Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Digging into the past..in Singapore.




What can you find if you started to dig into the ground?
Well, that depends very much on where you are digging ( the location ) and how far down you are prepared to dig. Perhaps, the size and expanse of the dig will play an important part too.
If given a chance Unk Dicko would have loved to be an archaeologist or something close to that.
Why?
Whatever is above land we can see. But what lies buried deeper under the earth beneath us, even as we walk over it, will always remain a mystery.
It is this desire to uncover the unknown or hidden secrets that is quite a compelling attraction of archaeology.
In 1964, racial riots erupted over Singapore. To curb the racial clashes, the government acted swiftly. Police were patrolling the streets and a curfew was imposed. The curfew was only lifted for a short period those initial days for people to buy necessities.
It was boring as we were all prevented from going out.
We had a small garden in our home in Geylang. I decided to do a little digging with just a spade...to kill time.
What did I find precisely ?
Three different things...the complete skeletal remains of our early family cat,
some Straits Settlements coins and the most interesting discovery of all..the headstones or tombstones found in Muslim graves. They were very old, not new. As soon as I discovered that there were a couple of such stones..I stopped digging, showed my father and other family members the artifacts, and replaced them before closing the dig. My father had also uncovered such headstones in earlier years when he was doing some work there.
I think Siang Lim Park where we used to lived, was in some parts, a very early Muslim burial ground. No human remains were found, only tombstones.
The younger generation may not really know that Bishan housing estate was a huge Chinese burial ground not that long ago.
Some of my relatives were buried there...including my dearest younger little toddler brother ( I loved him most deeply) who passed away 50 years ago.

11 comments:

Icemoon said...

Uncle Dicko, where is Siang Lim Park. Is it near Guillemard Road? I can't find it on the map.

unk Dicko said...

Hi Icemoon,
Siang Lim Park used to be in the area between Lorong 40, Geylang...just after the Geylang River and Guillemard Road. It was a very interesting and most colourful estate with politicians,Malay film actors,musicians,towkays, tai-tais,gangsters,police officers,teachers and ordinary folks living together happily.
That was my "original" kampong.It has been completely wiped out by redevelopment...in its place,what else?...the usual condos and more condos.
I will try to locate a map and insert it in the post or in a new post, for you.

Icemoon said...

Ooh Unker Dicko, no wonder 'Siang Lim' sounds so familiar. Years ago, I tried to find the keramat (was it two?) marked on the old street directory at Siang Lim. I failed.

If you found Malay headstones, that makes sense.

unk Dicko said...

I have a 2007 virtual map of that place printed out showing the new condos in place of Siang Lim Park houses. I am doing a drawing over by hand based on my memory and recollection of my "kampong" and various points of interest...with accompanying notes and reference index.
The finished posts will take a day or two. Hopefully, I can add some pics from my album too.
Regarding the keramats...yes there were just two. I forgot their names but was most familiar with them. I will show on the map.
I wonder if Chun See or anyone else has a map of this place. It should still be in the directories upto around 1995.

Icemoon said...

So Ritz cinema should be near your house? Ahh, wonder why I failed to find the keramats.

unk Dicko said...

No, not Ritz but Queens Cinema located at Lorong 44. This was not a real lorong as it was more like a rectangular square and no through road to Guillemard.If you drive, you enter and will end exactly at Queen's Cinema walled up open carpark.
Lots of intersting things around that area.

Icemoon said...

Ritz would be its pre-war name, according to this link.

unk Dicko said...

Thanks for your research...now I know.
Ritz was its name originally in the 1920's. Don't know when exactly it was changed to Queens. SHAW brothers website has a picture of Queens Cinema before the war with the name QUEEN clearly seen.

PChew said...

I remember there was a muslim cemetery beside Queens Theatre towards Siang Lim Park. In 1898/9 my great grand-father,Chew Joo Chiat built 3 shophouses and 3 attap houses at Geylang near Queens Theatre.

unk Dicko said...

Yes, the Muslim cemetery was to the rear of Queens Theatre. It was between the Theater and the Geylang River. I believe even parts of Siang Lim Park were ancient Muslim burial ground. That was what my "digging" produced...muslim headstones.
Btw, can you identify the shophouses still?

PChew said...

The shophouses are no longer at the site. I have a copy of the building plan. The location given was Geylang Road 3 1/2 ms opposite Paya Lebar Road.