同安人和驳船业-第39届副交际股长林平仲
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同安人和驳船业-第39届副交际股长林平仲

停在克拉码头、现改为餐馆用途的大型驳船,你是否曾在上头用餐?又或者你是否留意过?类似的驳船或艟舼,其实和同安人很有关系。不少当年从中国南来的同安人,就是靠驳船维生。

曾从事驳船业的同安会馆副康乐林平仲,也是宝兴联谊会的总务。这个在2002年注册的社团,前身是拥有百多年历史的宝兴估俚(苦力)间,也称宝兴理学堂。

宝兴估俚间其实是南来找工作的林姓同安人的会所,由社会闻人林显清创立。当年中国福建省同安县马巷井头村的林姓村民,过番南来新加坡找工作,都会先到宝兴估俚间。由于林姓同安人当年在本地多从事码头搬运的工作,宝兴理所当然成为这些苦力的家。说是家一点也不为过,因为这里就是他们的宿舍和情感联络站。只身南来的人,一些在这里等工作,另一些在开工前、收工后来这里歇脚,晚上才回到船上睡觉。他们每人分得一个双层多匣柜木箱,里头可放置衣物,梳洗用品和家书。因为不少同家乡往来的书信,当年都寄到宝兴。

当年设在牛车水一带安祥山(俗称大门内)的宝兴估俚间,也是宝兴理学堂的所在地。驳船业者供奉的祖先,正是明朝理学大师林希元,所以每年农历九月最后一天,会员就会庆祝理学名宦千秋,还设宴演酬神戏。

今天的宝兴联谊会搬到了芳林公园对面的一栋大楼内,除了设有神坛,也还保留了当年几乎每所估俚间都有的剑鲨鱼骨。这把超过一米长的剑鲨鱼骨,是估俚间的镇间之宝。因为估俚们相信,有了它,就能保佑他们海上工作平安。另一个神坛上的百年宝物,就是一个当年从中国带过来,刻上’光绪乙末年’字样的麒麟香炉。

除了确保海上平安,还要确保工作顺利,估俚们就得拜码头,也就是归属于某个估俚间。当年从事驳船业的,当然不只林姓同安人,福建潮洲各地区南来的过番客,抵达石叻坡(新加坡的别称)之前,都是经由同乡安排。以林姓同安人来说,他们抵达新加坡后,就住进宝兴,然后跟随同乡到码头找工作。其他籍贯的人也一样。所以当时有所谓的陈姓源胜36派,林姓义兴24派等,宝兴就是义兴的一个支派。而当时的驳船业,由几个主要帮派垄断。这些帮派为了保住饭碗,扩大声势,往往会抢占地盘,引发帮派斗争,所以宝兴估俚间当年也无可避免的,同私会党划上等号。

1983年,驳船业迁移到巴西班让码头,宝兴的会员开始减少。及后,驳船业逐渐被淘汰,老的老,走的走,宝兴的会员就更少了。据林平仲估计,2009年,宝兴联谊会的会员,只剩下30、40人左右。这和20年前,还能有500人出席活动,真有天壤之别。 驳船业走入了历史,苦力行业消失,加上会员的儿孙们,不愿接手管理这个和他们没有关联的社团,都是叫宝兴不保的原因。

社会的变迁,主宰着驳船业的兴衰。当年南来的过番客,一些克勤克俭,加上有亲戚或同乡的协助,储存了一些钱,买下驳船,自己成为船主,因为照顾乡亲们,热心公益,不少成了华社领袖。林金殿和林推迁,都是当时的风云人物。中峇鲁一带的金殿路,便是以林金殿命名的。

景物不再,人事全非。林平仲说,他在七年前接手,成为宝兴联谊会的总务后,这些年来,只觉人事凋零。除了尽量保留有关宝兴的文献记录和文物外,让这段历史不至于湮灭外,宝兴的未来他不敢想。

 
部分资料取自:联合早报和海峡时报
撰稿:林丽平

Tong Anese and the Tongkangs

Have you ever noticed those tongkangs anchored at Clarke Quay serving as floating restaurants? Or have you ever had your meal on one of those tongkangs? These boats were closely linked to the lives of immigrants from TongAn county, a Hokkien province.

