Iris Gladys Aspinell GABY (née WARNES) [1906-1980]
Iris was the eldest child of Charles and Elizabeth Warnes (née Olson) and grandchild of John Olson snr. Iris, Marjorie and Cyril Warnes were the half-cousins of my father, Reg Warren.
Born in Hong Kong, Iris and her sister Marjorie boarded at the Italian Convent after the death of their mother, Elizabeth Warnes in 1917 and possible death of thier father. The convent records show that Iris was baptised into the Catholic Church aged 20 with the baptismal name, Mary Iris Warnes. After leaving the convent, Iris worked at the Repulse Bay Hotel as a stenographer. She married a Shanghai-based New Zealand Marine Officer, Cyril Gaby, at the Catholic Cathedral in 1934 and brought up her niece, Daphne Cook, together with her own daughter, Sally, in mainland China.
Cyril Gaby wrote in his autobiography that Iris's sister, Marjorie, was visiting them "regularly" when they were posted in Foochow in 1937, when Daphne would have been 3. At the beginning of 1938 he sent Iris and the girls to Hong Kong for some months in advance of his leave. They then left Hong Kong on the S.S. Changte on 12 April 1938 for New Zealand and Australia arriving back on 10 April 1939. Gaby then had a spell of duty in Hong Kong and they took an apartment in Kowloon until the end of March 1940. He was transferred to Amoy in April. From there he commanded the Chinese light tender Pingching, inspecting, supplying and maintaining lighthouses and navigational equipment along the China coast.
Interned at Amoy and then the American Club in Shanghai, the family was included in a swap with Japanese POWs in Australia. They settled in Bexley, NSW, near Sydney, where Iris spent most of the rest of her life. Iris signed the death certificate of my grandmother, Hannah Warren, (separately evacuated to Hong Kong), and who probably had a large hand in her upbringing after the death of her mother. I’m still trying to trace the whereabouts of my grandmother between 1926 and the war and would be grateful to know of any press references to Cyril and Iris Gaby in Hong Kong, either during their posting there in 1939-40 or when Iris and the two children came to visit in early 1938.