Duncan George MACPHERSON [1912-1989] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Duncan George MACPHERSON [1912-1989]

Names
Given: 
Duncan George
Family: 
MacPherson
Sex: 
Male
Status: 
Deceased
Birth
Date: 
1912-06-20
Birthplace (town, state): 
Bridge of Orchy
Birthplace (country): 
Death
Date: 
1989-04-15
Cause of death: 
Heart Attack

Duncan George MacPherson was in the HK police. He was a Lance-Sergeant in 1941 when captured by the Japanese and interned at Stanley prison camp. 

Duncan  married, Doris Emily Elizabeth Brooks, in the camp on 9 June 1943. Doris (my Aunt) was the daughter of Henry Tom Brooks, the Chief Officer of the Hong Kong Fire Brigade, who had retired to England a few years before the war in 1937. Doris had arrived in HK in 1922 from London, with her father, mother Emily and brother Ron Brooks - who was to follow in his father's footsteps as an officer in the HK Fire Brigade.  

Duncan, was born in a crofters cottage in the Highlands of Scotland. He came from a big family and was a proud Scotsman who loved the Highlands, bagpipes, heather, hunting deer, fishing for trout - and his whisky!

Post-war Duncan was in the Criminal Investigation Department , he became a Commissioner of Police and was transferred to Kenya in 1954 - during the time of the Mau Mau rebellion. Duncan loved Africa, but became perturbed by the situation in Kenya and left the Police Force in 1957. He moved to New Zealand where he became Superintendent of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, when it was opened in 1959. In 1985 he and Doris moved from Auckland to Tauranga (200kms away) to be near the family of Ron Brooks who had retired from the Fire Service and arrived in NZ in late 1955. Duncan died in Tauranga in 1989.

As reported in the London Gazette on 11 April 1947, Duncan MacPherson was awarded the Kings Police and Fire Services medal for gallantry.  His medals are held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland, New Zealand.

Suziepie

 

Photos that show this person

1943

Comments

  HI MY NAME IS MALCOLM TEALE MY WIFE IS ELZABETH (ELMA)  AND WAS A MACPHERSON BEFORE MARRIAGE,HER FATHER WAS DUNCANS BROTHER,WE NOW LIVE IN AUSTRALIA,MY WIFE LOST TRACK OF HER UNCLE IN HER EARLY ADULT LIFE ONLY GETTING TO KNOW THROUGH ANOTHER AUNTY SHE CAME ACROSS IN AUSTRALIA,UNFORTUNATLY IT WAS TOO LATE AS HE HAD PASSED AWAY.WE WERE IN NEW ZEALAND IN 2008 AND WENT TO THE HOUSE WERE HE LIVED IN TAURANGA,AND ALSO VISITED THE WAR MEMORIAL AND WAS PRIVALAGED TO VIEW HIS MEDALS ,WHICH AT THE TIME WERE NOT ON DISPLAY BUT A KIND LADY TOOK US BEHIND THE SCENES TO VIEW THEM.MY WFE WAS DEVASTATED AT LOSING CONTACT WITH HIM AS HE WAS ALSO HER GODFATHER.ANYTHING YOU HAVE IN THE WAY OF PHOTOS WOULD BE FANTASTIC

MALCOLM TEALE

Hello Malcolm

Nice to meet you! Can you tell me which brother of Uncle Duncan was Elma's father?  Duncan only lived briefly at the house in Tauranga - mostly he and Doris lived in Remuera, in Auckland.  Doris went into a Retirement Home a couple of years after he died in 1989. 

I met one of Uncle's nephew's on one of the occasions I was staying at their house in Remuera - he was visiting too.  It was in August 1964 and his name is Alistair - he was not much older than me. I took him sightseeing and we went to the Auckland War Memorial Museum - I have a photo of him there. He was from Australia and must be related to you - or to the other Aunt you mentioned?

Of course I can send you some photos.  I will ask David to forward you my email address. Unfortunately the photos were all taken before the time of digital and I will have to have them scanned - I'll see what I can do.

