A brisk walk on a sunny morning on 3 March, 2019 at the Fort Canning Park with friends of the Tampines Green Residents Committee. Most of them are pioneer generation friends and a few with weaker legs were using wheel-chairs. Thanks to the volunteers to help and organise these activities for the senior citizens.
Collective memories of Fort Canning Park
While travelling in the coach from the Tampines Green Senior Citizens Corner at Tampines St. 12 to the Fort Canning Park, many of us shared our fond nostalgic memories of the “Ong Keh Sua Ka” (皇家山下) during our younger “pak tor” days.
The former Van Kleef Aquarium at the compound of the Fort Canning Park was where I often brought my children to visit during the school holidays.
This photo was taken in 1960s in front of the fountain at the entrance of the former National Theatre, located at the River Valley Road and the foot of Fort Canning. (known as “Ong Keh Sua Ka” (皇家山下) in Hokkien.
Memories of Keng Hee
Thanks to Keng Hee for her contributions at the Singapore Memory Project photos and stories reproduced on this blog to share.
When Singapore was in the 1970s, there were not much places of interest to go. A Singapore icon that was torn down to make way for open spaces at the foot of Fort Canning Hill is the National Theatre and Van Kleef Aquarium. While there are reasons to tear down the aquarium and national theatre, in current context, roads can always be dug underground and monuments preserved. In the 70s, it is an outing in the hot sun and people are aplenty. In those days, there is no covered shelters. My memory is faint but definitely many other Singaporeans my parents age will remember this iconic place. As we look back in time, many things seems right. And as we age, we all yearn for a memory of the past. The theatre wasn’t air conditioned, but Singaporeans then never complain. As always, there are many things in life that is appreciated. I never understood why after so many years, the location is not economically used. Perhaps it was for feng shui reasons. The national monument could have stayed in the current location till today and could have been a great indoor restaurant location serving fine food. We have a short history in Singapore compared to other countries. As each generation pass on, to bond Singaporeans to this place, we need to create memories. Memories so strong that when they work overseas, they yearn to return to the place where they 1st fell in love. If places as such were destroyed and new buildings are in place, there is no longer any attachment to this island state. I hope my contribution of dug out photos which were black and white helped jolt back memories for many others and for them to take an extra effort to locate their own photos, scan it and share it with the next generation.
Source: Courtesy of Keng Hee contribution at the Singapore Memory Project.
A walk through Fort Canning Park
A walk through Fort Canning Park is like taking a stroll through the pages of a history book, literally a mine of information and knowledge.
Fort Canning is popularly known as the Hill of History because war relics and monuments from the 19th century have been found there.
The history lesson at Fort Canning Park, an 18-ha piece of mostly rolling, grass-covered land, draped over a hill in the heart of the city.
It is convenient to visit as the City Hall MRT station is nearby.
Sitting in the centre of the park is Fort Canning Centre, a 65-year-old restored military barracks which has become a major cultural venue and is the residence of two performing-arts companies.
Its columns and monuments are what catches the eye of most visitors because they are imposing and grand.
From around 1860 until the 1970s, Fort Canning Park was used as a military base, first by the British, then by the Japanese during World War II.
It is hard not to stumble onto or spot relics of colonial times when strolling around this green lung.
One of them is the 6-metre tall, 19th-century Fort Gate at the top of the hill. This is all that remains of the fortress which occupied the area from 1861 to 1926.
For a bird’s-eye view of the park, climb the narrow staircase behind one of the gate’s massive wooden doors; it will take you to the roof of the structure.
Over on the park’s eastern side, near the Registry of Marriages, is a keramat, a traditional burial ground of a revered leader.
It is uncertain who is buried here, but many believe it is the resting place of Sultan Iskandar Shah, the last Malay king of Singapore.
Countless archaeological digs have been carried out in the park and 30,000 artefacts have been recovered over the years.
From the time ancient kings ruled the island to the arrival of Stamford Raffles, colonial Singapore and World War II, all these events have intimate links with the place.
The relics, the dig and the monuments bring to life our history, making a stroll here an absorbing and enriching experiences.
The Fort Canning Park helped to develop the historical site and its environs into a lively place which would project Singapore’s history, heritage and sense of nationalism.
Fort Canning Hill’s history dates back to the 14th century, when majarajahs built their palaces at its peak.
In 1822 Sir Stamford Raffles built Government House there and the hill was known as Government Hill.
Thirty-six years later, a fort was built over the demolished Government House, hence the name Fort Canning.
During World War II, British forces used the tunnels in the hill as an underground command centre.
The 9-pound cannon at Fort Canning. The cannon was more for decoration and was not used at Fort Canning, as it was built in the 18th century and was obsolete by the time the fort was built in 1860.