Monday, 21 August 2017

Beautiful Serene of Mount Vernon Columbarium

World United for Life@GraceServiceHall
On the morning of Sunday, 20th Aug which was yesterday, my husband and I attended at The World United for Life 2017 day held at Grace Service Hall at Mount Vernon Sanctuary.
Inside Grace Service Hall
It's a global event that offers Singaporeans a private and serene place to reflect and remember their loved ones, to commemorating the life of those who have gone before us, celebrating life and the lives of our loved ones.
And Mt Vernon Columbarium where my husband's late parents' resting place we visited every year since early 1990s till now. 
After this, we managed to stroll within Mount Vernon Sanctuary surrounding to capture the peaceful and calm of the large greenly space with six service halls for wakes, Mt Vernon Columbarium Pagoda and complexes.
The design were laid out like a hexagon (below pic) and from the top of the Pagoda, the blocks of them neatly spaced out and it's impressive sight.
View of Mt Vernon Columbarium Complex from Pagoda
The plot of land and the building that Mount Vernon Sanctuary occupies used to be Mount Vernon Crematorium. The single colonial style building on 11,500 sq ft of land, had been unoccupied for 5 years and the condition of the place was poor. The "4th Generation" Ang Brothers from Ang Chin Moh Group (founded in 1912) managed to savage and maintain the colonial style building in its facade and to refurnish it. The founding of Ang Chin Huat Casket (1912) is an early pioneer of the funeral profession in Singapore.
Mt Vernon Columbarium Complex & Pagoda
The Pagoda Columbarium is a nine-storey building where the urns are kept inside the niches
Mt Vernon Columbarium Pagoda
Someone or something (a place) that is serene is calm and quiet that lies in lushly huge greenery space that was once Mount Vernon cemeteries in the past. Mount Vernon is named after British Royal Navy Vice Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757). Mount Vernon Columbarium opened its operations in 1962 and was the first state run crematorium in Singapore to handle cremations. Due to inability to handle the amount of cremations needed daily, a new crematorium was built at Mandai. On 30 June 2004, the crematorium at Mt Vernon ceased cremation services. The Cremation services have been shifted to the new Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium Complex at 300 Mandai Road in July 2004. Mt Vernon Columbarium complex is still in operation to this day till the news announced of the re-location and is set to make way for the Bidadari estates and its 10,000 Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats as well as 1,000 private homes (Condo). The Mr Vernon Columbarium (which came after the crematorium) was built in many phases. The first Columbarium was built in 1976 with only 161 niches filled in the first year. More were added over the years including Pagoda. The niches were arranged in numbered blocks that featured Chinese-style green roofs and also were housed within a distinctive-looking nine-storey Mt Vernon Columbarium Pagoda. After 45 years of operation since it opened in 1962, the Mt Vernon Crematorium and funeral complex held its final service. Its lease ends on Mar 2018.
The old lift and Spiral staircase
The old lift installed emergency phone
The old lift that takes me to the 8th floor only and one floor level, I have to walk up the spiral staircase. The lift installed emergency phone, should any problem arises.
Wind Chime at Pagoda
The wind chime prevents pigeons flying in and sometimes it may call a sound of a spirit lurking around when member of the public would hear the tinging sound coming from the Pagoda. It's also to drive away bad Feng Shui. Sound freaky..
Overlooking at Bidadari estates being build
On top of Pagoda, overlooking of Bidadari estates are seen construction going on.
Wired window on the Pagoda
Saw the wired window to prevent any small animals like pigeons to come into the window above the wall on the Pagoda.
View of Niche Blocks and Maris Stella High Sch (background)
Overlooking the niche blocks and Maris Stella High School (seen in the background) from the top of the Pagoda.
View of Mt Vernon Camp (left foreground) and Columbarium
There is a hill which is the home of Mount Vernon Camp (red rooftop on the left), the Gurkha Contingent of the Singapore Police Force training and residential facilities which is inaccessible to the public. 
