Armenian Community of Singapore

The Armenians in Singapore, who numbered around 100 families at their peak in the 1880s, have now moved on or become part of the wider Singapore community. The Armenian Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator on Armenian Street, the first church ever built in Singapore, remains today.

By the 18th century, Armenian communities had established themselves in India (particularly Kolkata) Myanmar, the Malay Peninsula (particularly Penang and Malacca), and Java. Armenian trading firms such as the Aristarkies Sarkies Company (1820-1841), Apcar & Stephens Company (1826-1845) and Mackertich M. Moses Company (1821-1845) were prominent in Singapore’s economy. By the 1830s, Armenian merchants began investing in land. Built in 1835, in March 1836 the Church of St Gregory the Illuminator was consecrated, making it the first church in Singapore.

The 1931 census showed 81 Armenians. Many of the Armenians, as British loyalists, were interned during World War II. By the 1950s, much of the local Armenian community had emigrated to Australia or become part of the larger communities in Singapore. However, during the Feast of the Epiphany, the flags of Singapore and the Republic of Armenia are raised at the Armenian church.

Catchick Moses (Movessian) (1812-1895), was a co-founder of the Straits Times, which was to become the national English newspaper, in 1845. He sold the paper a year later because it was unprofitable. Catchik Moses died in 1895.

The Sarkies brothers (Martin, Arshak, Aviet and Tigran) founded the Raffles Hotel and several other hotels in Southeast Asia

Agnes Joaquim was born in Singapore, on 7th April 1854. As the eldest daughter in her family, Agnes helped her mother raise her 10 siblings after her father died. She never married, dividing her time between the Armenian Church of St Gregory on Hill Street, and her horticulture work in her garden in Tanjong Pagar. In 1899 at a flower show, Agnes unveiled the Vanda Miss Joaquim for the first time, and won the $12 first prize for her flower. As she was suffering from cancer at that time, Agnes died 3 months later at the same year, at the age of 44. In 1981, the Vanda Miss Joaquim was designated Singapore’s national flower. Her tombstone stands in the Armenian Church in Singapore and reads: In loving memory of Agnes, eldest Daughter of the late Parsick Joaquim, Born 7th April 1854 – Died 2nd July 1899,’Let her own works praise her. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling’

Armenian expatriates in Singapore include Ashot Nadanian, who has coached the Singapore National Chess Team since 2005 and Gevorg Sargsyan, conductor of Singapore Camerata Chamber Orchestra and Tanglewood Music School since 2008.


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