Seletar residents launch book on area's rich heritage

SINGAPORE - Keen to share the beauty of their estate, eight Seletar residents have spent the last 18 months putting together a 282-page book detailing the rich history and heritage of their neighbourhood.

Down The Seletar River: Discovering A Hidden Treasure Of Singapore features little-known historical nuggets, anecdotes, 19th-century paintings and archive photos of the area.

It was produced to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Seletar Hills Estate Residents' Association (Shera) whose chairman Percival Jeyapal, 71, was also the project's director.

Particularly fascinating for him was learning about the gravestone of Jane Buyers near the Seletar Country Club. She was the wife of shipbuilder JC Buyers, who worked in Singapore from 1863 to 1885.

"There are few incidents of gravestones that go back so far in time," said Mr Jeyapal. "To find a gravestone in a remote part of the island which used to be a mangrove swamp points toward colonial shipbuilding activity in the area."

The book is divided into five sections. It starts by tracing the area's history from the early 1800s when the Orang Laut, or sea people, made it their home.

It then delves into the lives of immigrants from China and India who settled there and grew pepper, gambier and rubber.

It also details life during the inter- war years, when the British set up a military airbase.

It goes on to chronicle the housing rush at Seletar Hills, the development of Jalan Kayu and memories and stories of Seletar residents today.

"It was important for us to tell the story of Seletar and how it evolved from its roots as a backwater estate, through the eyes of its occupants," said primary author Eugene Wijeysingha, 79, a retired principal.

Seletar, as defined in the book, includes Jalan Kayu, Seletar airbase and parts of Ang Mo Kio, Yio Chu Kang and Lorong Buangkok.

Featuring a foreword by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the project was supported by the National Heritage Board, Bukit Sembawang Estates, Fairview Developments and Tuan Sing Holdings.

The book will go on sale from Saturday at its official launch at Seletar Country Club. It is priced at $40, but members of Shera and residents can purchase it for half that. Proceeds will go to the President's Challenge.

"Few people realise the history of this beautiful estate," said project manager Ginger Tiah, 66. "I'm glad we can leave such a legacy behind so that future generations will know the people and stories behind its development."

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