Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

November 2017

Tan Soo Bin's family album at Panglima Prang

LEE BROTHERS STUDIO (Picture from National Archives)

Back row standing left to right: Lim Kian Beng (husband of Tan Peng Neo), Tan Eng Wan, Tan Eng Chiang, Tan Soo Bin 

Front row left to right : Tan Yew Neo, Tan Cheok Neo, Anna Chia Swee Neo (daughter of Chia Teck Kim), Tan Peng Neo, Song Guat Neo (Mrs Tan Jiak Kum), Tan Eng Ann (baby), Ang Geok Lan (Mrs Tan Jiak Kim), Yeo Yam Neo, Yeo Lim Neo, Tan Kee Neo (will updated corrections if necessary).

This picture should have be taken shortly after the death of Chia Teck Kim (DOD 22 Oct 1918) as he was not seen in this picture.  His wife Tan Peng Neo would have brought their daughter Swee Neo back to her parents house 

Compared to a earlier picture of Tan Jiak Kim and his family taken around 1917 shortly before he passed away (DOD 22 Oct 1917), the two children Tan Eng Wan and Tan Eng Chiang had grown by a couple of years 

Tan Jiak Kim third wife Geok Lan (also daughter of Ang Kim Tee) and 2 grandsons Eng Wan and Eng Chiang 
(pic originally from G.R. Lambert & Co)

Thanks to Anthony Sng, Matt Tan, Tan Koon Siang and Vivienne Tan for assistance.

Links :

See tomb of Chia Teck Kim and Song Guat Neo and her ancestors 

The Straits Times
Nov 18, 2017
By Lester Hio

The Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) launched the Bukit Brown Wayfinder trail on Nov 18, 2017. It provides detailed signs and write-ups of tombs along parts of the cemetery. ST PHOTO: RAKESH KUMAR

SINGAPORE - History buffs can now make their own way through a trail of 25 tombs at Bukit Brown Cemetery, as the first self-guided trail of the area opens to the public.

The Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) launched the Bukit Brown Wayfinder trail on Saturday morning (Nov 18). It provides detailed signs and write-ups of tombs along parts of the cemetery.

The tombs, located at Blocks 1 and 3 of Bukit Brown Cemetery, were specially chosen because they are easily accessed along well-worn paths and contain diverse bits of Singapore's history and heritage, said the society.

These include the tomb of prominent businessman Ong Sam Leong and his family, which is the largest one, spanning 600 sq m - about the size of seven four-room HDB flats.

Other tombs include that of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation founder Tan Ean Kiam, and a mysterious "cemented tomb" with a mound made of cement, the reason for which still eludes researchers.

The trail can be accessed through Lorong Halwa, which lies at the portion of Bukit Brown Cemetery still unaffected by the construction of a major eight-lane road. The Land Transport Authority had razed parts of Bukit Brown to connect the MacRitchie Viaduct to Adam Flyover.

Visitors can download a 115-page online booklet from the SHS website which details the story and history of each tombstone, as well as walking maps of the trail and recommended routes to take.

The trail also contains information on the major rites and rituals still practised in Bukit Brown, as well as the flora and fauna that make up the cemetery's landscape.

The Wayfinder trail is the result of a multi-agency work group chaired by the Ministry of National Development, along with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, National Parks Board and the Land Transport Authority, together with volunteer groups SHS and All Things Bukit Brown.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who launched the trail, said the trail is another way for the public to access the history and heritage of Bukit Brown.

"This Wayfinder trail supplements the very intense volunteering work by the volunteers, who continue to lead regular walks to introduce Bukit Brown to Singaporeans and visitors," said Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for National Development.

Said SHS president Jack Lee: "The Wayfinder brings to life - so to speak - the people resting in the cemetery." Added Dr Lee: "We are privileged and grateful that some of these people's descendants have shared with us precious family photographs and oral histories for the Wayfinder."

