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Paying respects to Teochew pioneer

Small group including descendants of Seah Eu Chin visit his newly found grave
December 2, 2012
By: Rachael Boon
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Paying respects to Teochew pioneer Seah Kee Soon (above), 61, took the chance to take pictures with the grave. -- PHOTO: SAM CHIN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

A group of at least 20 strangers came together yesterday morning in Toa Payoh West to visit the grave of Teochew pioneer Seah Eu Chin, which lies on land known as Grave Hill.

Seah came to Singapore in 1823, from the Yupu village of China's Chaozhou region, and built his fortune from gambier plantations here, which gave him the nickname 'King of Gambier'.

An early member of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, he founded early Teochew clan association Ngee Ann Kongsi in 1845, with other Teochew merchants. Seah died in 1883.

His son, Seah Liang Seah, was a tycoon who also made significant contributions to Singapore. He was a member of the Legislative Council in the 1880s, and Liang Seah Street was named after him.

The group visiting the grave included Seah descendants as well as their family members.

Grandparents, parents and children alike all had to beat their way uphill, through tangled weeds, thorny twigs, overgrown shrubs and mud.

After a 20-minute trek, everyone made it up there, and they were buzzing with excitement upon seeing Seah Eu Chin's tomb.

The largest panel with his Chinese generation name and his two wives' names had been cleaned and cleared of overgrown greenery since The Straits Times' visit on Nov 24.

Some of the Seah descendants took incense, joss sticks, paper offerings and oranges, which they stacked neatly, after which they paid their respects. A minute of silence was also observed.

Tombstone hunters, brothers Raymond and Charles Goh, who have also found the resting places of other pioneers such as Chia Ann Siang in September this year, also talked about their discovery.

Mr Clement Seah, 53, a flying instructor, and his wife Grace, 52, a bookkeeper, flew in last Friday from Perth, where they have been living since 2002, and jumped at the opportunity to visit the grave.

Mr Seah, whose great-great- grandfather is Seah Liang Seah, said: "It brings back memories of our family's history which our parents have been talking about. It's fortunate that we were already making a trip down here.

"We want to get together and see what we can do to make our voices heard about the pioneers of Singapore."

Retiree Laurie Chan, 60, whose grandmother Seah Wah Cheng was Seah Liang Seah's daughter, said with a laugh:

"It's marvellous and I appreciate the work of the two brothers. I wanted to see if I could find my long-lost friends or relatives today, but everyone is a stranger.

"But they've all got that Seah look."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg

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