The Lim Hock Seng Family

An update:

On the morning of Sunday, June 22 ’14,  Raymond Goh was on his usual weekend exploration of Bukit Brown when he came across the tomb of Ngo Kim Neo who died young at 22 years old in 1927.

Ngo Kim Neo 1_wife of Lim Hock Seng

Ngo Kim Neo (1927), wife of Lim Hock Seng (photo Raymond Goh)

On her tomb was inscribed,  she was the wife of Lim Hock Seng (see the original story below) and she left behind 4 children, Sons: Lim Cheng Chuan and Lim Cheng Ean; Daughters:  Lim Khoon Neo (Lucy) and Lim Geok Kiat.

Ngo Kim Neo 2_Cheng Ean son

Lim Cheng Ean’s name inscribed on tombstone (photo Raymond Goh)

What was intriguing was the name of Lim Cheng Ean  which was included in the  inscription as her son, as he was born in 1934,  7 years after the death of Madam Ngo Kim Neo.

We emailed the daughter of Lim Cheng Ean  to inform her of the find and if she could throw some light on the matter.

This was her reply:

“I have managed to gather some brief knowledge about Ngo Kim Neo from my mother.  Apparently Lim Hock Seng married 2 sisters.  The first died very young without children and her grieving parents offered their second daughter, who must be Ngo Kim Neo, to him.  She had 2 daughters and then sadly died giving birth to my father’s older brother, Lim Cheng Chuan, who was known in the family as the ‘Tiger Baby’ because he ‘ate his mother while being born’ (1927 was indeed the year of the tiger) .  I’m not sure if this is a Chinese superstition, or just a Lim family ‘fable’.  My father will be so moved to see the photo that I am posting to him today.  I doubt he has ever seen the grave, or his own name credited as her son on the tombstone.  His sister, Lucy (Lim Khoon Neo), was very close to him  ” Gillian  Mendy nee Lim, 23 June’2014  

Gillian further explained that, her father’s (Lim Cheng Ean) mother was Lim Hock Seng’s third wife, Khoo  Ah Tho,  brought from Penang to marry him and look after the 3 young children left behind by Ngo Kim Neo.

From Gillian’s information, we gleaned that after Lim Cheng Ean was born, the tombstone of Madam Ngo was replaced to include his name to acknowledge Madam Ngo as his mother. We are not sure what customary practice led to this, or maybe it was  a husband’s last loving tribute to the wife who bore him 3 children before she  passed away at childbirth at the tender age of 22.

In sharing with us the close relationship her father had with his half sister, Lucy Lim Khoon Neo, Gillian attached an article  on her aunt’s wedding and another line  of family connection was revealed.  Lucy  Lim married   Cheong Thiam Siew, Chairman of Frank Knight,  who was the  son of Cheong Hock Seng, and grandson of Cheong Koon Seng  Her husband came from an illustrious and blue-chip line of property auctioneers.

And finally Gillian shared  that her father who was in a fragile state of health when she first wrote to us in in January of this year,  has improved and just celebrated his 80th birthday. The family put together a scrap book of his Lim ancestors, and the photos we had sent earlier of his father’s and his grandparent’s graves at Bukit Brown was the centerpiece of the book.


All Things Bukit Brown received an email this morning  (14 January) addressed to Raymond Goh. It was from Gillian Mendy (Lim)  from London, asking if her grandfather’s  Lim Hock Seng’s grave was affected by the highway. Her email read:

“Your Bukit Brown website is incredibly informative and interesting.  We have only just discovered about the planned road works through the cemetery.

My grandfather is buried at Bukit Brown and we are trying to find out if his grave is affected by the road project.  The family now live in England.  If it is affected then we would come to Singapore to  claim the remains.  

My father is now 80 and very ill so I would be extremely grateful if you could either help or let me know who is the appropriate person to contact to try and trace the grave because it would mean a lot to him. 
The documentation of the affected graves online is very helpful but the names are mostly in Chinese so I have been unable to find if he is listed.
I have found the burial register and plot details.  These are:
Name: Lim Hock Seng
Date: 9 April 1946
Age: 46 years
Plot ‘A’ 368 (IV)
Register Entry: 1554
This was his Death Announcement in the Straits Times.

