Cheung Chau in the early 20th century: steam ferries, prostitutes and a golf course

An article by P.H. Hase on 1911 and 1922 censuses in Hong Kong has several snippets on and mentioning Cheung Chau; of some interest perhaps:

In 1902, the Brewin Committee recommended setting up government schools in the New Territories to teach village youths English and a modern curriculum. The first such school, at Yuen Long, was established in 1904, and schools at Tai Po and Cheung Chau followed in 1906 and 1909. However, in their first decade, these schools were unpopular with poor academic standards, and had little influence: in 1911 the three government schools only had 66 pupils between them, out of 3,085 pupils at school in the New Territories generally (2.1%).

In the islands, there had been an intermittent steam ferry service to Cheung Chau from before 1899, but a regular daily service seems only to have begun in 1910. It is unclear when the regular steam ferry service to Tai O began, but it was probably shortly before 1915. It seems that it was only in 1919 that there was more than a single ferry service a day to Cheung Chau, and only from 1922 that there were more than two ” Easy contact with the city, and the modernisation and change that implies, began before 1899, but became a marked feature of islands life only after 1910, although the effects were clearly significant by 1921.

The very high lates ol neo-natal casualties in the New Territories began to be addressed by the government from 1914, when a government midwife was stationed at Yuen Long. Midwives were posted to Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, and Cheung Chau in 1915, 1916, and 1917, respectively.

This influx of young women into Southern District was small (possibly only 10 a year), and is possibly connected with the prostitution trade which is known from oral sources to have been significant on Cheung Chau, although other immigrant female workers may also have been involved. … The presence of prostitutes only in Southern District [in 1911] confirms the oral evidence that, while there were no prostitutes in Tai Po or Yuen Long, there were in Kowloon City and Cheung Chau. 

The floating population was also far less literate than the land population. In 1921, in Southern District, 1,452 males of the floating population were “Able to Read and Write” (45% of 3,180 males over 10), and just 67 females (2.7% of 2394 females over 10). At Cheung Chau, however, there were a number of boat people who travelled on the large coastal trading junks, and these were more likely to be literate than the dwellers on small sampans.

It will be noted that there was no town in the Northern District as large as Ping Chau, and that Cheung Chau was more than 2 1/2 times as large as all the Northern District towns put together.

Extracts from a Report by Mr Stewart Lockhart on the Extension of the Colony of Hongkong.” p 187, remark that, in 1899, the steam ferries from Hong Kong to Macao called intermittently at Cheung Chau. [Another] Report mentions that steam ferries from Cheung Chau used to carry the fish catch to Hong Kong early in the morning.

Including the choice of Cheung Chau as a place to spend weekends and the summer by numbers of European families, initially mostly missionaries from Canton. This began in a very small way in 1912, but only became a major feature from 1918. In 1919 a “European reservation” was formed, and a small year-round resident European community with an Assembly Hall and a 10-hole golf course had become established by 1921.


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