Robert Barr BELL (aka Bertie) [1905-1978] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Robert Barr BELL (aka Bertie) [1905-1978]

Robert Barr
Alias / nickname: 

Im trying to find out more information on Bertie Bell (Robert Barr Bell) the Manager of whom Dick spoke. We remember his wife as Mamie, but have no info as to her real name or birth details. Im also interested to find out if Roberts father William may also have worked at Taikoo - there is a Willian D bell on the Jurors lists - I believe Roberts father was William D Bell. Family history mysteries! Hoping you can help in some way.

Most sincerely,

Anne Stevens


Hi Anne,

I've sent a message to Dick with your question.

I also recommend you check our "How to research people who lived in Hong Kong" article, to see if any of those sources give you more information.

Regards, David

Many thanks David - I have okd pics of balls in HK with him and wife with my Aunt Iris Wallace who used to visit them frequently

much appreciate the assistance

Anne, Here is Dick's reply:

Bertie Bell was the manager of Taikoo Dockyard, if my memory serves me correctly, after Mr Finnie (first one after the war and possibly the one who was manager when war broke out).

Bertie was indeed the son of a former Taikoo Dockyard employee (a fairly senior one if I recall) and had been brought up in Hong Kong having lived in either in Stanley Terrace or Kornhill (manager's quarters). I remember him telling me that he had ridden in the cable cars up to the gap before the war when the families moved up there to escape the heat.

Surely Swire's archivists could help you with dates etc and Mamie's other details.

Dick mentions the Swire's Archives as a good source of information. You might also try Taikoo and Kowloon Dock Families on facebook.

If you can share any photos of old Hong Kong, we'd love to see them. (Click here for instructions how to upload a photo).

Regards, David

I am very grateful! Thank you so much - we will keep digging!


Tony Banham notes Bertie Bell is buried in the Happy Valley Cemetery. The inscription is in Patricia Lim's notes:

18---/02/02-S.SJT/ R.S. Bell/ Hong Kong/ Volunteer Defence Corps/ 26th December 1941/ In loving remembrance/ your adored family

I'm not sure why the initials are given as R S, not R B. [UPDATE: As shown in the comments below, they are two different Mr Bell's.] 

Tony also notes a transcription error, the inscription actually ends "your adopted family".

The Bell who was killed by the Japanese near Woodside in Dec 1941 is different to the R.B. (Bertie) Bell who succeeded Finnie as the pre- and post-war Taikoo Dockyard Manager. Bertie Bell retired to Scotland in the late 1950s. There were still Chinese launch crew around in the 50s who remembered Bertie as a "naughty Boy" on launch trips to School - probably Central British School (CBS) -in his youth, when his father was also a Taikoo Dockyard employee.

Geoff Wellstead, Sydney

Thanks Geoff, my mistake. I also had a correction from Dick Worrall:

The Mr Bell that Tony is referring to is not the Bertie Bell that was the manager of Taikoo Dockyard when I was a lad and my Old Man was working for them. That Bertie took over the managership from Mr Finnie (who was in the camp) and he later handed over the reigns of the dockyard to Jimmy Cassels (sometime in the late fifties/very early sixties). I remember him well -  always wore raw silk shirts with his suits. As you are already aware, Bertie had been brought up in HK as his father had also worked for Swires (Taikoo). Bertie was the only living person that I ever met who had travelled in the cable-car up to the firm's summer quarters up in the gap. It is possible, I suppose, that the chap in the HK Cemetary could be Bertie's father.

Hello Anne,

My brother saw your message on the internet and we thought we'd send you an email.  I am Bertie and Maimie's grandaughter, she was called Mary Lang Bell, nee Wallace.  Bertie's father and one of his brothers were called William.  What would you like to know?  This is my second attempt at sending this message, so hopefully you get it!

Kind regards

Julia, London, UK

It was lovely reading the comments in the above messages about Bertie, I have heard he was great fun and love the comment on him being a "naughty boy" and going on the cable car.

Julia, London, UK

Hi Julia,

Please could you let us know Bertie's dates of birth & death, and I'll add those in.

Also, were any of the family interned here during the Japanese occupation?

Regards, David

Thanks for perservering Julia!

Id love to know who Mamies father was, and her dates! My aunt Iris Wallace visited her in Homg Kong regularly - and we have just unearthed an old film taken in 1953 in Bath by my dad Arthur Wallace (bro of Iris -95 and still going strong) of Bertie and Mamie visiting us while we lived there (I was 3!)

Wonderful to get closer to solving my mystery of how they are related to us!

Still a mystery where the Bell in Frederick Augustus Bell Wallace - my gggrandfather- comes from!

my email is if you wish to email me 

dad is very excited by your message!!!!

many, many thanks again

Anne Stevens (nee Wallace)

 Hi David,

It's a lovely and very interesting website you've set up. 

Bertie's date of death was 18th March 1978.  When I get a chance I'll check out when he was born, the information is at my mum's house.

Mamie (Mary Lang Bell, nee Wallace)'s father, Robert C Wallace (died 28th April 1954, aged 68) was also interned by the Japanese in the same camp as Bertie, but I will need to find out which camp they were in (again the information is at my mum's home).

It there's anything else you'd like to know just ask!  I'll get back to you with dates of birth when I find them!

Best wishes, Julia

Hi Julia,

Glad to hear you're enjoying the site.

Thanks for your help with the extra info. I've also made a page for Mamie. Please do you know where she spent the war years?

It would be great to see a photo of them, and any photos of old Hong Kong will be of interest. Here's how to add a photo:

Regards, David

Hi David,

Mamie spent the war years in Sydney, Australia, with her mother, Mary Wallace nee McMillan and her son Robert Gordon Bell. Mamie died on 31st July 1998. 

I'll try and find out about the other relatives who lived in Hong Kong when I get a chance.

Thanks, Julia

Hi again,

I have a little more information:

Robert Barr Bell (Bertie) was born on 18th January 1905 and died on 18th March 1978.

Mary Lang Bell, nee Wallace was born on 6th March 1909 and died on 31st July 1998.

I believe that both Bertie's parents lived in Hong Kong, William Denny Bell (who I think is on your website) died 4th May 1950. His wife was Isabella Campbell Bell, nee Barr.  She died 20th February 1926.

I also believe that Mamie's parents both lived in Hong Kong, Robert Cooper Wallace died 28th April 1954 and his wife Mary McMillan died 11th April 1956.

I believe that Bertie and Robert Cooper Wallace were interned in 3 camps by the Japanese:  Amoy, Shanghai and Peking.

I'll keep looking for more information and upload some photos when I get a chance.

Thanks Julia