(The greater Bukit Brown is estimated to be about 233 hectares in size and encompasses the municipal Bukit Brown Cemetery and 3 other adjacent cemeteries)
Also found are more than 30 pairs of stone Sikh guards, most of them unique, and believed to be modeled after real Sikh guards/photos
”It is this collective memory that differentiate a home from a hotel. For Singaporeans who want something to hold on to, there is no need to look any further than one’s own backyard”.
I have found the triple tomb of Tan Kheam Hock, his wife and his eldest daughter a few years ago, but unable to contact with the descendants.
Then on Oct 27, 2011 I received a facebook message from one Ms Vicky, who asked me if I know where Tan Kheam Hock is buried in BB. He was her great grandfather.
I informed her that he was buried in Blk 3 and that we have put up trail marker for the location. Then on Oct 29, I and Victor was at Bukit Brown Heritage Park when we came across a lady looking for Tan Kheam Hock and voila, it was Vicky herself, and so we brought her to see her great grandfather grave for the first time.
She had been informed previously that Tan Kheam Hock was not buried in Bukit Brown He was actually buried in Alexandra Road Cemetery but has been re-interned in Bukit Brown in 1965 together with his wife and eldest daughter.
Picture taken by Vicky of Victor and me standing at the side of the triple tomb of Tan Kheam Hock, his wife Foo Peang Neo and his eldest daughter Tan Keow Gnoh.
Tan Keow Gnoh who was married to Lim Mah Seang, died in 1917, at the age of 32 years.
Foo Peang Neo (daughter of Foo Tye Sin, of Tye Sin Street fame, of Penang) passed away on May 4, 1913 at the age of 48. She was the mother of Tan Chong Khee, Chong Lay, Chong Chew, Chong Teck, Chong Gark and Chong Teat.
Tan Kheam Hock and his family (picture published in the book 20th century impression of British Malaya in 1907.
He was reported to have 6 sons and 4 daughters at that time. In this picture would be his wife Peang Neo, his sons, daughters and some grandchildren. We later found out that other than Kheam Hock, Peang Neo, at least 4 sons, 1 daughter and perhaps some children seen here are buried in Bukit Brown.
More surprises awaited our Vicky. Behind the triple tomb was actually the tomb of Lim Mah Seang and Tan Keow Nee
Lim Mah Seang and his wife behind the triple tomb of Tan Kheam Hock
Lim Mah Seang first wife was Tan Keow Gnoh (Kheam Hock eldest daughter) who died in 1917. He later married again, this time the daughter of Tan Kheam Keat (Kheam Hock’s brother), Tan Keow Nee.
Lim Mah Seang, was the second son of Lim Kek Chuan, co-founder and first President of the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce. (Kek Chuan road in Penang is named after him). He passed away in 1930 at the age of 48 while his wife Keow Nee passed away in 1956.
After this find of 5 of her relatives, Vicky “friended” me on 1 Nov and started to explore Bukit Brown with us, the Brownies.
In more than 1 year of her exploration of Bukit Brown, she will uncover more and more relatives of her buried in Bukit Brown…….
Tan Kheam Hock has helped one friend of his, Chan Kim Boon, from Penang, who was a famous translator of Chinese classic texts into Baba Malaya.
Portrait of Chan Kim Boon
Chan Kim Boon has 2 sons Chan Yen Soon and Chan Yen Pai.
Chan Yen Soon was buried with his wife Mdm Kaw Kim Kee just behind Lim Mah Seang and his wife !
Vicky, taking note of 2 more relatives found – Chan Yen Soon and his wife just behind Lim Mah Seang and behind Tan Kheam Hock
Tomb of Chan Yen Soon
Chan Yen Pai was buried with his 2 wives in another hill. His 2 wives were Lim Chuan Keat and Lim Hai Tong
On Dec 19, 2011, I took Vicky to visit Chan Yen Pai. Vicky offered prayers for him, for Chan Yen Pai was her great grandfather. Yen Pai’s daughter inscribed on the tomb was Chan Gaik Thay, who was married to Tan Chong Gark (Kheam Hock’s son) , Vicky paternal grandfather.
