Friday, April 25, 2014 | By: rudi butt

Job And James Henry Witchell: The Story Of A Corrupted Police Inspector And His Son, A Briton Wanted In The USA For White Slavery

Updated August 19, 2020.


I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to Margaret Ann McNutt, who is James Henry Witchell's granddaughter (daughter of Dorothy Audrey Witchell), for her contributions and untiring answers to my endless questions. Information and photographs she so generously shared were incorporated in updates following March 11, 2014. My gratitude and appreciation also goes to Mary Rose Kingman (née Wilson), who is the granddaughter of Lilian Mary Witchell (Job's eldest daughter), for sharing the results of her years of research and communications with other descendants of Job Witchell, and for her kindness to embark on new researches upon my requests. I must also thank Lorna Loveland (née Southerton), who is the granddaughter of Edith Ethel Witchell (Job's youngest daughter), for her valuable input and constant reviews of this article. Updates following May 25, 2016 have included information, photographs and documents so kindly supplied by Rosie and Lorna.


This is the second "father-and-son" writing project I have embarked on. Although this story is not necessary a sequel to the first: Inspecteur Quincey and His Master Dramatist Son, they are closely related. The two main characters in the stories were inspectors involved in the same police scandal. Fates of these comrades-in-corruption took different courses though. Quincey 坤士 was sacked following an internal inquiry. Inspector Samuel Job Witchell had gone down in history as the first European officer of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) to get caught for taking bribes, was brought to trial in a court of law and as a result received, and served, a jail sentence. He was one of the 128 policemen, European, Indian and Chinese, implicated in a gambling house bribery case in 1897 [which I dubbed the "Wa Lane 華里 Scandal"] said to be the worst police scandal in the history of Hong Kong[1]. When the HKPF inhouse inquiry into the scandal came to an end in August 1897, all but two of the 128 had faced internal disciplinary actions, including summary dismissals. The first man who escaped disciplinary action was a (former) chief inspector, who had retired and no longer resided in Hong Kong. The second, Job Witchell, and no one else from HKPF, was brought to the bench of the Chief Justice to be tried in front of a special jury. His trial was described by Hong Kong journalists as the most sensational case of the time [but then what else was there to report in Hong Kong in the 1890s besides war, riots, or perhaps the infestations of the plague...]. Be that as it may, I must forewarn the readership not to have too high an expectation for my version knowing too well I am not as good a story teller as I wish. As some of the old readers of this blog may have been accustomed to, by now, the practice that I start publishing the post while writing is still in progress, so you can expect, unfortunately, to read but a partial story until the day I'm done writing it. Moreover, I also write like a film production, shootings never follow the sequence of the script. If this is not confusing enough, you should know that I'll make changes and updates to the published contents from time to time when needed without notice. Still wish to go on reading? Good luck and thank you. (4/25/2014)

[1] HKPF started with 630 men in 1897, in other words, one in every five was implicated in the scandal. Just to show how serious it was.

Explanatory Notes
  1. An image zoom plugin has been installed to enable detailed viewing of images. A magnifying glass will appear when the cursor hovers over an image.
  2. The term "dollar" and the dollar sign "$" refer to the Hong Kong dollars.
  3. The expression "It is unknown..." generally means it is unknown to me.
  4. Chinese names of certain persons, establishments, and places are added for the benefit of others researching similar stories as this one, particularly when reviewing papers in the Chinese language.
  5. My research on the descendants of Job Witchell went beyond the third generations, but for this story, the writing about his descendants ends at the third generation.
  6. Writings, some lengthier than the others, about contemporaries of Job and James Witchells can be found in footnotes of each section. They may or may not be directly related to the Witchell story, but since I've got them in my notes, I might as well share them with the readership.
  7. Since the size of this post has outgrown the preset limit dictated by Blogger for a single post, I've therefore placed the appendix and the selected bibliography in a separate post. Click here to view the supplemental information.

When A Habit Becomes A Tradition

"Almost every member of the police was eager to be bribed, and willing to connive for money at infringements of the Law, especially of the Laws against gaming.", remarked Richard Graves MacDonnell 麥當奴, the 6th colonial governor, soon after he arrived in Hong Kong in 1866.

Corruption in the Force wasn't as old as HKPF itself, but almost.

The first policeman ever to be sent to jail for corruption when carrying out police duties was Constable Chan Ayau. This was known as the Chan Ayau and the Nah-Money Extortion Case, 1892. Chan collected "Nah (Yah) Money" from small business owners in Tai-kok-tsui 大角咀, averaging 20 to 35 cents each on the 2nd and 16th of each month of the lunar calendar in return for "police protection". Yah 禡, or Jo-Yah 做禡, also named by foreign journalists in nineteenth century as "Nah-Moong-tse" in English, is a Chinese custom, still being practiced today, where offerings are made to the God of Earth, Tu Di Gong 土地公, monthly on the dates earlier mentioned. Chan, I believe, was no more than a collector and that the Nah Money he collected went into a pool for periodical disbursement among the Chinese officers (possibly European officers as well) at the Yau-ma-ti (Yau Ma Tei) 油麻地 Station according to seniority. A report to the police was made by a shopkeeper in Tai-kok-tsui and an ensuing investigation was ordered, placed in charge of it was Inspector John William Hanson[1]. On November 20, 1892, Chan went on with his Nah Money collection routine as usual and was caught red-handed by Hanson and Chinese detective Tu Po. At the time of arrest, Chan told Hanson he was only acting under the instructions of his senior officers whom he had named, but positively denied having reported his accomplices when confronted with men he said he took orders from. Chan was charged the following day before Police Magistracy, Henry Ernest Wodehouse 胡特豪[2]. He was found guilty of misconduct as a police constable by taking gratuity from the civilian populace. He was fined $100 (a 1st class constable was paid $168 a year) with the alternative of three months imprisonment with hard labor. Chan took the second option. No further investigations on the alleged accomplices were conducted, as far as I know. The collection of Nah Money most probably resumed after a while, with a new collector.

[1] Hanson, a recipient of the Plague Medal (1896), first-class Police Medal and the King's Police Medal (1911), was Mister Clean. Born in the United States to Danish father and Irish mother, Hanson was the first American officer in the HKPF (1874-1911). He was HKPF's first Chief Detective Inspector, a position created in October 1897 as a result of the post-Wa-Lane-Scandal reorganization of the detective department. Hanson was the officer-in-charge of the investigation of the 1901 Gage Street Murder – the political assassination of schoolmaster and republican revolutionist Yeung Ku-wan (Yeung Kui-wan, or Yang Quyun) 楊衢雲 by emissaries from Canton (Guangzhou) led by Chen Lin 陳林. Hanson retired in 1911.
[2] Henry Ernest Wodehouse (b. July 14, 1845 – d. May 27, 1929) came to Hong Kong in 1867 and joined the Hong Kong civil service as a cadet in the capacity of a student interpreter [Wodehouse was in fact the last cadet to be recruited officially]. Between 1872 and 1886, he had received the following appointments in the government: Sheriff of Hong Kong (June 22, 1872); acting Superintendent of the Chinese Contingent, HKPF (January 14, 1873); acting Assistant Colonial Secretary and Clerk of Councils (April 24, 1875); Clerk to the Commissioners for the preparing a new Edition of the Ordinances of Hong Kong (September 11, 1875); Chief Clerk, Colonial Secretary's Office, and Clerk of Councils (December 11, 1875); acting Colonial Secretary and Auditor General (March 2, 1877); acting Deputy Superintendent, HKPF, and acting Police Magistrate (November 16, 1878); Police Magistrate, and Coroner, and Superintendent of the Fire Brigade (January 15, 1881); acting Colonial Treasurer (June 21, 1890); Member, Executive Council (May 2, 1895). He retired from the Hong Kong civil service in 1898 due to ill health, and had received his first pension payment of $4,420 from the Hong Kong Government on August 6, 1898. He was invested as a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in 1886. Wodehouse married Eleanor Deane, the sister of former Police Captain Superintendent Walter Meredith Deane 田尼, who was the longest serving police chief in Hong Kong (1868-91). Eleanor Deane bore Wodehouse four sons. The eldest son, Philip Peveril John Wodehouse (b. September 26, 1877 – d. November 26, 1951), was appointed the First Clerk in the Registrar General's Office in 1897 (vice Charles Osmund 柯士文, who was dismissed after having been found a bribe-taker connected with the Wa Lane Scandal). It must have been his first civil service appointment for his name was not listed before 1897. He had a distinguished career in the Hong Kong Civil Service including the HKPF. He was appointed in numerous occasions acting Superintendent of Police and held the rank of Divisional Superintendent of Police when he retired in 1932. Perhaps the most well-known was their third son, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, who worked for London office of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (1900-02) and afterward became a dramatist and broadcaster.

Photo of Job Witchell taken in a Hong Kong photo-studio, very likely in the 1910s or 1920s. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.

Samuel Job Witchell 威造 was born to coal miner Joseph Witchell and his wife Hariet Green on November 13, 1858. Growing up in the market town of Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire in England, his birthplace, Job did not follow in the footsteps of his father and had instead acquired carpentry as his livelihood skill. When he was nearly 24 years of age (it happened two months before he actually turned 24), he made a life-changing decision that he was to give up his livelihood of carpentry, bachelorhood, and his homeland all in one go. He sought a fresh start half the globe away and he never looked back.

Policeman, Fire Engine Driver

Job was recruited in England in 1882 to join the HKPF[1]. He arrived Hong Kong in September with his newlywed wife, Maud Mary Powell[2] (b.February 3, 1857, Laugharne, Carmarthen, Wales), to take up his new job, and by 7th instant, he was already on duty as a constable. Having considered their date of mariage on July 5, 1882 and that sea journey from England to Hong Kong should take no less than 50 days back in the 1880s, it is reasonably safe to assume that he ask Maud Mary's father, gardener John Powell, of Cheltenham[3] for permission to marry his 25 years old daughter after he had signed up with HKPF. The couple set sail for Hong Kong in a matter of days after their wedding at Upper Dedford, Bristol, where Job had lived and worked as a carpenter. The birth certificate of James Henry Witchell, their second son, showed that Job was attached to the No. 9 Police Station in 1884. By 1887 he was already a police sergeant, and on September 7 that same year he was assigned to the Hong Kong Fire Brigade (HKFB) [HKFB was a part of HKPF from its inception on May 9, 1868 until 1941.] as an Assistant Engine Driver. He drew an annual salary of $624 from HKPF and an additional $144 from HKFB. He returned to HKPF duties between 1891 and 1893, but was sent back to HKFB as Engine Driver [probably the most senior one since his name came on top] on March 22, 1894 and remained there until 1895. He was seconded, in no fewer than two separate occasions in 1894, to the Sanitary department to be Acting Inspector of Markets. Job was appointed 3rd Class Police Inspector on April 23, 1896. In addition to his inspector salary of $960, he received another $30 as good conduct allowance, $30 for knowledge of Chinese [language] and $120 as lusp. [sic.] of vehicles. He was the first men among those recruited from England in 1882 to be made an inspector[4].

As an inspector, Job was attached to the Central District. Commencing from August 6, 1896, he had charge of No. 1 section, which expanded from the Central Market to the Koshing Theatre 高升戲園, and all the section of Victoria between Queen's Road and Praya. His special duties within the district were to suppress illegal gambling.

[1] Job was probably recruited by Inspector George Hennessy 搴彌時 who for many years was entrusted with task of finding and hiring officers for HKPF from England and Scotland. Hennessy was implicated in the Wah Lane Scandal but was allowed to complete the remainder of the term of his service.
[3] Maud Mary was some time written as Mary Maud. What was the reason, I've no idea. Maud Mary was used in her marriage certificate, as well as her burial record kept by the St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong. Mary Maud was used in the English Census records for the year 1881, the birth certificate of her daughter Lilian Mary. Mary Maud were also the names carved into her memorial. To keep consistency, I use Maud Mary throughout the article.
[3] The address of John and Elizabeth Powell (parents of Maud Mary) at the time was Holland House, Lansdown Road, Cheltenham; this is where the Cheltenham Police Station is located today. The property was quite grand in it's day. John Powell probably was the resident gardener there.
[4] The only other men recruited from Bristol in 1882 to reach the inspector rank (and beyond) was Henry George Baker. He was made Sergeant in 1882 (Job became a sergeant in 1887), Inspector 3rd Class on October 10, 1897 (approximately two months after Job was sent to jail), Inspector 2nd Class and and consecutively to 1st Class on March 5, 1898. He became Chief Inspector on April 18, 1903, a position he held until he retired from the HKPF on April 10, 1913, at the age of 52.

The Dirty Dozen

Based on the Wa Lane Ledger, the May-Dennys in-house inquiry panel had initially identified four European officers as bribe-takers. More names were added to the list as the inquiry continued and finally 14 were named. Properly speaking, there were only a dozen for one of them retired long before the East Street Raid and had left Hong Kong[1], and the other, Inspector William W. Quincey, was a Chinese. The list was never made public. What you see below is the result of my guesstimaed work. The names are grouped under three categories, viz. Definite; Very Sure; and Very Likely, Explicit Confirmation Lacking Nonetheless. I was able to find 11, one is still missing.

NameFinal RankYOSActions Taken Against Subject
Job Witchellinspector, 3rd class15suspended 7/15/1897; arrested 7/17/1897; tried and sentenced to 6-months imprisonment 8/3/1897
William Baker 碧架inspector, 3rd class24suspended 7/13/1897; dismissed 8/23/1897; HKPF pensioner for the next 32 years
George Hennessyinspector, 1st class24retired (compulsory) 3/5/1898; HKPF pensioner for the next 14 years
John Holt 何露detective sergeantsuspended 7/13/1897; dismissed 8/24/1897
William Stanton 士丹頓[detective] inspector, 1st class24suspended 7/13/1897; dismissed 9/2/1897; HKPF pensioner for the next 12 years
Very Sure
Aeneas Manninspector, 2nd class11+retired (compulsory) 3/5/1898; HKPF pensioner for the next 28 years
Very Likely, Explicit Confirmation Lacking Nonetheless
Joseph Mathew Corcoranchief inspector24retired (compulsory) 10/10/1897; HKPF pensioner for the next 11 years
Tom Foordsergeant14+retired (compulsory) 3/5/1898; HKPF pensioner for the next 41 years
Dan Hallsergeantretired (compulsory) 3/5/1898; HKPF pensioner for the next 11 years
Angus Macaulayacting sergeantretired (compulsory) 1/18/1898; HKPF pensioner for the next 41 years
Alexander McIver detective sergeantretired (compulsory) 12/25/1897; HKPF pensioner for the next 23 years

A simple review of what transpired at the rank of inspectors shows clearly how appalling the situation really was [on the assumption that my list was accurate]. Chief Inspector Corcoran was implicated. There were four class 1 inspectors: Alexander Mackie was May's lieutenant in the East Street Raid. The other three (Stanton, Quincey and Hennessy) were all implicated. Of the three class 2 inspectors, Mann was implicated. John William Hanson, an American with Danish father and Irish mother, was in the Water Police, who later headed the detective department until his retirement in 1911. John Butlin retired at the expiration of service. There were four class 3 inspectors. Job and Baker were implicated. Thomas Duncan, promoted to be inspector only months before the East Street Raid, was the officer who placed Job under arrest. George Kemp replaced Stanton as head of the detective department; he and Hanson were ordered to swap positions on October 11, 1897. Kemp stayed in the Water Police until his retirement. HKPF, at the time, had 11 inspectors; the corrupted ones claimed an absolute majority.

