A very old photo which could have been taken by Rev James Hoover in 1903 is often wrongly ascribed to Sungei Merah for a long time by me. But after being pointed out by Local Historian, Wong meng Lei, the photo is now confirmed to be the Methodist Church shop house in Old Street in the early 1900's.. However the photo is a good indication of how the Foochows built their shop houses in the early 1900's in Sibu.
Sungei Merah is remembered by the Foochows warmly. The first Easter Sunday was held here when they arrived with Wong nai Siong in 1903. Bishop Warne of Singapore accompanied them from Singapore to give them moral and spiritual support.
Within a few months Sg. Merah had 4 attap hostels for the new Foochow "agriculturalists" (Sarawak Gazette) and Wong Nai Siong and his people had already built some houses like the ones above. 1 -Home of the Hoovers. 2 - Jetty (doh tou) 3 - boat or prahu used by the Hoovers when they went travelling down the the villages like Ensurai. 4 - Ing Hua School Hostel. The small wooden bridge across Sg. Merah had already been built. It had a covered portion (ting) to protect the travellers from the sun and the rain. Really good idea....Foochows and later the Heng Huas (1912) would walk to Sibu where the Hokkiens and Cantonese had their little wooden shops already.
My Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping and his brother Tiong Kung Eng and their father, Tiong King Sing, were among those who started out their new lives in Sarawak in this way in 1903. They were in the second batch and were allocated to move to several different parts of the Rajang Delta. Whatever land they could "open" up, the Rajah Brooke would grant them a title. perhaps that is how the word "Nga Rang" or GRANT became a Foochow term. (Land title)
Several photos could tell the history of Sungei Merah Bridge very simply.
1940's Sungei Merah
Compare the above photo with the one below. Almost from the same angle. The one above was probably taken in 1940's. with two windows on the roof level.. There are eight big windows on the first floor in the front which probably means that there were only four shops.
2011 Sungei Merah
This is the modern block of the Sg. Merah Methodist Philanthropic Association Building.
1960's - 1970's Sungei Merah.
1960's Sungei Merah compared with my latest March 2011. The bridge here has been improved by this time.but it still has the bicycle lanes which is indeed heart warming. This is during my grandfather's life time. The first wooden shop house by the river riverside facing the camera, was owned by my grandfather's cousin, Tiong Kiew Dieh. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known in my life.
2011 Sg. Merah Bridge (my own photo)
The bicycle lane is still there!! Well done to the committee who designed the bridge!! Thank you.
I have very fond memories of visiting my grandparents in Sungei Merah, and riding a bicycle across the bridge to run errands. But my grandmother already was a good driver and she would drive my grandfather every where. Any way riding a bicycle in Sungei Merah and especially across the bridge was a childhood thrill.
My grandfather passed away in 1963, 60 years after he landed in Sungei Merah. He must have seen quite a bit of changes in those 60 years. But now Sungei Merah is a very modern suburb which can even be called a township.
The old Sungei Bridge is still thee after 110 years. How much has gone under the bridge? What tears? What blood? What stories?
(first written 2011, edited 2013)