SGH MacAlister Terrace

The MacAlister Terrace, situated at MacAlister Road in the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), displays rich colonial flavour in its architectural design.

The pre-WWII terrace is uninhabited currently, whereas the nearby MacAlister Flats still function as a hostel. All three landmarks are named after George Hugh K. MacAlister, the principal of King Edward VII College of Medicine from 1918 to 1929.

Visible from the Central Expressway (CTE) after the Chin Swee Tunnel, the pale blue two-storey building with red roof seems to be a forgotten place in SGH, receiving little attention and maintenance as compared to SGH’s national monuments such as the Bowyer Block, the College of Medicine Building and the Tan Teck Guan Building (see last picture).

As Singapore’s first general hospital and the oldest medical institution, SGH was founded in 1821 but moved to its current site in Outram on 29 March 1926.

As the hospital expanded throughout the years, many buildings within the compound were torn down and replaced by modern ones. Only Bowyer Block of the original SGH (1926) remains today, after Stanley and Norris Blocks were demolished in the 1970s. The names of the three blocks were named after the doctors who lost their lives during the Japanese Occupation (1942 – 1945).

In 2010, a new multi-storey carpark was built near the MacAlister Terrace, and MacAlister Road was lengthened and linked to the main road of Jalan Bukit Merah.

As SGH continues to modernise, one can only wonder if the terrace will also suffer the fate of demolition in the future.

Published: 17 January 2011

Updated: 08 February 2011

19 Responses to SGH MacAlister Terrace

  1. Dear Author of SGH.MacAlister.Terrace – Remember Singapore,
    I visited and read your blog today and felt such a loss if the terrace disappears altogether. I’m writing on the Early Malay Doctors. I would like to link to your blog. If you wish to write more about the Terrace, other old hospitals in Singapore, or KEVII, please write at my blog. TQ
    Prof Faridah

    • thanks Professor Faridah, it’ll be indeed a great loss if the terrace is demolished..
      the new multi-storey carpark built last year may be an indication that the ever-expanding SGH needs more and more space..
      btw, what an intensive and detailed blog you have… great work

      • Thank you very much, Remember Singapore. Your blog is great with lovely photos.

      • K.M. Wong Dr. says:

        17-2-2013 ..Dear Prof. Faridah, I was suddenly touched by your March 11, 2011 statement that you were writing about the Early Malay doctors. I just discovered this today. It brought back lots of memories of my Malay fellow students and Medical friends. I grew up in the kampongs of Malacca and belong to the Medical Class of 1950. How could I get a copy of your work on the “early Malay Doctors?” I will try to “Google”. A mental recollection: Surgeon Syed Alhady Syed Mahmood, Raja Ahmad Nordin,Abdul Kadir, Ariffin Marzuki,Mahathir Mohamed and Hasmah,Jaafar Abdullah, Ahmad Yasin,, Ungku Omar, Ismail Suleiman, Zakariah Salim,, Raja Abdullah Badiuzaman,
        The three Merican brothers- Carleel, Ezanee and Mahmood, Rosman Kass, Abdul Talib, Hussein Ghani, Ismail Saad , Zubaidah, Tengku Zaila, Buharniddin Md. Saman. I was tutored by Dr Awang Hassan in Gynaecology at KKMH, Singapore.
        Many of my great friends and “heroes” have passed on in many different circumstances and I do treasure their guidance and friendships. I hope to learn more from your research. Thanks ++

  2. WendyMae says:

    I used to live in 3M MacAlister Road – the flat on the highest floor! this was in the mid-60s, when there was an open field across from the flat, and a row of car garages at the bottom of the hill for residents. My father was a dental surgeon, working in the hospital, and we were living in these quarters. I have such fond memories of that place, and often wonder where all my neighbours went. I remember there was a big fire across from us, at the abandoned laborotries. Thank you very much for sharing these fotos.

  3. aliogoi says:

    Great photos. There used to be many barracks around Spore. I still remember those at Jln Teck Whye and at Bt Timah (in between Bt Timah Shopping Centre and Bt Timah Shopping Complex). There was a Hindu Temple somewhere.