One of the things that drove me to writing this story is the urge to solve the puzzle why Job was singled out for this comparatively harsh punishment. No other European officers implicated in the scandal were arrested. No one else went to jail. Almost all of them as shown in the above table collected pensions from the Hong Kong Government, absurdly, two of them for 41 years after they have been shown the doors. The suspension, arrest and the subsequent hearing and trial of Job Witchell happened all within two weeks. Why the rush? William Stanton, for example, was suspended two days earlier than when Job was and yet he was only dismissed in September – by that time, Job was already serving his hard-labor sentence. George Hennessy was among the first to be identified as a bribe-taker, yet he faced no suspension and was allowed to complete the remainder of his service period. When Job got out of jail in February 1898, Hennessy was still a HKPF inspector and a month away from his retirement. I am now on the 76th day into writing this story and I still don't have a clue on this matter. (7/10/2014)

[1] May in his HKPF Report for the Year 1897 described this police officer as, “The Inspector, who was Acting as Deputy Superintendent, had already retired from the Force when the list [the Wa Lane Ledger] was discovered”. In the five-years period from 1892 leading to the East Street Raid, only three inspectors had retired, viz. Inspector Second Class William Gauld, July 1, 1895; Chief Inspector John Mathieson, December 4, 1895; and Inspector First Class Donald Bremner, April 23, 1896 [dates written were those when the first pension payments were made respectively to the three]. Only Mathieson was once made [and senior enough to be appointed – he was acting Chief Inspector at the time] acting Deputy Superintendent of Police in October 1892 (vice George Horspool, leave of absence). He was therefore my prime suspect. Mathieson, who was one of the original Scottish recruits, joined the HKPF in 1872 as a third class inspector. He was an outstanding policemen and his service had won him a gold medal [I am unsure if this was the Hong Kong Police Medal for Distinguished Service (PDSM)]. As well as Baker, Henessy, Mann and Quincey, he was a recipient of the Hong Kong Plague Medal. Mathieson retired in February 1895 and left Hong Kong on March 4 the same year. I noticed, while browsing the HKPF pension records that his name no longer appeared in the pension list from 1898. That could only mean that either he died some time in 1897 or his pension had been stopped.

The Trial

Two days after having been suspended from duty, Job was arrested on July 17, 1897 by Inspector Thomas Duncan[1] in his living quarters at the Central Police Station and detained in the room adjoining the charge room. A hearing at the Magistracy, before Police Magistrate Henry Ernest Wodehouse, was held on the same day of his arrest. Wodehouse, as mentioned earlier, was the presiding magistrate of Hong Kong's first court trial of a corrupted policeman, Chinese constable Chan Ayau, whom he sent to prison for three months. John Joseph Francis 佛蘭士, a private sector solicitor and barrister who appeared on behalf of Attorney General, William Meigh Goodman, representing the prosecution. Job did not have legal representation; he represented himself. Job was arraigned on two charges: 1. On March 7, 1897, and on divers dates thereafter, neglected to report the existence of unlawful gambling houses in Wa Lane and Cheung Hing Lane; and 2. On March 11, 1897, and on divers dates thereafter, unlawfully, willfully and corruptly accepted divers sums of money from the keepers or managers of these gambling houses to refrain from reporting their existence and to protect them. He pleaded not guilty.

The hearing then proceeded to cross examinations of witnesses. All five witnesses testified in the two-days hearing on July 17 and 19 (18 being a Sunday) were introduced by prosecution. They included May and four Chinese men, viz. Chen On, Sham Yeen, Tam Kum and Hau Wai-tsim. Some introductions to the Chinese witnesses are needed before we go on.

Cheng On 鄭安, alias Cheng Ming San, was formerly a HKPF constable. He had been in the force for 15 to 16 years, first with the Water Police and after two years was transferred to the Central Station, and finally to the detective department. He said he was transferred in December 1892 to the Yau-ma-ti (Yau Ma Tei)油麻地 Station as an unjust punishment of a mistake he made. He refused to go and resigned. [The transfer from the Central Station to a lowly ranked station such as Yau-ma-ti was considered a demotion, although not in the actual rank. Furthermore, the real money clearly was in the Central and Sheung Wan districts, for a policeman on the take. The transfer would mean not only a loss of face but also income.] After HKPF, Cheng became the chief Chinese excise officer 巡攔頭 of the Opium Farmer[2]. Cheng was arrested by Inspector Alexander Mackie on July 13, 1897 (two days before Job's suspension) in connection with the Wa Lane scandal and had been detained by the police since. He claimed that there was no warrant either for his arrest or his detention; if there had been one he had not be shown.

Sham Yeen 岑賢 (or Sham In) was the gambling syndicate's accountant (a Chinese newspaper identified him as the head 舘主 of the Wa Lane gambling house).. He resided at #3 West Street and was the keeper of the Wa Lane Ledger. He was earlier tried and sentenced to nine months imprisonment and a fine of $1,000.

Tam Kum 鄧金 was shopkeeper of a mercer shop named Yao Yuen Shop 祐元店 at #181 Hollywood Road. Tam was also a former HKPF constable who resigned on his own accord in around 1885. Tam knew Cheng very well.

Hau Wai-tsim managed the Chu Loong firm, a mercer shop at #118 Jervois Street.

[1] Thomas Duncan joined HKPF in 1879 and retired on pension on March 30, 1901. He died in Markinch, Scotland on April 23, 1902.
[2] The opium monopoly for a three-year period starting March 1, 1895 was held by successful bidder, the Man Fook 萬福號 and Fook Hing 福興號 firms. Together, they paid $23,833.33 per month for the exclusive right to prepare and sell opium in Hong Kong. The total licensing fee for 1895 amounted to more than 20% of all the combined revenue of the Hong Kong Government for the year.

Too Hard a Punishment?

Maud Mary Powell Witchell. Credit: Find A Grave, uploaded by Margaret Ann McNutt.
God and Satan had their fun toying Job of Uz in the Old Testament. By the time they were done testing Job's faith, all ten of his children, seven sons and three daughters, and a large number of servants were killed, all of whom of course died a meaningful death -- as stakes in God and Satan's wager. I don't approve of bribery but honestly believe six months hard labor is more than sufficient to punish a corrupted lawman, such as Job, as what awaits the lawman-turned-ex-convict are the suffer of consequential losses that may go on for years. For whatever reasons, some higher being thought otherwise. I have no idea who was toying Job, last name Witchell, in the antepenultimate and penultimate years of the nineteenth century. Has Job Witchell's sharing the forename with the man from Uz anything to do with his fate is a question for the superstitious bunch, really. [Or is it?] When Job was sent to jail in August 1897 Maud Mary was five to six months pregnant with their sixth child. She gave birth to a baby boy on October 30. The unnamed infant, who had not the opportunity to meet his father, had gone to meet his maker three days after birth. The family tragedy did not stop there. On February 14, 1898, just weeks before Job's scheduled release, Maud Mary died (age 41) and left five children, the oldest 14 and youngest four, without parental care. Clearly Job had no idea what's in store for him when he asked and took the bribe of a dollar a day.

Life after Prison

Except for the tragedies in the family, the imprisonment, and indeed the scandal, seemingly had little impact on Job, who soon after released in early 1898 was not only offered a managerial position with a top grade company, but also considered fit to be appointed a juror. In fact his name remained on the juror list until he died. The job that he was offered, and took, was acting superintendent (superintendent from 1900) with the Hong Kong Pipe, Brick, and Tile Works, which was owned and operated by the Green Island Cement Company 青洲英坭公司 (or 青洲鴻毛坭公司). The brickworks and Job were mentioned in the Twentieth Century Impressions, on page 238.

"The superintendent of the works, Mr. J.B.[sic.] Witchell, who has been with the Company for about ten years, has been responsible for many improvements, tending both to save labor and to improve the quality of the products of the works. He lives on a hill overlooking the bay, and excellent quarters have been provided on a hill opposite for the coolies employed at the works."

ca.1900s photo of Job (right) and an unidentified man. The photo was taken in fornt of the family's residence at the brickworks. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingsman.
According to family stories, Job insisted on being carried by his Chinese laborers up the hill to his residence in a sedan chair; and being a big man himself, it became one of the most unwelcome jobs in the factory.

Newspaper advertisement of the brickworks. Credit: The China Mail, May 25, 1897, p.1.

ca.1900 photo of the brickworks that houses 14 fixed chimney kilns. Credit: Twentieth century impressions of Hong-kong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China, p.235.
The Works were situated at the western end of Deep Water Bay 深水灣, most likely at where the Hong Kong Country Club is today. The hill mentioned by the Twentieth Century Impressions where Job's living quarters was built is Nam Long Shan 南朗山 (or 南塱山), commonly known, for obvious reason, the Brick Hill. The Works opened in 1896 and, at peak, operated 14 kilns, of those three had a capacity of 30,000 bricks each. The peak, however, didn't last long, the Works were closed, as announced in the annual general meeting of the Green Island Cement on March 21, 1928, due to heavy financial loses. The management said at the AGM that the Works were capable of being operated again if conditions warrant; the right conditions never showed themselves. There were other bricks and tiles companies existing in Hong Kong at the time, but I do know for sure if their manufacturing bases were actually here. I could find at least two such businesses: Belgian Brick Factory 比國磚窯 and Soochow Brick & Tile Company 蘇州磚瓦公司.


Full view of the King Edward Hotel from a ca.1912 post card.

1920s logo of the King Edward Hotel. Credit:
Job quit his job at the brickworks and went to Canada in 1911[1] and stayed there until 1915, to what end he was there I have no idea [at least not yet]. He reappeared in Hong Kong in 1915 as manager of the King Edward Hotel 英皇酒店[2]. Opened since October 1, 1902, the hotel was housed in two separate premises, viz. the Royal Building, a distinguished seven-stories (six above ground and one under) building designed by Hong Kong's original architectural firm Leigh and Orange, on Des Voeux Road fronting Ice House Street, and the nearby Prince's Building. 43 guestrooms, food and beverage outlets and back-of-the-house facilities went into the Royal Building. Another 27 guestrooms (including six let to Johnson, Stokes and Master, Solicitors and Notaries, as offices) and staff dining facilities were housed on the bottom three stories of the Prince's Building. The hotel (the leasehold not the Royal Building which was owned by the China Land Investment Co. 中華置業公司) was owned in 1915 by a Hong Kong and Macau-based Chinese merchant, Tong Lai-chuen 唐麗泉, who was, among other affiliations, a partner in Shewan Tomes and Company 新旗昌洋行, the management firm that controlled Green Island Cement and Deep Water Bay Brick Works where Job had previously worked as superintendent. That was probably how Job got to know Tong and then came to be a hotelier; clearly he had as much experience running a hotel than he had running a brick works back in 1898. Another possible connection that helped secure his employment came from K.C. Lau, the employer {TBC} of his second son, James. Lau, a Vietnamese Chinese merchant, was one of the owners of Royal Building that housed the hotel. Job held the Publican's License to Sell by Retail Intoxicating Liquors granted to the hotel [the only license required back in the early twentieth century to operate a hotel] since December 7, 1915. The original license application filed in 1915 on behalf of the hotel was made by Paul M. Marsh, the hotel bar manager on November 12. His application was however superseded by Job's 10 days later and it probably means that Job had only took over the management of the hotel after November 12 and barely made it in time to apply the license under his name. The King Edward Hotel was praised as the second best hotel in the Colony, next only to the Hong Kong Hotel on Pedder Street. [The Hong Kong Hotel, opened in 1866, was named the most luxury and sumptuous hotel east of Bombay (Mumbai).] One of the important hotel guests Job would have personally welcomed was Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who stayed there during his 1922 and 1923 visits to Hong Kong. Job held this hotel manager position until he died in 1925.

[1] Job and Minnie went to Canada via Japan to attend the wedding of Minnie's son, Frederick Goode and Margaret Goodfellow, the sister of Job's daughter-in-law (wife of James Witchell) which took place on November 16, 1910. Minnie arrived Vancouver on August 17; and Job November 24, he had, obviously, missed the wedding. It is unknown if Job stayed behind for years, or he returned to Hong Kong after a brief stay but again went to Canada in 1911.

The family's Canadian connection probably began with William Goodfellow, Mabel's father who moved from Shanghai to Vancouver and later to New Westminster by himself before 1900. William's Shanghai born son, William Douglas Bamford, went to live in Vancouver in 1906 until he joined the army in 1914 and served in the Great War in Europe. Frederick Goode, the son of Job's second wife, Minnie, fled Shanghai and went to Victoria in 1906, after having been charged with embezzling from his employer. He was sent back to Shanghai where he was jailed. In 1911, as earlier mentioned, he married Margaret Goodfellow, William's daughter, in North Vancouver and they stayed there afterward. Job went to Canada in 1911 (or 1910). Robert George Whitcell, the only son of Robert Charles, Job's first son, absconded from his position in Hong Kong Government after having embezzled public finds and found his way to Canada. He was sent back to Hong Kong by the Canadian authorities. He was given a six months imprisonment sentence. Audrey, James' daughter, was sent by her mother, Mabel, to stay with her aunt Margaret in North Vancouver, after Audrey had left Hong Kong for the last time in 1929. Audrey later rejoined her mother in San Francisco and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

1910 post card of the King Edward Hotel, annotated Dorabjee & Co., Proprietors.
[2] The Kind Edward Hotel was owned by Dorabjee and Company 立治洋行, a partnership formed by Parsee merchant Dorabjee Nowrojee[a] and Ismail Pillay Madar[b]. Dhunjeebhoy Dorabjee Nowrojee, Dorabjee Nowrojee's only son, took over the hotel when the old Dorabjee's retired to India in 1898. The partnership was dissolved on June 12, 1909 with the young Dorabjee continued to retain the hotel ownership. The hotel was up for auction on October 30, 1911 following the death of the heirless young Dorabjee on August 23 of the same year. The buyer was a Chinese consortium composed of two Hong Kong and Macau-based Chinese merchants, namely: Li Shuk-wai 李叔煒, alias (and better known as) Li Wai-tong 李煒堂[c] and Tong Lai-chuen 唐麗泉[d]. The Li-Tong partnership was dissolved on October 13, 1914. with Tong continued to own the hotel. Tong sold the hotel to Wong Man-hing 黄文慶 and Lai Chak 黎澤 on January 6, 1927. The ownership of the hotel changed hands again, (unbeknown then) for the last time in 1928 to yet another Chinese consortium whose principals had included Cheung Fuk-kwong 蔣孚光, Cheung Ping-kwong and Yu Shiu-shan 余少山.
[a] Dorabjee Nowrojee ( July 7, 1904, Bombay [Mumbai]) was, through and through, an entrepreneur, and an extremely successful one. He was a Parsee Indian who went to China as a stowaway in the 1840s and was fortunate enough to be given a job by Lyall, Still & Co. as a steward on river steamers running between Hong Kong and Canton under its management. He settled in Hong Kong in around 1852 as a baker running a bakery business of his own, styled as Dorabjee's Bakery, and later the Hong Kong Bakery, at Queen's Road. His bakery business prospered following the Esing's Bakery 裕盛辦館 poison bread incident in 1857[i] for he replaced Esing as the principal supplier of bakery products to the British garrisons and fleet in Hong Kong. The expansion in business afforded him to buy a launch to deliver his products to Kowloon as well as ships moored in the harbor and from time to time the launch would carry goods belong to others and even people. Before long he was running a cross-harbor ferry service between Praya Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, which became a regular service from 1874.

ca.1907 photo of the Praya. The boat in the center looks like a steam launch with the trademark funnel. Could this be one of Star Ferry's boats? The low building (far left) with the pediments is the Central Market. Credit: "Twentieth Century Impressions of Hong Kong".

Dorabjee bought a steam launch “Morning Star” in 1880 from a Briton named Grant Smith, who had been running a cross-harbor ferry with it since 1870, unfortunately, at a loss. With the new acquisition, Dorabjee formally embarked on the ferry business under the auspices of Kowloon Ferry Service. He incorporated the business into the Star Ferry Co., Ltd. on April 23, 1898. Before retiring to India later that year, he sold his interests in the ferry company to Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co. Ltd.

