Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book launch : A penniless boy: Chew Joo Chiat

It started out with misinformation published on a mainstream print media that Chew Joo Chiat had only 1 daughter jolted Philip Chew, now 82 years of age and a great grandson of Chew Joo Chiat on his journey to correct this and other misinformation online about Chew Joo Chiat. The book launched today is not just about Chew Joo Chiat, but is a testimonial and drive of Philip Chew in what was initially a fact-finding mission became a search for his roots and reconnection of family ties and bonds. Philip Chew to me stands as an inspiration to others for his drive to learn, picking up skills like blogging at the age of 73 back in 2008. He is a role model for both young and old. The book is available for purchase from the book publisher, Ethos.

Philip Chew sharing about his book

A penniless Boy: Chew Joo Chiat 
One of the guest speakers for the launch was Raymond Goh who helped Philip Chew in the rediscovery of the tomb of Chew Joo Chiat's two wives ( Lim Heon Neo (died 1896) and Tan Quan Neo (died 19th April 1927) ). He shared on how he helped Philip Chew in this rediscovery from the Bukit Brown and greater Bukit Brown Cemetery.
Raymond Goh sharing on his discovery to a captivated audience

About Chew Joo Chiat 

Chew Joo Chiat, (周如切 ) a Hokkien from Amoy, came to Singapore as a penniless boy, but through a mixture of sheer hard work, business acumen and marriage to a peranakan family, he went on to be a plantation owner of coconuts and rubber in the area called Confederate Estate where Joo Chiat is and expanded to be Property Tycoon leaving behind properties and houses (mostly) in the East Coast District of Joo Chiat estimated to be worth a million dollars in 1926 and it another article dated 1930, 4 million dollars. What started with plantation grew into streets with buildings. The streets were named after him as when the colonial government wanted to build roads expanding to the east, Chew Joo Chiat gave it away without seeking compensation. It is believed that his business acumen came to play, predicting that with government building roads and infrastructure, he could make even more money renting or selling houses in this area as well  as to transport his copra and rubber easier. Indeed a shrewed man and aptly nicknamed as the "King of Katong".
Chew Joo Chiat
The book contains other rich "inside" stories on the family of Chew Joo Chiat which include stories of Chew Joo Chiat role in the Tong Meng Hui, what happen to Chew Joo Chiat's wealth and the story of good karma repaid during Japanese Occupation by her daughter, Chew Quee Neo when a Japanese Major knock on her door.

About the author

Philip Chew was born in Joo Chiat Road in 1935 and went to Raffles Institution and obtained a school certificate in 1954. He was a clerk in Singapore City Council and later, a Health Inspector in Ministry of Health. Philip retired in 1993 and spent his senior years volunteering. As earlier highlighted it was through his passion to get out the correct information online,  Philip Chew at the age of 73, learned how to blog from his cousin and since 2008, is the author of two blogs. My Golden Years and My Chew Joo Chiat Story. His dedication and labour of love for close to 10 years accumulated with the launch of his first book, "A Penniless Boy, Chew Joo Chiat" which sets straight the story of of his great grandfather, an early pioneer of Singapore whose name is remembered as a street name.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Chua Seng Phong and family (Bukit Brown)

Chua Seng Phong passed away at the age of 66 on Friday, June 12, 1931 at 48 Tras Street. He leaves behind 5 sons; Chua Boon Kow, Chua Boon Lay, Chua Boon Liat, Chua Kay Tuan, Chua Boon Seng. Listed on the tomb are the name of his daughter: Chua Pheck Lian
Grandsons: Chua Cheong Eng, Chua Cheong Quee, Chua Cheong Jin, Chua Cheong Hwa.

He is buried in Hill 3 Division A , plot 380.

Mrs Chua Seng Phong nee Madam Tan Woo Neo / Tan Ooh Neo (1881-1929). Tan Ooh Neo passed away on May 2, 1929.

