Jun 28, 2010

2nd Shot: Raffles Scouts Cross Stamford Canal

1971 Raffles Scout over Stamford Canal
Source: NAS

Stamford Canal was in the limelight recently for the wrong reason. A blocked culvert at its Orchard section caused an unprecedented flooding in the area, the most serious in 26 years since 1984. The waterway that begins its life somewhere in Tanglin and ends when water is discharged into Marina Barrage is one hell of a beast but we are not here today to help the ministries pass the buck.

Before Stamford Canal was covered over for the pedestrian mall in City Hall and Orchard, it was exposed and rather unsightly in the cityscape. Just imagine Rochor Canal running alongside Raffles City, War Memorial Park and the shopping centres along Orchard Road. I remember the Rochor one stinks at the pedestrian crossing outside Sim Lim Square and let us not assume its Stamford cousin was any cleaner. Bowled over by their success in turning waterway into walkway, the government has became even more creative by covering at least one canal to become a park connector. Just check out Alexandra Canal Linear Park opposite Stirling Road.

At Raffles Institution, Stamford Canal divided the school compound from Stamford Road, but that was no obstacle to some of the more resourceful students. In the cover photo, we see a make-shift bridge built by boy scouts to cross the canal. According to Peter, even normal students used the bridge - as a shortcut to catch the 11am movie at Capitol Cinema. An illegal dash across Stamford Road would have avoided the fierce school bull-dog. Who is the bull-dog? I am guessing they are prefects stationed at the gates to stop unauthorised pupils from leaving the compound before dismissal time.

Raffles Scouts Cross Stamford Canal, 1971
The archives has a photo of the endeavour with Capitol Cinema in the background, a good clue to the bridge's location. The bridge should be at this little foundation beside the circular driveway into Raffles City.

Anybody knows the story of the bridge? Why was it built, who gave the permission and its eventual fate. Let's hope nobody fell into the water in his haste to cross the bridge.

With the acute realization that the canal flows under the walkway, I can better appreciate the space between the station exit and the shopping mall. Perhaps some of us used to wonder why they did not build the exit closer to the mall.

City Hall MRT
Left and Right: The exit at City Hall Station and Raffles City separated by the invisible Stamford Canal under the walkway.

The recent flood in Orchard also answered the question why station exits are raised above the walkway. You can see the steps before the escalator in my photo. Last time we took them for granted. Now we know they are raised as a preventive measure against flooding.


peter said...

1. 2101 Raffles Scout Group built the bridge. Bridge was built when they had a cmap fire on the school grounds. There was also a watch tower built next to the bridge. No one from my memory fell into the canal.

2. "Bull Dog" or "Pit Bull" does not refer to the prefects. referred to one teacher who later became the principal of RJC. "Bull Dog" always stood at the spectators gallery when the school shifted to Grange Road to catch students running to the 11am show at Sky and Globe cinemas. From his vantage point he could see Hoot Kiam Road very well.

peter said...

Further south of the MRT exit but before the entry road into the hotel, the gournd slope towards the Canal. This was "Smokers Corner" where boys took puffs hidden by a bush. Where did the cigs come from? Did the students purchase the pack and brought to school? No, it was sold in the school canteen by the Indian kopi seller named Sulaiman. One stick everybody shared. YG should know who is Sulaiman.

Icemoon said...

Thanks for the details Peter. I hope the relevant authorities gave them permission to extend the bridge outside the school compound. I hope parents or public did not complain. Or was that the reason for the bridge's demise eventually?

If somebody STOMPed the smokers in the 1970s, we can have a second shot, haha.

Anonymous said...

Other than the bridge, ropes were strung across Stamford Canal at the start of the year for the ECA open house. 2101 scouts would use these to cross the canal so as to impress the new students and perhaps get them to join the group. We also built rafts out of oil drums and row them down Stamford Canal to the sea, stop by at Satay Club and go for bobo chacha!

Icemoon said...

My goodness! The dirty canal was used for "rafting" exercises?