Gwulo: Old Hong Kong


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Kind regards,


PS 'Gwu lo' is roughly how '古老' sounds in Cantonese. It means 'ancient' or 'old-fashioned'.

A Silver Trowel and St Paul’s History

Guest author Geoffrey Charles Emerson unearths the history of a small, silver trowel:

In January 2021, I received an email from Michael Stewart in England. Michael is the son of former St Paul’s Headmaster (1930 – 1958) Evan G. Stewart. Michael was born in Hong Kong in 1931, so 90 this year, and he is now retired in southern England near to his two daughters, Frances and Isobel. Ever since 2008, when Michael visited Hong Kong for Speech Day and for the Stewart Dinner in the school hall, in honour of Michael’s father and his father’s older brother, Michael’s uncle, Rev. A.D. Stewart, Headmaster of St Paul’s before E.G., Michael and I have kept up an active correspondence.

Michael wrote to me because recently he and his daughters have been going through family records and mementos, and they were puzzled by a silver trowel with a Chinese inscription on it, but no English. Longman’s dictionary defines a trowel as “a tool with a flat blade for spreading cement”, and trowels are often used for laying foundation stones. They are usually presented as a souvenir to the person, always a VIP, laying the stone. Michael sent me a photo and asked if I could provide a translation of the Chinese.

The silver trowel


A friend of mine, Sylvia Fok Midgett, was happy to assist, and not only did she provide a good translation, but she also found

New on Gwulo: 2021, week 28

A look at what's new on the Gwulo website...





1964: Typhoons & Telephones

As we head into the typhoon season, guest author Peter Kelly remembers the troubles they caused him in 1964, when he was in Hong Kong as a telecoms engineer with the army:

Our busiest time was during the typhoon season. This occurred every year with some years being spectacularly damaging. I had one of those years, with cables being uprooted by anchor chains and mass flooding of many of our manholes.

The warnings would start at number one or two and slowly climb to ten.

Storm Warning Signal Card a.

1950s Storm Warning Signal Card by Andrew Suddaby


By about six all movement outside had been banned and the city hunkered down to sit out the storm. The wind was hurricane force and the rain torrential. One night we were all turfed out of our beds to

New on Gwulo: 2021, week 26

A look at what's new on the Gwulo website...




Book offer, and Gwulo in the press

  • My Book One are offering 15% off English-language books, including all four of Gwulo's books. Offer ends on 11 July.
  • Last week, Dan Ip took listeners to RTHK's 清晨爽利 on a guided trip through the hidden details in two of my photos - one each from my first and second books. The recording is now online, and starts at 05:40 in Part 2.
    1923 Crashed trams on Arsenal Street
    Photo 1: 1923 Crashed trams on Arsenal Street

The Anglo-Chinese Boundary 1898

Guest author Klaus Liphard describes how the boundary between the New Territories and China was created in the 1890s.



At the end of the 19th century, the Chinese Qing Empire was weak. This was utilized by foreign powers - France, Germany, Russia, and also Great Britain - to force China to lease territories to them.

Britain forced China into The Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory, also known as the Second Convention of Peking, which leased the New Territories to Britain for 99 years. The Convention was signed on 9 June 1898 in Peking (Beijing) and became effective on July 1st, 1898. This short convention (the English text is only one and a half pages) included a map showing the new boundary.

Map of Hong Kong in The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory in 1898
Map of Hong Kong in The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory
in 1898, by Klaus


This map had a small scale only. The eastern end of the boundary on land was at Starling Inlet (Mirs Bay), and the western one at Deep Bay. Between these two end points, a straight line was drawn. The exact course of the boundary had to be negotiated by


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