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Jose d'Almeida Carvalho E. Silva (Dr) (b. 27 November 1784, St. Pedro Do Sul, Portugal – d. 17 October 1850, Singapore), was a former Portuguese naval surgeon who came to Singapore to set up a dispensary and later became one of Singapore's leading merchants.
Jose d'Almeida was one of the earliest European settlers in Singapore, and one of the few landowners in Singapore as reported in 1824. He was a ship's doctor on board a Portuguese warship on his way to Macau when he passed through Singapore, where he was attracted by the island's strategic location. He did not settle here immediately, but decided to purchase a piece of land in this new colony that the British had just founded. Before he left the island, he entrusted a sum of money to F. J. Bernard (the son-in-law of Colonel William Farquhar) and directed Bernard to secure a piece of land and build a house for him. Bernard acquired a piece of land for him in Kampong Glam and built a house for him at Lot 27 on Beach Road. (The house was rented by Raffles Girls' School in 1878 and was later purchased by the King of Siam). Bernard and his family occupied the house until 1825, when d'Almeida and his family came from Macau to settle in Singapore.
Jose d'Almeida & Sons
On arriving in Singapore, Jose d'Almeida set up a dispensary at Commercial Square, now called Raffles Place. There is a road now in Raffles Place called D'Almeida Street, which was named after him. Not long after his arrival here, d'Almeida had the opportunity to assist two mercantile ships that were stranded unexpectedly on the island due to the weather and were forced to sell a large part of their cargoes to meet their expenses. Jose d'Almeida became their agent and was successful in helping them to sell their cargoes. He went on to set up a trading firm, Jose d'Almeida & Co., which was renamed Jose d'Almeida & Son when his son, Joaquim, joined the company. A few years later, the firm was renamed Jose d'Almeida & Sons, when Joaquim's younger brother, Jose, entered the firm. By the time of Jose d'Almeida's death in 1850, the company had grown to become one of the largest and most respected firms in the settlement. The firm continued until 1865, when an economic recession brought disaster to many firms, including Jose d'Almeida & Sons, which went bankrupt.
Experiments in agriculture and horticulture
Jose d'Almeida was very keen on agriculture and was one of the pioneer planters in Singapore. He experimented with sugar, coffee and coconut cultivation and also introduced cotton, vanilla and gamboge here. He had a cotton plantation at Tanjong Katong, where he tried planting cotton seeds from North America, Brazil, Egypt and other regions. He also introduced different varieties of trees and fruits, such as the Pisang d'Almeida, and brought in teal and quail from India. However, most of his enterprises were not successful.
D'Almeida was one of the founding members of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society when it was established in 1837. He and another early resident of Singapore, Dr William Montgomerie, were credited with "discovering" Gutta percha, a forerunner of rubber, which they introduced to the Western world around 1842.
D'Almeida was a sociable and hospitable person. In his day, his house at Beach Road was regarded as the centre of Singapore social life. D'Almeida frequently gave large parties. The d'Almeidas were also accomplished musicians, and on many evenings, they would form an orchestra with other musicians and delight their guests with their musical performances.
Jose d'Almeida was also known to be a generous and charitable person. In the early days of Singapore, there used to be many tigers. It was reported that d'Almeida promised to give a reward of $50 in addition to the amount given by the government for every tiger caught.
In 1842, Jose d'Almeida visited Europe, where he was knighted by the Queen of Portugal and appointed Consul General to the Straits Settlements. He was also knighted by the King of Spain. Shortly before his death, he was made a member of the Queen's Council in Portugal.
Jose d'Almeida died in Singapore on 17 October 1850. He was buried in the cemetery at Fort Canning Hill. It was reported that on the day of the funeral, the Governor was one of the pallbearers and almost every merchant in the town attended the funeral.
Jose d'Almeida was married more than once and had many children. A few of his children stayed in Singapore, while others returned to Macau.
Wife: Rosalia, d'Almeida's first wife whom he met and married in Macau.
Joaquim d'Almeida (b.? – d. 1870, London), eldest, married Rose Maria, the daughter of Captain W. Barrington, in Calcutta on 5 February 1838. Joaquim continued his father's trade in Singapore and continued the appointment as the Portuguese Consul General to the Straits Settlements after his father’s death. He was one of the community leaders who advocated the transfer of the Straits Settlements from the Government of India to the Colonial Office. He married a second time, to Isidoro Cotter. They had a son, Joaquim Isidoro, who went to Macau, but came back to Singapore.
William d'Almeida (b.? – d. 6 July 1917, Singapore) had three children by a Malay woman. He was buried at the Bidadari Cemetery.
Jose d'Almeida (b. 19 July 1812, Macau – d. 14 January 1894, Singapore), the youngest son, married Augusta Grylle, the daughter of a Protestant minister, in Sydney, Australia, on 28 September 1845. He lived in Singapore at Mount Victoria and the road at the foot of the hill was named Almeida Road after him.
Marianne d'Almeida married Thomas Owen Crane, agent for the properties of the Portuguese Mission.
Carlotta d'Almeida (b. 1819, Macau – d. 11 September 1901, Singapore) married Maximiliano Miranda, a resident in Singapore.
Maria Isabel d'Almeida married Francisco Evaristo Perreira, a well-known lawyer and legal practitioner in early Singapore. They had three daughters who were married to well-known residents in Singapore.
Eva d'Almeida married Crombie Glass, partner of the firm Guthrie & Co. in 1870.
Eva d'Almeida (a different daughter, also named Eva) married A. P. Tailor, the Assistant Colonial Secretary.
Ong Eng Chuan
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 MUL)
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(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
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The information in this article is valid as at 1997 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
Jose d'Almeida, 1784 - 1850
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