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Sunday, 30 May 2021

William SOUTHWELL's final wish fulfilled

The Colonial Surgeon’s report for 1858 noted that Central Police Station was surrounded by a drain which did not have sufficient fall to allow sewerage to flow into the sewer resulting in the most “offensive effluvium” surrounding the station.  “Such an arrangement cannot but be injurious to the health of the many persons who inhabit the Station.”

He also reported on cases of Fever and Dysentery amongst the men posted to Aberdeen, Stanley and Shaukiwan noting that they could rarely escape the ill effects of Malaria.  He recommended that the Superintendent of Police should arrange for the Constables stationed there to take a daily dose of quinine.

Constable William SOUTHWELL was admitted to the Civil Hospital in July 1858 perhaps suffering from the effects of Malaria or from the Asiatic Cholera which was sweeping through the Colony at the time.  He wrote his will on 15th. July and was buried in the Colonial Cemetery the following day. His was just one of over forty burials in the cemetery that July with the majority being either soldiers or sailors. 

William was 41 years of age and came from Louth in Lincolnshire.  He left his silver watch and chain, two gold rings and pipe to his friend George SHEPHEARD.  The rest of his belongings were to go to George SPANTON who was also a patient in the hospital.  But perhaps the most important part of the will was his wish to have a stone erected over his grave – he did not want to be forgotten. 

George SHEPHEARD, had recently been appointed Inspector of Markets and with their close connection would seem to be a likely candidate for carrying out his final wish.  He did well for the headstone survives to this day and can be found in Section 11 of the Hong Kong Cemetery.  The inscription is worn with age but during the 1980s when I transcribed the MIs I was able to make out

 “Sacred to the memory of William SOUTHWELL, a native of Louth, Lincolnshire, who died .. July 1858 ……….”. 

How do I know that William was a Police Constable? Because that is how he is described within the burial register.  In fact, William has made a little bit of history because as far as I can ascertain his headstone is the earliest in the cemetery to a Constable of the Hong Kong Police - although many others were buried earlier but without the benefit of a memorial.

George SHEPHEARD was not so lucky.  He left Hong Kong to became a Tidewaiter with the Chinese Maritime Customs.  In July 1864, whilst posted to Amoy, he set off in the Customs lorcha to help the British ship Taeping which was experiencing difficulties.  He did not make it back to land.  Some ten days later fishermen found the wreckage of the lorcha and reported having seen the body of a European floating in the water.  On being asked to describe the dress of this individual it was found to correspond exactly with what Mr. Shepheard had been wearing on leaving Amoy.  A reward of 30 dollars was offered to retrieve the body but it is not known whether it was ever found.  

Christine Thomas 



Sunday, 6 October 2019

175th. Anniversary Project - Introduction

Captain William CAINE of the 26th. Regiment of Foot was appointed Hong Kong's first Chief Magistrate in April 1841.  His duties included overseeing the Police, Magistrates Court and Gaol with his staff being recruited from the ranks of the military.  This situation was far from ideal as many of the soldiers who volunteered for police service were coming towards the end of their service. Whilst their regiment had been stationed in Madras many had married local ladies and that is where they were hoping to spend their retirement.  What Hong Kong needed in the way of police officers were men who knew about policing and who were willing to commit to the Colony.

Early in 1844 the Colonial Office was approached with a request for three experienced policemen whose job would be to establish the Hong Kong Police Force in a proper manner.  In Hong Kong the ordinance governing the new police force was gazetted on 1 May - Ordinance No. 12 of 1844: Police Force Regulation Ordinance.

London's Metropolitan Police had been established in 1829 and adhered to a rule laid down by Robert Peel that the posts of Superintendent, Inspector and Sergeant should be filled by promotion thus creating career opportunities.  Sir John MOYLAN CB, CBE in his book "Scotland Yard and The Metropolitan Police" notes:

"In the general instructions to constables first place was given to a declaration that every constable might hope to rise by activity, intelligence and good conduct to these superior stations"

It is true to say that many constables did not make the grade and were sacked for drunkeness within days of joining, however, those that did stay the course and proved themselves good police officers were rewarded with promotion.  It was therefore the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who was approached on the question of Hong Kong's police.

Superintendent John MAY was in charge of the day to day administration of the Metropolitan Police and would have been one of the first to hear of the vacancies in Hong Kong.  What a great chance for one of his sons to make a name for himself.  Charles was the eldest son and serving as an Inspector in the East End of London - in his father's eyes the perfect candidate to head the new force.

