The aid 19th century saw the establishment of Singapore as a bustling entrepot. It also saw an ever increasing influx of immigrants from the southern 2 province of China – an influx of people who, together with local Malay and Indian immigrants, gave Singapore such of its working dynamism. While Singapore witnessed its own transition from a quiet fishing village to what was to be described as “The most important station in the East … of such higher value tan whole continents”, the immigrant Chinese population saw the establishment of clan consciousness which were to look after the needs of the Singapore Chinese population in the years to come. It was during this time of flux that the Singapore Szeto Clan Association was planted – originally called (Szeto Family School). It was set up by Situ Zhong, an immigrant from Kai Ping Country in the Canton Province.
A picus, honest and hardworking man, Situ Zhong was much respected by fellow immigrants who had come from his won country and village. Having survived the turnoil of settling in a totally new and alien environment apart form family and home. Situ Zhong recognized and anticipated the problem which would be faced by an increasing population of Signapore Szetos. With this in mind, he rellied the help of several like minded friends, and together they established the along Chin Lai Street in the early 1860s. At that time, the association busied itself in helping new Szeto immigrants find jobs, as well as in handling matters of family bereavement. Through the years Situ Zhong’s descendants have remain active in the activities of the clan.
The world economic depression of early 1930s triggered the collapse of many local business establishments – the Szeto Clan was not freed from the suffering. With the closure of several Tanjong Pagar dockyards, many Szetos were found jobless. The sudden overwhelming crises brought the association’s activities to a temporary standstill. In the 1936, the association was “resurrected” under the leadership of Situ Xi Yu and Situ Jun Wei. A rallying call at that time gathered a membership of over a hundred local Szetos. The associations general secretary at that time was Situ Da Ming.
In 1938, a legislation was passed by the colonial government where all clan association had to be registered with the local authorities. However, in view of its long history ,the Szeto Clan Associations was quickly accepted as a recognized establishment without having to go through the intricacies of bureaucracy.
1940 saw the replacement of Da Ming by Situ Yi Jun as the association’s new general secretary. Yi Jun was a new immigrant rom China who has difficulty finding a job. Recognizing his plight, the association allowed him to start a private school within its compound at Chun Lai Street, at a nominal rental fee. Thus while allowing Yi Jun to acquire a source of income, the association was also able to expand its own activities.
With the Japanese invasion of 1942, the Chin Lai Street premises was taken over by the occupation forces and converted to a workers’ quarters. Part of the association’s properties which could be salvaged by clan members were housed in the Zhao Qing Association.
The end of World War II in 1945 heralded a period of transition in the history of Singapore, as well as in the history of the Szeto Association. This was re-established by a group of men led by Situ Zhaode, and the association was renamed Szeto Kow Luen Tong. The group responsible for the restoration of the association included Situ Yin Shu, Situ XI Yu, Situ Jun Zai, Situ Zhao Chi, Situ De Dong, Situ Jun QIao and Situ Dai Chu, apart from Zhao De himself A membership fee of $1.00 together with a monthly subscription fee of $0.50c was instituted to help finance the activities of the association.
The Szeto Kau Luen Tong re-acquired the Chin Lai Street premises which had, by then, been such battered by the Japanese occupants. In view of the dilapidated state of the association’s quarters, a proposal to purchase a 3-storey building along Club Street was mooted by Chao De in 1940. This purchase require $25,000.00 viz. $24,000.00 in excess of what was available in the association’s offers. Fortunately, *the association was able to raise $23,000.00 in form of interest free loans issued by generous clan members – Dong Hai $7,000.00, Zhao De, Yin Su, Jun Zan, Yi Zhen, Qiu Shu $2,600.00 each; Zhao Chi, Yan Mei, Xi Yu, Hong Zi, Da Chu $1,000.00 each. The remaining deficit was made up for by a variety of fund-raising measures which were suggested by association members. A total of $4,000 was raised through the sale of lots, within the association’s quarters, for the establishment of ancestral tablets.
Subsequently, plans to more the association headquarters into the Club Street premises were set back by a colonial legislation, the Rent Control Act which forbade the eviction of a building’s tenants.
Through 1948, the association experienced increasing difficulty in supporting/financing its own activities. A proposal was then raised to set up affiliated to help finance the needs of the association. A new constitution was laid down with the passing of the proposal.
The new constitution stipulated the membership was open to all families with the surname Szeto or Xue within the Malayan Peninsula and Singapore. Monthly subscription of $3.50 per member allowed the withdrawal of $1,000.0 after 20 years, by the same member. Allowance were also made for families of deceased members to reclaim funds proportionate to the duration of membership. The new arrangement received widespread support, thus allowing the association’s treasury funds to increase by several fold within the same year. Concurrently, the deed of the Club Street property was transferred to the assets of the . With the transference of the deed, the responsibility for repaying the loans taken up at the purchase of the property was handed over to the . Subsequently, half o the association’s expenditure were upheld by the treasury, a measure of balance was thus achieve in the association’s finance.
The association’s annual general meeting in 1958 passed a proposal to purchase a new property at Horne Road. Funding for this proposal was to come from the proceeds obtained through the sale of the Chin Lai Street premises ($12,000.00) as well as from a $10,000.00 loan issue by . The new property at Horne Road was to be used as the new headquarters for the Szeto Clan Kau Luen Tong. Part of the new premises was also rented out as a means of obtaining revenue for the association.
In 1964, a bursary fund was established to assist needy members in financing their children’s education. Generous contribution by Szetos both locally and abroad allowed the association $125.00 per annum for Secondary 1 and 2 recipients, and $175.00 per annum for Secondary 3 and 4 recipients. Pre-university and polytechnic recipients of the bursary were given $225.00 each year. To date, the bursary fund has a total of $32,700.00 in a a fixed deposit amount in Standard Chartered Bank. The association hopes to being a bursary scheme for needy university students in the new future.
Throughout the 140 years of its existence, the Singapore Szeto Clan Association has striven to better the lot of the lives that it could touch, thus contributing to the growth and advancement of this nation. It is our sincere desire to increase our contribution to the progress of Singapore in the years to come.