Post War ArrivalsIn the 1960s, many more Parsis came to Singapore and the Parsi Community grew from a dozen to nearly a hundred. At present, there are more than two hundred Parsis in Singapore and the community continues to grow with members involved in the fields of finance, pharmaceuticals, hotel management etc.
Though miniscule in size, the Parsi presence in Singapore is nearly 200 years old, with the first recorded history of a Parsi in Singapore being from 1827. As Indian Parsi traders and merchants including Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, the Wadias, Petits, Tatas and others established a lucrative trade with China, Singapore became a natural entrepot. They travelled to the East in ships loaded with cotton, opium and textiles and returned home with spices, tea, silk, porcelain, tin and much more. Soon Parsi merchants were seen trading in many ports of Asia including Singapore.
This was clearly the pioneering generation and represented the spirit of this community in the 19th century as it ventured all over the world for adventure and fortune. This group included convicts, traders, spice merchants, ship owners, social workers, the first philanthropists and amazingly the pioneers in bringing theatre troupes to Singapore. There are numerous Parsis mentioned in the archives from the early 1800s but some interesting ones were:
• Muncherjee, the first Parsi to enter recorded history in Singapore. Singapore was a British penal colony and he was believed to have come as a convict in the 1820s.
• The other interesting Parsis were the father son duo, the Cursetjees of the 1840s. They were the original partners of John Little and the employers of Phillip Robinson (respectively the founders of the iconic Singapore department stores John Little and Robinsons). They were the first Freemasons and also the first non-European shareholders to fund the first public library, the Singapore Institution Library.
• Dhunjibhoy Cama was a member of the grand jury in 1854. Byramjee Cama started the Cama Free school in Tanjong Pagar in 1854 and is also known to have donated $1000 to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital in the 1850s.
In the late 1820s when Muncherjee (the first Parsi) fell critically sick an Armenian friend of his, Mr. Sarkies, convinced the Parsis of Canton to purchase a burial ground for Parsis near Shenton Way. In later years a lodge was built and this was the genesis of the Parsi Lodge Charity. In 1954 the management of this asset was handed to the newly formed Parsi Zoroastrian Association of South East Asia (PZAS). Though the cemetery since then has been moved a few times, it has been at Choa Chu Kang from the 1970s. In memory of where the original Parsi Lodge and Cemetery stood for over 130 years a road at the end of Shenton Way is now named Parsi Road.