Columbarium complex
I noticed the Columbarium complex at the corner that niches holding the urns of the departed are inside whereas most niches outside are lack of connected sheltered walkway in rain and shine.
Where the urns are kept inside
The family of the deceased choose to have a sheltered for their loved ones from rain and shrine and the cost would be high.
One of Mt Vernon Service Parlours ceases
The 'blue rooftop' Columbarium building is next to the service hall 1 that had stopped its operation since.
Closeup: Funeral Parlour Service Hall
Mt Vernon Funeral Parlour Service Hall with a tall burner or Crematorium Chimney that was used in the past till it ceased in 2004.
Service Hall 1 Torn Down
The concrete stone chairs inscribed the name of the Mount Vernon Crematoria has been widespread since in early 1980s and what will happen to these chairs if over 20,000 niches move to Mandai and the complexes including Pagoda will demolish in later year in 2019. The leases for Mount Vernon Parlours 1 and 2, which are run by Singapore Casket ends in Dec 2017.
The old crooked tree with curved branches
The old crooked trees that have curved branches stands alone in the middle of niches blocks in between.Will the trees preserved? It looks eerie when night falls.
A coconut tree stands tall
A coconut tree if preserved, will remind me and my husband of his late parents-in-law's resting place, just next to the niche block and Christian service hall (below) is located.
Christian Service Parlour Hall
I recognise the blue rooftop building that my ex-colleague, a christian, passed away in mid 1990s. Her casket held at this building that my boss, my colleagues and I attended at her wake.
Colonial 'Bidadari' Cemetery of Yore

Postcard from The Continent Stamp (NAS)
The rich history and heritage of Bidadari will be assimilated into the new housing estate to be built there. Bukit Timah Cemetery was closed in 1907, and Bidadari Cemetery was officially opened on January 1, 1908.
Bidadari Memorial Garden
The crest of lion standing and royal palm tree embalmed on the wall pillar of the gate, would be done by famous sculptor. 
View of Bidadari Memorial Garden from Pagoda
 Lion standing and Palm Tree
The land once belonged to the Sultan of Johor in the mid-1800s, and was the site of a grand residence – the Istana Bidadari (Bidadari House), from which the area takes its name. In later years, during the early 1920s wealthy Arabian family the Alkaffs built a magnificent Japanese-themed garden with a large lake nearby, called the Alkaff Garden. The name Bidadari is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit widyadari, meaning ‘nymph of Indra’s heaven’. It is said that the cemetery was named so after one of the wives of Johor Sultan Abu Bakar, on whose Istana residence the cemetery is sited.
Christian Section of Memorial Garden
The government acquired the 45 acre land in 1903 for $112,500, opening it in 1907 as the third cemetery in Singapore at the time. It was divided into various sections according to religion, with the Muslim, Hindu, and Singahalese section at the base of Mount Vernon, across Upper Aljunied Road from the Christian and Catholic section. After the land was acquired by the Municipal Council of Singapore (the administrative body pre-Singapore’s independence) for use as a cemetery, the first burial at Bidadari Cemetery, a Christian one, took place in December 1907. A Muslim section was added 2 years later to the initial Protestant and Roman Catholic plots, and a Hindu section added eventually in 1925.When the cemetery closed 66 years later in 1973, there were altogether approximately 147,000 graves.
Lim Boon Keng was a prominent Peranakan social activist and philanthropist. He was the first Malayan to receive a Queen’s Scholarship, and studied medicine in Edinburgh University. Mr Lim was a member of the British Legislative Council in Singapore, a member of the Chinese Advisory Board and a Justice of the Peace. He co-founded the Singare Chinese Girls’ School, encouraging the education of Chinese girls and also co-founded the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC).
Headstone of Dr Lim Boon Keng
Early Singapore’s prominent members of the community were buried in Bidadari. Among them were Chinese physician and community leader Dr Lim Boon Keng (Boon Keng Road), known as the “grand old man” of Singapore’s Chinese society; Mr Ahmad Bin Ibrahim, Singapore’s Minister for Health and Labour in the 1950s and 1960s (Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim in Jurong); and Dr George Herbert Garlick, a prominent medical practitioner (Garlick Avenue in Bukit Timah).
