(Extracted from April-June 2001 Issue of the Peranakan newsletter)
GAN ENG SENG SECONDARY SCHOOL
Gan Eng Seng Secondary School was founded and totally financed by Mr Gan Eng Seng in 1886 in Telok Ayer Street. It was originally called the Anglo-Chinese Free School. In 1951 it moved to Anson Road and remained there until 1989 when it shifted to its present premises at Raeburn Park, off Cantonment Road. Gan Eng Seng was born in Malacca in 1844, of poor family, and started life with a limited education. He came to Singapore at the age of 17 years when he joined Guthrie & Co. as an apprentice storekeeper. He rose from the ranks to become, at the time of his death in 1899, the chief compradore. One of the 15 business enterprises he was involved in was as labour contractor to the Tanjong Pagar Dock Co. Ltd. from which venture a considerable part of his fortune was derived. He was also a member of the Chinese Advisory Board and lived at 87 Amoy Street. His laudable object in establishing his school was to provide free education to the children of poor parents in the locality.
Gradually the demand for admission was so great that he constructed a new school building in Telok Ayer Street at a cost of $5,000, which was officially opened by the Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smith in 1893. Gan Eng Seng was a major landed proprietor and was well-known for his generous gifts to charity. He also established a school for the poor children of Sam-toh in Fukien Province, where his ancestors came from.
KIM KEAT ROAD
Kim Keat Road, which begins at Balestier Road, crosses over the Sungei Whampoa before joining up to merge with Jalan Bahagia. Choa Kim Keat was the only son of Choa Kai Hoon of Malacca. He came to Singapore in 1886 and started out as a tin salesman with the Straits Trading Co. Ltd. with whom he worked until his death in 1907 at the age of 48 years. In all his dealings, Choa Kim Keat was tactful and upright and was held in high esteem by successive managing directors of the Company as well as by the European heads of firms he did business with. It was his pride and pleasure to display the many testimonials he received from them.
Choa Kim Keat was an avid horticulturist who often held garden parties at his country house in Balestier Road to which he invited the leading lights of Singapore society. In August 1905 he threw a magnificent party at “Fairyland,” his seaside residence at the 5 1/2 milestone Pasir Panjang Road, where the grounds had literally been transformed into a fairyland decorated with fronds of coconut palms and rockeries of corals, shells and a burst of floral colours. The centre of attraction was the Fairy Cave or Grotto erected halfway between the gateway and the seashore and which was surrounded by miniature fishponds, besides which four girls from Foochow serenaded the guests with songs. Not far away, near the sea a band, playing western music, was in attendance. Choa Kim Keat is the grandfather of one of our members Eric Choa, a prominent lawyer, whose father Choa Joon Hean was with the Overseas Assurance Corporation.
SENG POH ROAD
Seng Poh Road, off Tiong Bahru Road, is parallel to Tiong Poh Road, to which it is connected by Eng Hoon Street, Seng Poh Lane and Eng Watt Street. It is in an area where the original Singapore Improvement Trust (the predecesor of the Housing & Development Board) low rise flats still stand and where, in those days, cabaret girls used to live. Tan Seng Poh, born in 1830 in Perak, was the son of Tan Ah Hun a rich Kapitan China of Perak. At the age of nine he came to Singapore to accompany his sister, who had married Seah Eu Chin. He was the head of the Opium and Spirit Farm which consisted of a syndicate of two other Chinese merchants – Cheang Hong Lim and Tan Yeok Nee. In 1870 he became the first Chinese to serve on the Municipal Commission of which he was a member for six years. He was also a Justice of the Peace and the part-owner of the Gunpowder Magazine at Tanah Merah Kechil. He was a leading citizen of Singapore, one of whose house parties was described as a gathering where “Irishmen, Europeans, Malays and Chinese have probably never been brought together into such close contact.” In 1877 he was on the Committee which raised funds for the relief of famine victims in Shantung, North China. When he died on 13 December 1879 a glowing tribute was paid to him by the Daily Times – “He gave the benefit of his ability and local knowledge to the public as a Municipal Commissioner… He was much respected among his countrymen and Europeans, and in any charitable cause his name was ever on the list of subscribers.”