Charles then recommended two sergeants from his own division to accompany him on the mission:  Thomas SMITHERS and Hugh McGREGOR.  The three officers resigned from the Metropolitan Police on 7 October 1844 and boarded the ss Oriental for the five month voyage to the Far East.


Their voyage did not get off to a great start as the ship was delayed at Portsmouth for a week.  Then on 15 October she ran into extremely heavy weather in the Channel forcing them back yet again. 

The Oriental was not the only ship to be affected by the weather on that stormy day in October 1844.  Louis Philippe, King of the French, had been visiting Queen Victoria at Windsor and was due to return to France from Gosport on the very same day.

"Even before the arrival of the Royal party in the Victualling-yard the rain had already commenced to fall heavily and the circumstance of a vivid flash of lightning accompanied by a long roar of thunder occurring just before their entry was the cause of some curious observations among the superstitious.  While the Queen and King of the French were waiting in the superintendent's offices the rain, far from abating, increased in violence and this together with the tempest of wind which arose at the same time compelled the company admitted into the Victualling-yard to fly precipitately to any place they could find for shelter.  The soldiers, however, continued to stand in their position exposed to all the pelting of the storm which was so furious that it was impossible for anyone to remain in it for one moment without being thoroughly soaked through.  After some time the soldiers received permission to shelter themselves under the sheds and buildings in the yard; and of this permission they availed themselves with such alacrity that in a moment the Victualling-yard, which they had previously covered, was left a completely void space.  Notwithstanding the sad plight in which the poor fellows appeared to be in from the drenching of the rain there was something so ludicrous in the rapidity with which they scampered off for shelter that one could scarcely suppress a smile."

As there was no sign of the storm ending it was decided that Louis Philippe should return to London from where he could catch a train to Dover and so onwards to France via a safer route.

The Oriental rode out the storm and eventually sailed from England on Thursday 17 October.

History books record Charles's subsequent career in some detail but include little about his two colleagues. Thomas and Hugh, get nothing more that a cursory mention yet each played their part in the establishment of the Hong Kong Police and each had a career and family life to be proud of.  The following biographical notes attempt to fill some of the gaps left by more formal writings.

Please follow the links for individual pen pictures:

175th. Anniversary Project - Thomas Harris SMITHERS

For the introduction to this story please refer to:

Thomas Harris SMITHERS was baptised on 9 January 1801 at St. George in the East, Stepney, the second son of John and Mary SMITHERS.  A few weeks after the baptism his father joined the Royal Navy accumulating a service of 12 years 3 months 2 weeks and 4 days.  He served on the Woolwich, Dolphin, Enterprize and Tower which were receiving ships berthed on the Thames.  

Thomas's mother died in the spring of 1817 and his father re-married on 25 September 1817 at St. Mary le Bow, Stratford. Thomas gained two half siblings from this marriage:  John born 30 July 1821 and Mary Ann born 16 March 1823.  Four years later there was another SMITHERS wedding at St. Mary le Bow - Thomas married Mary Elizabeth, the daughter of John and Kezia BARNES, on 26 August 1821.  Both Thomas and Mary signed their names rather than making their marks.

The first child that has been found for Thomas and Mary is a daughter, Mary Keziah who was baptised on 9 October 1825 at St. George in the East, Stepney.  A son, John Robert was baptised on 12 October 1828.  The entries for both baptisms show Thomas as being a tinplate worker living in Charles Street.



The Metropolitan Police was established by Sir Robert PEEL in September 1829 and originally consisted of six divisions in inner London.  In 1830 the force expanded to take in the outer areas of the Metropolis including K Division which covered the East End of London.

