It is in a deserted and somewhat forgotten corner of Singapore that you will find the Gateway into the Lost World. Standing all on its own, it opens into a space now beautifully reclaimed by nature; a space in which little is given away of the world it might once have been.
The gateway is all that is left of a dwelling place from where one could listen to the songs sung by the nearby sea. One of several found in the area, it shared the space with a village of humble wooden dwellings of which little remains except for a mosque. While there are no visuals that will allow us to picture what the house may have looked like, it is not hard to imagine the peace and joy its settings would have brought to its occupants.
One who found joy in living by the same sea was the late James Westwater Ferrie. An architect, Ferrie lived in one of several houses found in the area of the now lonesome gates. Inspired by the setting he found himself living in, Ferrie, who was also a talented painter, found the time to also reproduce its seascapes in watercolour, more than 50 of which were exhibited at the Lone Pine Gallery in Ming Court Hotel (now Orchard Parade Hotel) in 1986.
Ferrie, who started James Ferrie and Partners, had been resident in Singapore since arriving from the UK in 1948. In an interview for his exhibition (27 January 1986 edition of The Straits Times), Ferrie , an avid sailor, spoke of his affinity with the sea having “always liked the sea” and being “closely associated with water”. Ferrie also described the his Sembawang home as one “with a garden stretching down to the sea” that provided him a view of “the skies and boats” depicted in his watercolours.
Ferrie passed away in February 1993, not long after he returned to the UK. By this time, his house by the sea and the cluster it was in, had already been acquired by the State. Now emptied of the boats that Ferrie depicted, it is perhaps only in Ferrie’s paintings that the memory of the area’s once colourful seas is now preserved.
Left temporarily on its own, the place its state of isolation, is one in which peace is still to be found. Given the pace at which redevelopment is taking place in the area, it is only a matter of time before a space in which an escape can be found is turned into yet another space one will then need an escape from.
Update June 2016:
I have been advised that there were four houses in the area of the gate built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The gate itself had led to a bungalow owned by a Mr Chua Boon Peng, who was the MD of Cycle and Carriage.