Beatrice CHURCH (née MILLS, aka Betty / Boadicea) [1906-1979] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Beatrice CHURCH (née MILLS, aka Betty / Boadicea) [1906-1979]

Names
Given: 
Beatrice
Family: 
Church
Maiden: 
Mills
Alias / nickname: 
Betty / Boadicea
Sex: 
Female
Status: 
Deceased
Birth
Date: 
c.1906-09-18 (Day is approximate)
Death
Date: 
1979-07-03

Betty Church was mentioned in a recent post asking about the location of Oliver's Mount.

The MMIS has a rather warbly recording of an interview with her from 7th July 1968. She describes a remarkable life. I made the following notes:

  • Father sent to China to build railways
  • Mother followed, and gave birth to Betty in the 1906 typhoon, on board ship between Singapore & Hong Kong
  • Mother died two days later
  • Brought up in Tianjin by Amah, then Shanghai. Accompanied Father on many trips from 4 years old.
  • Speaks Shanghainese, Putonghua, and Cantonese
  • 1812, aged 6 went to school in Shanghai.
  • 1914, aged 8 went to boarding school in England - The Convent of the Visitation, Walmer, Kent
  • Her name was Boadicea
  • Father killed in 1918
  • Her guardian was consul in Amoy. She went to Amoy with her friend, his daughter. Sent to work in HK.
  • Worked in DBS at Breezy Point as a teacher, aged 16/17. Lived at Helena May.
  • Got extra work reading proofs at HK Daily Press. Then started selling advertising from the newspapers.
  • Started writing society column in the newspapers
  • Moved to selling advertising for the Directory & Chronicle
  • Earned enough to travel to UK. Grandmother was ill.
  • 1924 aged 18 Became an advertising agent in UK for Ladies Home Journal, working under Sir Charles Frederick Higham
  • 1925 Started her company in Hong Kong. Became limited company in 1927.
  • First husband worked with Deacons, a lawyer. Left DBS as was pregnant. Child born, and died a year later. Worked as court reporter. Pregnant again, and returned to England to give birth at her parents house in Yorkshire. Gave birth to twins in July, husband died in August on board ship. Worked in London to earn passage back to HK. When twins were two, took them to the convent and they grew up there. Then started her company.
  • In 1927 won a sweepstake ticket for the Shanghai Champions. Won 150,000 Shanghai dollars, or appx 40,000 pounds sterling.
  • Reported in Canton. Saw Europeans tortured by the Chinese. Took photos ad sold them - they were syndicated around the world.
  • Visited UK every two years.
  • 1932. Formed a Friends of China committee
  • Had a Hong Kong stand at Olympia. Prince of Wales.
  • In Singapore with her twins in 1941. Escaped on Friday 13th Feb, 1942 shortly before the surrender on 15th. Boat hit and sunk. Rescued by a submarine and reunited with twins in Batavia.
  • Went to Mr Puckle in Delhi and worked there for 4 months. Then to Bombay, then spent rest of war in South Africa.
  • Husband had been made a POW in Singapore. Married him in New Zealand in 1934. He spoke Japanese. They had a son, but left him in New Zealand. The son re-joined them in Singapore in 1941/2, but he was killed by a Japanese shell during the fighting there.
  • Loves music. Composed and wrote commercial jingles in English & Chinese.

If you can add any more memories of Betty Church, please let us know in the comments below. I'm also curious to know if "Church" was her original surname, or from one of her husbands. 

Comments

I met her in 1965 as her advertising agency, the Advertising & Publicity Bureau Ltd (APB) was the advertising agent for a cough lozenge my uncle’s company was selling in Hong Kong. Betty Church and her great rival, Alma Kelly, who owned Cathay Advertising were the two doyens of the Hong Kong advertising business, though by the 1960s they were being strongly challenged by international advertising companies entering the Hong Kong market.

Kind regards,
George

Mr Church was the name of her second husband. I believe her maiden name was Mills. I thought she was Beatrice but she told me she used the name Boadicea as a nickname at school. It certainly suited her. I worked for her in the late '60s. 

 

Thanks Gill, Beatrice sounds more likely. I've updated the page with your information.

I will find her obituary - I have got it somewhere - and we can update the details. She was a fascinating person. Gill

Thanks Gill, do you recall on which road in Pokfulham her house was?

Some information about Beatrice Church and her advertising agency here

In 1935, the Advertising and Publicity Bureau Ltd had their offices in the Queen's Building in Central.

My parents were good friends of Betty Church and we visited her often at her beautiful house on Mt.  Davis Road which I think was called "Salamat".  Her curry lunches were legendary.

What date was that Adrienne? You are so right - her curry lunches were legendary - tiffins I think she called them. I remember a very tall spare man called the Brigadier - I wish I knew what his name was. And the dogs - do you remember all the dogs... Yes, the house was called Salamat - I stayed with her when I first went to work for her. And she loved the races and had a horse called Jocelyn.

It must have been around 1962.  I so well remember her gorgeous Alsation dog I used to play with.  My parents and I spent many Sundays there and afterwards we used to watch television with her. An amazing person.

Betty Church died on 3rd July 1979. Her ashes are interned with those of her second husband in Wells Cathedral, Somerset.

Photographs of Beatrice Church and her twin daughters appear in the HK Sunday Herald dated 24 December 1939. See here Scroll to page 19.