Edwin Brown



Edwin Arthur Brown (b. 22 July 1878, Eccles, Manchester, England1–d. 19 September 1955, Gloucester, England2) was a broker, municipal councillor and long-time stalwart of music and theatre in Singapore. He is perhaps best remembered for his memoir describing life in Edwardian Singapore.3

Early life and professional career
Brown began work in 1896 as an assistant at Hiltermann Brothers, a shipping company in Manchester. Five years later, the Hiltermanns sent him to work for their Singapore branch, Brinkmann and Company, where he was one of two non-German employees. He remained with the company until 1918, when he became a partner in Adis & Ezekiel exchange brokers.4


Public service
Municipal commission
Brown was the vice-president of the Straits Settlements (Singapore) Association.5 He was appointed as a municipal commissioner in 1921 and served for over 16 years in the position.6 He drove the creation of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee, which developed Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore’s first public pool at Mount Emily as well as Katong Park, which was sited on a former military site.7

Brown also spearheaded efforts to form the police brass band8 as well as installed the St Clair organ in Victoria Memorial Hall in 1931.9 He was a driving force in the formation of the Singapore Musical Society and set up the Children’s Orchestra.10 Brown left the municipal commission in 1940.11

Singapore Volunteer Corps
Brown joined the Singapore Volunteer Corps (Rifle) in 1901.12 The corps was dissolved in 1904, but about 30 diehards, including Brown, refused transfer into other units and continued reporting for duty. The Maxim Gun Company of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery was eventually established to accommodate them.13 In 1913 Brown was given command of the Chinese Company of the Singapore Volunteer Corps and worked closely with Song Ong Siang.14 The two became friends and Brown was the best man at Song’s wedding.15

In 1915 Brown was commended for his cool-headed leadership of the inexperienced force that broke the siege of Alexandra Barracks during the sepoy mutiny, a critical point in the mutiny’s suppression.16 He acted as the Singapore Volunteer Corps’ last commandant in 1921, and then re-enlisted as a private in the new Straits Settlements Volunteer Force. After being decorated for his long service, Brown retired with the rank of major in 1923.17

Contributions to culture in Singapore
Music
In 1901, Brown joined the St Andrew’s Cathedral choir, and became its choirmaster in 1910.18

Brown was involved in arranging music for numerous special public occasions. These included helping to prepare a choral welcome for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) in 1901, conceiving and overseeing a short performance by 10,000 children for the Prince of Wales in 1922, and organising an interdenominational concert celebrating the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.19 Brown was chiefly behind the Singapore Music Society,20 and established and conducted a Children’s Orchestra for six- to 16-year-olds. Their first radio broadcast in 1934 was attended by important local personalities and heard by the Master of the King’s Music in England.21

Amateur drama
Brown had acted semi-professionally in Manchester and accepted an invitation to join the cast of a musical soon after moving to Asia. In 1906, he formed the Singapore Amateur Dramatic Committee along with individuals such as E. F. H. Edlin and F. A. Langley.22 He performed at a memorial concert after Arthur Sullivan’s death in 1901; stage-managed and starred in the 1909 staging of The Pirates of Penzance at the inauguration of Victoria Theatre; and sang songs from The Mikado in a tea house in Kobe, Japan. An unusual event with which he assisted was a pantomime of Cinderella staged at Fort Canning by members of the Royal Garrison Artillery.23 One of his last performances was The Sorcerer in 1940, in which he was lauded as a scene-stealer.24

Other activities and honours
Besides music and drama, Brown was also active in sports. His shooting skills twice earned him the Rifle Association’s Governor’s Cup, and he played in Singapore’s first football league, which was established in 1904.25 In addition, Brown was president of the Singapore and South Malaya Boy Scouts Association during the 1920s.26 Only a fraction of his experiences was included in his memoir, Indiscreet Memories, which focused on his first four years in Singapore. The book, which recounted events “grave and gay” and colourful characters who lived in or simply passed through Singapore, portrayed a way of life lost due to the colony’s rapid development.27

Retirement
In 1933 Brown received the honour of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Civil Division).28 Interned during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), Brown retired after liberation in 1945. He returned to England, where he died in 1955.29

