John Johnston BLAKE [c.1870-1925] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

John Johnston BLAKE [c.1870-1925]

John Johnston
c.1870-01-01 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)
Birthplace (country): 

J.J. Blake is mentioned in the article on the Happy Valley Racecourse fire of 1918 recently posted by David, as the business partner of John Olson (1884-1951) and my grandfather Charles Edward Warren (1872-1923).

In the 1904 South China Directory entry for C.E. Warren & Co. only C.E. Warren, J. Olson and F.X. Souza, overseer, are listed. The 1904-6 volume of the South China Directory is the only one held in the UK and is quoted in the unpublished document, The Warren Family History by Evelyn Warren's son, Brian Lewis. Later articles in the press still quote John Olson as the only other partner in C.E. Warren & Co..

It is possible that another company existed with John Olson, Charles Warren and J.J. Blake as partners. It would be necessary to consult the South China Directory for 1918.

John Johnston Blake (possibly Imperial Maritime Customs) is given on a Carl Smith card that I have not yet ordered. He may be the son of John Albert Blake of the Taikoo Sugar Refinery, continuously mentioned on Jury lists from 1884 onwards. It would certainly be interesting to have more information about J.J. Blake, if available in Hong Kong archives.



Photos that show this person


The China Mail names Blake as the person who purchased the three matsheads on behalf of his partners Olson and Warren in that order. This is stated in the report of the last day of the inquiry into the fire at Happy Valley. They were known as the Unity sheds. It is unlikely Blake had anything to do with C.E Warren and Co as he appears nowhere else. Not even in Jury Lists though there are Blakes mentioned down the years associated with the sugar works. I know that Olson had various interests in HK other than that of the Warren outfit and suspect the matshead ownership was just one of them. When he left HK and retired to the UK in 1923 he left his brother Charles in charge. But Charles made a poor hand of it to put it kindly and Olson ha to go out in 1926 to sort things out in HK and Singapore where he had other interests. I suspect Blake was one of many business associates. It would be interesting to know whether Blake was a resident of HK. Sean

This entry on is for a John Johnston Blake, and says that he married a lady who was born in Hong Kong:

Regards, David

The spellings of the names below change, but I think they're all the same person. Not 100% sure though.

The oldest mention on Gwulo is the record of a marriage of "Y. John Blake" to "Mary Lyons" at the Catholic Cathedral on 2nd Oct 1893. The spelling is different from the names he used earlier. Possibly he changed his name, or it may be a transcription error as the record is a copy made in 1957. His age is given as 23, so he was born c.1870.

Then to the Jurors Lists. The oldest one we've transcribed is 1894, which has the entry:

c Blake John Johnston Assistant Carmichael & Co., Limited     Praya Central

No change in 1895, but in 1896 he's been promoted to Timekeeper. In 1897 he moves to the Taikoo Sugar Refinery:

c Blake John Johnston Assistant Taikoo Sugar Refinery       Quarry Bay

In 1898 he's changed to be a Timekeeper again, and also changed the spelling of his name:

c Blake John Johnstone Timekeeper Taikoo Sugar Refinery       Quarry Bay

Then he disappears from the Juror Lists - no sign of him in 1899 or 1900. He next appears on a birth certificate for his son, Charles Henry, in 1900

That gives his name as "John Johnson Blake", ie no "t". His occupation is "Expense Store Account Officer Army Service Corps." The mother is "Mary Blake nee Lyons", ie the same person shown in the 1893 marriage, which is why I think all these different spellings are for the same J J Blake.

The next mention I see is on page 1123 of the the 1912 edition of the The Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits ...

He's listed as "J. J. Blake" under "ARMY SERVICE CORPS" in the "MILITARY" section for Hong Kong, but he's under a sub-section titled "Civil Establishment" with job title "Store Accountant". So it doesn't look as though he'd joined the Army, but was just working for them as a civilian. The move from Timekeeper to Store Accountant seems like a straightforward one.

Other copies of the Directory & Chronicle should show when he left the ASC, but the next mention we have is his partnership with Olson and Warren in the Unity Sheds business at Happy Valley in 1918. That's as far as I've got - corrections & additions welcome.

There were obviously two John Blakes, probably related, one of whom worked longer at the Taikoo Sugar Refinery than the other. Carl Smith lists 1884-1902 as the years when John Blake 1 worked at the Taikoo Sugar Refinery at Quarry Bay, eventually becoming Chief Engineer in 1898. According to the Jury Lists, John Johnston(e) Blake only joined the Taiko Sugar Refinery in 1897.  It doesn’t help that the two John Blakes both married Marias. According to Carl Smith Maria Blake snr. was godmother to Maria Margarita Blake, born 13 November 1896, daughter of John Johnston and Maria Blake jnr. (née Lyons), which made three Maria Blakes.

If gives John Johnston Blake as being born in Scotland as well as dying  there in 1925, should we not enter that in the Gwulo information?

Daily Press 25 June, 1908 reported that Jane, mother of J.J. Blake died on 10 May at Dundee, Scotland aged 64 years and that William Charles Blake, late Imperial Maritime Customs and dearly beloved brother of J.J. Blake died on 17 May (apparently the same year), at Sekondi, West Coast of Africa. (Carl Smith record).

J.J. Blake was two years older than my grandfather, C.E. Warren, and fourteen years older than John Olson jnr. Age-wise, he was the senior partner in the Unity Stand, which is perhaps why it was also known as the Blake Stand. Why the three men joined forces in this investment, I don’t know. Although there was a big age difference, Maria (Mary) Blake and Annie Burke Moore who married John Olson jnr. would have had a common bond from their upbringing at the Italian Convent, but there may well have been a longstanding friendship between the two families.