Download the Wayfinder here:


The Straits Times
Nov 13, 2017
by Christopher Tan

The 2km road has been delayed because the main contractor is facing financial difficulties.ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

SINGAPORE - The Bukit Brown road project, which has been fraught with issues from the start, has been delayed yet again.

This is the second delay since the project was announced in 2011. It was first slated to be completed by mid-2016, and then end-2017.

The 2km road, which cuts a swathe through a 95-year-old cemetery deemed by many to have heritage value, has been delayed because the main contractor is facing financial difficulties.

Singapore-listed civil engineering group Swee Hong was awarded a $134.7 million contract to build the dual four-lane road in August 2013 but faced cashflow problems soon after.

In February 2015, it filed an application in the High Court to propose a debt restructuring plan for its creditors.

Last year (2016), it raised up to $8 million by issuing new shares and warrants to Readymade Steel Singapore, a company owned by Indian infrastructural group Kridhan Infra. Readymade's subsidiary, KH Foges, is a sub-contractor of Swee Hong.

In July this year (2017), Swee Hong announced it had repaid its debts.

But its financial woes had already caused a slowdown in the Bukit Brown road project.

When The Straits Times checked on Monday (Nov13), the works looked nowhere near completion, even if part of a raised portion was taking shape.

Construction work going on at Bukit Brown Road Project

Diversion works in Lornie Road - believed to be for an underpass section of the new road - remained in place after several months.

A resident interviewed said those living in Sime Road had been told by authoritiesthat it would now only be completed late 2018.

"I'm not even sure it can be done by then," said the retiree who is in his 70s, who declined to be named. "It's causing us a lot of inconvenience already."

Besides the noise and dust, he said cracks had formed in a number of houses.

"My house now leaks when it rains," he added.

Swee Hong would not comment when asked when the project would be completed, and redirected the query to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The LTA has not responded to queries sent a week ago.

Besides Swee Hong's problems, the project was also held up by exhumation of graves which took longer than anticipated.

The new road links the MacRitchie viaduct to Adam Road via the Bukit Brown cemetery. The LTA said the road was necessary to cater to future traffic, which is expected to increase by 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 2020.

Heritage groups, however, said the cemetery should be preserved in its entirety, while green lobbyists said the road would damage the biodiversity of the forested area.

The delay to the Bukit Brown road project comes just months after another long-delayed project was completed.

The new Braddell Flyover opened in June after four years and repeated delays.

The Straits Times, Nov 9, 2017

by Melody Zaccheus
Heritage and Community Correspondent

A new book chronicling decades of civil society activism, launched on Sunday, details the efforts of 37 diverse activists who have campaigned for marginalised groups and championed niche but worthy causes.

Among some of the successes of the community: Removing a ruling that the bodies of Aids sufferers must be cremated within 24 hours of dying, and the ground-up efforts to save Chek Jawa, an inter-tidal habitat on Pulau Ubin, from reclamation for military use in 2002.

And when the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore lacked a 24-hour hotline for the public to report illegal wildlife trade, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society launched one of its own. Today, it handles 700 wildlife rescue cases each month.

Within the heritage sphere, groups such as All Things Bukit Brown have stuck their necks out for the retention of the 1922 cemetery.

The book also traces the development of civil society across other issues such as ageing, culture and faith, health, human rights and the rights of sex workers and women.

In addition, it pays homage to older achievements, including the Singapore Council of Women's pivotal role in bringing about the progressive Women's Charter in 1961, which greatly improved the socio-economic and legal status of women and families here.

The publication is clear evidence that advocacy has a place here.

It also showcases the journeys and struggles of activists who attempted to speak up for the voiceless segments of society.

As Nominated MP and Drama Box artistic director Kok Heng Leun, who contributed to the book, said, it is the duty of existing activists to encourage other Singaporeans and citizens "not just to think for themselves, but others as well".

It is time to celebrate such activists.

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