Regards

Suziepie

 HI SUZIEPIE, ELMAS FATHER WAS NAMED JOHN ARTHUR MACPHERSON HE LIVED IN FORT WILLIAM SCOTLAND BUT DIED AT THE AGE OF 36 IN OCTOBER 1942.

 MOST OF HIS EARLY LIFE WAS SPENT ON THE ISLE OF JURA WEST SCOTLAND.HE WAS UNABLE TO JOIN JIMMY AND DUNCAN IN THE COLONIAL POLICE OWING TO AN ACCIDENT TO HIS FOOT

ALISTAIR IS THE SON OF DUNCANS SISTER ANNIE WHO LIVED IN CLARE STH AUSTRALIA, SHE SADLY PASSED AWAY ABOUT 10YEARS AGO SHE ALSO HAS TWO DAGHTERS LIVING IN ADELAIDE

Suziepie: I was curious that your Aunt's mother Emily stayed in Hong Kong in 1941  with her daughter and son and did not return to England with her husband when he retired. Best rgds,  Philip

 Hello Phil -

If you clik on the highlighted 'Henry Tom Brooks' and  'Emily' in my posting above you will see that I mentioned that:

.......'Emily returned to Devon, England, in 1937 when her husband retired from the Fire Services. However, when he died in 1940 she returned to HK [persuaded by her daughter, Doris].

Unfortunately, she ignored the advice of her son [Ron Brooks] not to return to HK and was caught in the Japanese occupation in 1941.  Doris and Emily plus Duncan MacPherson, who became her daughter's husband, were interned in Stanley for the duration of the war. All survived.  Emily's home had been ransacked by the Japanese and she lost all her possessions'........

As I have mentioned elsewhere, Ron tried to persuade both Doris and Emily to leave on the evacuation ship, but again they did not listen to good advice, and suffered the consequences. Doris listed herself as 'a nurse' so she could avoid evacuation. She did not believe the Japanese would attack Hong Kong.

Suziepie

 

Dear Suziepie,

I don't know exactly what to say but well I have to say that there's some connection between Duncan and Zoe and my family that I am not aware of until now.

I was talking to dad about his guardian in Australia at dinner tonight (Dad went to study abroad in Sydney when he was barely 14 in 1959, and had a Jim Johnston as his guardian). Mr. Johnston was a chief inspector in HK in the pre-war years and he became very befriended with my great-grandpa who started off with nothing when he first stepped foot in HK from the Guangdong countryside but went on to run his own business with some success. Apparently my great grandpa was able to resume his business after the war with some much needed funds from Mr. Johnston.

Ok, let's get to the point. The opportunity was there so my grandpa was able to send my dad abroad to study in Sydney under the guardianship of Mr. Johnston, who by that time (1959) was already living in Sydney with his wife Betty (nee Anderson) and their daughter Christine. According to my father, he took a skiing holiday in New Zealand with his parents in the mid-1960s and it was on this occasion that he visited Duncan and Zoe at their home in NZ (apparently had dinner there too) on the recommendation of Mr. Johnston, as he and Duncan were very close colleagues and friends in HK in the pre-war years, and in fact Mr. Johnston was also interned in Stanley (Betty and Christine managed to evacuate to Sydney though).

Dad also told me there was also an occasion where Mr. Johnston and Duncan came to HK in the 1970s and my dad took the opportunity to take them back to roughly the same location where they were interned. I myself also went to study in Sydney in January 1992 and just before school started dad took my down to Scottsdale, Tasmania, to visit Mr. Johnston and Betty who by then had retired on the Island. Mr. Johnston was a fluent Cantonese speaker so it was very memorable indeed as I had only limited verbal English back then. I in fact returned to Tasmania in December 2010 for my honeymoon and had thought that Betty could still be alive – sadly she passed away in 2007 at the age of 90 but thankfully one of her friend at the retirement village where she stayed had some knowledge of her life in HK and was keen to share that memory with us. Christine is living in Sydney but I have lost contact with her though.

