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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Mar 19, 2015

School Bands - Cultural Life of Singapore

At what age can a schoolboy in Singapore join the school bands?

Few schools had school bands 50 years ago and the primary school I attended on completion of the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) in 1961, did not have a school band.

Young children in Singapore who love music to play with musical instruments is the best opportunity to join the school band.

School Bands in Singapore are made up of student in the band CCA who perform music together with their respective instruments.  In Singapore, the school band is a Co-Curriculum Activity (CCA) that can typically be found in Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, and Junior Colleges.  Being outside classroom school activities, CCAS act as an integral part of the student's holistic, well-rounded education, and are aimed at nurturing student qualities, and preparing them to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.  As with other CCAs, the programmes in Singapore school bands follow the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s CCAs guiding principles of building team spirit and responsibility, being broad based with opportunities to specialize, being responsive to inculcating national values and skills, as well as promoting social integration.

In the above photos (including the archived photos on this blog with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore and other contributors), Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaking to school band members during Telok Ayer Community Centre's seventh anniversary celebration in Hokkien Huay Kuan on 3 June, 1967.

Presentation of baton to drum major of Tampines Primary School in 1980.

A Malay band leading the welcoming procession through a narrow village path to Changi Tamil School during Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's tour to Changi constituency on 19 May, 1963.

In 1965, the Ministry of Education first launched the Band Project as part of the Extra-Curriculum Activity Programme (ECA) (renamed as Co-Curriculum Activity or CCA in 1999 in both Primary and Secondary Schools.  It was aided by the directive given by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who instructed that the formation of school bands should be considered as a "High Priority".

Singapore's 500,000 school children in 1970 have come to accept band playing, marching and drill activities as an important aspect of their extra curricular activities.  This could be seen on school fields, public parks or on the concert stage.

The government in introducing this programme in the schools, had recognised the fact that group discipline and a sense of national identity could be gained by students participating in bands as an extra curricular activity and the positive influence on public morale when school bands are heard and seen performing at outdoor functions and music festivals to entertain everyone in Singapore.

The Music Department of the Ministry of Education was charged with the responsibility of forming and training bands, and undertook the challenge to form the bands in schools.

This was an encouragement for other schools which were wary of embarking on an expensive experiment to benefit the students.

It was a costly school expenditure for musical instruments, an unusual extra curricular activity for schools in this part of the world.

Financial assistance from the Government was supported and this was the greatest contributing factor to the success of the school band project 50 years ago.

Government schools as well as Government-aided schools received substantial subsidies for purchase of instruments as well as uniform.

Training was provided free, given by bandmasters and bandsmen paid from Government funds.

The school brass band members during the 15th anniversary celebration of Tanjong Katong Girls' School on 12 March, 1968.

The primary school band stole the show at a National Cadet Corps Parade at Queenstown.  The 60-strong Hua Yi Primary School Band, Singapore's champion primary group of musicians was given rounds of applause, some of it coming from the flats overlooking the parade ground.  To the strain of stirring militia music, the boys and girls average age of 9, stepped out in style in a performance that lived up to its reputation.  The event on 5 July, 1969.

A petite 1.47 metres Miss Tan Chay Ee, 15, and the smallest of them all was the best when she won the drum-major award trophy and mace.  Chay Ee presenting the band from Outram Secondary and Kim Seng Technical School stood out among 15 other drum majors and majorettes at the inter-secondary school band competition finals at Kallang Theatre.  Picture shows Chay Ee, clutching her drum major award trophy and mace, was chaired by her band friends during the competition on 2 July, 1977.

PM Lee Hsien Loong in his school band

In the 1968 National Day Parade on 9 August, 1968, PM Lee Hsien Loong played the clarinet marching with the Catholic High School band at the Padang.

[There was a heavy downpour that August 9.  The then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had to decide whether to proceed with the parade or to postpone it.  He decided to proceed, for to do otherwise would have implied that Singaporeans were not resilient.  My mother, my brother Hsien Yang and I watched with pride from the windows of my father's office in City Hall as Hsien Loong marched past]
Source:  Straits Times 2 August, 2009.  "The march of a confident nation" by Lee Wei Ling.

National Day Parade 1969 third rehearsal at the Padang - Combined School Bands of Catholic High School and Raffles Institution, led by Drum Major Lee Hsien Loong on 27 July, 1969.

On National Day,  9 August, 1969

The National Day Parade 1968 at Chinatown

The Bugle and Fife School Band

Many years later, Singapore had her first All Girls Bagpipe Band .

Band Performance at the MacRitchie Reservoir

Pioneer generation Singaporeans, please share your fond nostalgic memories during your primary, secondary and junior college bands in Singapore over the decades.  Thanks for sharing our memories to celebrate Singapore50!


