Changes Taking Place outside the Government
Changes Taking Place outside the Government
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter discusses the different changes that were taking place outside the government. These changes affected the professionals, the destitute Europeans, the army, women, and children, to name a few groups. These changes were for the better, except as far as they affected the seamen and destitute Europeans.
By this time fewer professionals died in Hong Kong. Lawyers and doctors were well paid and could afford to take a ship to Britain. But by now some professionals also saw Hong Kong as their home and not just a temporary place of residence. Among them particular mention must be made of three lawyers, Francis Innes Hazeland, whose wife, Margaretta [13/3/9], and son, John Innes Hazeland [12/5/9], are to be found in the Hong Kong Cemetery, and John Joseph Francis. These two followed in the footsteps of that indomitable survivor William Gaskell [16Cii/7/14], mentioned earlier, who was one of the first solicitors to work in Hong Kong, having arrived in the colony in November 1846 and stayed up to 1868, when he died aged fifty-seven.1 Francis Hazeland arrived in the colony around the beginning of the Second Opium War. Soon after his arrival, in February 1857, he was attacked when returning from Stanley by the Military Road. He met three or four Chinese who accosted him in English. Turning to reply, he was surprised by a blow to his head and
In spite of the doubts expressed as to his survival, Hazeland recovered without any lasting effects and resumed his work as a solicitor. He was an enthusiastic Freemason and was one of the very few to keep his sons in the colony and educate them at the Diocesan School at a time when to do so was almost unheard of. He died in January 1871 aged just thirty-six years: ‘Mr. Hazeland was much respected and the announcement of his death in the prime of his manhood caused general sorrow’.3 The Legislative Council voted $3,000 as a gratuity to his family. He was (p.390) buried in Happy Valley but the site of his grave has been lost.4 Two of his sons, Ernest and Francis Arthur, distinguished themselves in the course of long careers in the colony. Ernest became an architect and civil engineer and Francis worked in the legal departments of the government where he rose to the positions of deputy registrar and acting chief clerk.5
in attempting to ward off this, Mr. Hazeland's thumb was nearly severed from his hand. Another stroke laid open his skull and stretched him senseless on the ground. Other wounds were inflicted, and his gold watch and chain were taken.2
John Joseph Francis, who is buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery, and was from Dublin, Ireland, is the third of the trio. He had become an army officer in his early twenties and was serving in the Royal Artillery when he was posted to China. In 1859, he made the momentous decision to buy himself out of the army and remain in Hong Kong. He worked as a clerk living in Mosque Street until 1865, when he became articled to William Gaskell. Francis later decided to become a barrister and in 1874 he left Hong Kong to become a student of Gray's Inn, returning on qualification to be admitted to the Hong Kong bar in 1877. He quickly became influential in many spheres of his life. He was elected captain of the Volunteers Corps, revived for the third time in 1878, was a faithful adherent of the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong, and was one of the supporters of the Chinese in the colony. He signed an affidavit in support of the application of Ng Choy, the first Chinese to be admitted to practise at the bar. He was also an outspoken supporter of his fellow Irishman, the governor Sir John Pope Hennessy, whose pro-Chinese stance so upset the expatriate community. In 1886, when he was candidate for the justices of peace seat on the Legislative Assembly, Francis showed his feelings for his adopted home: ‘It is my home, my life's work is here and I rise or fall with its fortunes’.6
The first utility to reach Hong Kong, in November 1864, was gas lighting, to the delight of the Europeans who could then do away with the smoky, smelly lamps which used peanut oil and whose wicks needed constant trimming. Gas fitters for the new utility had to be sent out from England and again illness and death took their toll. The first to die in 1860 was Frederick Augustus Autey [7/29/6], the small son of the superintendent gas fitter, William Autey [4/11/4], who managed to continue for another thirteen years and become the indispensable chief (p.391) manager of the Gas Works before following his son to the grave in 1873. Edward Richard Handley [5/2/27] came out to Hong Kong as foreman gas fitter and left the company in 1867 to start his own business with John Paterson, advertising themselves as house and ship plumbers, copper and zinc workers and gas fitters. Paterson died in Hong Kong in 1869 and Handley carried on the business. He attained the respectable position of being on the jury list by 1872. His wife, Louisa, died in 1871 aged thirty-three; he followed in 1875.
Work on two telegraph services began in Hong Kong when the Danish Great Northern Telegraph Company began to connect Hong Kong to Shanghai and work started at Deep Water Bay. Then the China Submarine Telegraphic cable came ashore in 1871 at a small inlet at Pokfulam Bay which became known as Telegraph Bay. This was done under the superintendency of John Squier whose baby daughter, Mary Douglas Squier [7/25/6] died in 1874 aged sixteen months. On 5 July of that year a congratulatory message, sent by the chairman in London to the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, took just fifty-three minutes to reach Hong Kong. Communication with the outside world and in particular with the authorities in London had been revolutionized. But once again, the stresses and strains on the technicians brought half way round the world to work on difficult projects in the outlying areas of Hong Kong were enormous: ‘To go unarmed at all beyond the outskirts [of Victoria] by day as well as by night was a risky sort of pleasure, through the footpads who abound in all these locations’.7 The China Mail in the same article reported in 1871 that one of the European employees of the Great Northern Telegraph Company had been at tacked by highwaymen near the Gap at Happy Valley but had managed to escape. Two employees of the Great Northern committed suicide. In January 1871 a Dane, Anton Christensen [38/7/4], took an overdose of laudanum and in the following December Charles Donovan [38/7/5] shot himself at Deep Water Bay.
(p.392) The importance of the telegraph service to Hong Kong cannot be overstated. No longer was it an isolated backwater where any sort of communication to Europe took six weeks. Distance had ceased to matter as much when a telegraph could be sent and replied to within the course of the same day.
