Saturday, April 08, 2006

Saying bye to the ferry services at Clifford Pier

Slightly more than a week ago, I read from one of the Chinese newspapers that the ferry services at Clifford Pier would be relocated to Marina South Pier as of 1 April 2006.

For your convenience, this link gives a concise summary of fate of the ferry services at Clifford Pier as well as inform us of the exact location of the Marina South Pier:

I remember myself enjoying the sights of the ferries parking themselves at the Clifford Pier. I might have a fascination with the shapes of ferries and vessles that look similar. As such, after reading that piece of news, I decided to find time on an afternoon to take photographs of the Clifford Pier, while the ferry and launch services were still in operations.

Weather was not quite on my side. The skies were looking dull on that day when I was at Clifford Pier to capture the soon-to-be-gone sights. In fact, it was drizzling slightly when I reached Clifford Pier that day. I took the photographs anyway. I thought to myself then: Perhaps the lack of bright natural lightings might lend some melancholy feel to the photos that I would take.

Clifford Pier. Waiting area?

Watching the ferries passing by.


Actually, I confessed that I can quite be an ignorant person. I am not quite familiar with the history of Clifford Pier. From one of the pages from Live.Life!@eCitizen, I got to find out that Clifford Pier was named after Governor Sir Hugh Charles Clifford of the Straits Settlements. I have often heard the locals referring to Clifford Pier as "Red Lantern Pier". I just don't quite understand why. Would anyone care to enlighten please?

Ferries at the Clifford Pier. A sight that is now gone.

People at work. Would they miss working at Clifford Pier?

Ferry approaching the pier.

Now an image from our memories.

These too will go?

Clifford Pier will not seem the same without the ferries. On 2 April 2006, I passed by the Clifford Pier, and it looked very bare without the ferries. Occasionally, I could see bumboats passing by the Merlion Park that is located nearby. Otherwise, the surface of the waters looked empty without the ferries.

Let's compare.

Before 1 April 2006:

After 1 April 2006:

Life will still goes on. Maybe it is just not the same as we used to know.


Also read:

- Clifford Pier without the ferries (A re-adaptation of this post. Posted on


Lam Chun See said...

This place as well as the adjacent Esplanade (Queen Elizabeth Walk - in Cantonese we call Hoi Pei; which led all the way to the Nicoll Highway) has many memories for us. It is another one of those places that has changed beyond recognition.

Did you know that across the road to Clifford Pier used to be a famous landmark. It was often featured in our geography books. It was the tallest building in Spore in the old days.

Test you; Do you know the name of this building?

Simon Chu said...

Clifford Pier (红灯码头)has a special place in my life.....I have fond memories during my childhood days in Chinatown when my father who used to bring us (my 2 younger sisters then) to this place to 'chill out'! We were living in the gutters of Singapore - i.e. Chinatown Sago Street and back in the 50s there was no luxury items called air-conditioning or even an electric fan, so the only way to get some breather was to get to the ' hoi pei' as Chun See said. Once I witnessed the marine police (back in the late 50s) fished out a corpse from the water...commotion was everywhere during the process.....One other many events and memories I could remember include the sparrows twittering around the pillars and eaves at the ceiling of this place...
I used to observe how the sampan man paddled his oars....just looking at the water front gave me a joy of feeling freed and out in the open....Staying in Chinatonw ian a little cubicle was like trapped in prison.
There was a special atmosphere of this place especially in the night time.
In the recent years and I am not sure if it is still there....a restaurant was named after this place called the Red Lantern?

Simon (Scotland)

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Chun See, would you like to blog more about how the area used to be in your younger times?

You have given me quite a difficult test. But if my limited knowledge and calculated guess did not fail me, I think it was: The Arcade?

Simon: Hi, Clifford Pier is a nice place for open air.

I don't usually look for food when I am at Clifford Pier, so I don't know if there is a restaurant called Red Lantern there still.

oceanskies79 said...

Chun See: Or was it Ocean building? or the Asian Insurance Building?

Lam Chun See said...

I think my question was not specific enough. I did not state which period or year.

Anyway, Asia Building was the champion for a long time pre-independence. After that, one by one the skyscrapers popped up. The earliest ones I remember was IBM (the one at Shenton Way), UIC, DBS .. Ocean Building came much later.

I used to pass the area everyday when I studied at the Prince Edward Campus of the Spore Polytechnic. Before the Kent Ridge campus of NUS was completed, the Engineering Faculty of the then University of Spore was housed at the Spore Poly. This was the early 70's.

oceanskies79 said...

Thanks for enlightening.

Victor said...

Chun See gave me a weekend assignment. Luckily I already had the model answers in my blog here. (I better confess first that I ripped that 1970s skyline aerial photo from the web. It might have originated from National Archives. Oops, another infringement.)

Yes, I think Asia Insurance Building was the first skyscraper in the city. At 18-storey high (very modest by today's standard) it laid claim to be the tallest building in Singapore for I don't know how long. If you look carefully at that photo, you will also see another building nearby which was nearly quite as tall. It seems like this building is no longer there today.

Yes, I also remember Red Lantern, the revolving restaurant. However, this restaurant may no longer be around as I could not locate it in the latest phone listing. But it looks like the building is still standing - you can barely make it out from my Jun 2005 photo here.

About 20-30 years ago, the Red Lantern area was famous for its ladies of the night from an Asean country. Maybe they thought that a Red Lantern would very naturally emit red light. (I also better explain first that I know not because I procured their services but my friends brought me for an 'educational' tour of that area.)

oceanskies79 said...

Victor: Thanks for the links. Gosh.....the skyline of Singapore has changed a lot....

Lam Chun See said...

Yah lah, uncle. We all know u very 'educated' in that dept.

Lam Chun See said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
piccola said...

i went to clifford pier today, there are boards around to tell the history of the place. The reason for it being called 红灯码头 is because there are really red lamp posts at the pier. It's at the end of the pier by the sea.

Anyway, its really sad that they are removing this historical place.

Jay said...

Hi. I'm writing a family memoir. My grandmother emigrated from Chowwan (then called) in Guangdong (then called) to Singapore in 1936. Here's what I've learned: that Clifford Pier (built to replace Johnston Pier -- that was demolished in 1933) was the landing pier for immigrants. Both piers were known known as 'Red Lantern Pier' by the 'sinkehs' because as their ships came in the streetlamps on the piers gave out a red glow. Until they got up close and learned otherwise, they thought that there must have been red lanterns strung up like those they had at home to celebrate the end of the New Year. Johnston Pier, then Clifford Pier following, were therefore known as Red Lantern Pier.
I can get you the reference -- My mum has borrowed the book off me!

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Piccola: I shall look out for the boards if I were to pass by Clifford Pier.

Hi Jay: Thank you for the insight.