Ok, this is my story and I wonder if there’s anything in your collection (perhaps some photos or may be even words?) about the skiing trip that Dad took in NZ. Dad (Gordon) travelled with his parents (Albert and Minnie), and quite possibly his brothers as well (Spencer and Vincent). I suppose it’s quite easy to identify them because they are all Chinese and are all quite short of stature.

Anyway, how I got dad involved in all of these is kind of strange. My dad has time and again told me things about Mr. Johnston and some other Caucasian friends of his. I recalled he did say something about a Macpherson but of course I wouldn’t have connected it to anything available on Gwulo. Anyhow, we were having a word or two about Mr. Johnston at dinner tonight and well, I asked him about Macpherson after seeing your material and he came back with the names of Duncan and Zoe and his skiing holiday in NZ where they met. Just feels so surreal really.

Thanks a lot Suziepie and really looking forward to some feedback from you.

Geoffrey

Hello Geoffrey

You have an interesting story. Your father would have visited Duncan and Zoe (though I prefer to call her Doris) at their home in Remuera, a nice suburb of Auckland. They lived there most of the time they were in New Zealand. I will make a point of searching through their old photos - from your description I may locate something - if I do, I will scan it/them and email to you.  (Allow me 2-3 weeks to get back to you about the photos.)

I recall Duncan speaking about Jim Johnston - though Duncan's brother was also 'Jim' - so it was a name I heard often. They also spoke a lot about 'Betty' - but again, they knew a couple of Bettys. 

You will see on this website that I have put photos of a painting of Four Chinese Students - this painting once belonged to Duncan.  It had pride of place in his home - it had a special meaning.  Your father must have seen it when he visited them. I would be most interested to know if he remembers the painting, and if he knows anything about it?  say, who the boys are? and the artist?

Also does your father remember my father - Ron Brooks (of the HKFB)? He and Duncan had a lot of friends within the same circles in Hong Kong.

Suziepie

 

 

Dear Suziepie,

Thanks for the feedback - just so thankful we have Gwulo to make some connections!

Regarding your queries, I talked to dad about it but he was unaware of any paintings in the house nor did he have any knowledge of your father either.

I indeed had another look of grandpa's stuff (grandpa was a very keen photographer) and was trying to dig out something for that skiing trip in NZ. Nothing turned out though. Anyhow, there's a collection of photos featuring Mr. Johnston and a group of Caucasian friends both old and young taken on a boat in HK which I will scan to see if any discoveries could be made. Finally, I will have to scan you a photo featuring my grandparents and the Johnstons taken in HK as well so hopefully you could make a reference to these images should you come up with some relevant material.

Thanks again Suziepie and will keep in contact.

Hi Suziepie, My father just sent me this link after travelling to HK on business. My mother is the daughter of Duncan's brother, George. There was 11 months between them. George stayed in Aberfeldy, Scotland and married my Gran, Janet. They had one daughter, my mum and she often tells me about Uncle Duncan. I have sent this link to her for her too see. She will be able to tell you more about that side of the family Jenn

Hello again Geoffrey

Apologies for being slow to get back to you. I've had problems locating the photos I spoke of, however I have now found a box of slides - many ! - it will take some time to go through them all.  I will get back to you when I'v done this.

Kind regards,

Suziepie

Hi Malcolm, my name is Marion, Elma's cousin. There are five of us here in Scotland, and we have one Aunt still alive. Aunt Tibbie is the youngest of the Macpherson 'clan' and is amazing. I was with her in August and it's wonderful to sit chatting to her. My Dad was George Macpherson, Duncan's younger brother.  Aunt Annie was also a regular visitor from Australia, she was great fun. When I was 19, my dad had a stroke at the age of 60 and had to give up work as a Gamekeeper.  My parents had to move house and everyone came to help. Aunt Tibbie, Uncle Fergie (her husband), cousins Raymond, Anne and Fraser, and Aunt Annie, all the way from Australia! I had a visit last year from Roy Howlin, a cousin who lives on Kangaroo Island.  His mother was Auntie Jess. I have a question, did Elma's father die of a heart attack while on police duty?  Also, am I right in thinking that we had an Aunt Elma who died when she was young?

