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Jun 12, 2014

Since When Was Singapore A City?

Singapore City Day's Royal Charter enclosed in a beautiful red and gold case lined with green velvet and framed in glass.

City of Singapore Charter Seal on 29 November 1951

The historic ceremony began when the Governor read a message from the ailing King George VI, which included his "best wishes to the City Council...and to the citizens of Singapore on this notable occasion". This was followed by Sir Franklin's speech on Singapore's historic past, and its aspirations of the future, to which he ended with "I am sure we can all invoke with virile and active confidence in the future, its proud motto, all the prouder today, "Majulah Singapura"' (meaning 'Let Singapore Flourish!')".

Transcription/text of Royal City Day Charter by King George VI of Great Britain

George the Sixth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas, King, Defender of the Faith; to all to whom these Presents shall come, Greetings.

Whereas the inhabitants of the Town of Singapore in Our Colony of Singapore are a body corporate by the name and style of the Municipal Commissioners of Singapore; and Whereas We, for divers good causes and considerations Us thereunto moving, are graciously pleased to raise the said Town to the rank of a City.

Now, therefore, know ye that We of Our especial grace and favour and mere motion do by this, Our Royal Charter will, ordain, constitute, declare and appoint that Our said Town shall on the twenty-second day of September in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fifty-one and forever thereafter be a City, and shall be called and styled THE CITY OF SINGAPORE, instead of the Town of Singapore, and shall thenceforth have all such rank, liberties, privileges and immunities as are incident to a City.

And we do further declare and direct that the Municipal Commissioners of Singapore shall thenceforth be one body corporate by the name and style of THE CITY COUNCIL OF SINGAPORE, with all such powers and privileges as that would have had as the Municipal Commissioners of Singapore and as if they had been incorporated by the name of the City Council of Singapore.

And further know ye that We, trusting in the discretion, fidelity and care of Our trusty and well beloved Sir Franklin Charles Gimson, Knight Commander of Our Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Our Colony of Singapore, do give and grant by the tenor of these Presents unto the said Sir Franklin Charles Gimson full power in Our name to declare and make known Our Pleasure herein.

In Witness whereof We have caused these Our letters to be made Patent Witness Ourself at Westminster, the twenty-forth day of July in the fifteenth year of Our Reign.

By warrant under the King's Sign Manual

Municipal Building at St Andrew's Road, Singapore. Completed in 1929, it was renamed City Hall in 1951 when Singapore was proclaimed a city by the Royal Charter granted by King George VI..

City Day, 22 September 1951, the Town of Singapore was officially made a City of the British Commonwealth, by an official proclamation of a Royal Charter by King George VI. Singapore City Day festivities began with an official parade, in the presence of 50,000 of her citizens at the Padang.

While the Union Jack flag flies over  the Municipal Building and with Singapore's 50,000 future citizens watching, Governor Sir Franklin Ginson handed to T P F McNeice, President of the Municipality, a shallow red box containing the Royal Charter and seal thus declaring the Town of Singapore as a City.  This day, 22 September, 1951 is known as City Day.

Ceremony of the conferment of the honorary Freedom of the City upon Sir  Robert Black, Governor of Singapore on 22 November, 1957.

Photograph taken during City Day celebration, the day when King George VI conferred the status of city upon the municipality of Singapore on 22 September, 1951.

Following the end of the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II, the British returned to power in Singapore. On 1 April 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved and Singapore became a separate Crown colony with a civil administration headed by a Governor. In July 1947, separate Executive and Legislative Councils were established and the first local election for six members of the Legislative Council was held in the 1948 Legislative Council elections.

As Singapore continued to grow, the deficiencies in the Straits Settlements administration became increasingly apparent. Apart from the indifference of British India's administrators to local conditions, there was immense bureaucracy and red tape which made it difficult to pass new laws. Singapore's merchant community began agitating against British Indian rule, in favour of establishing Singapore as a separate colony of Britain. The British government finally agreed to make the Straits Settlements a Crown colony on 1 April 1867, receiving orders directly from the Colonial Office rather than from India.

As a Crown Colony, the Straits Settlements was ruled by a governor, based in Singapore, with the assistance of executive and legislative councils. Although the councils were not elected, more representatives for the local population were gradually included over the years.

The City Day celebrations began with thousands of people arriving early at dawn, participants and citizens of all races, thronged the Padang and adjacent streets to watch the historic ceremony on the Municipal steps. Formalities began with the arrival of official VIPs. First to arrive was Sir Charles Murray-Aynsley, Chief Justice of Singapore, wearing judicial red and ermine; immediately following, the High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya Sir Henry Gurney; next, the Commissioner-General Malcolm MacDonald, both in colonial service whites, with plumed hats. They were accorded a Royal salute from the "guard of honour" of detachments from Singapore's Volunteer Corps, the Malayan Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the Malayan Auxiliary Air Force, and the Police Force with the Police Band performing. That day coincidentally being Children's Day, representatives of the Colony's Youth Movements flanked the steps during the ceremony.

Shortly after, Governor Sir Franklin Charles Gimson arrived with 2 A.D.C.s, wearing red plumed hats. Sir Franklin took the Royal salute upon arrival, and, as he completed his ceremonial inspection of the "guard of honour" accompanied by Major Eric Fam of the Singapore Volunteer Reserve, the whine of tearing jet-aircraft zoomed overhead, followed by fighter bombers in a low flypast, the Royal Air Force salute to Singapore!

On the Grandstand Sir Franklin Gimson sat between Malcom MacDonald and T. P. F. McNiece, Sir Charles Murray-Aynsley and Sir Henry Gurney sat on the side of them. Behind in a semi-circle row were the Municipal Commisioners, and behind them the heads of Municipal departments. In the guests' enclosure sat Service Chiefs and dignitaries. The reserved enclosure had notables of Singapore, officials and executives and their wives, leaders of all the city's communities. Children's Day uniformed youngsters were in the front seats and other places of honour to witness the simple but solemn ceremony.

City Day brought together 300,000 people or more, the largest crowd the city had ever seen, and for an event they will long remember.

Source:  National Archives of Singapore and Singapore Infopedia.

From A Town To A City of Singapore

An exhibition of Singapore City Day on 22 September, 1951.

What is the definition of a town, a city and city-state?

According to Wikipedia:

A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size definition for what constitutes a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world.

A city is generally an urban settlement with a large population.

A city is a relatively large and permanent human settlement.  Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.

Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia.

It is today a vibrant, modern, first world global city which is developing over 50 years.  Singapore is not a place which stood still and remained stagnant.  It is a country building everywhere "under construction in progress" to improve for a better future Singapore.

Sixty years ago when I study the geography of Singapore in school, the teacher showed us the world map.  He wanted us to locate the island of Singapore.  It is a tiny pin point below the map of the then Peninsula Malaya ... too small to be visible on the world map.  Somebody then later called it as "the little red dot on the map"!

In a collection of essays by British economist E. F. Schumacher, his book "Small is Beautiful" was published in 1973, The phrase "Small Is Beautiful" came from a phrase by his teacher Leopold Kohr.  It is often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as "bigger is better".

How Singapore looked like as a town in the 1900s

The archived photos of old Singapore are curated to share on this blog with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore, National Library Board and unnamed contributors on the Internet.  Acknowledgement with thanks.

Singapore City Day celebration on the Padang in 1951



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