Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

July 2016

Two skeletons that were found 9 years apart, the reclusive sisters who lived their own lives. 
Now that the estate is open to claims,  just who are they and who are their ancestors?
The Goh Brothers, Charles and Raymond Goh have been fascinated by the Batai House story, as we have done some investigation in the past when the neighbour next door complained of unusual happenings in 2006.


We are shocked by the second skeleton found, and it seem no one seem to really know or care about them.

So we have decided to piece together the family history of Pearl and Ruby Tan so at least the public get the know their background better since Public Trustee's Office (PTO) is asking interested parties to submit their claims on the estate of the sisters by Jul 31.

The Batai House whereby the two skeletons were found.  Pic taken from across the neighbour house when neighbour complained of unusual happenings such as flushing of toilet one week before the first skeleton was found. 


It was a notice on Feb 5 1941 announcing the death 2 days ago  of a Chinese Chief Clerk who have 23 years with the Municipal Government. 

His children was mentioned in another notice which gave more family history of Tan Thean Seang:

He was the second son of Mr Tan Pong Guan, leaving behind a wife , 2 daughters, a son and 4 brothers : K H Tann (Tann Kim Hock),  Thean Bin, Thean Tek, Robert Tan and six sisters. He also stayed at No 1 Walton Road, off Grove Road and was buried in Bidadari Cemetery
From another notice about wreaths received we can decipher who' who in his family based on other notices and land deeds.
Here was mentioned his loving wife,  his son Beng Hock,  and two daughters Pearl and Ruby.  There was also mentioned about Mr and Mrs Woon Hong Chin and Mr and Mrs Woon Seck Koon.

Tan Thean Seang 6 sisters mentioned are :
Mrs Kiong Thean Hoe (Tan Cheng Siok, from marriage notice below)
Mrs Lim Tinn Soon (Tan Cheng Sim)
Mrs Chow Peng Hean (Tan Cheng Lian)
Madam Tan Boey Cheng
Misses Tan Lai Cheng
Catherine Tan
From Tan Thean Seang mother Mrs Tan Pong Guan nee Goon Wing Lean obituary notice on 30th Apr 1939 (second wife, see below) :

Therefore Tan Pong Guan has 6 sons as well including 6 daughters:

K H Tann (Tann Kim Hock)
Tan Teng Kim (should have passed away between 1939 and 1941)
Tan Thean Seang
Tan Thean Bin
Tan Thean Tek
Robert Tan

Here we can see that Mr Tan Pong Guan was associated with Ee Hoe Hean Club, indeed he was their hon secretary
More About Tan Thean Seang father Tan Pong Guan:

Tan Pong Guan father was Tan Ah Cheau,  later Chinese Catechist of St George's Church in Penang. Tan Pong Guan was a Chinese interprester in the Police Court in Penang and his father Pong Seng was a clerk in the Straits Trading Company.  Tan Ah Cheau has 3 daughters as well

In 1913, Tan Pong Guan retired from the Police Court.
In 1918, from his first wife Yeo Swee Kim death, we knew he came over to Singapore, became managing clerk of Radyk and Davidson and also the hon secretary of Ee Ho Hean Club. He also became secretary to the Consul General for China in 1927

Tan Pong Guan died on 19 May 1942 during the Japanese occupation based on the will dtd 31 Oct 1941 appointed his eldest son K H Tann to be the executor and trustee

How are the Kiongs and the Woons related to the Batai sisters Pearl and Ruby?  Who was their mother?
For these questions, Charles and I have to turn to land deeds for help. Charles managed to get the old address of Pearl Tan Leen Hee of 19 Butterworth Lane when she borrowed for the purchase of 17 Jalan Batai in 1957
Purchasing the land deed of 19 Butterworth bring up the name of Kiong Thian Hoe,  eldest son in law of Tan Pong Guan,  ie Tan Thean Seng brother in law.  We search for Kiong Thian Hoe which brought up more relations:

Mrs Kiong Thean Hoe nee Tan Cheng Siok, ie Tan Thean Seang sister, died in 1981 and leave behind her husband, daughters Dorren, Elieen and Chwee Sim.

