Swimming Canal

Swimming Canal
Swimming at Kuling

Monday, 10 May 2021


 A Matter of Trust

Two weeks prior to May Hunter's marriage in 1903, Anne Hunter alias Kot Choy transferred a property on Shelley Street from her name as sole owner, to a trusteeship between herself and her daughter May. On her death in 1937 this property should have passed directly to her daughter May. 

On Jan 31, 1937, Anne Hunter alias Kot Choy did indeed pass away. This event should have left a single trustee for this property; May Cock, nee May Hunter, daughter of the deceased.

Anne Hunter alias Kot Choy died intestate. My grandfather Tobias Hunter and his sister May Cock, who both lived in Shanghai at he time, petitioned for administration of the estate. 

There is no mention of the Shelley Street property in the following liquidation of assets nor in the letter of disbursements. May Hunter was a co-administrator, so she was active in the process.

There was another property owned by Kot Choy that formed part of the estate; 4 Moreton Terrace, the property that first brought my attention to any of this. 

Letters of administration were duly granted and they went about the winding up of her affairs. Funeral expenses were paid, and various legal disbursements made and the Moreton Terrace house was sold in 1939. The proceeds of the sale was held in hopes of better exchange rates between Hong Kong and Shanghai dollars. Sadly this proved to be a poor choice and considerable value was lost. 

Still, there was money left so in Sept 1940 a 1/4 share was split between my mother and her sister. The other three, quarter shares, I'm not sure about as they had obviously been disbursed a year earlier.

James was dead so anything due to him would have presumably gone to his daughter Ellen, who remained living at the Shelley Street residence until her death in 1944. Everyone else was back in Shanghai now, except my mother's sister Nora who was working in Kuala Lumpur. So who shared in "G's" estate? Maybe just the boys, George and my grandfather as May had been taken care of by the Shelley Street property she got in the trust?

This brings me back to the Shelley Street property, originally held by Kot Choy at a value of $6250 in 1899 and transferred to the trust Mar 31, 1903.

*Note: May this is where May's sole ownership of the property should be recorded? Just sayin'

The next transaction is a transfer to "Wu Siu Ying" on Mar 2, 1961 and registered June 9, 1961. In case anyone missed it, "Wu Siu Ying" is Ellen Hunter's step-mother. She was aged 43 when Ellen died and was the concubine of her father, James Hunter ) The co-petitioner for Ellen's estate was her adopted sister, "Fok Shuk Chun" 

This transaction to "Wu Siu Ying" is marked as a "deed of gift" with no value shown.

A year later, in Sept, 1962 this property changes hands again to "Chen Shui Ling" with a value of $73,000.

And finally a year after that, in July of 1963 it goes to "Leung Yu Yee" with a new value of $232,000. 

What happened to the trust?

Saturday, 8 May 2021


East is East and West is West,

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.

Til earth and sky stand presently, at God's great judgement seat.

But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed nor birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

Rudyard Kipling, 1889

Delving into my family's roots in China and Southeast Asia, are much like the Kipling poem. Neither side wish to meet. They don't want to talk about it. Both cultures seem equal in their wish that the past be forgotten and/or erased. 
I can understand the feelings of much of the world's populations, who have, over the preceding centuries, been ruled by outsiders and often relegated to positions of servitude. Today they are for the most part independent and self-governing. While there was obviously some benefits gained, they'd probably feel better if all the records of these periods were expunged. 
The fact that a genealogical link between these opposing cultures may exist, is probably something they wish would go away.
I've found similar reactions when questioning my British or European family. While a few have thought it intriguing and even a little exciting, when it gets right down to it. no one wants to know!

So maybe Kipling had it nailed? "East is East and West is West!" Maybe I should just let it go at that!

Maybe they're family!

Below is one of my favorite mystery photos. Of the four people pictured, I know just one. The man on the left is my grandfather. I've posted this picture many times before, on Facebook pages and any website I can find that might take a crack at it. 

What I've come up with so far is, the car looks to be a 1933 Austin A10 and the location is Hong Kong. There is a Royal Hong Kong Auto Club badge on the front bumper. The building probably no longer exists and no one seems to recognize it. Unfortunately the licence plate is blocked and also the side of the car so we can't tel if it's a two or four door, but probably the latter.

My guess ( hope ) is that the other three people are my grandfather's brother James far right, with his wife Emma in the long coat, and their daughter Ellen. If I'm correct about the year, they were all still alive but Emma Hunter died in June of that year so the photo must have been early spring. Their ages would fit; with Tobias Hunter 56, Emma Hunter 56, Ellen Hunter 34, and James Hunter 58. Further investigation revealed that my grandfather, who at that time lived in Shanghai, had rented out his home there in order to do some travelling. My mother had married in Oct of 1931 and was on a home leave with her husband to the USA and England. My aunt, who had been living in the big house in Shanghai, had taken a job with the Rubber Institute in KL, Malaya, so there was little need for the large space at the Columbia Circle home.

