Neo Tiew (梁宙; 1884 – 1975), also known as 梁后宙, was born and raised in Nan’an County in Fujian Province, China. Due to his impoverished circumstances, he left home for Singapore in 1897. Among his many jobs, he worked in a provision shop, started a bullock cart business, and spent about two years in Selangor as rubber plantation supervisor. In 1912, his uncle handed over his brick-kiln business to him.
He became acquainted with landowner Alexander William Cashin, who was to become one of his biggest clients. In 1914, Cashin invited him to clear and develop his land at Lim Chu Kang. Together with 800 men, Neo Tiew planted pineapples, coconut and rubber trees. He eventually became the headman of Ama Keng Village, and led in the setting up of Kay Wah School (present day Qihua Primary School) and a maternity clinic at Lim Chu Kang.
Neo Tiew was one of the founding members of the Singapore Lam Ann Association, and very active in the anti-Japanese resistance movement before World War II. Unfortunately, during the Japanese Occupation, while he and his fourth son managed to escape to China, 35 of his family members were massacred. In memory of the sacrifices of his family in the anti-Japanese war, a calligraphy scroll signed by the Chairman of Chinese Government Overseas Chinese Affair Committee, Republic of China, was presented to him.
After the war, Neo Tiew returned to Singapore, rebuilt his life and established the Nam Hoe and Thong Hoe Villages (both named after the provision shops he opened there). The latter had a population of 10,000 by 1953. He was active in community work, clearing undeveloped areas and maintained law and order in the villages under his care.
He was conferred the Order of the British Empire in 1954 and honoured by King George VI with a certificate in recognition of his “many years of loyal and valuable work for Singapore and his community”. For his commitment to community work, he received a commendation certificate from the Singapore Government. Neo Tiew Road, Neo Tiew Crescent and Neo Tiew Lane are named after him.
He passed away aged 91 on 13 November 1975. He had six wives, 16 sons and 12 daughters.
Selected books on Neo Tiew
李成利. (2015). 梁后宙与林厝港 [Neo Tiew and Lim Chu Kang]. 新加坡: 新加坡南安会馆艺文社.
Call no.: RSING 305.8951 LCL
The book details the life and times of Neo Tiew and his family.
编委主任方百成，杜南发. (2012). 世界福建名人录–新加坡篇 [World’s prominent Hokkiens – Singapore Chapter]. 新加坡: 新加坡福建会馆, pp. 265–266.
Call no.: RSING 920.05957 PRO
The book introduces 150 Hokkien personalities in Singapore from 1819 till their passing as of June 2012. This title includes Neo Tiew’s biography.
新加坡南安会馆编委会. (1988). 新加坡南安先贤传 第1辑 [Singapore Nan’an pioneers. First series]. 新加坡: [出版社缺], pp. 111–158.
Call no.: RSING 959.570099 XJP
Records the biography of 22 prominent Nan’an pioneers, including Neo Tiew.
柯木林. (主编). [Ke, M. L. (Ed.).] (1995). 新华历史人物列传 [Who’s who in the Chinese community of Singapore]. 新加坡: 教育出版公司, pp. 168–169.
Call no.: RSING 959.570092 WHO-[HIS].
The book contains the biographies of 1,175 Chinese personalities in Singapore, covering the period from 1819 to 1990. Each biography contains information on the birth and death date, dialect group, occupation and affiliated organisations of the Chinese personality. Neo Tiew’s biography is also included.
Selected newspaper articles on Neo Tiew
梁淑晶. (2016, April 9). 梁宙路 荒林开辟建村 褒扬当年拓荒人 以他命名 [New Tiew Road, named after the person who established the place and created a village]. 联合晚报. Retrieved from Factiva.
A short write up on Neo Tiew with references from Brenda Yeoh and Victor Savage’s book, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics.
李气虹. (1995, July 13). 军屠杀梁后宙一门 血的记忆 [Massacre of Neo Tiew’s family]. 联合早报, p. 35. Retrieved from NewpsaperSG.
Neo Tiew’s sixth son, who survived the massacre, described how Neo Tiew lost 35 family members during the Japanese Occupation.
开发林厝港功臣梁后宙仙逝订星期三下午发引安葬 [Lim Chu Kang pioneer Neo Tiew dies]. (1975, November 16). 南洋商报, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
An obituary article on Neo Tiew.
Ong, P. (1975, April 22). A grand man recalls his past… New Nation, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
An interview with Neo Tiew before his passing in November that year.
Man with hand of iron rules the village of no crime. (1953, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Provides a brief description of the Thong Hoe village and Neo Tiew.
Selected oral history interviews on Neo Tiew
- Tan, B.L. and Chua, J.C.H. (Interviewers). (1981, June 19). Oral history interview with Ong Koh Bee. [Accession No. 000068, 37 reels]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
In reels 6 and 7, interviewee shared his recollections of Neo Tiew and his contributions.