Developments in the Ship Repairing Business
A number of men, mainly from the north of Britain and Scotland, laid the foundations for technology in Hong Kong by their enterprise in the ship building and repairing business. One of the earlier men to establish a yard in Hong Kong was Alexander Ross [43/1/4] of Glasgow who worked as foreman in Stephen Prentis Hall's yard. Hall is said to be the father of Sin Tak Fan who in his turn fathered generations of Eurasians, many of whom now lie at rest in the Cemetery. In 1865, Ross established a yard in Wan Chai together with a Mr. Thompson and by 1867 he was in sole charge of it. His son, James Gordon Ross [20/10/1], died in 1864 and shares a monument with his sister, Jane, who died in 1865. Then in 1867 his wife, Mary Ross, joined her children in the family tomb aged thirty-two after a long and painful illness. Thomas James Record [40/3/3] from Woolwich, whose inscription describes him as a moulder in the Royal Navy Yard, must have been a close friend of David Illingworth. When he died at West Point Foundry in 1869, he left Illingworth $900 and made him his executor. David Illingworth [5/1/32] from Bradford, Yorkshire began work as foreman at Russell & Co.'s Iron and Brass Foundry and then went on to start his own foundry at West Point. He auctioned off his stock in 1870 when he became ill. Illingworth died in July 1871.
J.W. Croker [20/6/2] was another technician who worked his way up to become foreman and then, in 1876, managing engineer of the Novelty Iron Works, finally moving into the docks as engineer in 1880.
By the end of this period, Hong Kong possessed five docks, three slipways and everything needed to repair the ships of that period and to build medium-sized vessels. The loss of the use of the Whampoa docks during the Second Opium War had hastened this development. Furthermore, the depth of the water in the Pearl River would no longer allow the bigger Royal Navy vessels to be docked there. Docking facilities for larger vessels were needed in Hong Kong. John Lamont, the ships' carpenter from Aberdeen in Scotland, teamed up with a fellow Scot, Douglas Lapraik, to purchase a suitable site for a dock in Aberdeen. In June 1860, Lamont opened the first dock in Hong Kong that was capable of rivalling the docks built by the Coupers at Whampoa. Such was its success that, in January 1863, he embarked on a second, even larger dock. In mid-1865, with this dock half built, Lamont decided to return with his two Eurasian sons to his native Aberdeen, perhaps foreseeing his impending death there. However, first he managed to sell his share of the Aberdeen Docks to Jardine, Matheson & Co. After his death, the two boys were seen through school in Scotland and generally looked after by members of the Jardine and Matheson families in Aberdeen. Thomas Lamont [23/9/6] came back to Hong Kong to assume his father's mantle as superintendent of the Aberdeen Docks, dying in 1890 aged forty years.
Meanwhile, in July 1863, with the full support of his partners, Jardine Matheson and the P. & O., and within a few weeks of the passing of the Companies Ordinance, Lapraik set up the Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Company with Thomas Sutherland as its chairman. So in this way, the dock company became the first listed company in Hong Kong, literally the No. 1 Hong Kong Company.
Reactions from Dent & Co. followed swiftly. The directors put together a consortium of companies which included Dent's and the two American companies, Heard and Hunt, and set up the rival Union Dock Company of Hong Kong and Whampoa. In November 1864, the newly formed Union Dock Company bought a piece of land on the Kowloon peninsula near the village of Hung Hom and proceeded to dig a large mud hole. This was the first time a professional architect, John Studd, had been brought in to supervise the dock construction. Some of the more old-fashioned members of the board were convinced that the old-style ships' carpenters like Couper and Lamont could do a better job. Captain Henry de Castilla announced: ‘All the docks in China and Singapore have been (p.394) built by Scottish carpenters and there are no better docks in the world’. A series of disputes convulsed the boardroom and interrupted progress. Dr. Ivor Murray, the colonial surgeon, whose little daughter, Edith Mary Murray [7/24/4], died aged two years, insisted on calling in Robert Duncan from the Aberdeen Docks to advise. He was another Scottish carpenter who had taken over as superintendent when Lamont returned to Scotland. Disputes erupted over the design of the Hung Hom docks, and in particular over the kind of concrete to be used on the floor of the dock. The deputy surveyor, John Clark [20/12/1], who died suddenly in the following year (October 1868) while at work in his office, was called in to adjudicate and sided against the architect, Studd. The entire board of directors took ship to Hung Hom and solemnly stared at the mud hole. Victor Kressner, the chairman, resigned twice during the altercations, leaving Captain James Bridges Endicott [11B/1/1] in the chair. Finally Studd won his battle, the dock was successfully finished, and the Chinese concrete mix proved, over many years to come, its ability to stay waterproof.
Robert Duncan and the Great Dock Swindle
Meanwhile at Aberdeen a second dock was finished by Robert Duncan whose wife, Catherine Duncan [5/3/27], died in September 1867 aged twenty-nine soon after the docks were opened.
There now began a period of intense competition between the two dock companies. Union Dock did such tremendous business that a second dock was called for. Then in 1869, the main partner, Dent & Co., folded and went out of business. In the meantime Jardine Matheson met the competition by lowering their prices to uneconomic levels and deliberately operating at a loss. In less than a year Union Dock went into voluntary liquidation. Jardines, led by James Whittall, whose probable relative Charlton Whittall of Smyrna [32/2/15] lies in a distant corner of the Cemetery, raised a mortgage to buy up the entire Union Dock property both in Kowloon and Whampoa. The Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Company name went up over the Hung Hom gateway to the docks and was to remain there for one hundred years.
However this was not the end of the troubles for the docks. Duncan, now promoted to secretary of Union Dock, had the complete trust of the busy directors. He proceeded with the help of his accounts clerk, Manuel Joaquim Rozario, to abuse this trust in a number of cleverly hidden frauds varying from (p.395)
Smale went on to trace the crime ‘to the temptations arising from the want of due supervision by directors and auditors’.8 Duncan was sentenced to nine years in prison and Rozario to six years. Jardine Matheson never worked out the true extent of their losses, so involved and subtle was Duncan's system. Thus ended the era of talented ships' carpenters from Scotland, who had built and run the docks at Hong Kong, Whampoa and elsewhere in the Far East. The precarious health (p.396) of wives and children in Hong Kong through the 1860s can be ascertained by the number of those associated with the dock scandal that died during these years.
