Monday, September 30, 2019

Koh Tiong Yang and family (Bukit Brown)

Koh Tiong Yang was once the proprietor of the Primrose Aerated Water (11-1 Middle Road) before he sold it in 1918 to Chan Cheng Happ and Kum Peng Huat. In 1935, there was a bankruptcy notice dated 4th April 1935 called for Koh Tiong Yang, a Trader at 126 Chin Swee Road. What was the outcome of this case is unknown to me. Koh Tiong Yan passed away at the age of 76 at his residence, 126 Chin Swee Road  on 6th January, 1938. He is survived by his wife (Ong Chit Bee), 1 son-in-law, Mr. Chua Seng Hock, 1 son, Koh Yew Keng, 2 daughters (Koh Geok Choo, Koh Choo Leng) , 1 daughter-in-law, several grandchildren. Koh Tiong Yang is buried in Hill 4 Division C, plot 187.
Koh Tiong Yang ( a younger picture compared to the one below)


With more details surfacing from the descendants of Chua Seng Hock (son of Chua Soon Leong) and from the tombstone of Koh Tiong Yang, i am able to slowly map the family members listed in the picture below courtesy of Cathie Chua (a descendant of Chua Seng Hock). The lady beside Madam Ong Chit Bee is likely to be Madam Koh Choo Leng. (But because i am uncertain yet, i left those unidentified unnamed for now).

Koh Tiong Yang family picture (photo courtesy of Cathie Chua)

Son: Koh Yew Keng / Koh Yew Keng, Vincent 
Koh Yew Keng is listed as the only son of Mr and Mrs. Koh Tiong Yang. From newspaper archives, Koh Yew Keng was a very active badminto sportsman and 126 Chin Swee Road was the hotbed for many meetings, including the Annual General meeting for the Amateur Athletic Union, Captain for the Rovers Badminton Party. Koh Yew Keng was a Honorary Secretary for the Singapore Badminton Association. Koh Yew Keng married Chan Jim Neo, Monica. Vincent Koh Yew Keng passed away on 27 July 2006. Chan Jim Neo, Monica passed away at the age of 87 on 28 March 1997. She is survived by her husband, Koh Yew Keng, Vincent and 5 sons; Augustine Koh, Lawrence Koh, Edmund Koh, Kevin Koh and Gregory Koh,  2 daughters; Rita Koh and Margaret Koh, 5 daughter-in-laws, 2 son-in-laws, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Vincent Koh Yew Keng (source: NewspaperSG)
Chan Jim Neo, Monica (source: NewspaperSG)

source: NewspaperSG

Daughter: Koh Geok Choo
Koh Geok Choo married Chua Seng Hock (a son of Mr and Mrs. Chua Soon Leong)
Madam Koh Geok Choo passed away on September, 1980. From the obituary notice, we can see the names of their children; sons: Chua Peng Swee, Chua Peng Guan, Chua Chye Soon, Chua Boon Hor, Chua Kwee Yang. Daughters: Rose Chua, Lily Chua, Chua Bok Lan, Chua Lye Neo; Sons-in-laws: Chan Boon Hock, Stephen Lai, Francis Heng, Ho Boon Ann. Daughters-in-laws: Lim Soon Ai, Cecilia Chua, Ng Sai Hong, Phang Mui Keow, Koh Ah Gek. The cortege left from 31 Ripley Crescent. Her husband, Chua Seng Hock passed away at the age of 58 at his residence in No 126 Chin Swee Road on 8th July 1949.

Koh Geok Choo

Mr and Mrs Chua Seng Hock and family (photo courtesy of Cathie Chua)

Grandson: Edmund Koh Bee Sai
Edmund Koh Bee Sai married Agnes Chan Gek Neo (daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chan Kok Quan) on 27 January 1963. 

