February 24, 2010
The Other Son : Tiong Kung Eng
Photo taken in Sungei Merah circa 1926. Grand Uncle Tiong Kung Eng ( second from the left in the back row) Aunty Jawa (first from left - seated) next to Mr and Mrs. JB Chong. Great Grandparents Chong in black Chinese suits in the centre. My grand mother (Chong JS) with grand father carrying Fourth Uncle. In the background you can see young rubber trees.
In 1913 while the First World War was raging in the European Front the Sibu Foochow pioneers were beginning to realise that their "promised land" was taking shape by leaps and bounds. The Reverend James Hoover had been with them for more than ten years.The results of the Foochows' hardwork together with James Hoover's diligent and strategic planning could be obviously seen. The Sarawak White Rajah was impressed: this was one of the main objectives of contracting these Foochow agriculturalists to come to develop Sibu. Rice was now in production and the fear of the government regarding agricultural underproduction was laid to rest. No one in Sarawak then would be facing shortage of rice or other food crops with such excellent agricultural success.
It was this kind of development that propelled my grandfather's brother Tiong Kung Eng to apply for a piece of land near Bukit Lan just below Ensurai where the Laus and the Tings have settled in 1901 (Rev. Ho Siew Liong 1950). He was granted 24 acres of land by the government to his pleasant surprise. He moved his young and beautiful bride to the newly acquired land and started to cut down the jungle and plant rubber.
However his wife died of childbirth. It must have been painful for him to be in 24 Acres for another five years. He gave his new born son to a wet nurse to look after while he toiled away on the land. Finally when the baby boy died at age 5 he was totally heart broken. The locals believed that his mother's spirit took him away. With the loss of his son my Grand Uncle Kung Eng gave up all aspirations and ambitions in his life and went to see his brother (my grandfather) who was at that time developing Bintangor. Grand Uncle was given the job of supervisor by his brother. Kung Eng sold his precious land to six families who developed the settlement but continued to call it 24 Acres to this day. (See a future posting on this title)
By then my gtrand uncle had been quite sick spiritually and physically according to an old relative of mine. Amongst one of the treatments was a small amount of government prescribed opium for his pains weekly.
Opium was dispensed to patients and at that time this was the kind of permitted medication for people who were depressed and de-motivated. Opium could alleviate their suffering and loneliness. Each week Grand Uncle Kung Eng would bring his little medicine box and the government officer would prescribe for him the permitted amount of opium to bring back to Binatang/Bintangor.
When he was in a better mood he would bring all his nephews and nieces for a boat ride and he would be so happy to row the boat up river .Those cheerful days would include telling of great stories as he was an articulate man.My grandfather had already started the Mee Ang Rice Mill and several more uncles and aunts were born.
But as the days and years went by he was obviously needed more medical treatment which was not available at that time. According to another elderly aunt my grandfather was actually very distressed by this as he loved his younger brother.
An opium smoker in Singapore.
When the Japanese came opium was not available any more and it was very difficult for Grand Uncle Kung Eng. One day he was so ill with influenza he had to be taken to an acupunturist in Sibu for treatment. Because he had already become an opium addict by then any other cure for any illness was difficult to find. It was a very very sad time for my family then. Grand Uncle Kung Eng had become so thin and so frail.
The treatment proved very fatal for him and he died within the week.
He was obviously a very compassionate man who had a lot going for him. And because his beautiful wife died too untimely he was very much a man stricken down before his prime.
My grandfather himself was also very saddened by this tragic death.
My great grandfather (Tiong King Kee) as head of the family was heart broken too but he had to lead the family to greater heights and fought a good fight until he too died just a few years later:two sons and a wife had gone before him. New Foochow (Sibu) had given him much but had taken its toll too.
May my grand uncle's soul rest in peace.
My thanks to these sources :
a)Family Oral Stories from Aunts
b) Fiftieth Anniversary of Methodist in Sarawak Souvenir Magazine - 1950
c) Old family photo from Mrs. Chong Chung Sing
d) Old opium smoker from Singapore website.