One of Kiong Thean Hoe's daughter Eileen was married to Eric Mortimer, in 1972, he was the first non-Chinese President of the Print and Media Association

The Woons :
Studying the land deed of No 1 Walton Road brings up the owner in 1951 – Woon Hong Chin, executor of the estate of Wong Ah Hoh (Hong Chin's wife who died on 15 May 1951 see tomb below), who passed this property upon her death to her husband Woon Hong Chin
Woon Hong Chin
Died at the old age of 92 on 19 May 1964. Below is a picture of him when he retired after 25 years of service with the Accountants Department in Jun 1929.

He was 55 years of age in 1929 and had been granted 6 months extension of service then.

The tomb of Mrs Wong Hong Chin was found in Bukit Brown and has been blogged by Peter Pak, rojak librarian

His wife was Wong Ah Hoh and a Cantonese based on BB burial records who died at the age of 73.

We know from the newspapers reports that Pearl and Ruby maternal grandfather was Woon Hong Chin, and in 1957 Pearl was even mentioned on the land deed of 1 Walton Road when she bought 17 Jalan Batai

Therefore 19 Butterworth Lane that Pearl name was mentioned in the land deed belonged to Kiong Thean Hoe whereas 1 Walton Road was that of her mother Woon side
Joseph Woon Seck Koon, son of Hong Chin who stayed in 1 Walton Road, has a daughter whose name was Woon Gek Lin, and Woon Gek Lin was Mrs Tan Thean Seang, ie mother of Pearl and Ruby Tan

K H Tann (eldest brother of Tan Thean Seang)
K H Tann was a well know cinema pioneer and film distributor, managing the Operation of Universal Pictures in Singapore.
On 9 Jul 1925, he even went to Bangkok, taking with him the picture "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame," which he was arranging to screen before the Siamese Royal Household

Kim Hock was the son of Tan Pong Guan, who was at one time secretary to the Consul General of China based in Singapore.
From the archives, K H Tann has 3 sons, Harry, George and William.  George died at age 25 on 10 Jan 1942.

There is a memorial stone in Bukit Brown,  in memory of Mary Low Eng Neo, widow of K H Tann who died in  May 1969.

The reason why the memorial stone is found in Bukit Brown is because she was the daughter of Lo Kim Hak (letter writer for the Sinkehs (immigrants)  in the past during the 1910 – 20s, just after the Chinese Republic was formed.
He was a very helpful person, and was well liked by the Sinkeh
Lo was well respected by the people, but he earned a honest living, he was very poor when he died young at the age of 37 in 1925, but the sinkehs and neighbors put together $300 for him to have a nice marble tombstone
My grandfather then had married Gan Kwee Geok, who lived till a ripe old age.  Before she died, she became a Catholic.
Lo and Margaret has 2 daughters,  one of them was Mary Low who was married to K H Tann
better known as Tann Kim Hock,  he was a cinema pioneer of the early days of Singapore, and worked for Universal Pictures
(above story from descendant)

Tomb of Lo Kim Hak, the letter writer, memorial for Margaret Gan his wife,  and Mary Low, wife of K H Tann in Bukit Brown
Compiled by Raymond and Charles Goh

CCTV 13 Jul 2016

中文華人故事 新加坡:深入森林 專職尋墓為哪般




#Chinese story Singapore: in-depth forest full-time

 The 52-Year-old pharmacist wu safety will come to the weekend district of Singapore to find the rest of the people in the new Singapore. So, why do you have to do such a special job?

 Watch more of the Chinese world's amazing programmes please click:



Jul. 12, 2016

NHK World Japan

Singapore is taking a practical approach to managing its cemeteries within its limited space.

The island of Singapore is one of the world’s few city states. Around 5 and a half million people from many ethnic backgrounds live there.

The efficient use of its land has always been the biggest challenge in developing the economy. Even the dead can't escape this reality.

So Singapore has to take a practical approach to managing its cemeteries.

The year after independence in 1965, the government passed a law allowing public projects to use any land necessary. That included cemeteries.

A luxury shopping mall stands where a graveyard used to be. One residential neighborhood was once a cemetery. Many were destroyed to make way for the infrastructure that came with Singapore's rapid economic growth. There used to be over 200 cemeteries there. Now it's down to 60.

About 70% of the population is of Chinese descent, with their own burial customs.

But now burials are only permitted in the state-run Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. In 1998, the government put a limit on how long bodies could remain buried. After 15 years they either need to be moved to a smaller plot or cremated and stored in what's called a columbarium.