Grand-daughter: Rita Koh
An engagement notice (23 January 1954) between Rita Koh (eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs. Koh Yew Keng) and Philip Gan (youngest son of the late Mr. Gan Khek Kheng and Mrs. Helen Gan). The wedding took place on 14 April 1956. From this articles, we can gather than Helen Gan nee Helen See is the daughter of Mr and Mrs. See Tiong Wah. For more information on the family linkage, refer to my article written on See Tiong Wah and family (Bukit Brown) 

Philip Gan and Rita Koh (source:NewspaperSG)

Grand-daughter: Margaret Koh
Margaret Koh (daughter of Mr & Mrs. Koh Yew Keng) was engaged to William Harpur, son of Mr. & Mrs. W.A. Harpur. They got married on 26 December 1958.  (Note: to be verified)

Margaret Koh and William Harpur
(source: NewspaperSG)
Father: Koh Seck Chuan
Koh Seck Chuan passed away on 22 April 1922 at No 56 Hereen Street, Malacca at the age of 82. He is survived by his 2 sons, Koh Tiong Yang and Koh Tiang Liat, 3 daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren to mourn his loss. Koh Seck Chuan is buried in Padang-Jambu burial ground.

Uncle: Koh Seck Tian
Koh Seck Tian was the chief shroff of the Electric Tramway Co.  (Singapore Tramway Co. ) Koh Seck Tian came from a family who have settled in Malacca for 6 generations, and he was born in Malacca before coming to Singapore to study at the Raffles Institute and speaks English proficiently. His father, Koh Seng Hoon, was a successful merchant.  In January 1885, the Straits Chinese started the first club ever by Chinese adopting English outdoor sports at Hong Lim Green. It was called the Straits Chinese Recreational Club (SCRC) and its founders were Koh Tiong Yan, Koh Seck Tian, Chia Keng Chin, Tan Chew Kim and Ong Kim Cheow. The first pavilion was octagonal in shape and used to stand right in the centre of the playing-field before it was changed in 1914. Koh Tiong Yang was a left-handed cricketer and tennis-player. When SCRC had its first competitions, Koh Tiong Yan was its first tennis champion.  Koh Seck Tian passed away on 17th March 1925 at Singara, Siam.

Koh Seck Tian 

Members of the Straits Chinese Recreation Club 
Grandmother: Tong Kwai Neo
Madam Tong Kwai Neo, mother of Koh Sek Tian and grandmother of Koh Teong Yang passed away at the age of 74 on 4th October 1909 at her residence in Teluk Ayer Street, Singapore. She was buried in Malacca.

Brother: Koh Tiong Liat 
Koh Tiong Liat, brother of Koh Tiong Yang, passed away on 13th October 1926 at the age of 59 in Malacca.

[research on-going]

Death. (1909, October 4). The Straits Times, page 6
Advertisement. (1918, December  13). The Singapore Free Press, page 3
Death. (1922, April 25). The Straits Times, page 8
Death. (1938, January 8). Malayan Tribune, page 10
Advertisement. (1954, January 23). The Singapore Free Press, page 10
A weekend wedding in the colony. (1956, April 15). The Straits Times, page 3
Boxing Day Weddings in Singapore (1958, December 27). The Straits Times, page 7
Advertisement. (1963, January 27). The Straits Times, page 17
Obituary. (1997, March 29). The Straits Times, page  38
Obituary. (2006, August 1). The Straits Times, page 12
Gan Khek Keng and Mary See (website). Singapore Tombstones Epigraphic Materials 
Song, Ong Siang. One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. Ed. Edwin Lee. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Wright, A., & Cartwright, H. A. (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources. Graham Brash

Koh Tiong Yang also refers to Koh Teong Yang
Koh Seck Tian also refers to Koh Sek Tian
Koh Yew Keng also refers to Koh Yew Keng, Vincent and Vincent Koh Yew Keng 
Gan Khek Keng also refers to Gan Khek Kheng

Koh Tiong Yang tomb at Hill 4 Section C

Monday, September 23, 2019

Tan Kim Wah and family (Bukit Brown)

