Goh Sin Tub



Goh Sin Tub (b. 2 December 1927, Singapore–d. 16 November 2004, Singapore) was a “first generation” Singaporean writer,1 teacher, civil servant, banker, and long-time chairman of St Joseph’s Institution’s board of governors.2 He authored more than a dozen novels and short stories in his lifetime, including a collection of Malay short stories.3 Goh was a prolific writer who wrote mostly set-in-Singapore historical fiction,4 stories and short stories.5 He is best known, however, for his short stories, which included best-selling titles, the One Singapore trilogy and Walk Like a Dragon.6 In recognition of his contributions to the development of Singapore literature, he was conferred the Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Literary Award for English prose in 1996.7

Early life
Goh lived at Emerald Hill in his youth. In 1935, he enrolled in St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) for his education. His studies were interrupted with the start of World War II. His father became unemployed and Goh had to help supplement his family’s income by selling bread from house to house. During that time, he was introduced to a Japanese firm where he started work as a typewriter mechanic. At the urging of his Japanese manager, Goh attended a Japanese evening school where he learned Japanese, and continued his studies at a Japanese teachers’ training school. It was through his contact with his Japanese teachers that he began to form a different perspective of the Japanese, and developed an appreciation of their culture, philosophy and values. Some of his personal experiences and reflections on the Japanese are represented in his works.8

When the war ended, Goh resumed his education at SJI. In 1947, he received a scholarship to study at Raffles College, being one of the few to be chosen for that year. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English from the newly merged University of Malaya in 1951.9

Early writing
Goh began writing when he was around 10 or 12 years old, and some of his early youth writings appeared in school magazines.10 He continued writing when he entered college. His literary essays and verses, written under the names S. T. Goh and Augustine Goh, were published in varsity publications such as The New Cauldron.11 One of his poems written during this period, titled “Eye”, was later included in the anthology The Flowering Tree by Edwin Thumboo in 1970.12 During his undergraduate days, Goh was also an editor for the students’ union, and a contributor of humour pieces to the Singapore Tiger Standard, a local newspaper.13

Even when he entered the workforce, Goh continued to pursue his passion for writing and literature. In the 1950s, he ran a poetry circle for a student literary magazine titled Youth that was published by the Combined Secondary Schools of Singapore. The meetings were held at SJI where he was teaching, and one of the budding writers he mentored through this initiative was the young Thumboo.14

In the 1960s, Goh began writing stories for the Malay press. The editor of the Malay newspaper, Berita Harian, suggested that Goh compiled his written pieces into a collection. This resulted in his first Malay book, Cherpen Cherpen Pilehan (1965), which was published under his Malay pen name Akbar Goh. His book won the second prize in the National Malay Literature Competition at Kuala Lumpur in 1966.15 He also won a Malay short story writing competition organised by the Dewan Bahasa Singapore in 1963.16

From the 1970s, Goh returned to writing in English. However, these pieces were mostly unpublished except for two short stories which appeared in the Sunday edition of New Nation in 1978 under the pseudonym Easter Goh.17

Goh held senior positions in the civil service (Administrative Service) and top positions in the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation and the United Overseas Bank before he retired as a banker in 1986 and turned to full-time writing. He was motivated to write and sell his first English book, The Battle of the Bands, to raise funds for the building of a new school for SJI. When the book was well received, the publisher persuaded him to write more stories. Thus, he began writing stories to entertain others, learning the craft as he went along. He also began to read books on writing to improve his story-writing skills.18

Career as a writer
Many of Goh’s writings are autobiographical or biographical in nature. They are often based on his personal experiences, having lived through colonial times, the Japanese Occupation, Singapore’s merger and separation from Malaysia, and the nation-building years. His various appointments as a civil servant, banker, builder and social worker had also influenced his writings. Goh also drew inspiration from stories that he hears from family, friends and colleagues. He saw the need to share his own personal history and that of others, so that the rich experiences of the older generation could be preserved and passed on to younger Singaporeans to help them better appreciate and understand Singapore’s past. Besides writing to entertain, Goh also wrote as an educationalist. He saw his writing as a way of reflecting his values and to help people understand life issues. Many of his stories encompass a moral point.19