Your crime is great without any parallel in my large experience. You, a ship's carpenter, were raised from that humble establishment to a position in which the most implicit trust was placed in you. You almost immediately lost all notion of honesty.
In the early days of steam, boilers were still prone to explode. Perhaps SS Yesso, of the Douglas Line, was a dangerous ship. She had already been the cause of the death of one foreman boilermaker of the Hong Kong Dock Company, Thomas Welsby [38/4/18], in an accident at the Aberdeen Docks. Then on 30 October 1874, the ship was involved in another accident of horrifying proportions. The SS Yesso had just arrived from Swatow and was being moored alongside Lapraik's wharf at the Aberdeen Docks when one of her boilers exploded. The force of the steam was such that a plate from the boiler, weighing over two hundred pounds, broke through the bulkhead separating the boilers from the fore-hold. Steam poured into the hold, burning the Chinese passengers who were getting ready to leave the ship. When the Civil Hospital was filled to capacity, Victoria Gaol was opened up for victims, some of whom felt even more terrified and unhappy when they found themselves in prison rather than in hospital. Eighty-seven people died from scalding, loss of skin, shock and internal injuries caused by the steam burning their throats and lungs. There was only one European casualty: the second engineer, a Scotsman called John Haggart [27/2/11], died of his burns the next night. Very few of those scalded by the escaping steam seem to have survived.
The Merchant Navy
Helped by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the rise in the number of vessels visiting the port of Hong Kong in this period was startling. The authors of The Treaty Ports of China and Japan, published in 1867, give an idea of the multiplicity of vessels in the harbour and also of the importance of the sea and the sea routes in providing Hong Kong with its livelihood during this period:
Every variety of floating conveyance finds its way to this safe and commodious harbour. The English and American clipper, the clumsy junk — the awkward looking sampan and the fast gig — the P. & O. steamer and American river boat with its tiers of cabins and its massive looking engine beam, each and all in countless variety are scattered over the surface of the water while the Chinese ‘fast boats’ presenting to the English eyes the queerest combination of ugliness and speed they have ever beheld…are crossing, leaving and entering the harbour.9
Will it be believed that the amount of British and foreign tonnage annually entering and leaving the port averages two million tons? And that the number of native vessels trading to it is about fifty-two thousand, raising the ascertained tonnage to upwards of three millions and a half, or half a million in excess of Singapore? To this must be added thousands of smaller native boats of every build and rig trading to Hong Kong not only from the Chinese coasts and rivers, but from Siam, Japan and Cochin China. Besides the P. & O., the Messageries Maritimes, the Pacific Mail Company, the Japanese ‘Mitsu Bichi’ Mail Companies, all regular mail lines, it has a number of lines of steamers trading to England, America and Germany, with local lines both English and Chinese, and lines of fine sailing clippers, which however are gradually falling into disuse, owing to the dangerous navigation of the Chinese seas and the increasing demand for speed.10
Men in Hong Kong still looked outwards to the sea for their living. After Queen's Road, the Praya with its piers jutting out into the sea was the most important road in the town and along its length clustered ships' chandlers, repair yards, sail makers and hotels for merchant navy officers.
The commanders and officers of merchant ships continued in this period to provide the largest group of civilians in the Cemetery. Eighty-three merchantmen can be identified, fourteen of whom worked for the P. & O. Thirty-nine headstones commemorate captains, commanders or master mariners from Scandinavia, Germany, U.S.A., Holland, New South Wales, and Nova Scotia as well as Great Britain including the Channel Islands. Crew members include three officers, ten engineers, one boilermaker, three stewards, one carpenter, three seamen and two gunners. Twenty-nine men buried in the Cemetery are listed as belonging to ships, barques, brigs or schooners as opposed to the nineteen who sailed in steam ships or were described as engineers. Many of these ships belonged to the local coastal and river lines such as those run by Douglas Lapraik, the Apcar family or the Hong Kong, Canton & Macau Steamboat Company. In the ports and narrow windy rivers, the steamers had great advantages over sail.
Life as a merchant seaman was hard and accidents happened easily. For example, in December 1867, Philip Gandin [37/4/1, from Jersey, the chief mate of the Adeline, went aloft to sight a local landmark, the Pedro Branca rock. He was (p.398)
Captains still sailed with their wives and families. Included among those who died during these years are five wives and two babies. Captain James Boyd must have felt the loss of his twenty-five-year-old wife, Jane Boyd [38/3/1], very keenly. On arriving back in Liverpool, he went to Colquitt Street to arrange for a large marble headstone to be cut and inscribed. He brought it back on his next visit to be set up in the Cemetery. One's sympathies must also be with James Sangster, master of the Menandrina, whose thirty-year-old wife, Margaret Sangster [38/4/9], died of typhus just two hours before entering port in March 1869.
The P. & O. Steam Navigation Company
The P. & O. was still the most important line linking the Far East with Europe though its reputation was now somewhat diminished. By this time the number of complaints from passengers were mounting.
During this period, a new and handsome design of headstone was in use for its officers. A marble shield was set into a spectacular eight-foot granite mount. This pattern of headstone was used, for example, for Alexander Smith [32/2/9], engineer of the SS Pekin, James Hamilton [37/7/17], engineer of the SS Ganges and William Hamilton [37/1/2], second officer of SS Ottawa.