Beautiful decorative tile

Domestic Occurrences. (1929, May 7). The Straits Times, page 8

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oh Sian Guan (Bukit Brown)

Oh Sian Guan / 胡善甫 (1874 - 1943) was a Banker, whose ancestral place was Fujian, Tong Ann. He came to Singapore in 1907 and set up Chop Chin Keat with Tan Tiong Sin at Telok Ayer No 52, importing from Sarawak and Batavia various produce such as betel nut, coffee, pepper and birdnest. He later ventured into property. When Tan Tiong Sin joined the banking industry, Oh Sian Guan managed Chop Chin Keat alone. Oh Sian Guan later sent two of his sons to Batavia to manage the business.
Oh Sian Guan
(photo courtesy of Jack Lee Tsen-Ta)

In 1919, when Overseas Chinese Bank was formed, Oh Sian Guan became a Director under the recommendation of Tan Ean Kiam. In December 1932, when Chinese Commercial Bank, Ho Hong Bank and Overseas Chinese Bank merged to form Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), he remained a Director until the Japanese invasion in 1942.

He was also once the Chairman of Goh Loo Club.

source: NewspaperSG


Mr Oh Sian Guan passed away at his residence in 52 Telok Ayer Street at the age of 70 on June 7, 2603 (1943). He is survived by his wife, two sons; Mr. Oh Hoon Boh and Dr William Oh,  three son-in-laws;  Dr. Kwan Pah Chien, Teo Boon Kai and Ng Peng Lim, 3 daughters, 2 daughter-in-laws, 8 grandsons, 4 great grandchildren.  Mrs Oh Sian Guan nee Madam Yap Suan Neo passed away on February 1, 1950. The cortege left from 38 Newton Road. The papers mention she is the mother of Dr. William Oh and Mrs P. C. Kwan.

The tomb of Mr and Mrs Oh Sian Guan is located at Block 3 , Division D , plot 880.and 878. The tombstone carvings are one of the more beautiful ones with decorative carvings that features stories from the Three Kingdom (on the left panel) featuring General Guan Yu's heroic exploits.
Oh Sian Guan


The family of Oh Sian Guan are very closely interlinked with the families of Hu and Kwan. If you research further, you will find out that Arthur Kwan's sister, Margaret Kwan married Hu Tsai Kuen and one of the children of that union is Richard Hu (former Minister of Finance). A cousin of Margaret Kwan is the well know film star, Nancy Kwan. If you go through the list of Egan's grandchildren, another familiar name might strike you, Kevin Kwan (author of Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, etc,). This article will not deal on the relationships but will focus on the Oh family.

Oh Sian Guan with family and friends. Photo circa 1924
(Photo courtesy of Jack Lee Tsen-Ta)

Son: Oh Hoon Khway
There was an engagement notice in June 27, 1930 between Miss Lim Gek Neo (youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs. Lim Siew Liat) to Mr. Oh Hoon Khway (son of Mr. and Mrs. Oh Sian Guan ). The marriage was to take place at No 51 Veerasamy Road on July 15, 1930.  When Oh Sian Guan passed away in 1943, there was no mention of Oh Hoon Khway. Reading the blog of Singapore Revisited, i found out that Oh Hoon Khway passed away in 1931 ( a year after his engagement /marriage).

Oh Hoon Khway
(photo courtesy of Jack Lee Tsen-Ta)

Son: Dr William Oh 
Dr. William Oh studied in Anglo Chinese School, He went on to qualified for an MBBS degree in 1940 from Hong Kong University and returned to Singapore and joined the government medical practice. In 1946, he started his own medical practice. Dr. William Oh became a director of the Overseas Assurance Corporation in 1965 and later helm as its Chairman. He was also a director of Bank of Singapore Ltd.

source: NewspaperSG

Dr. William Oh passed away at the age of 85 on October 15, 2000. The obituary notice mentions his family members including his wife, Olive Hu (deceased) , sons and daughters: Dr. Gordon Oh, Dr. Winston Oh, Cynthia Oh, Dr. Shenton Oh and Dr. Vernon Oh.

