Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Friday, October 27, 2006


Relatives include the famous Hwang Nai Siong of Sarawak,
and Leslie Charteris, the creator of “The Saint” novels.

Grandmother Hwang (First wife of Lim Boon Keng)

My grandfather Lim Boon Keng married rather late in life, and only after he had established himself as a leader in the Chinese community in Singapore. His first wife, Hwang Tuan-Kheng, was the daughter of Hwang Nai Siong, a Christian leader of Foochow who organized at least three contingents of emigrants to Sarawak, where his great-grandson still lives. Hwang Nai Siong had two other daughters besides Tuan-Keng; his second daughter married Wu Lien-Teh of Ipoh who was famous for his work on pneumonic plague in Peking. Nai Siong’s third daughter was a celebrated writer in Shanghai who never married.

Grandmother Hwang had four sons, Robert Kho-Seng, Francis Kho-Beng, Walter Kho-Leng and John Kho-Liau, all born in Singapore. She died when Robert was only eight, and I did not know she ever existed until I was grown-up. There is a picture of her in Song Ong Siang’s “One Hundred Years of Chinese in Singapore.” Lim Boon Keng’s friends who had arranged his first marriage quickly arranged a second marriage for him so that his children could be looked after. They must have felt that to ask a new wife to taker care of four children from an earlier marriage was unreasonable, so Robert was sent to Scotland to be educated there. I do not know anything of Robert’s early life, and I imagine he was fostered out to a Scottish friend of Lim Boon Keng.

Grandmother Yin (second wife of Lim Boon Keng)

Grace Pekha Yin was the youngest daughter in the Yin family, also of Foochow, of whom many are still in Singapore. S.C.Yin, the second brother, my Ji Ku-kong, was a western trained doctor who was a partner in Lim Boon Keng’s dispensary, the “Sincere Dispensary” of Chulia Street, and maybe this is why his sister was elected to be the second Mrs. Lim Boon Keng. Dr. S.C.Yin had married an English lady of the name of Charteris who gave him two sons, Leslie (author of The Saint series), and Roy, but the lady Charteris found the local mode of living incompatible with her expectations and left him, taking her two sons with her. Dr. Yin took another wife and their children included at least one doctor who practised in Singapore General Hospital. Another of the Yins was Marguerite Yin-Murphy, a grandniece of Grace Pekha, who was Associate Professor of Microbiology, NUS, and whose husband Patrick Murphy was in the NUS Zoology Department.

The Children of Lim Boon Keng

Grace Pekha tackled the fomiidable task of being Mrs. Lim Boon Keng most capably. She had two children of her own, a daughter Ena Guat-Kheng and a son Peng-Han. Of Boon Keng’s other children, Kho-Leng (my father) was her favourite because he accepted her as his mother, but Francis Kho-Beng remembered his mother and resented the one who took her place and was rebellious. While still in his teens he asked to be sent to America to study engineering. I do not know how the thing was arranged, but Francis had to work his way through school. John Kho-Liau followed Francis’ lead and ent to join him and Francis had to support him too because they did not receive much money from home, if any. This was soon after the end of World War I and Boon Keng had lost all his money, so perhaps he was not to be blamed. In 1921, Boon Keng agreed to be the first Principal of the Amoy Univetsity, recently established by Tan Kah Kee, and times were hard for all, even for Tan Kah Kee, but I was told Tan Kah Kee paid for my father’s education in Edinburgh University, and this was how it came about…



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