It is significant that women were now also employed on
Life was still tough on board ships and ordinary seamen were at risk of death from disease, from drowning or from falling from aloft. Seamen from the naval ships and those from the merchant ships of all nationalities, when they arrived in Hong Kong, still looked on it as the place for a spree and some fun involving drinking, singing, dancing and brothels. Streams of sailors passed through the courts for offences involving alcohol and disorderly behaviour, and a number seem to have ended up destitute and sleeping rough or in the gaol. The fact that during this period the headstones of only two seamen have survived suggests that the status of ordinary seamen in the port had not changed much over the years. One of those seamen whose headstones have survived was Joseph Laverance [43/3/4], aged eighteen years, of the British barque Tansy. He accidentally tumbled down the fore-hold and died from the effects of the fall. One headstone commemorating Theodore Glawson [40/3/4], of the Rajah of Goghin, was paid for by his shipmates who (p.401) commissioned it in 1869 after his death in hospital. In January 1865, a sailors' home was opened in Hong Kong built with money contributed mainly by the merchant community, with an added $45,000 and the first three years of running costs being given by those generous merchants, Joseph and Robert Jardine. The handsome building contained a canteen which served grog and tobacco, a skittle alley, a reading room and library of ‘instructive and amusing works’. The first superintendent was William Punchard, probably the brother of Captain John Elgood Punchard [8/13/4] who had for many years been in the employ of Douglas Lapraik as commander of the SS Kwantung and was described at the opening as ‘a man in a hundred and well suited by temperament’.
In spite of the fact that the sailor's home had opened and was being run for the benefit of seamen, Hong Kong was still a hotbed of crimps in the form of grasping boarding-house keepers and their runners. Sailors who had been lured ashore were rendered incapable with bad liquor in the adjacent tavern also owned by the keeper of the house, and then, in that stupefied state, they were all too frequently deprived of their money without any means of ascertaining where it had gone. They lived on the credit which the landlord of the house granted them until they were finally compelled to either live rough on the streets or ship out on the first craft available. Their ship was often also arranged by the same landlord who took a cut from the captain of the ship for providing him with crew. To give an example of the current practices, R. Gorman, an illiterate runner, sued E. Blackwood, proprietor of the Empire Tavern and boarding house, in July 1869 for his wages. Gorman declared in court that he had enticed 207 men to the boarding house during the period in question with an average of twenty to twenty-two men a day for whom the going rate of pay due to him was $1 per head. As there were no records and Gorman had had free board, lodging and drink throughout the period, he lost his case.14 As this case shows, boarding houses were still providing a ready-made clientele to the adjacent taverns:
(p.402) Jack on shore is to a great extent a helpless creature, and if once in the hands of a set of harpies known as ‘boarding house keepers’, he is not only kept in the most wretched dens of iniquity that ever existed and plundered to his last penny, but he is sold like a piece of merchandize to the first shipping master who will take him. The next thing Jack knows is that he finds himself on board a ship with an empty pocket, an empty chest and three months debt.15
The Lower Classes
Boarding-House and Tavern Keepers and Their Barmen and Runners
All sorts of men gravitated towards the lucrative trade of tavern keeping. James S. Williams [8/21/5] from Devonshire came by a common ex-police route. By 1860, he was paying the rates for Britain's Boast Tavern at 62 Queen's Road West and two years later was also running the Land We Live In with the assistance of T.E. Hawkins. By the end of the second period, it was becoming more common for proprietors to hire bar-keepers. A new layer of underdogs was being added to the social scale. Williams went on to acquire a horse repository in 1875 and died in 1878 aged forty-four years, leaving by the standards of the time a large estate of $7,000 to his wife Jessie. Some men descended from higher social spheres into tavern keeping. In February 1871, John Baynes [23/6/6] lately of the P.W.D. and now landlord of the Angel Inn appeared before the licensing justices. Although given a good character, Superinterdent Charles May expressed regret that he had come down in the world and that a man of good repute should be compelled to adopt such a doubtful line of business.16
Among the foreign contingent were the three Olson brothers, John [16B/7/3], Olaf [38/3/7] and Anders [42/1/3], natives of Carlshamn in Sweden. They were probably ex-merchant seamen who left Sweden in the late 1850s due to poverty. Anders was the first to die, of smallpox in 1872. He has an anchor and chain on his headstone which was erected by his brother, John. From the early 1860s, the brothers ran the National Tavern in a not altogether approved-of fashion. According to the police, there were complaints that John Olson allowed or even (p.403) encouraged prostitutes to hang around the door where they attracted the sailors.17 However he achieved the respectability of having his name on the jury list from 1867 onwards and continued to flourish. By 1877 he was in a position to take over the Stag Hotel which he ran up to 1912. John stayed in Hong Kong and had relationships with two Chinese women, the first of whom died of laryngitis. His second relationship with Ching Ah Fung, also known as Ellen Olson [16B/6/11], lasted for thirty-four years. Ellen was christened by the London Missionary Society. She died in 1915 aged 61 and is buried near her husband. The four Olson children attended the Diocesan Schools. John's daughter, Hannah, married Charles Warren, a plumber and self-styled architect. He and John Olson junior combined in business as building contractors, sanitary engineers and tile manufacturers. They later added the title of granite and marble merchants and monumentalists.
By 1921 the family had built a large, castellated mansion on Broadwood Ridge overlooking the racecourse and Charles Warren was racing horses under the name ‘Mr. Towers’. Thus, a mixed marriage family rose from tavern to castle, from seaman to racehorse owner and member of the Jockey Club in two generations. The rise of the Olson family shows clearly that tavern keeping was profitable and could lead to better things. Another tavern keeper with a lasting relationship with a Chinese ‘protected girl’ was George Wilkins [20/18/5]. He was first granted a licence for a billiard table at the Commercial Hotel in 1859 and by 1861 had opened the Magnet Tavern in Stanley Street. He had previously been working as an assistant to De Silva & Co. When Wilkins died in 1867, he left $500 and the household furniture to Ngan Achoey and his remaining money to their two daughters and three sons. He left his gold watch to his executor, Samuel Speechley, the engineer.
