May 4, 2015

Hua Hong Stories : Great Grandpa's Funeral

My great grandfather passed away in 1944 just before the Japanese surrendered

The Hua Hong Ice Factory was sited on an island right opposite Sibu. So first the coffin had to be carried from the house to the jetty at Hua Hong. The Ice Boat brought the coffin across the river to Sibu and here, the men started to carry the coffin from the wharf road to Masland Church for a service again on foot.

After the service I could imagine that the 16 men got ready to carry the coffin 8 men  at a time while all the able bodied relatives would walk behind the coffin, all the way to Sg. Merah.

How did all the female relatives with small feet manage to send him to the cemetery? Did they go? Did my great grandmother go?

His cemetery was built in Sungei Merah and it was a long way from Sibu. This story is a story of how clansmen were so courageous, considerate, and loving.

When my great grandfather passed away, word was sent around to all the Tiong Clan members. Strong men were required to carry the coffin. The pall bearers were carefully selected. Normally one coffin was carried by 8 men, four in the front and 4 at the back. But because my great grandfather was wealthy, 16 men were called and each group took turns to carry the coffin, 3 miles journey to the MEM Methodist Evangelical Mission cemetery , near sungei Merah.

It was one of the biggest funerals in Sibu , by the standard of those days, with one son and one daughter and several grandchildren to mourn his loss. His cousins and nephews, nieces from Sg. Bidut, Engkilo, Esnurai and Sg. Merah came to pay respects.

According to my uncle Tiong Leh King, who was one of the pall bearers selected and he was only 18 years old, it was a tough duty to fullfill but they all managed to bring the coffin to the Sg.Merah cemetery without any problems. It must have been very heavy.

A funeral lunch was provided after the burial.

I am sure all the 18 pall bearers were tired from the carrying of the coffin which was really heavy as it was made of belian.

Today it is an unimaginable task to carry a coffin right from the river side to the Sg.Merah cemetery on foot a distance of more than 4 miles.

May God bless all who carried the coffin of my great grandfather and May God bless those who came to the funeral.

These two photos are from Google and they illustrate how difficult it is to carry coffins in those early times. In the black and white photo, the coffin is carried by 4 people in the front and 4 people at the back:

This is a later photo from China and more men are needed to carry the coffin. One can say that the younger generation is not as strong.

(Acknowlegement : Thanks to uncle Tiong Leh King for sharing the story with me. He was born in 1923  in Sibu.)

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