What Dorabjee was prominently identified with was the hotel business. Between 1873 and ca.1884, he took out a lease of the Hong Kong Hotel and became its sole operator. The hotel was owned by the Hong Kong Hotel, Limited 香港客店公司; its founders had included Gustav von Overbeck, Douglas Lapraik and Charles Henry Maurice Bosman 何仕文. [Bosman's illegitimate son with a Chinese woman would rise to become one of the most eminent residents in Hong Kong. Born Ho Hiu Shang 何曉生, he would become famously known as Robert Ho-tung 何東.] When the Hong Kong Hotel Board finally took back the control of the hotel, Dorabjee ventured to open his own - the Victoria Hotel, at the corner of Pottinger Street (houses #27 Praya Central and #61 Queen's Road Central). The hotel was moved from the old premises which was in a state of decay to a new one at house #9 Queen's Road Central on July 23, 1894. The hotel was given a new name: The New Victoria Hotel. The old hotel building collapsed (the building owner was one Li Sam-lam [not that it matters what his name was, but since I have the information...]) on May 39, 1895 killing three persons. The King Edward Hotel was the last and most ambitious hotel development Dorabjee had ventured before his retirement.

Dorabjee was a member of the Plague Services Recognition Committee established in 1896 for the purpose to decided who should be rewarded with medals for their services in fighting the disease. The appointment signifies his eminence in the community. A reference source says Dorabjee made his fortune from smuggling opium from India to China. A company named Nowrojee & Co. was an opium firm (see Opium Hall of Fame, a post I created back on October 1, 2009), but his name was not shown. It does however make sense for the other prominent Indian Paree Hormusjee Naorojee Mody was also an opium smuggler, before he settled in Hong Kong and established himself as a land speculator and developer. Dorabjee donated six cast iron drinking fountains to Hong Kong as Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee commemorative gifts in 1887. Two remaining ones are displayed at the Hong Kong Museum of History.

[I know this story is about Job Witchell not Dorabjee Nowrojee, but I could not resist the temptation. What an interesting person.]
[b] Ismail Pillay Madar ( June 13, 1914, Hong Kong) was listed as book-keeper of the Victoria in 1884. He was said to associate with pari-mutuel and cash sweep at the Racecourse. [Horse racing betting was only regulated in 1931 with the monopoly to run the betting granted to the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club.] He was also Dorabjee's partner in the Star Ferry and the Hong Kong Bakery. The partnership in the bakery business dissolved on the same day as the hotel's. Madar was previously a partner in William Farmer's Old Victoria Hotel. Farmer, a veteran hotelier originally from Australia, had owned and managed hotels in Macau and Hong Kong. He was hired in 1902 to be the first manager of the King Edward Hotel.
[c] Li Wai-tong had been a manager of the Tai Yuen Firm (Bankers [probably 掌櫃 in Chinese] of #46 Wing Lok Street) until August 16, 1913. He was a director of Tung Wah Hospital in 1910 (and possibly in other times as well). Li went under receivership on February 26, 1931, and was adjudicated bankrupt on July 9, 1931.

Tong Lai-chuen. Credit: Memory Macau.
[d] Tong Lai-chuen, of Xiangshan County, Kwangtung 廣東省香山縣 (present day Zhongshan City, Guangdong), came from a very wealthy family and was related to Tong Siu-yee (Tang Shaoyi) 唐紹儀 (b.1862-d.1938), ROC's first Premier. He was appointed a member of the District Watchmen Committee 地區更練團委員會 on October 27, 1905. His affiliations in Macau had included a presidency in the Kiang Wu Hospital 鏡湖醫院總理 [n.d.].

Bar Brawl at King Edward Hotel

American seamen John Strout, Walter Theronx and Gerald Peters of the American steamer William H. Webb, and J.J. King, a soker of HMS Curlew, arrived at the King Edward Hotel at 9:45p.m. on February 28, 1921. They had wanted drinks. Strout and Theronx entered the hotel bar first while the other two were engaging themselves in an altercation outside the hotel entrance with the rickshaw pullers they hired over the question of payment. Strout ordered drinks from where they sat but was refused because they were already drunk. He then came up to the bar counter while cursing in offensive language and repeating his order for a round of drinks. He was confronted by Job, who was at the time at the bar. Job said to the drunken seamen, “No, you will not get it here. You are not sober now.” Strout then became very mad and challenged to fight anyone, he said, “I will blow out the brains of everyone here,” intimating that he had a handgun. His companions then gathered around him trying to calm him down. In the meantime, Job ordered him out of the bar and at that instant noticed there was a revolver in his hand. At that stage Job rang up the police, and was informed subsequently that Theronx was also in possession of a revolver.

On return to the bar from the phone box, Job, seeing Strout was in the process of climbing over the counter, hit the seamen by his hand and while this happened Thernox came up to Job and withdrew a revolver from his pocket and pointed it at Job, and said, “I will put this through your brains.” Eventually, Strout was forcibly ejected from the bar, and Theronx went out with him. They had a fight among themselves and others outside but before the street fight was over, Strout again returned to the bar and repeated his demand for drinks. When that demand was again denied, he took a chair and hurled it at a party of Royal Navy marines who were playing billiards. A second chair was picked up and thrown this time towards the direction of Job, which missed him. The RN marines were now thoroughly aroused and gave Job the assistance he needed to eject Strout once and for all from the hotel. One of the marines, A.J. Snell from HMS Curlew, were bitten in the hand by Strout. Once taken outside, the group kept him in check until the police contingent led by Detective Sergeant Fender arrived and took him into custody. Fender found a revolver from Theronk's breast pocket; it was fully loaded in its five chambers. Fender took Theronk into custody also.

Strout and Theronx were brought to the Magistracy on March 1, 1921. The case was heard by Police Magistrate Roger Edward Lindsell. Strout and Theronx were sentenced to three months and six weeks, respectively, imprisonment with hard labor on charges of being in possession of a loaded revolver without a permit, and of being drunk and disorderly.


I received with thanks this magnificent and very rare photo (top) from Margaret Ann of Job (front row, far right) and his fellow Freemasons posted on the steps of the Zetland Hall (1865-1944), the Masonic meeting hall in Hong Kong. In the absence of a photo caption, I've played an identification game of these Freemasons, here is what I think: Front row: 2nd - Dr. Ma Luk 馬祿臣 (licentiate, Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese 1905; inaugural director of the board of Yeung Wo Nursing Home (later renamed Hong Kong Sanitarium and Hospital) 1922; Vice President, Hong Kong Chinese Medical Association 1933-34; Chairman, Chinese Club 1900-27), 3rd – Francis Henry May (Captain Superintendent of Police 1893-1901; Colonial Secretary 1902-11; Colonial Governor 1912-19), 5th – Robert George Shewan (founder and director of more than 20 companies in Hong Kong including Green Island Cement that owned the brickworks Job had worked at), Middle row: 1st – H.A.Lammert (partner of the auction firm Geo. P. Lammert & Co., later known as the Lammert Brothers). If my identification attempt is on the right track, then this photo would have been taken in the 1910s.

Quite recently I chanced upon the bottom photo when reading an article titled “ Early Freemason in Hong Kong: Joseph Emanuel and the Formation of Lodge St. John No. 618SC” written by Mark MacAlpine. The caption read “Installation photograph of Lodge St. John with its first Chinese Master, Bro. F.C. Mow Fung, taken around 1925 or 1926 (courtesy of Zetland Hall Archives, Hong Kong.” Since Job died in 1925, and the installation of new lodge officers for St. John's always took place in December, the photo must have been taken, therefore, in December 1924. At first glance, the two photographs seem identical, they are not. Frederic Charles Mow Fung 鍾茂豐, whom I've mistaken as Dr. Ma Luk, stood at the center in the bottom photo, whereas in the the top, he was the second. Several others had also switched places, yet the same people appeared in both photos which clearly were from the same series but different sitting. I was unable to find the list of officers of Lodge St. John installed for the period, but know for sure Francis Henry May could not be one of them since he died in 1922.

This exquisite masonic five-point star pendant was given to Margaret Ann by Dorothy Audrey, who in turn got it from Job. According to Audrey, it once belonged to Maud Mary. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
Job was a Freemason and an elected officer of the order; he was steward of the Lodge St. John #618 and chaplain of the St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter #218.

I cannot tell if Job was, in addition to being a Freemason, a member of the Theosophical Society in Hong Kong. The lodge was formed on March 18, 1923 in a room in the King Edward Hotel by its founder, Malcolm Manuk, who was also the Secretary of Dairy Farm, Ice, and Cold Storage Co. Manuk attended Job's funeral with his sister, Mary. The society's secretary, Herbert Edward Lanepart 連伯氏[1], had sent flowers and possibly was among those who attended the funeral.

[1] Lanepart, a Latvian born in Germany and a naturalized British subject, became the talk of the town on March 10, 1932 when he formed the Hong Kong Nudist Society at the Lane Crowford's Restaurant, assuming the office of president, a position he went on to hold until his death in 1963. He later made himself known as a Nazi sympathizer; some said he was a full member of the Nazi Party [TBC]. Lanepart later had his family name changed to Lehnpart.

A Sad Story of A Private Person?

Samuel Job Witchell, policeman-turned-brickworks-manager-turned-hotelier, prominent resident of the Colony, died of cancer on August 12, 1925 at the Government Civil Hospital. He was 68. Job's funeral, which took place at Happy Valley in the evening of the same day he died, was attended by the Colonial Secretary, Claud Severn 施勳, and a large attendance, many of them were officers of the Masonic Order. The chief mourners were his sons, Robert, James and George. Other presents were: William Seybourne Bailey (shipbuilder; employer of Job's third son, George Bernard), Rev. George Turner Waldegrave (Colonial Commissioner, Hong Kong Scouts; formerly Honorary Chaplain of the Royal Navy), Duncan McNeill (barrister; acting Crown Advocate), Peter Grant (HKPF Inspector, later Chief Inspector; recipient of Hong Kong Gallantry Award, January 2, 1933.) , G. Watt (First Steward, St. John's Lodge #618, 1909), Malcolm Manuk (Secretary, Dairy Farm, Ice, and Cold Storage Co., Ltd.; founder and head of Hong Kong Lodge of Theosophical Society, 1923.), Charles Alexander Dick Melbourne (Deputy Registrar and Appraiser, Supreme Court), S. Paul, R.C. Pass, G. Kynoch, Lancelot Forster (Professor of Education and Dean of Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong), Maurice Frederick Key (Secretary, Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce), W. Anderson (possibly William Anderson, manager, Anderson Music Co., Ltd.), R.C. Jorge, Daniel Oswald de Silva (agent, Sun Life Insurance), J. Smith (Worship Master, St. John's Lodge #618, 1923), William Petrie Seath (Foreman, Taikoo Sugar Refinery; Worshipful Master, St. John's Lodge #618, 1927 and 1933), Henry Lowcock (stock broker; Secretary, Hong Kong Stock Exchange, 1933; St. John's Lodge #618), J. Murray (Worshipful Master, St. John's Lodge #618, 1928), Frederick Charles Mow Fung (rickshaw company owner; director, Tung Wah Hospital; Worship Master, St. John's Lodge #618, 1925, 1926 and 1946). Job and Maud Mary were both buried at the Hong Kong Cemetery. The following are the first few lines of his obituary that appeared in the August 13, 1925 issue of the China Mail.

"The Colony has lost by death four residents..., one of whom has a connection with the Colony dating back forty five years in the course of which he had won the esteem and regard of all who knew him - and there were few who who were not acquainted with Mr. Job Witchell."

The front page of the Hong Kong Telegraph of the same date had this to add,

"Of a genial and kindly disposition, the late Mr. Witchell enjoyed a wide circle of friends, all of whom will hear of his death with the deepest of regret."

Job was survived by his second wife, Minnie Vera Bale[1], and five children by his first wife, Robert Charles Witchell, James Henry Witchell (b. July 17, 1884, Hong Kong), George Bernard Witchell (b.1892, Hong Kong), Lilian Mary Witchell, and Edith Ethel Witchell.

Tallness is the hallmark of the Witchell family. According to Mary Rose Kingman, Job was about 6'2", George Bernard was reputed to be 6'4", Lilian Mary was 6'0", and her sons Frank Archibald Hamilton Wilson 6'3", James Walter Wilson 6'5". I would say James Henry was of the same height as George Bernard.

Do I begin to know what kind of person Job Witchell was after having studied him [and his family] probably more than anyone else in the world [during the second quarter 2014, at least]? Not much. I know from Margaret Ann that Job was very strict. He once sent his granddaughter Audrey (Margaret Ann's mother) back to the Catholic Convent for haivng eaten the mangos in the lounge of the King Edward Hotel. I know from Lorna Southerton who was told by Muriel Vera Southerton, the daughter of Edith Ethel Witchell, that Job was happily married to his second wife, Minnie, and was very good to his stepchildren, who lost their father in 1904. Muriel also remembered him as a large but affectionate man. I know he wasn't a job hopper: 15 years with the HKPF; 13 with Green Island; and 10 with King Edward Hotel [longer if he was to live more than 68 years], but people of his time seldom were. I know he was a keen church worker but I do not know if he was always a church worker or it only began after he got out of jail. In addition to being a sidesman at St. john's Cathedral and having a seat at the vestry, he was an elected lay member of the Church Body from 1921 to 1923 [the Church Body was comprised of only six members]. I know he had five children with his first wife but none with his second. The untimely death of his first wife and the imprisonment, despite its relatively short span, had had quite an impact on his life. Days before his release from gaol, he openly admitted that he was guilty of charges only six months ago he fought so fiercely at the hearing and the subsequent trial[3]. Unlike most of the others implicated in the scandal who left Hong Kong after having been kicked out of HKPF, he was courageous enough to stay and deal the shame head-on. I know his children loved and supported him, they would otherwise have left Hong Kong as soon as attaining adulthood for without doubt, they were labeled and had to endure prejudicial treatment of some degree growing up. I know he thought of himself a colonist through and through and probably was not keen to reorient himself to fit in the British way of life as an ordinary person. Job Witchell came to Hong Kong at the age of 23 and stayed here [with the exception of the five years he spent in Canada] until he died. This is what I know, nothing more than scratching the surface and stating the obvious.

[1] Six months after he gave away his eldest daughter, Lilian Mary Witchell, at her wedding held at St. John's Cathedral, Job held his own wedding with Minnie Vera Bale [her name was shown as Minnie Vera Goode in the record of St. John's Cathedral; some other records showed her name as Minnie Victoria Bale.] on October 23, 1909 at the very same church, at which he had a seat at the vestry. Minnie (b.1864, Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia – d. January 16, 1954, Melbourne) was born to William Dallyn Bale, of Devonshire, and Ellen Martha Mountier, of Surrey, England. Minnie first married Frederick Henry Goode, of Winters Flat, Victoria, Australia in ca.1882 and bore him three children: Frederick Harrington Mountier Goode[a], George Llewellyn Goode, and “Kit” Goode, who married one R. Denham.
[2] Quite oddly, the confession was made public, not by an open letter from Job, but instead it was sent to the press via the Colonial Secretary's Office in the form a communique. It said, "Ex-Police Inspector Job Witchell, who was convicted of bribery and sentenced to six months' imprisonment by the Supreme Court in August last, has confessed his guilt and acknowledged the justice of the sentence passed upon him, and has further expressed regret for his remarks upon the conclusion of the trial imputing unworthy motives to the Captain Superintendent of Police, one of the principal witnesses for the prosecution."
[a] F.H.M. Goode worked for the Shanghai Electric and Asbestos Ltd. as company secretary. He was investigated for forgery and embezzlement he had allegedly committed between April and June 1906, to the amount of 1,999 taels of silver, $1,237 (silver dollars), and £23. He absconded and found his way to Yokohama and from there he took the passage of the steamer Shawnut headed for Victoria, B.C., under the name W.W. Paine. When Shawnut ported Victoria on November 19, 1906, Canadian Police boarded the ship and placed him under arrest. He was sent back to China the following month arriving Shanghai by the steamer Empress of China on December 13. He was tried in Shanghai and sentenced, on February 6, 1907, to 18 months imprisonment with hard labor. He had run an import/export concern in China (probably in Shanghai and probably after he got out of jail). His name reappeared in Canada again in 1910, under more auspicious circumstances this time; he and Margaret Aitken Goodfellow got married in North Vancouver on November 16, 1910. The bride was the sister of Mabel May Goodfellow, who was Job's daughter-in-law; the wife of James Henry Witchell. They had two children: Doris Goode (b.1915, Vancouver) and Jack Goode (b.1916, Singapore) F.H.M. Goode was a Freemason.