More destitutes than ever were buried in plots marked by numbered granite markers and their lot was if anything worse than in the first period. The problem of what to do with these men whose plight shamed the ‘respectable’ portion of society seemed insoluble since neither the government nor the community was willing to take responsibility for them. The Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick started by Dr. Francis Dill had disappeared. European destitutes were ruthlessly ousted from their makeshift huts and hiding places by the police and sent to prison for being rogues and vagabonds. In August 1868, Sergeant Hawes ‘who persists in the most praiseworthy manner in hunting out disreputable Europeans in the colony’ produced four such men in one day.18 The downward path to joblessness and destitution was all too often caused by alcohol.
The case of James Murphy, an unemployed seaman, seems typical. He had been a soldier in the 31st Regiment and his discharge had originally been purchased by the Shanghai Municipal Council. Mr. Gray, warden of Victoria Gaol, first knew the prisoner as a policeman:
He was taken into the gaol as a turnkey in 1868. He was discharged for drunkenness. He then came back as a rogue and vagabond; he then paid a visit as a destitute. After this he came back as a prisoner for stealing a watch from Sergeant Wassenius. He was then again in gaol as a rogue and vagabond and was discharged on 20 May.19
Then in desperation he gave himself in charge as a destitute. The story of David Brown who appeared before the court in December 1868 rounds out the picture:
When it came to sentencing the man, the magistrate Mr. Goodlake commented that he was sorry to hear such bad accounts of the prisoner and did not suppose (p.405) any ship captain would have anything to do with him. There were no poor rates in Hong Kong and neither could he be allowed to roam the streets without a place of abode. He would send him to gaol for a month and C.H. Whyte would speak to Francis Douglas, the gaol governor.
He says he is a clerk and hies from Edinburgh. He admitted to having been in the 74th Regiment and came from Liverpool in the American ship, ‘Bunker Hill’.…Inspector Horspool said Brown had been living for the last six weeks at the Black Soldiers' barracks, and had been over and over again warned for roaming about in a vagabondish manner:…He had been dismissed from the police force for drunkenness three months ago…. Prisoner was an inveterate drunkard, and would never work so long as he could get food and drink for nothing.20
An article in China Mail in September 1866 on ‘Houseless Europeans’ drew attention ‘to an evil which exists to a greater extent in Hong Kong than most are willing to believe’.21 The kind of person the editor seems to have had in mind was the American ex-sailor Thomas Reynolds, ‘a miserable looking object, filthy and half clad who had been found sleeping on the pavements of Tai Ping Shan under some mats’. He also was sent to gaol for one month. The editor suggested that there was a need for a new aid society to at least pay the fares home for the hopeless cases. Later that year, when wishing the readers of the China Mail a merry Christmas, the editor begged help for the many in Hong Kong, chiefly seamen, who were almost if not utterly destitute. Unfit sailors and other men without work or money were passed from one treaty port to another and Hong Kong stood at the end of the receiving line. Sherk Grassman from Holland was picked up in the street as a destitute. The ex-sailor said he had arrived in Hong Kong eighteen months earlier and been discharged at Nagasaki and sent to hospital to get cured of his rheumatism. He was discharged uncured and was shipped to Shanghai with a letter to the German consul who sent him to gaol for twenty-four hours after which he was taken to the Dutch consul who packed him back to Hong Kong. He had no papers to substantiate his story and was sent back to gaol for two weeks.22
If the European community and its government were so uncaring about the fate of the European unfortunates, it is hardly surprising that little attention was paid to the problems of the Chinese community. As a result of a petition for relief by a lady left destitute with two children, Sir John Pope Hennessy commissioned E.J. Eitel, ex-Basel missionary, to write a report in 1880 on the treatment of paupers in Hong Kong. He divided the class into two categories, non-resident foreigners and Chinese. According to him, the destitute of the first group consisted of a
small fluctuating residue of non-descript seamen, deserters, or men discharged from Hospital, who are beyond the pale of the Merchant Shipping Act, disowned by their respective Consuls and Shipping masters, ‘beach-combers’ well known to the Marine Magistrates as drunken sots. They (p.406) hang about the grog shops, levy blackmail on former shipmates and on native fruit hawkers, call at gentlemen's houses early in the morning begging for food and clothes which are forthwith converted into drink.
Eitel classed the Chinese destitute as beggars, strangers, waifs cast on the community by kidnappers, lunatics or men disabled by accidents or opium smoking. For them too no provision had been made. Eitel reported:
He contrasted the early vision of Hong Kong as a model colony which would become a beacon of light to the so-called ‘semi-civilized’ pagans of China with its present un-Christian mode of dealing with its poor and the destitute. He described official policy as a ‘barbaric policy of brute repression’, which treated poverty as a crime and drove men to despair. He attributed the unusually high number of suicides in Hong Kong to this policy.
It is neither humane nor reasonable for the Government to have no other remedy to offer for the misfortune of its Chinese subjects suffering from the natural consequences of such misfortune but that of fine, imprisonment, whipping and transportation.23
The Soldiers of the Garrison
The reports of the heroism and sufferings of the soldiers in the Crimean War had been instrumental in arousing in the public mind a better image of the common soldier. This had been strengthened by an incident in the Second Opium War. An old Scottish sweat, serving in the Kent regiment, was captured by the Chinese and had refused to kowtow and had consequently been beheaded. According to one account, he had earlier helped himself to his unit's rum ration and his recalcitrance was due in no small part to the fact that he was drunk.24 The Times newspaper, ignorant of the details, published a poem written by Sir Francis Doyle in his honour which was quoted in the China Mail:
- (p.407) Soldier's Sacrifice for His Country
- Last night among his fellow-roughs,
- He jested quaffed and swore.
- A drunken private of the Buffs
- Who never looked before.
- Today beneath the foeman's frown
- He stands in Elgin's place,
- Ambassador from Britain's crown,
- And type of all her race.