source: NewspaperSG

Daughter: Egan Oh nee Egan Hu
Egan Oh married Dr. Kwan Pah Chien ( Dr. P.C. Kwan  / Dr. Arthur P.C. Kwan) in  September 1931.
Egan Oh passed away on 29 April 1993 at 88 years of age. From the obituary notice the name of her brother and sister-in-law is mentioned (Dr. Willam Oh and Mrs. Olive) , Son and daughter-in-law (Samuel Kwan Tse-Cheng and Elizabeth Hang Lay Hua)
3 daughters ( May Kwan Tse-Tuan. Mary Kwan Tse-Chwing, Ann Sarah Kwan Tse-Ai ) and 2 sons-in-laws (Dr. David S Phanchet , Lee Song Chong).
The names of the grandchildren included; Stanley Kwan Pen-Huo, Edmund Kwan Pen-Peng, Kevin Kwan Pen-Aun, Michael Phanchet, Andrew Phanchet, James Phanchet, Jack Lee Tsen-Ta, Lyn Lee Tsen-yi

source: NewspaperSG

Egan Oh and William Oh
(photo courtesy of Jack Lee Tsen-Ta)

Paying respects to Oh Sian Guan

Mystery from Kopi Sua
There is a large tomb in Kopi Sua that Raymond showed me many years ago and one of theories of how that tomb and the tomb of Oh Sian Guan could be possibly linked is via the couplets as shared by Raymond which are similar.

Oh Sian Guan's tomb couplets - 
His writings are outstanding,
His garden materials (legacy) help to spur his followers/descendants to flourish

Kopi Sua big tomb -
His essays are akin to those of top scholars
His gardening skills (expertise) help to spread an industry

Is the tomb in Kopi Sua, the tomb of Oh Hoon Kway ? There is no mention of name on that tomb but only oral accounts by tombkeeper there that the tomb belongs to a son of a banker.

Tomb of Oh Hoon Kway ? 

Death. (1943, June 9 ). Syonan Times, page 2
Death. (1950, February 2). The Straits Times
Oh Sian Guan (taken from Who's Who in the Chinese community of Singapore)
Board consist of leading personalities. (1971, July 17). The Straits Times
Obituaries. (2000, October 16). The Straits Times, page 55
Family Photos with thanks from Jack Lee Tsen-Ta (grandson of Egan Oh)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lee Pang Kok and family (Bukit Brown)

Lee Pang Kok alias Lee Teng Sin passed away at age of 53 at 2 am on October 7, 1930 at his residence in No 6 Stanley Road. He is survived by his widow, 4 sons (Lee Siew Kow, Lee Siew Pan, Lee Puan Beng and Lee Siew Teck ), 4 daughters (Lee Tan Neo, Lee Chwee Neo, Lee Kim Neo, Lee Swee Lew, Lee Yew Choo) , 1 daughter-in-law,  4 grandsons (Lee Chay Min, Lee Chay Kia, Lee Chay Tian, Lee Chay Song) and 1 grand daughter to mourn his loss. He is buried in Hill 3  Division B plot 281.
Photograph of Lee Pang Kok (19th year of the Republic)
I am not able to find much information about Lee Pang Kok, but in 1918 there was an article of dissolution of partnership business,  Chop Lian Huat, Tobacco Merchants at Malacca Street, Singapore. The business was dissolved by mutual consent by its former partners which included Soon Wee Joey, Lee Pang Kok and Chua Yeow Whee. When Lee Pang Kok passed away probate of his will was granted to a sole executor, Lee Siew Kow.