James Henry Witchell
Job's second son, James Henry Witchell 屈祖, was born in Hong Kong on July 17, 1884 and studied at the Diocesan Boys School and Orphange (his names appears in the 1892 and 1899 register). I have found no additional information about his childhood except that his lost his father temporarily, who was sent to prison, when he was 13 and his mother, forever, the following year while his father was still behind bars. He had probably spent his entire childhood and young adulthood in Hong Kong. James was an engineer (probably mechanical) by profession, but I know not where he was trained. He worked for the Standard Oil Company of New York 美孚行 in an unknown capacity conducting its affairs in Canton in addition to Hong Kong until ca.1910, whereupon he landed a job as engineer with the Nam Loong Rice Mills in Cholon, Cochinchina. [Cholon, a city incorporated in 1879 was merged into Saigon in 1931. For consistency, I'll stick to the name Saigon for the rest of the article] The rice mill, I surmise, was owned by wealthy Vietnamese Chinese rice merchant, Lau Kwei-cheuk (bettter known as K.C. Lau) 劉季焯[1]. In 1918, Lau moved into financial services and established the Chinese Merchant Savings Bank 華商銀行 in Hong Kong, with branches in Canton, Shanghai, Saigon and New York. James, although not directly connected to the bank, was assisting Lau in business dealings in Europe and North America. That probably was why James was referred to in some of his newspaper interviews in the United States as an international banker with offices in China, New York and London. He was also quoted as saying in November 1920 that he was in Chicago to look into investing in a Canadian airship company or procure finances for a contemplated dirigible airline between Saigon and Paris. Lau was a founder and the managing director of China Land Investment, the owning company of the Royal Building which housed the King Edward Hotel. Job, after having returned from Canada, was employed by the hotel as manager in 1915. This arrangement, most likely, was made with Lau's introduction and support. When Job died in 1925, James "succeeded" his father's position as manager of the King Edward Hotel until it was burned down in 1928. He left Hong Kong in ca.1931 and found a job as ship's engineer. Due to poor health he gave up being a seafarer and landed in Bombay where he later died. James, reckoned by some of his descendants as a womanizer, married the Shanghai born Mabel May Goodfellow in Shanghai in 1910. They divorced in 1920 in San Francisco. He remarried his mistress since 1917, the Saigon born Felicie Dansan, in Saigon in 1922. She left him in 1925, oddly at the advice of Job. Between these two marriages, James was to live through the most eventful years of his life.

C.K. Lau. Credit: 中華今代名人集
[1] Lau Kwei-cheuk 劉季焯 (b.Hong Kong - d. April 7, 1931, Hong Kong) came from a wealthy Cochinchina family engaged in the rice trade. He attended the Canton Christian College (later Lingnan University 嶺南大學) in Canton and afterward returned to Hong Kong where he and his brothers, Lau Sui-cheuk 劉小焯 and Lau Yik-cheuk 劉亦焯, became major rice importers, traded under the name of Kung Yuen Hong. The Lau brothers, together with their cousin, Lau Hey-shing 劉希成, moved into financial services in 1918, establishing the Chinese Merchants Savings Bank 華商積儲銀行 in Hong Kong on August 26. Lau assumed the managing director position. The Bank, later renamed Chinese Merchants Bank Limited 華商銀行 (not to be confused with the China Merchants Bank 招商银行 1987- ), opened branches in Canton, Shanghai, Saigon and New York. Over speculation in foreign exchange and poor governance had caused serious damage to the bank and when its Shanghai branch had a cash flow situation in June 1924, a bank run occurred which consequently forced the branch to close. Bad publicity of the failure in Shanghai snowballed into a major crises across the board, before long, the entire bank collapsed. Lau was a very famous racehorse owner. He and his friend, Lee Hon-ci 李翰墀 of the law firm, Lee & Russ 李翰墀及剌士律師樓, owned jointly several prized racehorses, viz. Mount Elburz, Duke of Chantilly 尚蒂伊公爵, and Maiden Stakes.

Aventure Extra-Conjugale

Double Wedding in Shanghai. Front row: Robjohn and his wife Elizabeh Goodfellow (brides' sister), Mabel May Goodfellow, Catherine Alexander Goodfellow (brides' mother), Leslie James Blackburn, Jessie Beatrice Goodfellow, Margaret Goodfellow and Lilly Goodfellow (both brides' sisters); back row: James Henry Witchell, Robert Charles Witchell, man [s.n.], Frederick Mountier Goode, man [s.n.]. [Notes: i. page boy and flower girl were not identified; ii. Job and Minnie Witchell, and William Goodfellow were not included in this photo.] Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.

James, 26 years of age by then, married Shanghai born (ca.1892) Mabel May Goodfellow in Shanghai on April 23, 1910 . The Witchell-Goodfellow wedding brought about sensation to Shanghai as it was a rare occurrence of a double wedding, the civil ceremonies of which was preformed by Pelham Laird Warren 霍必瀾, the British Consul General in Shanghai.

1900s photo of the Union Church 天安堂 where the wedding took place. It was (still is) situated at #107 Soochow Road. Credit: "Twentieth Century Impressions of Hong Kong"
The other couple at the double wedding was Leslie James Blackburn and Jessie Beatrice Goodfellow. The two brides were sisters; they were daughters of William and Catherine Alexander Goodfellow[1]. Blackburn, James' new brother-in-law, was a resident of Hong Kong and a gas engineer by profession. He worked for the Hong Kong and China Gas Company as a manager and was probably a client of James, who was under the employ of the Standard Oil. The brothers-in-law served together in the Hong Kong Volunteers Corps: Blackburn in artillery, 2nd company (Robert Charles Witchell, James' elder brother, also served in the same unit.), and James in the engineer company. So it was literally friends became family.

The following account of the relationship between James and his wife Mabel speaks rather unfavorably of her. My writing is based on material I was able to find from my research, almost entirely from newspaper reports, a lot of them were James' own narratives given at interviews with journalists. I'm very much looking forward to recovering her side of the story so it can be told.

Mabel with all four children: George was held by Mabel; Cecil, Audrey and Percy. The photo was taken in 1918 just before Mabel left James. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
Soon after the wedding, James landed a job as chief engineer with the Nam Loong Rice Mills in Saigon The newly wedded couple left their respective places of birth in China and move to Saigon where they would live for close to a decade. Saigon was also where all their children were born: Cecil James (, Percy (, Dorothy Audrey (b. October 31, 1914), and George Douglas (b.September 9, 1917). Unbeknown to the children, a bizarre family drama was developing, which was to tarnish the innocence of their childhood. I know not how and where it began, Mabel and James' elder brother, Robert Charles Witchell, who lived in Hong Kong with his family, somehow took a fancy to each other and began having a "liaison extra-conjugale". Whether it was a one-off affair, or it lingered, James was aware of the improper conduct that was taking place right under his nose but did nothing to challenge either his wife or his brother. James, himself a habitual womanizer, was equally responsible for the development of this weird and unhealthy relationship in the family and for its unfortunate but eventual breaking up.

Helene Dansan with Audrey and George Witchell. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
In 1917, James met in Saigon a 20 years old stunningly beautiful young woman named Felicie Leonie Helene Dansan[2], who soon afterward became his mistress. At around the same time, James had leaned that Mabel and Robert had anewed their affair and in response he asked his father to intervene. Job, taking charge of the situation, sent for his grandchildren so he could take care of them in Hong Kong, and he talked Robert into joining the British army in England to fight the Great War. Mabel, probably sensing she'd been outmaneuvered, left James and the children in March 1918 and went and lived in San Francisco. [She would later reveal she had a boy friend in SF, a banker, whom she intended to marry once she divorced James.] In the year next following Mabel's departure, James sent Cecil (eight years old by then) and Percy (probably seven years old), under the care of Helene, to London where they would receive their education. Once the children had settled in, Helen then returned to Hong Kong and this time to take Audrey and George. Since James was traveling to the United States for business they planned a rendezvous in San Francisco before moving onto London. There probably was another thing James had in mind to do while in San Francisco; he wanted to find out if Mabel was still seeing Robert. He had learned that Robert was heading there as well, after being released from active duty in the U.K.

The Goodfellow girls posted for a photograph in car [a 1906 Rover 8 if I am not mistaken]. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.

The Goodfellow girls: Lily, Mabel, Jessie, Margaret and Elizabeth. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.

Mother and daughters. Front row: Lily, Catherine and Elizabeth. Back row: Jessie, Margaret and Mabel. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
William Goodfellow. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
[1] William Goodfellow was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1847. He was an architect and builder by profession. He moved from Shanghai to British Columbia, Canada before 1900, but no work of him have yet been found there. He died at the Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminster, on June 21, 1915. The funeral was held two days later; he was buried at the Fraser Cemetery. It is unclear when did William sojourn in Shanghai[a], but the years of birth of two of his children in Shanghai should provide a general idea: William Douglas Bamford[b] 1883 and Mabel ca.1892 [the years of birth of other children, viz. Elizabeth, Margaret Aitken, Jessie Beatrice, and Lilly, are not known to me]. I also have no idea when William's wife, Catherine Alexander, arrived in Shanghai but do know that she died there on June 11, 1926. According to Margaret Ann, Catherine lived out her life in the Palace Hotel in Shanghai.
[2] Several variations of her names appeared in different newspapers in the United States between 1919 and 1920, viz. Jean Dansan, Helen J. Danson, Helena Dawson, Helen Dasson, etc.
[a] I was able to find three records of W. Goodfellow in Shanghai: 1. W. Goodfellow was listed as an employee of the British owned and managed Shanghai Gas Company 大英自來火房 in 1882. 2. The Land Assessment Schedule 1911 of North Shanghai shows W. Goodfellow as owner of two strips of land (cadastral lot #986 and #1086) with a total area of 4.15 mou (mu) 畝 (approx. 2,800 square meters), and a total taxable value of 29,191 taels of silver (1 tael was equivalent to 1.3 ounces). 3. A company named Wm. Goodfellow 顧發利公司 was in existence in Shanghai around that time. Further investigations can determine, I hope, if these records are related to James' fahter-in-law.

W.D.B Goodfellow in army uniform. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
[b] William Douglas Bamford Goodfellow, a gifted architect in his own right, was born in Shanghai [W.D.B declared that he was born in Edinburgh in the Attestation Paper he submitted when joining the CEF in 1914.] on September 29, 1883. He attended the Shanghai Public School and was a celebrated cricket player in school years. He was a private in the Shanghai Volunteer Corps and took part in actual military duties between August 10 and 18, 1900, for that he received the China Medal on January 8, 1903. He was likely trained in architecture under his father, and at the age of 21 (1904), he joined Atkinson & Dallas Civil Engineers & Architects 通和洋行, which was well known for designing the Chinese pavilion at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition held in St. Louis in 1904 as well as the annex of the Astor House Hotel 禮查飯店 in 1906. The firm was founded by Brenan Atkinson (d.1907, Shanghai) and Arthur Dallas in 1898 in Shanghai. W.D.B. went to Vancouver in 1907 to practice architecture, in partnership with one Sholto Smith from 1911. In November 1914 he joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (Canadian Machine Gun Corps) and served in Europe, later receiving several British war medals including the Military Cross on January 1, 1918. He was discharged from the army in March 1919 (final rank, acting major) and returned to Shanghai, and there he rejoined Atkinson & Dalls.

Photo of the Peninsula Hotel annotated April 8, 1927. Credit: Gwulo: Old Hong Kong.
In 1923, W.D.B. was engaged by property developer, Hong Kong Realty & Trust & Co., Ltd.[i]; he came to Hong Kong in the same year to take on an extraordinary responsibility to design the Peninsula Hotel. The hotel was owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotel Co., Ltd., which by then also owned the Astor House and Palace Hotels in Shanghai; at the latter, his mother had lived out her life. He moved to England in 1926 and probably did not witness the opening of the Peninsula Hotel on December 11, 1927. W.D.B. Goodfellow died at Surbiton, Co. Surrey on February 11, 1958; he was survived by his wife, Marcia Lois Wright [her names was written by W.D.B. as Marshal Lois in the CEF Attestation Paper earlier mentioned], and one daughter.
[i] Hong Kong Realty and Trust Co., Ltd. 香港實業信托公司 or 香港地產信托有限公司, formed on March 17, 1923, was renamed New Asia Realty & Trust Co., Ltd. 新亞置業信託有限公司 in 1995, and Wheelock Properties Ltd. 會德豐地產有限公司.

A White Slaver?

1919 photo of Audrey and George Witchell on a ship either heading to or sailing from San Francisco. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
When SS Columbia, the steamer Helene and her charge, Audrey and George, crossed the Pacific on board, ported in San Francisco on June 18, 1919, James, who was supposed to meet them shipside, was nowhere to be founded. As it turned out, he was on his way from the East Coast and was delayed by a train that missed its schedule. He telegraphed from Omaha, probably to the ship's SF agent, informing them he wouldn't be arriving San Francisco until late afternoon on June 18. James' telegraphic message, however, didn't reach Helene and likewise no help from the agent was on hand to help her party with the arrival formalities. She, either panicked or had run out of options, when questioned at the immigration checkpoint, made up a story that the European nanny who were charged with the children disappeared shortly before the Columbia set sail from Hong Kong and she had volunteered to care for them on the voyage across the Pacific. I know not why she didn't tell the truth she being their governess. All three of them were, consequently, detained by the immigration, to be release pending the children's father to make an appearance. James reached the Angel Island Immigration Station as soon as he arrived in San Francisco on June 19, a day later than he had figured, where he found the terrified Audrey and George, five and three years old. He took them and Helene to the Terminal Hotel where they all stayed together. The event hit the news instantly not without sensational reports. Mabel, who had been living in San Francisco, at the Hotel Fielding[1] with a friend from Hong Kong, one Mrs. J.B. Taylor, read the news and afterward contacted James wanting to see her children. James and Mabel spoke on the telephone and permission was given for Mabel to see the children at the Terminal Hotel. Mabel told her now separated husband she desired an early divorce so that she could marry a banker friend there. When she offered to give him love letters from her banker friend to aid him in getting a divorce he told her he did not need them.

There was no document that confirms Mabel had in fact met up with Audrey and George at James' hotel room but I presume she had done so. James and Mabel also had the opportunities to discuss the divorce but no agreement was reached as she had wanted full custody of all four children. Out of desperation now that James was to soon leave for London with her two children, Mabel, most likely upon advice of her legal counsel, or her banker friend, came up with an act of very extreme nature. She knew Helene to be her husband's mistress and she was then quite young (she was then 22). James' affair with Helene began in 1917 in Saigon, where she lived with her parents who owned a plantation there. It is unclear what was her nationality but the name suggested northwest English. She was referred to by newspapers in the United States as the French girl or Parisienne while several others even identified her as the daughter of the head of the British community in Saigon[2]. Now, back to Mabel's desperate maneuver, she, through her lawyer, lodged a complaint to the United States Federal Authorities charging James for the abduction of Helene from Asia to America under the White-Slave Traffic Act, better known as the Mann Act. The complain must have been accepted by the authorities whereupon an indictment was issued against James only after the Witchell party had left the United States, otherwise he would not be allowed to depart and instead be arrested and prosecuted. Unbeknown to him, James Henry Witchell, British subject, engineer by profession and father of four, became a wanted man in USA for having committed the crime of white slavery.

