George DUNCAN [????-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

George DUNCAN [????-????]


Hi David,

My name is Iain Duncan, and I came across your web site about "Old Hong Kong", purely by chance, as I had visited the Stanley Prison Site in 1995, during a first and perhaps last visit to my birth place.

I was born in Kowloon in 1936, my Father Andrew Duncan, was  also born there in 1902 and my grandfather George Duncan MBE  of Kowloon Dock, left Scotland around 1880/85, as a Plumber and Gas Fitter (time served in Scotland) and settled to a new life In the then Crown Colony of Hong Kong. He latterly lived on the Peak and I believe he received his MBE for services to Hong Kong but the date and place of the investiture Is not known to me. It was between 1927 and 1932!

I believe he was heavily involved in the setting up of the Hong Kong pavilion at the Great British Empire Exhibition at Wembley,  In London in 1926.

in your Website, the Marriage of My Uncle, James Herbert Swan (Cubby) Duncan is also detailed by Phil Cracknell, he was my  Father's youngest brother, his Middle Brother George Duncan, who was also born in HK, settled in Australia. My one and only full cousin, Neil Duncan, (retired Pharmacist among other pursuits) only son of George Duncan, (junior) still lives Sydney,  in fact he was home 2 weeks ago to see the Rugby World cup, but left before the Scotland/Australia debacle, last Sunday. 

My elder sister, Margaret Helen, (Peggy) who was a flower girl at Cubby Duncan's wedding (also mentioned by Phill Cracknell in his article) was also born in Kowloon in 1932 and my younger Sister Fionna, (the famous (Scottish) jazz Singer now almost retired) was Born in 1939, in Garelochead, three months after we came home from HK to the U.K., and eventually back to Scotland.

My Grandfather George and his wife Ellen (nee McFarlane) retired back to Scotland in 1932/33 settling on  the shores of Loch Long, close to his many brothers and one sister....... (the Duncan's of "Craigard," Carrick Castle, loch Goil.

My Aunt Helen Duncan (nee Wylie) and my Uncle "Cubby"Duncan retired to Sydney, NSW, Australia.  In her latter years, Helen Duncan spent her time recording "Listening Books" for the Blind - a born communicator to her dying days.................she passed away in 1997.

My only cousin Neil Duncan and his wife Rose were very very close to both Cubby and Helen Duncan during their last year's in Sydney  and could enlarge upon many of our Aunt Helen's activities; She was the dearest and brightest lady ever to have set foot on Planet  Earth!

My sister  Fionna, can also probably add infinitely more background to the Hong Kong lives of our forefathers and all their friends and Acquaintances during the 80 odd years of their residency, work and leisure in Old Hong Kong.


Iain Duncan



The Hong Kong Telegraph, 1926-01-20, page 1:




London, Jan. 19. Honours in connection with the Wembley Exhibition are Gazetted to-night, and they include:— Commander of the Order of the British Empire.—Mr. Andrew Caldecott, of Malaya.     
Member of the Order of the British Empire.—Mr. George Duncan, of Hongkong.
Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire.—Raja Kechil, formerly Sultan Abdullah of Malaya.

Australasia gets the lion's share of the Wembley Exhibition honours, with six of the 35 recipients, General Sir Travers Clarke heads the list with a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. The only woman in the list, Lady Galway, who was Chairman of the Women’s Section, gets a Commandership of the Order of the British Empire. The list also contains four Knight Commanderships, the rest being minor honours.—Reuter.

[Much pleasure will be felt locally at the deserved honour which has been bestowed on Mr. George Duncan, of the Kowloon Dock, for it is well known that it was largely owing to his personal work, as assistant to the Hon. Mr. E. R. Hallifax, the Commissioner for the Hongkong Section, that the success of the Hongkong exhibit was so marked. For many years past, "Geordie" Duncan has been associated with the decoration of the City Hall for the St. Andrew's Ball, and his was the guiding that made the attractions of the war-time “Heather Days” so notably successful. There has scarcely been a function in this Colony with which he has not been closely identified with the details of the arrangements. It was therefore, fitting that when Hongkong, as a Colony, had to concern itself with an exhibit at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, it called upon Mr. Duncan's services, which proved to be invaluable during the difficult preliminary period. Contributing himself in large measure by special exhibits made in the Kowloon Dock—notably "Hongkong by Night"—Mr. Duncan went Home and supervised the erection and equipment of the Colony’s exhibit as a whole, and remained with the Exhibition during the whole of its first year. He stayed at Home sufficiently long to see the Hongkong Section opened for the second year, returning to the Colony in July last, to face further heavy work in Kowloon Dock at a time when his staff of workmen were on strike.

First and foremost a worker and of a quiet and unassuming nature, it is peculiarly fitting that Mr. Duncan should have been made the recipient of this tangible appreciation—a matter on which he, himself, would have been the last to think.]

Other mentions:

  • The Hong Kong Telegraph, 1926-10-05, page 7: Silver wedding celebrations on the previous day, the 4th Oct, 25 years after their wedding at Union Church. <click to view>

Hello, I've come across these comments by Iain Duncan, a nephew of Helen and James(Cubby) Duncan. My second-cousin Isobel Holland was a bridesmaid at Helen's wedding but our family lost touch with the young Hollands after the war.

         Isobel's mother, Jessie Holland, was shot and died from bullet wounds on 12th December 1941. She was buried in the Happy Valley cemetery the following day, the Rev Frank Short officiated. Isobel's father, Adam Holland, died in the bombing of Stanley Camp's Bungalow C in January 1945.

         Isobel Morrison Holland was born in Scotland in 1915, her brother Alistair was born in 1917, and her sister Joan Macdonald Holland was born in 1919 or 1920. The family moved to Hong Kong in 1919.

         Jessie Holland was a teacher and an accomplished artist. She was working as an auxiliary nurse when she was fatally wounded.

          My hope is that Isobel and Helen's friednship was an enduring one and that someone in the Duncan family may have knowledge of her. Any photo of Helen's marriage would also be wonderful, as we are bereft of any pictorial records of the Hollands, although Adam was a prolific lawn bowler during his time in Hong Kong.


ian brown