Story of finding Koh Whatt Neo & Koh Saik Lwee at Bukit Brown Cemetery
My foray into the search for the paternal side of my family history started with two key names: Mr. W.H. Day and Mr. Lim Kian Hock. The latter was my grandfather, who passed on when I was still a toddler, and the former was the founder of the rubber trading company where my grandfather was working as the comprador. (See newspaper article) A search on the National Library Online Archives provided some newspaper articles from The Straits Times and Malaya Tribune, which led to discovering my great-grandfather's name. (See newspaper article)
My father, Mr. Lim Kim Siew, had mentioned that his mother was buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery at Kopi Sua, near the old Police Academy, and he had been visiting during Qing Ming. It has been three years since he last made this annual trip due to the pandemic.
Armed with the names of my great-grandfather Mr. Koh SaikLwee and my grandmother Mrs. Koh Whatt Neo, I wrote to the Bukit Brown Tomb Whisperer - Mr. Raymond Goh. Catherine, colleague of Mr Raymond soon replied in an email and sent me some links to the burial registry records of Bukit Brown. I was able to locate the area and plot number of Mr. Koh Saik Lwee, and this information was relayed to Mr. Raymond Goh. After a few weeks, Mr. Raymond Goh, true to his fame, hit the jackpot and found the tomb of my grandfather, and his colleague Xu Meibao found my grandmother's tomb. Pictures of the graves were sent to me, and I was surprised and elated at this discovery. I had previously also sent some images of my grandmother, and that also helped match the photo (see photos) of her on her tombstone tablet.
(LR)Mrs Koh Whatt Neo and Mr Lim Kian Hock outside family home (maybe at No.35 Sit Wah Road)
(LR) Mrs Koh Whatt Neo, her grandmother, Mr Lim Kian Hock, her eldest brother Mr Koh Cheng Wee.
Next, I messaged Mr. Raymond Goh, who kindly agreed to meet me at Bukit Brown the following Saturday. The tomb of Mr. Koh Saik Lwee was covered with thick vines, undergrowth, and a few fallen trees. One of the stone lions had been knocked out by a fallen tree from behind the tomb. (I later found the missing lion statue at the entrance, covered by undergrowth, and we had been stepping on it upon entry.) Raymond remarked that the Art Deco border design of the tombstone tablet was rather unusual.
We next went to search for the tomb of Mrs. Koh Whatt Neo, which was at Kopi Sua, next to the main Bukit Brown Cemetery. This was Xu Meibao's account of how she found my grandmother's tomb: "Four of us actually fanned out around Kopi Sua to look for your grandma's tomb. At some point, I lost sight of the other three guys who were bashing around, and the undergrowth was too thick for me to figure out where they went, so I backtracked to the ISD fence. I was walking along and saw a clearing back to the graves and had a feeling I was going to find your grandma's tomb. I checked out a few more overgrown tombs, then saw numbers at the back of a tombstone that was close to the number you gave Raymond. I then found her tomb a few tombs away. Romantic as it sounds, I got a feeling she was happy someone was thinking of her and looking for her."
Thank you, Raymond, Meibao, and your team, for helping uncover our family history with your insights, intuition, and knowledge of Bukit Brown. We are very grateful for your help.
By Kevin Lim