Song Ong Siang

Sir Song Ong Siang (b.14 June 1871, Singapore - d.1941) K.B.E., V.D., M.A., Ll.M., was the third son of Song Hoot Kiam, the founder of the Straits Chinese Church (Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church). He was the eldest son from Song Hoot Kiam's second marriage, and a third generation Straits Chinese born.

Sir Ong Siang was bilingual in Malay and English. He was a brilliant scholar, winning the Guthrie Scholarship when he was 12 and holding it for a record of five consecutive years. He lost the honour of being the first Queen's Scholar to Lim Boon Keng because he was disqualified for being too young (he was not yet 16). Finally awarded the Queen's Scholarship in 1888, he became the only Chinese Queen's Scholar to read law in England. He showed exceptional brilliance at the Middle Temple and Downing College, Cambridge, and was called to the Bar in 1900. On his return, he entered into practice and soon made a name for himself at the Bar despite keen competition. He set up the legal firm, Aitken and Ong Siang, at 22. As a lawyer, scholar and leader in public and communal life he was held in the highest esteem throughout the Colony.

He served as voluntary preacher Chinese Presbyterian congregation and succeeded his father when he died in 1900, as an elder of the church. He also served as chairman of the Chinese Christian Association for many years. A strong advocate for educational reform, he campaigned for the Singapore Chinese Girls' School to be set up and became one of the members on the board of governors and its vice-president. He captured the contributions of local Chinese in his tome "One Hundred Years' History of the Chinese in Singapore" spanning across 1819 - 1919.

He was the first Chinese to be promoted to the rank of Captain in the Volunteer Forces. He was first appointed to the Legislative Council in 1919 and served again from 1924-1927. The O.B.E. was conferred upon him in 1927, and the K.B.E. in 1936, which was the first knighthood awarded to a Chinese in Malaya/Singapore.

Several other firsts which Ong Siang scored include: being the first Chinese to be accorded a military wedding, a result of being a member of the Volunteer Corps, when he married Helen Yeo in 1907; being the first Chinese to be promoted to the rank of Captain in the Chinese Volunteer Force in 1915 and later made Commander of the OBE. Active with Lim Boon Keng in contributing to the Straits Chinese community, they worked together in producing the first romanised Malay newspaper, the Bintang Timor (1895-1907) or the "Straits Chinese Magazine", through which he tried to improve the standard of Malay among the Straits Chinese.

Vernon Cornelius 

Clammer, J. R. (1980). Straits Chinese Society: Studies in the sociology of Baba communities of Malaysia and Singapore (pp. 9-10). Singapore: Singapore University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 301.45195105957 CLA) 

Singapore days of old : a special commemorative history of Singapore published on the 10th anniversary of Singapore Tatler (pp. 62-64). (1992). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN) 

The King's Chinese Sir Song Ong Siang.[1936]. In Straits Times Annual (p. 41) [Microfilm: NL 7746]. Singapore: Straits Times.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 STR) 

Further Readings
Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore (pp. v - xiv, 78, 242-248). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON) 

Wright, A., & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). Twentieth century impressions of British Malay: its history, people, commerce, industries and resources (p. 633). (1908). London: Lloyd's Greater Britain Pub.
(Call no.: RRARE 959.51033 TWE)

The City of Singapore: Charter Day souvenir, 22nd Sept. 1951 (p. 21). [1951]. Singapore: Straits Times & Singapore Free Press.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 STR) 

Who's who in Malaya, 1925 (p. 166). (1925). Singapore: Fishers Ltd.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.0595 WHO)
Honours to these 11 pioneers too. (1983, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 21. 

The information in this article is valid as at 1997 and correct as far as we can 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.

Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Christianity
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Events>>Historical Periods>>Founding of Modern Singapore (1819-1941)
Song, Ong Siang, 1871-1941
Peranakan (Asian People)--Singapore--Biography

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