- Poor reckless, rude, low-born, untaught
- Bewildered and alone;
- A heart with English instinct fraught,
- He yet can call his own.
- Honour calls! — with strength like steel
- He put the vision by;
- And thus with eyes that would not shrink,
- With knees to man unbent,
- Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,
- To his red grave he went.25
Hong Kong after the Second Opium War was beginning to view its garrison in a more favourable light. A long article in May 1863 in the China Mail railed against the obstinacy of conservatism and red tape that denied soldiers proper respect in death. In this case, a grave only three feet deep and filled with water had been prepared for some poor fellow:
It is doubly painful to see that sublime ceremonial for the burial of the dead, [the Protestant Burial Service] brought face to face with the indecent spectacle of a grave in which one would scarcely bury his dog.26
The editor proposed that there should be a proper soldiers' cemetery while still making clear their lowly position near the bottom of the social scale:
So long as the Church maintains the practice [of burying Christians in consecrated ground] and so long as the laity attach the smallest importance to it, just so long will the lowest subordinate in the social scale adhere to his (p.408) belief that there is something in it and so believing…he is fully entitled to claim the prospective satisfaction of being buried in holy earth.
The conditions under which soldiers lived and died were still bad. The China Mail waged a long campaign on their behalf. The editor argued that the press was frequently ‘the best if not the only advocate of the poor man’.27 The specific charge that the editor brought against Major-General Guy and his surgeon-general Dr. Dick on this occasion was dereliction of duty to his troops. It was stated that due to ‘culpable and wilful neglect’, and ‘conduct that ill befits any officer of rank, and which greatly resembles desertion from duty in the moment of action’, the general had been in Japan lining his pocket while the 11th Regiment was sickening and falling dead like flies. Only 102 men of that regiment were fit enough to show up at the parade on the previous day out of a total of 550, and several were actually without arms — ‘a fact sufficient to make the bones of the late Duke of Wellington shake in their coffin’. Again in 1865, the China Mail wrote: ‘From incapacity, ignorance or wilful neglect of sanitary arrangements, and even bare accommodation, the troops who lately arrived here have come all the way round the Cape to this Colony to die’.28 The high number of deaths produced a sense of outrage among the authorities and newspapers in England:
Hong Kong was sometimes seen as a perpetual drain on Anglo Saxon strength and accused of wasting the blood of British soldiers for its own benefit.
The officers throʼ whose mismanagement, the mortality of the 9th and 11th (Regiments) was brought about, have it seems caused something more than the deaths of the men who died. They have caused prejudice at home against the colony which will endure for many years…. The Army & Navy Gazette is fairly disgusted with Hong Kong and pens an acrimonious article in which the offensive name of the place is repeated in varying accents of contempt, anger and vituperation in every second line.29
(p.409) A mark of the increased esteem in which soldiers were held by the end of this period is shown by the fact that, for the first time, ordinary private soldiers began as a matter of routine to be given headstones. One of the first to be dignified with an individual headstone with his name on it seems to have been Private J. Poole, who died on 3 July 1865. He and eleven others, all belonging to the 2nd Battalion of the 9th Regiment, have similar granite headstones, but they were the exceptions.
The lists of soldiers dying in 1865 when cholera struck show that many more died unmemoralized. On Thursday 6 July for example, no less than fifteen soldiers, mostly privates, can be counted in the ‘in memoriam’ column of the China Mail. The unnamed young men in the prime of life, who died in Hong Kong, must have exceeded those with headstones by many times. The most senior officer in the army to die in Hong Kong during this period was Major-General Brunker [17/14/1], commander in chief of the forces in China and Japan and lieutenant governor of the colony. He followed his wife to the grave in March 1869 aged sixty-two. According to his obituary, he had not been the same man since her death and had gradually sunk ‘notwithstanding the unremitting care and attention of his daughters and medical adviser’.30
Some attempts were made in the face of such criticisms to alleviate the lot of the soldiers. A soldiers' club and reading room had been opened in Hong Kong and a reading room in Kowloon by February 1862. The club was described as ‘a glittering beer and gin palace open early and late with its fiddle, bad liquor and sundry other accompaniments, which also boasted a skittles alley, a racquet court and a billiard room’.31 The subscription for the private was a sixpence a month which was considered affordable.
Women were able to act with toughness and decision as, for example, was shown by Mrs. Dunn, an Irish woman, while travelling from Hong Kong to Macau to (p.410) join her husband. In 1862, she happened to be aboard the SS Iron Prince when the Chinese passengers aided by three nearby piratical junks tried to seize control of the ship. Although wounded in the neck and shoulder in the initial pirate charge, Mrs. Dunn made her way to the after-cabin where the captain was mustering his forces and had earlier stowed arms against such an emergency. She proceeded to pass out arms to all the able-bodied passengers and crew and then to fire at the pirates with such good effect that they fled the ship in panic, jumping into the water where many who could not swim were drowned. The Iron Prince was carrying $40,000 worth of opium and would have made a fine prize.32
Yet the position of women in society during these years had hardly changed. Their lives like their clothes were incredibly restricting. Crinolines and corsets were in fashion. In the China Mail of 1864, Salomon's of London was advertising their patent jupon, a spiral crinoline in steel and bronze, which would collapse under the slightest pressure and resume its shape when the pressure was removed. Along with the jupon went ‘Castle's patent ventilating corset invaluable for the ball room, equestrian exercise and warm climates’. Women would not have been allowed to venture out by themselves, let alone do their own marketing. Ladies had to be guarded from sights that might have upset their frailer senses:
The filthiness of the Chinese quarters where most of the shops are situated and the rowdy nature of the native frequenters of Central Market make it impossible for ladies to visit these places in person even when desirous of making their own purchases.33
It was not until about 1874 that women were allowed to take the female roles in Amateur Dramatics. An extract from the China Mail recorded that: ‘During the visit of the Hongkong cricket team to Amoy, the Amateur Dramatics — assisted by real ladies [sic] — performed with considerable success, ‘To oblige Benson’ and ‘The Goddess with the Golden Eggs’.34 Croquet and tennis were about the only sports open to women. Swimming was considered unladylike. The fair sex was not allowed to bathe in the Swimming Club pool and swimming off beaches would have been a subject for scandalized gossip. A letter from some brave man to the Daily Press in July 1870 entitled ‘Advanced’ Bathing, asked: ‘Why should we not have bathing houses at Pokfulam or Stonecutter's Island and a Bathing Society…composed of ladies and gentlemen who should bathe together in costume?’ He continued: ‘Behold the uplifted palms of some walking Code of Proprieties as he reads this terrible suggestion’.35 Needless to say his suggestion was ignored.
