1911-12: Warren Swire’s second visit to Hong Kong | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1911-12: Warren Swire’s second visit to Hong Kong

The highlight of his first visit was the construction of the new Taikoo dockyard [1] at Quarry Bay. On this next visit, four years later, he could show it as a going concern.

He took several photos of ships under repair, both up on the slips and down in the dry dock:


Repairing a ship's stern


Steamship in dry dock


He also visited the ship-building yard to watch a new ship being launched:


Ship being launched


Launching a ship


He didn’t note the name of the ship, but the title of the photo below says they’re gathered at the launch of the “Circe”:


Launch of the ship Circe


Here’s how the following day's newspaper reported it:


Yesterday the Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company launched a handsomely modelled steel screw steamer for Messrs. Alfred Holt & Company's Singapore and Delhi trade. The vessel is of the awning deck type, the principal dimensions being 200 feet long overall, 31‘-6" beam, and 21'-6” deep to the awning deck. Accommodation for a number of passengers is fitted up amidships, with dining saloon. The officers’ and engineers’ rooms are situated aft in a steel house on the awning deck; the crew being berthed forward, and the petty officers aft. The 'tween decks are arranged for carrying steerage passengers, and open spaces are fitted up for the carriage of cattle. Triple-expansion engines of the builders' own make will be installed, steam being supplied from a large single-ended boiler, capable of driving the vessel at a speed of 12 knots. Electric light is fitted throughout. The gross tonnage of the vessel is about 800. As the vessel left the ways she was gracefully christened Circe by Mrs. Swire.

Page 4, The Hong Kong Telegraph, 1912-03-06.

If any maritime experts are reading, does the description of the Circe match the ship shown being launched?

Circe was built for Alfred Holt & Co., a company that worked closely with Swire’s. Other photos from this visit show their Holt’s Wharf [2], across the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui:


Holts Wharf godowns


Back to the Taikoo dockyard, and my favourite photo from this visit:


View from Mount Parker with cable car


It’s a rare view of the cable car [3] that ran up here to Quarry Gap, the pass between Mount Parker and Mount Butler. Old maps show the pass named Sanatorium Gap, which explains the need for a cable car: up at the Gap, situated to catch the cool breeze in summer, stood the Taikoo Sanatorium [4]. Warren shows us the Sanatorium building, and its view out over the Tai Tam reservoir [5]:


Taikoo Sanitarium


Tai Tam reservoir


He took several other photos looking out from a high vantage point:


View west from Taikoo


View east from Taikoo


They’re titled ‘View westwards from Taikoo’ and ‘View eastwards from Taikoo’, which doesn’t make sense at first. Then the penny drops, and we realise that Taikoo doesn’t mean the dockyard, but the house named ‘Taikoo’ [6], up on the Peak!


Tai Koo


We’ll finish this visit with a couple of his photos of an even grander building:


HKU under construction


HKU under construction


They show construction work at the new Hong Kong University [7], partly funded by a donation from Swire’s.

(This post appeared previously on the Visualising China blog.)

Further reading:


  1. Taikoo dockyard
  2. Holt’s Wharf
  3. Taikoo ropeway (cable car)
  4. Taikoo sanatorium
  5. Tai Tam reservoir
  6. 'Tai Koo' on the Peak
  7. Hong Kong University

Also on Gwulo.com this week:


That's a nice mix of photos David.

In the Tai Tam Reservoir snap the Tai Tam Bungalow can be see sitting on its knoll.

In the Taikoo Sanatorium pic a building can be seen behind and slightly above the Sanatorium. It's roughly where the Upper Terminus of the Taikoo Ropeway was situated. There's an object that looks like a large, dark, vertical wheel. I wonder if it was part of the winding gear for the cable car? 

Fivestar, thanks for the link. That led me to this photo of the Circe:


It has the similar ribs along the side of the hull, but is it a match? While I was pondering that I received an email and blown-up photo from Jamie at the Visualising China project:

...the ship being launched in Sw07-151 and Sw07-152 has a Japanese name - and is most probably not the Circe.   Please see attached crop of Sw07-151, showing the name of the ship to be "[...]o Maru".

Ship's name

The character at the right is "Ten" in Japanese, so the ship was called "Ten??o Maru".

That led to this long list of ships built at the Taikoo shipyard: http://oceania.pbworks.com/w/page/25908991/Taikoo%20Dock

The two built in 1912 were:

1912 TENCHO MARU 1300 121  
1912 CIRCE 778 125  

So, mystery solved, the photos were of two different ship launches.  

Well spotted GW, I'd missed that. I've posted a closer view at: http://gwulo.com/comment/36406#comment-36406