  4. Tan Chuan Sing (Fred) says:

    Hi Wendymae, I lived in the hospital quarters, too, from 1963 to 1975 in 173, Tiong Poh Road. My parents worked in the hospital as attendant and amah. Rent was $6 for our unit on Tiong Poh Road, next to McAlister Road. Electricity and water were free! The Chinese from the nearby village used to come into our communal bathrooms to bathe, too. Yes, I remember the big fire at the abandoned laboratories where you lived. We referred to your block as Doctors’ Quarters. The field that you could see from your unit is College Field, where I would play soccer with the Malay, Indian and Chinese boys who also lived in the quarters. Yes, I remember the garages, in two blocks separated by a casuarina tree. There was a flame of the forest tree at the end of the block of garages to the right. The garages near you unit had foldable wooden doors. The other block had huge green doors reinforced by thick metal mesh. We referred to all white doctors as “Orang Puteh” — white men. I remember that they all drove European cars such as Volkswagon (“Sell It And Buy A VW” was its slogan) and Austin. There were five blocks of quarters on McAlister Road. At the end of McAlister Road was a square block. I was amazed to see an identical block on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles where I worked in 1989 to 1991.

  5. Christina says:

    In the late 90s, the terraces were used to house foreign student nurses who were studying at Nanyang Poly’s School of Health Sciences which had it’s campus at the old School of Nursing and the old primary school building at the bottom of Hospital Drive. I went there once for a party organised by the occupants and it’s a beautiful place. The insides of the houses were very spacious and it had an old feel to it. Didn’t feel haunted in the least. Reminded me of my early childhood in KL when we lived in government quarters for a while.

  6. Suhairi says:

    at the foot of the hill where the Terrace and the flat are located, there used to be a workshop quarters, where I was born and raised as a child. A quarters with many small rooms and each room was assigned to a family, and some had ten or twelve childrens. So imagine! In the front, there iwas a carpentry workshop. A barber shop nearby, lived an Indian family with one son named Selvam. From him, we learnt to play “Kabbadi”,
    The flat and Terrace were occupied by the doctors of the hospital and many of the young ladies and women living iin the workshop quarters worked as a cleaner or maid to these doctors’ families.
    I left and moved to HDB with sadness, in January 1979. The place had given me the freedom to roam and explore as a kid. Sitting outside , on a bench, we called “amben”, to see the stars and dark blue sky. Football or rounders or Police and Thief, with the kids residing around the area.
    Memories, sweet and happy ones.

    • Tan Chuan Sing says:

      Suhairi, how are you and your family? I do remember you! Brother Lili (Hairi), Wanda and anohter sister whose name I can’t recall. Is your father still living in Pasir Ris? In 1984, I met him at NUH where he had been posted from SGH (Outram Road General Hospital). By the way, you might remember Patong a.k.a. Patong Cendana. That’s me! And your neighbour, Minah. I remember her she was from Henderson Secondary School. A pretty girl. If you revisit this page, please call me at 96659530 or email me at t2tmma@gmail.com. Zakaria, your uncle, played football well. My sister — Miss Tan — gave tuition to you, Lili and your sister (bless her, I have forgotten her name). Yes, Quarters Days were the best. I have written a book about life in quarters and will share it with you should we meet up one day. Nothing beats the gotong-royong spirit, be it during bulan puasa, tunangan, bersanding, or building the sepak takraw court. Ah.. the surau. My unit at 173 Tiong Poh Road overlooked the surau. I enjoyed the kompang music that travelled from there to my unit. Yes, the boys practised kompang on weekends. And how the folks would go to the surau every evening. Maggreb. An Indian man (“mama”) sold sop kambing. Kalimat’s father sold lontong, mee siam and nasi lemak in the mornings. I did not play kabbadi, but enjoyed watching the Indian boys playing it, using slippers and ropes to form the boundary of the kabaddi ring. Do contact me, please. There’s a lot to catch up with you.