(p.411) Croquet had become fashionable and popular and, in 1870, a croquet club was set up, perhaps like so many of Hong Kong's clubs to regulate against improper social mixing and make sure that only those of the right social status could participate. An article about the club pointed out that its committee consisted exclusively of gentlemen:
It is hardly possible to conceive a stronger proof of the degrading subjection of women, than is afforded by this proceeding. If a woman has one field more especially marked out for her than another it is the Croquet Lawn. Yet the people of Hong Kong are so wedded to prestige and precedent, so blindly ignorant of the great truths that John Stuart Mill and Miss Martineau, and Miss Josephine Butler have been labouring to bring before this world that a Croquet Club is started and its management offered to men. This indicates a wish on the part of the residents in the Island Colony not only to keep women in their present position of social bondage, but even to thrust them from those fields of delightful usefulness which they now occupy. We trust that a colony called after the Queen will not allow so sad a stain to rest upon its chivalry. Let the Ladies immediately start a rival club unless prompt reparation is made them.36
The frailty of women so much played upon by men at this time was only too often proved to be close to the truth. In this period fifty-six wives were buried in the Cemetery. Taking the forty-eight whose ages we know, the average age of death can be worked out as thirty-three years, not a great improvement on the thirty-one-year-old average found in the first period. The average age was brought down by the seven army wives whose average age at the time of their death was only twenty-seven. Included among them is the first female found serving in a regiment among the soldiers. Elizabeth Ann Atherley [31/1/5] was school mistress to the 88th Regiment. She died in 1874 aged thirty-one. Her eight-monthold son had died just two days before herself. Mary Ann Namick [24/5/2], the wife of the band master of the 2nd Battalion 20th Regiment who died in 1865 aged twenty-seven, has the largest headstone in that part of the Cemetery, a token perhaps of her husband's love, but also of the prestige of the regimental band and its band master.
Childbirth was still dangerous and could all too often lead to a weakened state of health. Poor Edith Ann Ryrie [10/6/3], again aged only twenty-one years, died in February 1866 in childbirth and her infant daughter, Muriel, died too (p.412) ‘having survived her birth by only a few hours’. Perhaps the overwhelming sorrow was too much for her husband, the well-known merchant Phineas Ryrie [23/8/6]. He never married again, but is rumoured to have quietly installed a Chinese mistress instead. Eliza Storey [16Ci/4/11], the wife of the architect, Charles Storey, ‘obeyed her Maker's call’ in November 1866. She had had a baby girl earlier that month. Another victim of childbirth was poor young Grace Malzard [38/3/10] who died five days after giving birth to a son who only survived eighteen hours. Women also suffered greatly from complaints that could now be alleviated with analgesics. Harriet Vincent [38/4/11], the wife of a foreman boilermaker in the Royal Navy dockyard, died in October 1872 aged forty-four years:
- Affliction sore
- Long time she bore
- And seldom did complain.
- Till God was pleased to call her home,
- And ease her of her pain.
Problems with debt-ridden or drunken or abusive husbands must have seemed worse so far from the support of family and friends. One such was Sarah Jane Barnes [42/2/6] who died in 1874 aged fifty. Her husband, Leonard Barnes, was a coach builder from Duddell Street who had formerly been a wheelwright in the Royal Artillery. Leonard Barnes and Edmund Boyd had established a partnership as farriers, keepers of a livery stable, and harness and coach makers but, as his appearances in court for the non-payment of debts and assault mounted, Barnes became a person that few wanted dealings with and the partnership was dissolved. In 1869 he became the government undertaker and by 1871 he was combining undertaking with goods and furniture delivery. The position of women caught in an abusive relationship would have been dire. They had little option but to stay with their abusers and bear the brunt. Anna Maria, the wife of Gerardus Baas of the City of Rotterdam tavern, who laced his brandy with common salt, went so far as to charge her husband with violent assault. ‘A great row had taken place and cries of murder had been heard’.38 Anna Maria appeared in court with her eyes bandaged but had changed her mind and refused to press charges and stated that she had fallen down the stairs. ‘Mrs. Baas, amid her tears, said that this was the first time she had ever been in Court and that it would be the last’.
A glimpse into the family life of a boarding house keeper of the time shows the difficulties that arose from the death of a mother leaving behind an unprotected (p.413) daughter. In July 1866 Auguste Harewyn was charged with abducting Eugenie Willis from her stepfather's house. Louis Bourboen, proprietor of Argus Boarding House in Peel Street, lost his wife, Rosalie Bourboen [16Cii/5/6], in November 1865. He was left with the care of Eugenie Willis, a pretty stepdaughter of fifteen. Nine months after her mother's death, Eugenie ran away to Marius Leon's boarding-house in Spring Gardens, Wan Chai, accusing her step-father of beating her and treating her badly. Auguste Harrewyn had been a lodger in her father's house and had struck up a rather too intimate relationship with Eugenie. He had been caught kissing her and, when turned out, had begun corresponding with the girl. According to the evidence, Eugenie had been found with a letter from Harrewyn, but Bourboen could not produce it as evidence because Eugenie had eaten it rather than let him see the contents. Mr. Leon, to whose house the girl had fled for shelter and protection, told the court that when Bourboen came to his house seeking his stepdaughter, he had become drunk and irritable. ‘There was a bottle of brandy standing on my table when he came, to which he had helped himself as if it had been water’. The court sided with the young lovers against Bourboen and C.H. Whyte, the magistrate, said that if he had known the facts, he would never have granted the warrant for the arrest of Eugenie and Harrewyn. In a later case in February 1868, the magistrate judged Bourboen capable of violent behaviour when he was sued by his houseboy for unpaid wages and damage to his leg amounting to $30. The boy had had a large flat plate smashed on him and the presiding magistrate awarded the boy $20 which he said was not excessive for a broken limb.39 It rarely happened that, when Chinese servants sued their European employers, they were given what they asked for in damages. Bourboen was later bankrupted. Life for women in Hong Kong must have been uncomfortable and boring at best with illness, death and disaster never far away and at worst very hard indeed to bear.
