Naming Circle Line 6: Revisiting Timeless History Along Palmer Road

This is the first in a series of commentaries about the naming of Prince Edward, Cantonment and Keppel MRT stations on the Circle Line.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has invited the public to suggest official names of three stations on Circle Line 6.

The stations, which will be completed in 2025, are currently known by their working names – Keppel, Cantonment and Prince Edward.

According to LTA, the names must identify the respective locations of the stations, illustrate the history of the area and/or reflect Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-cultural identity. Also, stations should not be named after public structures, or commercial and residential developments.

The survey will be open till 18 June. Contributors can send in suggestions to LTA via this link.

LTA will shortlist names that meet the naming criteria and send a final list of names for endorsement by the Street and Building Names Board. A public polling exercise will be conducted later this year to determine the final MRT station names.

Instead of naming the MRT stations based on their respective neighbourhood’s location, contributors could research on the historical significance of the places around the stations and on prominent individuals who have contributed to the neighbourhoods.

For instance, Beauty World MRT station refers to the amusement park that was converted to Beauty World Market during the postwar period.

Tan Kah Kee station, located near Hwa Chong Institution, is named after the Chinese philanthropist who founded the school.

Likewise, the area surrounding Prince Edward station has a history that dates back before modern Singapore, a reference to the country’s healing after the war.

When LTA announced the naming of the stations on its Facebook page on 15 May, a few netizens suggested Prince Edward station to be named after Muslim saint Habib Noh, whose tomb lies at the knoll of Mt Palmer.

Habib Noh, born Sayyid Noh bin Sayyid Mohamad bin Sayyid Ahmad Al-Habshi (1788 – 1866), was a Muslim saint who lived in Singapore. An influential and highly respected figure in the Muslim community, Habib Noh is believed to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammed.

The saint was a mystic, who was believed to have spiritual abilities such as healing and foretelling events.

Habib Noh was also recognised for performing a ritual of offering honey to newborns, followed by a supplication. Till this day, parents bring their babies to his tomb to receive blessings. Visitors also place bottles of drinking water beside the tomb to have them blessed by the soul of Habib Noh.

Soon after the saint’s death, a shrine was built over his tomb facing the current Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque, which was built in 1903. His shrine is visited daily by Muslims from Singapore and abroad.

Mr Muhammad Alwardi Yacob, 31, who would like the station to be named after Habib Noh, said: “The fact that people have been coming from afar to visit him since his demise in 1866 is a testament to his great personality. More importantly, naming the station after the saint will allow Muslims here to be familiar with their country’s religious history.”

For Habib Noh’s legacy to live on and be remembered by future generations, the station, to be located north of Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque, can be named after the Muslim saint.

Another place of worship resides along Palmer Road and has its history dating back to the pre-colonial period as well.

The first Hakka immigrants to Singapore erected a shrine that was located north of the MRT station. In 1844, as the Hakka community grew, the Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple was built on site.

The temple is the oldest Hakka institution in Singapore, symbolising the first Hakka people who have set foot in Singapore.

As the temple is located near the MRT station also, its name could reflect the Hakka pioneers of the country.

However, Madam Thuraffu Beevi, who has lived in Palmer Road from 1980 to 1987 suggested the MRT Station to be named Palmer station.

“It would be unfair to name the station after one of the two places of worship when both institutions are historically significant. Commuters would easily recognise Palmer station because it is easily relatable to Palmer Road that houses a mosque and a temple,” said the 65-year-old.

In addition to religious institutions, the vicinity housed a place of healing during the challenging post-war years.

Within walking distance of the MRT station is the current Monetary Authority of Singapore building. The Royal Singapore Tuberculosis Clinic occupied the same plot of land in the 1950s.

Soon after World War II, Singapore embarked on a fight against Tuberculosis (TB).

Mr S. H. Peek, Dr Chen Su Lan and Mr Lee Kong Chian, among other prominent individuals in Singapore, founded the Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association (SATA) in 1947.

In 1952, the Royal Singapore Tuberculosis Clinic was built to provide sufficient medical services for those suffering from TB. The new clinic was necessary because the number of TB patients surged to 130,000 in 1952.

The clinic operated for 10 years before incidence of TB was reduced in the late 1960s. Now, SATA is known as SATA CommHealth, a community healthcare provider with medical centres located islandwide.

With the healthcare provided by SATA and its founders’ aim to focus on the treatment and eradication of TB, the ubiquitous threat of TB was wiped out from the island within two decades.

The MRT station can be named after the founding members of SATA to reflect the association’s contributions to Singapore’s postwar healing.

Apart from the three historical facts that Popspoken has dug up, there are many more national stories about the vicinity around Prince Edward station. These stories can be reflected through the naming of the MRT stations.

Visit the library, explore Palmer Road, or talk to your elders – there are plenty of untold tales or facts that should be brought to light.

Header Image: MGRL STUDIO on Panoramio


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