Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tan Tock Seng's neglected tomb...newsclip 1989

[ Tan Tock Seng 1798 - 1850 ]
As someone with a deep love for history, I have always been fascinated with the life and times of not only of kings, queens, emperors, conquerors, rise and fall of empires but of other leading personalities of the past. Invariably, this include our very own early pioneers who had contributed greatly to what has made Singapore such a great cosmopolitan world city today.
If you were to pick up a copy of our Road Directory, you will not fail to notice the many kinds of road names on the maps. We have roads that have names grouped together and linked to countries far away such as those from England, Scotland and Wales. Other road names hail from countries such as France, Spain, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, India, the Middle East and more. My kampong of Serangoon Gardens is an excellent example with road names that are actually towns in Britain...Brighton, Conway, Glasgow, Kensington, Colchester, Cardiff, Bridport, Huddington, Borthwick, Alnwick...just to name some.
For the French connection? A stone's throw away from our notorious Desker Road area can be found roads like Petain Rd, Foch Rd, Flanders Sq, and Somme Rd. Many of our roads are also named after prominent residents who have contributed to the history and development of their village, community or the nation.
Yet, there is no road or street named after one of the 2 foremost early pioneers of Singapore. He is the subject of this post....TAN TOCK SENG.
Ask any Singaporean if he or she has heard of Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the answer cannot be anything other than a "Yes".
Ask any further questions about the man himself...his life,family,achievements and history, where was he buried etc...and you will get a shaking of heads.
The same goes for many of our early pioneers whose great achievements, though largely recorded, are somehow also largely forgotten...including their tombs and graves. It is a sad indictment and reflection of our times.
Read the newsclip below.
When I saw that report in January 1989 in the Straits Times, I cut it out immediately for future use. This is time to blog about it. We are all living in the midst of rapid change to not only our environment and skyline but to many of the things we hold dearly.

[ Tan Tock Seng Hospital today ]
In recent times, I came across reports of a few amateur dedicated tomb hunters who have succeeded in locating quite a number of tombs belonging to our long-forgotten early pioneers.

There are 2 active brothers surnamed Goh who have been searching all over Singapore cemeteries and updating the public with their findings mainly in Zao Bao papers.

[ Image: Unk Dicko's Archives - S T 28 Jan 1989 ]

Born in 1798 in Malacca, he came to Singapore in 1819, age 21. He was poor and so started off by selling vegetables and fowl along Boat Quay. He was very hardworking and saved enough to open a shop in 1927 at Boat Quay.

How did he become so rich later?
Able to speak English, Malay and dialects, he went into a partnership with a British land speculator J H Whitehead. They invested and speculated on land.
He owned one of the largest parcels of land in Singapore which included the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station land, the Padang to High Street to Tank Road, Ellenborough Building, etc.
He had other businesses as well.

He set up a hospital for the poor people in 1844. Realising that more space was required he donated money for the building of a new hospital located at Pearl's Hill which carried his name.
That hospital was later shifted to Balestier Plain and again later to where Tan Tock Seng Hospital is today ( at Moulmein Road ).
He also founded the oldest temple in Singapore...the Thian Hock Keng temple at Telok Ayer Street. It is still there today.
As a rare honour to him, the British appointed him as the 1st Asian Justice of Peace.
He carried the title of " Captain of the Chinese " Yap Ah Loy's Kapitan China title in KL.

Tan Tock Seng died at age 52 due to an illness. He was buried on the slope of a gentle hillock at
or near 256 Outram Road ( today ).
That is the picture of his grave in the newsclip.

Unk Dicko's Views
Just look at the picture of that beautiful hospital. It was started by this great man. Then slowly
let your eyes focus on his dilapidated tomb, overgrown by weeds, nothing at all to show and tell about the history of this man, as should be told to one and all, especially our young.
We should do something about this...
In the West, many of the known tombs of even famous outlaws and bandits, are carefully preserved for posterity.
No, I am not putting blame on anyone.
Just raising the consciousness and awareness level.

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