Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tan Boo Liat

For Friday 23 January 2015

Ode to my Great Great  Great Grand Mother

My Great Great Great Grand Mother's Tomb!
I stand before her, silent, in respect and awe.
Her genes embedded in every cell of mine,
We are bonded though the course of time.

My Great Great Great Grand Mother's Tomb!
I sit beside her, sunlight streaming through the trees.
I sense an inner warmth and joy sublime:
Habitat Heritage and History entwine.

My Great Great Great Grand Mother's Tomb!
The white stakes declare a restless future:
Her eyeless sockets shedding copious tears-
That eight lane highway: unspoken fears!

My Great Great Great Grand Mother's Tomb!
"Could you not beg them to let us rest in peace?"
Her silenced tongue in eloquence loudly says :
Her bony hands grasp me in one last fond embrace.

Tan Boo Liat (1875-1934) is born in a well known and established family in Singapore. He is the son of Tan Soon Toh, the grandson of Tan Kim Ching, and great grandson of Tan Tock Seng.

Tan Boo Liat was one of the pioneer members of the Straits Chinese British Association when it was first formed in 1900. The President of the Association was Tan Jiak Kim and Vice President, Seah Liang Seah.
He built his home Pender Road Mount Faber and named it  Golden Bell Mansion 
(after his grandfather, Tan Kim Ching).

He was a strong supporter of Dr Sun Yat Sen and a member of the Singapore Tung Meng Hui.
 On December 15, 1911, Chinese revolutionary leader Dr Sun Yat Sen, stayed the night here, immediately after his arrival from Europe.

Singapore Chinese Girl School (Sing Po Chung Kwo Hsio Tang) was founded as an all-girls Peranakan school in July 1899 by a group of Straits Chinese men including Dr Lim Boon Keng , Sir Song Ong Siang and Tan Boo Liat, at premises in Hill Street, with an English headmistress and seven girls on the register. The President then was Lew Yuk Lin (Chinese consul) and vice presidents Khoo Seok Wan and Tan Hap Seng, Treasurer, Tan Boon Liat, Secretary; Ong Soo Tee.

Tan Boo Liat became an instant celebrity among the race horse community when his horse, "Vanitas" won the Viceroy Cup on December 26, 1898 at Calcutta, India making it the first horse from Malaya to do so. Along  with the trophy is the princely sum of $100,000.  Vanitas continued its racing career after its return to Singapore and won in 1899, the Singapore Derby for the third successful time. By 1900, age caught up with the champion and Vanitas was retired at Tan Boo Liat's house, "Mafeking" at Confederate Estate.

His gravestone depicts rays of light.  On its side are  two bells.The  light rays indicate his staunch support of the Kuomintang Movement, while the bells are symbols of his mansion. The gravestone also indicates his given title awarded by the King of Siam - Phra Anakul Sayamkitch. This is because he and his family (especially his grandfather, Tan Kim Ching) has close relationship to the King of Siam due to the business dealings they have.

Tan Boo Liat died in Shanghai in 1934, his body was embalmed and return to Singapore via a ship called "President Johnson". The cortege left 117, Emerald Hill Road for Bukit Brown. 

Tan Boo Liat is buried Block 3. Division D. His plot no is 520. The tomb is located just behind the iconic colourful sikh guard of Mr Chew Geok Leong.

Boo Liat’s sister Lilian Tan Luck Neo married Seow Poh Leng. They had three children then Lilian died. Boo Liat’s daughter Polly then married Seow Poh Leng, a young bride of 17 who was mother to these three children and had another two of her own, including Rosie Seow, my mother. Polly was the Peranakan matriarch who formed the theme of Emily of Emerald Hill (written by Stella Kon, my sister), although the various elements of the play are composite that include  many different people, some fictional and imaginary.

Boo Liat’s mother was Wuing Yi Ho, daughter of Wuing Boon Whatt, the first Chinese to practice law in Singapore. 
Wuing Boon Whatt’s mother’s tomb (Mdm Lim) has been located in Bukit Brown
As is the tomb of his grand father, Tan Kim Ching.