At the age of 29 Thomas SMITHERS was looking for a job that would provide a decent wage.  A constable in the Metropolitan Police earned 21 shillings a week (less 2 shillings towards the cost of uniform) - Thomas joined up on 20 May 1830.  He was issued with warrant number 4282 and the divisional number of K101.  The new division had stations at Whitechapel, Mile End, St. Anne's, Limehouse, Poplar and Wapping staffed by 1 superintendent, 4 inspectors, 20 sergeants and 254 constables.
Artwork by Robert J. Marrion 1974
The instructions for constables in the new force dictated that they should devote their whole time to the police service and appear in complete police dress at all times.  The uniform consisted of a blue swallow-tail coat with bright buttons down the front and on the cuffs.  A four inch leather stock, fastened at the back with a brass clasp, was worn inside the collar.  The coat was single breasted and had a tail pocket for the truncheon.  A broad leather belt was needed to carry a rolled cape, whilst a rattle was carried in the pocket.  Trousers were of stout cloth and were issued every six months - "dress" pattern for summer wear and "undress" pattern for winter.  Two pairs of ankle boots were supplied annually and in 1830 it was ordered that "the men be instructed in waterproofing their boots before the winter commences".   Topping off the uniform was a tall hat with a thick leather crown and side stays of cane.  A cover was supplied for use at night and for inclement weather.  A blue and white armlet was worn to denote when an officer was on duty.

As a police constable Thomas would have been expected to possess a knowledge of everyone on his beat.  He would have needed to keep an eye on the local coffee shops, tea rooms and public houses for none were to be open after 11 pm, nor before 4 am during the summer or 6 am during the winter months.  The instructions regarding streets were particularly stringent:

If any person in any public street or place beats or dusts carpets, or drives any carriage for the purpose of breaking, exercising or trying horses, or shall ride any horse for the purpose of trying or shewing it for sale in such manner as to cause danger or great annoyance to passengers, or throws any ashes, dirt, rubbish, dung or any filth upon the carriage or footway; or shall slaughter or cut up any beast, swine or sheep so near any public street that any blood or filth shall flow upon the pavement; or rolls or drives upon the footway, or any street, any wagon, cart or other carriage, or wheel a wheelbarrow or truck or any cask or barrel; or rides or drives any horse or other beast upon any of the footways; the constable may apprehend the party and take him before the Magistrate

There were even instructions catering for frosty and snowy conditions:

During or after a fall of snow, or any frost, if the occupier of any house or building, do not once in every day, except Sunday, before the hour of 10 o'clock in the forenoon, sweep and cleanse the footway along the front or sides of their premises, complaint is to be made

A year after joining Thomas would have been on duty for the coronation of William IV.  K Division provided 87 constables to line the route from Cockspur Street to Charing Cross and another 90 constables were held in reserve at the Police Office in Scotland Yard.  Police Orders state:

The whole of the men are to appear in Blue Uniform very neatly dressed and particularly clean in every respect and care must be taken by the Inspectors and Sergeants in ascertaining that the whole of the men have their Staffs with them ..........  The constables are recommended to furnish themselves with a little bread and meat or cheese.  After being posted they will not be allowed to fall out for the purpose of obtaining refreshments.

Thomas would have received an additional 2 shillings for being on duty that day.  The handwritten Police Orders of the time show that six months later he was allowed to receive a gratuity of 3 shillings and a few weeks later he received a good conduct reward of another 3 shillings.  The extra shillings kept rolling in indicating that Thomas was just the sort of officer the Metropolitan Police needed.

On 13 August 1835, after five years service, Thomas was promoted to Sergeant and allocated the divisional number of K3.  The promotion could not have come at a better time as his wife had just given birth to a second son - he was named Thomas after his father.

Every penny now counted and in 1836 Thomas excelled - on 20 January he was awarded a gratuity of 2 shillings; 21 June saw a 3 shilling reward for good conduct; a 5 shilling reward for good conduct was awarded on 1 August; and finally on 22 November yet another good conduct award, this time for the grand sum of 7 shillings.

In 1839 a new Inspector was posted to Thomas's station.  Charles MAY had joined as a Constable, warrant number 11120 on 7 October 1835, having been recommended by his father, John MAY, Superintendent of A Division. He advanced quickly through the ranks being promoted to Sergeant on 18 November 1837 and Inspector on 7 June 1839.

Many years later Charles was to say of Thomas

I never found any man more conscientious in the discharge of his duties


Thomas's father, John, applied to enter the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich as a pensioner in 1837.  His service details were checked and placed on record.  On that occasion he was not accepted but he re-applied time and time again and eventually managed to gain admittance on 3 April 1840.

The records show that he had been born in the parish of St. George in the East, was 71 years of age and 5ft 4ins tall.  Prior to being admitted he was earning his living as a silk weaver.  His wife was resident in Bethnal Green and he had one child still at home - this would have been his daughter Mary Ann.

