Haji Ambo Sooloh



Haji Ambo Sooloh (b. 1891–d. 1963) was a prominent Malay businessman of Bugis descent. A philanthropist and one of the founders of the Malay newspaper Utusan Melayu, he was an active leader of the Malay community from the 1930s to the 1950s.1

Early life
Haji Ambo came from a wealthy Bugis family. His father, Haji Omar Ali, arrived in Singapore from Pontianak, Indonesia, in 1880 and was a prominent businessman with properties on North Bridge Road, Sago Lane, Queen Street, Jalan Besar, Tan Quee Lan Street and Java Road.2 Haji Omar and his large family lived in a three-storey house on Java Road (present-day Crawford Lane) called Rumah Besar (Malay for “big house”), which also offered temporary shelter to Bugis traders who called upon Singapore’s port. The house was built by Bugis carpenters from the Celebes and remained a home for Ambo Sooloh’s family for decades.


Haji Omar was considered an authoritative figure amongst the Bugis merchants, who were such an influential trading community in the 1800s that Stamford Raffles allocated a large portion of land for them on the west bank of Rochor River in 1822. When Haji Omar passed away in 1921, he left great wealth to his children. His youngest son, Ambo Sooloh, proceeded to expand his father’s wealth through the management of his father’s property and diamond trade.4

Contributions
Ambo Sooloh was known as an influential businessman as well as an active member of the Malay community. Like his father, Ambo Sooloh was also considered an authoritative figure in the Bugis community, to whom they frequently turned to resolve disputes. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1927 at the age of 36.5


Haji Ambo is best remembered as one of the founders of the Malay newspaper Utusan Melayu, which he started together with Yusof Ishak (who later became the first president of Singapore) in 1939.6 He was responsible for garnering shares from the Malay community for funding the newspaper. The publication was the first to be wholly owned by the Malays, at a time when Malay newspapers were generally owned by Arab or Indian Malays.7

Haji Ambo was also a patron of various sports teams. In 1929, he contributed the shield, known as the Haji Ambo Sooloh Police Shield, to the Singapore Police Force. It was presented as a trophy to the winners of the annual Straits Settlements Police Force pistol practice and shooting competition.8 He was the president of the Malay Football Association,9 and donated the Sooloh Cup for a football competition between Penang and Singapore Malays.10 A soccer shield was named after him for the Singapore Police soccer competitions,11 and the Haji Ambo Sooloh Shield was presented to winners of the Inter-school Soccer League.12 In 1926, he donated the Sooloh Cup for the first Malay Volunteer Rifle Club shooting competition.13

In 1934, Ambo Sooloh represented the Singapore Malay community to present to then Governor of the Straits Settlements Shenton Thomas a letter proclaiming the loyalty of the Malays to the British government and Singapore.14 He was elected president of the Kesatuan Melayu Singapura (KMS; Singapore Malay Union) that year, replacing Eunos Abdullah.15 One of the key contributions of the KMS during his tenure was the assistance given to dislocated Malay settlers of Kallang in obtaining land and relocating to Kampong Melayu on Jalan Eunos.

Haji Ambo also held other posts such as committee member of the Muslimin Trust Fund Association in 1949; adviser to the Sultan Mosque; and patron of the Malay Sports Association and the Darul Taklam Football Club. To commemorate his contributions, a lane in the former Malay Settlement, Jalan Ambo Sooloh (present-day Kaki Bukit), was named after him.16

Death
Ambo Sooloh passed away in 1963 at the age of 72 and was buried in the Jalan Kubor Cemetery located opposite Sultan Mosque.17 Rumah Besar, which had served as the abode of Ambo Sooloh’s family, was demolished two years after his death.18 


Family
Ambo Sooloh had two wives and 10 children. One of them, Haji Abdullah Amin, was a Malay literary pioneer.19




Authors
Nuradilah Ramlan & Joanna HS Tan




References
1. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Saudagar yang banyak tabur jasa. (1988, January 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Jeman Sulaiman. (1988, November 7). The rise of Malay newspapers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. ‘Trophy is there: Revive Revolver Competition’. (1947, August 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Malay Volunteer Club. (1926, April 30). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Malay football competition. (1929, April 13). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Two mistakes by the Johore keeper puts Haji’s shield in S’pore. (1960, November 12). The Singapore Free Press, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Winners of the inter-school soccer league. (1931, November 14). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Sporting news. (1926, August 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Saudagar yang banyak tabur jasa. (1988, January 26). The Straits Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
16. Saudagar yang banyak tabur jasa. (1988, January 26). The Straits Times, p. 4; Muslimin Trust. (1949, May 22). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Haji Musa Kasbi. (1988, January 26). Ambo Sooloh helped set up Utusan Melayu. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Mohd Yusoff Ahmad. (1999). Episod 1: Ambo Sooloh. In Mohd Yusoff Ismail, Wajah-wajah perintis [Video recording]. Singapore: Mediacorp TV12.

(Call no.: Malay RSING 959.57 WAJ-[HIS])

Singapore Malays. (1939, September 24). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Wahida Wahid. (1998). Episod 7 & 8: Anak Bugis. In Mohamad Sanif Olek, Wajah pendatang [Video recording]. Singapore: Mediacorp TV12.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 959.57 WAJ-[HIS])

Why not revive contest? (1948, May 6). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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
Philanthropists--Singapore--Biography
Community leaders
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Language and literature>>Literatures>>Austronesian and Oceanian literatures>>Malay literature
Haji Ambo Sooloh, 1891–1963
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography