Recently I was going through some photographs in my late Mother’s belongings and came across two large photographs from my grandfather of the newly built causeway in 1924. These have now been donated to National Archives of Singapore.
Causeway from South
My father, Frank Ivor Williams, was born in Swansea, but spent his early years with his parents in Singapore. His younger brother, my Uncle Idris, was born in Singapore. Both boys were sent home to the UK at the age of seven or eight, only seeing their parents on their occasional ‘home leave’. Here is a photograph of my father at an early age with his Amah which is dated 3rd March 1911.
Photo of my grandparents
I know very little about my grandparents’ life in Singapore. My grandfather died in 1948 and although my grandmother lived until the early 1960s she did not talk about her past. I think life in Singapore must have been very luxurious in comparison to their later days. They lived in Cliff House (where my uncle Idris was born), a very large and well appointed house on Bukit Chermin Road between the Keppel golf links and Chermin Way. The house is still there and is now owned by the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) who rent it out. It is apparently not possible to see the house from the road but it can be seen, situated above an oil jetty, from the north west corner of Sentosa. Here is a recent picture of the house taken from the sea.
View of Cliff House viewed from the sea. Photo courtesy of Peter Chan, 2007.
My cousin Martin visited Singapore in 1993 or 94 and was lucky enough to be shown around the house as it was between tenancies. He particularly noted the large and airy size of the rooms – one way to keep cool before the days of air conditioning. Here is a picture of the front of the house taken on that visit.
Photo of Cliff House car port. Photo courtesy of Martin Williams, 1994.
Later my grandparents moved to a large bungalow in Johor Bahru – close to the construction of the causeway. Here is a photo of my grandmother in front of that house.
After work on the causeway my grandfather worked on a geological survey for the new naval base at Sembawang and then on a hydro-electric dam project in Perak.
My family, my sister, Susan Tessier, my cousin Martin Williams and myself have very few artefacts from my grandparent’s life in Singapore. They lived a peripatetic life moving to various engineering projects and were bombed out of their home whilst living in Portsmouth in the 1940s. We have a few water colours of tropical scenes (my grandfather was also a water colourist) and among a few other photographs, this one dated 25th September 1922, of my grandparents and friends swimming at Pulau Ubin.
We also have a mahjong set, some bits of china and a big brass bowl but little else.
I shall be visiting Singapore in mid March 2009 with my husband Brian Mitchell who has also contributed to this blog. He will be looking for memories of his time there as a teenager in the 1960s and I will be looking for those long lasting signs of my grandfather’s time in Singapore – the causeway and Cliff House.
** More pictures of Cliff House here.