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Bridge Street, George Town, Penang

Bridge Street, George Town. It was renamed Jalan C.Y. Choy after the third mayor of George Town.

Bridge Street, now renamed Jalan C.Y. Choy, stretches from the heart of George Town south towards the Pinang River. Part of the Seven Streets Precint (chit tiau lor in Penang Hokkien), it links Anson Bridge (which connects it with Beach Street) to the north with Pinang River Bridge to the south, running parallel to the eastern shoreline of George Town.

Bridge Street has been in existence since at least the mid-19th. century. At the time, the street was considered part of the outskirts of George Town; the town had yet to expand south across the Prangin Canal.

Occupied by working-class Hokkiens, Bridge Street was also rife with gang warfare which terrorised George Town towards the end of the 19th. century. The uniform rows of shophouses along Bridge Street were actually built to replace the wooden houses which were repeatedly razed to the ground by rival secret societies.

The street was renamed Jalan C.Y. Choy in the 1980s after the last mayor of George Town, Choy Chooi Yew of the opposition Socialist Front. He served as the mayor between 1964 and 1966, prior to the eventual replacement of the George Town City Council by the Penang Island Municipal Council.

Etymology

Bridge Street was named after Anson Bridge, which connects the northern end of Bridge Street with the southern end of Beach Street. Today, Anson Bridge is hardly recognisable as it is at street level; in the past, it served to connect the northern and southern banks of the Prangin Canal, allowing boats to pass underneath it.

Choy Chooi Yew

Choy Chooi Yew being lifted by his supporters after retaining the Pengkalan Kota state seat in the 1978 Malaysian General Elections.

The street was renamed in the 1980s after Choy Chooi Yew, the third mayor of George Town who served between 1964 and 1966. Originally a member of the Socialist Front, he continued serving the Pengkalan Kota constituency as an independent state assemblyman until his death in 1980.

History

Bridge Street was created in the first half of the 19th. century. At the time, mangrove swamps and mud flats were all that lay between the street and the Penang Channel.

Until the mid-19th. century, the street was a rural area, consisting of attap and wooden houses occupied by working-class Hokkiens. As George Town was still being developed along the northern banks of what would become the Prangin Canal, Bridge Street was thus considered part of the outskirts of the town.

Towards the end of the 19th. century, Bridge Street became a stronghold of the Khian Teik secret society. During this period of incessant gang violence, the street became the target of rival Chinese secret societies eyeing for the control of the roads linking George Town with the spice plantations of Gelugor, as well as the Hokkien cemeteries at Batu Lanchang and Batu Gantong. The rival gangs attacked and burned the attap and wooden residences along Bridge Street over and over again, leading to the construction of uniform-looking shophouses along the length of the street.

At the turn of the 20th. century, Bridge Street also became part of George Town's Seven Streets Precint (chit tiau lor in Penang Hokkien), which came into being after the reclamation of the area from the sea at the end of the 19th. century.

In the 1980s, Beach Street was renamed Jalan C.Y. Choy, in memory of the third and last mayor of George Town, Choy Chooi Yew. Mr. Choy, a member of the opposition Socialist Front, became the mayor after winning the Sungai Pinang ward in the 1964 George Town Elections. Popularly known as the 'Quiet Mayor of George Town' due to his low profile, he served as the mayor until 1966, when the Malaysian federal government suspended city elections in the wake of the Indonesian Confrontation.

Subsequently, the then Chief Minister of Penang, Wong Pow Nee of the ruling Alliance coalition, took over the functions of the George Town City Council. The city council was eventually merged with the Penang Rural District Council to form the Penang Island Municipal Council in 1976, which effectively meant that Mr. Choy was the last serving mayor of George Town.

Nonetheless, Mr. Choy continued being active in politics. Upon the splitting of the Socialist Front, he served the Pengkalan Kota state constituency as an independent assemblyman. Being a populist, Mr. Choy would station himself at Bridge Street, equipped with a typewriter, a chair and a table to write petitions on behalf of the constituents. He retained the Pengkalan Kota seat through successive elections until his death in 1980.

Religion

Due to the street being a working-class Hokkien neighbourhood, there are three Taoist temples along Bridge Street.

  • Pak Thean Kong Temple
  • Teong Poh Keong Temple
  • Seng Ong Beow Temple

Food

From north to south :

  • Tong Aun Coffee Shop
  • Downtown Restaurant
  • Teong Ah Coffee Shop
  • Seahboey Heng Cafe

Political Representation

Penang State Government

N.27 Pengkalan Kota State Assemblyman : Lau Keng Ee (Democratic Action Party)

Malaysian Federal Parliament

P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)

References

  1. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books.
  2. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/bridge-street.htm
  3. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/community/2013/07/27/he-was-the-peoples-choyce-cy-choy-is-known-for-his-humble-approach-and-steadfast-service-among-the-b/

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