Tan Kim Wah (1875-1936) was born in Singapore in 1875 and was educated at Raffles Institution. Upon leaving school, Tan Kim Wah worked for a few years in chop Sim Moh, the sawmill business of his uncle in Gaylang Road. Tan Kim Wah then went to Johore to try luck as a tin mining prospector around 1913 Securing the license for Johore, he went into partnership in a kongsi with Tan Wee Yan and others in Mersing under the name of Hup Leong Kongsi  and his partnership prospered from the initial start-up investment of $2,000 which grew to $200,000. It was during this time he donated money to purchase a plane for the war effort (Malaya No. 4) . The syndicate was dissolved around 1918. He later ventured on to Trengganu and this was proven to be a money pit which he lost his entire profit after working on this mine from 1919 to 1922. He then moved on to Pahang and obtained another prospecting license. Tan Kim Wah Ltd was formed, in which Tan Kim Wah held 25 percent of the shares. It was another failure and his shares became worthless. He was also  shareholder of the Jelai Concessions Ltd (with 1000 fully paid up shares of $10 each). His shares was held as collateral by his creditors. His debts eventually snowballed to $120,000 with his creditors mostly Chettiars.

Another interesting story, in 1907, Tan Kim Wah subleased a piece of land at the 11th milestone on Mandai Road, Singapore and worked the land on tribute. A small deposit of tin which was found It created great excitement at the time when tin was found but unfortunately no more tin was found other than just a pocket of of the tin ore. This is the only reported instance in which tin has been found in Singapore Island.

Tan Kim Wah  (source: One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore.)


Malaya No 4( the "Wi-Cheng-Kim" name after the middle names of the donors) was presented on 16th August 1915 by Messrs, Tan Wi Yan, Sim Cheng Mia and Tan Kim Wah of chop Hup Liong & Co, merchants of No 4 Beach Road after they donated $11,150 to the Singapore Chinese Aeroplane Fund.

Malaya No 4 alias Wi-Cheng-Kim
(source: One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore.)


Tan Kim Wah passed away at the age of 64 (on his tomb his age was listed as 61) at his residence 27 Cavanagh Road on 15th March 1936 at 6:30 am. He is survived by his 2 widows, Madam Wee Yew Neo and Wee Geok Yam, 5 sons; Tan Poh Hock, Tan Poh Huat, Tan Poh Ann, Tan Poh Seng and Tan Poh Choo and 5 daughters; Tan Kwee Neo, Tan Geok Neo, Tan Poh Neo, Tan Chwee Neo,
4 sons-in-law; Chew Lai Hoe, Tay Kim Tai, Choo Ang Guan and Lee Choo Eng, 2 daughter-in-law, Koh Kah Cheng and Au Choon Toh. Tan Kim Wah is buried in Hill 4 A, plot 226

Tomb of Tan Kim Wah in Bukit Brown 


Grandfather: Tan Oh Lee
His grandfather, Tan Oh Lee, emigrated with his family during the Taiping Rebellion to Singapore via a chinese junk. Tan Oh Lee was fortunate to have met Tan Kim Seng who help provide Tan Oh Lee with financial assistance to carry on his practice as  a Chinese Physician.

Father: Tan Chin Seng
Tan Oh Lee's son, Tan Chin Seng (the father of Tan Kim Wah) went to set a business as contractor and his company managed to secured the Municipal contract for the building of Impounding Reservoir at Thomson Road and the filter beds in Mount Sophia. Tan Chin Seng married in 1873 the elder daughter of Ho Bian Wah and sister of  Ho Ann Kee. Tan Chin Seng passed away in 1882.

