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


Unknown said...

His other business partners who jointly donated the fighter plane were Sim Cheng Mia and Tan Wi Yan, my grandfather. Hence the name of the plane, "Malaya No. 4" was then also known as the "Wi Cheng Kim".

Roney Tan

Rojak Librarian said...

Thanks Roney !