If anyone has any photos that might help identify this building, and of course, any of the three people other than the one on the left, then please, please, please let me know!

Just a matter of feet?

My daughter recently attended a family gathering with some of her in-laws, one of who has an Asian wife. As the circumstances were informal, my daughter was barefoot. 
Seeing my daughter's feet the Asian woman said, "Oh, you have feet just like mine. What size shoes do you wear?" 

My daughter told her "5 1/2, but I always have trouble because my feet are so wide." 
"Me too" she said. "Do you have Chinese in your family?"

My daughter then told her about our rather weird family history, with DNA tests linking us to a Chinese ancestor. She likely mentioned how her crazy father was obsessed with finding the true identity of his great grandmother, who is suspected to have been at least part Asian, who lived and died in Hong Kong.

On the subject of feet, my own, while not so short, are wide with a narrow heel like my daughter, with the high instep that makes it difficult to find comfortable shoes.

My cousin related a story of her own great grandmother (my grandfather's sister May) The family maintains she was Chinese, but I knew her when I was a child and I don't remember her as such. In any case, they say she spoke in clipped, pidgin sentences, and she had noticeably small feet!

A final comment on the subject comes from a piece of advice my grandfather imparted to me. "Never marry an English woman; they can't cook and they have big feet!"

Keep in mind that this all pretty much anecdotal and not scientific, although there is a term "Asian toes" Just an interesting observation.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Nationality or Ethnicity?

For the sake of argument, I mean ethnicity as referring to one's race or ethnic origin, such as Caucasian, Asian, Indigenous etc and nationality, meaning one's country of citizenship, either by birth or by naturalization.  

An example would be an ethnic Chinese, born in the United States would have an American nationality but still be ethnically Chinese. Likewise, an ethnic caucasian born in China to English parents who had been born in China, would always be of caucasian ethnicity but could be Chinese by nationality. 

Emma Hunter

James Hunter

This brings me to my case in point. I have three separate death certificates; father, mother and daughter, all members of the same family. Under the heading "Rank or profession and nationality so far as is known" we have a father and mother listed as British and their daughter as Chinese. Note,  they ask for nationality and not race or ethnic origin. 

Ellen Hunter

Both parents had passed away prior to WW2 so neither of them were on the rolls of the Stanley Camp internees, but neither was their daughter. She died at the family residence, 11 Shelley Street in November, 1944. Hong Kong was under Japanese occupation and control from Christmas of 1941 until almost a year past her death. Why was she not interned during this period? Was she exempt because she was ethnic Chinese? If she was caucasian and  was born in 1899 in Hong Kong she'd have "British" status, especially if both her parents were British. Even if her grandmother ( Anne Hunter/Kot Choy ) was full Chinese, she'd have only been 25%. If her father was like his brother, one quarter Chinese, then she'd only have been about 12%. Would this amount have been enough to save her from Stanley Camp?

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

 If James was a teacher.....

Sounds like the title to a song! :)

Anyway, if James really was a teacher, why is he not listed as such on any Jurors lists? 

From 1901 to 1906 he shows on the HK Jurors List working for S J David & Co. Then he disappears until 1919, when he turns up again as employed by Tobias Hunter Commission Agents, his youngest brother.

During this interval however, he gets baptized at St Peter's Church in November of 1911.

The next reference to him is his obituary in 1937 where he's listed as being a retired teacher. How and when did he become a teacher and where did he teach?

 Why become a Catholic at 37?

My grandfather's brother, James Hunter was baptized November 29th, 1911 at St Peter's Church in Hong Kong. It was also  known as the Seamen's Church and was Catholic. He was 37 years old and married with a 12 year old daughter. However, both his wife Emma and his daughter were Catholic.

From what I know of the Hunter family, none were Catholic. My grandfather and and his brother George were both married in Anglican churches; my grandfather at St Andrews in Kowloon and his brother George in Leeds, England. Their sister May was either  church of England or Anglican, but not Catholic as far as I know.

When James's wife died in 1933 she was buried at St Michael's Catholic Cemetery in Happy Valley and when their daughter passed away in 1944 she was placed with her mother and her name was added to the grave.

The cemetery record book from St Michael's has the two burials cross-referenced to each other as pictured in the entries below. The graves are 9347 and 5877. There's a discrepancy in Ellen Hunter's Chinese name, which was apparently a transcript of a Chinese name. It was Fok Shuk Wah. She was not married.

James Hunter himself died in 1937 and is buried in the main colonial Cemetery at Happy Valley and NOT with his wife and daughter even though it seems he had become a Catholic, and even if not, from what I've heard, he'd have been allowed to be buried alongside his wife and daughter.

A recent new theory has come to light. James was a teacher or so it is stated in his obituary. There's a possibility that maybe he converted in order to obtain a teaching position. Maybe a Catholic school would have required or at least preferred their staff to be of the faith?