Family History of Ng Fook Kah 吴福鉴


Darryl Seah
Ng Fook Kah 吴福鉴

Family History of Ng Fook Kah 吴福鉴

1. My Great Grandfather was Ng Loh San曾祖父 吴老三( 1850-1926), village head of the Ng Clan from Guangdong Province, Dongguan County, Wang Nu Dun Town, Fu Yong Village, Lane 2 in China 中国广东省东莞县望牛墩镇扶涌马头村二巷. He was an ardent patron of the arts in the village, in particular, Cantonese Opera. Often, a red boat 红船 ferried the entire Cantonese opera troupe serving as its living quarters, performed at the village festival/religious celebrations under the patronage of great grandfather.

2. Grandfather Ng Jan Kuen 祖父吴振权(1880-1930), son from the six concubine mother was addicted to the opium pipe and was also a compulsive gambler, though a skilled craftsman in carpentry. 

3. It was grandmother Chan Chow Foon 陈就欢 (1882-1959) who decided to leave the village to seek better pasture to Singapore and put up in the Cantonese quarters in Sago Lane, Chinatown. Grandpa followed her to Singapore circa 1898. As a skilled craftsman in carpentry, he found a job in the Singapore Municipality Hall (City Hall, built 1929) and rose to be Kepala (Head) of the Carpentry Section in the Municipality in charge of Indian Sepoys maintenance workers. 


On the death bed of great grandfather, our grandparents in Singapore (1926) received from a village courier, a piece of an ornate front of a roof eaves, a jade-like terrazzo as a heritage souvenir for posterity remembrance of the Ng Clan in China.

4. Granduncle Ng Weng 吴荣叔公(1922-)
At the start of the Japanese Occupation (1942-45) of Singapore, Uncle Ng Weng, second son of Grandpa’s younger brother Ng Chee (1888-1965), secured 2 jobs, 1 for my elder brother Fook Seng (1930-) as a machinist apprentice, and I for me as a blacksmith apprentice, at the Japanese factory (刚等10356部队)sited at the corner of Havelock Rd (now King’s Centre) in order to avoid sudden conscription as a “ heiho” Japanese Army Auxiliary, assigned to the Siam Dearth Railway Construction.

Granduncle Ng inducted me to my first ever job in my life as a blacksmith apprentice, pulling the bellows in front of the furnace day in day out during the Japanese Occupation.

5. Paternal Grandma Chan Chow Foon陈就欢祖母嘛嘛(1882-1959)was the backbone of the family. From tenant, she became Tenant-in-Chief of 41-A Sago Lane, the Kwong Yee Tong 广义堂,The Magnanimous Righteous Lodge, 4 doors from Hock Siew Death House福寿大难馆for newly arrived sinkehs from China. The property owner was Dr Chan Su LAN, the Methodist philanthropist. Grandma was a “sew-sew” woman, skilled in 手红handicrafts, sewing, mending with threads and needles. She plied her mending skills at the boats anchored at the docks and outer waters of Singapore. When the British surrendered to the Japanese Forces in Singapore on 15 Fen 1942 at 7.50 pm, it was also Chinese New Year Day (壬午年)。 I remembered Grandma cooked a pot of rice on naked fire in the communal kitchen at the back of the house with only soya source and a drip of oil over the cooked rice, no chicken, no pork, no fish no nothing for the Chinese New Year Observance on 15 Feb 1942.

On my first day to a Chinese (Cantonese) School Lodge冠英学堂in Banda Street, adjacent to Sago Lane, China town (1937), Grandma piggy-backed me on her back, beckoned me to close my eyes passing through the row of death houses in Sago Lane, Hock Siew/Kok Mun福寿敦文大难馆。Grandma carried with her a papier mache red file for me with a strand of spring onion葱signifying wisdom and a stalk of parsnip芹菜for diligence to be moulded as a scholar in the pursuit of knowledge, a legacy from the village in her strife.

Grandma died in 1959 while I was abroad on overseas scholarship in New Zealand. 