regards, Marion

Hi Suziepie, thank you so much for putting this together. Over the last couple of years I have 'googled' Uncle Duncan, knowing he had such a history, and sure that this would be recorded somewhere, but been unable to find anything. Now knowing what happened to Aunt Doris, brings closure to me. My dad, George Macpherson, younger brother, communicated regularly with his brother Duncan. George died on 10th November 1985 aged 72. Uncle Duncan continued to write to my mother, and would often telephone her at 6 am our time, much to her surprise. After his death, Aunt Doris (Zoe) and my mother Janet continued to write.  Then the airmails from New Zealand stopped and we didn't know what happened to Zoe. It's 27 years since my dad died, and also the last time that I spoke to Uncle Duncan.  Such a coincidence that my ex-husband has just been in Hong Kong and picked up your link. 

regards, Marion (Macpherson)

Dear Marion - and Jenn

How very nice to meet you!  And how amazing - after all these years - we get such a linkage!  Uncle would be right chuffed!  I was particularly close to D & D - kind of like a daughter, particularly as I was the oldest of Doris' six nieces, & nephews,  (as they had no children of their own) - and I often stayed with them.  I was extremely fond of Uncle Duncan - (he was really the only uncle I knew!) amongst many things he taught me to drive and more than anyone else encouraged my passion for art (which has taken me, workwise, to places I would never have dreamed of). I remember him talking a lot about 'George" and 'Jimmy' - and of course I wish now I had paid more attention!

Through this website Malcolm Teale & Elma who live in Victoria, Australia -(daughter of Duncan's brother Johnny) - and I stumbled on to each other - and have since exchanged several emails - and I have sent them some photos of Duncan.  Elma and Malcolm are visiting NZ early next year and we plan to meet up. 

About the same time I connected - through another website (Rootschat) - with Julie Seegan who lives in Glasgow - she too was doing a search for Duncan when I 'found' her.  Her grandmother Helen and Elma are sisters.

You will have read above a lot of the detail I have supplied regarding Duncan, but if you would like to send David (Gwulo site owner) your email - I'm sure he will pass it on to me, then we can communicate a little more privately.

Kind regards,

Suziepie

 

Hi Marion,

I am the Julie that Suziepie mentioned, Helen's Granddaughter. I've no idea if you'll get this message as it's been so long. I have been doing the family tree for a few years now.

My Great-Grandad, John Arthur MacPherson, wasn't a policeman. He had a limp after hurting his foot when he was young. He died after working with chemicals in the aluminum smelter.

There was an Aunt Elma who died young. I will dig out the copy of the certificate, but I'm sure it was around Glen Orchy. If you get this it would be amazing to hear from you. My Nana has lots of photos of her MacPherson relatives that came from my Gr-Granny's house after she passed away, perhaps you may be able to help identify people as only some of them have names on the back.

I lost all of my email contacts last year. I had forgotten that I first spoke to Suziepie through Rootschat, I'm off to send a message to her there in the hope of re-establishing contact.

Julie x

Hi Julie

Really nice to hear from you again! Don't bother going to Rootschat.  I'm not visting that site currently.  David Bellis saw your message and he let me know you were trying to contact me. He will be able to give you my email address so we can communicate directly - so please don't hesitate to ask him.

I'm sorry to hear you had computer problems and lost all your contacts.  I did try to get in touch with you but of course never heard back - and actually never heard back from Marion either, who as you will see last contacted me thru this site a year ago. 

Elma and Malcolm did visit New Zealand early this year - in February - and we met up.  It was really nice to actually meet a niece of my Uncle.  Elma and Malcolm were on a cruise ship and we collected them and took them for a tour around Auckland.  I had some old films that Duncan had made and gave Elma the Scottish reels -  between us we've been able to save whats left and put on to DVD. 

Kind regards

Suziepie

Hello Geoffrey

Apologies for taking so long to get back to you.  Early this year I did locate some old photos and a big box of slides but sorry nothing that I could relate to you. 

