THE SAINT & LIM PENG HAN

Dennis Simanaitis’ latest blog post THE CASE OF THE TWO IAN FLEMINGS, AND ANOTHER MISTAKEN LINKAGE got me thinking about the Charteris name as well.

Dennis wrote: Were Leslie and Ann related? Uh, no. As noted in Wikipedia, “Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin, in Singapore. His mother, Lydia Florence Bowyer, was English. His father, Dr S. C. Yin (Yin Suat Chwan, 1877–1958), was a Chinese physician who claimed to be able to trace his lineage back to the emperors of the Shang dynasty.”

Dr. Suat Chuan Yin was born in Amoy, China, in 1877. He was educated at the Anglo-Chinese College, Foochow. At the age of 21 he came to Singapore as interpreter in the police courts. In 1899 he attended medical school at the University of Michigan, then to Toronto University in Canada where he took his M.B. Degree. Following further studies in the UK’s University College and tenures in various London hospitals he returned to Singapore and joined Dr. Lim Boon Keng in practice.

DRS YIN & LIM

Dr. Yin’s sister, Grace Pek Ha Yin [b. 1 July 1884, Xiamen, Fujian d. 20 August 1972, Singapore], married Dr. Lim Boon Keng in 1908, three years after Dr. Lim’s first wife, Margaret Wong Tuan Keng, died (born 1869, d 21 December 1905).

So now we have a link between Drs. Yin and Lim, via a medical practice as well as through the marriage of Dr. Lim and Grace Yin, Dr. Yin’s sister. What drew me to this the son of Dr. Lim and Grace Yin, Lim Peng Han.

LIM BOON KENG

A bit about Dr. Lim. In 1895, Lim became a member of the British Legislative Council in Singapore. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace and became a member of the Chinese Advisory Board in Singapore. He was honoured as an officer of the Order of the British Empire on 12 March 1918 (backdated to 1 January 1918) for his services as an Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements.

Together with Lim Nee Soon, he co-founded OAC Insurance in 1920, the first locally owned insurance company to be set up in Singapore. In June 1921, upon the request of Sun Yat-sen, Lim served as the second president of Amoy University (Xiamen University from the 1970s), until the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937. The university was founded and funded by Lim’s friend, Tan Kah Kee.

Lim later went into banking, and co-founded the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) following the consolidation of three banks in 1932 (Chinese Commercial Bank Limited, Ho Hong Bank Limited and Oversea-Chinese Bank Limited). Dr Lim was already on the board of Ho Hong Bank and Chinese Commercial Bank prior to consolidation.

Dr Lim’s first wife, Margaret Huang, died in 1905. Lim remarried in 1908, to Grace Pek-Ha Yin, sister of Dr. Suat Chuan Yin (who, as is well known, was the father of Leslie Charteris, creator of “The Saint”). Dr Lim and Grace had one son, Peng Han, and a daughter, Ena Guat-Kheng Lim1.

LIM PENG HAN

Born at the International settlement of Kulangsu Island in southern China on 7 October 1912, Lim Peng Han spent his formative years on the little island where he was sent to the Anglo Chinese College (1920-1925). The family moved back to Singapore in 1925 when things took a turn for the worse in Amoy and southern China. Kulangsu, and indeed Amoy, was where a great deal of the Straits Chinese had vast investments. Amoy had the distinction of being one of the five Chinese ports that were open to foreign trade before the Treaty of Tientsin and Kulangsu Island was seen as a charming little island with its own municipality, a club, cricket ground and an Anglican Church in a community of less than 300 foreigners. 1926 was a key turning point as trouble continued to brew in China.

Young Lim, now 14, was enrolled in the Anglo Chinese School in Singapore in 1926. That tranquil life on an idyllic British Concession off the South China Sea was forsaken in favour of a new life, bustling with constant development and activity and a new home at 348 River Valley Road, a road the doctor was very familiar with and which several of his fellow intellectuals and captains of industry stayed. Grace sold the home in 1967.

Peng Han’s two vices that would manifest themselves later in his life were transferred down to Singapore with the lad – cock fighting and homing pigeons (a hobby he would later share with his business partner Oswald Hogan).

On his arrival in Singapore in early January 19262, young Lim may even have had the opportunity to catch the start of the Singapore Automobile Club’s Motorcycle Reliability Trial at Borneo Motors on Orchard Road on 28 February 1926. And since motoring was now a big pastime, a visit to South Bouna Vista Road for the Singapore Volunteer Corps motorcycle hill climb held in 19273 was in order.

Lim’s eyes opened to a new and very exciting sport. In the meantime, there was school to attend, though the nascent stirrings of his future calling emerged in a the late 1920s during an Anglo Chinese School excursion – a drive to Penang and back in a convoy consisting an Austin Twelve, a Baby Austin (Seven), and a Fiat 5094. The crew consisted of two teachers, one mechanic, four licensed drivers and four students.

