New book on Ann Siang Hill, home of gangsters and goldsmiths

Mr Yap Boh Tiong with the book he initiated, On A Little Hill In Chinatown: Singapore's Ann Siang Hill. With him is Ms Wong Kok Yee, managing director of Tin Sing Goldsmiths. They are standing in front of the building in Club Street that inspired the
Mr Yap Boh Tiong with the book he initiated, On A Little Hill In Chinatown: Singapore's Ann Siang Hill. With him is Ms Wong Kok Yee, managing director of Tin Sing Goldsmiths. They are standing in front of the building in Club Street that inspired the art on the book cover.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

A new book filled with little-known facts and anecdotes sheds light on the area's rich past

As the police of yesteryear were usually short on manpower, residents of Ann Siang Hill and its surrounds used to rely on gangsters to settle neighbours' disputes and solve robberies. There were at least three gangs in the area ruling the streets from the late 1950s to 1965, said Mr Desmond Chen, 65, who grew up there. One of them was the infamous 369 secret society.

"Instead of going to the police, who would ignore your report, you'd go to a gangster. A stolen wallet could easily be found within two hours if you had some basic details of what the robber looked like," said Mr Chen, whose father ran a second-hand hardware store in Club Street.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline 'Ann Siang Hill, home of gangsters and goldsmiths'. Print Edition | Subscribe