Archive for June, 2008

Lost Islands Of The Singapore River – Part 2

…continued from Part 1

Sorry for the delay in Part 2 due to my poor health for the past few weeks.

It will be interesting to note the differences when we compared the old map of Singapore River with the current one. There seems to be more sources and the river seems longer in the past.

The area around and along the Singapore River was swampy and muddy even before the colonial times. This can be seen from most old maps of the Singapore River.

Credit : The Singapore River, A Social History 1819 – 2002, Stephen Dodds, Singapore University Press

As you can see from the above map, there were many sources of the river. Some seem to be at the foot of Fort Canning Hill (known as Bukit Larangan in the past), and Pearl’s Hill (known as Mt. Stamford in the past). Also from the above map, you will note that the areas near the Singapore River were mainly marsh (a marsh is a wetland submerged by water).

Let’s start with Area 1 (from the above map);

As shown above, this Area 1(island) is prone to flooding at the South Bank. What I’ve read was that the Area 1 at South Bank was raised and the marsh behind filled to overcome the flooding. This should be around 1822. So maps after 1822 may not show this island Area 1, I think so.

Area 2;

Credit : The Singapore River, A Social History 1819 – 2002, Stephen Dodds, Singapore University Press

From 1869, the area above Coleman Bridge were filled up to prevent flood and thus more godowns were built. As such, pollution of the river was another problem to be fixed from 1870 to 1970. Before 1860, most commercial activities were below Elgin Bridge and seldom up to Coleman Bridge and above.

Area 3;

This is the triangular shaped Pulau Saigon which Victor ever mentioned in the comments in my previous post. In Chinese, it’s called 浮罗西贡. Before I proceed on, I would like to highlight why sometimes it’s called “Pulau Saigon” while in some street directories, you see “Pulo Saigon”. Javanese called “Pulo“, while Indonesian called “Pulau“, both mean Island.

I have always wonder why it is called “Saigon”? Anyone has any idea?

Frankly even during my early visits to the Singapore River in the late 60s or early 70s, I don’t remember seeing any Pulau Saigon. Maybe I was too young to remember it…Peter, Chun See or Victor may have some memories of it.

When I took a look at my old Singapore Street Directory (the early 70s Chinese edition), the only thing I can find is the Pulau Saigon Road. You can find a footbridge to the north of this road. The original Pulau Saigon Bridge was built in 1890, but demolished in 1986. The reason for the demolition was that the Bridge was too old and it blocked the development of Central Expressway.

Pulau Saigon Bridge was also called Footbridge because the completion of Clemenceau Bridge in 1922 forestalled any need of developing it further and its status as a pedestrian bridge was maintained.

The map below shows 2 bridges connected to the Pulau Saigon island;

Credit : Old map from Cornell Education.

A new Pulau Saigon Bridge was constructed near the former location of the original Pulau Saigon Island as an extension of Saiboo Street. Before reclamation works merged the Pulau Saigon Island with the south bank of the river, there used to be two bridges which connected the island to both river banks. Both bridges were demolished by 1986. – BY National Heritage Board

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Survey Dept. Ministry of Law

This is how the Pulau Saigon looked like in 1900;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Below shows the Pulau Saigon Bridge;

Credit : National Heritage Board

Take a look at the Pulau Saigon Bridge in 1974;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Here is another photo of the Pulau Saigon Bridge which is also the Bridge No.1 from the Chinese Newspaper in 1985;

Credit : Nanyang Sinchou, Chinese Newspaper, 15 Dec 1985

This Pulau Saigon Bridge was also known as Butcher Bridge as there was a butcher staying nearby. This was also mentioned in the Straits Times 1985 copy;

Credit : The Straits Times, 30 Sep 1985

So from the above, I believed that the Pulau Saigon Bridge was still around in the 80s. Peter may remeber something about the old railway track via this Pulau Saigon island. But that railway track bridge is another bridge, not the same Pulau Saigon Bridge as show below;

Sources : Singapore Railways History

The railway joined on the same footbridge No.2 though but not on the footbridge No.1.

So what happen to Pulau Saigon Bridge now? Is it still around? The Pulau Saigon Bridge is now a Vehicular Bridge, completed in June 1997, linking Havelock Road to Robertson Quay;

Credit : URA

Credit : Sengkang (nickname)

Before I end, here is another view of the Pulau Saigon in the 80s;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

It seems the area around Singapore River has changed tremendously and whether there were islands or islets at the Singapore River before, is no longer important now..or maybe long forgotten…


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June 2008