Following his Senior Cambridge examinations, Lim was bundled off to the UK on 20th March 19305 with his sister, he to read law, Ena Guat-Kheng to Paris, via London. Following a stop in Egypt where brother and sister visited the Pyramids of Giza, The President Fillmore deposited the pair in Marseilles and it was then a journey by train to Calais and ferry to Dover before the rail journey to London.

Instead of pursuing a degree in law, young Lim went against the wishes of his parents and steered a course for the Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering6. He maintained that he “flunked out” after finding the first year of his law program uninteresting.

At engineering college with Lim were a number of future automotive luminaries: John Heath, who went on to build H.W.M. race cars; Charles Mortimer7, the bibliographer and racing authority who was a year younger than Lim; and Penang’s Lim Khye Su8, a senior of Lim in Chelsea, who later went to work for motor traders Wearne Brothers in Penang. Lim Khye Su owned an SS100 Jaguar which he raced in North Malaysia before and after WWII9.

A MIDGET

Lim soon acquired an MG Midget, Abingdon’s latest 8/33 M-Type sports car, road registered GJ406. It was a gift (costing £175) from his parents. The M-Type was an attractive boat-tail three-speed 27bhp runabout that offered the driver open top motoring at an affordable price. It was the perfect car for a university student.

Lim was accompanied to Abingdon with his friend and Malayan Students’ Union member in London, T.N. Chong from Batu Gajah in Ipoh. His first experience driving it back to his lodgings in Streatham was fraught with difficulties (weather-wise) but that didn’t deter the excited lad. With a bit of tuning it might even be useful at the Brooklands circuit in Weybridge, which Lim soon discovered. Chong, who had returned to Ipoh by January 1933, was his companion on long drives in the little car. They ventured far and wide, visiting Edinburgh and Glasgow which Chong cryptically referred to in one of his letters to the Malayan newspapers10 following his return home.

SPEED DEMON

Lim Peng Han – a photo taken in the late 1960s.

Lim’s first “proper” event in the M-Type was at Brooklands in the Junior Car Club’s 1930 High Speed Trial, although there is a reference from an interview he did with editor of the Malaysia and Singapore Vintage Car Register, Julian Collins, that reveals that Lim and his MG M-Type entered the Sunbeam MCC Gatwick Speed Trials, an event that was first held on 12th September 1931. It was a 440 yards course, held on a private road, just off the A23, then the main London to Brighton road, which is now part of Gatwick Airport11.

At Brooklands earlier on he entered the car in the Light Car Club’s July 1931 Relay Race, pairing with Ronald Littlewood-Clarke and S. Pepper in the No.23A MG M-Type Midget. The following year Lim’s MG M-Type was prepared by Kingston-on-Thames-based V.W. Derrington Ltd. and he paired with L. Levy’s Bugatti-looking MG Monthlery and J.E.S. Jones’ MG M-Type. Derrington would have had a plethora of parts for the MG, from silencers and fishtail exhausts, stone guards, bonnet straps, filler caps, aero screens, and the pioneering of twin-carburettor conversion kits.

Lim Peng Han’s Junior Car Club tankard from 1933 when he raced his MG M-Type Midget.

Brooklands aside, Lim also raced at the Donington circuit (No.26, an undated photo with external exhaust with fishtail). The Midget must have racked in the miles getting to each event, racing and returning home. Records show that the car was entered at a Junior Car Club sprint on 17 February 1934, by which time it had acquired a Frazer Nash Ulster rear end look, a larger fuel tank, and motorcycle wings, probably fitted after a rear shunt in 1932. By 1932 Lim had also installed a four-speed MG gearbox, and after that, a crossflow overhead camshaft 847cc MG J2 motor.

Lim’s exposure to Brooklands was confined to its mountain circuit, the outer circuit being the domain of the bigger and faster cars. So it was with some excitement that he entered his first road race, a five-lap handicap race at an April 1934 meeting at the Donington Park circuit where he finished third in his now J2-engiend, four-speed MG M-Type. Bill Boddy’s Motor Sport Book of Donington lists Lim as Japanese! Lim followed this up with another 5-lap handicap race at Donington on 12 May 1934 where the clutch developed issues before he even got to the circuit. He managed to start Event 1 but was never in the running.

RETURN HOME

Lim Peng Han’s MG M-Type outside Lee Motors in Singapore before it was rebodied following an accident. The car now bore Singapore registration plates.

Lim continued his studies in London before returning to Singapore in August 1934 following a failed attempted at getting a job with MG’s racing department although he might have had various other opportunities with other motor manufacturers and aviation sector had it not been for the debilitating effects of the Great Depression. In Singapore he took up a less exciting but steady job at Lee Chong Miow’s Lee Motors12. He was office manager at Lee Motors’ 6,964 sq ft office and garage at 110-112 Orchard Road, a few units away from Lyons Motors at 94-100 Orchard Road. Lee Motors were importers of Auburn, American Bantam roadsters, Graham and Jowett cars. I’ll stop here for now and save the rest for another day.

So there you have it…the link between Dr. Yin, Dr. Lim and Leslie Charteris expounded. The Lim Peng Han story is a rather fascinating one and will eventually appear on www.Rewind-Media.com as a standalone article. Part of Lim’s collection of race programs, photos and trophies was acquired by this writer some years ago.