Chan Gaik Thay, the granddaughter of Chan Kim Boon, who married Tan Chong Gark, son of Tan Kheam Hock.
Soon, we discovered Tan Kheam Keat, her great granduncle buried with his wife in Bukit Brown. That day in Feb 12, 2012, Vicky woke up early in the morning and came to Bukit Brown at 7 am in the morning to look for his grave together with me.
Vicky wrote : The moon at sunrise in Bukit Brown Heritage Park. 7am, Feb 12, 2012
Excitedly we noted the Latin phrase Requiescat in Pace on the Tomb of Tan Kheam Keat, who passed away on the 22nd day of June Anno Domini 1925, at the age of 54 years.
Next we uncovered her granduncles one by one in Bukit Brown Heritage Park, many of whom were prominent businessman during their time:
Tan Chong Khee
Tan Chong Lay
Tan Chong Chew
Tan Chong Teck
Vicky was actually the first to identify the tomb of Tan Huck Wan, her uncle, buried next to his father Tan Chong Chew when none of us bothered to decipher his name at that time.
Just a few years before his death in 1944 as a volunteer during WW2, Huck Wan has married the daughter of Lim Mah Seang in what was most probably the wedding of the century, with the bride wearing $100,000 worth of jewellery at that time.
The tragic story of the death of Huck Wan and his 6 month old baby Ruby can be found here
Vicky was sad when the two tombs of her uncle Huck Wan and cousin Ruby were exhumed in late 2012.
Uncles Huck Khong, Huck Heang, and aunts Poey Choo, Poey Joo.
With Uncle Huck Khong, son of Tan Chong Lay
Huck Heang, and aunts Daisy Tan and Poey Joo
In particular, her eldest aunt, Poey Choo, her father eldest sister was found by her ownself. On 5 Nov 2011, she wrote:”It was miraculous that I even found her. As you can see there were no markings as her headstone is worn and weathered with time.
The half slab of marble was actually lying face down in the mud and as i turned it over, my grandparents’ name jumped out at me.”
Vicky at the tomb of her 8 year old Tua Gor
Vicky at the tomb of uncle Gan Khek Keng
One of her uncles Gan Khek Keng (maternal side) has married the eldest daughter of Municipal Commissioner See Teong Wah, Mary See Chye Geok. See Teong Wah together with Tan Kheam Hock, were the 2 Municipal Commissioners in charge of Bukit Brown Cemetery at that time. Sadly Mary died shortly after giving birth to her only son at the young age of 20 on 5 Jan 1924.
She also managed to ferret out many other entries that may be related to her, and we are still in the process of identifying the exact relationship for her.
On Oct 2012, Vicky together with the Brownies found the 2nd wife of Tan Kheam Hock.That would be her last outing with us, for she fell sick not so long after.
Vicky passed away on 9 Jan 2013, of her sudden illness at the age of 50. During her last moments, her thoughts were still of Bukit Brown and of her 8 year old Tua Gor buried there.
On her dying bed, she has tasked a tombkeeper to to pay respects to her Tua Gor on her behalf every Qing Ming and also buy 1 pair of clothes, clear the vegetation,
and decorate some plants on Tua Gor’s tomb
We have nicknamed Vicky whose real name was Victoria Tan Lian Sim as the Queen of Bukit Brown.
It was apt, for that 1 year she was with us exploring Bukit Brown, we have uncovered not less than 40 of her relatives buried in Bukit Brown.
It was her passion and interest to search for her roots in Bukit Brown that give us Brownies a sense of mission, to help her to look for more tombs related to her, and to research more into the history of these pioneering families, many of whom she has some links to.
