Saying hello to an old acquaintance

20 04 2010

Lying somewhat hidden from view and unbeknownst to many on the grounds of what used to be the Coleman Street branch of Anglo Chinese School (ACS),  is a simple block of grey granite supported by a red brick plinth. The block of stone, which has been with us for four decades now, is a foundation stone for a monument intended as a tribute to our early founders, the many nameless immigrants whose contributions helped shape modern Singapore.

The stone was laid by the late President Yusof Ishak in 1970 – during the twelve month period during which the 150th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore was being commemorated.

The foundation stone for a monument intended to honour the early immigrants who contributed much to the development of modern Singapore at its current location outside the lobby of the National Archives.

Standing at the promenade along Fullerton Road (opposite the Fullerton Building) for three decades, the stone stood in hope and fading eventually into obscurity. The monument it was meant to to be a forerunner of, was never constructed.

I had often observed it on the many childhood walks with my parents along the promenade to Clifford Pier, and was guilty at times of ignoring it, often passing no more than a cursory glance at it. There were the rare occasions when I did  attempt to acquaint myself with it, tracing the inscriptions on its four faces with my fingers, wondering what was to become of it.

Inscription on the foundation stone reads: THE FOUNDATION STONE OF THE MONUMENT IN TRIBUTE TO THE EARLY FOUNDERS OF SINGAPORE WAS LAID BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE ON THE 18TH DAY OF JANUARY 1970.

I took an the opportunity quite recently to seek out my old acquaintance. Temporarily located just outside the entrance lobby of what is today the National Archives of Singapore, it now sits silently as if to hide from a Singapore that has chosen to forget it, on its plinth and in the shadows cast by plants that seem to offer a comforting arm to it.

The early founders stone moved to its current home at the turn of the new century. Its looks none the worse for wear, even if it has long been exposed to the elements on the promenade. As I stood next to my old acquaintance in the uncomfortable silence that friends who have no words for each other experience, I recalled the promise it was laid with, a promise that even after some four decades, remains sadly unfulfilled.

Inscription in Chinese.

When the idea for the monument was originally mooted by the Alumni International Singapore, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before $200,000 in funds needed would be raised. A temporary location for the foundation stone was chosen as one that had a significance. The seafront in the area would have been where many early immigrants arriving by boat would have landed.

Despite attempts at finding a suitable design through a competition and to raise the necessary funds, neither a suitable design was arrived at, nor sufficient funds raised. This resulted in the Alumni International channeling the funds raised to other areas in 1985.

View from the street through the fence of the National Archives.

That the monument was never built, and that the foundation stone is now placed in an relatively obscure location, is a reflection of who perhaps we have become as Singaporeans, lacking in the sense of who we really are and of how we have got where we are. We now embrace the bright lights that the modern city comes with and have chosen to discard too many reminders of our humble past.

Many of the reminders we have chosen to keep, which except for a few glorious buildings use in an appropriate manner, have become less of a reminder and more an extension of the way we live. These buildings, many found in oldneighbourhoods that have since been sanitised, lacks the heart and soul that once provided these edifices and their streets with a rich character. All perhaps is not lost for that the stone. In that it still exists, we see a glimmer of hope. The monument and the people the monument is meant to honour should not be forgotten and what would certainly be nice is to see the monument built, in time perhaps for the 200th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore in 2019.

Another view of the early founders’ stone from the inside of the National Archives compound.

The stone is located somewhat hidden from view in front of the lobby of the National Archives.


Update (July 2010):

The Foundation Stone was returned to the Collyer Quay area in July 2010, placed outside the Singapore River end of the Fullerton Building.

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4 responses

20 04 2010
The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 20 Apr 2010

[…] Life, the universe and everything – Dee Kay Dot As Gee: Seriously people, Flashmob doesn’t need to be just dancing – The Long and Winding Road: Saying hello to an old acquaintance […]

21 04 2010
Tweets that mention Saying hello to an old acquaintance. « The Long and Winding Road -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kenneth Pinto. Kenneth Pinto said: Did you know about the foundation stone for a monument that was never built? http://bit.ly/d0axyW […]

24 04 2010
The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 17

[…] As Gee: Seriously people, Flashmob doesn’t need to be just dancing – The Long and Winding Road: Saying hello to an old acquaintance – pinkdot.sg: When one door closes, a closet door opens: A Singaporean mother’s appeal to parents […]

9 07 2010
The wondering wanderer

In an interesting development, it does appear that the Early Founder’s Stone has been returned to its original position to coincide with the opening of the Fullerton Heritage Gallery on 8 July 2010. In his speech, the Acting Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Mr Lui Tuck Yew made reference to this and is quoted as saying that the launch of the gallery “is made all the more memorable with the return of the Foundation Stone for the Monument to the Early Founders of Singapore. Relocated to the National Archives of Singapore in 2000 due to development works in the area, it is now back to its original home here at the Fullerton Building”. What the speech doesn’t say is whether there are any plans to build the monument, it doesn’t seem so, and the stone probably will serve as the monument it was meant to be a forerunner of.

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