Lee Pang Kok's tomb in Bukit Brown 


Son: Lee Siew Kow
Lee Siew Kow was a broker and dealer in rubber.  Lee Siew Kow passed away at on 18th July 1951 at his residence at No. 23 Amber Road. He leaves behind his mother, his wife, Madam Gan Eng Neo / Gan Yew Neo, 4 sons (Lee Chay Min, Lee Chay Kia, Lee Chay Tian, Lee Chay Song), 3 daughters (Lee Aye Hoe, Lee June, Lee Aye Cheng), 2 daughter-in-law, 3 grandchildren. Also mourning him are his 3 brothers ( Lee Siew Pan, Lee Puan Beng and Lee Siew Teck ), 3 sister-in-laws, 5 sisters, 4 brother-in-laws.

When Lee Siew Kow passed away, he left behind an estate that was valued more than $600,000.

Son: Lee Siew Pan
Lee Siew Pan passed away at the age of 82 on May 4, 1985. He is survived by 7 sons (Lee Chay Lup, Lee Chay Yam, Carey ; Lee Chay Chye, James ; Lee Chay Ban, Gene ; Lee Chay Boon, Alan ; Lee Chay Swa, Albert ; Lee Chay Lip, Alfred ) 1 adopted son ( Lee Chay Song )  9 daughters (Lee Joo Guat, Lee Juby, Lee Joo Hong, Lee Joo Huay, Lee Joo Kheng, Lee Nancy, Lee Joo Luck, Lee Jenny, Lee Trincia-Mary) 5 daughter-in-laws, 8 son-in-laws, 33 grandchildren, 3 grandsons-in-law, 2 great grandchildren.
Lee Siew Pan 
I am not able to cover all the grandchildren, but the below are some of the grandchildren with pictures or wedding photos.

Grandson (Lee Chay Min)
There was an article in January 1948 that featured the double wedding of Lee Chay Min (son of Lee Siew Kow) to Katherine Seah Quee Eng (fourth daughter of Seah Teng Koon ) and his brother, Lee Chay Kia to Tan Seok Bee (eldest daughter of Tan Soon Teck and Madam Yeo Kwai Neo)

Grandson (Lee Chay Kia )
In January 1948,  Lee Chay Kia married Tan Seok Bee (eldest daughter of Tan Soon Teck and Madam Yeo Kwai Neo). It was a double wedding in which his older brother, Lee Chay Min married Katherine Seah Quee Eng.

Lee Chay Kia and Tan Seok Bee had 4 sons ( Frederick Lee Cheow Keng, Anthony Lee Cheow Cheok, Lee Cheow Poon, Edmond Lee Cheow San ) and 1 daughter (Violet Lee Geok Yan )

Grand daughter (Lee Ai Hoe / Lee Aye Hoe ) 
Miss Lee Ai Hoe (daughter of the late Mr. Lee Siew Kow) married Mr. Teoh Seng Hong (grandson of the late Dato Siew Khor) in July 1955.

Advertisement. (1911, October 25). The Straits Times, page 16
Death.(1930, October 11). The Singapore Free Press, page 10
Advertisement. (1931, December 10). The Straits Times, page 4
Double Wedding. (1948, January 23). Morning Tribune, page 2
Death. (1951, July 22). The Straits Times, page 10
Dato' Grandson Weds. (1955, July 5). The Singapore Standard, page 8
Death. (1985, May 6). The Straits Times, page 21

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Lim Soon Leong (Bukit Brown)

Lim Soon Leong was a civil servant and worked as a Revenue Officer with H.M. Customs and Excise Department. His residence was listed as No. 2, Lorong Silat off Albert Street,

Lim Soon Leong passed away on 7th November 1940 at the age of 50 and on his tomb the name listed of his 2 sons: Lim Geok Bee, Lim Geok Chin and 1 daughter, Lim Soh Cheng. He is buried in Hill 5 Section C, plot 77. Listed on his tomb is the inscription that says "17th generation".

Advertisements. (1940, December 26). Malayan Tribune, page 8

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Tan Seng Kee and family (Bukit Brown)

Tan Seng Kee passed away at the age of 82 on 22 July 1964.  This is one of the stories where i am able to trace the family story of Mrs Tan Seng Kee nee Gan Khoo Neo back to her grandparents but very little information about Tan Seng Kee himself. They are buried in Block 5 , Section C, plot 137.