Published works
1921: “Music”, published in One hundred years of Singapore30
1929: St Andrew’s Cathedral and its Music31
1935: Indiscreet Memories32

Family

Brown married the sister of his friend from Manchester, and had two daughters, Barbara and Shelagh.33



Author

Duncan Sutherland



References
1. Who’s who in Malaya 1925 [Microfilm no.: NL 6705]. (1925). Singapore: J.S. Fisher, p. 43.
2. Memory man Mr Brown is dead. (1955, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Government House investiture. (1933, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 6; Memory man Mr Brown is dead. (1955, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Who’s who in Malaya 1925 [Microfilm no.: NL 6705]. (1925). Singapore: J.S. Fisher, pp. 43–44; Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])
5. Straits Settlements (Singapore) Association. (1922, May 31). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Who’s who in Malaya 1925 [Microfilm no.: NL 6705]. (1925). Singapore: J.S. Fisher, p. 44; Municipal old boys who have retired. (1940, January 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Municipal old boys who have retired. (1940, January 27). The Straits Times, p. 11; Government House investiture. (1933, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Municipal commission. (1925, September 25). The Singapore Free Press, p. 16; Music jottings. (1924, September 6). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Municipal old boys who have retired. (1940, January 27). The Straits Times, p. 11; Opening of the St. Clair organ. (1931, September 26). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Government House investiture. (1933, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 6; Children’s orchestra ‘on the air’. (1934, July 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1934), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
11. Municipal old boys who have retired. (1940, January 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS]); Who’s who in Malaya, 1939: A biographical record of prominent members of Malaya’s community in official, professional and commercial circles. (1939). Singapore: Fishers Ltd, p. 39. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.9595 WHO-[RFL])
13. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, pp. 191–192, 204–205. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])
14. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS]); Public services recognised. (1931, September 26). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 19; S.V.C. orders. (1913, July 17). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 246. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS])
16. Harper, R. W. E., & Miller, H. (1984). Singapore mutiny. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 157. (Call no.: RSING 355.1334095957 HAR); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 514. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Memory man Mr Brown is dead. (1955, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved with NewspaperSG.
17. Who’s who in Malaya 1925 [Microfilm no.: NL 6705]. (1925). Singapore: J.S. Fisher, p. 44; Government House investiture. (1933, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Who’s who in Malaya 1925 [Microfilm no.: NL 6705]. (1925). Singapore: J.S. Fisher, p. 44; Memory man Mr Brown is dead. (1955, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved with NewspaperSG.
19. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS]); The royal visit. (1922, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 10; Great empire service. (1937, April 2). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2; S.S.C. coronation dinner and dance. (1937, April 6). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Government House investiture. (1933, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. First broadcast. (1934, July 26). The Straits Times, p.13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (1991). One hundred years of Singapore . (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 398. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 33. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])
23. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, pp. 78, 168, 229. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS]); New theatre opened. (1909, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. ‘The Sorcerer’ rehearsal. (1940, November 11). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Who’s who in Malaya, 1939: A biographical record of prominent members of Malaya's community in official, professional and commercial circles. (1939). Singapore: Dorset and Co., p. 39. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.9595 WHO-[RFL]); Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 193. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])
26. Untitled. (1923, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, [Foreword]. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])
28. Government House investiture. (1933, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Who’s who in Malaya, 1939: A biographical record of prominent members of Malaya’s community in official, professional and commercial circles. (1939). Singapore: Dorset and Co., p. 39. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.9595 WHO-[RFL]); King’s birthday honours. (1933, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Memory man Mr Brown dies. (1955, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 406–415. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
31. Brown, E. A. (1929). St Andrew’s Cathedral and its music [Microfiche no.: NL 0015/019]. Singapore: Fraser and Neave, pp. 17–18.
32. Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])
33. Naval Officer married at cathedral. (1939, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brown, E. A. (2007). Indiscreet memories. Singapore: Monsoon Books, p. 172. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to 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
Personalities
Art, Amateur--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Finance>>Investment markets
Edwin, Arthur Brown, 1878-1955
Brokers--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies