Wan Toh Koh and Yap Swee

Here I have finally found the mysterious eight wife of Yap Swee. She is not the eight wife in chronological order. I was always told that Yap Swee had seven wives and that one wife died before he did. But I have since found out that I misunderstood the statement and that he had seven wives when he died and one wife predeceased him. So I was left hunting for the eight wife. My current guess is that this is actually his first wife. But there is still too much missing information to determine what is the correct marriage order.

Here are my notes on this case.

  1. Yap Swee is listed according to the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese name – 葉 – Yip rather than the Hakka pronunciation of Yap. I don’t know why this is so. As it is Singapore they would surely default to the mandarin pronunciation – Ye. I do not know who is responsible for this and it would be very interesting to see the indemnity paper he provided in his time as the lawful administrator of the estate. I wonder if they used the name Yip to confuse the court to think he had a different surname to that of the daughter of the deceased who was Yap Kiat Lam. As I understand my grandfather never spoke or read English, so any indemnity paper may be in Chinese. Another alternative explanation is that at the earlier time he used the Cantonese pronunciation of his name, maybe this was what happened in the Dutch East Indies.
  2. The people in the court constantly state that he fraudulently stated himself to be the lawful husband. But I am certain that in his eyes he was the lawful husband. In part this is based on the the Seven Wives case where polygamy amongst the Qing Dynasty Chinese was allowed in the Federated Malay States. But to my understanding, polygamy was never allowed in the straights settlement colony of Singapore where standard British law applied. So it may be that they were legally married in the Sultanate of Perak and not legally married in Singapore. I have no knowledge of how the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies would have view polygamy amongst the Qing Chinese. Either way, he would not have been able to supply as marriage certificate and I expect that the Singapore court wanted a marriage certificate. This would match with the statements made by my family that the marriages were nor actual marriages because there was no piece of paper.
  3. It is possible that they did not marry in the FMS. They may have married in Singapore or in the Dutch East Indies. Personally, and without any proper evidence, I am leaning towards that they married in the Dutch East Indies but when he went to the Sultanate of Perak she did not go with him, partly based of fuzzy dates.
  4. There is a bit of conflict about the daughter Yap Kiat Lim. In the report it says that her mother was survived by an infant child. I presume this is incorrect as the daughter was a 19 year old being married in the year before as her mother died. Assuming that the age of 19 is correct, then she was born in cica 1912. I am skeptical and suspect she may have been younger. Assuming that this information is correct, then Yap Swee would have married Wan Toh Koh in 1912 or before.
  5. We know from the Seven Wives case that Yap Swee sometimes had the alias Yip Swee as this is clearly listed as an alias in that case. As Ipoh was a Cantonese speaking city I think it would be quite common for him to be called Yip by the Cantonese speaking community. I have had the same issue with strangers in HK just translating my name in their heads. I will say I am Brian Yap and they will reply, yes, Mr Yip.
  6. The deceased is called Yuen Tho and Wan Toh Koh in different court cases. It appears that is not unusual to drop the person’s personal name from the name. I wonder if Yuen Tho and Wan Koh are just dialect differences.
  7. There appears to my untrained eye a bit of confusing about the granting to letters of administration to Yap Swee. He seems to have applied for this on 31 October 1932 and been granted them on 3 February 1933.
  8. And of general interest, that like here in Victoria Australia, where I live, which is also based on the English System, an administrator is not an administrator until assigned by the court.

Table of Names

Deceased Yuen Tho (in 1933 case) Wan Toh Koh (In 1936 Case) In Toh Koh (Alias)
Husband of Deceased Yip Swee (In all cases) Yap Swee (his actual name)
Daughter Yap Kiat Lim
Daughter’s Husband Voo Foot Yiu


Circa 1912 Yap Kit Lim is born.
1931 December 31 Yap Kiat Lim (aged 19) and Voo Foot Yiu marry.
1932 September 21 and 22 Wan Toh Koh deposited money with the Ho Hong Bank.
1932 October 16 Wan Toh Koh dies. Cause unknown.
1932 October 31 Application for Grant of letters of Administration to Yip Swee.
1933 Feb 3 Yip See declared administrator for probate 12 of 1933.
1933 March 24 Application by Yap Kiat Lim to be declared daughter and Yip Swee to be declared not husband.
1933 June 25 Yap Swee signs and indemnity and withdraws the money from the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd., Successor to the Ho Hong Bank.
1933 November 30 Court ordered that Yap Kiat Lim is the daughter and Yip Swee was not the husband.
1933 December 1 Court orders that Letters of Administration to Yap Swee are cancelled.
1935 June 11 Voo Foot Yiu, now the administrator fo the estate applies for the money from the Overseas Chinese bank and is refused even though he has the correct paperwork.
1936 June 2 Court hears the case of Voon Foot Yiu against the Overseas Chinese Bank Corporation Ltd.
1936 July 4 Court finds that the Overseas Chinese Bank Corporation Ltd. has to pay the money to the administrator Voo Foot Yiu.

1933 March 25 – Newspaper Article – Court case about wife Wan Toh Koh

Malay Tribune, 25 March 1933, Page 12CLAIM TO BE DAUGHTER.
Motion to Revoke Letters Of Administration

An interesting motion for the revocation of the Letters of Administration granted to Yip Swee in the estate of Yuen Tho, deceased, came before Mr. Justice Whitely in the Supreme Court yesterday. The applicant was a Chinese Lady names, Yap Kiat Lim, who claimed that she was the lawful and legitimate daughter of the deceased woman, Yuen Tho, and who submitted that the respondent, Yip Swee, was not the husband of the deceased, and therefore had not right whatsoever to the administration of the estate.

Mr. S. Fung appeared for the applicant, while Mr. W. P. Parsons represented the respondent.

The question of procedure was argued by counsel. Mr Fung asked that they two issues – whether the applicant was the legitimate daughter of the deceased and whether the respondent was the husband of the deceased – be tried together in order to avoid heavy costs. “This estate is only worth $3,000 and I don’t want to be swallowed with costs.” counsel said. The costs of the hearing of one issue would come to $700 to $800, whereas if they took the two issues together, the costs would be the same.

Mr. Parsons told his lordship that the Chief Justice had already told Mr. Fung that there was one issue – whether the applicant was the lawful child of the deceased, and had adjourned the case for a week to enable Mr. Fung to show what interest the applicant had. He quoted authority to support his contention that the procedure was correct.

Mr Fung replied that if he failed to prove the first issue, that his client was the daughter of the deceased, he would not proceed with the case.
His lordship agreed with the council for the respondent and said that after Mr. Fung had proved the first issue he could go on to attach the second. He accordingly made an order that the issue be tried, without pleadings, whether Yap Kiat Lam was the natural and lawful daughter of Yuen Tho, that the applicant should be plaintiff and the respondent, the administrator of the estate, should be defendant.

Source – Singapore National Archives

Newspaper Collection.1936 June 3 – Newspaper

Article – Court case about wife Wan Toh Koh
Bank Sued For Deposits
Morning Tribune 1936 June 3 page 21
On the Singapore National Archives

Bank Sued For Deposits


Local Court Problem

Singapore, Tuesday

Sued as successors of the Ho Hong Bank Ltd., the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd., were defendants in a civil suit that came up for hearing before Acting Chief Justice, Mr. Justice, N. H. P. Whitley, in the Supreme Court today, the plaintiff in the case being Voo Foot Yiu, who claimed payment from the bank of two sums of $1,000 each with interest at 3 per cent. per $100 on each of the sums or in the alternative for breach of agreement.

Mr A. V. L. Davies appeared for the plaintiff while the defendants were represented by Mr. C. C. Vaux.

It was stated that the claim that on Wan Toh Koh alias In Toh Koh a widow, had made two agreements in writing with the Ho Hong Bank dated Sept. 21, 1932 and Sept. 22, 1932, respectively whereby she deposited with the Bank $1,000 on each of these occasions, these sums being payable on the due dates, namely, Mar. 21, 1933 and Mar. 22m 1933, on the production of the agreements.


Wan Toh Koh died in the Singapore General Hospital on Oct. 16, 1932, and was survived by an only lawful infant daughter named Yap Kiat Lam. This girl was married to the plaintiff on Dec. 31, and as the lawful husband of the girl, who was then 19 years, the plaintiff applied for a grant of Letters of Administration of the estate of the deceased and this was granted to him on Feb. 3, 1933 in Probate No. 12 of 1933.

Plaintiff then discovered that on Oct. 21, 1932, one Yip Swee had applied for a grant of Letters of Administration of the deceased’s estate, by falsely representing that he was he lawful husband and this was granted to him on Oct. 31, 1932, without plaintiff’s knowledge.

He accordingly applied to the Court to have this grant recalled or cancelled, and by an order of the Court dated Mar. 24, 1933, the Court ordered an issue to be tried as to whether Yap Kiat Lim was the lawful daughter of deceased. By an order of Court dated Nov. 30, 1933, it was ordered that she was the lawful daughter, and on Dec. 1, 1933, on order was made by the Court that the Letters of Administration granted to Yip Swee be cancelled.

On June 11, 1935, the plaintiff applied to the defendants as successors of the Ho Hong Bank for the payment of the $2,000 and the interest payable on that sum but the defendants failed to pay it.


The defendants while admitting that they were liable for the debts properly due and owing by the Ho Hong Bank, denied that the documents referred to by the plaintiff were agreements in writing and said that these were deposit receipts in the usual form issued by bankers.

They further stated that on June 25, 1933, the repaid two sums of $1,000 each to Yip Swee, the legal administrator of the deceased’s estate and obtained a proper discharge of the said sums due to her estate.

Mr. Davies submitted that the whole matter boiled down to one point and that was that the Bank had paid someone whom they thought was entitled to be paid, and it for his lordship to decide whether they had done so rightly.


The Deposit receipt held by the plaintiff stated “payable on production of this receipt.” The bank had therefor paid the money without adhering to the terms of it and without the production of any receipt and he submitted that they had committed a breach of agreement.

Mr. Vaux in reply submitted that the man Yip Swee was, that the time he got the money, the rightful person to receive it as he had the Letters of Administration.

He therefore submitted, that if the bank has paid the money to the rightful person the debt no longer existed and there was no claim. The fact that the Bank had paid it to the rightful person, was, he submitted, fatal to the plaintiff’s case.

His lordship reserved judgment.

Source – Singapore National Archives Newspaper Collection.

1936 July 5 – Newspaper Article


Sunday Tribune (Singapore), 5 July 1936 page 3

From Singapore National Archives


In July, 1935, the plaintiff as administrator applied to the defendants for payments of these two sums and interest, and payment being refused he brought this action claiming payment of the same money as deposited or alternative damages for breach of contract.

The defendants admit liability for the debts properly due and owing by their predecessors but contend that they were not liable for these two sums inasmuch as they repaid the same to the person who was at the date of repayment the legally constituted administrator of the deceased’s estate. It is not suggested that they acted otherwise than bona fide in making this payment.

This case is thus one of those unfortunate ones in which one of the two innocent parties has to suffer for the misdeeds of a third party.DEPOSIT RECEIPTSThe Plaintiff founds his claim upon the deposit receipts which were handed to the deceased at the time the money was deposited. The first one reads as follows:- “Received this 21st day of

September 1932, from madam Wan Toh Koh Dollars, one thousand only to be placed in deposit for dix months bearing interest at the rate of 3 per cent. per one hundred dollars per annum and repayable on production of this receipt.”

The second is identical except that it is dates Sept. 22, 1932. Both are crossed with the words “Not Transferable.”

Mr Davis, for the plaintiff, contended that these receipts constituted and agreement between the bank and the depositor whereby the bank undertook that they would only pay out the money on the production of the deposit receipt and the depositor undertook to produce the receipt when demanding repayment of the money.

His lordship next dealt with the case cited by counsel between Atkinson vs the Bradford Third Equitable Benefit Building. Society 25, Queens Bench Division, 377.


Continuing his lordship said, “There is no evidence in the present case that the receipts were lost, in fact we know that they were not lost as they are exhibits in the case. We know that the defendants obtained an indemnity from Yip Swee, which would suggest that they realised they might be called upon to pay someone else.

It is contended that they defendants cannot be liable as they paid the money to the person then entitles, namely the administrator of the estate duly appointed by the court, and that as soon as they paid the money the debt became extinguished and it does not matter the conditions of the contract.

Mr. Davies submitted that if the receipts had been produced the plaintiff would probably have no case against the bank, event though they paid the money to a person who obtained it by deceiving first the Court and then the bank.


But it seems to me that were there is a condition precedent contained in the contract made at the time of the deposit the bank takes a risk it if fails to carry out the condition. The risk may be a very slight one but the fact that an indemnity was obtained seems to indicate that the existence of some risk was appreciated.

In this case the risk had materialised since it transpired that the person who at the time occupied the position of legal personal representative had acquired that status by practising a fraud upon the court.

I cannot see how the plaintiff’s claim can be refused. The deceased deposited money with the bank on the terms of the written agreement. One of those terms entitled her to think that as long as she kept the deposit receipts in her possession her money was safe and would not be paid out to anyone else.
She kept those receipts in her possession and in due course her legal personal representative, the plaintiff, produced them to the bank when demanding payment on behalf of the estate. As far as the plaintiff is concerned it matters not that some third person by fraud obtained the money form the bank for that the bank were entitled to regard that person legally entitled.

The deceased and her representative have carried out every part of the contract which the deceased made with the bank whereas the bank have failed on their part to carry our one of the conditions precedent.

I have the utmost sympathy for the defendants who have been the victims of a clever fraud, but in my opinion the plaintiff has made cut his case for breach of contract and his claim must succeed. There will be judgement for $2,000 and interest as claimed and costs.

Source – Singapore National Archives Newspaper Collection.

There are a few more articles in different cases that give the same information: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Search?ST=1&AT=search&k=%22Yap%20Kiat%20Lim%22.

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