Blog To Express

A blogosphere learning experience to express with blog

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jul 10, 2011

One Way Ticket to Singapore River

Boat Quay at Singapore River c 1900. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

Boat Quay at Singapore River bustling with business life, loading and unloading on lorries  c 1920

Boat Quay with tongkang at Singapore River c 1930. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

An aerial view of Boat Quay c 1950. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

A bustling Boat Quay.
Photo Credit: Joanna Goh

Shop houses at Boat Quay c 1980. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

Unloading goods on lorry beside the Singapore River 1980. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS)

Map of Singapore River 1819. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS)

Aerial view of Singapore River c 1900. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

This is a nostalgia blog from my personal perspective and to remember a "one way ticket to Singapore" on a slow boat from China in the 1940s after my father, Seah Tian Yam (佘天炎) arrived at the Singapore River.

This personal blog in memory of my late father who migrated from China where the tumultuous civil uprising in Quemoy and other parts of China under the circumstances. He had to go to Nanyang (Southeast Asia) in Singapore where his friends from the village were looking for a land of "golden horizon of hope and opportunities" for survival, for a place to earn a living and for the future of his wife and children. It was a choice "between the devil and the deep blue sea", so to speak. The worsening condition in his homeland of fear and terror, a "killing field" like Vietnam in recent times.

When I was in Primary 5, I heard the song "Que Sera Sera" . I learnt the lyrics of my favorite song and loves it to this day. When I was alone and sad, this is the song to chant to me like a mantra. I don't feel so bad then. I remember my father's teaching in not so many words. Just like a little boy in my father's loving arms once more. I forgot that I am an old man with emotion and feelings. After a while, it makes me laugh at this foolish old man "que sera sera" ;)

As tear drops fall softly on my face (not often though), I drop them on my face and raise my head again. I told myself, " You are a young man at heart and the spirit of a true-blue Singaporean who grew up in a rugged society..."the world does not owe you a living" the famous words of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1965.

He left his village on a one-way boat ticket without ever returning to China. My father passed away on 21 July, 1977. According to date of birth, the birth certificate was not shown the date and month as not required by most immigrants from China.

As it happened, the Chinese Revolution broke out in Quemoy and many parts of China.

From words of mouth from villagers, Singapore turned out to be a safe haven for all those arriving on the island in Nanyang.

Like all "singkeh" ("new guest" in Hokkien) or new immigrants who arrived in Singapore, my father registered himself with the SEAH clan association. The self-help organisation provided resources for all new arrivals by helping to look for jobs, find accomodation, same friends, neighbors and relatives from the same village and introduce business contacts.

The top photo was taken on 2 December, 1951, the Singapore Seah Clan Association (SSCA), 新加坡佘氏公会, first anniversary 59 years ago. The inset photo is my late father, Seah Tian Yam (佘天炎).

If my father were to be living today, I would like to get so much more information of an immigrant to Singapore and share the memories of Singapore over seven decades.

I am not a celebrity or rich and famous. I just happen to be a passionate blogger who enjoys to blog to express as a hobby of personal heritage stories as an ordinary Singaporean rooted to my homeland for over six decades; stories to tell and invite every Singaporean to share their experiences with "memory-aids" of each individual.

Under the colonial government of the empire of Great Britain as previously known, there was no immigration restriction and such thing as "foreign workers" with work permits for certain types of talent, profession of skills and education.

I had wanted to blog about my late father's choice to immigrate from China under unforeseen circumstance at that time to seek for a refuge to Singapore.

When my blogger friend Jerome Lim posted his blog "The River I Once Knew" here about his journey and experiences of Singapore River, I was inspired about this same place, at different times and a different journey of my father who landed at Boat Quay on the Singapore River many years ago.

The success of Singapore today were mainly from the contributions of immigrants as coolies, Samsui women, "kachang puteh" men, dhoby men, "satay", "nasi lemak", "roti prata" hawkers, jinrikshaw pullers and other menial odd-job workers from China,India, Malaya and the region who struggled through hard times to survive and form their families, send them to schools for a better live and education for a "land of opportunities" and meritocracy in a multi-ethnic group, multi-cultural and multi-religion society which no other countries have experimented elsewhere in the world. It doesn't matter that it was a red dot on the map.

Few immigrants in Singapore in my father's days rarely mention about running away to look for greener pastures. The founding fathers of the country, not only national leaders. Every person who is the father of every family is a founding father of the family and country, as interpreted in my simplistic terms.

My father was a man of few words, but he likes Beijing opera and Chinese poetry which he contributed to Sin Chew Jit Poh and published under a Chinese pen-name. He was strict but not harsh with his words with me, and never used his cane on me. My mother was the disciplinarian and used the "six of the best" in British English terms, a few times when I was very young. This blog topic to be posted in another time.

At his death-bed, my father told my elder sister this:

"天打天晴": "The heaven fights, the heaven resolved".

I never had the chance to get the explanation from my father's last words.

My understanding of my father as a philosophical outlook that whatever happens to a person's life and death, peace and war, all things to be resolved as wars will have end and resolved. My father had gone through the Japanese Occupation sufferings and hardship, leave it to Heaven to take care of human and nation. He never wanted to speak to me about hatred and revenge or about Japanese atrocities during the Japanese Occupation period. He felt that the decision of the Japanese military in power of an earlier era to capture territories, to conquer countries with military for power, not for defence.

