Gabriel Teik Kiew Oh was born on 26th April, 1932 in Kampar, Malaysia to parents Oh Kay Beng and Low Beng Tit. He was the youngest of three sons, the older brothers being Oh Teik Thuan and Oh Teik Sam. His father was the second son of the first wife of Oh Cheng Keat. Incidentally, Oh Cheng Keat had four wives, and between them had a mighty 25 children, 15 sons, of which one was Gabriel’s father, and 10 daughters!
Oh Cheng Keat founded a business, Ban Seng Leong, which incorporated a wide range of businesses. These ranged from several tin mines, rubber estates, a bus company, running local bus services in Ipoh, a sawmill in Teluk Anson (32 miles from Kampar at the river mouth), and, in Kampar itself, a rubber processing plant and a coconut copra oil factory.
Many of the Oh clan lived together in an impressive bungalow in Kampar. This was built on a large 10-15 acre site which included,within the complex, some (6?) smaller houses in which Oh Cheng Keat housed his wives and growing family! Many of the Oh’s have very fond memories of this ‘house on stilts’, my father, in particular, recalls its huge rooms, about ten in total, and the, hardly surprising, enormous kitchen – my dad can still visualise the gigantic wok, about 5ft in diameter, that was used to prepare meals!
Below are some pictures showing various aspects of the Oh bungalow:
When Oh Cheng Keat died, Gabriel’s father, Oh Kay Beng took over the helm of the vast family fortune, delegating various areas of the business to his brothers. Unfortunately, whilst under huge pressure of a dispute between the family business and the French or British companies, which could have wiped out the whole business, Oh Kay Beng took his own life in 1935, when Gabriel was only 3. Oh Kay Chong (5th Uncle) took over running the business whilst Gabriel and Sam, together with their mother, went to live with their maternal grandparents in Kuala Lumpur (KL).
Whilst in Kuala Lumpur, during the Japanese war, schooling was pretty non existent! Gabriel should have attended a private school, but spent much of his time playing truant, exploring the sites of KL, hence his expert knowledge of all the backstreets of the city! However, he did attend some Chinese tuition at a school located behind their house. Whilst in KL, his mother, bearing in mind few girls were educated in those days, worked in a lawyers firm as a stenographer, his grandfather worked as a Court Interpreter whilst his grandmother took care of the children.