Saturday, January 28, 2006

Down memory lane

On this eve of the Lunar New Year, let us revisit Ubin through the memories of some residents. The below article was written by the Oral History Department of the National Archives in 1990. It compiled the oral history records of interviews with ubin islanders. Note the outdated context of the article as there were still active quarries on the island in 1990 but all quarry activities were ceased upon government acquisition in 1998.

Enjoy the article and Happy Lunar New Year!

Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin, undated. Source: Oral History Department

Travelling north from Changi after a 10-minute boat-ride, one reaches Pulau Ubin, one of the major suppliers of granite for the building industry. According to history sources, he quarry was discovered before 1848, and up to today, has provided job opportunities for the residents. The majority of the Chinese residents are Hakkas, followed by the Hokkiens and Teochews. Eighty-two year old resident Lim Chye Joo came to Pulau Ubin to seek his relative in 1935. This was what he said about work in Pulau Ubin then:

About 70% of them found jobs in the quarry, the rest of them were poultry farmers, fishermen or hawkers. The Hakkas formed the majority and they were quarry workers. They stayed in the small pockets of farm land and dealt in some petty trade. The population was scattered. The ones with spouses lived in wooden huts. In those days, it was easy to build a house at any place you fancied. They could also grow vegetables and rear poultry to earn some side income. There are also petty traders at the kang-kar. Kang-kar is the hub of activities in the island. (Literally translated, kang-kar meets feet of the harbor, which refers to the mouth of the river at the coast)

Pulau Ubin has remained much the same, except for some educational and economic changes in the '70s. The younger residents prefer to find work on mainland Singapore. The are others who have abandoned everything and settled for a new way of life on the mainland. Pulau Ubin does seem much more tranquil than in her heyday. It is for this reason that it was attracted the city dwellers who want to get away from the city.

  • Oral History Department (1990) "Pulau Ubin & Pulau Tekong" in Recollections: People and Places, Oral History Department, Singapore
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