Kind regards,

Suziepie

Retiring governor Sir Mark Young, at a farewell parade of the HK Police, gave a brief description of the circumstances that led to the award of the King's Police Medal for gallantry:

Many acts of great bravery were then ((during the 1941 hostilities)) performed. I single out for special mention the fine expolit of Sergeant (now Sub Inspector) D. G. Macpherson and Sub Inspector Wong Ngai-him who volunteered to rescue villagers in the Sha Tin area who were being used by the enemy as a screen for their advance.

The attempt was made twice under heavy fire and on the second occasion it was completely successful.

Over 100 villagers were safely brought back through the enemy lines. The coyrage and coolness displayed by these two members of the police force were beyond praise.

 

Wong Ngai-him was awarded the BEM.

 

Source:

China Mail, April 17, 1947, page 2

Hello Brian

Thank you so much for supplying this bit of information.  We had wondered what our Uncle was exactly awarded the Kings Medal for. Not that he had not told us about it, the opposite, he spoke often of his many exploits, so much so that one tended to lose track, so in later years, after he passed on, when one begins to think of such things, I wondered exactly what the Award was for.

So thank you for this, much appreciated.

Suziepie

Hi:  Here's a bit more for you from Police War Diary:  At request of GSO1  Sgt McPherson, Cantonese Sub Inspector Wong Hi Man and a Cantonese PC after consultation with Officer commanding 5t Rajputs made their way  through British lines  in an attempt to evacuate  villagers from Tai Wai  in Shatin district. A sudden enemy advance presented this. Sgt. MacPherson (A136) and Cantonese Sub Inspector Wong Hi Man and a Cantonese PC made second and successful attempt to evacuate villagers from Sha Tin Village, this time proceeding via Sha Tin Pass. The officer commanding Rajputs  had informed Sgt Macpherson  the  previous night that he would find  a large number of villagers in no mans land beyond Po Shek Village and in Sha Tin Walled Village. The Japanese had collected these villagers and herded them together with the intention of using them as as a screen during forthcoming fighting and also to set off the land mines. The party reached Sha Tin Gap at about 4am  and passed through the British lines at about 0600hrs. They had to crawl within 20 yards of a Japanese MG post and then past it to Sha Tin Walled Village where they managed to warn about 460 Chinese from various New Territories villages, including ARP Personnel to evacuate immediately. At about 0800 the Police party started the villagers on their way. Almost immediately the Japanese opened fire with machine guns and a panic ensued. The Chinese scattered  setting off land mines. Sgt MacPherson  and the Cantonese Sub Inspector  who were guiding the villagers on the correct path  t avoid the land mines had to return to prevent some villagers crossing a mined bridge which they guarded until this danger was passed. The Cantonese PC  tried to run away but was held by the Cantonese Sub Inspector  at the point of his revolver. Under heavy fire  Sgt MacPherson  and the Sub Inspector managed to bring back with then 125 terrified villagers , men, women and children , across no mans land and back through British lines.  Best Regards, Philip Cracknell

Thank you Phil for this bigger insight into the incident. I'm getting a really good picture now.

Kind regards,

Suziepie

Hello Suzipie,

i have only just discovered this site by chance (2016) - so I hope you are still connected.

My wife and I were immediate neighbours to Duncan and Zoe in Remuera. I knew that they had gone down to Tauranga but I am afraid we rather lost touch (young children Etc).

Duncan was such a character and I remember him very fondly indeed.

I remember that when we first bought our house Duncan and Zoe asked us up for drinks. So, we accepted and had a wonderful evening!

They had made us ham and mustard sandwiches (which were turning up slightly at the edges) and Duncan  served me with several enormous glasses of Whisky. I got so sozzled that when we went home the walls were positively swaying. This was not helped by the fact that we had not redecorated our house and it still had gold wallpaper covered with naked ladies!

Our small children found the biscuits interesting as they frothed slightly when they were fed to Duncan's goldfish. Needless to say, as we had not met Duncan before, we hadn't realised he had fish. For some inexplicable reason Duncan's fish died!

