History of Old Singapore Boat Quay

No doubt you’ve realised that all the shophouses are concentrated on just one Embankment of Boat Quay. Legend has it that the Chinese immigrants set up home only on the south bank of the river, because to them, it resembled the concave belly of a carp. And they believed this was where prosperity and wealth lay. The concentration of towering skyscrapers on this same side reflects an extension of that same belief into modern day.

But don’t be mistaken, this trailblazer of riverside nightlife in Singapore wasn’t always like this. In fact, it’s a far cry from the loading and unloading docks of mere hundred and fifty years ago. Back then, sampans of bumboats lined the bank, their various cargoes shouldered across gangplanks by coolies (labourers) and swylos (water hands). These inspiring, lean men with their skin leather-like from daily exposure to the elements would effortlessly lift gunny-sacks of produce that seemed immeasurably heavier than they were!

It’s a scene that would repeat itself hundreds of times a day, with each wave of cargo that sailed in. in fact. In the 1860’s, the thriving shipping scene at Boat Quay handled three quarters of Singapore’s total shipping business.

Written by:
Editorial Team