A home filled with love for the sea and nature

A home filled with love for the sea and nature
Madam Hoo Miew Oon's great-grandfather Whampoa Hoo Ah Kay.

Ocean motifs catch the eye in Madam Hoo Miew Oon's old-world home deep within the Dempsey district.

In her sitting room is perched - almost from floor to ceiling - a sword-like narwhal tusk she has now donated to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

But the humbler items around the house are the things that reveal the 79-year-old's love for the sea and nature. Numerous colourful ceramic lobsters and crabs in grey-blue and red adorn the walls.

She told The Straits Times that the crustaceans take her back to her childhood by the sea in Pasir Panjang. That is where the housewife met her husband Yap Boh Lee, 80, a retiree who used to work in insurance.

Madam Hoo is one of 18 great-grandchildren of early Singapore pioneer Hoo Ah Kay, or Whampoa, who was born in Whampoa in Guangdong, China, and came here in 1830 at age 15 looking for work.

Whampoa went on to create a name for his family's company, Whampoa and Co, as a ship's chandler to the British Royal Navy. He was also appointed consul in Singapore for three nations - Russia, China and Japan.

His celebrated Whampoa Gardens home in Serangoon, acquired by the Government in 1964 and demolished, was open to the public during Chinese New Year and became a popular gathering spot.

He died in 1880 at age 64. His name continues to grace roads here, a river and a district.

Madam Hoo is the granddaughter of Whampoa's youngest of three sons, the late lawyer Hoo Keng Tuck. She and her husband have two children - a daughter who works as a doctor in the United States, and a son who works in finance.

This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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