Ah King Slipway [c.1891-2002]
This boatbuilding company was named after the founder. Various spellings of his name appear at different times, with the most common being A. King, Ah King, and Ah-King.
A good overview of the shipbuilder's early years comes from this 1936 newspaper article supplied by IDJ:
ROMANTIC RISE OF AH KING’S SLIPWAY
Many Changes Seen In 45 Years
(By A Special Correspondent)
STARTING business some 45 years ago in a modest way, with only one very small slipway and a few matsheds for the workshops, Ah King’s Slipway has, thanks to the enterprise and farsightedness of the late Mr. Ah King, developed into one of the biggest businesses of its kind in the Colony.
The slipway had its first home on the Praya In Wanchai — where the Oriental Theatre now stands — and as it was situated immediately next to the Corinthian Yacht Club. It was not unnatural that most of its business should have been concerned with the building and repairing of craft from this club.
As with the case of any other business that is handled shrewdly, the slipway went on from strength to strength, and, while its early business was only concerned with the repairing of smaller craft, orders soon began to pour in for “bigger fellows" and in time Ah King’s motorboats, house-boats and motor-launches became known all over the Colony for their sea-worthiness and reliability.
And all the time this shipyard was expanding, the man behind this business, the man responsible for its growth, remained modestly in the background, though no order was too small for him to give it his personal attention. He would treat an order for a 10-foot dinghy just as he would a pleasure yacht, and because of his unfailing courtesy and his strict adherence to the fact that his word was his bond, Ah King endeared himself to the thousands of people, European and Chinese alike, who came into contact with him.
His was a romantic life was Ah King’s, and even when his hair had turned grey and the time had come for him to hand down his business to his son, Mr. Ah Hoi, the present owner-manager of the slipway, the grand old man could not remain idle. He would walk about the yard, putting in a word of encouragement here and there, day after day, even after he had announced his retirement from business, and it was a sad blow to all who knew him when, on February 20, last, he passed away to be mourned by a large circle of relatives and friends.
In a conversation with Mr. Ah Hoi, the son of this pioneer Chinese yacht builder, I learned that they moved from their Wanchai home to their yard in Causeway Bay in 1921, and whereas they had only one slipway in the old place, the present yard boasts no less than seven.
Ah King's Slipway has turned out many a well-known vessel. The “Romance," In which Capt. Green and his family travelled to Vancouver last year, was built there, while the Governor’s yacht, the Britannia, was also built there.
In the old days, the slipway maintained a fleet of motor-boats and launches, amongst the better known ones being King I and London. These, however, have been disposed of and there now remains only two motor launches for the use of the slipway, the Falcon and the flagship, 611. When asked why the latter was given a number and not a name, Mr. Ah Hoi explained that the number represented June 6, the birthday of the late Mr. Ah King. Another house-boat is being built now and when completed will be named 226, which represents February 26, the day on which the founder of the slipway died.
I took a walk round the slipway and saw activity everywhere. In place of the rough and ready tools that shaped so many vessels in the far off days, are the most modern and up-to-date implements necessary to the shipbuilding trade.
Dreaming Of The Past
In one shady corner of the yard I came across Lo Hung, aged 81 years, smoking his pipe as he gazed towards the sea, where many boats and yachts were moored. He is no more actively engaged in the slipway and now dreams of the past.
Lo Hung had been a faithful servant and is now spending the rent of his days enjoying a well-deserved pension. Like so many of his type, he was strangely reluctant to speak of his trade, but after many questions had been fired at him he looked up and said, “Ah King, ho b'long No. 1 man he b’long makee No. 1 boat."
He probably voiced the sentiments of all those employed at the slipway. They all seemed so contented down there.
The company operated from three different locations over the years. There's a page on Gwulo for each one linked below, with a map of the location and any photos we have of it.