It's a serious problem for Muslims, who account for roughly 15% of the population. Their religion requires burial but they still have to follow the exhumation law.

Muslim graves are traditionally only for one person, but one Muslim family had to exhume their relative's remains and bury just parts of them in a plot with 7 others.

"We feel, you know, we disturb the dead," a member of the family says. "The government wants us to do that, so we have no choice."

But more and more citizens are choosing cremation.

Lee Ching Ming leads his family’s Buddhist service. Lee's father died 4 days ago. His grandparents were both buried. But when his mother passed away 10 years ago, she --like his father -- was cremated.

The ashes will be kept at a Buddhist temple’s columbarium.

"My parents thought it a peaceful place. So they chose this place for their final staying," Lee says.

An ultra-luxurious facility has been built as people move away from cemeteries. One columbarium is constantly crowded with visitors. It has 20,000 spaces. Customers have 10 types to choose from.

"It’s so beautiful. I feel totally relaxed and not afraid of death," says one customer.

One room is called "The Emperor." The most expensive location costs nearly $50,000.

"Actually a lot of people, they can't afford a condo when they are alive. But after so many years of efforts working hard, they will go for a better future for themselves. So this is the condo, a super condo for them," says a salesperson there.

Bukit Brown cemetery is about 5 kilometers from the city center. A new arterial road will run right through the cemetery. The government moved 4,000 graves for the construction.

It's 5 a.m., and Neo Cheng Hoe and his family have come to exhume his parents. According to Chinese beliefs, the souls of the dead fear sunlight so the exhumation must be done before dawn.

The father’s grave is right next to the road work. They want him to be in a quieter place even though they weren't asked to move. They've already taken the headstone. The gravedigger searches for the remains.

The father’s remains are placed next to the mother’s possessions.

Around 100,000 people were laid to rest in the Bukit Brown cemetery from the early 1800s to the 1970s. It's become hard to know who's buried where.

Raymond Goh has been researching the plots. He's already helped 50 families find their relatives.

"This place has so much history and heritage but when the government announced the road at that time, nothing was known of this cemetery," Goh says.

His work and the road project have created a flood of attention for the all-but-forgotten cemetery. There are free guided tours on the weekends, and they've become quite popular.

"In the 1970s, the Singaporean government tore down many beautiful old buildings because they said they were dirty and had no value. They took down many buildings and built new buildings. But now 30 years later, Singapore's government has regrets. They know they were wrong. Hopefully they will not make the same mistake with Bukit Brown," says one woman taking a tour of the cemetery.

Many people now say the cemetery should be preserved. The government will be faced with making important decisions about how to handle both preservation and development.

Source including video











吴安全与弟弟吴金龙(48岁)还在几年前成立了武吉布朗学会(All Things Bukit Brown),如今有30多名会员,定期为公众提供导览。





Chinapress Jul 3, 2016










The New Paper
by Mallika Sriram
Jul 03, 2016 06:00 am

Thanks to his weekly tomb-clearing trips to discover facts about our heritage, a S'pore pharmacist has been named by BBC as one of 15 most inspiring people

His is not an ordinary passion.

Mr Raymond Goh clears and examines tombstones to piece together information about the historical context of the deceased's lives.

Then, he tries to connect the deceased's descendants to their ancestors' burial sites.

Mr Goh, 52, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I help to uncover Singapore's lost history in our own backyard. Some of our cemeteries are heritage gems that are almost like living museums."

The "tomb whisperer" has been shortlisted as an Outlook Inspiration by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

He made it to the top 15 from an initial list of 50 inspiring people from around the globe. 

Three people will be picked as the ultimate Outlook Inspirations and results will be announced tomorrow.

Mr Goh, a pharmacist at a multinational company, was nominated for the part that he has played in discovering lost aspects of Singapore's heritage with his finds during his weekly tomb-clearing expeditions.

He looks at details such as names of the deceased, names of descendants, dates and decorative flourishes.

And one graveyard site that he has returned to, week after week, is Bukit Brown.

He says: "Of all the graveyards I've been to, the ones in Bukit Brown complex have the most variety and history.
"The tombstones can tell (Singapore's) story all the way from its founding to modern times."
Mr Goh has unearthed fascinating fragments of Singapore's past that would otherwise have remained hidden indefinitely in overgrown, abandoned cemeteries.


