Archive for May, 2011

Charles MAY – Metropolitan Police Officer

Those who have been reading my blogs on this site will know that in 1844 three Metropolitan Police officers left London aboard the SS Oriental bound for the new British Colony of Hong Kong where they were expected to establish a brand new police force.  One of these was Charles MAY who became a prominent personality in the early history of Hong Kong.  He is mentioned in most Hong Kong history books and so much has been written about him over the years that I always felt that there could be nothing more to be found.  What a silly thought. For “anoraks” such as myself there is ALWAYS something else waiting to be discovered !!!  Having had a quick look through my own “archive” the following little known facts about Charles’ service with the Met. seem worthy of note:

Joined as Police Constable                                               7 November 1835

Promoted to Sergeant                                                     20 November 1837

Whilst serving on T division his collar number was                 T21

Promoted to Inspector & transferred to K Div                7 June 1839

On the night of the 1841 census Inspector MAY & his trusty Sergeant, Thomas SMITHERS, were on duty at the Police Station in Newby Place, Poplar.  They had three prisoners in their cells.

Charles’ younger brother joined the Metropolitan Police in 1842.

In 1843 Inspector MAY of  “K” Division was allowed the following gratuities:

27 April                        6/-

25 July                         £2 2 sh 0d

21 August                     6/-

On 29 June 1844 Charles received orders to proceed to Paris with a sergeant to apprehend a murderer. They arrived in Paris on 1 July and met the British Ambassador.  Then ensued a three week delay whilst bureaucratic wrangling took place between British and French officials.  On 25 July with necessary paperwork in hand the Metropolitan Police officers arrived in the Prefect of Beauvais  – some 56 miles from Paris.  The following day they travelled a further 26 miles to Claremont where the prisoner had been incarcerated.  Eventually with prisoner in their custody they travelled by Post Chaise to Boulogne accompanied by a member of the local Gendarmerie.  Arriving at 7.30pm on the 27 July they found that they were too late for the Steam Boat and were forced to find accommodation.  They caught the boat at 8am the next morning and arrived at London Bridge at 10pm.  Then it was off to Poplar Police Station to confine the prisoner for the night.  The next morning the party were on the river again travelling to Gravesend.  Eventually the prisoner was handed over to the Kent authorities and taken off to Maidstone Gaol.  The bill for this deportation exercise came to a whopping £49 5sh 0d and took a whole month of Inspector May’s time.  Never let it be said that serving with the Metropolitan Police in the 1840s was boring.

It was whilst Charles was in Paris that Sir Richard Mayne submitted the names of MAY, SMITHERS and McGREGOR as being the most suitable officers for the job of establishing the police in the new Colony of Hong Kong.

If you are interested in reading a few more little known facts about Charles MAY keep watching these postings as there are many more that I have discovered over the years !!

Hong Kong Cemetery, Happy Valley

I have recently returned from another wonderful trip to Hong Kong when, needless to say, a considerable amount of my time was spent within the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley.  On this trip I managed to photograph most of the gravestones so now I have some 7000 images to incorporate into my collection !  Naturally many of the headstones have weathered over the years and the inscriptions are rarely crisp and clean but even a faded name can glow like a beacon and light up the world if it is your grandfather or perhaps your great grandmother.  I also spent time searching out other sources which would help in establishing details of persons who were buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery but who have no headstones at all.  Approximately 50% of the persons buried had stones erected in their memory but the other 50% lay almost forgotten.  Fortunately, over the years, I have indexed and cross referenced material from a wide variety of sources and I now have details for 95 – 99% of the burials which took place within the former Colonial Cemetery Hong Kong.  There are gaps in official sources and it is not known whether the “lost” Hong Kong Burial Registers will ever come to light.  I will certainly keep searching – just in case they did not get destroyed during the Japanese Occupation.  In my own mind I feel certain that they are lying undiscovered in some forgotten store cupboard in Hong Kong.  Perhaps one day they will see the light of day again !! 

If you think one of your ancestors might have died and been buried in Hong Kong please contact me.  Even if he or she does not appear on other lists that you may have consulted there is still a VERY good chance of finding their lasting resting place. Perhaps they are amongst the 50% who do not have headstones in their memory.