Feb 28, 2015

Travelling Circus in Town

Since 2002, Singaporeans no longer had the chance to watch travelling circuses in Singapore.

When I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee in the 1950s, the children would be excited and curious whenever the colorful advertising posters were pasted prominently everywhere on the walls ..... "Circus in Town".

This nostalgia blog is curated with the resources from National Archives of Singapore and NewspaperSG of the National Library Board, Singapore with photo credit and acknowledgement.

There were adults in the audience too .....

I remember that I attended a "Circus Brazil" in 1959 when  I was at Delta School.  The circus was located at the Great World Amusement Park in Kim Seng Road, Singapore.

The concession tickets for students are booked through the school at $1.00 or $1.50 (matinee shows in the afternoon) for admission to the circus to watch the "live" performances of elephants, lions, tigers, horses ..... these are not domestic animals which people normally keep as pets.  There were 2 shows each day, one in the afternoon and one at night.

The travelling circuses are located at various parts of Singapore where there were vacant land to be rented for about 2 months.  The "Big Top" were set up and the performing animals were kept in cages outside the tents.

The "Great Royal Circus of India" sailed in a ship to Singapore on 7 July, 1968.  All the animals - lions, tigers, chimpanzees, donkeys, bears, dogs and the ligers (cross between a lion and a tiger) were kept in cages.

Various Travelling Circus in Singapore

Kinoshita Circus in 1956

The "Da Tian Qiu Circus" was formed in 1918 and the owner and aecrobat performers from Johor.

One of the circus performers, Sheum Chang Fu, left "Da Tian Qiu" to form the "Sheums Circus" in 1936.

Sheums Circus at Jalan Toa Payoh, Singapore  c 1965

According to "The Singapore Free Press" published on 22 November, 1926,  the ever popular Harmston's Circus in the east as long as some of the pioneer generation Singaporeans could remember.  Those whose recollection goes so far back will remember the debut of Bob Harmston's circus on the swampy triangular site at the bottom of Fort Canning Hill, where Tank Road Station once located.

There were many performing horses, elephants, tigers and other wild animal acts.  One of the features of a varied programmes presented by dare-devil Jenkins, who mounted on a Harley-Davidson motor-cycle jumped thirty-five feet - a skillful and thrilling feat.

Travelling Circus banned in Singapore in 2002

Some circuses were banned to protect animals and humans.

The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has banned travelling circuses with performing wild animals from entering Singapore effective 1 January, 2002.

AVA had monitored the rate of mishaps and abuse from the use of wild animals in circuses in Singapore several years ago.  In some extreme cases, there have been serious injuries and dealth among trainers and audience members.

Singapore, however, has been accident-free over the past years.  The last circus in town was the Moscow Circus, in June 1998.

"Can you imagine if we have a circus here and one of the tiger leaps at the crowd?"

"But before animal lovers cry foul that the move is more in human interest than for the welfare of animals, the ban does target the abuse and mistreatment of animals by circus owners and trainers," said AVA.

The ban or restrict the use of wild animals in circus acts.  It is in the interest of public safety and animal welfare.  The AVA noted that the cages and containers used to transport and hold animals were unsuitable as permanent housing.

Moreover, training methods used by circuses have not been endorsed by any animal welfare organisation.

Since 2002, Singaporeans will have to go to the Singapore Zoological Gardens and Jurong Bird Park, instead of the circuses,  to see wild animals and birds.

The ban does not apply as the performing animals in these places need not travel, and are trained by a reward system.  In addition, these animals are housed in an environment that are designed to be as close to their natural habitat as possible.

We should not enjoy and have fun as an entertainment at the expense of other living creatures.


Feb 15, 2015

Gas-lighted Street Lamps in Olden Times

View of Orchard Road from the junction of Grange Road  c 1905

The antique-designed street lamp in Orchard Road was lighted with gas by City Council workers.

My blogger friend Lao Kokok posted his "Times Of My Life" well-researched [Kampong Bugis or "火城"] blog  here  to learn more.  Thus I add-on a similar blog topic as a supplement to other stuff to share.

Courtesy of Dr Tan Wee Kiat of ReTRIeVIA .

In 1993, a street-lighting ceremony was held at Clarke Quay to revive the memories of pioneer generation Singaporeans who remember that lamps in the public streets were lighted with gas by the City Council workers when night falls.

The brightly lit and decorated streets of Orchard Road are nowadays electronically and automatically switched on with timers during the Christmas lighting up and other festival events.

Thanks to the resources from newspaperSG of the National Library Board's online eResource.  Archived photos on this blog for credit to the National Archives of Singapore.

Another Municipal Activity.


(Source:  The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 26 October 1926.