1944 photo of Charles Chaplin being fingerprinted by federal agents. Credit: Herald Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.
Later on, I will provide some background of the Mann Act that explains why it was possible that James, a legitimate businessman, would be indicted for human trafficking. The most famous person prosecuted for the same criminal charge was Charles Chaplin. He was charged in 1944 for transporting his mistress, Joan Barry, to New York in October, 1942 for immoral purpose; he was acquitted [see news clipping under Appendix III]. But first, let's move on and find out what happened to James and the family.

Nearly a year after she complained to the United States Federal Authorities that resulted in James being indicted for the white slavery charges, Mabel filed for divorce in the Supreme Court of San Francisco on April 23, 1920. She sued James for US$150 per month alimony and full custody of Audrey and George; she named Helene a co-defendant in the suit. The complaint stated that James had deserted her in Hong Kong on March 9, 1918, and later tricked her into taking the trip to San Francisco for the good of her health and then deprived her of their children. At first, I do not understand why the divorce was filed in that particular and not some other time since James resided in Saigon so he must set foot on U.S. soil in order that the summons be served. I then realize it is perfectly explainable if Mabel was tipped off by someone close to James that he was to visit the United State in the not so distant future. If I theorized correctly, the suit was in fact purposely timed. The true is Mabel hadn't waited long, James did make the trip and arrived in San Francisco in the middle of October 1920 totally unaware that the trap had been sprung on him. Either her attorney, one Mervyn Dowd[2], was ultra-resourceful or Mabel had in her possession James' travel plan, James was, before long, tracked down at Hotel Stewart, at #353 Geary Street, off Union Square, whereupon the summons were served. On October 29, the hearing of the divorce case was presided over by San Francisco Supreme Court Judge Thomas F. Graham. James' defense was based on the ground that he was a British subject and therefore without the jurisdiction of the court to compel him to pay alimony or to award custody of the children. He was then permitted to proceed on his journey, to Chicago to attended business meetings, as he had intended.

San Francisco Examiner, November 9, 1920, p.13
Since James would soon vacate himself from the legal jurisdiction of the United States, Mabel (and/or Dowd), presumably with the objective to hold James in the U.S., or pressure him to cede to a settlement favorable to her, or punish him, or some of or all of the above, reported the whereabouts of James to the authority. Totally unwitting of his own status of an alleged fugitive wanted since 1919 for having abducted Helene, James was arrested by federal agents on November 8 at his hotel, the Morrison Hotel, in Chicago on a charge of violation of the Mann Act and was held in US$5,000 bond to appear before the Federal authorities in San Francisco within two weeks.

Sweeping denial was made by James' attorney, one A.P. Desouslavy, on his behalf of all the allegations. James declared that Helene, who lived with her parents in Saigon, was the governess of his children and that he did not transport her to the United States (or across state line) for immoral purposes. He also pointed out he was a British subject visiting the country and not to be mistaken as a resident of San Francisco as written in the indictment papers. It was unknown whether or not James paid bond, but he was permitted to carry on his business activities in Chicago without further hindrance. His arrest made headline news in Chicago and beyond, there was no lack of bold and sensational headlines that went from "Chased for Two Years Witchell Is Arrested For Violating Mann Act" to "Hotel Man is Arrested as Abductor", etc. James was portrayed as an international banker with offices in China, New York and London by one newspaper, and owner of a string of hotels in Indochina by another, and son of a millionaire hotel owner in Hong Kong by yet another. This was either the result of James own doing out of inflated ego, or that of Mabel and/or her attorney, believing that the public perception of James being rich would help build the prosecutor's case on white-slavery as well as strengthen her alimony claim. James attorney fought back by claiming Mabel an insanely jealous woman, who failed to have James held in the U.S. on the divorce proceedings and she was determined to hold him on any charges. To the dismay of the newsies, the Witchell case was swiftly and unceremoniously heard; it was dismissed in the federal court on November 23, 1920 for lack of evidence. Mabel's attorney told journalists after James' acquittal that his client did not wish to prosecute the case [which confuses me as it had never been her case to prosecute].

Judge Thomas F. Graham. Credit: San Francisco Seals.
Several weeks after James had been cleared of the white slavery charge, the divorce case was again heard and on December 15, 1920, Judge Graham granted Mabel a divorce. The custody of the children was not ruled as the legal fight continued in which James contended that local courts had no jurisdiction over the children who were British citizens: two of whom resided in London and the others in the British Colony of Hong Kong. It is unknown if Mabel was awarded the US$150 per month alimony she sued for. The divorce ruling was the last reported event of the "James-Mabel-White-Slaver" saga.

[1] The Fielding Hotel at the corner of Geary and Mason Streets was built in 1909. It was renamed the New Fielding Hotel in 1939, upon the addition of four floors to its original eight. In 2014, after an extensive two-year renovation, it was re-launched as Hotel G.

Douglas Dowd, right, at a news conference in Chicago before a march against the Vietnam War in 1969 with Sidney Peck, left, and Stewart Meacham. Credit: Associated Press.
[2] Mervyn Raphael Dowd (b.1888) was the father of Douglas Fitzgerald Dowd (b. December 7, 1919 - d. September 8, 2017), professor of economics at Cornell University. Prof. Dowd was an antiwar activist and critic of capitalism. Mervyn was married to Sybil Elizabeth Seid (b.1893).

A Short-Lived Second Marriage

James went on living and working in Saigon, Helene with him, no doubt. Audrey and George were either in Saigon or in Hong Kong. Cecil and Percy continued their schooling in London. Mabel married one Fred Church and they lived in San Francisco. Church probably was the banker boyfriend she had previously mentioned to James. Robert died from pulmonary tuberculosis and pernicious anemia while visiting England with his family in 1928. James married Helene in Saigon in 1922. Helene gave birth to their daughter, Lilian Mary Witchell, (her name was identical to that of her aunt - James' sister) on October 24, 1924; James was away from home at the time, probably traveling on business. Only a few months afterward, Helene left James, oddly on advise of Job, and went back to live with her parents in Bac Lieu. She took Lilian with her and because of this Lilian, quite sadly, had never met her father in person. Helene had also tried to take Audrey and George; she had been like a mother to the two of them who had only been four and two when Mabel left and Helene replaced her. James got wind of her intentions and made sure she couldn't get to them. He left Saigon for Canton at this juncture of time, probably to take up a new employment there; it is unclear if he took the children with him or had sent them to Hong Kong under the care of their grandfather.

Helene went off to France in around 1928 after having divorced James (whether or not the divorce was initiated by her, I have no idea) and left her daughter in the care of her grandparents in Indochina. She remarried three years later on January 3, 1931 in France. [The marriage announcement[1] is shown in Appendix II.] Helene's new husband was civil engineer Albert Normandin[2] of Paris. Albert was the Chief Engineer of the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées (Corps of Bridges and Roads ). It is very likely that Helene and Albert had known each other for quite some time for the reason that Albert, the French expert in the field of hydraulics and irrigation in Indochina, had spent a lot of time in Cochinchina since 1910. More particularly, he was stationed in Saigon in 1928, just possibly, Helene went with him to Paris at the end of his posting in Saigon. In around 1938, or seven years after marrying Albert, Helene sent for Lilian to be with the new family in Paris. Understandably, the 14 years old Lilian did not really know Helene, she was only four when her mother left her. [Conflicting information is found in the August 7, 1932 issue of the Journal Officiel de la République Française, which showed that Lilian bceame a naturalized French citizen in 1932, and that she was was listed as a resident of Paris. I wish to thank my friend and keen supporter, Francois le Masne, for providing this information (April 7, 2020)] They lived in Paris (Albert's residential address was #8, Avenue de Lamballe) and when Albert took up a new assignment in Morocco in 1933, they all moved there. Their address in Rabat was #2, Avenue de la Victoire. He was listed as the Director of Public Works in French Morocco in 1942

Croix de guerre 1939-45.
In around 1941 Lilian (17 of age) joined Charles de Gaulle's Forces Françaises Libres (FFL) in Morocco in the nursing corps. It is very likely that she served in the all women unit, the Corps des Volontaires Françaises (CVF) that was established in 1940 (in London and was incorporated into the FFL in 1941). As a CVF nurse, Lilian took part in the Italian Campaign in 1943 and it was there that she won her Croix de guerre 1939-45 (Cross of War)[3]. In fact she won more than a military medal, in 1944 she came to know Lieutenant Alexandre de Marenches[4], a French army officer wounded in the Battle of Monte Cassino (it is not sure if she was Alexandre's attending nurse), who would in 1953 become her husband. He was at the time, aide de camp to Alphonse Juin, General Commander of the Corps Expéditionnaire Français d'Italie (CEFI), the French army unit fighting in the Italian Campaign.

August 17, 1945 photo taken in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Alexandre de Marenches was on the far left, next to him was Alphonse Juin, in the center was George Smith Patton, Jr. Credit: Mémoires des Terres Sereines Il y a une vie avant et après Pinterville 1978-1998.
Alexandre came from an aristocratic family of knights of Norman origin and held the rank of Count. Lilian became Comtesse Lilian de Marenches when she married Alexandre. Right after the war and before marrying Alexandre, Lilian went and lived with her aunt in London, Lilian Mary Witchell (James' sister), whom shw wae named after. Most of the material I've reviewed have mistaken her as being Scottish. One likely reason was her close friendship with Scottish anarchist Farquhar McHarg (b.1900-d.1978). According to the book 'Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar Mcharg, the fictional memoirs of a Scottish anarcho-syndicalist based in Spain', it was McHarg who introduced Lilian to Alezandre, and that she was living in Marseilles. No one in the family, however, has any recollection of Lilian living in Marseilles, but it doesn't mean she had not. Lilian gave birth to a son, Anselme, in 1956, who unfortunately died on June 26, 1971 in a moped accident. Lilian died on August 23, 2012.

[1] Helene was shown in the marriage announcement as the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ruffier. Charles Auguste Ruffier was a long time resident of Indochina who worked for the French Colonial Government in the Justice Department. He was listed as a notary and Depot des Papies Publics des Colonies in Ba Ria (1905-1909), Bien Hoa (1910), Chau Doc (1911-1912) and as Registrar of Bac Lieu. According to the Annuaire du Syndicat des Planteurs de Caoutchouc de l'Indochine 1931 (Directory of the Syndicate Rubber Farmers of Indochina for the Year 1931), Ruffier owned and managed a rubber plantation in Bac Lieu, which was 37 hectares in size wherein five hectares were planted. Charles Ruffier was the father of famed architect Louis-Lucien Ruffier, who is best known for designing the exterior of the Saigon Town Hall and the frontal square, which was inaugurated in 1909. The building stands today and houses the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee. Exactly why Helene's family name was Danson and not Ruffier remains a puzzle.
[2] Albert Arthur Normandin was born on March 27, 1884. He studied civil engineering and afterward joined the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées (Corps of Bridges and Roads, CPC), the year was 1903. He had a successful career in the CPC, and became a very well respected hydraulics and irrigation expert, more particularly for his works in Indochina. I was unable to trace all his appointments; these are what I found: Chief Engineer of Public Works – Roads and Bridges in Indochina (1912), Chief Engineer, CPC (1931), Inspector General of Roads and Bridges, UN Expert on River Hydraulics of Bangkok (1950), Inspector General of CPC (1952). He had been stationed in Cochinchina, Madagascar and Morocco. He was a recipient of Chevalier (September 28, 1920) and Officier (February 27, 1927) de la Légion d'Honneur. He was a life member of the Association Professionnelle des Ingenieurs des Ponts et Chaussées et des Mines (Association of Professional Engineers of Bridges, Roads and Mines). Albert died on October 30, 1964.
[3] Lilian was a recipient of Croix de guerre 1939-45. I assume she got it from the Italian Campaign, I did not have the actual proof.

Alexandre de Marenches, the spymaster. Credit: Chemins de Mémoire, Du BCRA à la DGSE, d’hier à aujourd’hui.
Hotel Fire

The entrance of the King Edward Hotel. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
1927 photo of James and the children. At the back were Cecil (16) and Percy (14). Standing in front was George (10) and sitting beside James was Dorothy Audrey (12). Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
After the passing of Job on August 13, 1925, James was hired by the King Edward Hotel to succeed his father as its manager. He was paid $600 a month, inclusive of $425 as salary, $150 as housing allowance, and $25 as entertaining allowance[1]. This inheritance, if nothing else, was that of consistency as neither the father nor the son was trained in hotel management - Job was a carpenter-turned-policeman, fireman, brickworks manager, etc [although Job's managerial ability should not be questioned judging from the unusual commendation given by the 'Twentieth Century Impression']; and James an engineer as well as a part-time financier. The hotel appointment was quite opportune as it afforded the family to be reunited in Hong Kong; not only Audrey and George were now with James, Cecil, who had been schooling in London, had also returned to Hong Kong some time in 1925. The appointment of James as manager was not affected when the hotel ownership changed hands on January 6, 1927. Lai Chak, and his partner Wong Man-hing, who bought the hotel from Tong Lai-chuen, wanted to unlock the lucrative English speaking Chinese market[2] and had planned to renovate the hotel adding a new Chinese restaurant, and dance floor in the main dining-room (dance floor already existed in the banquet hall but not in the dining-room). The latter would be opened to non-staying guests. Their plan was interrupted in February 1927 when the entire hotel was leased to the British Army for six months until June 15 at the rate of $11,500 per month. There was a buildup of British forces in Hong Kong following the Hankou 漢口 and Kiukiang 九江 incidents of early January 1927 when the KMT Wuhan Revolutionary Government 武漢革命政府 took and secured control of the British concessions in these two cities. The hotel was used to accommodate army officers arrived from India. The renovation went ahead after the departure of the British troops, whereupon dancing became an important attraction of the hotel. The following is the text of an advertisement placed by the hotel in the June 28, 1927 edition of the China Mail, p.11.

King Edward Hotel
Most Modern and Central Hotel in the Colony, all Bed Rooms, newly rebovated and installed with Box Spring Beds, Hot and Cold Water, also Telephone.
All Trams pass in front of Hotel.
Most Moderate Rates in the Colony.
Hotel Launch meets all steamers.
The Lounge and Dining Room is now open to the Public.
The King Edward Hotel Band will play as under:
Tiffin Hours 1to 2. Dinner Hours 7.30 to 9.
Dinner Dances every Wednesday & Saturday, 8 to 12 p.m.
Tea Dances Tuesday & Friday 5 to 6.30 p.m.
Prof. C. Thereses and Miss Marguerite Senour[3] will give Exhibition Dances every Tuesday and Friday 5 to 6.30 p.m.
Tel. Add: “Victoria.” Telephone No. C. 373.
J.H. Witchell, Manager

A firefighter at the top of a ladder sprayed water on the the King Edward Hotel. It looks like that the fire was already under control by the time this photo was taken. Credit: Uwants.

March 11, 1929 photo of the roof of the King Edward Hotel, after the fire had been put down, taken by Hong Kong Telegraph photographer Mee Cheung. The photo was published in the March 16, 1929 edition of the newspaper, p.35.

