Balestier Road, from which Balestier Plain takes its name, was named after Joseph Balestier, a keen botanist and agriculturist who arrived in Singapore in 1834. He was appointed as the first U.S. Consul in Singapore in 1836 by the then President of the United States of America, Andrew Jackson.
Balestier Plain and Race Course Plain were vast open spaces in the early 1900s. Buffalo Road, Race Course Road, Balestier Road and Moulmein Road from Tessensohn Road to Moulmein Road enclosed the whole plain. Today, Balestier Plain (the Plain) refers to the playing fields bounded by Balestier Road from Tessensohn Road to Moulmein Road. Eight sports clubs in its vicinity have been associated with the Plain – the Ceylon Sports Club (CSC), the Ceylon Tamils’ Association (CTA), the Singapore Indian Association (IA), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Singapore Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC), the Singapore Khalsa Association (KSA), the Singapore Malay Football Clubs (MFC) and Kamala Club (KC), collectively known as the Balestier Plain Clubs.
The CSC and IA occupied their present sites at Balestier Plain in 1922, followed by the YMCA (1947) and later, the SKA (1968). When the YMCA vacated its site in 1963, it was taken over by the SCRC. Other clubs once located at the Plain were the Singapore Malay Football Club (founded 1910), the Ceylon Tamil’s Association (founded 1922) and the Ladies’ Union (founded 1932/33) which was replaced by the Kamala Club in the early 1950s. The MFC and Kamala Club were in the area till 1983.
Various sportspersons from these clubs have represented Singapore in the Olympics and other major sporting events. Several players from CSC and IA represented Singapore in Hockey at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The British destroyed the clubhouse on 14 February 1942 as a defensive measure – a day before Singapore fell to the Japanese military equipment during the Japanese Occupation. Except for this period, the Plain has always been the venue of sporting activities like cricket, hockey, netball, tennis, soccer, badminton, athletics and indoor games such as billiards and darts.
The Plain also witness the laying of the Foundation Stones of IA on 17 June1950 by Pandit Jawaharlala Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. CSC was rebuilt with contributions mainly by the Ceylonese community and wellwishers with the support of Mr. M. Saravanamuthu, the first Ceylon High Commissioner to Singapore. On 13 October 1951, CSC’s foundation stone was laid by the Rt. Honourable Mr. D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Ceylon. Upon completion, the building was officially opened by the Rt. Honourable Mr. Malcolm Macdonald, Governor General for the United Kingdom in South East Asia on 13 April 1954.
Balestier Plain has evolved over time into green lung cum recreational zone. It stands not only as a testament to the sporting achievements of members of the clubs in its vicinity, but also an icon for all Singaporeans to appreciate the pioneering spirit of the early migrants to Singapore who had the vision and the drive to build social and sports clubs in their new homeland.
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