Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Penniless Boy Chew Joo Chiat book launch on 29 July 2017 at the Marine Parade Public Library

A Penniless Boy, Chew Joo Chiat book was successfully launched on 29th July 2017 morning at the Marine Parade Public Library. All the seats were fully occupied and overflowed to the cafeteria at the back. Many sat on the barrier boxes while others stood to one side as shown in the picture. I wish to thank all present for their interest and support.

Speech at the book launch

This book started modestly as my chewjoochiat blog. It was intended to put right all inaccurate accounts about my great grandfather, Chew Joo Chiat found in newspapers, books and websites. It was very annoying to read these fictitious accounts of him. I was even more frustrating and embarrassing to then realised that I too knew very little about my great grandfather.

It is by no means a comprehensive account of the man. At the moment I only have glimses of him and his achievement. There is still a lot more to do after this publication.

Joo Chiat is known for its food, Peranakan architecture, local bars and nocturnal activities. I am glad that the latter activity has since calmed down and more creative type businesses have sprung up giving it a more gentrified and bohemian feel.

Very few Singaporeans know about the man whose name is synonymous with the area. The reason is because during Chew Joo Chiat’s life time, he kept a very low profile and he was not prominent in Singapore society. I could not find his name in the book of Singapore Pioneers, One Hundred Years' History of Chinese in Singapore, Early History of Chinese Community and other books.

Chew Joo Chiat was from Xiamen.He came here for his Singapore Dream. Eking a living in the late Qing dynasty was very tough. He landed in Singapore as a penniless young man. But with grit, determination, good foresight and business acumen, he soon became a very successful business man.

My research showed that his business interests were pretty wide ranging – he was a planter, a property  developer , a ship chandlery business, a timber trader, founder of a bank amongst others. He was early pioneer who made significant contribution to the nation in the area of economy, commerce, finance and development.

Joo Chiat died on 5th February 1926 and left behind his name as a legacy in Joo Chiat. To quote a Chinese metaphor:  When a tiger dies, it leaves its skin. When a man dies, he leaves his name.

Refreshment and autographing books

                         Together with ESM Goh Chok Tong at Joo Chiat CC