Mabel Lilian Lowbridge MAY (née SHACKLETON) [1885-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Mabel Lilian Lowbridge MAY (née SHACKLETON) [1885-????]

Mabel Lilian Lowbridge
Birthplace (town, state): 
Middlesborough, Yorkshire
Birthplace (country): 

Mother of Arthur May.



Mrs May's name was Mabel and she was born on February 10th 1885 in Middlesborough, Yorkshire. She was a concert standard pianist and it is possible she was the first female pianist to be broadcast on RTHK (Ronald Taylor, The Arthur May Story, p. 4).

She was involved with the Hong Kong Theosophy group:

She and her husband, George, were allowed by the Japanese to remain in their home during the occupation as they were both infirm. The Union Flag that their son, Arthur, hoisted on the Peak on August 18th, 1945 had been hidden by Mrs May in a cushion cover.

I have not yet been able to ascertain her date of death.

Born 1885 Middlesborough. Birth registered June Quarter 1885 Middlesborough 

Married George William May 1906 North Riding Yorkshire


Mabel May (née Shackleton) died in Hong Kong 13 July 1981. Born in 1885, so she had a good innings and cannot have been "infirm" in 1941. 

Mabel claimed that she was Irish but, in fact, she had no Irish blood.  She also claimed that George was blind. He suffered from Glaucoma and lost the sight in one eye, but post war he certainly had sight (as confirmed by his grand daughter).  However, Mabel's claims kept them out of internment.  



Thank you for the date of death and for your other comments. Could you please give us your source for Mabel remaining uninterned because of a claim to Irishness?. Thanks.


Mabel's supposed Irish descent was told to me by one of his children about 20 years ago. I believe that Arthur may have also mentioned it to me at one time, which was well before I knew anything about his parents or what he had done in the early1940s. It was a good ruse which clearly worked as Mabel and George stayed out of internment.

Hear-say stories passed down a generation or two and then retold with no means now of any verification.  Such is history!


During a post-war trial, Joseph Carroll said that Arthur May and his parents were allowed to remain uninterned because they registered as Irish, but he added that Arthur denied it. 

I had previously assumed that Carroll was lying or mistaken because it seemed clear that Arthur May was allowed out because he carried out useful services (and also managed to attach himself to the Dairy Farm contingent). And Selwyn-Clarke stated that the elder Mays were allowed to remain 'free' because of infirmity.

However, Carroll added the detail that Mr and Mrs May regularly drew their rations from the Whiteway Building (the HQ of the Irish Committee) and this adds plausibility to his account as well as explaining something that had bothered me - as they clearly weren't working, how did they survive? The Committee, headed by Father Patrick Joy, managed to arrange for regular sums of money from the Irish Red Cross which were distributed amongst the community.

I think your evidence makes this the likely explanation, although, as you say, we can't be aboslutely sure.


Source: Hong Kong Sunday Herald, November 10th, 1946, p. 2.