Ahoy to her great-great-grandfather from England

Ahoy to her great-great-grandfather from England

SINGAPORE - Part-time English-language lecturer Christine Linda Moss grew up listening to her father talk about how her great-great-grandfather, Captain Mark Moss, was attacked by pirates sailing from England to Singapore in 1838.

He survived, married a local girl named Maria in Singapore and had a son with her, Isaac, who also became a sea captain.

"Just hearing the word captain motivated me to find out more about my ancestry," says Ms Moss, 60, who is Eurasian. "Also, I felt that Moss was a unique surname and wanted to find out about its origin."

She had the chance to do so in the 1980s. Married with two school-going children then, she was teaching English part-time at a language centre.

Editor Myrna Braga-Blake, who was then compiling a book called Singapore Eurasians: Memories And Hopes, asked if the Moss family could contribute a family tree.

"My father said I had the energy to do the family tree, so I should do it," says Ms Moss, who has three younger siblings - a sister and two brothers. Her father, Mr Mervyn Vyner Moss, a former immigration officer, is 85.

In the 1980s, she had opportunities to converse extensively with her grandmother Ruby Irene Moss nee Mowe, who had moved in with the family in the 1970s, before her death in 1988. Her grandmother would regale her with tales from the past.

"I would ask her about who was married to who, how many children they had, and listened to any lovely story she would tell me," recalls Ms Moss.

She would also sit in on the conversations her grandmother used to have with an "aunty Eileen", whom she later learnt was her grandaunt and the youngest of Isaac's 10 children.

It was during one such conversation that aunty Eileen told Ms Moss that she had been corresponding with an aunty May. Aunty May turned out to be the wife of the late Newton Eric Moss, the eighth child of Isaac.

Thrilled that she might have cousins in England, Ms Moss wrote to aunty May, who gave her the mailing address of her son, Brendan Keith Moss.

In 1992, Ms Moss and her aircraft engineer husband, Edwin Peeris, and their three children - the youngest was 11/2 then - flew to England to visit Brendan and his family. They have kept in touch ever since. Brendan, 71, used to work in purchasing in the automobile industry.

Thanks to information from him and other cousins living in Singapore, Australia and the United States, she has since compiled a family tree spanning seven generations. At the top of it is Captain Mark Moss.

Over the years, she has also uncovered more about her great-great-grandfather - through resources such as the National Library Board's digital newspaper archives - and gained "a lot of respect and felt a bond of love" for him.

On how hard life was for him in a growing port such as Singapore, she says: "He had to sail often and always ran the risk of being attacked by pirates." She read an account in a journal on microfilm at the library about how, during one such attack, "his left ear with a portion of the scalp has been cut away".

Another newspaper article, headlined Mainly About Malayans, praised captains Mark and Isaac for their bravery and for being good sea captains.

Ms Moss hopes to continue to find out more about the family, including Mark's early life in England.

Her father is pleased with the progress she has made and wants her to continue with the research.

She also plans to compile a family tree for her 82- year-old mother's relatives, also Eurasians, who have the family names of Woodford and Matthews.

Her children - Jonathan, 35, a journalist and lecturer, Jacqueline, 32, an assistant manager of education and heritage at the Eurasian Association, and Steven, 22, a business administration undergraduate at National University of Singapore - have shown some interest in their genealogical line.

She says: "When they ask me who their cousins are... I am happy to tell them the links."

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