Goh did not follow a regular writing schedule, though he wrote mostly at night and in quiet environments. He would jot down his ideas on a notebook or on a computer. In the beginning, he wrote using a typewriter but later moved on to the computer. He penned many stories at any one time and would have 40 to 60 stories at various stages of development. He would re-visit these stories periodically to expand or amend them. Typically, he would go through four to five revisions before he was satisfied with them. At times, he would also have his wife review his drafts.20

Although Goh wrote poetry, essays and novels, it was short stories in which he excelled and gained recognition for.21 In the 1980s, his short stories “Home for Grandma” in Honour, “Sayonara Sensei” in The Ghost Lover of Emerald Hill and Other Stories, and “Last Yamseng for Daughter” in The Nan-Mei-Su-Girls of Emerald Hill won Merit prizes at the annual National Short Story Writing competitions.22

Goh passed away at the age of 77 on 17 November 2004 after a stroke. In memory of him, the SJI launched an annual Goh Sin Tub Literary Award for Best Short Story in 2005. The prize is given to the SJI student with the best short story for that year.23 In 2011, his wife Sylvia Goh (Dr) established a biennial Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Prize, that is administered by the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore.24

Works
1964: Rhymes for Malaysian Children25
1965: Cherpen2 Pilehan (subsequently republished as Cerpen-Cerpen Pilihan)26
1986
: Battle of the Bands and Other Stories27

1987: The Ghost Lover of Emerald Hill and Other Stories28 / Honour and Other Stories (originally published as Battles of the Bands and Other Stories)29
1989: The Nan-Mei-Su Girls of Emerald Hill30
1990: Ghosts of Singapore!31
1991: More Ghosts of Singapore32
1993: Goh’s 12 Best Singapore Stories33 / Moments in a Singapore Life34 / The Sin-Kheh35
1994: Mass Possession: A True Story!: Tales of the Supernatural and Natural36 / “If you too could do Voodoo, who would you do Voodoo to"?37
1995: Loves of Sons and Daughters38
1996
: 30 Stories: Narrative Compositions for O-Level39
1997: 12 Women and Their Stories40
1998
: 12 Best Singapore Stories (originally published as Goh’s 12 Best Singapore Stories)41 / The Campus Spirit and Other Stories (originally published as Mass Possession: A True Story!: Tales of the Supernatural and Natural)42 / The Girls of Emerald Hill (originally published as The Nan-Mei-Su Girls of Emerald Hill)43 / One Singapore: 65 Stories by a Singaporean44

2000: One Singapore 2: 65 More Stories by a Singaporean45
2001: Goh Sin Tub’s One Singapore 3: More Singaporean Stories46
2004: Walk Like a Dragon: Short Stories47
2005: The Angel of Changi & Other Stories48

Family
Wife: Sylvia Goh nee Voon.
Children: Austin Goh, John Goh and Patrick Goh.49



