A Long Commute, Morrison Hill Disappears, Seeing People Off, and Horses in Kai Tak

Submitted by fergusmacdermot on Thu, 06/19/2014 - 00:29

In the summer of 1932 we left Braemar Terrace and went to live in Kowloon. As we were going Home on leave in 1933, we did not take a flat but stayed at the Knutsford Hotel. It was a long journey for me in the mornings and evenings because H.E. and Lady Peel were in summer residence at Mountain Lodge. From the Knutsford Hotel, I travelled by bus to the Star Ferry, then by ferry across the harbour, by rickshaw to Battery Path, by chair to the Peak tram, tram up the Peak, and Governor's chair to Mountain Lodge. However, I was quite happy!


The Peak Tramway

The Mountain Lodge

Rickshaws, the Peak Tram and the Mountain Lodge.

Crossing the Harbour in the ferry took ten minutes. We sat out on the open deck, where there were rows of seats with adjustable backs, so that they always faced in the direction we were going. Who could fail to enjoy this pleasant way of travelling across the bustling, ever interesting harbour? In the evenings, going home, often there were gorgeous sunsets that lit up sky and sea.

Kowloon from HK in the day

Kowloon from HK in the night

Kowloon by day and night

The waterfront on the Hong Kong side was called the Praya - from the Portuguese. There was a series of Piers. . On one side of the Star Ferry Wharf was Queen's Pier, the official landing place at Statue Square; and on the other side was Blake Pier, where one hired a motor boat at night if one had missed the last ferry after a dance. These motor boats were called "Walla-wallas" for some unknown reason. Beyond were the wharves of the Canton and Macao steamers and various ferries going to places in the New Territories or to Lantau and other islands.

Queens Pier

Queen's Pier

It was all reclaimed land, as indeed was Causeway Bay and all the waterfront land in both directions. The Chinese were wonderful road builders and hill demolishers. In our time Morrison Hill was flattened for new development, a great feat. Men and women worked together, dozens of them at a time. The women squatted on the ground breaking huge stones into little ones with hammers, wearing metal guards on their fingers. The famous Hong Kong roads were the result of these amazing people's joint work. I think that most of these builders were Hakka people, the women who wore the big hats with curtains.

View of Causeway Bay

View of Causeway Bay

On the Kowloon side near the Star Ferry Wharf was the Railway Station, terminus of the Kowloon Canton Railway, and the Signal Station on the top of which was the time ball and where weather signals were displayed. The signals warned when a typhoon was near, and the time ball dropped with a bang every midday! Nearby was the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong's newest and tallest, seven storeys high.

From this part of Kowloon one had the most famous of the Colony's views, "Hong Kong by Night", celebrated in paintings and photographs. It really was a scene from fairyland, especially on a starry night - lights in the harbour, lights in Hong Kong all the way up the Peak,
and stars in the sky. You couldn't tell where the lights ended and the stars began!

On the other side of the Star Ferry were the wharves where the big steamers berthed, those that sailed to Europe, the P. and O. liners "Carthage", "Corfu", "Canton", "Cathay" and others (Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company); and the Blue Funnel liners "Patroclus", "Antenor", and others (Alfred Holt and Company); the French ships "Athos", "Porthos", and "D'Artagnan" of the Messageries Maritimes Line. And the ships that crossed the Pacific, "Empress of Canada", "Empress of Asia", "Empress of Japan" of the Canadian Pacific Line; "President Hoover", "President
Coolidge" of the U.S. President Line; "Asama Maru", "Tatsuta Maru", "Chichibu Maru" of the NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha).

Dates of arrival and departure of all ships were advertised in the local newspapers. The P. and 0. line carried the mail between Hong Kong and Europe. Each week one mail ship arrived and another departed. Expected dates of Home mails were advertised in the papers and in the Post Office. The sea voyage took five weeks. If we wished to send our letters by a quicker way, we marked them "Via Siberia". Then they were taken up to Vladivostok by coastal steamer, and on to Europe by the Trans-Siberian Railway, a transit of three weeks.

At this time a riding-school was started at Kai Tak in Kowloon by Captain Daniloff, a White Russian ex-Cossack Officer. I joined the classes, with Audrey, Eve, Margaret, Rosemary, Eileen Bonnar, Edna and Kathleen. We Hong Kong girls were not much good at riding the frisky China ponies, because most of us got thrown. Captain Daniloff must have been most disappointed in us! I was the first to give up this alarming exercise, and soon for us the riding lessons ended!

In spite of working in our offices from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day, and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., we led a tremendously active social life. My diary of this time records lunches, teas, dinners and dances.

In March 1933 Kathleen, with Bill Telfer and the Olivers, Molly and Ken and Phyllis, went Home on leave, in the Blue Funnel s.s. "Hector", and we went on board to see them off. "Seeing off" was a great custom in Hong Kong. An hour before sailing time, the ship's lounge would be full of people having drinks. Soon we heard the sound of the ship's engines and the cry "All visitors ashore", and we descended the gangway to the dockside to wave goodbye to our friends leaning on the ship's rails.

Usually "Home leave" came every four years, and the time spent away from Hong Kong was nine months, which included the sea journeys of five weeks each.

In April and May 1933 came our turn to go on leave! Mamma and Audrey first, and I a month later. I stayed with Zoe and Bill Williams until my departure. She was a White Russian, I think from Shanghai, a gentle girl and a great favourite of Mamma. Her name was Zoya Leek before she married Bill. They came on board to see me-off when I sailed in the P. and O. liner "Carthage".

And so Audrey and I saw England for the first time when I was 22, and she was 21; and Mamma met her relations again after 24 years.

Date(s) of events described