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Lecture - Islands & Villages in Rural Hong Kong: Southern District Officer Reports - Mr. John Strickland

  • Centre for Visual Arts 7a Kennedy Road Hong Kong Island Hong Kong (map)

The talk is based on the reports written about the rural areas of Hong Kong in the 1910-30 and 1950-60 periods by District Officers responsible for the Southern Administrative District.

The District Officers, all “Cadet Officers” (now called “Administrative Officers”) were members of the small group that constituted the core of the governing system in the then British Colony, regularly moving between different jobs so as to gain experience and to be able to see the big picture when making decisions.

It is assumed that the primary interest of the audience will be the description of the villages and life in them. At the same time, the material gives a fascinating insight into how colonial civil servants viewed their jobs and discharged their responsibilities in the first half of the twentieth century.

Southern District was somewhat of a misnomer, comprising most of the islands of Hong Kong plus Tseung Kwan O, the Clearwater Bay Peninsula and the southern part of the Sai Kung Peninsula. In the period covered by the reports, there were few roads in Southern District. Access was thus either by boat or on foot.

Eric Hamilton who besides his career in the Hong Kong Civil Service between 1911-1945, wrote to the newspapers on cricket and anything whimsical which took his fancy, under the pseudonym of “R. Abbit”. Walter Schofield (1888-1968) obtained an MA degree from Liverpool and Oxford Universities. Throughout his career, he pursued what was no doubt his first love, the geology and archeology of Hong Kong. SH Peplow, Land Bailiff Southern District’s contribution is extracts from his book “Hong Kong, About and Around”. Paul Tsui came from a humble background but acquired a degree from the University of Hong Kong before the second World War. During the war he served with the British Army Aid Group around Huizhou in Guangdong Province. After the war he was the first Chinese to be appointed as a Cadet Office in the British Colonial Administration. Austin Coates spent eight years in the Hong Kong Administrative Service. His books on South East Asia are well known and popular. In his 32-year career with the Hong Kong Government, half of it spent at one time or another in the New Territories District Administration, James Hayes consistently demonstrated a passion for the rural areas of Hong Kong, the culture of its Chinese inhabitants, and the recent history of the Colony.  

The Speaker

John Strickland has lived in Hong Kong for most of the past 50 years. Whilst his home has always been on Hong Kong Island, he has throughout maintained weekend escape houses in remote villages as bases to explore country parks. He is Chairman of the Trustees of The Sir Lindsay and Lady Ride Memorial Fund which subsidises the publication of books in the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies Series. He assembled and extensively edited the material that comprises Southern District Officer Reports to make it a coherent whole.

Programme Speaker: Mr. John Strickland, GBS JP

Date: Saturday, 4 March 2017

Time: Reception desk opens 6:30 pm; talk starts 7:00 pm

Venue: Centre for Visual Arts (CVA), 7A, Kennedy Road, Mid-Levels

Admission: RAS Members $100; Non-Members / Guests $150

Booking: Please email in advance to reserve your place and pay at the door