Straits Chinese Recreation Club



Founded in January 1885, the Straits Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC; renamed Singapore Chinese Recreation Club in 1947) was the first club in Singapore to offer English games like cricket, lawn tennis and athletic sports to the Chinese community. Its founding members were Koh Tiong Yan, Koh Seck Tian, Chia Keng Chin, Tan Chew Kim and Ong Kim Cheow.1

Clubhouse
The Straits Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC) initially played at the open plain below the Commissariat Offices on Pearl’s Hill, before moving to Hong Lim Green.2 The SCRC’s first clubhouse was a distinctively shaped octagonal pavilion erected at the centre of the playing field at Hong Lim Green. Designed by H. D. Richards, the building was officially opened by the Chinese consul Tso Ping Lung on 2 July 1887. In 1914, the original pavilion made way for the construction of a new single-storey building. Built at a cost of $12,000, the new pavilion had improved lighting and facilities, and its entrance now faced New Bridge Road.3

In 1946, the club was renamed Singapore Chinese Recreation Club in a bid to attract more members.4 From as early as 1951, plans had been made to relocate the club because the City Council requested for the grounds to be returned to the municipality. The government offered the club a site at Tanjong Rhu, but this was rejected because the area was prone to flooding.5

Following years of delay,6 the club finally moved to Shenton Way in 19597 and the historic clubhouse at Hong Lim Green was demolished to make way for new developments. An open-air theatre was built at Hong Lim Green the following year at a cost of $173,000.8

Today, the Singapore Chinese Recreation Club is located at Balestier Plain, on Balestier Road. The playing field is shared among the SCRC, Singapore Khalsa Association, Singapore Indian Association and the Ceylon Sports Club. In 2002, the National Heritage Board designated Balestier Plain a historic site.9

Sports promotion
The SCRC was one of several sporting clubs formed by Asians for Asians during the colonial era. These recreational sports clubs provided opportunities for members to interact and bond with each other. In the early years of the SCRC, cricket was a popular game that was regularly played. Hockey and football games were also held, though only occasionally. The first of the SCRC’s cricket matches were played with the Sepoy Lines Cricket Club in March 1885. By the 1920s, tennis and football had overtaken cricket as the preferred outdoor sport. Indoor games like chess and billiards were also organised. On 15 January 1912, a seven-a-side match was played for the first time between the Singapore Chess Club and the SCRC. Throughout the course of the club’s history, it has groomed a number of outstanding cricket and hockey players.10

Community activities
Besides sports, the SCRC also organised various community and fundraising activities. On 22 February 1896, the SCRC held its first annual Chinese New Year Sports at Hong Lim Green. Previous smaller-scale Chinese New Year sporting activities were held at Telok Ayer on land loaned from the Straits Insurance Company. In order to raise funds for the repair of the clubhouse’s roof, the SCRC staged the first drama production by the Straits Chinese community titled A Race for a Dinner during the early 1900s. On 7 March 1913, two dramatic performances – After the Battle and a three-act Malay comedy Mustapha – were performed at the Victoria Theatre in aid of the Chinese Red Cross Society in Shanghai. On 21 February 1916, funds were raised for the British Red Cross Funds through tennis matches between the SCRC and the Penang Chinese Recreation Club.11



Author

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia




References
1. Pereira, A. (2003). It’s us against them: sports in Singapore. In K. B. Chan & C. K. Tong (Eds.), Past times: A social history of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PAS-[HIS]); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 216. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore: 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 116. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
2. Untitled. (1885, January 14). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Sin Chew Jit Poh & Archives and Oral History Department. (1982). Singapore retrospect through postcards 1900–1930. Singapore: Sin Chew Jit Poh and Archives and Oral History Department, pp. 50–51. (Call no.: RSING 769.4995957 SIN); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 216. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 188. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
4. S.C.R.C. changes name. (1946, February 25). Malaya Tribune, p. 4/1; S.C.R.C. makes a move to Shenton Way. (1954, October 7). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. S.C.R.C. ending 65-year link. (1951, February 2). The Straits Times, p. 11; S.C.R.C. makes a move to Shenton Way. (1954, October 7). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Council says: You must go. (1953, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. SCRC will be at Shenton Way in July. (1959, January 21). The Straits Times, p. 13; SCRC meeting. (1959, August 19). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Down comes a S’pore landmark. (1959, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 7; First of open air regional theatres. (1960, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 4; New park for Hong Lim Green. (1960, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Balestier sports plain is now historical site. (2002, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 216, 473. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Uma Devi, G., et al. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press in association with National Heritage Board, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Pereira, A. (2003). It’s us against them: Sports in Singapore. In K. B. Chan & C. K. Tong (Eds.), Past times: A social history of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, pp. 141–142. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PAS-[HIS])
11. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 287–288, 359, 477, 533. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS])



Further resource
Chinatown to get a playing field. (1953, October 12). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Peranakan (Asian people)--Singapore--Societies, etc.
Ethnic Communities
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Organisations>>Associations
Heritage and Culture
Sports, recreation and travel
Organisations