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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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"

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lim Kok Ann and Sister Mimi
1.7 Kho Leng’s family: My sisters, Ah-Lay, Ah-Jin and Mimi
I was not the only child my parents brought to Singapore, for they had two daughters before they left Amoy, named Alice Ee-Lay and Eugenia Ee-Jin. Another daughter was born to them not long after they had settled in Singapore. While the two older daughters were named by Grandma Yin, the youngest was called “Baby”, and later “Mimi”. But things were not going well for my mother.

Violet was the youngest in her family and had been spared house-hold duties. Thus, she did not have proper instruction in household or husband management before she was married. Her upbringing was rather Victorian Christian and although she had four children, I don’t think marital relationships much appealed to her. She did not have any friends either in Amoy or in Singapore and I guess she was lonely, and she tended to nag. The sum of it was that my father was uncomfortable at home and even in our early days in Singapore he was a frequent visitor of Gaw Khek Khiam who lived in a house opposite where we stayed in Newton Road. I came to know this years later when I became acquainted with Khek Khiam’s brother Gaw Kek Chiew. After we moved from Newton Road my father would visit his “Club” to play mahjong.

Sai Soo (Kho Leng’s second wife)
I am not sure how it was arranged but soon after we came to Singapore my father apparently decide to take another wife. Perhaps he felt this was preferable to playing the field as some of his business colleagues did, and perhaps he felt he needed a diversion from what he encountered when he went home. “Sai Soo” was the name of the young lady whom he acquired, together with her maid and her “mama”. She was only fifteen and they were her family. I do not know how my mother came to know of her husband’s affair, but it was not something he could keep from her because when my father was transferred to Penang he established two households for his families and was probably staying more nights in his second house than in his first house.

I was quite unaware of my father’s domestic arrangements until I joined my parents in Penang in 1930. My mother and I and my sisters lived in a house off Burmah Road and I walked to the Anglo-Chinese School in Prangin Road where I was in Standard 3. There was a sundry-grocer’s store at the corner where our lane joined Burmah Road and I was delighted to find a collection of magazines that the shop-keeper’s children had accumulated. These were weekly magazines of adventure stories, featuring Simon Templar, aka the Saint. I believe that I then read the original early novels of Leslie Charteris (son of S.C.Yin, my Ji Ku-Kong), such as “The Four Just Men”, when the Saint had a girl friend named Patricia HoIm.

I had not noticed that my father did not come home some nights, but I became curious when he came home after work one evening on a rickshaw, had some words with my mother, then went off again. I suppose my mother could have accepted the situation and put up with the fact that her husband had taken a second wife, as not a few Chinese men did in those days, but her Christian back­ground and “modern” up-bringing made her feel wronged and she decided to “go home to mother”. I don’t think she was capable of thinking out the consequences and all she wanted was to leave the scene of her humiliation. I don’t think she had any savings and my father was probably not over generous with housekeeping money for her in view of her poor management skills and his own commitments. Ingenuously, my mother sought the help of a senior Lim in the Penang community, probably thinking of him as a clan leader who could make her husband do what she wanted.

Lim Cheng Ean was indeed a pillar of the Penang Chinese community. He was a lawyer who had been appointed to the Penang Legislative Council and had gained some fame because he had the temerity of resigning from the Council in protest against some measure the Colonial Government had introduced. In the 1930s, Penang was a Crown Colony like Singapore and together with Malacca, Dindings and Labuan comprised the Straits Settlements administered directly by the Colonial Secretary from London. His local commander was the Governor whose office was in Singapore. For the day to day running of the colony, the Governor was assisted by an Executive Council comprising the heads of the government departments and advised by a Legislative Council comprising certain officials and leaders of the local community appointed by the Governor to represent the governed. Penang, which was older than Singapore, had its own Legislative Council, and it was considered a great honour to be appointed a member. I don’t know what colonial law Cheng Ean cavilled at, but he created quite a stir when he resigned in protest, a thing that just was not done.

It was perhaps not the best advice that my mother could have got when she went to Cheng Ean’s house to pour out her woes to Mrs. Cheng Ean. This lady was one of the Hoalims, a family of Chinese immigrants in Trinidad, West Indies. She had been educated in England and had a strong character, standing up for women’s rights of which there were not many in those days. and it was natural that Mrs. Cheng Ean gave my mother a sympathetic hearing, and urged her husband to help my mother in every way possible – which led to my ‘kidnapping’.


Post a Comment

<< Home