  7. Tan Chuan Sing says:

    Suhairi! I remember you! OMG! You were a soft-spoken boy. You have 2 brothers Lili and Wanda, and a sister whose name I can’t recall. Zakaria is your uncle. He played football with me, too. In 1984, I met your father at NUH where he was transferred to. He mentioned that he had moved to Pasir Ris, if I remembered correctly. Do you remember Miss Tan, with whom you and your siblings had tuition? I m her brother. You may recall a Chinese boy nicknamed Patong. Sometimes you guys called him Patong Cendana after the Malay movie. I m that boy! Kita panggil awak “Wu Ai”, kan. Aduh mak.. benar-benar, dunia ini sangat lucu, boleh kita ketemu di tempat ini. Ok, I won’t use Malay in this blog. Yes, I remember Selvam and the Indian barber. And the village mosque (surau) at the corner of MaCalister Road and the buah sukun tree. You were in Silat I (red badge), I was in Silat II (green badge). Do you remember Tohari and Ahmad Paijan? Say, Suhairi, I desperately want to get in touch with you. Please call me at 96659530 or e-mail me at t2tmma@gmail.com. I have found some boys from Quarters, too. They have moved to Yishun, Telok Blangah and Woodlands. We hav a lot of catching up to do. God bless you and your family.

  8. Ian Ransome says:

    Just visited Mcalisar road today, first time in 44 years since I left. I used to live at No 1 as a small boy in the 60s. Only a small portion of the driveway is left next to the Ministry of Health. I remember sometime cutting through the back of Mcalister road past what I guess was the pathology unit? I remember bodies being embalmed in formaldehyde there! I see the Alumiini Club has moved too…heart days, great memories of an era now gone by.

  9. K.M. Wong ( Class of 1950) says:

    To Ian Ransome:, Dear Ian from my calculations, I believe you would be the son of our beloved Professor Gordon A. Ransome who married our Hospital’s Physiotherapist. . She was a tall and good looking personality. I had the privilege of being one of the Prof’s “lucky” students. He was easily the most famous of all the professors the Medical school has had.His lectures were always interesting; recounting his experiences of serving in the Tropics with the Army. Of all things, I had to repeat an extra 6 months in Medicine in my final year.
    In order to make sure that I would not falter again at my second try, I plotted and made friends with “Kim Swee”, the trusted aide and interpreter for the Prof when he had his private patients; it was some form of “face presentations”. to mak sure he recognised me.
    I learnt that the Prof would always want a “complete history” ; his favourite question during exams was “what is the occupation of the patient’s grand-father.? ‘ I imitated all his physical sign tests and was present when he “hypnotised ” his psychotic patients.
    My most exciting experience as a doctor till today is when I diagnosed a sailor from Hong-Kong who rushed out of his bed and crashed through the glass window. of the Ward after Surgery for a perianal abscess.
    The Prof drummed into us that whenever a patient did something inexplicably and without physical signs- “Test him as a case of Cerebral Malaria”- I was commended by my senior Surgeon!!. when the results proved right.
    Prof Ransome would come to the Paediatric Ward (Mistri Wing) with an aerated water bottle and asked for some “Syrup Chloral” . “This would dope the brat” and he and wife would go out to their party.His explanation was that Chloral was excreted from the lungs and would not harm the liver etc.
    My four children were given the same regime when they were not too well or tired.
    Well this is just something I had to share with someone. Guess how old would I be in this year of 2014?

  10. Ian Ransome says:

    Dear Dr. Wong, you are absolutely correct in your assumption. Thanks you for sharing your anecdote with me, my mother is still alive (the physiotherapist), and I am sure she will be flattered. I still have fond memories of invading Medical Unit One, and extorting money from my farther at the little shop at the entrance as a little boy, and generally regarding the hospital as a giant playground. I heard Kim Swee, who had the patience of a Saint when dealing with my farther, sadly passed away a few years back. I wandered around the old hospital grounds today, so much has changed, for the better I guess, but there are still tiny remnants that I could still recognize after all theses years, but for how much longer, I do not know. Although my farther retired back to the UK, I know his heart was always in Singapore, and with the people he loved and cared for so much, until hea passed away in 1976. As for your age, it’s as young as you feel, and I hope that is good.

    • K.M. Wong ( Class of 1950) says:

      I did a “Google” search of the Ransome Family and have an idea of your family . I’m just wondering whether you or your siblings have followed in the footsteps of “our Beloved Physician.” Many of my contemporaries have passed on but I believe your Dad’s name is commemorated in the Singapore NUS Medical Annals. Many regards to you

  11. Alex T says:

    Hi all, happen to come across the buildings and thus this article. The buildings are currently being demolished. Demolition works on the flats are ongoing but yet to start on the terraces. Such a pity that our country is more interested in the future than the pasts…

