Percy Reginald Hill



Percy Reginald Hill (b. 1888, Lancashire, England–d. 1950, Sydney, Australia) was a chartered accountant who lived in Singapore and Malaya between 1906 and 1919. He is best remembered for his collection of photographs depicting bygone ways of everyday life in Singapore and Malaya that was donated to the National Library of Singapore in 2008.1

Life in Singapore

Hill left England in 1906 to work for Evatt & Company, an accounting firm with offices in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.2 He worked as an accounting assistant at the company’s office in Singapore, which was located in Raffles Square (now known as Raffles Place). As the company handled the accounts of a number of rubber companies in Borneo, Sumatra and Java, Hill regularly travelled to these places for work. He rose rapidly in the company, eventually obtaining signing authority and becoming a partner in 1918.3  Hill also joined the Singapore Chamber of Commerce during this period.

During his time in Singapore, Hill played a part in a number of local organisations. He was the treasurer of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Recreation Fund, and served as honorary treasurer for both the Boy Scouts Association and the Singapore Rowing Club.4 Hill also helped the Singapore branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution with their accounts.

Hill served in uniform as a member of the Maxim Company of the Singapore Volunteer Corps. He was promoted from the rank of Orderly Sergeant to Temporary Second Lieutenant in 1917.5

Move to Australia

While visiting Sydney, Australia, on sick leave, Hill became engaged to a woman he met there. However, his new fiancée did not wish to relocate to Singapore as it was too far from her family. In early 1919, Hill returned to Singapore one last time to settle his affairs and to sell his share of the partnership for 10,000 Straits dollars before moving to Sydney. Hill died in Sydney in 1950.6

The Percy R. Hill Collection
Although Hill was in Singapore for only a short period of time, he left behind a significant legacy. On top of his non-professional activities, Hill kept busy as an enthusiastic amateur photographer, amassing a large collection of photographs documenting life in Singapore and Malaya in the early 20thcentury.

In 2007, Hill’s daughter, Mrs Eleanor O’Hara, offered 60 glass plate negatives of his photographs, each measuring 8cm x 8cm, to the National Library of Singapore. As Mrs O’Hara was unable to travel to Singapore, a representative of the library collected the glass plates from her daughter, Ms Katherine Hayley in Queensland, Australia, the following year. The donation of the photographs to Singapore marks a valuable addition to the National Library’s holdings of early local images and complements the library’s other significant collections on early Singapore.7

The photographs feature scenes of daily life in Singapore and Malaya between 1906 and 1919. These include: rubber plantations; kampongs (“village” or “settlement” in Malay); Chinese temples (Thian Hock Keng Temple and the Shuang Lin Monastery); coastal and river villages; modes of transportation such as ox carts, tongkangs (“bumboat” or “lighter” in Malay) and sampans (a small wooden boat); street and market scenes; as well as tropical fruits like the durian. The photographs include some studio-style portraits but most are informal shots of individuals and families. Subjects include hawkers, peddlers and snake charmers engaged in their everyday work.8 Some of the negatives were hand-coloured by Hill himself.9



Author

Duncan Sutherland



References
1. National Library Board. (2015). Percy Hill Collections. Retrieved from National Library Board; Low, E. (2008, July). The Percy R Hill collection. BiblioAsia, 4(2), 56–57; National Library, Singapore. (Compiler). (2008). Glass plates negatives on Singapore and Malaya between 1906–1919. Singapore: The Author. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.995957 PER)
2. National Library Board. (2015). Percy Hill Collections. Retrieved from National Library Board; Low, E. (2008, July). The Percy R Hill collection. BiblioAsia, 4(2), 57; National Library, Singapore. (Compiler). (2008). Glass plates negatives on Singapore and Malaya between 1906–1919. Singapore: The Author. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.995957 PER)
3. Lifeboat Fund. (1918, May 25). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. War relief funds. (1916, August 19). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Boy Scouts. (1910, September 20). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Rowing Club. (1911, December 16). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Adverstiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Rowing Club. (1914, January 28). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Soldiers and sailors. (1917, September 24). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. S.V.C. orders. (1914, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Local and personal. (1917, April 7). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. National Library Board. (2015). Percy Hill Collections. Retrieved from National Library Board; Low, E. (2008, July). The Percy R Hill collection. BiblioAsia, 4(2), 57; National Library, Singapore. (Compiler). (2008). Glass plates negatives on Singapore and Malaya between 1906–1919. Singapore: The Author. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.995957 PER).
7. National Library Board. (2015). Percy Hill Collections. Retrieved from National Library Board; Low, E. (2008, July). The Percy R Hill collection. BiblioAsia, 4(2), 56–57; National Library, Singapore. (Compiler). (2008). Glass plates negatives on Singapore and Malaya between 1906–1919. Singapore: The Author. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.995957 PER).
8. National Library Board. (2015). Percy Hill Collections. Retrieved from National Library Board; Low, E. (2008, July). The Percy R Hill collection. BiblioAsia, 4(2), 57; National Library, Singapore. (Compiler). (2008). Glass plates negatives on Singapore and Malaya between 1906–1919. Singapore: The Author. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.995957 PER).
9. National Library Board. (2015). Percy Hill Collections. Retrieved from National Library Board.



Further Resources

Singapore and Straits Directory for 1911. (1911), p. 152. [Microfilm: NL 1184]. Singapore: Fraser and Neave.

Singapore and Straits Directory for 1915. (1915), p. 132. [Microfilm: NL 1187]. Singapore: Fraser and Neave.

Singapore and Straits Directory for 1918. (1918), p. 137. [Microfilm: NL 1187]. Singapore: Fraser and Neave.



The information in this article is valid as at 26 June 2013 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
Accountants
Biographies

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