Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Catchick Moses - Armenian Colonial
Catchick Moses was the most famous of the pioneering Armenians. Born at Basra on 30 August 1812, Catchick landed in Singapore on 1 August 1828, just before his sixteenth birthday, and his well-established uncle, Aristarkies Sarkies soon found him work as a clerk with Boustead & Company.
After gaining five years’ experience at Boustead’s, Catchick set up on his own and began trading with Calcutta. Then, on 2 March 1840 he teamed up with his uncle to establish the firm of Sarkies & Moses, merchants and agents. On 6 March 1841, just two days before his death, Aristarkies relinquished his interest in the firm, leaving it in Catchick’s capable hands. Retaining the existing name, Catchick guided the firm for the next four decades, making it a respected entity in the commercial world of old Singapore. Apart from running Sarkies & Moses, Catchick was a shareholder in the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company and other companies, and also invested in considerable real estate.
In the early years, Catchick had regularly served on grand inquests and the grand jury. A subscriber to the Singapore Institution and its successor, Raffles Institution, he was wealthy enough to stand for election as a municipal commissioner. However, unsuccessful in his first attempt in 1862, Catchick never tried again.
The recognised head of the Armenian community, Catchick was its representative in the delegation which welcomed Prince Albert and Prince George upon their arrival in Singapore in 1882. Actively involved with the Church, Catchick was unstintingly donated money for renovations and additions.
Catchick founded the Straits Times, albeit almost by default. In the early 1840s, his friend, Martyrose Apcar had ordered a printing press from England, intending to publish a newspaper but his firm’s financial woes seemed to dash this hope. To ensure Martyrose’s dream materialised, Catchick took over the equipment and launched the Straits Times, having appointing Robert Woods as editor. (Perhaps Catchick had developed an interest in papers during his early days with Edward Boustead who had edited the Singapore Chronicle before starting the Singapore Free Press.)
The first edition of the Straits Times came out on 15 July 1845. An eight-page weekly, it was published at 7 Commercial Square using a hand-operated press. The paper comprised two sections - the first covered matters of general interest to the settlement while the second provided current prices and market information. It was also planned to send an eight-page monthly summary to Europe and elsewhere. With a subscription of Sp.$1.75 per month, Catchick did not find the venture financially rewarding and in September 1846, he sold the paper to Robert Woods.