Johnston's Pier



Johnston’s Pier was a jetty that once stood along Collyer Quay, opposite Fullerton Square and the Hong Kong Bank Building on Battery Road.1 Built to facilitate the movement of goods and passengers, it was completed on 13 March 1856.2 In its time, many famous dignitaries – including British royalty and other VIPs – first set foot in Singapore on this pier. It was named after Alexander Laurie Johnston, one of the earliest European settlers in Singapore.3 Johnston’s company, A. L. Johnston & Co., was located across the road about where the HSBC building stands today, at the corner of Battery Road and Collyer Quay.4

History
Before the development of Collyer Quay which began in 1858, buildings along Singapore’s southern shoreline were directly facing the sea.5 As business and commerce developed along the waterfront, many merchants set up their businesses at Commercial Square (today’s Raffles Place), with their godowns backed into the waterfront where they had their own jetties.6


For the convenience of the commercial and shipping interests in Singapore, the idea of constructing a wooden jetty near the godowns of Johnston & Co. was first mooted to the municipal committee on 26 March 1853.7 After consulting the government surveyor, the committee sanctioned on 20 July 1853 the construction of a stone ghaut to be used as a public landing place, instead of the wooden jetty as originally intended. In conjunction with the proposed ghaut, a stone embankment stretching from the proposed ghaut to Battery Road would be built.8 Building plans for a jetty designated as “Johnston’s Pier” was submitted to the committee some three months later. Then on 19 October 1853, the committee sanctioned the construction of the jetty at an expenditure not exceeding $3,000.9

In 1856, the completion of Johnston’s Pier was announced to the resident councillor and chairman of the municipal committee by engineer captain, Ronald Macpherson.10

Initially, a male pier-keeper was engaged at a salary of $6 per month to keep the crane in working order, as well as to clean and light the lamps at the pier. A small house was constructed for his accommodation at the inner end of the pier.11

Description
Made of iron and wood, the pier’s 40-feet-wide platform extended from shore into the sea, supported by piles and pillars.12 The landing facilities included a seven-ton crane costing $900, and the pier head also served to enlarge and extend the battery at Fort Fullerton.13 A breakwater was constructed at the end of the pier with an improved slip and landing place.14

To add elegance to the pier entrance, four ornamental lamp posts with fluted columns and turn-over leaves were installed, as well as four copper lanterns glazed with plate glass and two Argand oil burners with copper silvered parabolic reflectors attached to the front. The installations cost about $650.15

A red lamp used to hang at the end of the pier to warn ships as they entered the harbour.16 Thus, Johnston’s Pier was popularly known as lampu merah in Malay and ang teng in Hokkien – both meaning “red lamp”. Both names continued to be used to refer to the new Clifford Pier, even after Johnston’s Pier had been demolished and replaced by it.17

Famous arrivals
Visiting royalty and other dignitaries were often met with pomp and circumstance at Johnston’s Pier, which was always “dressed for the occasion”.18

The first VIP visitor who landed at Johnston’s Pier was possibly Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, on 3 December 1869. He was accorded a royal welcome with full military honours, including a band. Army troops led a procession through Battery Road to Commercial Square for a reception.19

Other dignitaries
King Chulalongkorn of Siam: 15 March 1871 and 2 June 1890.20 The king gifted a bronze elephant statue to Singapore on his first visit, to commemorate the first overseas trip by a Siamese monarch.21
Ulysses S Grant, former president of the United States: 1 April 1879.22
King David Kalakaua of Hawaii: 6 May 1881.23
Prince Henry of Prussia: 24 February 1898 and 2 January 1900.24
Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York: 21 April 1901.25
Prince Arthur of Connaught: 3 February 1906.26
Duke and Duchess of Connaught: 1 February 1907.27
Prince of Wales: 31 March 1922, with Lord Louis Mountbatten. Departed 1 April 1922, also from Johnston’s Pier.28

