Thursday, March 30, 2017

Madam Lau Lan Neo (Bukit Brown)

Madam Lau Lan Neo / Lao Lan Neo ( 22nd June 1893 - 10th September 1928) was the wife of Tan Cheng Yong. She passed away at the age of 35 at her residence in No 522 Kampong Bahru Road. She is survived by her husband, Tan Cheng Yong, an aged mother, a brother, Dr. Lao Chew Seng of Kampar and 6 children to mourn her loss. Listed on her tomb at the name of her sons; Edward Tan, Georgie Tan, Cecil Tan, daughters; Tan Tak Neo, Tan Alice Neo, Tan Maggie Neo. Miss Lau Lan Neo is the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs Lau Koon Siew while Tan Chen Yong is the eldest son of Mr. Tan Hap Leong. She is buried in Block 2 Division G, plot 120.

The engraving of her tomb is as follows: 

noble she was condemning all things mean
her truth unquestioned and her soul severe
shame knew her not, she dreaded no disgrace 
truth, simple truth was written on her face 

Husband: Tan Cheng Yong 
Tan Chen Yong is the eldest son of Mr. Tan Hap Leong and grandson of Mr. Tan Kim Tian, a prominent merchant and shipowner of Tan Kim Tian and Sons. An notice for arrangement of marriage between Miss Lau Lan Neo and Tan Cheng Yong was made in the papers in 1916. After the passing of Madam Lau Lan Neo, Tan Cheng Yong remarried. Mr Tan Cheng Yong (eldest son of the late Mr Tan Hap Leong) married Miss E. Chye Neo, youngest daughter of the late Mr E. Kong Siang in January 1929.

Father-in-law: Tan Hap Leong
Tan Hap Leong (Tan Hup Leong) had the honor of being the first Straits born Chinese to undertake a travel around the world for leisure in April 2, 1895. His route brought him to Penang, India, Marseilles, Paris, Germany and England. His return was via way of America, Japan and China. He carried with him letters of introduction  from several members of the mercantile community (namely Messrs. Paterson Simmons ) and Foreign Office passport, a certificate stating he is a British subject and assurance of British protection, the first Straits Chinese to obtain this privilege.

Tan Hap Leong was one of the pioneering members together with the Tan Jiak Kim, C.M.G and Dr Lim Boon Keng in the formation  of the Chinese Volunteers and had the honor to accompany the local Straits contingent to London for the Coronation of King Edward VII. He was also a leader of the reform movement, being one of the Straits Chinese who braved opinion and tradition to cut his queue way before the fall of Manchu Dynasty. A well traveled man, he shared how he was dubbed as "Prince Tan Hup Leong".  It was in a P. and O. ship and he was traveling with the Viceroy of India during the period of the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905). In  a dinner on board, instead of wearing the customary western evening suit, he wore a full manchu costume and sat next to the Viceroy. Rumors circulated that he was an Oriental Prince send to England to mediate the Russo-Japanese war and when he arrived in London, he was greatly astonished by the great interest in his arrival.

Tan Hap Leong (arrow in red) with the rest of the Singapore contingent
Dr Lim Boon Keng (in uniform) is seated extreme left, middle row


Local and General. (1916, February 21). The Malaya Tribune
Births, Deaths and Marriages. (1928, September 10), The Malayan Tribune, page 8
Untitled. (1929, January 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 10

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Koh Huat Heng (Bukit Brown)

Miss Koh Huat Heng (10th April 1922- 12th July 1928) passed away at the young age of 7. She was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs. Koh Swee Chiang. She is buried in Block 2 Division G, plot 23 of Bukit Brown.

Miss Koh Huat Heng (died age 7)

Her father, Koh Swee Chiang was the honorary sports secretary of the Amicable Athletic Association and honorary secretary of the Singapore Chinese Football Association and well known in the Sports circle. He was also a Postmaster of the Newton Post Office (1947 period)

Koh Swee Chiang (front row, first person) 


Untitled. (1929, May 18). The Malayan Saturday Post, page 8
Around the Clubs. (1933, December 31). The Straits Times, page
Unknown. (1947, November 5). Morning Tribune, page 9

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Goodbye Sungei Road / Robinson Petang / Thieves' Market finally ?

It was a market in the 1930's known to the locals as "Robinson Petang" or Evening Robinson, a reference to the once famous and upmarket Robinson store, but in the case of this open air market, it caters to the working class or the poor or for those looking for a "steal" or bargain. Another consideration was usually the working class can only shop after they finish work in the late afternoon, hence "petang" where brisk business takes place from 3 pm till dusk. It gain another more notorious  name as the Thieves' Market, not only for the "steal" or bargain that can be made there, but this name was further cast in stone post Japanese occupation, where it saw most of the looted goods being hawked and that included army surpluses, such as radio, army stretchers, uniforms, tents, mechanical parts, electronics, etc. In the 1970's it was also a tourist attraction and a place for antique hunting or bargain buys. Today, you can still find the Singapore Armed Forces uniform for sale still.

Sungei Road / Robinson Petang 1935

The end of an area

In various newspaper reports dated 1982, saw its closure officially for the then 161 license traders (and unknown number of unlicensed traders) since it started said 50 years ago and in fact the Ministry of Environment workers tore down the stores but yet Sungei Road market refused to disappear totally from Singapore's social history, with reports of its revival again as early as 1985.

Sungei Road Market (with Rochore River and New Singapore Ice Works in picture
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Sungei Road Market
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Sungei Road Market e
(source: National Archives of Singapore) 

Sungei Road Market stalls been demolished
(source: NewspaperSG) 

A future for Sungei Road Market aka Robinson Petang aka Thieves' Market ?

My recent visits to Sungei Road shows me a small group of stall holders holding on stubbornly to their trade that they have been actively done for many years despite evidence of the development taking place around them including the impending opening of the MRT station. This break neck pace of development leaves no room for this hawkers to continue anymore within the area, as it is slated for residential development. Future generation will remember this place only in photographs, personal blogs and online documentation by National Heritage Board's

Below are some of the pictures of the place i took this year. For the younger generation who never visited Sungei Road Market and grew up spending their time in malls and online shopping, this place will not likely be missed and seems more like a nostalgic novelty. However harsh that may sound, the fact remains - another chapter of Singapore's interesting past is coming to a close, replaced by more housing to cater for people's aspiration for urban living.


Untitled. (1935. October 13). The Straits Times
Market of Surprises.(1949, September 22). The Straits Times, page 9
Robinson Petang. (1953, October 2). The Straits Times, page 4
Thieves Market goes off the map. (1982, August 11). The Straits Times, page 8
"Robinson" Petang tinggal kenangan. (1986, July 30). Berita Harian, page 10
Sungei Road hidup kembali, (1985, October 1). Berita Harian, page 8

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ong Ban Teik and family (Bukit Brown)

Ong Ban Teik /Ong Ban Teck/ Ong Ban Taik was a Cantonese man who passed away at the age of 72 on December 3, 1941 at his residence in 26 Petain Road and is survived by a son, Ong Kuan Seong, daughter, Ong Kam Lin, son-in-law; Khoo Kim Swee, grandsons; Khoo Pek Hean, Khoo Pek Guan, Khoo Pek San.  His tomb is at Block 5 Division D, plot 83. 

Ong Ban Teik 

Wife: Ng Yew Kim
Mrs Ong Ban Taik nee Ng Yew Kim passed away at Tan Tock Seng Hospital at 10:40 am , 25 February 1943 ( 61 years old) leaving behind a widow, 1 son, Ong Kuan Seong, one daughter, one son-in-law, Khoo Kim Swee of 26 Petain Road, 3 grandsons, 1 granddaughter and1 grand daughter-in-law. She is buried in Bukit Brown in Hill 2 Section C, plot P14

Son: Ong Kuan Seong
Ong Kuan Seong was an employee of the Asiatic Petroleum Company and in 1925 there was news of him passing the Intermediate Examinations held by the Corporation of Accountants, Glasgow.

