Monday, July 30, 2018

Mystery of the discarded grave portraits (Lao Sua)

While exploring the Old Lorong Halwa back in September 2015, i came across underneath a tree, 3 grave portraits. Looking around the area for recently exhumed graves, i could not find any fresh tombs that were recently exhumed. It was therefore very strange that this portraits lay underneath the tree with the picture and text looking clear, not weathered by the elements. Are they from a tomb or maybe from a tablet or urn ?  I am not sure.

Fast forward to 2018, i posted this picture for people to help me translate and this is what i have crowd sourced from the community. The names of the deceased in the portraits are:
李家松 Lee Kah Song (died in 1949)
李朝業 Lee Teow Giap (died in 1967)
李朝任 Lee Teow Jim (died in 1945)
Lee Teow Giap and Lee Teow Jim are probably brothers, while Lee Kah Song may be their father is the theory that one can probably draw from this. However, the mystery remains. Who were this people and why were the portraits discarded? Where are their remains now? If you have a lead, do email me.

Discarded Grave Portrait of Lee Kah Song, Lee Teow Giap and Lee Teow Jim

Discarded Grave Portrait underneath a tree

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Tan Leong (Kopi Sua Cemetery)

It is my first time exploring the other portion of Kopi Sua Cemetery (also sometimes refer as Whitley Cemetery ) which was separated by PIE. The entrance to this place is via the long staircase just before St.Joseph Institution. While exploring, i came across the tomb of Tan Tan Leong who passed away on 28 June 1949. A year after his death there was a memoriam published by his family. In it, the late Tan Leong was listed to have worked in the Municipal Treasury as a Clerk. The death date on the tomb matches the article and fortunately, i am able to decipher the name of his family as well from the tomb. He is survived by one son; Tan Chye Poon, 4 daughters; Tan Suan Neo, Tan Kim Neo, Tan Wan Yew, Tan Ah Chuan, Tan Ah Kin; 1 grandson; Tan Kim Kiat.
Mr. Tan Leong, a Clerk at Municipal Treasury 
source: NewspaperSG

Python in No. 55 Veerasamy Road

As i continued my search, i found a interesting article that led me to locate Tan Leong's former residence, No 55 Veerasamy Road.  It was a story of a 15 foot Python in the bathroom. The Python was first seen by Mr. Tan's grown up daughter, Miss Tan Swan Neo (Tan Suan Neo) who saw the reptile slide in through a partition in the wall and coil down on the bathroom floor. The neighbours manage to capture it.

Quarters cannot be "Bequeated"

55 Veerasamy Road was the living quarters allotted to Tan Leong when he was a Singapore Municipal Officer. In a very interesting article i found out that Tan Leong's son was also a Municipal Officer in the Treasurer's Department. After the death of his father, Tan Chye Poon applied to the Municipal Commissioner to be allowed to stay in the quarters originally allotted to his father who died in service in June 1949. The Municipal Commissioners rejected this application citing a rule that "where the quarters have been allotted to a Municipal Officer for his occupation during service, another Municipal Officer has no right to live in the same quarters or to occupy it after the death of the tenant. This rule applies to family members. Tan Chye Poon was given up to September 30 1950 to vacate the house.

[research on-going]

Quarters cannot be "bequeated". The Straits Times, page
In Memoriam. (1950, June 28). The Straits Times, page 6
Python in the bathroom. (1941, July  29). The Straits Times, page 10

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cheong Poh Neo nee Mrs. Lim Pow (Lao Sua)

Madam Cheong Poh Neo (the wife of Lim Pow) passed away on 12th May 1918 at her residence in No. 45 Rowell Road at the age of 38. Her burial took place at Toa Payoh Cemetery.  Her tomb as per the picture below is located in the area we often coin as Greater Bukit Brown / Loa Sua /Heng Shan Teng. As you can see from the pictures, her tomb is overgrown with plants and dead leaves from the surrounding trees. As we started uncovering the tomb, we saw the lovely decorative tiles and marble stone etched with lead text confirming the person who is buried here as Madam Cheong Poh Neo, wife of Mr. Lim Pow.  The stones also went on to detail her date of death as 12th May 1918 and an important clue which i was unable to find just by searching the newspaper archives, the name of her children. The tomb was erected by her two sons, Lim Henry and Lim Robert.