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/1, p. ii]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Fong, T., & Chow, C. (2004, November 17). Writer Goh Sin Tub dies after strokeThe Straits Times, p. 8; Chew, D. (2004, November 17). Novelist Goh passes away. Today, p. 6; Koh, B. S. (1993, May 22). The return of Edwin Thumboo. The Straits Times, p. 2; Cheng, W. (2004, May 8). Stories are all that are left…. Today, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Fong, T., & Chow, C. (2004, November 17). Writer Goh Sin Tub dies after strokeThe Straits Times, p. 8; Peralta, C. (1995, January 26). Writers must tap history: Goh Sin Tub. The Straits Times, p. 4; David, S. (1998, April 22). SJI board appointed new chairman. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chew, D. (2004, November 17). Novelist Goh passes away. Today, p. 6; Cheah, B. K. (1969, February 8). The wide-open field for new Malay writers. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
4. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 22–27. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Peralta, C. (1995, January 26). Writers must tap history: Goh Sin Tub. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 21–22. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Goh, S. T. (1993, January 22). Spirit behind those ghost stories. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 27, 29. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Chew, D. (2004, November 17). Novelist Goh passes away. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Bestsellers. (1998, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 16; Straits Times bestsellers. (2000, November 4). The Straits Times, p. 23; MPH bestsellers. (2001, December 15). The Straits Times, p. 135; The Life! Bestsellers list. (2004, May 8). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Seah, L. (1996, August 24). Veteran writers win inaugural literary awards. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 17, 22–27. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/1, p. ii, 1–11]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/2, pp. 12–14]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
9. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 18, 20. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/1, p. ii]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/2, p. 15]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Cambridge exam results. (1947, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 6; Raffles exam results. (1948, June 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Soong, M. (1988, March 14). Retired banker Goh Sin Tub’s tales from the trampoline. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001).Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
11. Raffles Society, University of Malaya. (1950/51). The New Cauldron. Singapore: Author, pp. 52–73. (Call no.: RCLOS 052 NC)
12. Thumboo, E. (Compiler). (1970). The flowering tree. Singapore: Educational Publications Bureau, p. 20. (Call no.: RCLOS 828.99 THU)
13. Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/2, pp. 16–17]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Soong, M. (1988, March 14). Retired banker Goh Sin Tub’s tales from the trampoline. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Quayum, M. A. (Ed.). (2007). Peninsular muse: Interviews with modern Malaysian and Singaporean poets, novelists and dramatists. Oxford; Bern; Peter Lang, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 820.99595 PEN); Goh, S. T. (1993). Moments in a Singaporean life. Singapore: UniPress, pp. vii–viii. (Call no.: RSING S821 GOH); Koh, B. S. (1993, June 5). Like student, like teacher. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Akbar Goh. (1965). Cherpen2 pilehan. Kuala Lumpur: Singapura: Penerbitan Federal. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS 899.2305 GOH); Jujor lebah penting dari $3,000. (1966, May 15). Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2009, May 28). Oral history interview with Goh, Sylvia Tshin En nee Voon [MP3 Recording No. 003388/6/4]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
16. Forum on study of Malay. (1964, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2009, May 28). Oral history interview with Goh, Sylvia Tshin En nee Voon [MP3 Recording No. 003388/6/4]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Goh, E. (1978, August 20). In a flash, he found the meaning to his life… New Nation, p. 24; Goh, E. (1978, October 29). Rat race. New Nation, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Chew, D. (Interviewer). (1993, October 12). Oral history interview with Goh Sin Tub [Transcript of MP3 Recording No. 001422/7/1, p. ii]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2009, May 28). Oral history interview with Goh, Sylvia Tshin En nee Voon [MP3 Recording No. 003388/6/4]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
19. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 16–37. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Peralta, C. (1995, January 26). Writers must tap history: Goh Sin Tub. The Straits Times, p. 4; Soong, M. (1988, March 14). Retired banker Goh Sin Tub’s tales from the trampoline. The Business Times, p. 11; Ong, S. F. (1998, August 22). Space for worm’s eye view too. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 12, 28, 30–31. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Soong, M. (1988, March 14). Retired banker Goh Sin Tub’s tales from the trampoline. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2009, May 28). Oral history interview with Goh, Sylvia Tshin En nee Voon [MP3 Recording No. 003388/6/4]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
21. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
22. Spotlight twice on author. (1989. November 17). The New Paper, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts. (2005, April 11). Speech by Dr Tony Tan, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence, at the launch of “The SJIOBA spirit of the LaSallian Mission”, 12 April 2005, 7.30 PM at Sentosa Cove. Retrieved from the National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; St. Joseph’s Institution. (n.d.). Scholarships and awards. Retrieved 2016, September 23 from St Joseph’s Institution website: http://www.sji.edu.sg/scholarships
24. Fong, T., & Chow, C. (2004, November 17). Writer Goh Sin Tub dies after strokeThe Straits Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. (2011, April 4). The inaugural Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Prize 2011 – short stories. Retrieved 2016, September 23, from FASS News website: https://blog.nus.edu.sg/fassnews/2011/04/04/the-inaugural-goh-sin-tub-creative-writing-prize-2011-short-stories/comment-page-1/
25. Goh, S. T. (1964). Rhymes for Malaysian children. Singapore: Malaysia Publications. (Call no.: RCLOS S821 GOH)
26. Goh, A. (1965). Cherpen2 pilehan. Kuala Lumpur: Singapura: Penerbitan Federal. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS 899.2305 GOH); Goh, A. (1976). Cerpen-cerpen pilihan. Singapura: Federal Pub. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS 899.2305 GOH)
27. Goh, S. T. (1986). The battle of the bands, and other stories. Singapore: MPH Magazines. (Call no.: RSING S823.01 GOH)
28. Goh, S. T. (1987). The ghost lover of Emerald Hill and other stories. Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823.01 GOH)
29. Goh, S. T. (1987). Honour and other stories. Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823.01 GOH)
30. Goh, S. T. (1989). The Nan-mei-su girls of Emerald Hill. Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
31. Goh, S. T. (1990). Ghosts of Singapore! Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
32. Goh, S. T. (1991). More ghosts of Singapore! Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
33. Goh, S. T. (1993). Goh’s 12 best Singapore stories. Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
34. Goh, S. T. (1993). Moments in a Singapore life. Singapore: UniPress. (Call no.: RSING S821 GOH)
35. Goh, S. T. (1993). The Sin-Kheh. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
36. Goh, S. T. (1994). Mass possession: A true story!: Tales of the supernatural and natural. Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
37. Goh, S. T. (1995, i.e. 1994). “If you too could do Voodoo, who would you do Voodoo to?” Singapore: Time Books International. (Call no.: S823 GOH); A twist in the tale. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 24; Koh, B. S. (1994, August 27). Book fair may include a rights fair soon. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Goh, S. T. (1995). Loves of sons and daughters. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
39. Goh, S. T. (1996). 30 stories: Narrative compositions for O-level. Singapore: EPB Publishers. (Call no.: RSING 808.042 GOH)
40. Goh, S. T. (1997). 12 women and their stories. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
41. Goh, S. T. (1998). 12 best Singapore stories. Singapore: Raffles. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
42. Goh, S. T. (1998). The campus spirit and other stories. Singapore: Raffles. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
43. Goh, S. T. (1998). The girls of Emerald Hill. Singapore: Raffles. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
44. Goh, S. T. (1998). One Singapore: 65 stories by a Singaporean. Singapore: EPB. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
45. Goh, S. T. (2000). One Singapore 2: 65 more stories by a Singaporean. Singapore: EPB. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
46. Goh, S. T. (2001). Goh Sin Tub’s One Singapore 3: More Singaporean stories. Singapore: SNP Pan Pacific Pub. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
47. Goh, S. T. (2004). Walk like a dragon: Short stories. Singapore: Angsana Books. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
48. Goh, S. T. (2005). The angel of Changi & other stories. Singapore: Angsana Books. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
49. Obituary. (2004, November 17). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Goh, S. T. (19--). [Goh Sin Tub Collection] typescripts, photographs [1900]–2004. Unpublished.
(Call no.: RCLOS 828.995957 GOH)

Lim, Y. F. (1988, March 11). Author inspired by legend of ghost. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Short stories about the death of innocence. (1988, March 14). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Yap, S. (2008, November 2). Wise lessons to live by. The Straits Times, p. 25. 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
Writers
Authors, Singaporean--Biography
Goh, Sin Tub, 1927-2004
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors