Saturday, February 25, 2012

“Good Morning Yesterday” brings back memories of Singapore for Mike Robbins

Hello Chun See,

Your book brought back many memories of our initial arrival in Singapore in 1966.

We arrived at Paya Lebar airport at around midnight having spent over 26 hours en route from UK - 10 hours to Abadan, 1 hour on the ground, 8 hours to Colombo, 1 hour on the ground and six hours into Singapore. Apart from the heat, we arrived at the height of the durian season, and that smell together with the smell of rubber emanating from the many lorries making their way to the docks with their loads will stay with me for the rest of my life! On arrival we were taken to our hotel - Chequers Hotel - mentioned in your book.

Other items mentioned that brought back memories were:

Thomson Road and the Singapore Grand Prix

Having moved from the Chequers Hotel into Cairnhill Court just off Orchard Road in August 1966, I travelled to the naval base daily using the Thomson Road. I remember the standard of driving was pretty poor. Along the main straight of the Thomson Road, which formed part of the circuit, was the best piece of tarmac road on the island! You may not remember the pick up taxis that used the road. They were very cheap and you just waved them down to stop and pick you up. You could often find yourself sharing space with live chickens in baskets! These taxis often overtook each other. if one was on the wrong side of the road it was essential to accelerate towards it to make it give way!


This was a Hindu festival I think, and have attached some photos of the Kavadi carriers. You may not have been aware of this Hindu celebration. Does it still happen now?

Naval Base

My first job in the Naval Base in the Naval Store Department was managing transport for the navy including transporting the naval service children to school. We used Tay Koh Yat buses from time to time. I was interested to read that your father also worked in the naval base as a Senior Grade clerk. Was he in the CC department? I have fond memories of my association with a Senior Grade clerk in the Naval Store department - Ong Boon Poh. He would be in his eighties now if he is still alive. He invited us to his home for Chinese New year celebrations.

Novena Church

I was also interested in your account of your conversion to Christianity and of your mention of the Novena Church in Thomson Road. We regularly attended that church and visited it on our return three years ago. Don't have many photos of it but have attached a shot of the outside decorations at Christmas plus a not very clear one of the icon in the Church. The story we were told was that the icon of Mary was saved before the Japanese occupation and protected by the local Muslim community and returned after the war. Don't know how true this account was.

You also mentioned the weekday markets - we called them the amah's markets. We still have brandy glasses we bought very cheaply from this source!

One other piece of history you may be interested in was the fact that by 1939, the strategic importance of Singapore to the Far East Fleet was immense. The island at that stage had three very large fuel depots - Senoko in the north as part of the naval base and connected by pipeline to all the berths in the Naval Base, Normanton in the south (quite near the site of the British Military Hospital I think) which was accessed from the main Singapore port, and there was an important header tank on Mount Faber. The third site, I think in the east of the island had disappeared by the time I arrived. In 1939 all three sites were inter linked by pipelines. As the Japanese invasion advanced many of the Senoko tanks were deliberately destroyed, but as the advance gained pace, the pumps only at the Normanton site were destroyed. The Japanese reinstalled pumps from somewhere, and in the period 1966-1969, these pumps at Normanton which were built in Glasgow Scotland in 1915 were housed in a new pumphouse which even in 1966 still bore the rising sun emblem on it although it was whitewashed in the same colour as the rest of the building!

Hope you find these snippets interesting. If ever you come to the UK to visit your friend in Scotland, an area we visit regularly as we have family there, please let us know.

Best wishes and again many thanks for your book.



Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
Thanks for sharing your memory of old Singapore. Reading your snippets brought to my mind memories of a Scottish family I once knew, by the name of McGuinness. I am not sure if he was working for the Navy or Airforce. Jimmy McGuinness and his wife,(I think her name was Rae) had 3 kids, Sharon, David and Mark and they lived at Thomson Ridge in Singapore around 1966-70 or thereabout. I met them when they opened up their home for Christian worship, fellowship and prayers. On a few occasions, I did some babysitting for them. If you know them and have their contacts, I would appreciate very much if you can assist me in contacting them. Thank you.

jade said...

Opps, sorry Mike, the above comment was from me, Jade

Tom said...

Hi, Jade...
The name Mcguinness is a common in the Glasgow area in the west of Scoland if you are stil trying to contact them why not try here and they might help you , the Address is . Rna Glasgow Branch Caledonia institute 935-937 Dumbarton Whiteinch Glasgow G14 9UF . And the Branch Secretary name is , Brian Mackenzie Telephone is 01360 62276. This is another place that may help you , Address is RNA.Edinburgh Branch Royal British Legion Central Branch 33 Rodney street Edinburgh Midlothian EH17 4 EL Scotland UK. the secretary is Bob Cumming Telephone No is 0131 669 2294 .I hope you Find them Good luck.

Jade said...

Thank you, Mike for the detailed info for finding the Mcguinnesses. Appreciate your help.
Speaking of Thaipusam, it is still a yearly affair for the Hindus here in Singapore. Years ago, it used to be a public holiday but that is not the case anymore although the Indian/Hindu population has increased significantly in recent years because of a more relaxed govt policy allowing foreigners to become PRs/Sing citizens
This year it was celebrated on 7th February. Roads like Tank rd, Selegie rd, Serangoon rd are closed to vehicles to facilitate the kavadi procession. Personally, I still find it interesting to watch, but my kids (the 'y' generation) are simply not interested. I hope the Indian 'y' continues their tradition indefinitely.

Lam Chun See said...

Jade. You shd be thanking Tom Brown.

Jade said...

Thank you, Tom Brown!!
I thought I was communicating with Mike ......

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