Seah Eu Chin’s Family

Seah Eu Chin had four sons and three daughters. Of his four sons, Seah Cheo Seah, Seah Liang Seah, Seah Song Seah, and Seah Peck Seah, two of them – Liang Seah and Peck Seah – eventually became famous and powerful personalities in Singapore’s history.

Of his daughters, little is known about most of them.

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Seah Cheo Seah

Relatively little is known about Seah Cheo Seah. What we do know is that Seah Eu Chin’s eldest son Cheo Seah, whom the British made a Justice of the Peace, was “a gentleman well known for his kindness of heart and liberality” according to Sir Song Ong Siang.

Seah Cheo Seah was actively involved in society. For example, he was publicly reported in the newspapers to be a horticulture enthusiast who loved flower shows. He was also a committee member of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital. And according to the Straits Settlements Government Gazette, Seah Cheo Seah was appointed a committee member of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children.

Seah Cheo Seah passed away in 1885, only a mere two years after his own father passed away, leaving four sons, Seah Eng Kiat, Seah Eng Kun, Seah Eng Yeak, and Seah Eng Lok, and several daughters including Seah Hua Poh (who was married to Sim Leang Tong).

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Seah Liang Seah

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Seah Eu Chin’s second son, Seah Liang Seah, was another famous pioneer. He was well-known for his entrepreneurial spirit, wisdom, and kindness. And among Seah Eu Chin’s sons, he was the most famous.

He was born in Singapore in 1850, and studied Chinese with a private tutor under his father’s direct supervision, and learnt English for a short while at St Joseph’s Institution. He married at the age of 17, and after his marriage became an assistant in Eu Chin & Co., his father’s company, and worked for many years as his secretary.

While he was a successful businessman, Seah Liang Seah also took a keen interest in public issues because of his father’s strong influence as an important public figure. On 5 January 1883, he was first appointed by Governor Sir Frederick Weld as a temporary member of the Legislative Council. His appointment was significant because there had been no Chinese member on the Legislative Council since Whampoa’s death in 1880. In November 1883, Seah Liang Seah’s appointment as a permanent member of the Legislative Council received Her Majesty’s sanction.

In 1890, he resigned his seat due to an increase in his private businesses and ill health. For his service on the Legislative Council, he received the thanks of the Secretary of State in 1891, communicated to him through the Governor, Sir Cecil Smith.

In 1894, on the resignation of Tan Jiak Kim, Seah Liang Seah was once again appointed to the Legislative Council, but resigned in 1895 together with the other Singapore unofficial members of the Legislative Council, to “protest against the unsympathetic attitude of the Home Government over the Military contribution”.

However, because of his experience, he continued to be occasionally appointed as a temporary member of the Council to stand in for members who were absent or on leave.

Around this period, Seah Liang Seah was also a member of the Municipal Commission, which oversaw public works in Singapore. He served with distinction until he was succeeded by Choa Giang Thye in 1897.

Seah Liang Seah passed away in 1925.

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Seah Song Seah

Seah Song Seah's Picture (ed)

Painting of Seah Song Seah. Courtesy of Kenneth Seah. 

Seah Song Seah, like the rest of his family, was a wealthy and successful businessman. For example, he grew gambier, pepper, and rubber on his plantation in Muar, Johor. He was chief partner of opium and spirit farms, like his uncle Tan Seng Poh. In the late 19th century, Seah Song Seah was the revenue farmer in Singapore, Malacca, and Johor, along with his other business partners.

The collage below shows Seah Song Seah’s tableware, with his triple “S”. (Collage constructed from photographs taken of Seah Song Seah’s great-grandson Kenneth Seah’s collection. Courtesy of Kenneth Seah.)

Seah Song Seah's items

Seah Song Seah was likely as generous and philanthropic as his father and brothers. For example, in 1906, he and other members of the Straits Chinese community donated to the Japanese famine relief fund.

He was also actively involved in Singapore society. For example, he was an honorary member of the Singapore Volunteer Infantry (SVI). For context, the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps (SVRC) was raised in 1854 to maintain Singapore’s internal security, following the massive Chinese riots. Significantly, Seah Eu Chin, Song Seah’s father, was one of the mediators during the 1854 riots. In 1888, the SVRC became the Singapore Volunteer Artillery (SVA), and its success prompted the formation of other volunteer corps. In 1901, the SVA and other volunteer corps were consolidated into the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC). The SVC had engineering and infantry units, including Chinese companies, and, in 1910, a Malay company.

One little known fact is that 253 River Valley Road, the main building of the premises of the Nanyang Sacred Union dedicated to Confucius, was Seah Song Seah’s former mansion. It was completed in 1896.

According to Chinese records passed down to descendant Walter Sia, Seah Song Seah had four sons, namely Seah Eng Khoon, Seah Eng Yong, Seah Eng Siang, and Seah Eng Hock, as well as several daughters.

A piece of trivia: according to the Tiong Bahru Seah Eu Chin heritage signboard, Purvis Street was originally named Song Seah Road. A story goes that, while the area at Purvis Street was under development, it was Song Seah’s private land at the time and therefore named after him in the planning submission. Upon completion, after the properties were sold and no longer privately-held, the authorities renamed the street.

It is said that Seah Song Seah died in China.

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Seah Peck Seah

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Seah Peck Seah, the fourth son of Seah Eu Chin, was also an important Singapore pioneer. As he was the youngest son, he would have been born sometime around or after 1857. He passed away around 1939.

Seah Peck Seah was married to Tan Soo Heok, who passed away in 1933. He was the father of six sons: Seah Eng Lim, Eng Chiang, Eng Kiang, Eng Kwang, Eng Guan, and Eng Cer.

As for daughters, Seah Peck Seah had many daughters – at least eight of them. He often held huge and lavish weddings for his many daughters. As reported in the Malaya Tribune on 12 December 1916:

There was a very large attendance at Mr. and Mrs. Seah Peck Seah’s house, 55 High-st. yesterday, in honour of the marriage of their eighth daughter, who was robed in her bridal costume. The family keeps up the old style of Chinese marriage custom. The bridal offerings and the handsome dress of the bride were a source of much admiration. Mr. W. E. Hooper proposed the health of the bride and her parents, the toast being very heartily drunk. A wayang was held in the courtyard, and the guests were right royally entertained.  

In terms of community leadership, Seah Peck Seah served as a Justice of the Peace, just like his father. And as a Straits Chinese, like his brother Seah Liang Seah, he was loyal to the British colonial government and served in the Straits Chinese British Association (SCBA). In fact, Seah Peck Seah was the first Honorary Treasurer of the Association, holding the office for four years.

He also strongly supported local education. According to Sir Song Ong Siang, in April 1899, the foundations for the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School were established; Seah Peck Seah, alongside Sir Song Ong Siang and Dr Lim Boon Keng, was on the committee.

In the final years of his long life, Seah Peck Seah suffered from ill health and his businesses faced challenges from the economic slump, such as the impact of the Great Depression.

Today, his contributions to society are still remembered in the name of Peck Seah Street.

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Notes

Names in this section have been standardised for consistency, e.g. “Cho Sia” is spelt “Seah Cheo Seah”; “Pek Seah” is spelt “Peck Seah”.

The copyright for all the images belongs to Shawn Seah, unless indicated otherwise, e.g. some are courtesy of Kenneth Seah.

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Copyright © 2017 by Shawn Seah

Updated on 14 August 2022.

All rights reserved