New book offers 'fascinating nuggets' on the back story of Seletar

Six Seletar residents spent the last two years putting together a 432-page book featuring historical anecdotes, watercolour paintings of Seletar airbase and Jalan Buangkok Kampung (pictured).
Six Seletar residents spent the last two years putting together a 432-page book featuring historical anecdotes, watercolour paintings of Seletar airbase and Jalan Buangkok Kampung (pictured).PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Dating back to the 18th century, the estate of Seletar has been home to diverse groups of people.

Early settlers known as the Orang Seletar and Orang Laut lived near the mouth of Seletar River. Immigrants, mostly from China, set up cash crop plantations and farms, while Royal Air Force servicemen and their families were based in the vicinity of the Seletar airbase.

The housing estate is today at the forefront of plans to transform the nation's aerospace industry. It also has its own lifestyle dining enclave.

Its rich history and ever-changing story has now been captured in a new book called Uncovering Seletar.

Six Seletar residents spent the last two years putting together a 432-page book featuring historical anecdotes, watercolour paintings of Seletar airbase and Jalan Buangkok Kampung as well as photographs from the 1800s of rubber, pineapple and tapioca plantations.

Seletar, as defined in the book, includes Jalan Kayu, Seletar airbase and parts of Ang Mo Kio, Yio Chu Kang and Lorong Buangkok.

Launched on Saturday (July 28), the book was produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Seletar Hills Estate Residents' Association. This is its second book on Seletar, with the first launched five years ago.

The latest book, whose primary author is retired principal Eugene Wijeysingha, 84, documents Seletar's natural heritage in finer detail and explores characteristics and milestones that defined the area.

These include the famous Jalan Kayu Road that led to the Seletar airbase and gave life to the area, personal memories of those who attended the schools, churches and temples there and upcoming developments to the area.

Chairman of the association, Mr Percival Jeyapal, 76, the project's director, said the book aims to present a different side of Seletar.

He said: "It shows how progress and advancement had come while yet preserving the grandeur and tranquillity of nature and how (Seletar) has evolved from agricultural and animal farming into a housing and industrial development."

Featuring a foreword by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the book was supported by the National Heritage Board, Bukit Sembawang Estates, Jurong Town Corporation, Fairview Developments, Tuan Sing Holdings and two individual sponsors Daniel Teo and Andy Chua.

The $30 book was launched at Seletar Country Club. Proceeds will go to the President's Challenge.

The project's manager Ginger Tiah, 71, said the book offers many "fascinating nuggets" such as how the airport in Seletar became Singapore's first international airport and how Singapore's oldest developer - Bukit Sembawang Estates - went from from running rubber plantations to being a major real estate developer now.

She said: "How did they make those transitions? The answers are found in the book."