Headstone of Alfred John Bidwell
Among the 12 headstones preserved in the memorial garden is that of Regent Alfred John Bidwell, architect from Swan & Maclaren who later practised as an independent architect. Accomplished architect Alfred John Bidwell didn’t get a road named after him, however he is well remembered in the iconic and much-loved buildings he designed that are preserved today – the Raffles Hotel, Goodwood Park Hotel, and the Victoria Theatre. The graves in Bidadari Cemetery were exhumed from 2001 to 2006 however as the government had big plans for the site given its attractive central location. Bidwell passed away in 1918 at Tanjong Katong, and was interred in Bidadari Cemetery
Cupola of Koona V. Pillary
Headstone of Koona Vayloo Pillay
One of the three original gateways of the Christian cemetery was relocated to the garden to mark the main entrance. Next to it stands a cupola dedicated to Koona Vayloo Pillay who died on 24th March 1931, the father of Pakirisamy Pillay and Narayanasamy Pillay. Pakirisamy Pillay served as the served as the Chairman for the Hindu Temples’ Committees of Management for four different Hindu temples, including Sri Krishnan Temple at Waterloo Street. He contributed to the extensive development of the temple. A bronze plaque donated by the British Merchant Navy Personnel Association, dedicated to the lives lost in WWII, could also be found.
Muslim Section@Bidadari Memorial Garden
Muslim cemetery covered the area 24ha of land with over 78,000 graves. The selected of headstones of prominent personalities relocated to this memorial garden as a remainder of their contributions to Singapore's growth and development, others who played their significant roles in our nation buildings.
Headstone of Ahmad Ibrahim
A prominent unionist and politician, Mr Ahmad was Singapore's Minister of Health from 1959 to 1961. He was instrumental in unifying all hospital administration and during his term as Minister, the first Open Heart Surgery was successfully performed in Singapore. 
The Woodleigh MRT Station sitting right on the ex-cemetery grounds was opened in 2011. The park adjacent to Upper Serangoon Road is split into 2 sections by Upper Aljunied Road. The hilly wooded bird-haunt area is north of Upper Aljunied Road and used to be the Muslim part of the cemetery, while on the other side wide open green fields with paved paths in between stretch away where once the largely Christian cemetery stood. Once the final resting place for many of our ancestors, Bidadari Cemetery will soon become a home for future generations once a new housing estate is complete. 
Pigeons gathered at the incense burner
Guess what the pigeons doing at the incense burner? 
Outdoor Disposable Catcher@ServiceHall
Not surprising to see the fly trap hung to the ceiling to trap flies. This trap is baited for fly species which are most common in agricultural areas -- including house flies, false stable flies, blow flies, blue and green bottle flies, flesh flies, face flies and many others. The Big Bag Fly Trap contains a fast-acting fly attractant that starts working as soon as you add water. Food and feed additives are combined with other dried ingredients to make the attractant. Lured by the scent, flies enter through the yellow top cap and drown in the water. As you can see the flies struck inside the yellow bag. Well, some households use home made Fly Trap
It was at 2pm in the afternoon, we decided to head back to the Grace Hall where we chatted one of the staff while waiting for free shutter bus to Serangoon pick out point area. According to him, he said that in the past the cremation of an average human body takes from two to three hours to burn completely and will produce an average of 3 to 9 pounds (1.4 to 4.1 kilograms) of ash while the gas burner takes 1 hour plus to burn the body completely. Minutes later, we took free shutter van to head back to where we boarded earlier.At last but not least, my husband and I will remember his late parents' ashes that has been kept for almost 3 decades and will definitely miss this place and greenery surroundings. Some member of the public like us in the hope that authorises to preserve one or two historical building such as 9-storey Pagoda or a remembrance plaque, and to educate future generations that Mt Vernon Columbarium and Cemetery were once stood at their new estates.
Well, it is a piece of heritage soon to be listed in the history book of Singapore!

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