Pull of the past

Mr Ding Chin Hock (left) and Mr Tan Ah Mok, 84, in front of their former Maude Road homes. One of the shophouses, No. 81, was a boarding house for Mr Koh Teong Koo and other Hock Chia rickshaw pullers.
Mr Ding Chin Hock (left) and Mr Tan Ah Mok, 84, in front of their former Maude Road homes. One of the shophouses, No. 81, was a boarding house for Mr Koh Teong Koo and other Hock Chia rickshaw pullers.PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Mr Ding Chin Hock (left) and Mr Tan Ah Mok, 84, in front of their former Maude Road homes. One of the shophouses, No. 81, was a boarding house for Mr Koh Teong Koo and other Hock Chia rickshaw pullers.
Mr Ding Chin Hock (left) and Mr Tan Ah Mok, 84, in front of their former Maude Road homes. One of the shophouses, No. 81, was a boarding house for Mr Koh Teong Koo and other Hock Chia rickshaw pullers.PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO

(Main picture above) Mr George Ko, 39, (first from left) and his brother Ken, 33, listening to a recording of their late grandfather Koh Teong Koo's oral history interview, together with former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's youngest brother Dr Lee Suan Yew, 80, and Mr Ding Chin Hock, 66, at the Bukit Room of Singapore Island Country Club on June 5.

The 1981 interview with the former rickshaw puller was conducted in the Hock Chia dialect.

Mr Koh used to take the Lee siblings to school by rickshaw in the 1930s and 1940s, and is credited with saving Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life during World War II.

The Lees lost touch with Mr Koh after he returned to China in 1986. He died in 1998.

After almost 30 years, the Lees were reunited with Mr Koh's family earlier this year with the help of Dr Lee Suan Yew's patient Mr Ding and his distant cousin Tan Ah Mok, 84.

Mr Tan, who is from the village next to Mr Koh's in Fujian province, located the rickshaw puller's family last year and learnt that two of his three sons had moved to Hong Kong.

In March this year, Dr Lee and his family were on holiday in Hong Kong when they met Mr Koh's eldest son Ko Ming Chiu, 67, his wife, Sit Yuk Ming, 63, and their sons George and Ken.

Earlier this month, George and Ken visited Singapore and caught glimpses of their grandfather's life here.

One highlight was going to see the former prime minister's home at 38 Oxley Road. Their grandfather visited the Lees there regularly over the years, helping out as a gardener and general handyman.

This article was first published in The Straits Times on June 29, 2014