Thursday, 25 April 2013
Oh Seng Pin
Initially, I had thought of calling this post as "Oh Cheng Chan, part 3" as it followed naturally from my previous write-up on my great-great-grandfather but as this newspaper's clipping (The Straits Times of 18 July 1898) was a report on Oh Seng Pin himself, I think that I should name this post accordingly.
As can already be gathered from the intro paragraph, Oh Seng Pin was my great-grandfather. Actually, I wouldn't have known his name or that of my great-great-grandfather if not for information sent to me by one of my Oh cousins in the Klang Valley.
The National Library in Singapore filled in a vital blank when I searched through their online archives and managed to extract these short newspaper reports about my two ancestors. But as they were not exactly that prominent pillars of society in those days too, this is unfortunately all that I can uncover about their past in 19th century Penang.
"We have to record the death, yesterday (14th) of On Seng Pin, a son of the late On Cheng Chan, a wealthy Chinese gentleman who, it will be remembered, was attacked by gang-robbers at "Belle Vue" last year, and died on the 14th of July. It is noted as a strange coincidence that his son, after only a day's illness, died on the same date. The news of his death came as a surprise on the Chinese community. The young man, who was 29 years old, only recently obtained letters of administration to his father's estate, and on Friday last received a cheque of upwards of $110,000, being his father's share in the late Singapore Opium and Spirit Farm."
The name of Singapore Opium and Spirit Farm featured very prominently in Penang's history. Many well-to-do people in Penang had investments in this lucrative business. I had heard that the business was owned by Cheah Chen Eok himself (the person who built the 60-foot Queen Victoria memorial clock tower in George Town and who owned, among many other properties on Penang island, the "Belle Vue" mansion in Western Road from which my great-great-grandfather had injured himself seriously) who later divested himself of all his shares in this Singapore Opium and Spirit Farm.
Strange coincidence, according to the news story, but was there more to it that met the eye? Perhaps the newspaper (Pinang Gazette) knew more at that time but they were not saying anything at all. And we, the descendents of Oh Seng Pin, are left not knowing the answer.
"The marriage of Mr Ong Huck Khye, a nephew of Mr Ong Hun Chong, tin and pepper merchant, of Chop Ban Tin Lam, Penang, and Mr Ong Hun Siew, rice merchant of Chop Tin Seang, and a younger brother of Mr Ong Huck See, Penang, and Miss Oh Leang Cheen, the only daughter of the late Mr Oh Seng Pin, and the grand-daughter of the late Mr Oh Cheng Chan, of Chop Cheng Chan and Company, Penang, took place on Monday at Penang."
The above report may not be exactly correct because according to the family tree which my cousin was attempting to draw up, Oh Seng Pin had another daughter named Oh Liang Siok. Before he died, my great-grandfather also had two sons in Oh Joo Siew and Oh Joo Hock. Oh Joo Siew was my grandfather.