1920s Praya Mong Kok Ferry

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 19:46

Received via email

Date picture taken


A cropped copy of this photo appears on page 62 of "A century of Hong Kong Island Roads and Streets" by Cheng Po-Hung, with the description:

A 1925 photo of a ferry pier for the ferries running from Central to Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po in Kowloon which had been in operation by Yau Ma Tei Ferry Company since 1924. It is located on Connaught Road near Gilman Street.

We can see the tramlines' electric wires in this photo. The trams don't run along the section of Connaught Road near Gilman Street (they're back on Des Voeux Rd at that point), so I think we're right with the previous idea that the pier was in front of Western Market, based on the map and the Arthur Ball photo.

If Po-Hung got the location wrong, any ideas if the year 1925 is right? The only clue I can see is the presence of the Urinal building on the left of the photo. It doesn't appear in the other photo we have of this pier. So I assume this photo is the more recent - but which year?


This pier could have been located very close to Cleverly Street. Coming off the ferry, I would cross Connaught Road West diagonally to the west. The next street I crossed might have been Morrison Street although I am not sure. A phone book during late 1940s ~ early 1950s listing an import/export company "Ying Sing Lung" (translating England-flourish-market) should help. The phone number was 22134. It was about 1.5 blocks west of the pier.

The urinal building might prove this to be a more recent photo. On the other hand, it could have been constructed early and later torn down.

I am impressed by the way the labourers balanced their loud on the two-wheel cart. It must be so the way they pulled it with a long rope even with a man guarding from the rear.

Here are a few more more ideas.

1920s Praya West

The curved tram tracks pinpoint the location - where the tram line turns from Connaught Road into Morrison Street, with Western market on the corner. This photo was probably taken from the market building. I'll guess this is the earliest photo, taken in 1924 or possibly even earlier, before the Yau Ma Tei Ferry Company started using the pier.


1920s Praya ferry pier

This comes next. The ferry company is in residence, but there is no latrine / urinal building to the left of the ferry, which helps with the date. On 16th May 1924, the government announced "[...] the Government proposes to erect a Public Urinal in Connaught Road immediately opposite to the Western Market." Then at the end of the year, point 111 in the Annual Report states "The removal of the Urinal at Connaught Road, Central, opposite the Western Market, was the result of negotiations with the proprietors of the New Queen's Hotel, the cost involved therby in the sum of $1,950.00 being borne by them."

Those two statements seem contradictory, but I'd guess that the small building in the first photo was a urinal, standing in front of the New Queen's Hotel. They objected to the interruption to their sea view (and probably the smell too!), and arranged with the government to move the urinal to the seafront in front of the Western Market. If that's true the second photo would have been taken between the arrival of the ferry company (1924), and the construction of the new urinal building (1924), ie it was taken in 1924.

Then there's the third photo, shown at the top of this page. The new urinal building is finished, so the date should be late 1924 or later.

Finally there is the Arthur Bell photo, where we can confirm the pier was in front of the Western Market, and we know the photo was taken in 1946.

It's still possible the ferry could have used a different pier after the war. The Arthur Bell photo shows the pier was damaged, and the single pitched roof of the earlier photos has gone. When the ferry service resumed, could it have been relocated to one of the nearby piers that was in better condition?


Arthur Bell's photo dated 1946 shows that the Mong Kok ferry pier has not yet been built, and it also shows the tram tracks turning onto Morrison Street. Thank you MrB for correcting me that I didn't have to cross Morrison Street.
The Bell's 1946 photo and the two photos above show the concrete steps leading to the water pointing to the Mong Kok / Sham Shui Po ferry pier being built after 1946.
Coming out of the ferry (late 1940s and 1950s), I would be crossing Connaught Road West diagonally westward. At that time, there was a urinal building a few steps west of the pier (not shown in these photos) but I tried to avoid using it unless I had to.
The sink hole in front must have been a recurring problem due to erosion underneath the surface. My memory tells me I walked around it at one time in the late 1950s.
Great investigative work MrB!