Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The River Merchants in Black and White

On my way to Gillman Barracks on a sunny Sunday last week, I passed by the River Merchants sculptures. I pulled out my X-T1 camera and took a few snapshots. I've included below the information about the sculptures from the signage.


The River Merchants, 2003
Sculptor: Aw Tee Hong
This sculpture shows Scotsman, Alexander Laurie Johnston, prominent merchant of early Singapore mediating between a Chinese trader and a Malay Chief, whilst Indian and Chinese coolies load sacks onto a bullock cart—a common sight around the river as trade expanded.

Alexander Laurie Johnston & Co was set up at this spot in 1830. It was more popularly known to the merchants as Tanjong Tangkap because it was the godown nearest the river's mouth and Johnston could "catch" the merchant captains as their boats entered the river for trade. Johnston was a highly respected businessman and compassionate arbitrator for public matters. He was the first Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and introduced the five-foot way—the covered walkway, which came to characterise traditional shophouse architecture.

Tanjong Tangkap stood until 1848, when the Flint Building replaced it. This burnt down and in 1910, the offices of Whiteway Laidlaw and Co. occupied the site. In 1942, Maybank took over the building and named it Malayan Banking Chambers, renaming it Maybank Chambers in 1965. This building was demolished in 1998 to make way for the 32-storey Maybank Tower that we see today.