The Last Fools – The Eight Immortals of Lee Kuan Yew


Urban legend tells of eight men in Singapore so powerful that they controlled everything, from water to air. Such was their prowess that these decidedly earthly beings took on near-mythical status, morphing from maverick superscale officers into modern superhero fighters. They were called The Eight Immortals.

SKU: 9789811843631 Category:


As Lee Kuan Yew and his Old Guard founding leaders attempted to shape an improbable nation from a tropical island with no hinterland, they depended on this elite collection of bureaucrats to turn their ideas into icons. The chosen octet not only built the world’s best airport, the best sea port, and the best airline, but also designed a housing, healthcare, infrastructure, security, leadership, and financial system that rivalled the best in the world.

Yet as Third World transformed into the First through the sheer creativity and grit of these men, the Eight Immortals faded from public memory, slowly forgotten by a young nation racing into the future. Some of their names adorn libraries, institutions, and scholarships, but few in Singapore would be able to recall the achievements of George Bogaars, Andrew Chew, Hon Sui Sen, Howe Yoon Chong, Lee Ek Tieng, Ngiam Tong Dow, J. Y. Pillay, and Sim Kee Boon.

For the first time, The Last Fools tells the extraordinary and inspiring stories of these eight civil servants. Through the eyes of eight experienced journalists and authors, this independent book reveals the trade-offs, sacrifices, and secrets behind the breathtaking rise of the tiny nation. Award-winning editor Peh Shing Huei delivers a provocative read that provides insights into how Singapore has become one of the world’s most developed economies and peaceful countries.

ISBN: 978-981-18-4363-1 (Softcover)
Page Count: 224
Year Published: 2022

Edited by: Peh Shing Huei
Authors: Aaron Low, Derek Wong, Jacqueline Woo, Justin Kor, Peh Shing Huei, Prabhu Silvam, Samantha Boh & Sue-Ann Chia
Publisher: The Nutgraf Books

Additional information

Weight 0.3 kg
Dimensions 15 × 23 × 2 cm


About the Editor

Peh Shing Huei is the author of several No. 1 bestsellers on Singapore politics and government, including most recently Standing Tall and Tall Order, biographies on the country’s second Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong. He was a winner of the Singapore Literature Prize in 2016 for his book When the Party Ends. He is a founding partner of content agency The Nutgraf, and former news editor and China bureau chief at The Straits Times.

Other books written or co-written by the author:

Standing Tall: The Goh Chok Tong Years

Panjang: The Tall Boy Who Became Prime Minister

Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story

Rings of Stars and Crescent: 70 Years of the Olympic Movement in Singapore

Dream Island: The Mad, Mad World of Philip Yeo

Project 0812: The Inside Story of Singapore’s Journey to Olympic Glory

Neither Civil Nor Servant: The Philip Yeo Story

When the Party Ends: China’s Leaps and Stumbles after the Beijing Olympics

Struck by Lightning: Singaporean Voices Post-1965


  1. Han Fook Kwang, Editor-at-Large at The Straits Times

    “Finally, a book that fills a large hole in the Singapore Story about the largely forgotten men who worked hand in hand with the country’s founding politicians to build the foundation for Singapore’s future. Read this absorbing account to understand how they operated with their political masters in an intriguing milieu that is one of a kind in the world.”

  2. Frank Lavin, former United States Ambassador to Singapore

    “Why did so many nations falter after achieving independence, seemingly trapped in poverty? And why did Singapore advance to middle-income status, and eventually develop an advanced economy? At least part of the answer to these questions was the strength of its Civil Service. Constructing an effective government is a complicated task, at which more nations fail than succeed. This book highlights part of the reason Singapore succeeded and serves as a timely reminder to the policy-makers of today.”

  3. Philip Yeo, former chairman of the Economic Development Board of Singapore

    “These immortals left lasting imprints on me: get the job done, don’t overanalyse. The Last Fools tells you how they turned marsh into marvel.”

  4. Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Singapore Management University

    “I grew up knowing all – and some quite well – of the Eight Immortals in this book, and benefitted from their insights and often trenchant views. As a young nation, it is important for each generation to remember the stories of those who came before them, so that our collective memory and values are uniquely ours and we do not just adore the narratives of other nations and cultures. This is a timely book written by veteran journalists who can vividly capture the times and lives of people who have now been forgotten by today’s young. I hope this book will inspire others to recall other Singaporeans on whose shoulders this nation has been built.”

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