March 20, 2005

Insider's Singapore/ David Brazil

My wife recommended this book to me. Wish I had this as a textbook when I was in school. Singapore History lessons would've been much more interesting. Well OK, maybe not as the only textbook, but it would have served as an excellent alternative to the texts where it's just facts and dates.

Insider's Singapore - NLB Call No.: SING 959.57 BRA - [HIS]
The "SING" prefix means it's located at the Singapore Collection (i.e. books with the Red Lion Head logo).

See book cover from Select Books (no, I don't have a share in the company).

Click here to check for item availability.


There are 30 stories, most about little known facts about Singapore's landmarks. The first story got me hooked -- I didn't know there was an "Early Founders Memorial Stone" at Collyer Quay.

Here's a listing of the content page (this was the 1999 edition published by Times Books International). Remarks in [ ] are my own:
The City and Chinatown
  • - A sadly unfinished monument [The Early Founders Memorial Stone. Picture on p11.]
  • - The benign face of empire [About William Pickering and the setting up of the Chinese Protectorate. p15 - 17: how Pickering dealt with the issue of prostitution]

The Padang and Fort Canning
  • - A present from a king [How the black brass elephant outside Parliament House came to be. Also about the visit by King of Siam to Singapore in 1871]
  • - That man Raffles [About the Raffles statue. Side stories titled "Was Raffles a Playboy?" and "Indian National Army", and Napoleon's penis (yeah! now you interested, right?) ]
  • - A true war hero [Concise story of Lim Bo Seng's life. Side story about Elizabeth Choy, Singapore's war heroine]
  • - They will not be forgotten [The Memorial to the Civiliam Victims of the Japanese Occupation. Summary of the Japanese invasion in 1941, the Sook Ching operation, account of the civilian massacre, side story about the issue of Japan's wartime guilt]
  • - Mutinous Daze [The 1915 Sepoy Mutiny]
  • - Five kings of ancient Singapura [Discussion about the tomb at Fort Canning Hill]
  • - Drama under the stars [The ex-National Theatre that was demolished in Aug '86. Picture on p.73. How it was built , its history]
  • - Forgotten founder [Major-General William Farquhar. Discussion on whether he's been unfairly sacked by Raffles (now why didn't they tell me that during History lessons?). Overiew of his life and times. Side story of how he dealt with the issue of rats , giant centipedes, and of his dog who was eaten by a crocodile]

The Orchard Road Area
  • - The door gods of Orchard Road [How the two statues at Orchard Road came to be. Side story of the 1974 Hilton Hotel murder of Mrs Linda Culley by her husband, Michael Charles Culley]
  • - Geomancy lives on [About Feng Shui and its association with several Singapore landmarks like Hyatt Regency Hotel, Pinetree Town and Country Club, American Club, OUB Centre]
  • - Grand old hotel tales [Interesting story of the painting of a barebreasted woman of the Goodwood Park Hotel. Also a story of Goodwood Park Hotel and its rivalry with Raffles Hotel. Side story of Anna Pavlova (the world famous ballerina) and her apparently not so pleasant experience in Singapore]
  • - The worse fire disaster [The 1972 fire at Robinsons Raffles Place Department Store and its history]
  • - A neighbour declares war [The 1965 Konfrontasi and bombing of MacDonald House and other places in Singapore. Side story "Who was MacDonald?"]
  • - The first skyscraper in town [The 1939 Cathay Building and basically the film and cinema industry in Singapore from 1930s to 1950s. Side story "Mountbatten: The Man, The Controversy"]
  • - The curry murder [The still unsolved 1984 murder that took place in the Penang Road Presbyterian Church caretaker's house]
  • - The tiger of France [About Clemenceau Avenue, and about George Clemenceau]

Eastwards Towards Geylang
  • - Not just a playing field [Farrer Park, and it's history as a horse-racing course, Singapore's first airplane flight in 1911, Indonesian POWs of the Japanese. Mentions the Indian National Army (INA), Subhas Chandra Bose., and the Malay Regiment's final stand at Pasir Panjang]
  • - When this was Sin-Galore... [The 1930s - 1960s sex-trade in Singapore, Comfort Women, Bugis Street transvestites, measures to curb sexually transmitted diseases]
  • - Informal royal palace [Istana Kampong Glam, Raffles and his dealings with Sultan Hussein and his heirs, controversy for the Istana Kampong Glam and issue of compensation. Side stories on Munshi Abdullah, "Hussein's Sex Slaves". P.163 shows picture of the Istana Kampong Glam circa 1999]
  • - Singapore's airports [History of the various airports in Singapore from 1930s. Cites the crash of Qantas BOAC Constellation jet, killing 31 passengers in 1954. Zhou Enlai "cheats death" in 1955. Side story of Beatles landing at Paya Lebar airport in 1964; Mick Jagger and wife Jerry Hall being turned away from the then Black Velvet disco in 1979; the Concord landing that was not to be]
  • - The end of the worlds [The beginnings and demise of early Entertainment Parks of Singapore -- Gay World, Great World, and New World. Cites striptease acts (including Rose Chan), cabaret girls, boxing matches]
  • - Singapore goes berserk [An account and short discussion of the 21 July 1964 race riots that lasted for 6 days. Side panel "The Maria Hertogh Riots" in 1950; "Ahmad Mattar's Narrow Escape" (ex-PM of Malaysia). Last part cites the background of the Geylang Serai Malay Village]

The Rest of the Island
  • - For whom the bell toll [The life of Joseph Balestier (1820s - 1840s), Singapore's first American Consul. Side panel "Great Bells!" -- the only Paul Revere Bell outside the US; "Crime of Passion" -- 1880 murder at Balestier Road]
  • - A hospital is born [Tan Tock Seng's life and the history of TTS Hospital]
  • - The sultans from Telok Blangah [The rise and fall of the Malay Kings of early Singapore. Side panels - "The tragic tale of Radin Mas", "Johor Bahru - A city for the future", "Let there be light - and fire" (Sultan was one of the first to have home lit up by electricity]
  • - A waxwork model [General Tomoyuki Yamashita - his conquest of Singapore, his political gaffe that led to his exile to Manchuria, and his last days when put on trial for war crimes. Side panels -- "Kranji Beach Horror" (defence of Kranji River); "The Surrender Room"; "Where's the Surrender Document?"; "Tojo Okays Brothels"; "Tojo's Teeth" (his teeth were engraved, unknown to him, the words "Remember Pearl Harbour"; "Yamashita's Treasure"]
  • - Good as gold [The beginnings and development of local brewery Tiger Beer, including brief mention of its marketing strategy]
  • - The end of a movement [Life and times of Tan Chay Wa, his role in the Communist Party of Malay, his arrest and trial. Mentions Chin Peng and Chia Thye Poh]

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