Another photo by Mee Cheung. The caption read, "Just a row of gaunt and blackened posts is left of what was the second floor of the King Edward Hotel. Note the collapsed portion of the floor in the lower right hand corner."
The hotel was sold yet again on August 6, 1928. The new ownership, under a Chinese syndicate[4], lasted but a few months. Fire broke out in the hotel at 3 a.m.[5] on March 11, 1929 and was still burning at 9 a.m. The ground-floor lounge was believed to be the origin of the fire, which crept up the first and second floors before spreading rapidly cutting off means of escape. James and the children made good their escape; Audrey remembered jumping to a neighboring roof; she also recalled there was some type of big party going on in the hotel in the evening before. Some of the hotel guests weren't as lucky as the Witchells; nine of them died: two were burned to death, the others died jumping from the upper floors of the burning building. Also perished were two hotel employees. Particulars of the 11 persons killed are listed in the Appendix IV. Among the injured was ROC's Hakka general, Chan Ming-shu (Chen Mingshu) 陳銘樞, who was at the time commander of the 11th Army as well as chairman of the Kwangtung (Guangdong) Provincial Government, and his wife Chu Kwong-chun 朱光珍. The couple climbed down scaffolding on the wall at the back of the hotel until they could go no further and had to jump a distance. All the fire engines and other fire fighting apparatus available on the island turned up. Helping HKFB firefighters were officers and sailors from HMS Suffolk and people from the central residences. The most serious damages occurred at the south east corner of the building; the fire burned through the floors where the elevator shaft was located.

An official inquiry into the fire and the death of one of the victims, William Woods, were ordered by the government on March 18; the panel concluded on April 10 that Woods was the victim of an accident, and the hotel management was remiss but not legally liable for the fire. When the official inquiry was out of the way, Yu Shiu-shan, the managing director of the syndicate, announced to the press their intentions to restore the hotel as soon as they had received the insurance payout. They rented a house in Connaught Road to accommodate hotel employees previously lived on the premises. James had made other arrangement and moved the family to a new residence at # 537-539 Laichikok Road in Kowloon. James' property lost in the fire summed up to $12,716; he managed to secure the syndicate's agreement, in April, to compensate him with half of that amount as soon as the insurance payout was received. To the dismay of the syndicate and the hotel workers, and naturally James, the process of the insurance claim dragged on[6]. In the middle of May, Yu announced that hotel workers who wished to leave the employment of the King Edward Hotel were to receive payments of their outstanding salaries and severance pays equaled to six months' salaries. He also said that the families of the two employees who died in the fire would each received $1,000 in compensation. All these would take place when the insurance payout was received. Additionally, the syndicate arranged through their solicitor to pay James a partial salary of $200 a month from June, which was stopped in October without notice. The prospect of the hotel being restored began to look bleak, when on June 26 and for the next several days, the hotel furniture and equipment were auctioned off by the syndicate. A meeting between Yu and representatives of the insurance companies was finally arranged on August 6 and the negotiations were carried out off and on afterward for several months. The claim process turned from negotiations, to mediation and a settlement was eventually made through binding arbitration. The payout was finally made on November 23 in the amount of $15,348.52 against the total insured sum of $140,000. Yu took the check of the payout and disappeared. Gone with Yu was the only hope, if only a bleak one, that the King Edward Hotel would be revived. The Royal Building was then sold. The new owner had it restored and relaunch in 1931 as an office building under a new name, Chung Tin Building 中天行[7].

On November 20, just days before the check of the insurance payout arrived, James filed two lawsuits against the three major partners in the syndicate, i.e. Yu, Cheung Fuk-kwong and Cheung Ping-kwong. The first one claimed the unpaid balance of salary and housing allowance between March and September, totaling $700. The second one claimed the unpaid salary and housing allowance for the month of October, totaling 600, the parties to the lawsuit agreed on the deduction of $25, being entertaining allowance, thus the claim amount became $575. Puisne Judge John RoskrugeWood awarded James the second suit; hearing of the first suit, however, was adjourned sine die, for unknown reason. In March 1930, creditors of the hotel filed a bankruptcy petition against the syndiate. That was the last information I've pick up on the owners of the King Edward Hotel, except that Yu, the absconded partner of the now defunct, was arrested in October 1932 with a charge of larceny.

1929 photo of Dorothy Audrey taken in the U.S.A.. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
James continued to refer himself as hotel manager but I found no record of him working for any other hotel in Hong Kong after the fire and until he and the family departed Hong Kong in ca.1931. Audrey left earlier than the rest of the family, she went to the United States, arriving in San Francisco in June 1929 and there she met up with Mabel. In the following year, Mabel sent Audrey to Vancouver to stay with her sister Margaret Aitken Goode. Audrey later returned to San Francisco with a Canadian passport before being naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1941. The last record I have on James' branch of family in Hong Kong was a report about Cecil, 19 years old by then, being held by HKPF for driving a motorcycle at a speed exceeding 38 miles an hour with a learner's license on Chatham Road on May 23, 1930. He was fined $15. I have also learned that Cecil later worked for the Asiatic Petroleum Company, this was before the outbreak of the Pacific War. The source said "he was an employee of this company in China", it probably meant in Hong Kong.

Died Destitute But Not Alone

James later became a ship's engineer. He was on board a ship escaping Hong Kong before the city fell to the Japanese and became ill after the ship docked in Bombay. He gave up the seafaring vocation and landed a job in an engineering firm there. He married a Russian woman named Patricici on December 28, 1942 and he wrote to the children to inform them of his marriage in July the following year. James' poor health had costed him his engineer appointment and their financial situation had gotten much worse. In April 1943, James appealed to the Refugee Commissioner in Bombay who took them in. He was twice hospitalized and the expenses were footed by the Commissioner. James died at the St. George Hospital in Bombay on November 8, 1943 due to heart failure. The funeral expenses were also paid by the Refugee Commission. Patricici had never met James' children but managed to write to Cecil (the letter was dated November 15, 1943 with the return adress being c/o Messrs. Thomas Cook & Son, Bombay) to break the sad news and asked of him to pass the news to Audrey, George and Percy.

Mabel died in 1963.

[1] A monthly remuneration of $600 was quite respectable. This was roughly the same amount a government medical officer was paid.
[2] Despite the owners desire to attract Chinese clientele, the hotel's unwritten practice of racially segregating Chinese room guests from the Westerners was upheld until the day it was burned down. The Chinese were kept on the lower three stories. I wonder on which floor Dr. Sun Yat-sen was put up.
[3] According to 香港華字日報 (Hong Kong Chinese Mail), Thereses 爹利些士 was the father of Senour. The King Edward Hotel Band was made up of Filipinos hired from Manila; they were replaced by a new band named Footwain on January 1, 1928.
[4] A syndicate of Hong Kong Chinese, mostly merchants, was loosely formed in 1928. It paid $80,000 to acquire the business of King Edward Hotel from Lai Chak and Wong Man-hing on August 6, 1928. There were three general partners in the syndicate: Cheung Fuk-kwong (Tsang Fu-kwong) 蔣孚光 whose capital contribution was $25,000, Cheung Ping-kwong (Cheung Hing Kwong, or Tseung King-kwong) $40,000, and Yu Shiu-shan (Yu Shu-sham) 余少山 $40,000. Judging simply from the names, the first two appeared to be either brothers or first cousins. Ridiculously, nobody knew exactly how many partners there were in total let along who they were, except for the three whose names were above mentioned, plus a handful of others Cheung Fuk-kwong afterward uttered from his memory, viz. Cheung To-sin $3,000, Cheung Cho-ming $2,000, Cheung Sui $1,000, Lo Lai-ha $500. The hotel compradore Cheang Tsung-shan had also contributed. There was no partnership agreement and the only written schedule of the syndicate partners and their contributions was contained in the books of the hotel, which [as you may have guessed] were destroyed in the fire. This was just plain messy and should not be confused with what is generally referred to as the old-school Chinese way of doing business. The one thing the general partners did remember clearly, though, was that a sum of $115,000 was raised, of which $80,000 was spent on the acquisition and $35,000 was set aside as working capital.
[5] According to General Chan's adjutant, Auyang Fung 歐陽蓬, who survived the fire, he was awoken by the whistle around one o'clock in the morning he at first thought the police was going after someone. He soon realized there was a fire when smoke and flame became visible from his second floor hotel room. Auyang mentioned in an undated interview years later that he fled his hotel rooms in such a hurry that he forgot to take handguns and additional ammunition he had been keeping in Hong Kong - without a permit. He was asked to return to the hotel to identify personal effects about ten days after the fire, he told the authorities he did not have anything important that he needed to find. As far as he was concerned, the fire department could keep his handgun. Cheung Hei-kang 鐘喜賡, General Chan's secretary, also jumped from the same spot as the Chans, but unfortunately, he landed headfirst; he was dead on arrival to the hospital. General Chan and his wife were hospitalized in the Government Civil Hospital until August 1929, they returned to Canton after having been released from the hospital.
[6] In the following, I will give a brief [as it turns out, as you will see, it isn't very brief] account of the affairs relating to the insurance claim of the King Edward Hotel.

The syndicate had taken out several insurance policies, the sum assured totaling $140,000, to cover the furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) and inventory in the hotel as well as to protect against lost of income[a]. After the fire, a solicitor, Leo d'Almanda 廖亞利馬打, was hired by the syndicate to handle the affairs of the hotel including the insurance claim. d'Almanda in turn recommended to and engaged on behalf of the syndicate the service of not one but three barristers as co-counsel. They were: Francis Charles Jenkin 曾健[b], junior counsel Lo Hin-shing 羅顯勝[c] and junior counsel Leonardo Horacio d'Almanda e Castro, Jr. 廖阿利孖打[d], who was d'Almanda's own son. The claimed was filed soon after the fire; the underwriters, however, responded that an important witness [whose identity is unknown] in the case was in Shanghai and nothing would proceed until the return of that person. Signs were quite clear that the underwriters weren't going to settle the claim according to the amount insured and so the matter dragged on. It wasn't until August 6 when the underwriters agreed to sit down with the claimants to discuss the settlement. The meeting was arranged by d'Almanda Sr., and held at the Club Lusitano 西洋會所 (a private club whose membership was made up of prominent Portuguese living in Hong Kong), of which he was a member. On the second day of the meeting, the parties to the claim agreed to settle the matter through mediation. An auctioneer named Hughes 曉士 of the auction house Hughes & Hough 未士曉士及哈輔皇家拍賣人, who probably was the son of the firm's co-founder, Edward Jones Hughes, was engaged as the mediator by mutual agreement. James was asked to make a detailed account of the state of the hotel in relation to the FF&E and inventory just before the fire, which he did on August 8, the first day when Hughes presided over the meeting. A week then passed with zero progress towards a settlement while the only agreement reached by the parties was that the mediation wasn't working. The meeting was closed on August 14.

When the parties met again on August 20, the claimants and the underwriters agreed to settle the matter through binding arbitration. F.M. Key, the Secretary of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, by mutual agreement, was appointed the arbitrator. The syndicate had hired Lionel Eugene Lammert of the auction house Lammert Brothers 覽勿夜冷館 as their assessor. The underwriters hired as assessor a man named Tester 梯士打, and as legal counsel Edgar Davision 戴維新, a solicitor of the firm Hastings & Co. 希士廷律師行. Key gave his ruling on September 9; he awarded $50,000 to the claimants. That, the syndicate was told by their solicitor, was not the amount they were going to get. First, expenses and disbursements amounted to $14,700 had to be deducted. The solicitor had provided an oral statement of account of which the syndicate asked for one in written form, done was provided. Another deduction, of course, were the legal fees: $11,000 for d'Almanda Sr., $4,000 for Jenkin, $4,000 for d'Almanda, Jr.[e], and $1,000 for Lo. The net amount of the insurance payout, therefore, came up to $15,300 odd, or roughly 11% of the assured sum. Such was the settlement the syndicate had accepted without further protests[f].

A check for $15,348.52 drawn in favor of the partnership on the Banque de I'Indochine dated November 22, 1929, being the net sum of the insurance payout, was handed to Yu Shiu-shan on November 23, which fell on a Saturday, for him to cash it. Came the following Monday, Yu and the check were nowhere to be found. The syndicate reported to the police and a warrant for Yu's arrest was issued. In March 1930, creditors of the King Edward Hotel filed a bankruptcy petition against the syndicate. The claimants had included Wilkie Lum of the Wing On Co., Ltd. (petitioning creditor), Lai Hoi Sang and Un Pak Leung. The case was heard at the bankruptcy court presided over by Chief Justice Henry Gollan on March 27, 1930. When the petition was filed, the partnership's liabilities amounted to $45,000 approximately. I found no further records of the bankruptcy case, but believe the three major partners, Cheung Fuk-kwong, Cheung Ping-kwong and Yu Shiu-shan, might have been adjudicated bankrupt, bearing in mind that, after all, the syndicate was not incorporated as a limited company.. Yu, the absconded partner, was arrested in October 1932 and was tried in the Central Magistracy on October 20, 1932 before Magistrate Wynne Jones with a charge of larceny. The case was dismissed after two weeks as the original claimants, i.e. the Cheungs, could not be located. He was set free.
[7] The Royal Building was owned by the China Land Investment Company 中華置業公司 and mortgaged to the Hongkong Land Investment and Agency Company 香港置地及代理有限公司 (the predecessor of Hongkong Land). The latter had insured building with the Hong Kong Fire Insurance Company 香港火燭保險公司 for $275,000. No sooner than the insurance affairs had been completed than China Land Investment had disposed of the building, or rather the damaged structure that had survived the fire. The buyer was, interestingly, the managing director and shareholder of China Land Investment, K.C. Lau, whose intention was to restore and converted it to be an office building. I've found no records that show the amount of the insurance payout as well as Lau's acquisition price, but tend to believe he paid next to nothing for the seven-stories building that needed a pricey overhaul. He hired the architectural firm of Clark and Iu[e] 奇勒及姚得中測繪工程師行 to oversee its restoration. Working closely with HKFB and the building authorities, the architects had made sure fire-smart measures and material were incorporated in the new building. The restoration went smoothly, I suppose, for it was all ready in the beginning of 1931 to accommodate new tenants. It had a new name: Chung Tin Building 中天行. I know this isn't meant to be a suspense story, but Lau, the new building owner, was found dead in his office within the Chung Tin Building in the small hours of the morning on April 7, 1931, only months after he inaugurated his building. If Lau should lived one day longer, he would be able to witness the opening of the Nederlandsch-Indische Handelsbank 荷國安達銀行 on the ground floor of the Chung Tin Building - his most prestigious tenant. In 1956, Chung Tin Building and the adjacent Hotel Cecil were demolished to make room for the construction of the the new wing of the Alexandra House.
[a] American Asiatic Underwriters 美亞保險公司 (FF&E $80,000), Liverpool, London & Global Insurance Co., Ltd. 環球保險公司 (FF&E $20,000), Loxley [exact name being researched] 咯士利保險公司 (FF&E $10,000; lost of income $10,000), [English name being research] 禮和保險公司 (FF&E $10,000; lost of income $10,000).
[c] Lo Hin-shing 羅顯勝 (b.1889, Hong Kong) was educated at the Queen's College and the University of Hong Kong (BA 1919). He took up advanced studies at the University of Cambridge and was called to the bar at Middle Temple. Lo was made the First Police Magistrate at Hong Kong Magistracy in 1951 and was elected Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association in 1960. He was made a MBE in 1975. His daughter, Helen Ann Lo 羅凱倫 (later Helen Andrene, and later Helen Griffiths) was Hong Kong's first woman judge.
[d] When the ridiculous amount of fees paid to Leo d'Almanda, Jr. was mentioned at the bankruptcy hearing of the partnership, Chief Justice Henry Cowper Gollan, the presiding judge, lost his cool and had to ask, "Do you say $4,000 was paid to a junior counsel?"

