Bullock carts



Bullock carts were one of the earliest and most popular modes of transport in 19th- and early-20th-century Singapore. They served a variety of purposes such as travelling and transportation of goods.1 From 1867 onwards, such carts were slowly phased out with rising levels of traffic and the advent of mechanised transport.2

History
In the early days of kampongs in Singapore, bullocks with large fore humps and flapping dewlaps (the flap of skin that hangs below the lower jaw or neck of many animals) were a common sight, and they were often reared. They powered wheeled vehicles that moved up and down cart tracks, that would later develop into proper roads. These large two-wheeled vehicles pulled by a pair of bullocks were often hired as freight haulers.3 Kreta Ayer, which literally translates to “bullock cart water” in Malay,4 draws its name from the bullock and ox carts that used to ply this road carrying water for the early inhabitants of Singapore.5 Along with trams, buses, rickshaws and horse carriages, bullock carts formed the primary forms of transportation in the early 19th century.6


Description
Fittings done to the bullocks include placing a wooden platform with a sturdy tongue between the parallel wheels of the cart to create space for passengers or freight. The driver holding a yoke hitched to the two bullocks on one hand and a thin whip on the other was invariably an Indian. The ride on bullock carts was usually bumpy. It was a common sight to see street urchins stealing a ride by holding on to bullock carts from behind, which might cause the driver to flick these intruders off with his whip.7

Bullock carts contributed significantly to the early economic development of Singapore, as they were used to move goods at Boat Quay and the port.8 Domestic life was also considerably eased by bullock carts, as they transported water drawn from wells at Ann Siang Hill to the people of different ethnic groups in Chinatown.9 As the water carts plied the street, the water also helped to keep down dust raised by vehicles.10

At construction sites, bullock carts were used to transport bricks. In addition, they were also used in road repairing. A modification of the vehicle by attaching a lawn mower to the pair of bullocks instead of a cart and with a seat for a driver, allowed the lawn at the racecourse in Farrer Park to be maintained by bullocks. Bullock carts that pulled a large metal roller attached to them were used to level the grass at the Padang.11

Chinese bullock carts – two-wheelers drawn by water buffaloes with large palm leaves attached to them – were an equally common sight. They not only carried passengers, but also vats of soy sauce and all kinds of liquids to be sold to kampong residents. Water buffaloes could be seen grazing on the grassy countryside until the 1850s when rising levels of road traffic put an end to the use of bullock carts on Singapore roads.12 As with rickshaws and trishaws, bullock carts also began to dwindle with the introduction of mechanised transport in 1867.13



Author

Thulaja Naidu Ratnala



References
1. Chan, K. B., & Tong, C. K. (Eds.). (2003). Past times: A social history of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PAS-[HIS])
2. Steam train here in 1885 and tram in 1905. (1996, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chan, K. S. (2001, August 6). The street sounds of yesteryear. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 219. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who's Who Publications, pp. 178. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
5. Lee, K. K., Wee, W. L., & Kwok, K. W. (2002, July 28). MRT stations: Get names back on track. The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Steam train here in 1885 and tram in 1905. (1996, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Communities of Singapore: A catalogue of oral history interviews: Part 2: Indians. (1994). Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 120. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 COM-[HIS])
7. Chan, K. S. (2001, August 6). The street sounds of yesteryear. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Liu, G. (1999). Singapore: A pictorial history 1819–2000. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
9. Lee, K. K., Wee, W. L., & Kwok, K. W. (2002, July 28). MRT stations: Get names back on track. The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Liu, G. (1999). Singapore: A pictorial history 1819–2000. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
11. Chan, K. B., & Tong, C. K. (Eds.). (2003). Past times: A social history of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PAS-[HIS])
12. Chan, K. S. (2001, August 6). The street sounds of yesteryear. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Steam train here in 1885 and tram in 1905. (1996, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

 

Subject
Science and technology>>Engineering>>Transportation engineering
Transportation--Singapore
Commerce and Industry>>Transportation
Commerce and Industry>>Trade
Transportation
Trade and industry
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Carriages and carts--Singapore