I believe the plot may come under the affected area but I cannot find a list of affected graves showing their original plot number. His name is not listed on the published lists but I am worried that his tombstone may be one of the illegible or damaged ones.
We are grateful for any help you may spare, I look forward to hearing from you.” Gillian Mendy.
We forwarded Gillian’s email to Raymond who is presently in India on a business trip and within one and a half hours,  Raymond replied :
“Hi Gillian, don’t worry, the tomb is not affected. In fact Hock Seng and his parents’ tomb are now one of the most beautiful tombs in BB. Hock Seng father is Lim Peng Chin and mother is Tan Po Neo, and I believed his uncle was Lim Peng Siang, one of the pioneers of Singapore. Here is a news of his mother death. You can see they stay in the same address.  I am overseas now , but will be able to send you photos in a couple of days when I am back. Cath, their tombs is in Blk 4a before going to Tan Quee Kan cluster, we pass by a trio of very big and beautiful tombs with exquisite carvings of deities, Hock Seng is positioned on front of his parents’ tombs” Raymond Goh.
We did not wait for Raymond to return. Brownies Sugen Ramiah and Victor Lim were mobilized , with Catherine following Raymond’s directions to a “T” . We found the tombs and  have forwarded the photos to Gillian. She has given us permission to share her story.
” It was very moving to receive the photographs of the family tombs, especially after hearing so much about my grandfather since I was small. The information you have given will be such a great assistance in tracing the family history.
When he last visited Singapore, my father spent hours searching for the location of his family tombs but gave up and assumed all was lost.  Even yesterday, when I mentioned that I had found the burial register entry for Lim Hock Seng, my father sadly said that his grave was no longer there!  He will be very overcome when I give him the photos.  My father’s Chinese name is Lim Cheng Ean and he is listed on Tan Po Neo’s tombstone as a grandchild.  This brought tears to my eyes.Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your help.”  Gillian Mendy
Request fulfilled in record time, because Raymond Goh seems to carry with him,  where ever he goes, an inbuilt repository of Bukit Brown in his head and heart.
1) The grave of Lim Hock Seng (Gillian’s grandfather) , behind are the graves of  his parents (Gillian’s great grandparents)
Lim Hock Seng (Sugen Ramiah)
2) The double graves of Lim Chin Peng & his wife Tan Po Neo  (Gillian’s great grandparents)
Lim Peng Chin (photo Sugen Ramiah)
3) An unusual memorial stone (about the size of the earth deity) dedicated to the memory of Mr & Mrs Lim Peng Chin located on the right hand corner of their graves. It singles out  Tan Po Neo’s  (Mrs Lim Peng Chin) death date. Note the name of son  Lim Hock Seng and  grandson Lim Cheng Ean ( they are father and son respectively)
Tan Po Neo (photo Sugen Ramiah)
4)  The Earth Deity located on the left hand corner  of Mr & Mrs Lim Peng Chin’s graves.
Earth Diety (photo Sugen Ramiah)
 (photos by Sugen Ramiah )



With the government’s announcement to build a proposed highway, the Land Transport Authority has published its notice of exhumation. To aid members of the public, tomb whisperer Raymond Goh has  put it in this searchable format: click here

Tombs affected have been documented and photographed here

If you are looking for your relative, the number refers to the number on the stake, not the tomb plot.


LTA Map of Affected Graves


Some tombs are already marked (staked) for exhumation: Hill 1 (photo: Claire Leow)


Staked tombs for exhumation to make way for the proposed highway: Hill 1 (photo: Claire Leow)


Staked, hill 2 (photo: Claire Leow)


Hat trick!

Dateline 4 March Sunday 2012, Raymond Goh after a grueling morning tour which stretched 3 hours, returns to Bukit Brown after lunch and scored a hat trick which helped connect relatives to their ancestors.

Tomb  1-

The family of a  certain Mdm Fong Fon who died during the war. They family had contacted  LTA who then advised them to contact me. They  emailed me previously but I had not time to reply. So I  decided to search for her the day before  and found it, and today (Sunday) I saw them looking for graves at Blk 4 with some tomb keepers., Out of curiosity I approached  them. They were looking for plot number 20. Bingo! It was the same tomb belonging to the same family who had emailed me. The plot number was indeed 205, but it was at Blk 3 Section .

Tomb 1 lost & found

Tomb 2 –

I was coming down from the Gan Eng Seng tomb when I  encountered  3 people looking for their grandfather’s tomb. They had never been to their grandfather’s tomb  but recalled  their father telling them it was somewhere up a hill. They managed to obtain the tomb number  from the burial register, it was Blk 3 Section B tomb 389.  He was a certain Mr Ng who hailed from Tong Ann. I led them quite high up the steep hill, and when they saw their grandfather’s tomb they apologized to him for not visiting for a long time. They then  informed him that if it had not been for a volunteer to guide them, (yours truly) they would never have found him, and they thanked the stars for this wonderful reunion.

Tomb 2 lost & found

Tomb 3 –

This was the third attempt of a request to locate the grave of a  17 year old woman Tan Lay Chee who died in 1932.  Although the tomb address is  Blk 3, Section C, 857,  it was actually located at the very top of the hill, some where  in Section B. I think for all of us, each and every tomb in Bukit Brown  is precious, whether big or small, poor or rich, for it means something special to someone out there. It was third time lucky as they say, but sometimes the spirit of Bukit Brown works in mysterious ways and my last tomb find of the day, enriched me greatly at the end of a long day.

Tomb 3 lost & found

text and photos by Raymond Goh


Lost an Ancestor?

Dear Raymond,

I was wondering if you knew if there’s a name list for all of the people buried at Bukit Brown? Because my father says my great-grandfather is buried there, but he cannot remember the location of the tomb, and we would like to find it if possible.

Alvin Soon

Dear Alvin,

Start with the name of your great-grandfather and date of his death. The National Archives has made it easier to search online for his “address”  which should state the block, division and plot number. You can find  the records for the burial registry here

You can also try the newspaper archives for any mention of notices of death and if your great grandfather is a prominent member of the society in his lifetime, you may find more reports on him.

Once you have the block. division and plot number download this map

Finding an ancestral grave can be challenging if the family has not visited in a long while. The graveside may be overgrown. Also searching for plot numbers can be counter intuitive. The Bukit Brown Cemetery fell under 3 different administrations  during its nearly 50 years of  operations from 1923 – 1973 – the colonial government,the Japanese occupation and Singapore government. If on site, and you see tomb keepers in the area, they can be helpful. And if you still need help please contact us again.  I wish you luck and hope you will be able to find your great grandfather by Qing Ming.


Raymond Goh



This tomb marked as Y on the map belonging to Chew Geok Leong is an example of a “live” tomb.

photo by Jon Wong


No,  the Sikh Guards don’t come alive at night.  A “live” tomb is one where the deceased played a part in the design of his final resting place while still alive. In this case, Chew – a Chinese physician –   conceptualised an elaborate design which included his own modest terra cotta army of 2   Sikh Guards . A “live” tomb is  usually undertaken to ensure the well being of future generations on the recommendation of a Chinese Feng Shui master after a reading.

If you have any questions for Raymond, please email to


Bukit Brown Cemetery is named after George Henry Brown who came to Singapore in 1840 to start a shipping business. He bought up an area of roughly 200 acres which covered rolling hills. The Malay word for hill is “bukit”  and “sua” is hill in the  Hokkien dialect.


Old map of Brown's landholdings superimposed with present day developments.

After Brown’s death the  land passed through the hands of Mootapa Chitty ( a Chettair ) and Lim Chu Yi ( a Chinese businessman).

In 1872, it was bought by 3 clansman from the Ong Clan each paying $500. The land was donated to the Hokkien Clan Association without condition for dwelling, farming and burials. It was called “Seh Ong Sua”

In 1918/1919, the colonial government paid about $24.500 for a portion of the Ong burial site (97 acres)   to be used as a Chinese Municipal Cemetery opened to  all Chinese, rich or poor.  From a private cemetery for the Ong Clan and the Hokkien community, it became a public cemetery  known as Bukit Brown Cemetery in 1923.

Kopi Sua refers to the area near Mount Pleasant Road where  Brown  lived, which was originally named  Brown’s Hill. One reason offered as to why it is called Kopi Sua – Hokkien for Coffee Hill – is that in the dialect there is no equivalent to the colour Brown. So “kopi” was the next best thing.  The other reason is Brown attempted to grow coffee on the estate but it didn’t take.

What is now known as the Bukit Brown Cemetery includes 50 acres known as Lau Sua  (Old Hill) which was opened and managed by the Hokkien Huay Kuan as a cemetery in 1892. So the short answer is Kopi Sua is not Bukit Brown Cemetery and vice versa. The Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery ceased operations in 1973



Tomb Whisperers

The Brothers Goh, Raymond and Charles

Charles and Raymond Goh

It all began in 2005 when younger brother, Charles fascinated with the seemingly unexplainable, founded Asia Paranormal Investigators – a non profit organization to research  lost history, urban legends and unusual phenomena.

Cemeteries were a natural haunting ground and elder brother, Raymond was roped in  because his better command of Chinese and his interest in Chinese culture and customs gave him a natural advantage when it comes to “reading” tombstones.

And so began the Goh brothers’ induction into the Bukit Brown Cemetery’s  Hall of Fame as the tomb whisperers.

Since they started their exploration of Bukit Brown in 2006, they have researched and identified hundreds of graves, some so hidden by undergrowth (imagine Lara Croft and Angkor Wat)  – it defied even the best efforts of their descendants.

The discovery of the tomb of Cheong Koon Seng – a prominent  realtor /auctioneer and impresario of Peranakan opera in the early 1900s –  was one.

The Goh brothers receive requests almost weekly not only for help to locate tombs,  but also to help unravel familial relationships. Many of the prominent residents in Bukit Brown are related by marriage, and in life as in death continue to be enjoined albeit at times unbeknownst to their descendants.

At last count, one of the descendants has identified more than two dozen residents she can trace her genealogy to. Long lost cousins have found themselves through Bukit Brown. It is the gift that keeps on giving. And the Goh brothers are an inextricable part of that gift, exploring Bukit Brown in their free time and  scouring the  archives in their search for more information.

For Raymond and Charles, though, the first major case they cracked under API  was “The Case of the Missing Heiress” in 2007. At stake was S$100 million and the only clue a black and white photograph. The case continued to hog the headlines even after the missing heiress was identified and set to claim  the inheritance, when a twist in 2008 resulted in 2 more claimants to the estate.

For Raymond and Charles the case leads them back to Bukit Brown  as some of the people involved  are buried there.

Raymond is now  attempting to unravel the inscriptions and couplets composed on these  tombstones  for hidden messages to close the case . Or maybe it will just lead to a new story. With their unerring instinct to search out the truth, one never knows with the Goh brothers.

In the meantime, the Goh brothers continue to make inroads in reconciling the past with the present

Reunion of the living with the dead - Ang Seah Im's descendents rediscover his tomb with the help of the Goh Brothers

So far they  have uncovered 25 pioneers buried in Bukit Brown with streets named after the them. Among them, Seah Im and Koon Seng Roads

And they are  so  very   much in demand  to lead tours  that they are  inducting new guides from the face book group and we  have large shoes to fill.

Paying close attention to Raymond


Trying to keep up with the leader


Let me dream while I can,

Let me see the stars while I can,

Let me cry, let me laugh,.

Let me hold you in my arms, Let me be.

One day I may dream no more, 

One day I may not wake up,

But do remember me, let me live on,

Don’t ever forget that I ever exist,

A man’s life is so short, in a twinkle he is gone.

There’s so much to see, so much to discover.

Wouldn’t you hold my hand, and together let’s fly to the stars.

And one day when I am very, very old, let me close my eyes,

Let me dream forever.

(Written by Charles Goh)

For more reports on the Tomb Whisperers, please click here.

Weekends with Raymond Goh and his family here



Ask Raymond

Raymond with iconic walking stick (Illustrator: Paul Lachine)




Got a question about Bukit Brown’s history ? Tomb searching 101? Want to know what makes a tomb whisperer tick?   Ask Raymond by emailing topic “Ask Raymond”



The Sunday Times
Home > News > Home > Story
Jul 17, 2011

Meet the weekend tomb explorers
Brothers Raymond and Charles Goh visit cemeteries to unearth history
By Huang Lijie

Older brother Raymond checking out the tombstone of Madam Tan Eng Neo – after whom Eng Neo Avenue is named – at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Weekends spent among dead people may seem a spooky pursuit, but brothers Raymond and Charles Goh have found historical gemstones among tombstones.

The duo are neither mediums nor ghostbusters, but passionate tomb explorers who enjoy unearthing Singapore’s history through graves.

One recent case after a three-year search was their discovery of the tomb, in Bukit Brown Cemetery, of Madam Tan Eng Neo, whom Eng Neo Avenue is named after.

For the siblings, finding where the wife of wealthy Chinese businessman Gaw Boon Chan was buried was fulfilling, and not just because it marked the end of their longest quest for a tomb.

Raymond, 47, the older brother, said: ‘We want people to know that Bukit Brown Cemetery is where many Singapore pioneers have been buried and to appreciate it, not bulldoze it.’

The 86ha graveyard off Lornie Road was in the news recently after heritage activists petitioned for a rethink of the redevelopment of one of Singapore’s oldest remaining burial grounds to meet housing needs.

To keep alive the memory of famous pioneers buried at the cemetery, the brothers conduct regular guided tours of the area. Those who have signed up include students, young professionals and retirees.

The duo also provide a free map which includes the locations of the tombs of more than 30 famous pioneers such as businessman Chew Boon Lay, who has an MRT station, school and housing estate named after him.

The map is on the website of the Asia Paranormal Investigators – – founded in 2005 by Charles to research unexplained phenomena.

The brothers’ interest in tombs began in 2006 after Raymond, the regional director of a health-care company, accompanied his father to his grandfather’s grave at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

‘It was my first visit and I had a shock when I saw my name on the tombstone.

‘It came to me, out of the blue, that I’m related to this grave,’ said the father of three children, aged 10 to 17.

His interest piqued, he began pouring over books on tomb culture and visiting cemeteries at the weekend, walking stick in hand to fend off spiders and even snakes to look for unusual tombstones.

Raymond’s tomb fever got to Charles, who had some knowledge of the subject through his research on urban myths of haunted graves.

Charles, 43, a construction company safety manager who is married without children, said: ‘When Raymond finds an interesting tombstone, he is so excited he cleans it with his towel, then forgets and wipes his face with the cloth.’

They dig into the past of the tombs they find using information engraved on the tombstones, as well as newspaper and land deed archives.

They sometimes spend a few hundred dollars on archive material when researching a tomb but Raymond says their passion ‘cannot be measured in money terms’.

They say their families are supportive of their unusual pursuit.

‘Only our mother, who is superstitious, urges us not to visit the cemeteries at night or during the Hungry Ghost Festival,’ said Raymond. But not being superstitious, the siblings have not heeded her advice.

When historical records that they chance upon reveal the burial of a famous person in a particular cemetery, their search becomes tougher. The hunt for Madam Tan’s tomb, for example, was the proverbial needle in a haystack, with 80,000 tombstones at Bukit Brown.

Families eager to trace their roots or find the resting places of their ancestors have approached the brothers for help, and the duo gladly offer to reunite the living and the dead for free.

Those they have helped include the descendents of businessman Ang Seah Im, after whom Seah Im Road, near VivoCity, is named. The pioneer’s tomb is located in Bukit Brown.

Raymond said: ‘I feel sad and pained when I see tombs that are not taken care of by descendants. The dead should not be abandoned.’


February 2018
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