The Lim Hock Seng Family
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 (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.
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)
2) The double graves of Lim Chin Peng & his wife Tan Po Neo (Gillian’s great grandparents)
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)
4) The Earth Deity located on the left hand corner of Mr & Mrs Lim Peng Chin’s graves.
(photos by Sugen Ramiah )