Photos of old Hong Kong and the tales they tell - Volume 3

Submitted by David on Thu, 11/12/2015 - 17:48

This hour-long talk takes you on a trip around old Hong Kong, using photos from the early- to mid-1900s. Instead of a static Powerpoint presentation, I use high-resolution scans of the photos so we can zoom in on their hidden details. With each photo I'll tell stories of the people, places and events that it shows.

For this third talk I've chosen photos that are connected with the harbour, and grouped them according to the people they show:

  • Tourists
  • Fishermen and boat people
  • Traders
  • The Royal Navy
  • People having fun (Dragon boaters, sailors and swimmers)

Here are the photos I use in this talk. You can click any photo to see a more detailed copy of the image, and read its story.


We start off at the western entrance to the harbour

1920s Kennedy Town


before anchoring off Central, where we look at how the view has changed over the years.


1906 View of Hong Kong from the harbour



c.1922 View of Hong Kong from the harbour



c.1935 View of Hong Kong from the harbour



c.1955 View of HK from harbour



1969. Hong Kong island from across the harbour



[not yet online]


Fishermen and boat people


1924 Staunton Creek


c.1935 View over Aberdeen harbour


Shau Kei Wan

c.1902 Shau Kei Wan


Yau Ma Tei

c.1900 View of beached sampans along the Yau Ma Tei shoreline


Tai O

1930s Tai O


Cheung Chau

c.1930 Cheung Chau



The busy harbourfront off Central

c.1925 Central Praya


A ship's crew

c.1910 Ship's crew at Hong Kong


The men who loaded and unloaded the boats

1902 The Wharves at Hong Kong


1910 "Coolies at Hong Kong"



c.1900 "Looking northeast over the Bay, from the New Market"


Mechanisation at the Kowloon Wharf

Kowloon Wharves after the 1906 typhoon


1927 - "Coolies wearing Chinese raincoats"


The Royal Navy

The Naval Yard, with the Navy's ships in harbour

c.1890 View of Naval Yard, harbour & TST from Scandal Point


HMS Tamar in the new dockyard

HMS Tamar


Technological advances. First steam,

In the stoke-hole of H.M.S. Terrible. Hong Kong, China. 1902.


then submarines

1926 Submarines and HMS Titania


A naval wedding

1940 Naval wedding

There was also the need to defend against attacks from foreign navies, so large gun emplacements were built to protect the entrances to the harbour.

Mount Davis

1911 Royal Engineers Detachment, Mount Davis


Stonecutters Island

c.1925 Gun in Kowloon


Lei Yue Mun

1928 Garrison at Lyemun


The Navy's presence also meant work for dockyards and painters.

Dry dock at the Naval Dockyard

Dry dock at Royal Naval Dockyard


HMS Hawkins in the dry dock at Hung Hom

HMS Hawkins in the dry dock at Hung Hom


Taikoo dry dock

Dry dock at Taikoo


The side-party was a welcome sight in Hong Kong, freeing sailors from painting work.

1954 Side-party


People having fun

Dragon boat racing

c.1920 Dragon Boat off North Point


1950s Dragon Boat Race at Aberdeen


If you enjoyed sailing, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club had a clubhouse at North Point (we'll zoom in to see it!)

1930s Panorama from Central to Causeway Bay


After reclamation took away their access to the harbour, the Club moved to Kellett Island

c.1950 view across Wanchai


Then another round of reclamation linked the island to the shore

c.1960 Kellett Island


If you don't enjoy sailing, you could join a launch party

1910s Launch Party


Or even build your own!

Boat under construction


Launch on slip


[not yet online]


Launch off Cheung Chau


Couple on boat


[not yet online]


Repulse Bay


Swimming at Repulse Bay

1920s Swimming at Repulse Bay


The easiest way to enjoy the harbour was to jump in for a swim.

1907 Soldiers swimming


Cooling off



Ticker-tape departure from the Kowloon Wharves

1928 Ticker-tape departure of Empress of Russia from the Kowloon Wharves



The presentation takes around 50 minutes. After that I'm happy to answer any questions from the audience.