Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Quah side of my family

I'm now staying at the Cititel hotel in MidValley, Kuala Lumpur, for a few days on special invitation from the organisers of this year's Malaysian Chess Festival. And all because I've been writing special articles for the festival since the inception of the Arthur Tan memorial Malaysian open championship 10 years ago. There are still people who value my inputs.

Anyway, I was awakened this morning at an almost unearthly hour for one who is supposedly on holiday and it was a surprise call from one of my relatives, Sian Bok. I haven't seen her for about three or four years although I did talk to her some few weeks back. The last time we met was during one of those Tang Chik festivals at year-end (Dec 22) when her side of the family came up to the Quah Kongsi at Carnarvon Lane in George Town to visit the memorial tablet of her brother.

Unearthly hour or no unearthly hour, I was nevertheless very pleased to receive her call. Of course, she had wanted some information from me but as I was in Kuala Lumpur and not Penang, I promised her that I would dig out the information she wanted when I get back next week.

In the meantime, I also tried to fish for some information of my own. For a long time, I have wanted to compile a short family tree so that my children would not lose touch with their roots. Since my father had passed away some 18 years or so, I have been unable to fill in the blanks properly. This morning would be an opportunity to complete some of these blanks.

To start with, my great-grandfather was someone notable enough named Quah Chor Suan. I say notable enough because when he died in 1935, he received a small mention in The Straits Times of the day and we know that in those days, The Straits Times hardly covered any information on Chinese activities in Malaya.

So I have no idea of when or where he was born but he died in a house he owned in Burmah Road. There's also no information to show which house was this. This aunt of mine could throw no light. But according to her, he was the first generation of our particular Quah lineage in Malaya. And according to her too, his wife's name was Khoo Gaik Nie.

Now this has caused me some distress because earlier this year or late last year when I was discussing something with my late aunt when she was still alive, she mentioned to me that my great-grandmother's name was Tan Gin Geok.

So which was which? Tan Gin Geok or Khoo Gaik Nie? Unless either Sian Bok or Liew See were wrong, it did seem possible that Chor Suan could have had two wives. In those days, many Chinese immigrants did have two or more families. Could my great-grandfather have had two?? It's impossible to confirm this.

All I know is that he left behind two sons. My grandfather, Teik Beng, was born in 1896 and his younger brother, Teik Lim, was born in 1907. Teik Beng was married to Lim Poh Choo, and their children were my father, Ah Huat, and my aunt, Liew See.

Teik Lim was wedded to Khoo Chye Suat and they had four children in Sian Kheng, Sian Bok, Kong Chai and another son who was given away at birth to another family. Quite a common occurrence in those days; people willingly giving up their sons or daughters for adoption elsewhere. Although he was given the name Ong Tiang Siew, he remained very close to his blood parents. When we moved to Seberang Jaya, Tiang Siew - a generously hearted and hefty man - was at hand to help us heave the heavy furniture up and down flights of stairs. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack several years later. Kong Chai himself died about three or four years ago.

Regarding Chor Suan's ties with the Quah Kongsi, I learnt from this aunt that my great-grandfather was one of the main movers that set up this society. He could have also been the Kongsi's first president. I've seen some of the Kongsi property's title deeds and his name had appeared on some of them in his capacity as a trustee. But my aunt suspected that those few buildings could have belonged to him at one time or another before he donated them away. Is there any way that the old records can still be checked at the Penang Land Office? I would be interested to know.

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