Other than beautiful decorative tiles and the pair of guardian lions, the encaustic tiles used in the courtyard of her tomb are beautiful as well.

Tomb of Madam Cheong Poh Neo nee Mrs. Lim Pow 

The name of Madam Cheong Poh Neo's children 

Encaustic tiles at the courtyard of Madam Cheong Poh Neo's tomb.

Lovely decorative tiles visible again after some cleaning

Death notice for Madam Cheong Poh Neo (source: NewspaperSG)
Mr. Lim Pow passed away at the age of 50 on 17 July 1924 and his funeral took place on 20 July 1924 with the cortege leaving his residence at No 45 Rowell Road for Bukit Brown Cemetery. He is buried in Block 1 Division B, plot 317. His tomb is next to Koh Hoon Teck's tomb. The name of the is honorific name, "Lim Cheng Siang"  but fortunately for the newspaper article providing the date of death, i am able to trace from the burial registrar, the plot number and from there, a closer inspection allows us to match the two son's name on the tomb as well.
Death Notice for Lim Poh (source: NewspaperSG)

Mr. Lim Pow tomb in Bukit Brown 

Social and Personal. (1918, May 14). The Straits Times.
Announcements. (1924, July 18). The Straits Times000

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ho Soon Neo (Lao Sua)

The black and white picture of the tomb Ho Soon Neo and her family and relatives standing around the tomb looking solemn and with offerings at the altar table and courtyard appeared on various heritage and nostalgic groups in facebook for some time. Some commented that the original photograph is in the hands of an antique shop owner (but i can't be 100% sure). Nevertheless it was providence when it appeared in the Heritage Singapore Bukit Brown facebook group page in April 2017 and within a month, the actual tomb was located by Raymond Goh and one of the resident tombkeeper, Soh Ah Beng. The tomb of Madam Ho Boon Neo's son  (Choo Sian Kay) was also located  Finally in July 2018, i got this visit this tomb and see it with my on eyes how it looked like compared to the old picture below.

Madam Ho Soon Neo tomb (photo likely 1923-1924 period)

It was in Greater Bukit Brown at the Toa Payoh Cemetery (some people call the area Lao Sua or even Heng San Teng) where the tomb of Madam Ho Boon Neo is located. Clearly etched on the stone are the words, "Remembrance, Here Lay the Body of Ho Boon Neo, Age 74. Died on 14th April 1923. However the surrounding areas are overgrown with foliage since 95 years ago and the tomb itself is hardly visible and the courtyard encaustic floor tile are no longer visible.
Madam Ho Boon Neo (2018)

Madam Ho Boon Neo 

The tiles which use to decorate the tomb 
The final picture is the original black and white picture where the image came from. The English text states:- In memory of the late Madam Ho Soon Neo, who passed away on the 18th April 1923 at the age of  74 and leaves one son Choo Siang Kay, the other being the late Choo Sian Kim. If you can make the rest out or have the original picture or are a descendant of the late Madam Ho Boon Neo, leave a comment below.

Original photo with description showing Madam Ho Soon Neo tomb (photo likely 1923-1924 period)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Teo Chye Lian nee Mrs. Poh Tiang Swee and family (Bukit Brown)

Madam Teo Chyee Lian nee Mrs. Poh Tiang Swee passed away on 18 September 1925 at her residence in No. 20-4 Niven Road at the age of 39. She is the wife of Mr. Poh Tiang Swee of  Messrs. Rupert Manasseh and Elias. She leaves a widower and 3 sons and a daughter. From her tomb at Bukit Brown, i can gather the name of her daughter is Poh Chwee Neo and her 3 sons are: Poh Eng Yam, Poh Eng Say, Poh Eng Hock. Teo Chye Lian nee Mrs. Poh Tiang Swee is buried in Block 1, Division B, plot 321.

