peace never taken for granted.

Contina wire with PSA building in the background 

My experience continues in my next article post: Labrador & Alexandra Heritage tour (My Community Heritage Trail)- Part II

You can read about the other Heritage Tours that My Community organises from my previous posts:
Commonwealth and Holland Village Tour - Part I, posted on March 20, 2016
Commonwealth and Holland Village Tour - Part II, posted on March 23, 2016
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 (correct as of 14 January 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


Media Preview of the Recreated "LongYa Men" , Singapore Tourism Board
Malaya Command's New Regiment Rich in Glorious Tradition. (1938, April 17). The Straits Times
Bricks from these works are in many of the Singapore's biggest buildings. (1939, February 19). The Straits Times, page 32
Barracks sold to S'pore Govt for $1. (1971, August 21). The Straits Times, page 32
Shareholder's meeting. (1972, October 26). New Nation, page 7

Friday, January 13, 2017

Syonan Jinja (Shinto Shrine at MacRitchie Reservoir)

If you happen to take multiple wrong turnings while exploring MacRitchie Reservoir, you might see a stone structure and other structures such as the ones below in the beautiful forest of MacRitchie. This are remains of a shrine built by the Japanese during its occupation of Singapore and the carved stone you see with water on top was part of a "temizuya" water pavilion or water-fill basins used by worshippers for washing before approaching the Shinto Shrine.

Shinto Shrine at MacRitchie Reservoir
Shinto Shrine at MacRitchie Reservoir

Temizuya" water pavilion

Granite wall 

Granite steps leading to the shrine 
The jungle has reclaimed this shrine and what remains are memories of a place that once was a symbol of occupation. Researching, i found some photos of this place at its construction phase and later in its full glory.

source: Syonan Shimbun

Remains of the bridge 

Close up of the wooden pillars of the remains of the bridge

The bridge 

Construction of the Syonan Jinja 

Construction for the shrine was announced on April /May 1942. The Shrine was known as "Syonan Jinja" and was to be built in the MacRitchie Reservoir area while a Pagoda, known as "Syonan Tyureito" or "Syonan Chureito" was erected at Bukit Batok Hill. The person put in charge to oversee this was Captain Yokoyama, with the help of 10,000 prisoners of war (POW) made up of British and Australian POW's.

On 7 May 1942, the foundation stone of the shrine was laid by Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese forces in Malaya. The enshrinement ceremony was held on February 15, 1943 in conjunction with the birth of Syonan or the fall of Singapore.

POW working on the Shrine (source: Himoji)

Enshrinement ceremony

POW painting the bridge (source:

Destruction of the Syonan Jinja

Just before the surrender of Japanese occupied Singapore, the Japanese Military Authorities set fire to the shrine to prevent its desecration. What remains is preserved as it is in the jungles of MacRitchie Reservoir as a stark reminder of what happened over 70 years ago.

What is the future of this place? Currently, there are no plans by National Parks / National Heritage Board to make this place accessible.

Shrine & Pagoda For Syonan. (1942, May 8). Syonan Times
Syonan Jinja Enshrinement. (1943, February12). Syonan Shimbun, page 1
Homage To Syonan Jinja. (1943,February 17). Syonan Shimbun, page 1
Scene at Synonan Jinja, Bukit Timah. (1944, April 26). Syonan Times