Sunday, December 02, 2018

Chia Seng Quee (Bukit Brown)

While exploring Hill 4 Division A, i came across a tomb that was covered with creepers. Clearing it i uncovered the tomb of Chia Seng Quee who died on 24th November 1936 at the age of 37. The headlines of the papers reads "Man dashed to death in Singapore Street fall from high building".Chia Senq Quee was Straits-born Chinese and a senior clerk with the Great Eastern Life Insurance Co. for more than 14 years. He was earning $175 a month and was witness to have reach work on the 24th November at 8:30 am and left his personal belongings and a letter behind. Chia Seng Quee died as a result of multiple injuries sustained in the fall from the Bank of China Building in Cecil Street. Witness reporting hearing a loud thud and saw the body of Chia Seng Quee, who was dressed in a white tunic suit in a mutilated condition with his head smashed.

Madam Chua Kim Neo (widow of Chia Seng Quee) who was dressed in black and with tears in her eyes gave her evidence in English during the courts inquiry in December. She said her husband was 36 years old and they lived in Still Road, Katong and have been married for 8 years. Her husband left the house at 7:45 am on the morning of November 24 after having recovered from Malaria a few days ago. She went on to describe that there was no financial problems nor did they quarrel. The Singapore Coroner, Mr. W. McQuarrie eventually returned a verdict of suicide.

Chia Seng Quee's tomb at Hill 4 Division A, plot 700

Chia Seng Quee's tomb (before clearing)

From the tomb of Chia Seng Quee, i can make out the name of 1 son (Chia Cheng Poh) and 3 daughters ( Chia Poh Neo, Chia Cheng Neo, Chia Hiah (?) Neo). Another interesting bit of nugget that was shared with me was Mrs. Chia Seng Quee nee Chua Kim Neo who passed away in 8th August 1980 is likely the daughter of Chua Kim Teng. (father of Chua Jim Neo and maternal grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew).

High Building (Bank of China / Great Eastern Life Insurance Co.)

Reading the tragic story on how Chia Seng Quee ended his life. A couple of questions came to my mind. (1) What did the content of the letter read? (That remains a mystery to me for now) and (2)  Where was this high building in Cecil Street located and how did it look like and how tall was it actually?  One thing for sure, the Bank of China that is located in Battery Road was not the high building that comes to mind as it was constructed only in 1954. Bank of China was established in 1936 and had its office leased in the ground and mezzanine floor within the premise of the Great Eastern Life Building in Cecil Street at No. 12 Cecil Street, the very place that Chia Seng Quee works.

source: NewspaperSG

Great Eastern  / Bank of China at No 12 Cecil Street

(source: PictureSG)

[research on-going]

Malaya's own life assurance co. (1935, October 8). The Straits Times, page 15
Untitled. (1936, June 16). Morning Tribune, page 2
Man dashed to death in Singapore Street fall from high building. (1936, November 24). Malayan Tribune, page 11
Death Fall from Window of City Office. (1936, December 12). Morning Tribune, page 23
Widow's Tears at Inquest. (1936, December 12). Malaya Tribune, page 14
Suicide Verdict. (1936, December 16). Malaya Tribune, page 8
$715,000 land deal. (1937, May 10). The Straits Times, page 12

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