[research on-going]


PATRIOTIC SINGAPORE CHINESE.(1915, August 13).The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, page 5
MR. TAN KIM WAH'S TIN ENTERPRISES.(1934, April 21). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, page 2
Death. (1936, March 17). Malaya Tribune, page 10
Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mrs Lim Chin Moh and family (Bukit Brown)

Madam Seet Chiew Neo (Mrs Lim Chin Moh ) passed away on 20th October 1937 at the age of 38. Listed in the tomb are her adopted son (Lim Pee Kiat)  adopted daughter (Lim Kiat Neo ) and daughters ( Lim Choon Neo, Lim Kwee Eng).  The information on the tomb corresponds with the obituary article on the Malayan Tribune dated 21 October 1937, which states that Mrs. Lim Chin Moh nee Seet Chiew Neo (alias Nonia) passed away at her residence in No. 51 Tras Street on 20 October 1937 at the age of 38. She is survived by her husband, Mr. Lim Chin Moh of Messrs. Brinkmann & Co, her mother, 2 brothers; Seet Beng Ong, Seet Beng Liap, 1 adopted son, 1 adopted daughter, 2 daughters to mourn her loss. Mr. Lim Chin Moh and Mr. Seet Beng Ong thanked friends, relatives, staff of Messrs. Brinkmann & Co. , members of Tiang Ho Kok Association, Ho Beng Club who attended the funeral of the late Mrs. Lim Chin Moh.

Madam Seet Chiew Neo is buried in Hill 3 Section C, plot 380.

Death. (1937, October 21). Malayan Tribune, page 10
Acknowledgement. (1937, November 3). Malayan Tribune, page 12

Monday, September 09, 2019

Images from the Past - North Bridge Road after a Japanese air raid

The two powerful picture from Australian War Memorial draws me in as it shows what likely to be A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) volunteers or Chinese Civil Defence Volunteers (wearing Brodie Steel helmet) with a bomb victim in the stretcher. On the far left, a civilian is looking right at the photographer who captured this picture aftermath of a Japanese air raid. The second picture shows a picture of a man in shorts carrying a baby (my thoughts was whether the baby survived the shockwave of the bomb blast).

Japanese air raid at North Bridge Road, Singapore on February 1942 (source: Australian War Memorial)

Japanese air raid at North Bridge Road, February 1942 (source: Australian War Memorial)

The intensity of the moment captured and immortalised through this photo includes many details such as the debris that can be seen all over the street floor, the smoldering car in the background and the house with sandbags that provide additional protection against shrapnel from air raids. The facade of the buildings further away took much damage with the shophouse signboard lying down on the floor. Fortunately from this picture, i can see details of the shophouse which reads the Union Dispensary, The Shanghai Book Company, the archway signage where you can make out Chung Hua Institution and a Church Steeple in the background. Finally, the metadata of this public domain picture states that this picture was taken on 3 February 1942 by Clifford, Bottomley which provides the date of when this happened.

My first question was to find out where this picture was taken and after checking various sources, i can gather that this picture is taken at North Bridge Road. From newspaper archives, The Union Dispensary is located in 347, North Bridge Road and The Shanghai Book Company was at 349, North Bridge Road.  The slim pointed steeple is very likely the steeple of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.

source: NewspaperSG , Malayan Tribune 1939
source: NewspaperSG Malayan Tribune 1940

source: NewspaperSG  Malayan Tribune 1935

Location of 351, 349 and 347 North Bridge Road

With the street name and location identified, i then wanted to know the location of this address. I am aware them sometimes addresses do change, but if i refer to old maps and references of location mention in the newspaper archives, it was able to pin point the location and in today's location, it is where KH Kea Building is (next to Bras Basah Complex and Odeon Tower).

1955 (Odeon Theatre was built in 1953)

Singapore Photomap (1950)

New Singapore Streetmap 1930s

Past and Present of 349, 347 North Bridge Road 

What happen to Union Dispensary, Shanghai Book Company and Chung Hua Public School 

Shanghai Book Company
In 1923, two young man, Chen Yoh Shoo and Wang Shu Yang arrived in Singapore from Shanghai and notice a gap in the market for new literature. They went to set up the Shanghai Book Company in 1925 and it was so successful that new branches opened in Kuala Lumpur (1926), Surabaya (1928), and Jakarta (1935). In its heydays, it published not only Chinese books (especially during the time communist literature was banned and locally produced literature took prominence), Malay books were also produced by the company. The closure of Chinese vernacular schools in Singapore leading it to lose the bulk of its publishing business and relegated it to a bookstore business which faces competition from other bigger bookshops coupled with changing consumer behavior and online shops. Its eventual demise in May 2009 (after 83 years in business) after a failed joint venture with China National Publication Import and Export Corporation (CNPIEC) led to growing debts and liquidation.