Madam Gan Khoo Neo and Mr. Tan Seng Kee 

Wife: Madam Gan Khoon Neo 
From Syonan Shimbun, 18th June 1945, there is a corresponding match of a obituary notice of Mrs Tan Seng Kee nee Madam Gan Khoon Neo who passed away at 1 pm, June 17, 2605 (Japanese Koki Calender) at the age of 61. She leaves behind 2 sons; Tan Chin Siong, Tan Ching Hock and 2 daughters; Tan Sim Neo and Tan Im Neo.

Father and Mother-in-law: Mr. Gan Keng Wee and Madam Tan Swan Neo
Gan Khoon Neo is the daughter of Mr. Gan Keng Wee and Madam Tan Swan Neo. Madam Tan Swee Neo passed away at the age of 58 on April 13, 1926 at No. 56-17 Neil Road. She is the mother of Gan Chong Bin and mother-in-law of Ngo Yam Liang and Tan Seng Kee. She is buried in Senh Gan's Burial ground in Leng Kee Suah.

Grandmother: Mrs. Tan Khye Liat nee Madam Lim Tan Neo
From another obituary notice, i managed to trace the mother of Madam of Tan Swan Neo, who was Mrs. Tan Khye Liat (nee Madam Lim Tan Neo ) who passed away at the ripe old age 96 on January 4, 1929 at No. 30 Craig Road. She leaves behind 1 daughter, 1 son-in-law, (Khoo Teck Yong), five grandsons, (Gan Chong Bin, Khoo Cheng Swee, Khoo Cheng Yam, Khoo Cheng Kim, Khoo Cheng Bok), 4 granddaughters, 3 grand-sons-in-laws ( Tan Seng Kee, Ngo Yam Liang, Tan Teow Kway, 15 great grandchildren and 1 great grandson-in-law, Tan Tiang Peng. She was buried in Sang Kow Teah Cemetery.

Domestic Occurrences. (1929, January 9). Malaya Tribune, page 8
Death. (1926, April 17). The Straits Times, page 7
Death. (1945, June 18). Syonan Shimbun, page 2

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Cheong Koon Hong and family (Bukit Brown)

Mrs Cheong Koon Hong nee Madam Yeo Kim Yan passed away at the age of 34 on 8th March 1941 at her residence at 75 Koon Seng Road. She leaves behind her husband, 5 sons, 6 daughters, 1 daughter-in-law , two grandsons and two grand daughters to mourn her loss. She is buried in Bukit Brown Hill 5, Division C, plot 123.

Her husband, Cheong Koon Hong is one of two sons of Cheong Ann Bee and Tan Wah Neo. Cheong Koon Hong and his brother Cheong  Koon Seng were responsible for the building of Theatre Royal in North Bridge Road (former Blanco Court, now Raffles Hospital) and are the proprietors of the Star Opera Co. which performs opera every night (except Thursday's) in the Malay language. Performances include Shakespearean pieces such as Hamlet, stories such as Arabian Nights, Ali Baba to Chinese classics such as Sam-pek Eng-Tai. Mr. Cheong Koon Hong was the patron of the Eclipse Badminton Party (1947) , president of the Singapore Funeral Association (1934), patron of United Confederate Funeral Association (1953).

Mr. Cheong Koon Hong passed away at the age of 81 in October 1964. He is survived by a widow, 4 sons ( Cheong Hock Quee, Cheong Hock Siew, Cheong Hock Lock, 6 daughters, 5 daughter-in-laws, six son-in-laws, many grandchildren. Funeral service was held at Church of Holy Family, Katong.

Cheong Koon Hong with his colleagues

Theatre Royal - Star Opera Co.
(source: National Archives )
Tomb of Madam Yeo Kim Yan

Tomb of Madam Yeo Kim Yan 


Son: Cheong Hock Whatt
Cheong Hock Whatt, the second son of Cheon Koon Hong got engaged to Miss Lau Hui Keow (second daughter of Mr Lau Pau Song in 18 May 1948. Cheong Hock Whatt passed away at the age of 33 on 9th February 1956. He is survived by his parents, Mr and Mrs Cheong Koon Hong, wife Hui Keow and 2 sons. He was buried in Bidadari.