Words By Eli Solomon


Footnotes

  1. Ena Lim Guat-Kheng [b. 25 February 1909 d. 26 November 1988] was the only daughter of Dr Lim Boon Keng and his second wife, Grace Yin. She and her brother Lim Peng Han went to Europe in 1930. She returned to Singapore and was married to Chartered Accountant Teh Say Koo, younger son of Mrs Teh Thean Ee of Penang, at the end of June 1933. Teh was working for the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation as an accountant. Ena had only recently returned from Paris after her academic program.
  2. Dr. Lim Boon Keng, then principal of the Amoy University, returned to Singapore in early January 1926 for what was stated to be a two month holiday. Straits Times, 5 January 1926, pg.9. Amongst Dr Lim’s friends were S.Q. Wong, Tan Kah Kee and Walter Makepeace, amongst many other captains of industry. Dr Lim returned to China in early March 1926, stopping in Hong Kong for engagements prior to returning to Amoy.
  3. The Gap Hill Climb was first organised by the Singapore Volunteer Corps and held on 4 September 1927. There were just two events, for motorcycles, the remainder of the events cancelled due to calamitous weather.
  4. ACS Magazine, November 1929, Vol II, No.2. By Car to Penang and Back, pg 67.The story was penned by Lim Peng Han and his fellow Senior Cambridge classmate and future Queen’s Scholar, Tan Sim Eng.
  5. The Lims boarded the Dollar Steamship Line’s President Fillmore. The vessel arrived in Singapore on 17 March 1930 and departed on 20 March 1930, stopping at Penang on 22 March, then Colombo, Suez, Port Said, Alexandria, Naples, Genoa and Marseilles.
  6. The Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering was an independent and private educational organisation established in 1924 by its principal, S.C.H. Roberts as the Automobile Engineering College. It was formally expanded to include aeronautical engineering in 1931 in association with Brooklands School of Flying. The campus was located at Sydney Street.
  7. Charles Knight “Chas” Mortimer [b. 15 February 1913 d. 12 September 1996, age 83]. Author of The Constant Search – Collecting Motoring & Motorcycling Books, Foulis, 1982. Mortimer was a competitor of motorcycles and car, a motor literature collector and a car dealer.
  8. Lim Khye Su married Kathleen Alice Bloodworth of Northfield, Coventry (born 19.1. 1913). Lim was a Penang mechanical engineer, youngest son of Lim Kim Soa and Tan Lu Gee. The couple met in London where both of them were students, she at the London University and he at the Automobile Engineering Training College, Chelsea. They were married in Penang in August 1938, where Lim had returned as an engineer with Wearne Brothers. Kathleen had been in Penang since the end of 1937. The honeymoon was spent on a tour of Malaya in Lim’s 1604cc six-cylinder Wolseley Hornet Special 14 sports car (road registered P3389). Post war Lim Khye Su learned to fly and was sent to the UK to be trained for the fledgling Malayan Volunteer Air Force. Kathleen held such positions as Secretary and Treasurer of the Malayan Automobile Association (travelling to global conferences on behalf of the AAM) and on school boards. She later became the Director-General of the AAM (1981) and was awarded the Pingat Jasa Kebaktian by the Malaysian Government in recognition of her contribution to the Automobile Association.
  9. The SS100 carried chassis #18194. It was a regular entry at various events in North Malaysia, occasionally with a twin rear wheel setup. This car was also entered in the Perak Hill Climb of 11th April 1939 – so its existence in Malaya can be dated to pre-war. The car, registered P936, was eventually purchased by Kenneth Cole of Singapore and re-registered SX6965.
  10. Bridge Tolls – letter to the Editor, Malaya Tribune, 27 January 1933, pg12. “I clearly remember two occasions when tolls were paid by us when we were pottering around England in a small car. Whilst on the main trunk road from London to Edinburgh via York, we were held up at a little place near York…”
  11. At the June 1931 committee meeting it was agreed to hold speed trials on a road at the Gatwick horse racing course, starting at 2.30pm on the 12th September 1931. The event was open to members, with invitations sent to local motorcycle and light car clubs and catered for motorcycles, three wheelers and cars up to 850cc. The course at Gatwick was a narrow tree-lined private approach road leading to the grand stand. It consisted of half a mile of dead straight tarred road.
  12. C.M. Lee was a businessman, owner of Singapore Photo Co. and of Lee and Fletcher and Emporium Ltd. He had three daughters, Regina, Eunice and Christina (who later married philanthropist Loke Wan Tho) and two sons, Martin and Joshua. In 1935 Eunice left to study music in Washington and on her return to Singapore, was very much involved in the motor sport scene between 1939 and the outbreak of war, often seen racing an American Bantam Roadster. Following marriage in 1949, Eunice Lee-Wong began racing one of Lim Peng Han’s L.A. Specials. In fact, she was in Lim’s L.A. Special at the very first Singapore Motor Club Hill Climb up Pender Road in 1948 when she crashed.

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