[research on-going, if you know what happen to Union Dispensary and Chung Hua Public School, do let me know]

Malayan Chinese Notes. (1935, December 6). Malayan Tribune, page 6
Advertisement. (1939, May 11). Malayan Tribune, page 4
Advertisement. (1940, August 28). Malayan Tribune, page 3
Electoral Division of Stamford. Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. (last accessed 29/8/2019)
Singapore Photomap Singapore. Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. (last accessed 29/8/2019)
New Singapore Steetmap. Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. (last accessed 29/8/2019)

Monday, September 02, 2019

City Hall: If Walls Could Talk (National Gallery Singapore latest Exhibition)

Open to public today (1st September 2019), i was one of the fortunate few who was invited by National Gallery for a sneak preview and i was not disappointed ! I was brought into a staging area where you can take a picture of yourself (it will be use as part of the immersive multimedia display later on, trust me on that.  Built in 1929, it was known as the Municipal Building before being renamed City Hall in 1951, were plays witness many, many, many key events in Singapore's History. Today of course, City Hall and the Old Supreme Court lives on as the National Gallery Singapore. 

Municipal Building c1930 (source: Archives Online, National Archives)

The appealing factor about this exhibition is the way the story is told- there is still the human touch of a storyteller being used to tell the story of the building as the key events in Singapore history that took place in City Hall are played out. There are elements where participants are even asked to interact with the table top screen to move to the next segment, such as putting out the flames and smoke of the Japanese air raid of Singapore.

As the door opens for you to step into the beautiful City Hall Chambers,
equipped with immersive multimedia 

Story of Lim Boh Seng's funeral at the steps of City Hall with pictures of  his
octagon shaped Memorial at Esplanade Park 

Majulah Singapura and its composer Zubair Said

City Hall bore witness to many National Day Parades that took place over the years

Before the end of the 20 minute show, the photo booth photos taken in the waiting area are then displayed on screen as City Hall finally transforms itself to what it is today, the National Gallery Singapore. From there you can further explore on your own through the many art galleries, or visit the "Social Wall", that is DIY user journey interactive that will recommend you to see and experience the treasures of the National Gallery based on your journey choice, e,g. Places and Inspiration, Changes & Uncertainties, Portraits of Lives, War & Adversity, Architectures & Stories, Changing Landscapes and if you have no bloody idea what you want to experience, just choose, Surprise Me !

Continue your experience by visiting curated theme journeys in a DIY manner

Based on a selected theme, we went through the Gallery looking at the beautiful art work by many artist, both local and foreign, with Singapore has its common theme. The artwork that caught my eye was not related to the pre-selected journey, but rather my own personal journey that was trigger by earlier multimedia segment that featured Lim Boh Seng's State funeral. It was an oil on canvas painting of Lim Boh Seng's father, Lim Chee Gee alias Lim Loh, a Singapore pioneer building contractor and what is equally important is that his portrait was painted by the famous Xu Beihong.

Lim Loh, father of Lim Bo Seng

Whether you are interested in history or art or both, this exhibition will be able to satisfy that journey of discovery for you in rediscovering Singapore's rich history and artwork starting with multimedia specially curated by the various Gallery Curators and Historians working together. Make your way to National Gallery Singapore. The exhibition happens from 1 September 2019 all the way to 29 August 2021 at the 3rd floor, City Hall Chambers. General Admission ticket applies. For more information visit their website.

City Hall: If Walls Could Talk- your journey continues here