Poh Tiang Swee thanked members of the Gunong Sayang Association, Guan Soon Kok Association and Starlight Mess who sent attended or sent condolences, wreaths, etc.  Poh Tiang Swee was a member of the Gunong Sayang Association from what i derived from an article in 1912 where the Annual General Meeting was held. He was also a committee member of Yan Leng Hean Association.

Tomb of Mrs Poh Tiang Swee nee Teo Chye Lian

Mr. Poh Tiang Swee was a clerk in  Messrs. Rupert Manasseh and Elias. Mr. Poh Tiang Swee is the President of the International Buddhist Union in 1930 and the Patron is Mr. Aw Boon Par. The below picutre was taken in 2nd November 1930 at the bungalow of Mr. Aw Boon Par in Pasir Panjang. Poh Tiang Swee was a member of the Gunong Sayang Association from what i derived from an article in 1912 where the Annual General Meeting was held. He was also a committee member of Yan Leng Hean Association.

International Buddhist Union (source: NewspaperSG)

In 1923, there was a report of a break-in to his house at No. 20-4 Niven Road and cash and jewellery worth $952 was stolen. The house number corresponds with the one reported in Madam Teo Chye Lian obituary notice.

Rupert Manasseh and Elias 

From what i can gather, the firm was a partnership by Mr. Rupert Saleh Manasseh with Issac Aaron Elias and Ralph Aaron Elias. Rupert announced his retirement from the firm as at 31st March 1929 and in the very same article, announced that he will be leaving Singapore.


Husband: Poh Tiang Swee
Poh Tiang Swee passed away on 1st May 1937 at General Hospital. He was a Secretary at A. Flinter Ltd and residence was stated as 139, Joo Chiat Place. He is survived by his wife, two sons, 1 daughter, on son-in-law, (Mr. Lim Kim Teck) , two brothers, Poh Tiang Hock, Poh Tiang Swee, one sister, Madam Peck Hay Neo and three grandchildren. He remains were taken to the Japanese Crematorium at Yio Chu Kang Road for cremation on 3rd May 1937.

Daughter: Poh Chwee Neo
Poh Chwee Neo, (eldest daughter of Poh Tiang Swee and the late Mrs Poh Tiang Swee) was engaged to Lim Kim Teck (eldest son of Mrs. Lim Tay Yam and the late Mr. Lim Tay Yam). From what i could gather, Mrs. Lim Kim Teck nee Madam Nellie Poh Chwee Neo passed away on 5th May 1979.


Untitled. (1912, November 8). The Straits Times, page 8
Untitled. (192, Noovember 14). The Straits Times, page 8
Death. (1925. September 23). The Singapore Free Press, page 1
Births, Marriages, Deaths. (1927, October 31). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Advertisement. (1929, April 4).The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Untitled. (1930, November 30). Malayan Saturday Post, page 30
Domestic Occurrence. (1937, May 3). Malayan Tribune, page 10

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Teh Seow Teng and family (K.L. Kwong Tong Cemetery)

Mr. Teh Seow Teng (3th August 1870- 10th November 1940), was educated at the Free School, Penang and joined the firm of Messrs. Thean Chee & Co. of Penang. He was a local merchant as well before making his way to Kuala Lumpur to take up the role as joint manager of the firm of Chow Kit & Co. In 1902 he accepted the secretaryship of the State Farms (likely the Opium, Spirits Farms), and occupied the office until the lease of the farm expired three years later. He was a trustee of the Victoria Institute, a director of the Eastern Trading Company, a director of Messrs. Chow Kit & Co., and is essentially a merchant in numerous businesses. Teh Seow Teng was also the principal trustee of Yap Kwan Seng estate.