I also loved his oil painting of the stag sitting on top of a very pointy mountain!

We became very good friends over the years so I am delighted that you have preserved a little bit of his memory.

Regards Nick T

 

 

Thank you Nick T for your shared memories.  

Duncan and Doris-Zoe lived many years in Remuera.  They moved to Tauranga mainly because of Duncan's heart ;problems- to be near the wider family and less busy roads. Yes - you could say he was something of a character - for most of his life he loved to smoke a pipe and in his latter years he took up oil painting - having a lean-too at the back of the house especially for that.  Scottish highlands and stags featured a lot. He would paint a painting over another painting over another painting - so sometimes they could end up quite thick with paint!   I am an artist and he bought me my first 'proper' set of oils, brushes etc and got me my first commission. He encouraged me more than anyone else and I miss him a lot.  He had a goldfish pond for many years - it was often attacked by kingfishers.  

Kind regards,

Suziepie

Suziepie, 

I am a historian of the British Empire and I'm really interested in writing about your uncle Duncan George MacPherson's life in both Hong Kong and Kenya as part of my dissertation. I found his story in the archives this summer and was drawn in by the way he actively tried to intervine against the injustices that went on in Kenya. I was hoping for a chance to talk with you about his life and to see if he left any personal writing behind that I might be able to look at as part of my research. If you'd be willing, could you possibly email me at katyam [at sign] u.northwestern[dot]edu?

Thank you so much!

Best,

Katya

A message for Katya,

Hello Katya,

I see you are intending to write about Duncan MacPherson. When you have finished your research I wonder if you would put something on this site to say that your research has been completed; and how we could obtain a copy.

My wife and I lived next door to Duncan and Zoe in Remuera for several years (we shared the same very long driveway) and I would be fascinated to hear more about him. He was a real personality!

Regards,

Nick T

 

Hello Katya

Thank you for your message. I don't mind talking to you.  I will email you directly  - though you should be able to find quite a bit on this site that I have entered myself about Duncan MacPherson.

Kind regards

Suziepie

 

 

 

 

Hello Nick T

If you lived next door to the MacPherson's then you must have met me at some time.  I was a regular visitor all the time they lived there. As the oldest niece in NZ I had a lot to do with my Uncle - (Duncan and Doris had no children -  thus my siblings and myself filled that gap in their lives.) As I mentioned to Katya above, I have already put a lot about my Uncle on this site.

Kind regards,

Suziepie

 

Hello Suziepie,

We may very well have met, but it is a long time ago now. If one turned hard right at the junction in the ROW, just before one started to go up the hill again to your uncle's house, you would have arrived at 4a where we lived.

After Duncan and Zoe left their house was bought by a Developer; who also bought another nearby property. This allowed the Developer proper driveway access and he was able to build several houses on your uncle's land. This caused a major rucus and ruined the area for us. We too sold and moved.

i remember your uncle very fondly and I always remember how someone broke into their house one night and was creeping about. Duncan expressed how he was a wee bit concerned that Zoe was on the prowl again but he was absolutely outraged next morning to find that his whisky had been taken. He described this event in such a colourful manner that I have never forgotten the story!

i am not at all surprised that your Uncle won awards for bravery. I was in the ROW chatting to him one day when another neighbour turned up to see what was going on. Duncan did not like this man one bit and he told him to depart in no uncertain terms. It made me positively quake and I was not even the recipient! 

Do you remember the stacks of canned foods that they stored? I always thought that this must have been a hangover from their days in the prisoner of war camp.

An absolutely lovely couple.

Regards,

Nick T

Hi, my name is Cherie Hill, daughter of Roy Howlin, granddaughter of Janet Fraser Howlin née Macpherson. ( Duncan's sister ).  Dads brother Ian Anthony Howlin known as Tony, died on parade in the army, he was also a police officer in South Australia. I took dad back to the U.K. And visited Marion at a Hotel . Look forward to hearing more history, and would be happy to pass on more info from this end.