It is now over 40 years since gas was first introduced to the public of Singapore and anybody who seeks a little knowledge of things connected with the local gas service cannot fail to be struck, not only by the tremendous advance that has been made since gas was first used here but also by the work that is done at the Municipal plant at Kallang, where millions of cubic feet of gas are now manufactured in a year.

In its early stage of introduction here its use was almost entirely restricted to lighting.  Our roads were brightened up and the residents welcomed the many advantages that gas lighting and, later, cooking, offered them.  Since those days there has been a gradual expansion in the use of gas particularly with regard to industrial purposes and use in the home for cooking and water heating.  The annual production of gas is now 300,000,000 cubic feet against 165,000,000 cubic feet per annum ten years ago.

Everyone knows that gas is manufactured from coal, coke and oil, and at the Works at Kallang all the processes can be seen in operation.  In order to take round a visitor and explain the different stages of gas production, a whole morning would be required, but the visit would prove very interesting.  One gazes in fascination at the huge retorts and the blazing furnaces below and passes from the sweltering heat of these compartments to spotlessly clean rooms where the pressure governing apparatus and the controlling meter are installed.

Location of the former Kallang Gas Works in olden times Singapore.

The Kallang Gas Works  c 1910

Visitors to the former Kallang Gas Works

Minister for Law E W Barker (right) visited Kallang Gas Works on 11 November, 1964

Each process requires careful control as it is now the practice to send out a strictly uniform quality of gas to meet the requirements and adjustments of the apparatus in use in the town.

Surrounding the retorts and furnaces are huge stacks of coal.  Usually about 6,000 tons of coal is kept in stock as reserve.  It is Australian coal and is brought up the Kallang river to the rear of the works in the coal thus stored from becoming over-heated, so the temperature is checked weekly and when it is found that the coal is becoming too hot it is dug out and carbonised.

The coal is mechanically conveyed to the retorts by an endless chain of buckets and deposited into overhead hoppers leading into the retorts which ate externally heated to a temperature of 1250 deg. C.

The By-products

Here the gas and volatile products of carbonisation are driven out of the coal, collected and purified.  The gas being freed from tar, sulphuer and ammonia, is finally pumped into the gas holders for distribution into the mains.  The holders at Kallang and the large one at Kreta Ayer, by reasons of their respective situations, ensure that there is no weakness of distribution to any part of the town.

About 20 per cent of the gas manufactured is made from coke and oil.  In this process coke in a large generator is raised to a white heat by means of turbo-blowers and then steam is blown through the incandescent mass, thus producing a high grade cas, by heating value of which can be varied by the introduction of volatilised oil.  The process is mechanically controlled so that when the coke becomes cooler by the introduction of steam, the steam is cut off and the coke again blown to a high heat.  Some 300,000 cubic feet of gas is manufactured here daily.

Storing the Gas

The storage of the prepared gas presents difficulties which are not generally appreciated.  The gas is pumped into the gas holders which are telescopic and sealed in large tanks under water, the pressure of gas to the town being produced by the actual weight of the holder floating in the tank.  At the outlet of each holder an automatic governor is in operation whereby a constant pressure is maintained.

A queer little machine looking quite out of place next to the big pumping engines, separates the clinkers from the coke which comes out from the furnaces in an unburnt form, and saves about 40 tons of coke a month.

During the process of carbonisation of coal very little of the energy of the coal is lost and it is this efficiency and also the production of valuable bye-products which enables gas, particularly as a source of heating, to be most economical.

The coke from the gas retorts is of a soft free-burning type and is particularly in demand for forge and glass furnace work.  The tar produced is distilled and a good dehydrated tar for road purposes and painting is produced while an excellent wood preservative is also prepared during the distillation

Gas-cooking Popular

There is no longer any doubt that the public of Singapore have learnt to appreciate the economy and other advantages of gas cooking.  This is proved by the demand for gas-cookers on hire during the last year.  Particular attention has been paid to the cleansing of cookers before they are dissembled as the works where there is a special department to deal with them.  The parts are immersed in a bath of boiling caustic soda so that they are rendered entirely free from any possible infection.  Apart from the allurement of a hygenic and clean kitchen and the spick and span appearance given by gas fixtures and fittings, the comfort of a hot bath has resulted in a demand for geysers quite unknown here some two or three years ago.

It is of interest to know that the gas department is quite a self-contained body having its own workshops which are quite a hive of industry.  Thus, in walking round, one is surprised amongst other things to come upon say the construction of lamp posts, which are being made of reinforced concrete and will probably be capable of baffling those motorists who are constantly trying conclusions with street lamp posts.  Very little of what goes on inside the works can be gleaned from an outside view, and there is nothing prepossessing about the place beyond the two large holders and a 90 foot brick chimney but an inside inspection is very full of interest.