Teh Seow Teng (picture from tomb)

Teh Seow Teng 

The beautiful cluster of tomb consist of Madam Lua Oon Neo (mother of Teh Seow Teng), Teh Seow Teng, Madam Wong Quee Nyong (wife of Teh Seow Teng). Behind this tomb are the tombs of Dr. Teh Yok Chee (son of Teh Seow Teng), Choy Lin Kum (wife of Dr. Teh Yok Chee), Molly Cheah Cheng Sim  (wife of Dr. Teh Yok Chee)
Family cluster of Teh Seow Teng at Kuala Lumpur Kwong Tong Cemtery

Family cluster of Teh Seow Teng at Kuala Lumpur Kwong Tong Cemetery


Messrs. Chow Kit & Co. was touted to be the largest storekeepers in Kuala Lumpur during that period. Located at the corner of Holland Road and Clarke Street [1], it was one of the major landmarks of that time . Established in 1892, with a staff of six, the business grew with numerous branches in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with over 100 staff. It was a general store, with agencies for many London firms and life and fire insurance companies. The proprietors are Loke Chow Kit (Kuala Lumpur), Ho Kim Kee (Penang), Lim Chin Guan (Penang), and Teh Seow Teng (Kuala Lumpur). The tailoring department was very well known for its semi-European style, which has been adopted by Chinese who could afford it.


Mother: Madam Lua Oon Neo
Madam Lua Oon Neo was the matriarch of the Teo cluster of tombs and occupies the middle tomb of the family cluster with Teo Seow Teng and his wife flanking the front left and right. Madam Lua Oon Neo passed away on 24th May 1926 at the age of 100 years old. Unfortunately, i am unable to find the name of Teh Seow Teng's father.

Wife: Wong Quee Nyong (31 March 1881 -26 April 1958)
Madam Wong Quee Nyong passed away on 26 April 1958 at 78 Weld Road. She leaves behind 3 sons; Teh Yok Chee, Teh Yok Kye, Teh Yok Chin, 1 daughter, Mrs Yong Loo Lin, son-in-law, 3 daughters-in-law and several grandchildren.
Mrs Teh Seow Teng nee Wong Quee Nyong

Son: Teh Yok Chee
Dr. Teh Yok Chee, M.B. B.S studied in Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur. He completed his medical studies in Hong Kong University before doing his medical training in Vienna. He joined Universal Dispensary in his medical practice in Kuala Lumpur. He was also the President of the Asiatic Private Medical Practitioners' Union of Selangor. Dr. Teh Yok Chee married Miss Choy Lin Kum (daughter of  the late Mr Choy Joy of Sydney, Australia) in 1929. Teh Tok Chee passed away on 13 Jan 1972 and is buried in the family cluster of Teh Seow Teng. Madam Choy Lin Kum, born 28 February 1899,  passed away on 5 June 1964. The cortege left her residence at 44 Jalan Freeman for Kwantung Cemetery, KL. Molly Cheah Cheng Sim (wife of Dr. Teh Yok Chee) was born on 29 February 1932 and passed away on 18 June 1981.
Dr. Teh Yok Chee 

Madam Choy Lin Kum 
Molly Cheah Cheng Sim 

Son:Teh Yok Kye
The wedding of Mr Teh Yok Kye (son of Towkay Teh Seow Teng and Mrs. Teh Seow Teng) and Miss Chong Saw Cheok (second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chong Ah Foh) at "Hazeldean", Weld Road in 1929, Kuala Lumpur. Towkay Yap Loong Hin, J.P. performed the ceremony. The Selangor State Band as in attendance.
Teh Yok Kye and Chong Saw Cheok (source: NewspaperSG)

Son: Teh Yok Chin
Dr Teh Yok Chin, youngest son of Teh Seow Teng completed his medical studies in University of Hong Kong. He did further studies in Dublin (L.M. Diploma) and medical training in Vienna. (following the same path as his brother, Dr. Teh Yok Chee).  He went on to start his own clinic called People's Dispensary in Port Swettenham.

