Friday, 29 March 2013

Oh Cheng Chan, Part 2

Last October, I managed to trace an old newspaper clipping from 16 July 1897 - that's 116 years ago - that reported the death of a man named Oh Cheng Chan who happened to be my great-great-grandfather. While trying to flee from a robbery at a house in Waterfall Road, he suffered some severe physical injuries.

Only a few days ago, I uncovered another old newspaper clipping from the same year (13 July 1897) which gave a little bit more insight on the robbery.

"On Saturday last, between the hours of 9 and 10 pm, the house of Mr. Cheah Chen Eok called "Villae", on the top of a little hillock in the Waterfall Road was entered by a party of gang robbers, numbering about 15 men and jewellery to the amount of about $8,000 removed. It appears that, although a considerable number of Mr. Cheah Chen Eok's friends were in the house, no resistance was offered, the inmates making themselves scarce. No clue has yet been found as to the robbers."
Cross-referencing this information with the calendar from 1897, I can safely determine that the robbery happened on 10 July 1897 (the Saturday mentioned) and my unfortunate great-great-grandfather passed away on 14 July 1897 (the following Wednesday).

And the only other conclusion that I can garner from the news report is that he and Cheah Chen Eok, the millionaire who built the 60-foot Queen Victoria memorial clock tower at the Esplanade in George Town, knew one another. I surmise that my old ancestor must have been a regular visitor to Cheah's mansion in Waterfall Road, Penang. The mansion must have been splendid but all that remains of it now are the entrance and the steps behind it, which people in Penang now refer to as Moon Gate. Today, this is a popular starting point for people to walk up Penang Hill.

As the house was built on a hillock, the window from which he jumped must have been of a considerable height from the ground. At the height of the robbery, I suppose the window must have appeared as a plausible escape route to him and others. Whether they reckoned with its height from the ground, especially if the ground was uneven and undulating, nobody knows. But what I suspect is that my old ancestor must have landed awkwardly on his feet while trying to break his fall, fractured the bones in his thigh and possibly suffered some other serious internal injuries. Suffering four days before dying, wow, the man must have been in great pain.

In the last few days too, ever since I learnt of this fresh information, I got to know that Cheah Chen Eok's wife was a daughter of another Penang millionaire, the very influential Foo Tye Sin. Obviously, she was a Foo, which is the Hakka version of the Oh surname which my great-great-grandfather possessed.

It bothers me some that I've reached a dead end presently as I've been unable to trace her full name or whether my old ancestor had any blood ties at all with Foo Tye Sin. All the authoritative books or old newspapers that I've read so far bore no further information about any of Foo Tye Sin's daughters.

1 comment:

Jeffery Seow said...

Oh Cheng Chan.

He was a Merchant and General Storekeeper - McLarty, F. M. (1893) Affairs of the Colony, Being a History Concerning the Straits Settlements and the British ... Page 35.

He was the proprietor of Nebong Boodoogoo Estate, Krian, Sugar Cane (Oh Ah Koon, Manager; F. Pulsford, J.P., superintending engineer) - The Directory and Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Netherlands India, Borneo, the Philippines, and Etc 1892 page 372, 1894 page 383 and 1902 page 616.

Hope that helps.