6. Dad Ng Yuen Cheong父亲吴润祥(1909-1957)
Dad was the only boy in Sago Lane who attended the ACS Continuation School, through constant advice from the white collar workers in the Municipality to grandpa that the only way to make a decent living, from the bottom of the totem pole was to study the English Language. Dad was already steeped in Cantonese Opera and deep-seated love for Cantonese opera songs and playing the Chinese musical instruments.

But dad never reached Standard VIII to the Junior Cambridge Class. He got married to Chan Yuet Keng (1912-1948) in 1928. Mama married in the traditional Chinese way. She was carried in a sedan chair and dad in a rental glassy horse carriage, thronged by blaring wedding music on sona (Chinese trumpets, cymbals/gongs all the way from Mom’s Macpherson farm to Sago Lane.

Grandpa threw a roadside (jalan-lima kaki) chicken curry on banana leaf feast to his fellow Indian carpenter workers with unlimited round of toddy (fermented coconut drink) all round. It was gotong-royong ahead of his time for the grand wedding feast.

Grandparents bought dad an 8-seater bus with steps from the rear. Dad plied along the street as a mosquito bus, the OMO driver/conductor/owner for most of the time. The Singapore Traction Company (STC) in 1929 stepped in abruptly and monopolised all city routes only for STC buses and trams. Grandparents resorted to stripping the bus into parts, nuts by nuts, bolts by bolts as waste metals sold by the roadside as karung-guni wares.

Father became a mata-gelab (plain-clothed detective) before the outbreak of the Pacific War in the Cantonese Squad in Chinatown. Dad survived the Purification Purge肃清检证(1942)from the Japanese Kempeti as a charcoal coolie with a limping gait from the throes of death interrogation line.

Dad was active as a grassroots leader after Liberation under Dr Mak Pak Shee, Labour Front Member in Geylang in the first Legislative Assembly in 1955 under Chief Minister David Marshall.

Dad founded the Kwok Sing Musical Association国升音乐剧社as its Founding President in 1939.

He was best remembered as Tun On Wai Kun Clan Association东安会馆as Leader/ Advisor to the First Cultural Exchange of Cantonese Operatic Troupe to Malay in 1956. 
Dad died in 1957 while I was a Colombo Plan Scholar at Otago University in South Island, New Zealand (1957-1960) under the Lim Yew Hock Government.

7. Mother Chan Yuet Keng 母亲陈月敬(1912-1948)
As a young lassie, mother toiled at her family vegetable farm at Genting Lane, 3rd Milestone, MacPherson Road. She sold the produce daily at the corner of MacPherson/Upper Serangoon Roads.

Pa and Ma were childhood sweet hearts through sworn sister-hood ties between my paternal and maternal grandmas. In fact, paternal grandma financed the vegetable farm for maternal grandma on Crown Land Lease. When dad was posted to Paya Lebar Police Station as mata gelab, mom decided to stay in the Police Quarters. She could not speak a word of Bahasa Malayu. She was keen to learn the Chinese Language in Cantonese. I was her tutor after Liberation. I taught her recognition of elementary Chinese words orally in Cantonese to assist her reading the religious prayer books at home.

Mom was most happy when in1947 I topped the 预科Chinese Examination at the Singapore Mandarin Evening School at Prinsep Street.

Ma died at a young age of 36 in 1948 without proper care after childbirth when she gave birth to 4th brother Fook Kay (1948-1950)

8. Auntie Ng Lai Eng姑姑吴丽英(1925-2008)
Uncle Lim Chin Teck姑丈林振德 (1911-1963)
Our family is indebted to uncle Lim Chin Teck and Aunt Ng Lai Eng in providing ma at her death-bed, a pricy beautiful log-coffin at $400. It was also an outward appreciation to mom during the 70 day Japanese Invasion of Malaya and Capitulation of the Colony of Singapore (1941-42) where she gave yeoman service in domestic household services freely to Uncle/Aunt’s out-skirt countryside home to avoid Japanese air-raids/strife.

9. Elder brother Ng Fook Seng长兄吴福成(1930- )
Brother Seng is close to me from young. We both worked as Japanese machinists in a Japanese factory during the Japanese Occupation. Both of us studied the Chinese classics together in Cantonese. We were tutored at a neighbourhood home by an elderly scholar from the last Qing Dynasty. We both studied the Chinese calligraphy together, He is always our leader.  

