Peggy HORTON (née HO-HILL) [1928-2022]

Submitted by alhill on Sat, 05/25/2024 - 15:26
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Birthplace (town, state)
Birthplace (country)
Hong Kong
Died in (town, state)
Hinckley, Leicestershire, England
Died in (country)
United Kingdom
Cause of death
Lung and brain cancer


Born to James Hill and Rose Ho in 1928, Peggy bore many hardships during her time in Hong Kong. The timely arrival of the British Fleet in Hong Kong harbour on the 30th August 1945 and the generosity and kindness of a British man who had been a prisoner of war under the Japanese, enabled her to survive. She was able to emigrate to England to live a joyful and productive life until cancer brought her life to an end in 2022.


When James (or Jim), arrived in Hong Kong in 1928, a newly enlisted officer of the Hong Kong Police Force, he quickly struck up a friendship with a locally recruited officer, Ho Ping Hong. Perhaps their association grew out of mutual need, the need for Jim to learn Cantonese and the need for Ping Hong to become proficient in English. At first, it is tempting to think that Jim with his heavy Dundee Scots accent and tendency to revert to Modern Scots rather than English, got the better end of the deal. However, Ping Hong also introduced James to his sister, 何悦珠 Ho Yuet Chu (Rose).  Jim and Rose quickly became close and in time had three children, Peggy, Johnny and an unnamed son.

Early life

When Peggy, the daughter of a Western man and a Chinese woman, was born her Chinese family rejected her. However, her Chinese maternal grandmother loved and cared for her and Peggy developed a very close bond to her. Peggy remembered that James visited often, wearing his blue kilt (likely Angus tartan). In 1929, Peggy's brother Johnny was born, followed in 1930 by another boy who unfortunately died in infancy.

In her early years, Peggy was left to her own devices in the streets of Kowloon and she admitted to being a bit wild and mischievous. That time of becoming streetwise was foundational and contributed to her amazing ability to survive when many others around her did not.

The relationship between Jim and Rose did not last and they went their separate ways. Contact between Jim, Rose and their children appeared to cease after that time.

Jim married Nora in Broughty Ferry, Scotland in 1932. They had two children, Norman in 1934 and Helen in 1938, both born in Hong Kong. Nora, Norman and Helen were evacuated to Australia in 1940.

Rose married a British man, Charlie Read, an architect who amongst other things designed a bridge erected in the new territories near Tai Po. The family moved to Macau, where Charlie had a house. Rose and Charlie had a child, Violet in 1937, who Peggy adored. Sometime before 1941, Charlie died and Rose moved back to Hong Kong with her children, Peggy, Johhny and Violet. 


When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Hong Kong in December 1941, Japanese troops quickly advanced through the New Territories to Kowloon. It was at this time of this advance that Johnny died when a shell or bomb landed on his primary school. Peggy remembers arriving at the school to collect her brother only to find ruins and no sign of him. This was the first of many times of mourning for her.

During the battle, Jim was serving with the Hong Kong Police, assisting in the defence of the colony. Following the British surrender, he was interned in Stanley Camp until the end of the Japanese occupation.

During the occupation, food was in short supply in Hong Kong, especially for those of mixed heritage. Peggy's grandmother cared for Peggy and Violet, but the grandmother and Violet both starved to death. Desperate, Rose went to the Red Cross Rosary Hill camp for food but was shot dead there by a Japanese soldier. It is not known what happened to her body.

Peggy survived by her wits and tenacity. Sadly, upon returning home one day she found her grandmother's body in a gutter outside their home. She was distressed about the way her grandmother had been disrespectfully treated but was unable to do anything for the body. When Violet died, Peggy was overwhelmed with grief. She became determined to arrange a proper burial. She agreed to marry a much older man for the cash she needed to arrange for Violet to be buried in Ho Man Tin Roman Catholic Cemetery. Following Violet's burial, Peggy tried to escape the older man, but was caught and severely beaten unconscious.

Someone brought Peggy to a hospital, where she lay in a coma. Medical supplies were scarce at that time and it seemed unlikely she would live. Fortunately, a naval squadron arrived in Hong Kong Harbour on 30th August 1945 under the command of Admiral Harcourt, with subsequent improvement in supplies of food and medicine. Peggy was now able to receive the medical treatment she needed and eventually recovered. 

Emigration to England

Peggy was young and pretty, so when faced with having to support herself with no one to help her, she found work as a dance hall hostess. It was whilst she was doing this that one of her regular dance partners, David Lockerbie, heard of her desire to emigrate to the United Kingdom to start a new life. David was serving with the British Army in Singapore at the time the Singapore garrison surrendered and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of the Japanese. Though troubled by his years as a prisoner of war, he kindly agreed to marry Peggy so that she could emigrate to the UK, but only for that reason. After they both arrived in the UK, he left Peggy with his sister and Peggy never saw him again. After David left her, as previously agreed, Peggy began to build a new life for herself.

New Life

During her time in the UK, Peggy became proficient in English. She became a nurse and also worked as a Cantonese-English translator for the British Police. After the death of David, she was able to remarry, settled in Hinckley and became an avid member of the congregation of St Peters Catholic Church. She enjoyed life and would have wished for more years, but her years of smoking came back to haunt her when she contracted lung cancer, which also spread to her brain.


Much missed and fondly remembered, Peggy's resilience and resourcefulness is an inspiration to me and many others.

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