Irish have place in our history

Local | Bernard Charnwut Chan 3 Feb 2021

Last week marked the 180th anniversary of the founding of modern Hong Kong. Most of us will associate this date with the British arrival on these shores. But thanks to a new 2021 historical calendar from the consulate general of Ireland in Hong Kong I've discovered the Irish have a footprint here too.

Hong Kong and Ireland have links that go back nearly 200 years. If you look into the backstories of the officials from early colonial days, you will often find Irish roots. Irish surnames are all around us as we walk through Central HK. Pottinger Street, for instance, is named for Sir Henry Pottinger, Hong Kong's first governor.

Hong Kong's seventh governor, Arthur Kennedy, was born in County Down, Ireland. His name adorns both a street and a district. Kennedy's legacy also lives on in our bank accounts and wallets: he established the Hong Kong dollar as the territory's currency during his tenure.

Not all distinguished Irish in Hong Kong were colonial officials - or men. In more recent times, Sister Mary Aquinas Monaghan, a physician, oversaw the expansion of Ruttonjee Tuberculosis Sanitarium, turning it into a world-renowned center for TB treatment.

One delightful Hong Kong Irish story: in 1865 governor Hercules Robinson (Robinson Road) sent his final report to the home office, declaring: "It is the Chinese who have made Hong Kong what it is and not its connection with the foreign trade."

With that burst of typical Irish outspokenness Robinson bade farewell to Hong Kong.

Bernard Charnwut Chan is chairman of Tai Kwun Culture & Arts Co Ltd.

standard@bernardchan.com



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