Every family has a family tree and there are some families whose family tree is more extensive than others. Such is the family tree of Ignatius Chew Eng Lin, Sales Manager of Ban Hoe Seng and Honda’s dealer in Perak for many decades.
Chew is the grandson of Chew Boon Juan, a rich tin miner from the early 1900s who later founded Ban How Seng in 1908, then trading in rice and rubber, and later motorcycles and cars.
Chew is related to Ipoh’s prominent families of Yeohs (Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik and his daughter Dato’ Michelle Yeoh), and the Lims of (the late Dato’ KK Lim and Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik) and together these three families, ‘Yeoh-Lim-Chew’ have been labeled as Ipoh’s most famous of families which in Hokkien sounds like “The Yeohs (love to) drink wine” which could also denote being ‘brilliant, sociable and successful’.
Chew’s interest in starting the family tree project goes back to 1984 when noting down stories told to him by his uncle, Chew Choon Siew. Combined with an earlier autobiography by his grand uncle Chew Boon Hong, a China born graduate, whose dates, facts and figures matched his uncle’s, he was able to start the project.
To kick off the project Chew turned the upstairs floor of a bungalow located behind the Ban Hoe Seng office into a gallery where the other families could display their family photos and gradually build their family tree.
The gathering of families recently was a joyous affair where three generations of families brought along their old family photos and retraced how they were related and recalled the good times they had together. Needless to say there was an endless call for group photographs.
On the morning of the reunion as Chew explained his family tree, I realised that the size and extent of the family went beyond Ipoh and was related to more prominent personalities in other parts of the world. The family tree also indicated that the family was related to the Khoo Kongsi Clan of Penang and famous Hong Kong actress, Nancy Kwan, was also a relation.
For Ignatius Chew the day was just the beginning of a long project towards a bigger family tree. From the exhibits displayed, this is a family tree which would be very interesting to see when completed.
The Chinese have a saying “hao men dui hao men”, literally translated “from riches to riches”. However, for this family their history includes brilliance, social acumen and success, and has all the ingredients for a successful movie.