Iu Tak-chung
[e] The partnership of Clark and Iu (1924-1937) was formed by John Caer Clark and Iu Tak-chung 姚得中. They were the architects for the King's Threatre, #34 Queens Road, Central (1931), and one of the Tung Wah Hospitals. Iu was a Tung Wah director in 1931/1932. Clark practiced in Hong Kong before 1921 and until the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. He died during internment at the Stanley Camp on June 8, 1943.
[f] The following is an extract of the proceedings of the bankruptcy hearing of the hotel on March 27, 1930:
Official Receiver: You as a business man accepted this comparatively small amount without asking what had become of the balance?
Cheung Fuk-kwong: Well, the solicitor is supposed to be trustworthy. I don't know much about things, or what was meant by it.


Robert Charles Witchell

Job's eldest son, Robert “Bob” Charles, was born in Hong Kong on May 31, 1883 (March 27, 1883 according to Hong Kong Government Blue Book). He studied at the Diocesan Boys School and Orphange (his names appears in the 1892 register) and entered Hong Kong Civil Service on January 22, 1900 as Water Inspector in the Public Works Department, later to be Meter Reader in 1902. He moved to the Sanitary Department on April 28, 1903 and was given the position of Temporary Assistant Inspector at the Disinfection Station. He was promoted to be 2nd Class Sanitary Inspector on May 1, 1904, and 1st Class Sanitary Inspector on February 10, 1905. He was appointed Acting Senior Inspector on November 11, 1925 and became Senior Sanitary Inspector in October 1926. Robert was a private in the Hong Kong Volunteer Corps (HKVC) Infantry D Company, and later became a gunner in the HKVC Artillery #2 Company (Left Half). He was listed in the Roll of Efficients in 1902, 1905 and 1906. He was made a corporal in 1908. In 1918 he applied to and on August 2 was permitted by the Hong Kong Government to proceed to the UK for the purpose of enlisting in the British regular forces. He had been sergeant instructor holding the rank of Company-Sergeant-Major during the war (most probably at Aldershot) and returned to Hong Kong from active duty in Europe in 1919.

Robert Witchell posted in a swimsuit. Judging from the style of the swimsuit, the photo was quite likely taken in the 1920s. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingman.
Robert was an acclaimed sportsman. In his younger days, he was said to be one of the finest swimmers in Colony and represented Hong Kong in interport contests in 1909, 1910 and 1912. He was a member of the HKVC team that went to the UK in connection with the celebration of the coronation of King Edward and was a member of the Hong Kong water polo team that won the event in the Westminster Baths. He organized the YMCA water polo team in Hong Kong in 1905 and was in the team of Victoria Recreation Club (VRC) in 1905, he was in the club's winning combination in the years 1911-13, 1921 and 1923. He started yet another polo team in 1907 for the Corinthian Yacht Club and was captain of that team which won the Hong Kong championship in 1908. Robert was also noted for his sailing skills, winning many small boat events. He had a long association with VCR and was for many years the club's honorary secretary. Robert limited himself not to water sports; he played cricket and was a founder and steward of Centaurs, the Civil Service Cricket Club, established in 1903.

In March 1928, Robert Charles Witchell went to England for home leave with his wife and three young daughters. While there he died on October 19, 1928 at the Ham Green Sanatorium in Bristol from pulmonary tuberculosis and pernicious anemia. [The Death Certificate of Robert Charles Witchell is shown in Appendix II.] He was 45. His death was announced on the front page of the China Mail. He was survived by his wife, Violet Evelyn (Lizzie) Hall of Bath, England (b.1883-d.1962), and five children: Robert George Witchell[1], daughter Mary Daisy Witchell[2], Elizabeth Maude Witchell[3], Violet May Witchell[4] and Evelyn Dorothy Witchell[5]. Violet returned to Bath after Robert Charles died. She began receiving widow pensions from the Hong Kong Government on October 20, 1928 amounting to 128 pound 7 shilling 2 pence per year until the outbreak of the Pacific War. Robert and Violet Witchell had another son Charles Henry Witchell (b.November 21, 1909 - d. August 1, 1916), who died at the age of seven and was buried at the Hong Kong Cemetery. There was a record of his baptism at St. John's Cathedral on December 26, 1909, and as a student of the Diocesan Boys School and Orphange (1916).

[1] Robert George Witchell, Robert's only son, was born in Hong Kong in 1908 (baptized at St. John's Cathedral on February 7, 1909) and was educated at the Government Central School as well as the Diocesan Boys School and Orphange (his names appears in the 1916 DBS register). On leaving school in 1923, he became an office assistance with the American Milk Products Corporation 榮發牛奶公司. He entered the Hong Kong Civil Service as a probationer in the Colonial Secretary's Department on July 12, 1926. He completed his probation on March 31, 1929 and on the day next following was appointed a clerk in the same department, a position he had held, except in 1935-36 during which he was seconded to Water Works in the Public Works Department, until his 1938 transfer to HKPF. He was made a 3rd class assistant accountant on June 1, 1938 but was dismissed form service on December 9 the same year.

At the age of 22, Robert George went to Shanghai to be married to Maria K Ignatieva, most probably a Russian; he was about to take a very wrong turn in life. He started borrowing from Indian money-lenders in Hong Kong for a host of reasons: for the wedding in Shanghai; to accommodate himself and his newly wedded wife who was to join him in Hong Kong, he rented a house in Kowloon Tong at $100 a month [as a government clerk, he was paid $280 a year]; to furnish the house; to settle his wife's debt in Shanghai as she told him she would not go to Hong Kong unless her obligations were settled; and to inject capital in a small brewery in Macau that his wife said she owned, etc. In a matter of months from December 1930, his accumulated debt had gone up to more than $1,600, nearly six times his yearly pay. By the time he realized he must scale back the extravagant lifestyle, and he did scale it back, he was already in the state of incapacity to service his debt, let along retiring it. On January 17, 1933, he was finally adjudicated bankrupt; the court proceedings were reported quite extensively in the news. I've placed one of the news articles, in the Hong Kong Daily Press of January 18, 1933, in Appendix V.

In the fashion Robert George led his life, it came, perhaps, as no surprise that five years later he would bring about a ruinous state to himself. Robert George was brought to the Central Court on June 9, 1939 with charges of embezzling public funds of various sums amounting to $59 [you read it right, it was $59]. He pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced by Justice R. Edwards on June 18 to six months' hard labor. The case revealed that Robert George was transferred from the Colonial Secretary's Department to be officer in charge of the passport office [in contrary to what I wrote in the last paragraph based on information found in the 1938 Government Blue Book, unless HKPF was in charge of processing visas at that time] on June 1, 1938. He obtained leave on November 25, 1938 and sailed for Shanghai. He did not return after the permitted leave expired and books he was placed in charge were checked and various discrepancies were found. In brief, the books were doctored and $1,068.68, being fees paid by people for obtaining visas, went missing. Robert George wasn't going to return to Hong Kong; he was on the run. He in fact went to Canada via Shanghai, but was sent back to Hong Kong by the Canadian authorities because he had not sufficient means to support himself. He was apprehended upon arriving Hong Kong and charges with solid evident were brought against him with the amount in question sum up to HK$59, despite that the total missing sum exceeded a thousand dollars. Sadly, Robert George chose poorly the path of his grandfather, and faced the same punishment given to Job Witchell 42 years ago. He went to Shanghai after serving his jail term and found a job with the Shanghai Dockyard Ltd. Maria went with him and remained in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation, she was interned at the Columbia Country Club Camp 滬西第三敵國人生活集團所. Robert George's name was not found in internee lists I've come across. Robert George Witchell was killed in a motor accident in Germany on December 18, 1948. He was 40.
[2] Mary Daisy Witchell (b.1907, Hong Kong - d.1936, Hong Kong), the eldest daughter, was baptized on December 5, 1907 At St. John's Cathedral. She married Ernest Louis (Lewis) Pinguet at St. Andrew's Church on October 27, 1926. Her sister Evelyn Dorothy was flower girl. Pinguet, whose parents were French citizens Paul Morris and Marie-Louise Pinguet, was born in Mauritius in ca.1901, and by birth a British subject. The Pinguets moved to Hong Kong where the old Pinguet had started a piece-goods business under the name of P.M. Pinguet & Co. Tragedy hit the family when Marie-Louise Pinguet died on February 25, 1929 following complications after accouchement; she was 37 years of age. The ill-fated family was not left in peace for long. Pinguet was found dead, with a gun shot wound in his chest, in the sitting room of the Lion's Head Poultry Farm in Kowloon Tong, which he owned, on October 25, 1933. Apparently he had shot himself to end his own life as was opined by the panel of an inquiry to look into his death - the panel declared there was no sign of foul play. He left several letters, what could passed as suicide notes, one to the Inspector General of Police [the position name of the head of HKPF between 1930 and 1937], Edward Wolfe, and five other private ones. In the letter addressed to Wolfe he said no blame was to be attached to anyone.

Elizabeth Maude Jolly (third left) at the 5th International Conference on Planned Parenthood, Tokyo, 1955. Credit: Motherhood by Choice: Pioneers in Women's Health and Family Planning.
[3] Elizabeth Maude Witchell (, the second daughter, married Adolphe Marie Ghislain Philippens at the St. Andrew's Church on December 29, 1932. Philippens, the youngest son of Professor M.W. Philippens of Antwerp, Belgium, worked for the Orient Tobacco Manufactory 東方煙草有限公司 as an assistant. He changed job and began selling life insurance for the Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. 宏利人壽保險公司 from 1934. Philippens was a celebrated amateur tennis player. I lost track of him after 1939. Maude continued to stay in Hong Kong and was interned at the Stanley Camp during the Japanese occupation. She served as a nurse in the Nursing Detachment of the HKVDC; her service number was ND89. Maude went to live in Lancashire after the war and landed a job as Assistant Secretary at BBC. Her address in 1946 was #516, Queen's Drive, Little Bispham, Blackpool. She was re-admitted to British nationality on May 14, 1946 [she was still listed as Mrs. Philippens]. It was probably about this time she met her future husband, James Jolly[a], who was from Chorley, 28 miles away from Blackpool. Jolly had worked for the Hong Kong Government as Harbor Master before the war.

1982 photo of James Jolly (Jr.) taken by Mary Rose Kingman.
Maude bore James a son, also named James Jolly. Jolly Jr. was born in 1947 and died in Surrey on October 27, 2015. He was survived by his wife Anne, and son James J. Jolly. Maude was a member of the Council of the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong in the 1950s.

1982 photo of Violet Mary Ride. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingman.
[4] Violet May [sometime written as May Violet by mistake] Witchell was born in Hong Kong in 1915. She worked for the University of Hong Kong, more particularly she was the secretary to the Dean of Medical Faculty in 1933 [William Innes Gerrard was the Dean from 1933 to 1935] and later private secretary to the Vice-Chancellor. May [She was almost always known as May] was the stenographer in the Hong Kong delegation attending the [British] Eastern Group Conference at New Delhi opened on October 25, 1940[b]. Her name appeared in newspaper for being the only woman stenographer at the conference[c]. May served in the Nursing Detachment of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Crops (HKVDC) as a volunteer nurse; she was posted at the University Relief Hospital shortly before and during the Battle of Hong Kong. She was interned at the Stanley Internment Camp during the Japanese occupation. Also kept in the same camp were his uncle's family, i.e. George, Dolly and Norah Witchell. [There was another Mrs. Witchell interned there, given names unknown. Could she be Minnie Vera Bale, Job's second wife? Names of May's siblings were not found in the list of internees; it is quite likely that none of them were in Hong Kong at the time.]

November 12, 1954 photo of May and Lindsay, and a small group of friends taken outside the Vice-Chancellor's Lodge after the wedding at the Union Church. Credit: Journal of the Hong Kong University Medical Society, 1954.
May resumed her position as secretary to the HKU Vice-Chancellor after the war. Duncan John Sloss 史樂詩 was the office bearer from the reopening of the university in 1946 to 1949. Sloss' successor, Lindsay Tasman Ride 賴廉士, and May got married quietly at the Union Church in the morning of November 12, 1954. By the time the University learned of the news, the newly wedded couple was on their way to a brief honeymoon in Macau. They were greeted with a home coming upon their return on November 17, organized by the University staff, students and alumni. [An ode of welcome, composed by English Literature Professor, Edmund C. Blunden, is shown in Appendix II.]. Ride retired from the HKU in 1956. May became Lady Ride following the bestowal of a knighthood on Lindsay at the Buckingham Palace on July 18, 1962. May continued to reside here after Lindsay's death on October 17, 1977, but retired to England in 1996, a year before China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, and thus ended Witchell family's 114 years residency in Hong Kong. She died in England in March 1999.

1937 photo of Ian MacRobert (third row, next to rightmost) with Form V class of the Glasgow Academay and Westbourne School. He was the history teacher. Credit: Etcetera, No.10, Autumn 2009, p.17.
[5] Evelyn Dorothy Witchell, the youngest daughter, was employed by HKPF as a stenographer from January 27, 1938 to at least 1939 [record not available from 1940.]. She married Captain (as in ship's captain) Ian MacRobert (some time written as Iain McRobert) of Stranraer, Scotland, who was with the Chinese Maritime Customs 中國海關總稅務司, at St. Andrew's Church, Kowloon on October 3, 1939. They later moved to Belmont, Victoria, Australia. MacRobert was an acclaimed maritime historian. An ophthalmologist, by the name of Iain James MacRobert, practiced here in Hong Kong after having gained his specialist qualification from the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine in 1984. He was from Sydney, Australia. Dr. MacRobert's license was struck off for 12 months in 2008 by the Hong Kong Medical Council that found he was negligent in partially blinding a patient by injecting a toxic steroid into her eyeball. He resumed his practice at the end of the struck off. Having returned to Australia some years later, he died on August 23, 2016 at Tamworth, New South Wales. He was 68 of age. I wonder if the historian and the eye doctor of the same name were indeed related.
[a] James Jolly 佐利 (, Chorley), Lieutanent-Commander, Royal Navy Reserve (retired), joined the Hong Kong civil service on January 16, 1940 as Deputy Harbor Master. He was appointed Harbor Master and Director of Air Services on June 17, 1941. Jolly was interned at the Stanley Camp during the Japanese occupation. He became the Director of Marine on January 15, 1948. Jolly was made a CBE on January 1, 1946 (for service during internment), and a CMG on June 9, 1955. He retired on August 8, 1957. The Jollys returned to England on February 7, 1957.
[b] Representatives of certain members of the British Commonwealth and other territories under British control, namely, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Burma, South Rhodesia, Ceylon, Hong Kong, Malaya, Palestine, and Britain held a conference at New Delhi in October 1940. The purpose of conference was to attempt to make the Commonwealth countries in the area self-supporting in respect of their war needs, and to help in increasing measure in supplying the war needs of the UK. Hong Kong was represented by Duncan John Sloss (Vice-Chancellor, University of Hong Kong 1937-49), Edward Cock (naval architect; member, Court of the University of Hong Kong 1934-40), John Whyatt (Crown Counsel, Hong Kong Government), David Locke Newbigging[i] (Controller of Food, Hong Kong Government), and May Violet Witchell.
[c] May's name seldom appeared in newspaper and the first news article I've found of her was the November 11, 1934 issue of Hong Kong Sunday Herald, in which she was praised as the top collector at a street collection from the sale of Earl Haig Poppies on November 10, 1934. She collected $111 where as the total fund raised on that day was $3,400.
[i] David Locke Newbigging (b.1896, Dumfries, Scotland - d. July 16, 1948, Surrey, England) CBE (January 1, 1946, for service during internment in Hong Kong), MC (1918), was a director of Jardine Matheson & Co from 1938. He was interned at the Stanley Internment Camp during the Japanese occupation, and was elected to the first administering committee of the camp on January 24, 1942. His son David Kennedy Newbigging 紐璧堅 (b. January 19, 1934, Tientsin (Tianjin)) OBE, DL, joined Jardine in 1954, rising to be managing director, and became Tai-pan in 1975 until he was ousted by the Keswick family in 1983.