Clifford Pier
In October 1929, plans for a new pier that could handle the increased traffic from ships was approved. It would replace Johnston’s Pier, and would be located along Collyer Quay, at a short distance away from Johnston’s Pier.29 The new pier was named Clifford Pier, after Hugh Clifford, governor of the Straits Settlements from 1927 to 1929, notwithstanding protests against renaming the new pier.30

Clifford Pier was opened on 3 June 1933.31 The red lights which marked the outer corners of Johnston’s Pier were transferred to a similar position on Clifford Pier.32 By November 1935, Johnston’s Pier was demolished.33



Author
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 100, 114. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
2. Municipal Committee. (1854, January 31). The Straits Times, p. 5; [Untitled]. (1856, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 62–63. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]) 
4. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 201, 485. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 121. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Doggett, M. (1957). Characters of light: A guide to the buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Donald Moore, p. 118. (Call no.: RCLOS 725.4095957 DOG-[RFL]; Singapore street directory and sectional maps. (1957). Singapore: Survey Dept., pp. 15–16. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 SIN-[RFL])
5.
 Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (Eds.). (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
6. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Singapore Municipal Committee. (1853, May 17). The Straits Times, p. 5; Municipal Committee. (1853, July 22). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Municipal Committee. (1853, July 22). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Singapore Municipal Committee. (1853, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 5; [Untitled]. (1853, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 4; Municipal Committee. (1854, January 31). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. [Untitled]. (1856, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Municipal Committee. (1856, May 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 4; [Page 1 advertisements column 2]. (1857, February 12). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. [Untitled]. (1853, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Municipal Committee. (1854, October 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 4; Municipal Committee. (1854, October 6). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 8; [Untitled]. (1853, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 4; Singapore Municipal Committee. (1853, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Municipal commissioners. (1857, October 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Singapore Municipal Committee. (1855, November 6). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
17. How should Chinese street names be translated into Chinese? (1935, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 4; Johnston’s Pier. (1932, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
18. The decorations. (1869, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 1; Topics of the day. (1881, May 12). The Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2; Copies of the bag. (1879, April 5). The Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Peet, G. L. (1985). Rickshaw reporter. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 121. (Call no.: RSING 070.924 PEE)
19. Official reception of the Duke of Edinburgh. (1869, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Fortnight’s summary. (1871, March 15). The Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 1; [Untitled]. (1871, March 29). The Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 1; The arrival of the King of Siam. (1890, June 3). The Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, p. 109. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
21. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Author, pp. 29–30. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); The arrival of the King of Siam. (1890, June 3). The Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Copies of the bag. (1879, April 5). The Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Topics of the day. (1881, May 12). The Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Arrival of Prince Henry of Prussia. (1898, February 24). The Mid-day Herald and Daily Advertiser, p. 3; Prince Henry. (1900, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. The royal visit. (1901, April 20). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2; The royal visit. (1901, April 23). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Liu, G. (1999). Singapore: A pictorial history 1819–2000. Singapore: Archipelago Press in association with the National Heritage Board, pp. 94–95. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
26. Prince Arthur’s reception. (1906, January 17). Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, p. 3; The royal visit. (1906, February 5). Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. The royal visit. (1907, February 4). Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. The royal visit. (1922, March 30). The Straits Times, p. 11; The landing. (1922, March 31). The Malaya Tribune, p. 5; Prince’s mid-night departure. (1922, April 6). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), p. 215. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Modern pier for Singapore. (1929, October 23). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Sir Hugh Clifford. (1932, June 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 8; Protests against renaming pier. (1932, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 12; No reason why it should be Johnston’s Pier. (1932, August 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Just a name. (1944, June 3). Sunday Tribune, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
32. Pier lights. (1933, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Johnston’s Pier dies hard. (1935, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 11; Johnston’s Pier goes under – but not far under. (1935, November 24). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The
 information in this article is valid as at 2017 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
Piers--Singapore
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure