May 13 Tour: Mother’s Day Special!

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Mother’s Day – volunteer Guides Claire and Keng Kiat found half a dozen participants under the old rain tree despite the drizzle.

The day starts off with an alert from Hock Chuan that Hill 3 was not passable by cars:

Fallen tree in front of Chew Geok Leong with the iconic guards (Photo: Ang Hock Chuan)

 

Fallen tree in front of Chew Geok Leong with the iconic guards (Photo: Ang Hock Chuan)

 

Fortunately we are not heading that way.

The tour:

The Bukit Brown area is about 233 hectares in extent, bordered by Lornie Road, Thomson Road and the Pan-Island Expressway. It lies just to the south of the Central Catchment Forest, being separated from it by Lornie Road and includes Singapore’s only Chinese Municipal Cemetery. With more than 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is also one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China.

We start with a safety briefing and quick history and geography of the grounds, and show what is believed to be the largest single tomb in the area, Oon Chim Neo’s grave in Seh Ong Cemetery.

 

Oon Chim Neo before massive clean up , by 2 groups of students who laboured to reveal her grave for documentation. ( photo Chua Ai Lin)

 

Back at Bukit Brown, we kick off with an introduction to Tay Koh Yat and Fang Shan, covered in notes here.

 

Keng Kiat waxes lyrical at Tay Koh Yat's tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We will proceed to Block 5 to visit Lee Guay Eng, grandmother to one of the most important man in Singapore. She is none other than the paternal grandmother of the sitting president.

 

Mrs Tan Cheng Siong (photo: Claire Leow)

 

We take a leisure stroll to Block 2 to pay respect to Song Chwee Neo, a smiling matriarch.

After her husband, Gwee Eng Chuan, passed away after WWI, Song single-handedly raised four sons and two daughters and supplemented her income by making dresses and selling them to relatives and neighbors.

Visiting Song Chwee Neo (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

The Smiling Matriarch, Song Chwee Neo (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Mdm Song may have the “Mona Lisa”smile but her personality is that of a typical fiery matriarch who rules the roost. She is the only wife of her husband.

The Smiling Matriach (Photo: Claire Leow)

Taking in the sights at Hill 2 (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Robin enjoys his spin around Hill 2 (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We walk over to greet See Tiong Wah, the Municipal Commissioner whose delicately carved tomb will be removed for the proposed highway, which astonished the participants. In Keng Kiat’s view, this is the second most important tomb to be lost to the project (the most important being Khoo Seok Wan’s). Claire explained the Song Dynasty panels as she too lamented the loss of such heritage.

 

Keng Kiat muses at See Tiong Wah's tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

The special for the day was introducing Lee Kim Soo, the matchbox entrepreneur.

 

At Lee Kim Soo's grave (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We come around Block 1 and drop by Methodist Girls’ School first Chinese girl and Singapore’s first female doctor, Lee Choo Neo.

We also had the privilege of having Chew Keng Chuan with us to introduce his grandfather, the eldest son of Chew Boon Lay whose grave was found last month:

 

KC Chew at his grandfather's tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

His grandfather died the year he was born so his sisters’ names are on the tomb’s headstone, and as he noted with humor, he is remembered as “etc”! There is a reference to K.C. on the tomb but it refers to the Kungfuzhi (Confucius) calendar.

 

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Confucius calendar used: "KC" (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

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We are amateurs and volunteers, known as Brownies, but we are passionate and serious about what we do at Bukit Brown, and we encourage sharing of knowledge. Please share with us as you see fit.

 

 

 

 

 

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