Son: Cheong Hock Lock
The fourth son of Mr and Mrs Cheong Koon Hong, Mr. Hilary Cheong Hock Lock married Miss Florence Barbara Baptist, youngest daughter of Mrs. A.A. Baptist. at the Church of St. Joseph's on 29 October 1961. Both of them were working at the Singapore Telephone Board.

Daughter: Cheong Keong Siok 
An engagement notice was announced on July 15, 2604 (15 July 1944) between Wee Chye Koon (eldest son of Mr and Mrs Wee Teow Siong) and Miss Cheong Keong Siok (second daughter of Mr and Mrs Cheong Koon Hong) 

Father: Cheong Ann Bee
Cheong Ann Bee was born in Malacca in 1833 and came to Singapore when he was 10 years old. He spoke no English as he attended Chinese school as a boy but nevertheless work in European firms such as Messrs. Dare & Co. and W. Mansfield & Co. He went on to venture into shipchandlery business  together with Tan Eng Siew under the name Ann-Bee, Eng-Siew & Co. In 1878, they parted ways and Cheong Ann Bee eventually partner Syed Mohamed Alsagoff and Lim Eng Keng in the firm Ann Bee & Co until it was eventually wound up in 1898. Cheong Ann Bee was known for his charitable disposition in providing eye salve (ointment) to those in need, especially coolies. Cheong Ann Bee died on March 9, 1896.

Mother: Mrs Cheong Ann Bee
Mrs Cheong Ann Bee passed away on April 2, 1927 at No 95-5 River Valley Road. She was 75 years old. She is survived by 2 sons, 7 daughters, 7 son-in-laws, 43 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren.

Funeral of Mrs Cheong Ann Bee, April 1927
(source: NewspaperSG)
Mrs Cheong Ann Bee's tomb

Brother: Cheong Koon Seng 
Cheong Koong Seng, J.P., M.C. was born in 1880 and educated in Anglo Chinese School. Cheong Koon Seng,  is the proprietor of Messrs. Cheong Koon Seng & Co. and holds the honor of being one of the best known pioneer local auctioneers and estate agents in Singapore. He was trained under the auctioneering firm Powell & Co for 20 years and was also the manager of Commercial Rubber Co. Ltd from 1918-1920, before striking it out on his own in January 1920, based initially at 80 Kling Street under the style of Messrs Cheong Koon Seng and Co.
Cheong Koon Seng
(source: NewspaperSG)

Cheong Koon Seng passed away peacefully at his residence, "Valley-side" in No 299 River Valley Road at 9 am on March 20, 1934 at the age of 55. He is survived by his wife (Chia Siew Tin), three sons ( Cheong Hock Chye, Cheong Hock Guan and Cheong Hock Leng), 4 daughters (Cheong Keong Poh,Cheong Keong Tee, Cheong Keong Tuan, Cheong Keong Hee, Cheong Keong Aik, Cheong Keong Heok)  and 4 grandchildren.

Sister: Cheong Seok Neo (Mrs. Tan Kee Cheok)
Mrs. Tan Kee Cheok nee Madam Cheong Seok Neo passed away on 4th July 1940 at the age of 64. She was listed to staying at No. 161 Marine Parade and in the article, mentions that she is beloved sister of Mr. Cheong Koon Hong.

Untitled. (1940, February 25). The Straits Times, page 8
Domestic Occurrence. (1941, March 10). Malaya Tribune, page 9
Deaths. (1956, February 10). The Straits Times, page 6
Wedding at Saint Joseph's Church. (1961, October 30). The Straits Times, page 4
Deaths. (1964, October 11). The Straits Times, page 11
Cheong Koon Hong.