By the late 1860s a new underclass was beginning to make its presence felt in Hong Kong. European prostitutes were finding willing customers among the richer expatriates and beginning to settle. In 1868, James Browne, the barkeeper at the Hotel des Colonies and described as a ‘coloured man’, was refused a licence. In an indignant letter to the China Mail, he ascribed the refusal to colour prejudice. The authorities however cited the fact that he had employed a female barkeeper: ‘It is of the opinion of the Colonial Surgeon and the Police Superintendent that the place (p.414) was a sort of sly brothel and that many other women were in the house’.40 Later in that year, the female barkeeper herself, Mary Ann Garde alias Welch, charged two men from the Gas Company, Henry Simmonds, brick-layer, and James Lyall, brass-fitter, with forcibly entering her house and assaulting her person and furniture. Inspector Horsepool gave evidence that things were generally smashed up. The men were fined and significantly the prosecutrix was ordered to find security of $5 to keep the peace for three months. The same two men were later charged by Mrs. Julia Carter, ‘a female of negro persuasion’, with assault:
According to the defendant's statement, had the stick wielded by Mrs. Carter alighted on Simmond's head as intended instead of his arm, it must have terminated his brick-laying career at one fell swoop. The men were fined ten shillings and one Henry Darrell gave a bond of security for Mrs. Carter and carried her away. Darrell had recently been living at the Hotel des Colonies where he had been sued for board and lodging.42 Again in 1869, a Mrs. Miller sued Atai, a hard-working Chinese tailor with twenty years standing in the territory, for theft. Mrs. Miller was described by the judge as ‘A woman living away from her husband — being what is generally known as a “soiled dove”’.43 Unusually the tailor's word was believed and he was found not guilty by the unanimous decision of the jury.
Beaten on the arms kicked on the breast and bitten on the calf of the leg by their dog, Mrs Carter, inspired with a dash of the Amazonian, got to her feet and seizing a stick or cudgel improvised a very fair resistance.41
During this period thirty-three children, who were under the age of four years, and five older children died. Babyhood was a dangerous time in an age when the importance of hygiene in the fight against germs was not generally understood. Death was no respecter of position or wealth. The deputy registrar of the Supreme Court, Frederick Sowley Huffam, lost three babies, Henry Seymour, Mary Jane and Frederick Henry [20/14/4]. In April 1852 Huffam, who had arrived in the colony in 1855 and taken the post of a third clerk in the government, married Mary Irwin, the daughter of the colonial chaplain. In spite of his regular church attendance, where he played the organ, Huffam was accused in 1878 of embezzling nearly $150,000, found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison. The quiet acquisition of illegal money was too easy when it was acknowledged at the time (p.415) of his trial that ‘his accounts had never been audited and the man had been left practically to himself’. Feelings of sympathy must be aroused by the plight of his poor wife who had to cope first with the death of three babies and then with a husband in prison. The only other person known to have lost three children, Isaac, Aaron and Elizabeth Jane McNally [7/27/10] was Sergeant Michael McNally of the 75th Regiment and keeper of its canteen at Murray Barracks. He was refused a spirit license because the barman of the Liverpool Arms made it known that he had been selling liquor for some time to men other than soldiers without a licence. (p.416)
(2.) C.M., 3.2.1857.
(4.) C.M., 21.1.1871 for his obituary.
(p.572) (5.) Who's Who in the Far East (June) 1906–1907.
(6.) Walter Greenwood, ‘John Joseph Francis, Citizen of Hong Kong, A Biographical Note’, Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 26, 1986, p. 33
(7.) C.M., 27.1.1871.
(8.) Austin Coates, Whampoa: Ships on the Shore, Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1980, p. 107
(11.) C.M., 4.12.1867.
(12.) C.M., 28.6.1867.
(13.) C.M., 8.6.1868.
(14.) C.M., 16.7.1869.
(15.) D.P., 3.10.1868.
(16.) C.M., 2.2.1871.
(17.) C.M., 21.10.1870.
(18.) D.P., 8.2.1868.
(19.) D.P., 27.6.1871.
(20.) C.M., 17.12.1868.
(21.) C.M., 13.9.1866.
(22.) C.M., 1.2.1871.
(23.) Hong Kong Government Gazette, 9.6.1880, p. 466.
(24.) Saul David, Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire, London: Penguin Books, 2007, pp. 378–79
(25.) C.M., 26.3.1863.
(26.) C.M., 14.5.1863.
(27.) C.M., 14.5.1863.
(28.) C.M., 2.11.1865.
(29.) C.M., 26.2.1867.
(30.) C.M., 25.3.1869.
(31.) C.M., 20.2.1862.
(32.) C.M., 7.5.1862.
(34.) C.M., 23.1.1874.
(35.) D.P., 27.7.1870.
(36.) D.P., 4.4.1870.
(38.) C.M., 18.7.1868.
(39.) C.M., 2.21.1868.
(40.) C.M., 12.11.1868.
(41.) C.M. 2.6.1868.
(42.) C.M., 28.5.1868.
(43.) C.M., 19.5.1869.