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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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

Sunday, June 22, 2008

1: 16 Eu Jin.

My Aunt Ena had kept her eye on me though I was no longer living with her. One day, while I was still living in Cairnhill Road, she took me with her to visit a friend who lived at 117 Emerald Hill Road, about three blocks away. Her friend was an English lady Gwendoline, the wife of Seow Siew Jin, both of whom she had known when she was studying in England. The house was a fineco mpound house with a garden and a tennis court, and named Oberon, which I thought not unlike Aurora, having my Greek mythology mixed-up.

Note: Oberon was the king of the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ . His wife, Titania, was the Queen of the fairies after whom Seow Poh Leng named his sea-side house in Siglap. Aurora was th Goddess of the Dawn in Greek mythology, which has no fairies.

Aunt Ena’s purpose in bringing me to visit Gwendoline was to introduce me to Siew Jin’s younger brother, Eu Jin, as she thought I lacked a play- mate, and indeed, apart from the Gaws I knew nobody, not being well acquainted with the Ongs yet, and I was still young in scouting. Eu Jin was a year younger than myself and also a scout so we had quite a lot in common. We practised signalling with flags and with lamps, tying knots, and talked about camping. I was rather surprised that Eu Jin was not allowed to go camping and did not have the freedom that I had to wander about Singapore on my bicycle. Eu Jin, perhaps, rather reflected the condition of my uncle Peng Han as the only son of a second marriage.

Eu Jin’s father was Seow Poh Leng, a prominent member of the community, a Municipal Councillor and Justice of Peace, and a manager of the Ho Hong Bank where my father worked. His first wife was a member of the Tan Tock Seng family whose wealth had been depleted by Tan Boo Liat who once lived in Golden Bell in Pasir Panjang.

Note: the house Golden Bell still exists at Pender Road, and is shown to tourists as the “former Norwegian seamen’s home.”... SK

When the first Mrs. Seow Poh Leng died after having three children, a boy, Siew Jin and two girls, Amy and Betty, Poh Leng married Poh-Li, a cousin of his late wife, who subsequently bore him a son, Eu Jin and a daughter, Rosie. It was a reflection of the role that Grandma Yin had performed and taking care of three teen-age children was a formidable task for Poh-Li that she handled most capably. It was mainly on her character that years later Stella Kon wrote her eminently successful play, Emily of Emerald Hill.

Rosie’s given name was originally Cecilia, Scow Poh Leng, being of an orderly mind thought the initial C was appropriate after Amy and Betty, but the Matriarch, his mother-in-law, thought the name inauspicious as “Si (C)” is the word for death in Amoy dialect. “Apa Si-Si, (”What’s this die-die,“) she protested in Peranakan, “give her a proper English name like Rosie”, and Rosie it was.

At an early age Rosie thought her name rather common and preferred to be addressed by her Chinese name whenever she could persuade anyone to do so. Rosie had been given the name Guat Kwee, meaning Moon Rose, but she did not like the sound of “Kwee” (ghost in Amoynese) and chose for herself a popular variation of Guat: Guat Kheng, meaning Glorious Moon. That this was also Aunt Ena’s name in Chinese she did not know.

She was intrigued by her brother’s new-found friend but the boys paid her scant notice being engrossed in their scouting which even went as far as camping together in Purdy Camp all by themselves. I had acquired a two-man hike tent in Australia during my Jamboree trip and was proud to display my leadership. How we two got to the camp site I do not remember, possibly it was by bicycle. Perhaps it never happened, for I cannot imagine Poh Li allowing her precious to go off on his own with the harum-scarum Lim boy. It is possible that the camping incident 1 remembered was not with Eu Jin but with Lee Seng Ghee who was a member of my Scout patrol when I was the Patrol Leader. I have a picture of Seng Ghee and I outside my tent which I used to bring to camp to the envy of other scouts, who wished they could “rough it” with me on the bare turf in Purdy Camp instead of sleeping on wooden mattresses in the huts.

When Scow Poh Leng learned that I played chess, he invited me to play with him. Not having learned any manners yet, I consistently beat him and even offered to play him blind-fold. We did not play many games.

Note: We have a small photo album full of pictures of the exploits of Eagle Patrol. I regret that it is not possible to post these photos to the blog at present. SK



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