Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

October 2016

街访街坊

联合早报 2016年10月26日
文/李锦松



“我常跟别人开玩笑说,我能在如切路一带无拘无束地随意停车或过马路,正因为那是我曾祖父的路。”

周炳镜(退休人士,81岁)过去十多年来致力于专研我国先驱周如切的生平事迹,以及如切区一带的文化与历史,并将心得上载博客,与众人分享,成为我国少有独立研究如切历史与文化的人。

身为周如切的曾孙,周炳镜最先仅对有这么一位显赫有名的曾祖父感到光荣,并没想过投身研究自己家族历史与如切区的点滴。他说:“我不时在媒体上看到关于周如切的报道,当中有很多是错误的。记得有一回,某受访者把周如切的出生和死亡年份搞错了,令我啼笑皆非。后来,我心想,身为周如切后人的我,是否有责任钻研他的历史事迹,并站出来纠正错误报道?”


于是,周炳镜一有空就到国家图书馆翻阅书籍和报章文档等,倾力收集相关资料。

他请教孙子如何在网上开设博客,然后把与周如切有关的史实与事迹在博客上发表,也因此建立起属于自己的“读者群”。

周炳镜说,这是股促使他更详尽记载周如切家族史迹的推动力,他还计划于明年出书。

他说:“我委托本地知名寻墓人吴安全寻找周如切家族的墓碑,包括我曾祖父两个太太的最后栖身地。他终于在今年找到了第一个太太、也就是我曾祖母的墓碑,我之前连她的名字都不知道,现在终于可以完成周家家谱,让我非常欣慰。”

周炳镜说,搜集周如切相关事迹的这些年,除增进自己家族成员间的互动与感情,也把触角伸向对我国历史感兴趣的人。

“我常向孙子、侄子与外甥等人述说周如切的故事,也召集他们一起参观周如切的坟墓,我们在那儿畅聊他的生平事迹,促进彼此间的交流和感情。”

Straits Times Oct 9, 2016, 5:00 am SGT
by Melody Zaccheus

1888 grave in Seh Ong Cemetery belongs to a land donor of Greater Bukit Brown Cemetery

You can call Greater Bukit Brown Cemetery a social and cultural repository of early Singapore. In recent years, researchers have slowly unearthed the stories of many pioneering Chinese immigrants who rest there.

But it was only last month that the 1888 grave of a key personality, a merchant who was one of the original land donors of the cemetery itself, was found.

Mr Raymond Goh, a "tomb hunter" famous in the heritage scene here, had often passed by the tomb of Mr Ong Chong Chew without realising it was what he had been looking for. It was only on Sept 17, on one of his tomb-hunting walks in the grounds of Seh Ong Cemetery, that Mr Goh found the tomb.

"It had escaped my radar all this time because I was expecting a tomb from the Qing dynasty era to have a more elaborate design."

The tomb is in a forested part of the cemetery slanting downwards. It had been nudged into that position by the roots of an old tree.


On closer inspection, Mr Goh saw it bore the posthumous name of Mr Ong as "Ting Ying", and listed the names of his four sons. This corroborated with research by his great-great granddaughter, retired librarian Ong Chwee Im, 75, who had written a book about her ancestor in 2006.

The inscribed 1888 date in Chinese was another telltale sign.

Mr Goh had been trying to track down the tomb after descendants of the late pioneer asked him for help in doing so in 2011.

He told The Sunday Times his search was especially intense in the first year, and he spent many weekends combing through different parcels of Greater Bukit Brown, which includes Seh Ong and the Hokkien Huay Kuan cemeteries. "His descendants and I had looked through old records from the Ong Clan but we couldn't find any paper trail... It was very challenging locating the tomb."

It turns out that Mr Goh had been looking in the wrong area - bashing through overgrowth at the Sime Road section of Seh Ong Cemetery after a false lead.

Mr Goh was elated when he finally found Mr Ong's tomb. "I realised that the long-lost grave I had been looking for over the past five years had finally been found."

The late Mr Ong had come to Singapore from "dirt poor conditions" in Bai Qiao village in Fujian province as a young man in the 1850s. He did well, setting up a lumber and shipping company called Teck Cheang located along Rochor River.


A portrait of merchant Ong Chong Chew taken from a book. His tomb was discovered on Sept 17. PHOTO: THE JOURNEY FROM WHITE ROCK


By 1864, he began buying land, and came to own parcels in Toa Payoh, Amoy Street, Bugis Street, Telok Ayer, Hylam Street, Victoria Street and Cecil Street.

Ms Ong had learnt about her ancestor's role in Bukit Brown Cemetery only in the 1980s. She had read about him in a 1923 tome called One Hundred Years' History Of The Chinese In Singapore, which listed the late Mr Ong, as well as Mr Ong Ewe Hai and Mr Ong Kew Ho, both of whom can also be traced back to Bai Qiao, as having donated 500 yuan to buy 85ha of Bukit Timah land. The trio had decided to give back to the community in 1872.

Their original plan was to build a village for newly arrived immigrants from China. "The three Ongs left a worthwhile, noble and pragmatic gift to the people of Singapore," said Ms Ong.

But eventually the area was used as a cemetery and came to be known as Seh Ong Cemetery.

As the area was under-utilised, the colonial authorities converted 39ha of it into a burial ground for the Chinese around 1919, before officially opening it as the Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery in 1922.

Mr Goh said the remains of the late Ong Ewe Hai either rest in Bukit Brown or have been transferred to a temple. Ms Ong said Mr Ong Kew Ho is likely to be buried in Malacca.

Her research also points to why the late Mr Ong's grave was not as elaborate as those of his contemporaries - it had likely been remade in the 1950s following its reinterment from the family's estate in Telok Blangah to Kheam Hock Road where Seh Ong Cemetery is today.

Last week, Mr Goh took The Sunday Times and Ms Ong's brother, Mr Ong Chin Leong, 69, a retired businessman, and her son, businessman Yeo Han Yong, 47, to the site.

There, they also got to see the graves of Mr Ong Chong Chew's eldest son Ong Kim Cheow, a founding member of the Straits Chinese Recreation Club who died in 1909, along with his wife "Tan Kim Tay Neo", as was written on the tombstone.

Mr Ong hopes to show the graves of their forefathers to the rest of his family.

"This find is important to us because I get to tell them that our line goes back this far."

Meanwhile, work goes on for Mr Goh. While he has helped to reconnect more than 100 families with their ancestors, he still has another 50 or so outstanding requests.

"New discoveries await. The search must go on," he said.


Above: The tomb bearing Mr Ong Chong Chew's posthumous name, "Ting Ying", and the names of his four sons.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG


Left: Tomb expert Raymond Goh (far left) with Mr Ong Chin Leong (centre) and the latter's nephew Yeo Han Yong. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG


Above: The graves of Mr Ong Kim Cheow (right) and his wife "Tan Kim Tay Neo".ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Reference :

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/tomb-hunter-locates-pioneers-grave-after-five-year-search

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