Both of us on Liberation in1945 gained admission to Raffles Institution, Bro Seng’s cohort (1946-1949), mine (1947-1950). Influenced by his exemplary duties and qualities as Sergeant of RI Cadet Corps, Bro Seng, on completion of his Cambridge School Certificate, joined the Singapore Government Service until he retired.

Bro Seng and Sis-in-law Evelyn Cheng Sui Sin (1931- ) celebrated their 60th Diamond Wedding Anniversary Thanksgiving Service in 2014 at Foochew Methodist Church in Race Course Road, Singapore.

God blessed them with a great grandson in 2014.

10.	Myself Ng Fook Kah 二弟吴福鑑字汉民 (1932- )
I was born in Sago Lane at the height of the Great Depression. Faced with great odds, nurtured by the family with care and love, especially from grandma Chan Chow Foon陈就欢祖母,who inherited qualities and manners of propriety from the old village home in China, that we are to be diligent and proficient in manners and studies at all times, in order to shine for our fore-fathers, despite our ups and downs in our endeavours along the way in life.

Events in my journey in life now as octogenarian with HOPE and LOVE
i. Grandma piggybacked me with Love on my first day at a China School Lodge (1936/7),
ii. First in position in Primary 1D (1939),  Primary 2D (1940) and Standard 1 (1941), Pearl’s Hill Primary School, Singapore,
iii. Japanese Occupation (1942-45), my first job as a blacksmith apprentice/machinist in a Japanese factory,
iv. Tutored my mother reading religious prayer texts (1945)
v. Tutored in the Chinese classics by elderly scholar in neighbourhood home (1942-45)
vi. First in position预科(Chinese) Singapore Mandarin Evening School, Prinsep Street (1947).
vii. Passed 本科 (Chinese) 1948. Both certificates under the seal of the Chinese Consul- General, the Honourable adjudicated Dr Wu Pak Shing bin Singapore,
viii. Raffles Institution Cohort 1947-1950, RICC (1947-1950)
ix. Passed the Certificate Pt I & II Examinations in 1950 on military field crafts as Sergeant RICC at Beach Road Service HQs, Certificate signed by a Lt General GOC Far East Force Col Chapman “ The Jungle Is Neutral” book made reference he acquired same Cert. in his college days, before Force 136.
x. Raffles Institution Bursary holder (1950)
xi. Commissioned as Cadet Under Officer 9 1950) from Governor Sir Franklin C Jimson, Singapore,
xii. Obtained Cambridge School Certificate Division One (1950)
xiii. Granted exemption Certificate from London Matriculation for higher studies (1952),
xiv. Enrolled as External Candidate for BA (Hons) Chinese University of London Examination (1952),
xv. Teachers’ Training College Normal Class Certificate (1954),
xvi. On RI Teaching Staff Non-Graduate Status (1955 -1957), , ECA main duty as Adjutant/2i/c Raffles Institution Cadet Corps 
xvii.	Took the oath as Singapore Volunteer Soldier regimented into the Singapore Volunteer Corps (1955)
xviii.	Officer cadet O/C Cohort SMF by Governor Sir Robert Brown Black KCMG (1956),
xix. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant , SMF (1955 -56) by direct entry ( Vice Adjutant RICC (1955)
xx. Posted as Artillery Officer ISRA (V) Singapore Military Force
xxi. Convocate in Absentia with Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from University of New Zealand ( Otago University thereafter) (1960),
xxii. Recommissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, SMF by Yang di-Pertuan Negara, State of Singapore His Excellency Enche Yusof bin Ishak (1961),
xxiii.	Appointed Examinations Office Assistant Examinations Officer/Research  (AEO/R) , Ministry of Education in charge of Primary Schools Leaving Examination ( PSLE) (1962 -64)
xxiv.	Elected Honorary Secretary, Singapore Association For Retarded Children, forerunner of MINDS (1962 -1990),
xxv.	Awarded Certificate of Appreciation by Minister for Social Affairs (1978)
xxvi.	Mobilised in 1963 Konfrontasi as Lieutenant /SRA(V) SMF i/c of Labrador Straits Area, Singapore,
xxvii. Awarded Fulbright Visiting Scholarship to USA (1964 -65) at Princeton University, IOWA Testing Service at DeMones Iowa, University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona on Tests Measurement,
xxviii. Appointed Exams Office Assistant Exams Officer/A i/c of External Examinations, MOE (1965 -70)
xxix.	Appointed Chief Examinations Officer, MOE (1971 -75),
Amalgamated 4 certificates into 1
Launched the Singapore-Cambridge GCE “O” Level Exam Certificate (1970) under Minister of Education Dr Lee Chiaw Meng,
xxx. Grassroots leader at Ulu Pandan Constituency under MP Dr Chiang Hai Ding, DR Dixie Tan and Mr Lim Boon Heng (1978 -90),
xxxi.	Awarded PPA Medals ( Bronze) and ( Silver) therein,
xxxii. Awarded Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organisation ( SEAMEO) INNOTECH Scholarship to University of Philippines (1978),
xxxiii. Attended 33rd Session UNESCO Conference, Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of Minister for Education Mr Lim Kin San,
xxxiv. Attended West African Examinations Council 21st Anniversary as Chief Exams Officer, Singapore organised by London Commonwealth Secretariat at ACCRA, Ghana, West Africa.
xxxv. Appointed Chairman and co-opted as Council Member on Singapore Education Administrators Society (SEAS) by Minister of State of Education, Mr Chai Chong Yii on First MOE’s 21 day  Official Visit to China with 44 Senior Educators (1976),
xxxvi. Appointed Registrar (SEAMEO) Regional English Language Centre (RELC) (1983 -89),
xxxvii. Retired from Singapore Education Service (1951-1989),

xxxviii. In recognition of services to Singapore, I was conferred the following :
a. Pingat Pentabiran Awam Perak (PPA(P)- the Public Administration Medal ( Silver) (1975) by His Excellency the President of Singapore Dr Benjamin Sheares,
b. Pingat Bakti Masharakat ( PBM) (1982) – The Public Service  Medal by His Excellency the President of Singapore Mr Devan Nair,
c. Bintang Bakti Masharakat (BBM)- The Public Service Star by His Excellency The President of the Republic of Singapore Mr Wee Kim Wee,
d. Commissioned a Local Preacher, The Methodist Church of Singapore (1985-2012),
e. Appointed Honorary Steward of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, Singapore from 2006,
f. Book “ Reflection怀念written in 2006 as septuagenarian, ISBN 981-05-6962-0,
g. Thank God Celebration SG 50 (2015) as Octogenarian,
h. Pioneer Generation with Love and Commitment to our Republic of Singapore for many more years ahead.

11. Third Brother Ng Fook Khau三弟吴福梂(1935-)
In 1953, Bro Khau was awarded a scholarship to UK to witness the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in the capacity as a midshipman of the Singapore Sea Cadet Corps in Gan Eng Seng School. On completion of his Cambridge School Certificate in 1954, he was admitted as Probationary Inspector of Police in the 1956 Squad, Police Training School, Singapore. He gave dad the best last rite of respect in 1957 while I was away on overseas studies in New Zealand. (1957-60).

12. Fourth Brother Ng Fook Kay 四弟吴福褀 (1948-50)
Bro Kay died at a very young age of 3 without due proper maternal care, since mom passed away in 1948 after childbirth. The death took place at the Singapore General Hospital in the midst of my Senior Cambridge School Certificate Examinations.

13. My eldest daughter Rebecca Ng Pek Yum 长女吴碧音(1963-)
Rebecca follows the family traditions and joins the Singapore Teaching Service as a graduate from Singapore University. From teacher at Anglo Chinese Junior College (ACJC) to Principal Naval Base Secondary School, Rebecca pioneers School of the Arts (SOTA) set up by Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) for 7 years before assuming presently as Principal, Singapore Teachers Academy for the Arts (STAR) in MOE. She continues the family tradition in the promotion and love for the arts and culture.