Singing 60s

Singing 60s

An ornately carved and imposingly tall grandfather clock towers over visitors in the reception area of the Eu Yan Sang corporate head office, located in a 103-year-old shophouse in South Bridge Road.

The clock, fittingly, belonged to the grandfather of its current owner. It had chimed the hours in a hallway of what was once one of Singapore's largest private homes, Eu Villa.

From 1914, the Edwardian Baroque mansion stood on five stately acres on Mount Sophia, its affairs overseen by its owner, businessman and philanthropist Eu Tong Sen.

His grandson, Richard Eu, 66, has the clock now, and is also the chief executive of the company founded by his great- grandfather (and Eu Tong Sen's father) Eu Kong in 1879.

"It's a reminder of our heritage," says Mr Eu of the timepiece, one of the few objects rescued from Eu Villa before it succumbed to the wrecking ball in the 1980s.

The past, like the clock, looms large in the company's present, he says, because "it's really only when you know where you come from that you know where to go".

The group chief executive officer of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) company knows about looking ahead. He joined the business as general manager late in his life in 1989, when he was in his 40s. With three cousins, he began a campaign to wrest control of the company back into family hands when the firm was in danger of dissolution.

He helped modernise its products and how it markets and retails them. Since then, the listed company has grown into a brand known across Asia.

Two months ago, Mr Eu racked up a different sort of achievement. The amateur musician, known to sing at charity events and play blues harmonica, launched an album of jazz, blues and rock standards. The CD's title is 66, a nod to his age and the Route in the United States celebrated in popular music.

Inside the sleeve, the dedication reads: "This album is dedicated to my father and late mother, who didn't disown me when I thought the point of studying in London during the Swinging Sixties was to be like Mick Jagger."

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