Doris Emily Elizabeth MACPHERSON (née BROOKS, aka Zoe) [1913-2000] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Doris Emily Elizabeth MACPHERSON (née BROOKS, aka Zoe) [1913-2000]

Doris Emily Elizabeth
Alias / nickname: 
Birthplace (town, state): 
Birthplace (country): 
Cause of death: 
complications of old age

Doris Emily Elizabeth MacPherson (nee Brooks), was interned in Stanley Prison Camp by the Japanese. She married Lance-Sergeant Duncan MacPherson of the Hong Kong Police in Stanley prison camp on 9 June 1943. 

Doris was the daughter of Henry Tom Brooks who was appointed Superintendent of the Hong Kong Fire Brigade in 1922. She was 9 years old when she arrived in HK from London with her father, brother Roland, and mother Emily.

Initially the Brooks family lived at the Kowloon Fire Station and then moved in 1926 to the Central Fire Station in Des Voeux Road. Although war records list Doris as 'a nurse', she worked as a stenographer prior to the war.  Unfortunately she ignored her brother's advice to board the evacuation ship taking the women and children to Australia and was consequently interned by the Japanese for the duration of the war.

Post-war Duncan was a police officer in the CID and a Commissioner when he was transferred to Kenya in 1954, at the time of the Mau Mau uprising. Doris moved with her husband to Kenya and then to New Zealand in 1957, where they lived near her brother Roland Henry John Brooks (Ron) and his family, who had arrived a few years prior from Hong Kong.  The MacPherson's had no children.  However, Doris, my aunt had a close bond with her brother's six children. She died in Tauranga, New Zealand, in 2000.



Photos that show this person



Suziepie -- Henry Brooks occupies the last few pages of the epilogue in my book The Great Fire of Hong Kong. If you're overseas, I can send you a PDF of the book by email, free of charge.

Hi Suziepie,

Just a note to tell you that I remember Doris and Duncan MacPherson very well, they were great friends of my parents and as children we used to call them "Auntie Doris and Uncle Duncan" even though we were not related!  I have quite a few photos of them at social functions with my parents.  Doris used to write to me when I was at boarding school in England and I kept in touch after I was married; we visited them in New Zealand in the 1980's.  I still have a police baton which Duncan gave me when he retired from the HK Police - and I remember stories my parents told us about him in Kenya during the time of the Mau Mau rebellion.


Hello Adam

Thank you - that is very kind of you. Yes, I would be very interested to read the epilogue in your book about The Great Fire of Hong Kong.  I never imagined my grandfather would have featured in anyone's book. So that is a surprise.  I will notify David to forward you my email address - I live in New Zealand. Where are you? 

You will see that I have now set up a person post for Henry.

Kind regards,


You're welcome. To answer your question, I'm in Hong Kong. I also have a selection of newpaper pages featuring your grandfather's work in, and departure from, HK (the latter was front page news). I can send you those too when I get your email address. It's nice to 'meet' a descendant of someone in the book, though you're not the first!


Hello Alison

How lovely to meet you here - your name definitely rings a bell. If you visited D & D often in HK you must have met up with me at some time? As  I often stayed with them and was treated like a daughter by my aunt, who had no children - and so doted on me. (Lucky me!) 

You say you met them again 'when you visited NZ in the 1980s' - early in 1985 they moved from Auckland to Tauranga (200kms from Auckland) where they eventually both died.  So, did you visit them in Auckland, or Tauranga? and where are you now - in HK?



Suzie: I see that there was also listed on Stanley Camp lists an Eric Sydney Brooks and Ellen Brooks are they related to Dorris and Emily ? There is also an Edward Stanley listed on the Camp list ?   Best rgds,  Phil Cracknell

Doris Brooks and her mother lived in a room in the same corridor as my family and I in Stanley, so we saw them every day.  I remember Doris getting married to D.M.  Some contact in town sent them in a small wedding cake in a round biscuit tin, which Doris afterwards used as a treasured wash basin.

[Admin: This comment has been moved to the thread for Duncan MacPherson]

Hello Suziepie,

We probably did meet at some time - I do remember "Aunty Doris" telling us she had a niece who was like a daughter to her.  Yes, we visited often as my parents were great friends of theirs.  I have photos of them on the ship when they had a farewell party - I could scan them and send them to you if you like.  Also of Duncan at our house on the Peak.

We visited D&D when they lived at Ladies Mile, Remuera - and that was in the early 80's - we had our two young children with us.  I remember them playing with the dogs - who were always a big part of Doris and Duncan's life!  By then Doris changed her name to Zoe but I have to confess I found it hard to call her that!

I now live in Australia but we manage to visit HK fairly often.  I still regard it as "home" as I spent my whole childhood there, then went to school in England before spending just one year at HK University.  Where are you?


Hello Phil

Thank you for drawing my attention to these other 'Brooks' (Eric, Ellen and Edward) who were also at Stanley camp, I had noticed the names, but no, they are no relation. Not connected in any way. 

(Though of course they could be very very distant - esp. if they came from the Dorset, Devon, Somerset region of England.)