Perhaps Allan Proulx has found more information about the family since he was last in touch?

I've added dates from the note on

John Johnston Blake
Found 10 Records, 10 Photos and 1,835,511 Family Trees
Born in Scotland on 1870. John Johnston married Mary Magdalene Lyon and had a child. He passed away on 5 Aug 1925 in Scotland.

A small point.

I am not sure an earlier post regarding my grandmother Annie Louisa Moore Burke regarding the Itlian Covent is correct. Some facts  pointed that way many years ago. However, I could not stand it it up. Add this to the fact that she married in Kowloon at St Joseph's Church - I have the certificate - and her husband was already living on Caine Road where the Italian Convent was situated and things become a little strange. She was just 17 years old and, had she been in the care of the Italian Convent, it seems more likely she would jave married on the island and not the mainland. 

It would also have been nice to have here name given correctly.

She was Annie Louisa Moore Burke. This because her mother married first a James Moore of Dublin and when he died an Edward Burke said to have come from Foochow. She and her sister Clara styled themselves Moore Burke and their brother was always known as Patrick Moore.

Finally, I was told by the Hong Kong Jockey club many moons ago that the terrible events of the 1918 fire happened at the Unity stands. No mention of Blake stands was made. 

I have a copy of a birth certificate with the following entries:

Name: Charles Henry Blake;  Birth: Seventh April 1900; Father: John Johnson Blake; Rank: Expense Store Accountant Officer Army Service Corps; Mother: Mary Blake née Lyons

I have a copy of Certificate of Marriage with the following entries:

Date: 2nd October 1893 at the Catholic Cathedral; Y. John Blake: Age 23. Mary Lyons Age 22:; Witness: R. Lerr and M. Boyd; Minister: Father L. Piazzoli

Harry Blake died in Australia in March 1966, sometime before the twenty second.

Is this all the same thread?





Hi Bob,

I assume this is the same thread.

My post was just correcting some innaccurate names and possible information in an earlier post in this thread.

Your information on Mr Blake seems without doubt to show that the John Blake you have documentation concerning  was a partner with my grandfather, John Olson, in the three matsheds that burned on HK Derby Day 1918 with great loss of life.

Whether they had other business dealings I have no idea. Hope this helps.

Henry Ching writes:

the staff lists on the Bristol University Chinese Maritime Customs Project website show a J.J.Blake joined the Customs Service in May, 1891 and resigned in May, 1893.

The list also shows that JJ Blake joined and left the CMC in Kowloon, so I think he's the same man we're talking about. Leaving the Customs in May 1893 ties in with getting married in October that year and showing up in the 1894 Juros List working at Carmichael & Co., Limited.

Henry Ching also notes there are several other men in the CMC staff lists with the surname Blake, though it's not clear if any are related to JJ Blake.

Apologies to Sean for the error in getting Annie Louisa Moore Burke’s maiden name the wrong way round. Thanks for the correction. If my father referred to her, it was simply as “Aunt Annie”.

I don’t know what address, if any, is on Annie Louisa’s marriage certificate. The marriage certificate of her niece, Iris Warnes, who was 28 at the time of her marriage in 1934 still gives the Italian Convent, Caine Road, where she and her sister were educated, as her “Place of Residence”, although, according to the current archivist, this may not necessarily have been the case. It’s not relevant to this thread, but it’s interesting to note that the convent was careful to prepare its charges for the world outside, at least by the time Annie's and John Olson's nieces left it (as qualified stenographers). The results of their shorthand exams were published in the press. (See SCMP April 23 1924 p. 2).

I’ve now checked the China Mail’s report on the Fifth Day of the Inquiry into the Race Course Tragedy, dated 12 March, 1918, which was probably where my recollection of a reference to “the Blake stand” came from. Sheds 4,5 and 6 were called “the Unity Stand”, as J. J. Blake said in his statement. However three witnesses on the Fifth Day of the Inquiry referred to it as “Mr Blake’s stand”, so perhaps it was popularly called that.

John Johnston Blake  and William Charles Blake were brothers  of my grandmother Williamina Blake (called by her as Willy and Jack).  There were 13 total siblings by Jane Margaret ( Evans) Blake and William George Blake .  She left photograph portraits of Willy and Jack together and of Jack alone and with his family that were taken in Hong Kong.   William Charles Blake first appears on a register of apprentices' indentures (10/5/1880) as a 16 year old. Later received a certificate of competency, 1st mate 4/8/1908 on a Liverpool foreign going steamship (cert no. 004.509).  His death on 17 June 1908 was in the colonial hospital, Sekondi, Western Ghana, Ghana due to apparent shipboard injuries (merchant ship Sapele).  His injuries included a fractured pelvis and laceration of bladder.  He was 2nd mate.

John Johnston Blake statutory register of death  April 18, 1926  describes him as a retired sea captain and Hotel prefector. He died of neck (throat) cancer.

Thanks for the extra information & photos. I've added pages for William Charles and Williamina.

Select Births and Baptisms Scotland

John Johnston Blake born 4 June 1870 - son of William George Blake and Jane Margaret Evans

Passenger list 1923 Hong Kong to London 

John J Blake age 54 retired address in UK 59 Cowgate Dundee Scotland



Could I ask gharcourtrobertson if G.J. Blake was a relative of John Johnston Blake? - a son or a nephew? A Mr G.J. Blake is recorded among the followers of the funeral of my grandfather, Charles E. Warren in his SCMP obituary of 11 June 1923. I recall that a Blake is recorded in one of the China Directory staff lists of C.E. Warren & Co. but I can't find that record at the moment. In the obituary G.J. Blake is listed next to P.M. Xavier who was on the staff of C.E. Warren & Co. for many years. Any information about G.J. would be welcome.