Germany and Japan, both countries in World War II, have been transformed into a civilised and peaceful countries and people today. Both countries are talented inventors to benefit the world with science and technology, arts and music, not ideology and ego, to divert their energy and creative mental resources to contribute constructive and positive forces for mankind. "天打天晴" as demonstrated in the two world war experiences.

Adolf Hitler of Germany and Lieutenant General Yamashita of the military forces of the Empire of Japan were the most powerful men in the war and committed numerous atrocities again the common people. They are now dead and buried in the history of the world war.

After the death of these men and their war-mongers, Germany and Japan were transformed into peace-loving peoples in the world.

My father's last words as apparently interpreted without further deliberation.

This blog goes on next to his memories of the Singapore River where he arrived and left this world from Singapore.

With thanks and appreciation to the National Archives of Singapore, without which this blog could not have helped my "memory aids" to share the archived photos with tons all the contributors, as individuals and newspaper agencies, organisations and community libraries all over the world. As the names of these contributors are too many names to list, the photo credit is acknowledge under the National Archives of Singapore. The names of the contributors are named individually to each photo listed on the blogs.

Story-teller at the Singapore River in the evening after a day's hard work c 1960. Source: National Archives Singapore (NAS).

The Singapore River near Pulau Saigon (opposite Chin Swee Road, Singapore)

There are too many photos to post on this blog related to Singapore River.

Images of Old Singapore uploaded on YouTube by RedTaurus here .

For the selective memories of the one way ticket to Singapore River, the photos are are also selected to view the relevant topic on this blog.

With the courtesy of Mr Lim Lian Hai as described the Singapore River in an awesome collection photos .
As you walk along the Singapore River or sit and dine al fresco at many of the cafes dotting the river side, and especially during low tide accompanied by a gentle warm breeze, you may catch a whisk of the salty sea water and transport yourself into the bygone era of the seafarers‘ day, where every step of the river bank was a picture of trading buzz, as merchants and traders unloaded their goods into their warehouses; and in their rest time recounted their adventures over the oceans in faraway lands.
Singapore River the same place today, different times, different journey...come share everyone with our precious memories via each your blogs here.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.

Photo Credit: Lim Lian Hai.



Blogger Unk Dicko said...

This blog post must have taken a lot of time, energy and great effort to do. It's a valuable resource for pics and info about the Sg River scene.
Well done James !

July 13, 2011 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger lim said...

A very interesting blog about the Singapore River. It's a river that truly reflects the transformation that Singapore has gone through, and without the old photos to remind us of the past, we will never get to understand that for Singapore, this is a river of life.

July 13, 2011 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for dropping by the blog and for your encouragement to cheer me up Unk Dicko.

I am inspired by your active ageing spirit to keep up blogging and energetic stamina of sportsmanship.

Congrats on the successful completion of the ASG as the Games Official and Ambassador to make so many Asean participants and representatives of the respective countries. Your ukelele with your songs and music brings friendship everyone everywhere. Cheers!

July 13, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

When I started blogging about the old days, I did not have a single old photo of the Spore River. But over the years, complete strangers like Mike Robbins and others have sent me photos old photos of the Spore River. How nice of these people.

Too bad though, the old photos could not transmit the old smell of the Spore River.

July 14, 2011 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Mr Lim, Singapore River the "life of river" since time immemorial for every generations of Singaporeans to remember. So are the major bridges Anderson Bridge, Cavernagh Bridge, Read Bridge, to connect every parts of Singapore for transport and communication, commerce and business as the importance for entrepot trade in the early days of our country's development.

July 15, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

I share with your sentiments of the heritage of memories of Singapore, Chun See. The old photos is a great "memory aids" but 'smell' of Singapore River is an uniqueness of Singapore that could not be reproduced anywhere or anytime in the past ; )

Thanks to Mike Robbins, Derek Tait and all our Brit friends for their contribution of memories on our blogs with their photos and sharing interesting experience and information during their stay and visit with their families in Singapore in the early days.

July 15, 2011 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Yip said...

Hi James,

From one blogger to another, just ask your opinion about a few issues.

When blogging about your family history, are you bother by the fear of revealing too much of your family?

Are you trouble by what your relatives would think should they read your blog?

These are the dilemmas I faced as I blog about my childhood.

I found much similarities between our family pioneers, those who took the one way ticket to South East Asia, yours to Singapore and mine to Malaysia.


July 16, 2011 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Hi Uncle James!

Great blog u have here. Such a long detailed post :) I'm sure it will help to educate many Singaporeans about Singapore's past from a more personal perspective. Thanks for the link and keep blogging! Looking forward to your next post.

(girl from Dunearn Gardens)

July 17, 2011 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you very much for dropping on this blog to express your nice comments, Melissa.

I appreciate your encouragement to keep me blogging to educate myself and to share with my friends on this blog.

Best Wishes,

July 19, 2011 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Hi Ipohgal,

Personally speaking, family history should not reveal the personal family and relatives publicly indiscriminately.

For oneself and the private lives of others in the family and relatives, we ought to obtain their consent and due respect if their names are mentioned.

"Blog to Express" is not to be abused as a public platform for discussion forum for insult, confrontation or debate.

The first topic in my "Blog to Express" was posted Why Blog? as a personal statement and mission on this personal blog.

Carry on blogging for the mutual benefit of everyone to share our fond nostalgic memories and appropriate topics posted on this blog.

July 20, 2011 at 10:18 PM  

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