George Bernard Witchell

Front row: Dolly (George's wife), Job and Edie. Back row: George and Robert Southerton (Edie's husband). Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
George Bernard, Job's third son, was born in Hong Kong in 1892. There was a record of his confirmation service which took place on December 22, 1908 at St. John's Cathedral. As in the case of his two brothers, George went to the Diocesan Boys School and Orphange (his names appears in the 1899 register). George served in Middlesex Regiment during the Great War. He was wounded in France in 1915 and on May 29 the same year he married the nurse who cared for him, the Woolwish, London born (May 12, 1895) Anne (Dolly) Ada Frances Newell, at the Woolwich Register Office. He fought in the Battle of Somme (1916) and was taken prisoner. He was one of the only four survivors in his battalion. George later became a sea captain and a marine engineer. He was listed as engineer of Hong Kong's original shipbuilder – W.S. Bailey & Co., Ltd.[1] in 1924 and between 1928 and 1934; and as harbor engineer in 1935 and 1936. His activities between 1925 and 1927 was unclear but I found a record that shows he received an honorarium of $400 from the Hong Kong Government for his service in connection with the salving of the stranded police launch in July 1926, so he was in Hong Kong, although not sure if for the entire period. He began working for Wiliamson Co., a Hong Kong original ship owning company, as marine engineer, in 1938. George served as a common juror between 1920 and 1941, except for 1925 through 1927 and 1937. He was the trumpeter in the HKVC Artillery and was listed in the Roll of Efficients for the years 1907 and 1908. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. George, Dolly, and daughter Norah Evelyn[1], were interned in the Stanley Internment Camp. Their other daughter, Eileen Alice Mary Witchell[2], lived in Singapore at the time. He established his own marine engineering concern in Hong Kong after the war under the auspices of New World Engineering Co. He and Dolly moved to New Zealand when he retired in 1952; he died soon after they arrived in Auckland. Dolly died in 1980.

I took note of several residential addresses of George in Hong Kong as follows: #30A Nathan Road (1920), #10 Knutsford Terrace (1921), #6 King's Park Building (1924), and #2 Armed Building (1928-29); #120 Kowloon Tong (1930); #2 Kent Road (1931-36); #231 Prince Edward Road (1938-41). [Although this may be immaterial to this story, it may be useful for others who are researching on him or his family.]

Arthur Desmond Stutchbury. Credit: The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser
[1] Norah Evelyn Witchell was born in Hong Kong on October 19, 1922. She, a gifted performance artist, studied dancing from Violet Capell, the first full-time ballet teacher in Hong Kong, and quite often gave public performance earning high praise from audiences. She also had a long association with YMCA's Amateur Dramatic Club, her acting experience dated back when she was in school in Canada [TBC]. Her last dramatic performance before the outbreak of the Pacific War was in May 1941 where she took the role of Lady Sellenger in William Somerset Maugham's farce Mrs. Dot (1904). Norah was a favorite daughter of Hong Kong. Her performances, dancing or acting, often invited headline coverage by newspapers. She was admitted into the Hong Kong Auxiliary Nursing Service on September 20, 1941 after having been trained in hospital for 96 hours and received her proficiency certificate. While interned at the Stanley Camp in 1942, Norah worked in the office of the camp hospital as a stenographer. It was also during the internment she met Arthur Desmond Stutchbury ( March 16, 2912), a civil servant working for the Federation of Malaya and a fellow campmate. They got married after the war in Cranleigh, England on January 5, 1946 and soon afterward moved to Singapore where Stutchbury became Federation of Malaya Representative in Singapore. Norah was shot and stabbed to death by bandits in Pahang, Malaya on August 10, 1950 while traveling in car with her husband (he was the District Officer for Bentong at the time), a European police cadet and a Chinese translator. They were attacked by about 20 to 30 bandits. Her body was flown back to Hong Kong on August 23; the funeral service was held at St. John's Cathedral on the following day. She was buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery.
[2] Eileen Alice Mary Witchell was born in Hong Kong on December 10, 1919. She was employed by the Colonial Secretary's Department as a temporary stenographer from July 5, 1937 to 1938. She married Henry Francis Bolland (b. September 29, 1911, Hampshire, England) at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore on May 14, 1941. Bolland was the chief officer with the Straits Steamship Company.

Lilian Mary Witchell

June 1910 photo of Lilian holding the ca. three months old Frank Archibald Hamilton, Job and Minnie (Goode) taken in Japan. Job and Minnie visited Lilian and her family in Japan possibly before their departure for Canada. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingman.
Wedding photo of Lillian Mary Witchell, April 3, 1909 Front row: Edith Ethel Witchell, Minnie Lambert; second row: Robert Charles Witchell, Kenneth Wilson, Lillian Mary Witchell, Minnie Vera Bale, Margaret Goodfellow; back row: George Bernard Witchell, Frederick Mountier Goode, Job Witchell, James Henry Witchell. Courtesy Margaret Ann McNutt.
Lilian Mary Witchell, Job's eldest daughter, was born on January 29, 1887. She married Kenneth William Kirkland Wilson[1], of Yokohama, on April 3, 1909 at St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong. Lilian and Kenneth had six sons:  Frank Archibald Hamilton Wilson (b. March 26, 1910), John Kirkland Wilson, Kenneth Mackenzie Wilson, Percy Powell Wilson[2], James Walter Wilson, and Kenneth Wilson (b.1914-d.1919, Japan). Lilian died in London on September 7, 1963. Her address was listed as Notting Hill, London in 1944.

ca.1928 photo of K.W.K. Wilson taken at Alson Terrace, Exmouth, Devon while on home leave from Japan. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingman.
[1] Kenneth (b. April 19, 1871, East St Kilda, Victoria, Australia ) left Australia at the age of two with his parents, Frank Hebden Wilson (b.1836, of Bideford, England), and Agnes Anna Kirkland (b.1836, England), and five siblings on board the sailing ship Dillawur. The family settled downed in Liverpool where he spent his childhood. He attended the Merchant Taylors school in Crosby. Wilson went to Japan in the 1890s and became a mercantile assistant working for foreign firms there. He was engaged by the British shipping and insurance agency, Browne & Co., in Nagasaki and later by the Swiss silk firm, Sieber, Brennwald & Co., and its successor Seber, Wolff & Co. in Yokohama. Sieber, Brennwald was the number one silk shippers from Yokohama for 1890/91 with a total of 6,503 bales. [Jardine, Matheson ranked 7th with 1,750 bales.] He was listed as an assistant in the Anglo-American insurance agency of Jewett & Bent in Yokohama in 1912. He became the firm's manager in 1922. Wilson survived the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and remained in Yokohama beyond 1928. He later return to England and died suddenly in Reigate, Surrey in 1937. He was listed as a wool brokers clerk at the time of his death.
[2] Percy Powell Wilson served in the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surry), 2/5th Battalion as a lieutenant during WII. He was awarded a Military Cross medal while serving as a temporary captain in the Middle East (Egypt and Libya) theatre. The award was announced on August 19, 1943. Percy was killed in action in Italy on February 22, 1944. He was buried at the Cassino War Cemetary in Frosinone, Italy.

Edith Ethel Witchell

ca.1906 photo of Edith taken in front of the family's residence at the brickworks, but from a different angle compared with the other one shown earlier of Job and another man. The young men at the back were probably James (left) and Robert. The men besides Edith are unidentified, althoug at a closer look, the man on the left looks almost the same as the one standing next to Job in the other photo. They could be Job's colleagues either at the brickworks or at Green Island Cement. Here are the names of some of the people who worked with Job in 1903: Thomas Arnott, Engineer, Alfred Herbert Hewitt, Chief Engineer, William Rae Kidd, Assistant, Philip Simcock, Asstant Engineer, and Sopus Vilhelm August Uldall, Works Manager. It's interesting to note that the same dog appeares in both photos. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingman.

ca.1947 photo of Edith (right) and Lilian in London, probably in a park. Courtesy Mary Rose Kingman.
Edith (Edie) Ethel Witchell ( married Robert Grindley Southerton ( in Hong Kong in 1917. They then went to Shanghai and became schoolmaster and schoolmistress of the Municipal School for Foreigners run by the Shanghai Municipal Council. The school probably was a relaunch of the old Thomas Hanbury School 漢璧禮西童公學. They had two children: Muriel Vera Southerton[1] and Robert Grindley Southerton, Jr.[2]. The Southertons were interned at different camps in Santo Thomas in the Phillipines, Hong Kong and Shanghai after these cities had fallen to the Japanese armed forces. They were eventually reunited in Shanghai at the Civil Assembly Center 404, Yu Yuen Road 滬西第一敵國人生活集團所 (愚園路 404 號) and was kept there between February 1943 and April 1945. They were temporarily transferred to a facility located in Yangtsepoo 楊樹浦 before finally released in August 1945. Southerton was second-in-command of the Yu Yuen Road Camp.

[1] Muriel Vera Southerton was born in Shanghai in ca.1918. She married Cedric Arthur Mason (b.1908, Titchfied, Hampshire – d.1979, Winchester, Hampshire) at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire on March 8, 1947. Mason had been with the Shanghai Municipal Police Force since 1929; he rose to the position of Detective Sub-Inspector before Japanese arm forces took control of Shanghai. He was interned during the Japanese occupation at the Yu Yuen Road Camp, the one where the Southertons were kept. Muriel immigrated to New Zealand, after her divorce from Cedric. She later married Lyster Curling Friend and had one son Robert who lives in New Zealand. Lyster (b.1913, Fiji – d.1987, New Zealand) held the rank of captain in the New Zealand Army during WWII and was attached to the Allied Interrogation Detachment in the African theater. He was a bank officer before the war. Cedric, Muriel's ex-husband, married Anita Gurowich in Egypt in 1952.
[2] Robert Grindley Southerton (, Shanghai - d. 1980, Australia) was an engineer/boilermaker by profession. He was repatriated to England after the war. In 1951 he married Dorothy Jessop in Scotland and two years later they moved to Sydney, Australia. They had nine children: Lorna Rose, Janette Edith, Robert, Shiona, Simon, Lucy, Pauline, Susan and Kate. They all live in Australia.



Philip Cracknell said...

Amazing story masterfully told. I got interested by following the story of Norah Witchell and her parents in Stanley Camp and Violet May (later Lady May Ride) and her sister Elizabeth Maude Philippens both on Stanley Camp who later married Lt Cdr Jolly Harbour Master. Best regards, Philip Cracknell

rudi butt said...

Thank you Philip for your kind words and information about Lt-Cdr. Jolly.

Anonymous said...

Terrific telling of my Great Grandparents & Grandparents Saga in Hong Kong!!! My mother was James HenryWitchell's daughter, Dorothy Audrey You posted the photo of my Great Grandmother I uploaded which is nice!!! Some of your dates/ages are not quite right and some info. about Mary Maude Powell is questionable. I also have photos of weddings and individuals I'd be happy to share! I can be reached at if you are interested!! All the Best,, Maggie Ann

James said...

Hello Rudi.

Great detective work! Thank-you for sharing all of your hard graft. Some of these tales are incredibly interesting - with a degree of sadness too.

One thought as to why Job Witchell may have been 'singled out' for harsh punishment following the 1897 bribery scandal..........he volunteered to become the fall guy for the rest.

Aside from being a freemason - this accounts for how he was able to completely resurrect his fortunes and maintain a solid position in society after his imprisonment.

Similar things happened in the 1970s......a couple of European officers arrested under the Bribery Ordinance kept their mouths shut whilst in custody - though they were not charged and convicted - and were able to prosper afterwards.

There is also an echo with the famous Peter Godber case - where a very senior (and much respected) officer WAS charged and convicted. He left HK in disgrace, but his colleagues respected that he kept his mouth shut.

One would guess that in 1897, with 128 officers - of all races - implicated in the scandal, at least one European had to be made an example of.

Great web-site.........may I quote some of your research please?

rudi butt said...

Hi James,

Welcome to the quest of the true reason behind Mr. Witchell's arrest and conviction. The scenario I theorized is perhaps a bit more dramatic than one of the fall guy. I promised myself that I won't work on anything else until I complete the compilation of the Who's Who and What's What in the Welcome page. Once that's done, I'll certainly give more attention to the Witchell story and try and put my theory in writing.

Feel free to quote from my work as and when needed. Thank you again for writing. Did you have a chance to read the story of William Quincey? He was a colleague of Witchell's also implicated in the same scandal.


James said...

Hello Rudi,

Look forward to reading your theory of Witchell in due course.

Yes - I read through the Quincey story too, very interesting as well.

Both tales are mentioned in Criswell & Watson's book (1982?), though obviously your research on the 1897 case is in much greater depth.

I am working on a history of the force.......and started out intending just to be a concise one. However, the internet is a 'double-edged sword', it makes research much easier, but sites like yours turn up lots of fascinating information.

I agree, with your preface, the Victorian period is highly absorbing. It is frustrating - because it is relatively recent history, but so much is material was destroyed in WWII.

All the best.


James said...

Hello Rudi,

Found this is an old document over the weekend..........

On 11th May [1868], a Police Constable, Edward Lawrence, attached to the Surveyor-General’s Department as an Inspector of Buildings, was charged with extortion of $500 under cover of his office from one Tam Ah Choy, who was alleged to have paid him the money in order not to be summonsed for having built certain houses not conforming with the Building Ordinance, No. 8 of 1856. After his committal, Lawrence had various other charges of a similar nature preferred against him. It was stated that there were 18 or 20 similar cases involving some thousands of dollars.

On 7th July Lawrence was brought up for trial. The charge that he had obtained a bribe of $35 from one Low Ah Cheong for non-execution of certain necessary alterations to some houses in the course of construction in Mercer Street was proceeded with first. The jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of guilty by 5 to 2, and the Attorney-General then withdrew the other charges against Lawrence. The Chief Justice, in passing sentence, remarked that he agreed with the verdict and had never known a clearer case before the court. He knew of few felonies with a worse moral effect upon society and custodians of the public peace and good order of the community, and that when the custodians of the public peace themselves undermine it; it was a very grave offence or crime.

He sentenced the prisoner to two years’ imprisonment, and a fine of $500 or, in default, to undergo further imprisonment not exceeding one year to be served consecutively. may wish to look into it.



rudi butt said...

Hi James,

I am aware of the Edward Lawrence case, but didn't know he was a police secondment. Can you please let me know the source of this piece of information? In any case, Lawrence was involved in bribery connected with inspections of houses rather than police matters...

Thanks again for sharing the interesting find!


rudi butt said...

Hi James,

I've just found it – The China Mail. May 12, 1868, p.4, “Police Court, May 11, 1868”. It said here that Lawrence was an inspector of police.


Louigi said...

I am Lorna Rose Southerton and have some corrections and a bit more information if you are interested

rudi butt said...

Hi Lorna,
Yes, I'm interested, please contact me at, thanks

Brianedgar said...

First of all, many thanks for this excellent blog, which I read and consult on a regular basis.
I wonder if you could be kind enough to give your source for the claim that Herbert Lanepart was an actual member of the Nazi party? I'm aware that Benny Proulx saw him wearing a Swastika as he and other British troops were being led into captivity, but this seems to go beyond that.

rudi butt said...

Hi Brianedgar, thank you for writing and your kind words. The brief description of Mr. Lanepart was put together when this article was first written, but not published. I've only decided to post it quite recently. I looked for my research notes on it last night but cannot find them; I think I may still have them somewhere... I'll let you know when they turn up.

Brianedgar said...

Thanks for that. I hope the notes turn up!

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