Daughter: Teh Yok Choo
Miss Teh Yok Choo (only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Teh Seow Teng of Hazeldean, Weld Road) married Dr. Yong Loo Lim (third son of Mr and Mrs Yong Nee Chai). The ceremony took place at 50, Ampang Road on March 1925.

Unique Tomb Architecture and Materials

The family cluster clearly indicates who the plot belongs to, "T.S. Teng Boundary" and the size, "Total Area 3675 sq feet (roughly 341 sq meters)

The tomb has many unique decorative tiles as well.

Chinese Wedding. (1929, May 25). Malayan Saturday Post, page 38
Advertisement. (1925, March 30). The Straits Times, page 8
Untitled. (1925, June 11). The Singapore Free Press, page 16
Death. (1958, April 27). The Straits Time, page 20
Kuala Lumpur street names :  a guide to their meanings & histories /  Mariana Isa, Maganjeet Kaur.
Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources. Wright, Arnold. London, Durban, Colombo, Perth (W. A.), Singapore, Hongkong, and Shanghai: Lloyd's Greater Britain Publishing Company, Limited, 1908.Available online from Southeast Asia Visions. Cornell University Library.

Holland Road (Jalan Mahkamah Persekutuan ) a road named after Hugh Holland (architect and amateur actor), a early resident of the Straits Settlement.Clarke Street (Jalan Mahkamah Tinggi) a road named after Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Clarke (second Governor of Singapore and Governor of the Straits Settlement, 1873-1875)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Funeral of Mrs Ong Sam Leong (Bukit Brown)

One of the most featured families that you might come across in the archive papers are the family of Mr and Mrs Ong Sam Leong. So, it doesn't come as a surprise that when Mrs. Ong Sam Leong  nee Yeo Yean Neo passed away at the age of 73 in 25 May 1935 at her home in Bukit Rose, Bukit Timah Road, her funeral ceremony was covered by a number of major newspapers during that time. The headlines read "a two-mile procession for the widow of a Straits Pioneer". It was so crowded that the mourners who drove had to park as far back as Kampong Java Road and Stevens Road which was some distance from Bukit Rose. An estimate of 2,000 to 3,000 people attended the funeral and among them were the who's who of Singapore back then such as Mr. Aw Boon Par, Mr and Mrs. John Laycock, Mr. Lim Chong Pang, Mr. Tan Chin Tuan, Dr. Cheong Chee Hai, Messrs. J.M Sime, Julian Frankel, Lee Chim Tuan, Kwa Siew Tee and many more.

Mourners of Mrs. Ong Sam Leong in front of Bukit Rose (source: NewspaperSG) 

Hearse for Mrs Ong Sam Leong (source: NewspaperSG) 

Over 3,000 mourners at Bukit Brown 

The Johore State Band provided by the Sultan of Johore was also in attendance and the local police force helped in ensuring safety and crowd control. Numerous people from all walks of life and different races were present during the funeral procession. The cortege took over 2 hours to cover the distance of less than 2 miles (3.2 km) and the estimates where over 3,000 people were present including 600 Malays
Johor Military Band in front of Bukit Rose (sourceL NewspaperSG) 

Funeral procession (source: NewspaperSG) 

Funeral procession (source: NewspaperSG)

source: NewspaperSG

Mrs. Ong Sam Leong nee Yeo Yean Neo 

Madam Yeo Yean Neo , the daughter of Mr and Mrs. Yeo Koon Im and sister of Mr. Yeo Kang Swee was one of the first pupils of Miss Sophia Blackmore of the Methodist Mission (Methodist Girl's School) in 1887 and it was very touching to note that among the several hundred wreaths sent, one was from Miss Blackmore herself.
Mrs. Ong Sam Leong (source: NewspaperSG) 
The newspapers  paid tribute to her as the inspiration which led her two sons, Ong Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock to start the show business industry as they were proprietors of the New World Amusement Park. It was said that their sons loved their mom dearly and this can be seen by the lavish birthday celebrations they threw for her in 1932 for her 69th birthday at Bukit Rose whereby the guest list numbered 400 ! (She passed away 3 years later at the age of 72).  As a mark of respect, the New World was closed during her funeral ceremony.