Mr Lim Peng Tong, the Deputy Head of Leisure and Entertainment of Tung Ann District Guild is also the Honorary Secretary of Bao Xing Friendship Association. The association, registered in 2002, used to be a more-than-century-old lightermen shelter called Bao Xing Ku Li Jian, which also housed the Bao Xing Temple.

When Tong Ann clansmen, mostly from the Lim family from MaXiang JinTou Village, arrived in Singapore to search for a job, they headed to Bao Xing Ku Li Jian, which was set up by a famous man called Lin XianQin.. As most Tong Ann clansmen worked as quayside lightermen then, Bao Xing Ku Li Jian inevitably became the gathering and recreational centre for them. It was not surprising then for the lonely clansmen to call Bao Xing their “home”. Some came here hoping to find a job. Others came here to rest and mingle before and after their work before returning to their boats for the night. Each clansman had been given a wooden chest for his clothes and toiletries. The chest also consists of pockets to hold letters as many clansmen received letters from their families through Bao Xing.

Formerly located at Ann Siang Hill near Chinatown, Bao Xing Ku Li Jian shared the same site as Bao Xing Temple where the lightermen’s ancestor, Lin Xiyuan, a Mandarin of the Ming Dynasty was worshipped. Each year, the clansmen will stage opera performances and hold dinners to celebrate the birthday of Lin Xiyuan on the last day of September of the Chinese Lunar calendar.

Today, Bao Xing Friendship Association has moved to a block opposites Hong Lim Park. Besides retaining the altar, in respect of Lin Xiyuan, it also retains a 1- meter long shark bone, a symbolic item for the safety of clansmen working on sea. Another century-old item on the altar is an incense- holder from China with its engravings dating back to the Qing Dynasty.

Clansmen prayed to their God to avoid mishaps on sea. They joined a Ku Li Jian to garner support from fellow clansmen. Those days, not only clansmen from Tong An worked as lightermen, clansmen from other dialect groups or sub-group of the Hokkien clan also took up the job. Hence, different groups or secret societies were formed based on the Ku Li Jian they joined. There were YuanSheng sect 36 of the Tan family; YiXing sect 24 of the Lim family and so on. BaoXing was a sub-sect of YiXing then. As the lightermen trade was monopolized by a few dialect sects which wanted to expand their trade by getting more ‘sites’ under their wings, in the process, they fought and were inevitably viewed as secret societies by the government.

From 1983, Baoxing’s membership began to decline with the move of the tongkang trade to the Pasir Panjang Wharf. With time, Baoxing’s membership further weakened as the older generation passed away. The “slow death” of the trade certainly hastened the decline of the Association’s membership. According to Mr Lim, Bao Xing Friendship Association is currently left with only 30 to 40 members (in 2009) as compared to its previous glorious days, 20 years ago, where there were 500 members.

In the early days, Tong Ann clansmen arrived in Singapore to work as lightermen. Some of them received help from their fellow clansmen or relatives, and with the money saved, they started to own tongkangs and became bosses hiring others as lightermen. These rags to riches clansmen did not forget their less-well-off clansmen. Many of them contributed to the needs of the community and hence, became respected leaders of the Chinese community. Mr Lim Tui Qian and Mr Lin Jin Dian (Lim Kim Tian) were some examples. The “Kim Tian Road” at Tiong Bahru was named after Mr Lim Kim Tian.

Time passed. Things changed. Mr Lim who became the Honorary Secretary of Bao Xing Friendship Association 7 years ago, said he could not do much to its declining membership except to keep news clippings and artefacts.

Bao Xing’s future is anyone’s guess.