Daughter: Ong Kam Lin
Ong Kam Lin received a wind-fall of $1,666,66 from a prize pool of $5,000 cross word puzzle prize that was shared among 3 people in 1955 !
The Straits Times, 27 November 1955, Page 5

Son-in-law: Khoo Kim Swee 
Khoo Kim Swee is associated with Oriental Cinema and was a avid tennis and billiards player. For Billiards, he played for Aston Athletic Club and won the Junior Championship in 1936 of the Singapore Billiards Association
Khoo Kim Swee (left) 
Malaya Tribune, 20 April 1940, Page 14

Syonan Shimbun, 2 August 1943, Page 2

Domestic Occurrence.(1943, February 26).Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Untitled. (1925, September 16)The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), page 6
Advertisements. (1941, December 4).Malaya Tribune, page 10

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Soh Leng Neo (Bukit Brown)

Madam Soh Leng Neo passed away on March 19, 1934 at No. 1 Lorong 36 Geylang at the age of 78 years. She is survived by her sons, Wee Giang Tye and Wee Giang Kiat. Madam Soh Leng Neo is buried in Hill 3 Division D, plot 239. Listed on her tomb are also the name of her daughter; Wee Chik Neo, Grandsons; Eddie Wee, Elec Wee, Charlie Wee, William Wee, Wee Mak Kim and Granddaughters: Wee Pin Neo, Amy Wee, Rani Wee, Irene Wee, Millie Wee

Son: Wee Giang Tye /Wee Giang Thye
In a newspaper article dated 1958, Wee Giang Tye, then 67 was reported as the oldest staff to serve the Netherlands Trading Society's Singapore Branch.  He studied in Raffles Institution and started working there when he turned 17 years of age at monthly salary of $30.

Son: Wee Giang Kiat
Wee Giang Kiat (Kechut) passsed away on  28 March 1968. He was a Vice-President of the Forget-Me-Not Party in 1929.


Deaths. (1934, March 20). The Straits Times, page 10
Mr. Wee Serves Bank For Nearly Half A Century. (1958, May 1).Singapore Standard, page 3

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seet Beng Tee (Bukit Brown)

Seet Beng Tee (6 January 1895 - 22 July 1924) was described as a popular young chinese businessman and brother of Mr. Tan Beng Chiang (a boxing promoter ). Seet Beng Tee had business in mining, estates and owned several properties in Singapore. Like his late father, Mr. Seet Tiang Lim, Seet Beng Tee has ties with the various Sultan's of Kedah, Kelantan and played host to them and prior to his illness, was a guest at the Sultan's Palace in Kedah.  Seet Beng Tee passed away at the age of 29 on 22 July 1924 at 2 am at his residence in 41 Desker Road. He was described to be ailing for the past year and was in poor health for many months prior to his death. He is the son of the late Mr. Seet Tiang Lim and is survived by his mother. He is buried in Hill 1 A, plot 66.

Seet Beng Tee's wife pre-deceased him and he has no children. From the tomb nearby Mr. Seet Beng Tee, i know that the name of his wife is Roseline Oey (1896 -1923) (Oei Po Tian , age 28 , 3 May 1923, Hill 1 plot 65). However engraved on Seet Beng Tee tomb are the name of two children , Seet Chong Kiat and Chwee Chin. In short, there is a discrepancy between what is reported in the papers and inscribed in the tomb. Reading further, i found a court ruling that gives insight that the children of Seet Beng Tee were adopted at infancy.

Seet Beng Tee 

Roesline Oey  / Oei Po Tian (wife of Seet Beng Tee)
passed away 3 May 1923


Father: Seet Tiang Lim
Seet Tiang Lim was born in Malacca of an old Straits Chinese family, but for many years resided in Singapore. He was at one time a merchant of the syndicate that has license from the Spirit and Opium's farm (before the government took it back under the Monopolies Department). Seet Tiang Lim is a close personal friend of the Sultan of Kelantan and as always played host when the Sultan visits Singapore.

Seet Tiang Lim passed away on 4th December 1922 at the age of 65. His residence was at No. 104 Selegie Road. The trustee and executor of his will was Seet Beng Tee (who passed away on  22 July 1922). On 15 August 1924 it was transferred to Seet Beng Hong / Seet Beng Ong.


Saturday, December 2. (1922, December 2). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Death. (1922, December 6). The Straits Times, page 8
Mr Seet Beng Tee, Popular Yong Chinese Businesman dead. (1924, July 22). Malaya Tribune, page 7
Advertisement. (1926, October 4). The Straits Times, page 3
Adopted Children. (1929, February 14). Malaya Tribune, page 11