  12. Tan Chuan Sing says:

    Yes Alex, many of the buildings are gone. My heart cries for the lost hospital grounds and living quarters that are gone. This was where I grew up in. The red building along Sepoy Lane is gone and so is Sepoy Lane itself. King Edward Medical Hall is no longer named so. Only some parts of Norris and Bowyer Blocks remain. The abanbdoned dhoby structure was still there when I last visited the area a few years back. The nurses’ quarters and medical students’ hostel are now used for other purposes. Today, my beloved College Field where doctors played cricket and hockey on Sundays look so miserable; a large chunk of it is now a carpark. The Tiong Poh Road block where I lived for ten years is now part of an expressway. The three blocks on Tiong Poh Avenue are gone, too, taken over by condominiums and flats. Even the square block beyong McAlister Terrace is gone, replaced by a multi-storey carpark. The old Silat School itself is still standing. That’s good. I last went there in 1992 when it was used as a school for nursing, I believe. The school tuckshop had an upper and lower level, which was for students of the upper and lower primary students, respectively. The building served three schools, Silat I which had classes in Chinese and English streams, Silat II had only English stream and Aravintha Tamil School. Aravintha Tamil School shared the same session as Silat II which I attended. Now, whenever I travel by bus along Jalan Bukit Merah, I always look out at my beloved Silat School just opposite the Sikh Temple. I remember the tree-lined path that led to Professor Ransome’s residence, into which we never intruded. At the entrance to the path was a neat wooden signboard that read “Prof G.A. Ransome.” I hope Mr Ian Ransome got to keep that signboard in memory of his beloved father. Once in a while, I still walk the hospital grounds. I take my mother there for medical checkups (free for her as she is a pensioner who served the then Outram Road General Hospital). It was a lovely place to grow up in as a Chinese boy. I got to mix with Malays and Indians, and I can hold my own in the Malay tongue. Yes, I witnessed many interesting events during that bygone era. There were Malay weddings with kompang music accompaniment and live bands under tarpaulin tents, and engagement ceremonies for young children who were hardly twelve years old. There were free open-air projector movies that were projected on huge white screens straddled between two poles. The movies were in reels of film stored circular metal containers. Thaipusam and Punggal were celebrated by the Indians. Wooden stages were constructed for singing and dance contests. The Indians would give us murukku and other sweet cakes during Deepavali. In return, we gave them F&N bottled drinks and sweets during Chinese New Year. I remembered the riots in 1964. During the night, the Chinese from the nearby village in SIlat Road invaded our quarters. Police officers shouted to us to close our slatted windows as they were going to use tear gas to disperse the rioters. I was too young to understand and was not afraid at all as my unit was on the third floor. One night around 3.00a.m. in 1972, we were awakened by the blood-curdling screams, “Save Life!!” A Chinese man after a late night out was passing through our quarters while on his way home. Apparently, he had been ambushed by some people from the quarters. They chased him and slashed him to death. We could hear him scream in pain. The poor chap’s cries ended after a few minutes and we knew his fate. The next morning, I went to take a look at him. What a gruesome sight it was that greeted me. He lay next to a blood-splattered car at the wall fringing our quarters from the Chinese village. It was behind the defunct Kwok Min School. His name was Lim Choon Huat, I found out in the Straits Times. The article read “Man In Pyjamas Slashed To Death”. For all the horrifying events that I witnessed, I am also thankful for the chance to live in Tiong Poh Road Quarters where I spent a good 12 years of my life (from age 4 to 16). Poor though we were, we were never short of interesting things to do. Flying kites, playing marbles, chapteh, tops (gasing), kutikuti, klerek, five-stones (boys played this game, hahas), hantam bola, rounders, hide-and-seek, police and thieves, catch, hopscotch and soccer. There was never a shortage of “kakis” for any of these games. Bruises from fights were not uncommon. I had my fair share of that, but everybody’s parents never got involved when one from their brood came home with a black eye. Gangsterism, drugs and gambling was never very far away. Am I glad I came out of this slum not in a bad way. That, Alex, was my McAlister Road/Tiong Poh Road/Tiong Poh Avenue Hospital Quarters. Dear friend, thanks for setting up this website. Do contact me at my email address at t2tmma@gmail.com for more stories over coffee which I will gladly buy for you.

  13. E. says:

    Macalister Terrace was completely demolished today. Macalister Flats were demolished a couple of weeks back. A pity.

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