Hello Barbara

That's amazing !  My Aunt often mentioned the wedding cake - made from a bit of this and bit of that, scrounged around!) Unfortunately that was one of the few things she did mention - Stanley camp was not one of her favourite topics.

So I would love to hear any stories you may remember of Doris and Emily during those days. And of course Duncan. It amazed me that they married in the prison camp.  - but I guess they had no idea how long they would be there. I have they wedding photo, with two Chinese witnesses. No bridesmaids, no wedding dress, none of that.  You must have known my father too, Ronnie Brooks?


Suzipie - It's possible we may have met!  My husband and I and our children made several sea journeys to UK and Australia going on Leave from Hong Kong.  I can;t now remember on which trip your Father his wife and then children were also on board; am I right in thinking that one of his children was called 'Devon'?


Hello Barbara

Yes - my younger brother is Devon (called after you know where!)

As I recall we left HK late 1955 on the ship ss Chang Sha for Oz. (But as we also went on a prior trip To Oz about 2-3 years before, when Dad took 'Leave', it could be the name of that ship.)  Anyway, I was sure it was called Chang Sha, but it may have been something similar as I have read that the Chang Sha was scuttled long before that. So now I wonder?

My Dad's Mum, Emily, came with us when we left HK - so do you remember her being on board the ship? 



The voyage when our families might have met could possibly have been in  1952, when my husband Frank and I and 3 children (Patrick aged 3, Kerry 20 months and Frances 4 months) went on leave from HK to Oz.  About Feb/March we sailed first on a lovely Blue Funnel ship the 'Peleus', to Singapore; then transhipped to a much smaller (and inferior) Blue Funnel ship the 'Charon' to Fremantle as we were to spend our leave in Perth.   Later we went  by train to Sydney where Frank's parents lived, eventually returning from Sydney to Hong Kong about October on the 'Changsha' which then was almost new and a lovely ship; perhaps it was on this return voyage we met up with your family?    I knew your Dad by sight, but I can't recall your grandma, but as you can imagine, both Frank and I were totally occupied looking after our children (always afraid of losing one overboard) so didn't socialise much.   I remember your family mainly in the dining saloon!


Hello Barbara

Now that I've seen the website David put on featuring the Changsha I can recall the look of the ship, the big black funnel and the lounge.  You probably remember my little brother Devon because he was only 3 in 1952 - the same age as your Patrick - and they probably played together!

When we left HK in late 1955 we hit a typhoon about 2-3 days out - the ship was tossed like a cork in a bottle - the waves were huge; I watched through  port holes and could see mountainous waves coming, higher than the ship, and wondered if we would ever get over it!  They would hit the ship with a great bang and it would shudder with the impact. My brothers and I had 'fun' making our way down the corridors between the cabins - with arms outstretched we played a game of bouncing from wall to wall as the ship rolled.  Then Roy and Devon got sea sick - along with everyone else - and it left only Dad and I in the lounge - no one else - it was eerily quiet. Down the corridors you could hear the vomiting. It smelt a lot nicer in the lounge than in our cabin! - so we spent quite a bit of time there, maybe that why I remember it.  Though I was afraid of the monstrous waves I guess at that age I was not really aware of the danger we were in.  These days I would find such an experience horrific!


Hello Barbara,

As you knew my Aunt and Gran at Stanley Camp, and my father 'by sight' - did you also meet my father's good friends Zus (she was Dutch) and Leon Blumenthal who were also in the camp? I think Leon was an officer at the Stanley Prison - also post-war. They later moved to Australia.


Hi Suziepie,

I've made a page for Leon. You can see there are some references to him in R E Jones' diary.

Regards, David


I only knew Mr. Blumenthal by sight.  Your aunt Doris was such a pretty girl!

Incidentally, on two separate lists of internees, She is shown as a stenographer.


Hello Barbara

I have seen her listed on two listings as a 'nurse'.  (Perhaps the listings have been corrected as I have made mention that she was a stenographer (she was quite proud of her stonographer skills), and was never a nurse.) However, having said that, she DID list herself as a 'nurse' in 1940 to avoid being evacuated. Her brother Ron Brooks tried very hard to persuade her, and their mother Emily, to leave on the evacuation ship but Doris was so sure the Japanese would not invade HK! 

Did you also meet Norman Darkin?  [Admin: I've moved further discussion about Norman Darkin to its own page.]




Just had another memory of Doris and her Mum.  After the flour ration failed in camp, our kitchens used to make us bread out of ground rice flour.  Every one got one slice every day.  A family would be given a chunk equivalent to one slice each, to cut up themselves.  So Doris and her Mum got a 2-piece chunk.  In those days, every crumb counted; Mrs Brooks always brought their chunk  across the passage to my Mother to cut for them, to ensure exact halves! This wasn't unusual: in our family of 4, we took rigid turns having first choice.


Thank you Barbara for another tit-bit of information. You are phenomenal!  It is nice to build up a picture - such an important event in their lives, and yet how little did they tell us (though perhaps at that time we weren't listening - or maybe they thought we wouldn't be interested.)  But if only I could speak to them now!

Do you recall anything more about the wedding of Doris and Duncan? How many others attended? I get the feeling it was very private - just the witnesses.