Pre School Years in Hong Kong
I think it was in the Autumn of 1917 that Mamma joined the
staff of Shewan, Tomes and Co., the mercantile firm in Chater Road, as an accountant. We left Kowloon, and Mamma went to
live at the Helena May Institute, ladies' club in Garden Road,
while Audrey and I became boarders at the Italian Convent in
Caine Road *.
My only memories of this school are unhappy ones. The nuns
wore ugly black and brown habits, with little black caps. One of
them died, and we all had to go into the Chapel and file past
her coffin, where she lay in state surrounded by flowers. I was
frightened by this, but not more so than by one of the older girls
who used to torment me by staring at me with piercing eyes.
Finally Audrey and I both caught measles. Mamma came and took us
away in an ambulance to the Victoria Hospital in Barker Road.
She was furious with the nuns, and blamed them for our illness. Needless to say we never saw the Italian Convent again.
My measles turned into a mastoid abscess of the ear. I remember
the pain and the horrible chloroform I was given before an
operation by Dr. Kenelm Digby. I was in the Victoria Hospital for
weeks, wearing a bandage around my head.
There are two vivid memories of my time in the Victoria Hospital.
The first was of being given "Alice in Wonderland" by Mamma,
and of my delight in reading for the first time this glorious story
of Alice's adventures with all the creatures. I still have this book
and in it are written the words "bandage" and "morning". I was
making sure of the spelling before writing to Mamma that my bandage had been taken off that morning!
The other memory is of Sundays, when the ward was transformed
into a Church. After breakfast white cloths were put on the bedside
tables with hymn and prayer books, and a large table with a white cloth was brought in to the middle of the ward for an altar, and a
harmonium for the hymn music. There was a long time to wait before
the Service began, and I spent it reading the hymns from beginning
to end. I loved them and learnt a lot from them.
In later years, because of my ears, I was a patient again in the
Victoria Hospital, and also in the Matilda Hospital. The Victoria looked
down on the city of Victoria and the beautiful harbour to
Kowloon and the hills of the New Territories. The Matilda, on the other side of the Island, looked over countless islands in a sparkling blue sea.
Our first home in Hong Kong was an Army flat in Kennedy Road, with
the dull address of "No. 6 B. Block". We had an Australian friend
there called Lulu Wilson, with a horrible little brother Jackie, who used
to shock us by swearing! We moved away from there to a flat in
Kennedy Road, not far from the Union Church and the Peak tram
station. Kennedy Road, like the roads above it, skirted the Peak, and
was tree shaded and very pretty. On the hill side were wild flowers and ferns, and little streams running down; and on the other side
was the ever fascinating view of the city of Victoria and the harbour,
seen through trees.
We used to walk to the Peak tram station in Garden Road to buy
sweets at the little shop there. The sweets were kept in large
glass jars and were sold by the piece, large toffees for one cent
each, and two smaller coconut sweets for one cent. "One cent one"
and "One cent two" as the Chinese sweet-seller used to say. This
was our first shopping ever on our own.
Not far from us on Kennedy Road lived some Japanese business
men. One of them Mr. Fukuchi was fond of children, and we
made friends with him. We were photographed with him outside his house and at Christmas time he gave us a book of Japanese fairy tales.
On Sundays Mamma, Audrey and I walked to St. John's Cathedral
to attend Matins. I loved the ceremonial of the clergy and
choir processing down the Aisle singing, the grand organ music
and the beautiful psalms and hymns, but was bored by the long
dull sermons of the Reverend Mr. Copley Moyle.
In the summer time waving punkahs kept us cool inside the
Cathedral. These punkahs were made of a thick cotton material with
a wide frill and looked rather like curtains. They hung from the rafters
and attached to them were ropes going through the windows. Outside each window sat a Chinese boy with the rope tied to his toe,
Sometimes Audrey and I would go to the Union Church instead.
It was a great contrast to the Cathedral, here everything was
plain and simple, a bare altar, no trimmings or decorations of any
sort, but good hymns. The Reverend Mr. Maconachie was the Pastor.
His wife wrote the poems "Rosemary leaves from a Hong Kong garden".