Yook Lin

English readers have asked me to translate my posting on Uncle Yook Lin.

Last night, on the 13th June I had the very sad news of the demise of the 3rd uncle of the family. Of the 18 children of grand Pa YIPTONG, patriarch of the family and founder of the Mauritian branch we had to deplore the departure of the 3rd son.

From what I could gather, Yook Lin had a very interesting life story and career. At a very young age, he was endowed with the great gift of being a good negotiator and developped into an excellent business man.

In the eighties, I had on several occasions the opportunity to have heart to heart talks with him. These conversations lasted often till the dawn. I could make out that he was full of self esteem, intelligent, determined, thoughtful and reflective and had a forceful character. During those conversations, I place myself in the mode of the respectful Confucian nephew listening and learning from an experienced elder.

Uncle Yook Lin at a very young age, when he was under twenty, was given large responsibility in the business of the family. He was thus propelled in the world on business. In view of the prevailing circumstances of the time, in 1945, immediately after the 2nd world war, opportunities were opened to reputable businesses to prosper. The authorities required the help of honest traders to be partners for the distribution of food according to a quota system that was implemented. At that time Pak Lin the elder son, did not have a good relationship with the patriarch. Pak Lin was set aside because his choice of fiancé was not in agreement with the parents YIPTONG. Khin lin the 2nd son was sent off for studies in England. Thus Yook Lin,3rd son, who had then succeeded in his London Chamber of Commerce Diploma, occupied the driving seat and managed the business under the leadership of the patriarch.

Yook Lin was a persuasive communicator. Patriarch YIPTONG formulated the strategies and required one of my own to be the mouth piece. It was a perfect fit. The business grew from strength to strength. YIPTONG was appointed by the control board to be a partner of the scheme. During the same period, the status of the business was changed from a private ownership it became one of the first Chinese private companies under the company law as a limited company. Yook Lin has since ever been proud of this achievement.

A forceful character he had. He was rightfully ever conscious of his rights and would not easily let others dare to thread on his toes. With much passion, he told me the story of his battle with the unions. A small trader he refused to his employees to join the union which later became PAP, the major political party of Singapore. His business suffered as the union obstructed the walk way in front of his store. He held tight until amendment to the law was passed.

Not totally in agreement with his parents, partially due to his determination to marry his chosen sweet heart and perhaps more to take charge of his life destiny, on the return of PAK Lin the eldest son from China, back in the business, he decided to seek opportunities in Hong Kong. He started by an employment with a Hakka the owner of Sincere Department store. Later the owner of Sincere Department store proposed him to be stationed in Singapore. After his wedding his marriage he left for Singapore, where he resided thereafter. With little funds in a foreign country, he only had his might and initiatives to succeed. He had 5 sons and integrated and espoused the Singaporean way of living.

In 1954, for the wedding of Khin Lin, the 2nd son, in Indonesia, the patriarch visited him in Singapore. Relationships with the family improved. Father YIPTONG, later even dispatched Hoy Lin son no 5 to Singapore to help Yook. He stayed from 1956 to 1959.

I met for the first time in 1969 a very enterprising, smooth talker uncle well introduced in business. He had a department store on North Bridge road in the main business center and operated a trading import and export company mainly trading with Indonesia.

Perhaps one of his trying moments in his life was to have overnight lost, a substantial part of his assets, saved through hard work. A fire at North Bridge road destroyed his store, residence and business office. As a trader most of his assets and net worth was in his stock. The insurance company would not compensate his losses. He had hoped to get some help from the family; he admitted that the response was far under his expectations. With courage and determination he continued to fend for the needs of his family.

His second large disappointment was perhaps the battle he had to wage for the compulsory acquisition by the Government of Singapore on his property. He was offered a pittance and he took the government to court. Having lost his case, he told me, they were unjust in their dealings but equitable to all. All the owners were treated in the same manner for the sake of the nation.

Most fortunately Yook Lin succeeded. To finish off his career, he maximised on his knowledge converting himself as a premium tourist guide targeting the rich of the French market. He invested successfully in stocks and properties and was able to contribute to the well being of his family.

Dear uncle, I was really very pleased to have spent some joyful moment with you last December, when you were full of happiness with all your loved ones around you to welcome the greater family’s delegation from Mauritius and South Africa. The spirit and joy oozing from that wonderful lunch will forever be engraved in my memory. Adieu Yook Souk.


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