Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Wall

the wall

larger version here


An afternoon meeting in town brought me near Fort Canning Hill again - always a wonderful place to take photographs, especially at sunset. I went a bit crazy (as usual) - I haven't had the chance to use my cameras for a week now - and maxed out both cameras I was carrying. That'd be 250+ photos - mostly because I was taking shots for composites, which I'm still working on.

This set of photos is of the two walls enclosing the forward slope of the hill. The cemetary that used to be there was exhumed a long time ago, and the gravestones embedded in the walls.

gravestone 1

larger size here


Reading them is like reading the early history of Singapore as a colony. All the names are English, with large proportion of people connected with the Colonial administration - surveyors, engineers, administrators, soldiers and diplomats make up the majority of the gravestones. There are also quite a lot of children's gravestones, like the one above - indicative of the higher infant mortality rate.

gravestone 2

larger size here


I've always wondered about the stories behind each gravestone. The epitaphs offer tantalising hints of the lives they commemorate, but never the whole story. Take Harry Lambert Brabazon, for example. Was he really the East India Company's master attendant on St Helena? Or was it his father, Captain William Brabazon? The wording is unclear. And either way, if father and son were on St Helena, they surely would have have met Napoleon, exiled there? (if you go to this site, a Brabazon is mentioned as harbourmaster at St Helena in the entry for April 12th, 1821, which puts the Brabazons in the right time and place to have met the Big N)

It's funny, but when I took these photographs, I knew I'd post them under the title "The Wall". It only just occured to me why those words crept into my mind: it's Teachers' Day - all in all, just another brick in the wall (insidious thing, this Pink Floyd). The one thing these early colonists have though, which many Singaporeans won't, is that their gravestones will at least be preserved. Most of Singapore's current cemetaries will be exhumed in due course, and there won't even be a wall like this for the people buried there.

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3 comments:

Tym said...

There will be a wall; it'll just be one of many in our columbariums where miniature gravestones are stacked on end in the tiny space their "apartment" occupies. My great-grandparents' gravestones are long gone; only the replicas, grossly diminished in size, remain, with barely enough space by them to perch flowers. Ah, the dignity the dead enjoy in Singapore...

Terz said...

That's why we're moving to Kanada dear.

j. said...

I remember reading loads of them on a school field trip ages ago and wondering what their lives must have been, and how their families felt that they died so far from home.

It's a morbidly fascinating topic. I lived next to a graveyard for the 18th century rich and famous last year in Bristol and I walked through it every day on the way to school. There'd always be kids playing hide and seek amongst the tombs of dead colonels and admirals.