For us, the loss of Brownie Vicky was not only the loss of the most connected person in Bukit Brown, but the loss of a true friend whom we have just found this past year, when the Brownies were united in one purpose, trying to research more and preserve this cemetery park.
During the past year and the past month whereby some Brownies walked with her and her family on the last leg of her short journey in life, we have learnt so much of life and death. We may have lost our Queen of Bukit Brown, but we have also encountered Angels along the way that help and motivate us on our sojourn in life and our mission for Bukit Brown.
Dear Vicky, we are missing you already…
Written and compiled by Raymond Goh
Photos courtesy of Vicky and Brownies
the 15 Apr when Cheang Hong Lim, Wee Bock Seng, Low Thuan Locke
and Tan Beng Chie were arraigned before the Chief Justice, Sir
Thomas Sidgreaves, on an indictment of forgery of the will of
Cheang Sam Teo, the father of Cheang Hong Lim and Cheang Hong Guan.
evidence. The forgery was alleged by the prosecutor to have been
effected by inking over an old signature of the testator with
Chinese ink, taking a negative from it on a piece of paper, and after
putting fresh ink on the negative, making an impression from it on
of Hong Guan and the signature on the will and a power of attorney
executed by the late Cheang Sam Teo, the latter said to be the document
from which the impression had been taken.
the other Crown witnesses gave their evidence in cross-examination,
the important discrepancies between their evidence in Court and that given to
the Police Magistrate, and the palpable absurdity of the entire
story persuaded the jury to stop the case in the midst of the speech
of the counsel for the defence.
you Low thuan Lock, you wee Bock Seng, you tan Beng Chie, the jury
have found not guilty of the crime wherewith you are charged.
Chinese community in honour of his acquittal. The feast was a
generous one and was well attended, while there were Chinese
theatrical performances, etc, at Pasir Panjang to celebrate the happy
ending of a sordid affair.
Sam teo, who had migrated from China and started in business in partnership with
Tay Han Long (father of Tay Ho Swee) under the chop Teang Wat at Telok Ayer street, and for some time held the monpoly of the Opium and sirih (betel vine) farms.
leadership of the Hokkien Tau keh (boss) Cheang Sam teo and his partner
Lau joon Teck, another Ghee Hin leader.
farms from Kiong Kong tuan and Tay Han Long. Cheang Sam Teo, although he was a Hokien,
and had also been a partner of Tay Hang Long, seems to have been part of a different
he made the following notes:
1) my clerk and interpreter Mr Yung Sz Meng copied the insriptions in Chinese. In cases in which the grave does not give the birthplace or place of origin of the deceased, it has been assumed that he was a Teochew.
2) The gravestones as it is customary with the Chinese, often mention the names of those who erected the stone: it has thus been possible to give the info as to the relatives of the deceased.
3) No Engish Chinese calendar is available for the years before 1834, and the Chinese year is often not given by the year of the Emperor’s reign, but merely the characters of the 60 years cycle.. In a few cases, the graves give dates according to the Western calendars.
4) Most of the graves in Section B, two of the graves in Section D, and one grave in Section C had at the top four Chinese characters meaning, “May Eternal Light shine on him (or her) with a cross or a cross in a circle in the middle of the inscriptions. in Chinese 永光照之
B) Bidadari Chrisian Cemetery
Contain both Protestant and Roman Catholic sections
Tomb reading : Joseph Tan, From Guangdong Province, died in 1916
Cross with Christian name
Ong Ah Swee, Hokkien Tong’an
St Joseph Church Cemetery
(Reference: Harfield, Alan. Early Cemeteries in Singapore.London: British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia,)
St Joseph’s Church was a Roman Catholic chapel built at Bukit Timah for the Chinese congregation, and was named St Joseph at the request of the Reverend John M Beurel. The Reverend Anatoloe Manduit was the priest and lived permanently among the Chinese when the building was completed at the end of the year.
The Free Press of 23 Apr 1846 published the following report, “…. The Rev Gentlemen of the Catholic Mission, to whose care we are indebted for the conversion of so many Chinese, are trying to raise beyond Bukit Timah a small chapel, …
It was opened on Sunday, 6 June 1846, and the first burial at the cemetery is recorded as being on 7 November 1846.
Following that, over 400 burials are recoded to have taken place in that cemetery. However, in May 1984, it was recorded that the cemetery was badly overgrown with weeds and vegetation, and that a majority of the tablets were already broken.The church cemetery was reported by The Straits Times of 1 May 1984 to be closed, after existing at Chestnut Drive for more than a century.
1846 St Joseph Church cemetery
Many Chinese Christian tombs buried here
Maria Tan - May the Eternal Light Shine Upon Her 永光照之
A Qing Dynasty Grave in St Joseph Church Cemetery 永光照之
one of the oldest Chinese Christian grave Peter Goh An Er - mentioned 1849 in Western Calendar 永光照之
Another Qing Grave, Paul and Regina 永光照之
Maria 1831 — 1874 (Chinese reign years were given)
All the children were with Christian names on the graves
Paul Goh, with Chinese poem and 永光照之
The fact that 1/3 of those buried in Fort Canning, the numerous St Joseph Church Chinese Christian tombs and the unnamed Christian cemetery merits a deeper analysis.
Who were the first converts? Since the north and western areas are gambier plantation in the past, perhaps many of these earlier Chinese Christian would be Teochews and gambier plantation workers?
There might also be variation between Chinese Catholic and other denomination graves.
Compared to the few decorative Chinese tombs in St Joseph Church, the other graves in unknown Christian cemetery are much more simpler, and their hidden and hitherto unknown location may have other reasons (for eg conflict with their other relatives and friends’ religion etc) and also why they are not buried at Bidadari Cemetery instead (perhaps of poverty?). The latest Christian tomb there was 1957.
Pic source: a2o.com.sg
Scene from the nanguan opera Chen San Wu Niang
Tan Koon Swee – although he was one of the 36 founders, his name did not appear in the ancestral plaque found in the Association ancestral hall of which there are only 35 inscribed names of the 36 founders. According to National Archives oral history, one member was expelled from the Association. He was a GM of Thian Hock Keng, and a good friend of J R Logan. His children was involved in a famous case whereby one of his grandsons pawned away some land to a money lender who then auction off the land.
翁如水 - Ang Jee Swee
徐长怀 - Chee Tiong Why
徐钦元 - Chee Kim Guan
苏源泉 - Soh Guan Chuan
谢宝荣 - Chia Poh Eng
陈国朝 - Tan Koh Teou
陈天全 - Tan Tiang Chuan
陈应策 - Tan Eng Chek
陈武略 - Tan Boo Liap
陈明宗 - Tan Beng Chong
陈明荐 - Tan Beng Choon
何栋梁 - Ho Tiong Liang
李珍元 - Lee Tin Guan
李建安 - Lee Kian Ann
梁瓒元 - Neo Chan Guan
梁添益 - Neo Thiam Eak
邱青山- Khoo Cheng San
颜元珍 - Gan Guan Tin
杨金水 - Yeo Kim Swee
杨青山 - Yeo Cheng San
叶永和 - Yap Eng Ho
曾明珍 - Chan Beng Tin
郑荣华 - Tay Eng Wah
钟贤元 - Cheong Yan Guan
Keng Teck Building is like Thian Hock Keng a gazetted monument, although it was gazetted as early as 1977 as a
That should any of their sworn brothers’ families were to land themselves into difficulties later on, this Keng Teck Whay will come to the rescue and contribute to the livelihood of the affected family.
Translated by Raymond Goh
Reference : Xie Yan Yan, “Taoist Mission to take over Keng Teck Building,” Lian Hup Zao Bao, 2 Apr 2010