March 23, 2011

Sungei Merah Bridge 1901-2011

This post is dedicated to all the missionaries and Foochow and Heng Hua elders who lived in Sungei Merah. And to my Grandfather's descendants.

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.

March 2011....A bazaar which has a heart for cyclists!! This should be a real resort city......and one that has a lot of history. Sungei Merah now is developing fast with more than 8 new blocks going up between the river and the old airport.

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)


天鵝江畔 said...

Canyi, i need to point out that the first photo was not located at Sg Merah, it was the place somewhere at Old Street(or now called Chew Geok Lin Street) near the river bank. Wong Nai Siong established the Sing Hock Chew Kang Co., here, after he returned to China, Rev J Hoover moved in and stayed there.
pls note the writing (may be by Hoover) in the picture that mentioned "Our second home...... we lived upstairs..."

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks ML...I will try my best to find that photo with the boat in the river. That's the one I need to put as first photo...I am sure the writing belonged to Mr. Hoover. Thanks again....

Ann said...

Still remember driving to the airport. We never stopped at Sungei merah.

The Observer said...

wonderful post. you can do a scene dramatization (cross dissolve video effects) with the two photos because they're both from the exact same angle.

I love that part of sibu. reminds me of 3 things, "longko" kampua and my first perm! curly fringe and straight back. every girl in primary school, standard 1-6 (in 1986) had that. and the hair dresser that my mother took me to was the last shop in the row of shophouse on the right hand side of the photo.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann....I think in those days it was troublesome to stop by Sungei Merah...the road being so small...and also may be your dad was short of time? Sun almost setting if you were taking the evening ride....

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Observer....thanks for bringing back the memories. Now there are more hairdressers with very good promotion. I had my hair done there with my sister's help. All the young people in Sungei Merah had gone to Tiong Hin Sec School and most of them had her for their English Teacher!! Wow!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Rajang Basin (ML)
I have located the correct photo now...and it is definitely the correct one...So my dear readers please view again all the photos....

thanks ML again and again....

Ann said...

If the bridge could write...what would it write?

It will write this chapter,
There was this little old fiat,
Sometimes, the man drove,
Sometimes the woman drove.
It was Jam packed with kids,
It increased from 6, to 7 & 8 and finally to 9.
It never stopped,
It went straight to the airport.
The man talked of the time when his dad and him were conscripted to the Japanese road building service.
The woman talked of the time the man went in a little plane to England.
The kids were hushed when the fiat went past the cemetary.

Ensurai said...

Thanks. Readers, please note that the first photo has been removed....

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