New free tour of historic Dawson and Queenstown areas to celebrate bicentennial

The first session of the 5.6km "My Dawson Heritage Tour" was held on Feb 3 with 36 participants. It will be conducted every first Saturday and Sunday of the month.
The first session of the 5.6km "My Dawson Heritage Tour" was held on Feb 3 with 36 participants. It will be conducted every first Saturday and Sunday of the month.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Discover more about Singapore's colonial roots and early history with a free guided walking tour of the historic Dawson and Queenstown areas.

Organised in conjunction with Singapore's bicentennial celebrations this year, the four-hour "My Dawson Heritage Tour" is a monthly tour run by volunteer group My Community.

To be conducted every first Saturday and Sunday of the month, the first session of the 5.6km tour was held on Sunday (Feb 3) with 36 participants.

On the tour, volunteers will bring participants to areas such as the Tanglin barracks that the British built for soldiers in 1861; the Chatsworth Park Conservation Area where British and American companies put up their staff in the early 1990s; and the Phoenix Park complex that was constructed by the British in 1949 to house several key institutions.

My Community founder and president Kwek Li Yong said in a statement that the tour features not only the research his group has done, but also insights from past and present residents in the area.

He said: "Our popular guided tours are heavily curated with sensory cues that evoke the past, layered with personal accounts and experiences which took place on site.

"My Dawson Heritage Tour forms a convergence between collective memories and individual biographies and is essential to how we interpret and negotiate our colonial past through familiarity, sensory recollection and community ownership."

The My Dawson Heritage Tour is one of eight tours that My Community organises, but is the first one it has done to commemorate Singapore's bicentennial.

 
 
 
 

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, said of the tour: "The bicentennial tour at Dawson comprises landmarks and experiences which serve as visual and experiential reminders of how our colonial past is engaged in embodied meanings.

"Through this guided tour, we can reflect on our journey as a young nation and explore how people from different backgrounds, different ethnic groups and different nationalities come together to build a prosperous and multicultural nation."

One of the tour's 12 stops is the site of the 1955 Hock Lee Bus Riots.

The riots, which began as a peaceful demonstration by bus drivers from the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company, turned violent when riot police attempted to break it up.

Two police officers were killed and hundreds of protesters injured.

The historic Phoenix Park complex is another highlight of the tour.

According to My Community, the Ministry of Home Affairs' Internal Security Department used the site to investigate numerous cases such as the pro-Marxist activists in 1987 and the local network of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the militant Sri Lankan organisation, in 1985.

When The Straits Times joined the tour on Sunday, there was a mix of Dawson and Queenstown residents, as well as people from other neighbourhoods.

Retiree Priscilla Yee, 57, travelled from Bedok to join the tour on Sunday after reading about it online.

The tour allowed her to walk down memory lane, as she spent the first 12 years of her life in the area before moving out.

Said Madam Yee: "It is wonderful to revisit the places I used to go, as there are not many reasons for me to come to this area. The tour is very well done and informative; even though I grew up here, I am learning many things about this place that I never knew."

Miss Lee Hui Fang, 35, a resident of Strathmore Avenue in Queenstown, joined the tour and told stories about growing up in the area to other tour group members.

The acupressure instructor said she felt compelled to share her experiences after finding out about the work that My Community did.

"When we travel to other countries, we always tell people about the stories from that place, why should it be different to the place we live?" she said.

"Buildings can age or be demolished, but stories are what keep places alive. By sharing my stories of growing up here, I can help to keep this Queenstown area alive."

Those keen on going for the tour, which can take 50 participants each time, can sign up at www.mycommunity.eventbrite.sg.