The oldest tomb he has found in the Bukit Brown complex of cemeteries, where he focuses his work, dates all the way back to 1826, which he pointed out is "just seven years after Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles".

Two years ago, Mr Goh stumbled across the final resting places of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's maternal great-grandfather, grandfather and grandmother. Before his discovery, he had read a recent "article about Mr Lee that mentioned his ancestors' names", and he remembered them when he read the inscriptions on their tombstones.

He and his brother, Charles, 48, have inspired a community called All Things Bukit Brown - also affectionately called Brownies - whose members are all equally passionate about Bukit Brown.
There are now "over 30 Brownies conducting guided walks", estimates Mr Goh.
More than 17,000 people have gone on such conducted walks through the Bukit Brown cemetery complex since the programme began in 2012.

Ms Claire Leow, 49, who co-founded All Things Bukit Brown to preserve Bukit Brown, expresses the community's pride in Mr Goh.

She says: "We are proud of the Goh brothers, and Raymond in particular, for shining a light on our heritage and showing a way for others to... contribute to promoting our history and heritage."

Mr Goh has developed unusual methods of gleaning information from the often dilapidated tombstones.

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED: Mr Raymond Goh and Mr Soh Ah Beng exploring the Lau Sua cemetery in the Greater Bukit Brown area.

He demonstrates how he fills the gaps made by inscriptions with flour, which sticks in place and makes it easier to read the engraved letters or characters.

But before he can examine the tombstones, he must first find them, he says, with a chuckle.

That means climbing through the branches and thick foliage in the less-maintained areas.

It also means suffering spider and wasp bites.

He says: "I sometimes get stung by insects, ants, spiders and wasps... These bites are painful (and cause) swelling and itching... and some of my tombkeeper friends have been stung by scorpions."

But this doesn't deter him from the task at hand.

And with the increased publicity he received when the Government announced plans to build an eight-lane road through the cemetery in 2011, Mr Goh found a surge in the number of requests from people wishing to find their ancestors' tombs before they were exhumed.

He says: "Some people have asked me to help with locating their ancestors' graves. Helping them is one of the most satisfying aspects of what I do."

In the wake of his BBC Outlook Inspiration nomination, Mr Goh has found people he hasn't spoken to in years congratulating him, including classmates from school and university.

He even took some of his Secondary 4 classmates from Gan Eng Seng school - where they graduated 37 years ago - to visit their school founder's tomb in Bukit Brown.

He says: "We sat around the tombstone and sang the school song, which we hadn't sung for so many years, and I felt a lump in my throat. It was a very heartwarming moment."

Driven by passion and compassion

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Outlook, 50 inspiring people from around the globe were picked as "Outlook Inspirations" for stories of their bravery, compassion or determination.
Some of the inspiring candidates include:


a park ranger who cares for orphaned mountain gorillas at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.

His deed: He found and saved a two-month-old gorilla after its mother was shot through the back of the head.

People doubted that the young gorilla, Ndakasi, a female, would survive, but it now weighs 65kg and treats Bauma like its mother.
Four other orphaned gorillas have been housed at the gorilla orphanage that Bauma heads, though one died in 2012.

Bauma divides his time by spending three weeks in Virunga with the gorillas and one week at home with his human family.


a factory worker who rescued 34 people when garment factory Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013, killing hundreds in Bangladesh.

His deed: Hossain helped move people out of the ruined building and had to perform amputations on a few of the trapped individuals.

A doctor outside the building was too afraid to enter it, so Hossain took his knife and anaesthesia and amputated a girl's hand, crying as he saw her crying in pain.

He was in the building rescuing people for 28 hours.


founded the Stichting Ambulance Wens (Ambulance Wish Foundation) after taking a terminally ill patient to say goodbye to the harbour before moving him from one hospital to another.

His deed: The patient had told Veldboer how he had abandoned his last wish - to sail once more - because he was stretcher-bound.

The Dutchman borrowed an ambulance on his day off and, with the help of a colleague and a boat tour firm, took the patient sailing.

Touched by the joy that this gesture brought to the patient, Veldboer and his wife, Ineke, started the foundation.

It grants the wishes of the terminally ill and immobile.

By 2015, it had 230 volunteers and had fulfilled almost 7,000 wishes.



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