Pulau Brani, island, south of the Bukit Merah area, is located south of the Central Region. In Malay, Pulau Brani means "Isle of the Brave". The island was once the home of the Orang Laut. For a while Brani island had a Brick Kiln, a coal depot, a tin smelting plant, and a ship-repairing dock. It was also for many years a colonial, and later a naval facility for the Republic of Singapore Navy until it shifted operations to Tuas.
Originally called Pulau Ayer Brani or Island of Ayer Brannie or Pulo Brani in many early Singapore Maps. The island derived its name from a well at the top of the hill, the water of which was supposed to have had potent qualities. There was also a kolam or "tank" formed out of the natural rock on the Tanjong Pagar side of the island which received the overflow from the well, and in which people used to bathe. The remains of this tank can still be seen. The island once was the location of two coastal villages of Orang Laut also known as Singapore's sea gypsies.
In late 1838, Mr. C. R. Princep wanted to build a 'patent slip' and buildings but no lease could be issued until the area had been surveyed. In January, 1846, former ship's captain Jacob Clunis, designed and proposed the erection of a 300 ft long, 68 ft wide, 15 ft deep 'dry dock', in place of the 'patent slip' never built by Mr. Princep. Clunis' idea also never materialised, due to insufficient funds, so he erected a brickworks, and a yard for repairing small boats, but these did not last as the government repossessed the island for defence purposes. Then Pulau Brani became a small repair dock for British naval vessels. In March 1862, French Giant, Messagerie Maritime Impales erected a Coaling Depot. In 1865, the Naval Coal Depot was completed, with two coal sheds, a small house for the Superintendent, a quay wall and a short wooden pier. On the west side of the island, shipwrights J. C. Buyers & Daniel Robbs, owned a small ship-repairing dock, 300 ft long, and 75 ft wide, which opened in August 1866.
The eastern part of the island was for a long time known for its shallow waters and stretch of reefs, and the probable reason the S.S. Himalaya ran aground on Pulau Brani, in 1868. The Straits Trading Company in 1890, set up a modern western-style tin smelting plant with a 3-ton reverberatory furnace, for smelting Tin ore shipped from the Malay States, Siam and Australia. In 1904, the Bon Accord Dock & Yard also had ship-repair facilities on the island.
World War II
The British destroyed rubber stocks and the tin-smelting plant just before the fall of Singapore, during World War II. Activities on the island resumed after the war. A 1966 map shows the Straits Trading Company Ltd. still existed on the island. Pulau Brani, until the early 1990s, was home to the Republic of Singapore Navy.
Now more than half the island accommodates a Container terminal and other port facilities. A causeway now links Pulau Brani with the mainland as a convenience to harbour operations.
Early name : In the survey charts of Captain Franklin, completed in 1822 and used by Mr Crawfurd, the island was known as Pulau Ayer Brani. Also in 1846, Captain Sir Edward Belcher, Royal Navy, called it Gage island
Chinese Names: In Cantonese (1) San chu-shek tui-min means "Opposite the new tin smelting"
(2) Chha-tin ma-thau tui-min means "Opposite Jardine's jetty"
Malay Name: In Malay Pulau Brani also spelt Pulau Berani, means "Isle of the brave"
Bogaars, G. (1956). Tanjong Pagar Dock Company 1864-1905 (p. 92, 105, 270) [Microfilm: NL 10999]. Singapore: G.P.O.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.51BOG)
Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819-1867 (pp. 494, 704). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)
Tregonning, K. G. (1967). Home port Singapore: A history of Straits Steamship Company Limited, 1890-1965 (p.16). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 387.5095957 TRE)
Singapore chronicles (p. 184). (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Pub.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
Firmstone, H. W. (1905, January). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula . Straits Branch Royal Asiatic Society, 4, 158.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 JMBRAS)
The information in this article is valid as at 2001 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.