William MACFARLANE [????-1966] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

William MACFARLANE [????-1966]


William Macfarlane, my grandfather, travelled from Glasgow to Shanghai by train in the early 20th century. Family tradition has it that he then worked on the refrigerated freight boats going up the Yangste and lived in Shanghai, he was a triple certificated tradesman from the Clydeside (marine fitting, bolier-making and refrigeration mechanics). He finally moved to Hong Kong and ended as the chief Engineering Superintendent of the Hong Kong Dairy Farm & Ice Cold Storage before retiring to Sydney in the mid 1960s.

He was in Stanley Internment camp during the war while my father (William Edward Macfarlane) ended up in a POW camp/train factory in Nagoya until repatriation to Australia in 1945. Both he and my father are long gone, so I am hazy on dates.

The earliest I can find reference to my grandfather, William Macfarlane, in Hong Kong are through the Jurors lists in 1914. My recollections of family stories was that he left Shanghai after the first Nationalist Revolution, but I have no idea how long he was based in Shanghai. I know he married in 1913 (so I am assuming he went back on leave), and had come out to Shanghai by train before then. I'd love to know when?

My father was born in Glasgow as my grandmother, Janet Macfarlane nee Cameron, according to the family stories I remember, refused to give birth in a Hong Kong hospital and returned to Scotland where my father was born in July 1919 (my grandfather on his birth certificate is listed as "Chief Engineer Cold Storage Works Hong Kong" but I am not sure if he went back for the birth or remained working in Hong Kong?). But I digress......


The first Jurors List I see him mentioned in is the 1915 list:

c Macfarlane William Engineer Ice Co   Ice Works   Laichikok

Here's some more information about the Ice Company: https://gwulo.com/node/50236

Marriage Janet Ronald Ch.... to  William Macfarlane registered Scotstoun and Yoker 1913 (Scotlands People)

Birth Janet Ronald Ch... Cameron registered 1882 Cambuslang (Scotlands People)

Ancestry Tree Janet Ronald Chrystal Cameron married William Macfarlane and had two sons ?[Alexander John Macfarlane and William Edward Macfarlane]


Passenger List May 1919 Liverpool to China

Janet Macfarlane 37 14 Moray Avenue Scotstoun Glasgow

Alexander John Macfarlane age 3 (dob abt 1916)

No mention of William Edward born 1919 in Scotland 1919

26 February 1945 Passenger List New Zealand to New York

Janet Ronald C Macfarlane  age 62 born Cambuslang Scotland

Passenger List 3 May 1946 London to Hong Kong

Janet Ronald C Macfarlane age 63

Carl Smith card 121923 Death William Macfarlane 4 May 1966 Fairlight Sydney Australia husband of Janet and father of William Edward Macfarlane (birth registered Scotstoun and Yoker 1919) and the late Alexander John Macfarlane

Carl Smith Card 121919 William Macfarlane manager of Ice Company's Works at Lai Chi Kak quarrel with a Chinese hit on head. Telegraph 1 October 1917

There is a record CWGC of Alexander John Macfarlane Service Number 401400

Died 15/12/1941 Aged 25 Royal New Zealand Air Force

Son of William and Janet Macfarlane, of Manly, New South Wales, Australia.

Scotlands People

William Edward Macfarlane birth registered 1919 Scotstoun and Yoker 1919

British Prisoners of War in Japanese Held Territories

William Edward Macfarlane Corporal Army Number V/2994 [?HKVDC]

28 December 1941 Nagoya POW Camp

Yes, 1915 (and not 1914 as I said) is the first trace I have so far found of my grandfather's presence in HK.

I have been through all the Jurors' lists on Gwulo and he is listed in 19 of them, first in 1915 & last in 1941.

The first 4 (1915-1919) he is described as Engineer at the Ice Co Ice Works in Lai Chi Kok, then in 1920 this changes to Dairy Farm Ice & Cold Storage Co Ltd for all the other listings, with the address varying from Lai Chi Kok (1921), 209 Praya East (1922), 2 Armend Building Kowloon (1923 & 1924), 2 Lower Albert Rd (1925, 1927), East Point (1928, 1941), 31 Humphrys Building (1929), Clarement Hotel (1931-1932) and just "on premises (1933). Interestingly in 1921 (and again in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1928-1930, 1932 & 1933, 1941) an Alexander Macfarlane is also listed, perhaps a brother? And an Alexander Macfarlane also appears as early as 1908 as an engineer without a company named but the address as Stanley Tce, Quarry Bay. And a third Macfarlane, also a William, is listed first in 1923 as an Assistant Engineeras an Assistant Superintendent Engineer and the ICSN co Ltd, based at the Station Hotel in Kowloon; this second William turns up again in 1925 at the Dairy Farm I&CS Co at the same Kowloon address.

The Claremont Hotel listing is interesting as I think this corresponds to when my grandmoter relocated to New Zealand, so their two sons (Willam Edward & Alexander) could attend secondary school at Auckland Grammar.....



Thanks for this, I will now apply for my grandfathers birth certificate online to what other information it might hold about her parents, some of which I have already found out about through UK Census from the 14 Moray Ave, Sctostoun address which appears on my father's birth certificate, a home birth as was common in that era. 

The Passenger List information is very interesting. My grandmother relocated to New Zealand so her two boys could attend Auckland Grammar with my grandfather visiting on leave when he could. One son, Alexander, stayed in New Zealand joining the NZ Air Force and dying during the war. The other one, my father, Willian Edward, returned to Honk Hong, ending up working for the Hong Kong Electric Co, and was in the Hong Kong Volunteers during the war. Interestingly my grandparents are mentioned in Tony Banham's book about the WW2 Evacuations of Woman & children: "Not everyone needed to be evacuated. Some of the colony's usual inhabitants would miss the evacuation simply by already being abroad. William and Janet Macfarlane of Dairy Farm, for example, were on holiday in New Zealand at the time. Willaim retunred to Hong Kong, but Janet stayed away".

This 1919 Liverpool to China Passenger Listing is interesting but I do not think it can be accurate as my father was born in mid July 1919 in Glasgow , so I really don't see how my grnadmother could have been on a May 1919 boat.......could it have been 1920 0r 1921?.....as the story I always recall in my family was that dad went to Hong Kong when he was 2 years old