Mrs Ong Sam Leong  69th Birthday (source: NewspaperSG)
Mrs. Ong Sam Leong nee Yeo Yean Neo is survived by his two sons, Ong Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock and 1 daughter, Mrs. Khoo Peck Lock) , 3 sons-in-laws (Messrs. Lim Teck Kim, Puey Yean Chuan and Khoo Peck Lock) and many grandchildren and great grandchildren to mourn her loss. (The eldest being Mr. T.W. Ong of Messrs. Braddell Brothers.)

Untitled. (1909, April 17). The Straits Times, page 6
Death. (1935, May 26). The Straits Times, page 13
Mrs. Ong Sam Leong. (1935, May 27). The Straits Times, page 12
Mrs. Ong Sam Leong. (1935, May 27). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Untitled. (1935, June 4). The Singapore Free Press, page 6
Funeral Yesterday. (1935, June 3). The Straits Times, page 13
Funeral of  Mrs. Ong Sam Leong - Widow of Straits Pioneer. (1935, June 5). Malayan Tribune,page 18
The late Mrs. Ong Sam Leong. (1935, June 3). Malayan Tribune, page 16
Funeral of Mrs. Ong Sam Leong. (1935, June 5).The Straits Times, page 13

Monday, July 09, 2018

Aerial photos of Bukit Brown (Entrance and Roundabout)

National Archives of Singapore have released much clearer images online and some of this images include aerial photos of Singapore by the British Royal Air Force that i first saw during a Bukit Brown exhibition back in 2014. The landscape at Bukit Brown has changed over the years, we nature making a comeback. But, the real damaging change was with the building of the 8 lane highway that has hastened even further the changes, especially with the destruction on the round-about and the tombs surrounding the area and along its path. The two red circled structures were the shelter and temple that one will see has they enter through the gates of Bukit Brown. We have images as late as 1960's and as far back 1920's of the shelter and an undated pictured of the temple. I do not know the exact date when this two structures were taken down but for sure it didn't exist when i first visited Bukit Brown in 2012. 

The picture below shows Kheam Hock Road and the road that leads to Bukit Brown proper. The red squarish blocks are the houses along Sime Road and Lornie Walk.  The Hills of Seh Ong are still clearly visible in the below picture.

The below series of pictures of the shelter  and one of the temple that use to be a landmark in the past. The photos were made possible from the descendants of some of the early pioneers who were buried there and such rare photos are hard to come by. 

Shelter in Bukit Brown in 1920's
(Photo courtesy of Madam Lim Soo Eng and James Yip)

Shelter in Bukit Brown in 1920's
(Photo courtesy of Madam Lim Soo Eng and James Yip)

Shelter in Bukit Brown in 1920's
(Photo courtesy of Madam Lim Soo Eng and James Yip)

Shelter in the 1960's
(Photo courtesy of Madam Lim Soo Eng and James Yip)

Ho Siak Kuan's cluster of tomb and the temple of Bukit Brown
as shown on map, using main gate as reference.

Aerial photographs by the British Royal Air Force between 1940 to 1970s, from a collection held by the National Archives of Singapore. Source: National Archives of Singapore.
Bukit Brown: Documenting New Horizons of Knowledge. (website). Rojak Librarian, posted on 20 July 2014
Bukit Brown Roundabout in the Past. (website). Rojak Librarian, posted on 21 March 2012