Give Elgin Bridge more meaningful name

The skyline of Singapore's Central Business District with the Elgin Bridge at High Street.
The skyline of Singapore's Central Business District with the Elgin Bridge at High Street. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Elgin Bridge connects North Bridge and South Bridge roads and is one of many spanning the Singapore River.

The history of the site of this bridge is indeed interesting. There were two other bridges of different names since 1822, not long after Sir Stamford Raffles set foot in Singapore.

The Elgin Bridge was built in 1862 when the existing wooden footbridge was replaced with an iron bridge that was imported from Calcutta, India. It was named after the then Governor-General of India, Lord James Bruce Elgin.

The bridge was dismantled in 1927 for reconstruction. In 1989, it was further restored as part of the masterplan to beautify the Singapore River.

In this day and age, there is little reason to keep the name Elgin Bridge. Lord Elgin's contribution to the development of the early years of Singapore does not merit any record for posterity. Moreover, the bridge has been reconstructed since then.

And something which many of us may not know is that Lord Elgin was behind the destruction of the famed Old Summer Palace or Yuan Ming Yuan of China in 1860, which led to the looting of many artworks. It would appear, therefore, that heritage ranked low in his scheme of things.

We are celebrating Singapore's bicentennial this year. There are many meaningful names which can be proposed for this bridge.

A well-thought-out name can be a bridge for our future generations to connect with their Pioneer and Merdeka generations.

Teng Heng Tin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Give Elgin Bridge more meaningful name'. Print Edition | Subscribe