The 1841 census shows John's wife and daughter living in Devonshire Street.  His wife aged 60 was working as a twine spinner.  Thomas SMITHERS, her step-son, was living a few doors away with his wife Mary and sons, John (12) and Thomas (6).

Devonshire Street East runs off Globe Road and it was from here two years later that a Mr. Pringle provided a reference for Thomas's half brother to join the Metropolitan Police.  John SMITHERS joined on 30 January 1843, warrant number 19944, but he was not as committed as his brother - he resigned the following year.

Thomas and Mary's daughter, Mary Kezia, is not shown on the census and it is possible that she died as a child.  A further daughter, Harriet Elizabeth, was born on 30 April 1843 at 23 Devonshire Street East. 


In the Far East the Anglo Chinese War was coming to an end.  The Convention of Chuenpi was signed on 20 January 1841 and the terms included the cession of Hong Kong Island to Britain.  Less than 6000 people inhabited the island and they earned a living by fishing, farming and occasionally a piracy.  The Canton Register prophesied that:

Hong Kong will be the resort and rendezvous of all the Chinese smugglers.  Opium smoking houses and gambling houses will soon spread; to those haunts will flock all the discontented and bad spirits of the empire.

The first immigrants from China were mostly male and brothels, gambling and opium dens profilerated.  Before long there developed a European sub-culture of discharged soldiers and sailors, ship-jumpers, beachcombers and prostitutes.  Hong Kong WAS becoming a dangerous and lawless place.

On 30 April 1841 Captain William CAINE of the 26th. Regiment of Infantry was appointed Hong Kong's Chief Magistrate and his policemen were members of the military.  CAINE's first office was a matshed but within a few years three police stations had been built.  On 1 May 1844 the newly established Legislative Council passed Ordinance No. 12 which established and regulated a police force for the colony.

Police offiers were now formerly recruited from the 55th. Regiment with the volunteers transferring to the 98th. Regiment on 1st. March.  Records show that the force initially consisted of thirty two soldiers considered by the army to be unfit for regular duties.  Most were European but there were also a few Indians.  None could speak Cantonese and they conversed with the local Chinese officers in pidgin English.  Turnover was rapid and of the ninety Europeans Caine recruited only forty seven were still in service early in 1845.

The Governor, Sir John DAVIS, made several requests to Whitehall for experienced police officers but officials decided it would be too expensive to recruit the whole force from Britain.  It was agreed that three senior officers would suffice and the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police were consulted on the matter.  In the first instance Mr. HOPE, Colonial Office Under Secretary, recommended the appointment of one  Inspector and two Sergeants and this was approved by The Treasury.  However, during subsequent correspondence Sir Richard MAYNE, Police Commissioner, refers to the appointment of one Superintendent and two Inspectors and this was also sanctioned by The Treasury.  By the time the anomaly in ranks was picked up the appointments were about to be made.  The decision reached was that the higher ranks were what was originally intended - thus one Inspector and two Sergeants from the Metropolitan Police were appointed and on taking up their Hong Kong appointments were advanced to Superintendent and Inspector.

Courtesy of The National Archives CO 129-9
The two we have already met are Inspector Charles MAY and Sergeant Thomas SMITHERS.  Making up the trio was Sergeant Hugh McGREGOR who had joined on 5 May 1838 and who had been promoted to Sergeant on 15 January 1840.

For Hugh's story please follow this link:

Both Thomas and Hugh decided that in the first instance it would be sensible to leave their families at home - after all they had no idea what conditions would great them in Hong Kong.  The three officers resigned from the Metropolitan Police on 7 October 1844 and boarded the ss Oriental for the 5 month voyage East.  They arrived in Hong Kong on 15 March 1845 and three days later a Government Notification reported the appointment of Charles MAY as Superintendent of Police; and Thomas SMITHERS and Hugh McGREGOR as Inspectors.  The Superindendent's salary was to be £500 pa and the Inspector's £250 pa.


The climate in Hong Kong is hot and humid during the summer months and loose cotton clothing proves the most comfortable to wear.  However, this was the era of the British Empire and loose cotton clothing was not for the British.

The uniform for Constables and Sergeants consisted of a blue cloth jacket buttoned up the front, with a Prussian collar bearing embroidered numbers; a pair of cloth trousers and a pair of blue camlet trousers; a great coat of strong dark cloth; a blue cloth cap "to be made on a frame six inches high" with a white metal crown on the front; a waterproof cover for the cap; and two pairs of lace up boots.  Thomas, as an Inspector, had to wear a blue dress coat the same as in England.

Amongst the servicemen who transferred to the Hong Kong Police on 1 April 1845 were William ATKINS, Patrick HUSSEY, James COUTTER and Jonathan PARKER.  All were in their forties with eighteen to twenty years army service behind them - most of which had been spent in Madras where they had married local girls.  HUSSEY had received a gun shot wound in his thigh in 1834 whilst on an expedition on the Madras Coast - all were suffering from diseased livers.  These stalwarts of the British Army were typical of the constables which Thomas commanded.

At the end of Thomas's first summer in the Colony a Constable WILSON died leaving two orphaned children - a boy aged fifteen and a girl aged eleven.  Their mother had deserted the family in India prior to the regiment embarking for China four years previously.  When their father died the boy was apprenticed aboard a ship and the girl was taken in by Constable LITTLE and his wife.  They received 12 shillings and 6 pence per month plus rations for her.

Thomas settled down to work but within a couple of years received the very sad news that his youngest son had died of fever in September 1845 .  Thomas sent money home on a regular basis but Mary found it difficult to manage.  In 1846 she submitted a request to the Colonial Office requesting free passage to Hong Kong for herself and the family.  The reply came back that no funds were available.  Thomas managed to find the money himself and his family left London aboard the ss William Jardine in the first week of September 1846.  They arrived in Hong Kong on 22 January 1847Thomas's half brother, John SMITHERS, is known to have been in the Colony the following year - perhaps he had accompanied Mary and the children on the voyage.

In the Spring of 1847 Constable FULLOM was dismissed from the Hong Kong Police.  He had served for eighteen years in the army prior to joining the police.  His life went downhill fast and he died in the Autumn.  He left a widow who had no means of fending for herself and her young baby.  Her husband's former colleagues took pity on her and provided her with rations and accommodated her in one of the cells in West Point Police Station.

Towards the start of 1848 many of these ex-soldiers applied for gratuities in order for them to return to Madras with their families.  They had served the Crown for over 20 years and were looking forward to retirement.  A passage was also requested for the unfortunate widow of Constable FULLOM who had been reduced to living in a police cell.  Constable Robert LITTLE applied for permission to adopt WILSON's orphaned daughter who he and his wife had been caring for during the past two years.  They wanted her to be able to return to her mother's homeland rather than having to stay in Hong Kong.  (Robert LITTLE died in Bangalore in September 1859 at the age of 51.)

During Thomas's service with the Metropolitan Police he had paid 2.5% of his salary into a superannuation fund.  His contributions ceased when he resigned to take up the appointment in Hong Kong.  The Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police had informed the trio prior to departure that a "retiring allowance for wounds or climatic disease is made contingent upon the Colonial revenue being adequate to such charge".

In 1847 Thomas SMITHERS and Charles MAY were given the opportunity to contribute to a scheme in Hong Kong.  They were required to contribute 5% of their salaries and to pay arrears from the time they took up service with the Hong Kong Police.  Charles took the offer a step further and applied on behalf of himself and Thomas for their Metropolitan Police service to be taken into consideration.  This meant making up the difference between the 2.5% paid in England and the 5% required in Hong Kong.  The repayments for Thomas, with his fourteen years service in London, amounted to £128 18s 7d and had to be paid before the end of the year.  Thomas tried his best but he was still recovering from paying his family's passages the year before.  However, the benefit would be worth it in the long run as he would be able to retire on a nice pension.

Charles MAY had anticipated funds of £180 arriving from England at the end of the year by the ss William Jardine but the ship was delayed by several months.  The "powers that be" agreed to extend the time limit on payment for both officers.


The Hong Kong Water Police had small boats with which to patrol the harbour area and when not in use these were hoisted onto a larger Chinese vessel for safety.  Unfortunately, the larger vessel had seen better days and was in danger of sinking.  A gun boat had been in use for a while but this proved to be extremely expensive and was later sold to the Navy.

In January 1848 Charles MAY reported that a "large, strong sea going Chinese vessel" which was only 18 months old had been seized by police.  This was to be condemned as a pirate vessel but he considered that it would make a perfect water police station.  He also considered that it could be used as an armed vessel for the prevention of piracy around Hong Kong.  The crew would be officers of the Water Police and as there was ample accommodation they would be able to live on board.

The new boat would carry a six pounder traversing gun between the fore and main masts and two iron six pounder carronades after the main mast.  The local term for this type of vesses which was a cross between a Chinese junk and European boat was "lorcha".

On 31 August 1848 Thomas's duties were to take two Constables round the western side of the island to Aberdeen where a police and harbour master's station had been built.  He was then to patrol round the island on the lorcha on the look-out for pirate vessels.  As the weather was good the Colonial Surgeon recommended that seven European police constables be taken along.  They were convalescing and it was thought that a couple of days in the sea air would do them good.  Thomas was also looking forward to being at sea as he suffered from severe bouts of fever during the summer months - he took his nineteen year old son along to gain experience.

The lorcha set off at 7am and everyone on board was in high spirits, pleased to get some respite from the scorching heat of the city.  Having reached Aberdeen they dropped off the two constables who were to be stationed there and left in a slight breeze at 2pm. During the afternoon the wind increased and it became apparent that a storm was brewing.

The police lorcha sought shelter in Chung-chow Bay and anchored with two bamboo cables and a chain cable.  Many Chinese junks were also anchored in the bay and about midnight one of these, buffeted by the wind, was thrown against the lorcha.   The bamboo cables broke and the lorcha ran to the end of its sixty fathoms of chain secured to the main mast.  For an hour they rode the storm but at 1am the main mast gave way and the lorcha sprang a leak, sinking head first into the stormy sea.  The crew and passengers desperately tried to cling to the broken mast and sail but as they were being tossed about many lost their grip and were washed away.

The three who managed to cling to the mast reached shore at 4am and a little later three others were washed ashore.  They lay on the beach for a long time recovering from their ordeal and then made their way inland and found a cottage where the owner provided them with a boat.

When news of the sinking reached Hong Kong Island John SMITHERS set off with some friends in search of his brother and nephew.  They found and identified eight bodies but Thomas and his son were not among them.  Of the twenty eight persons on board the lorcha on the the night of 31 August 1848 all but six perished in the typhoon.  Charles MAY had the sombre task of recording events.

A week later Charles sought financial assistance for Thomas's widow and her young daughter, Harriet, who were now reduced to "absolute poverty".  By this time Thomas had accrued a combined service of eighteen years three months and was only a few months short of being entitled to a pension of £83 pa which he had intended to take on medical grounds.

Mary SMITHERS requested the cost of passage to England for herself and Harriet, together with a small pension of £28 pa.  Charles MAY fully supported this request and stated that no officer could have been more useful to the Colony in carrying out Police measures.  These sentiments were echoed not only by Charles HILLIER, the Police Magistrate, but also by Governor BONHAM.  The Governor went one step further and sought the approval of the Hong Kong Executive Council for free passage at the cost of £100.  In his despatch to Whitehall he requested reimbursement for this and also recommended a pension of £50 pa be paid to the widow.


Mary and Harriet left Hong Kong on 15 November 1848 aboard the ss Larkins bound for London.  In the weeks prior to her departure a public subscription was raised in an effort to alleviate her situation.  All the large trading houses subscribed with Jardine Matheson & Co, Dent & Co and Lindsay & Co all giving $50 each.  Well known local figures also dipped into their pockets with donations from Douglas LAPRAIK, George DUDDELL, Hon. W. NAPIER and John LAMONT.  By 9 November $884 had been collected.

Three months later the case of the destitute widow had been considered by the Treasury in Whitehall.  Even though Thomas had lost his life while on duty they decided not to sanction a pension of £50 pa.  They were willing to grant an allowance of £20 pa providing Mary did not remarry.  Mary had arrived back in England at the beginning of April but for some reason the decision on her pension did not reach her.  In June 1849 she was forced to write another petition begging for assistance.  Her address was given as 21 James Terrace, Shadwell in the heart of the dockland.  By July all arrangements were in place and she was informed that she was to be paid by Mr. BAILLEE, Agent General for Hong Kong.

But what of the subscription that had been raised in Hong Kong?  The actual amount in pounds sterling varied according to the market rate but would have been sizeable when compared to the pension of £20 pa.

The subscription had been organised by Captain Thomas LARKINS but had not been paid to her prior to her departure.  Captain LARKINS had placed the money in the hands of J.F. CARRUTHERS, his agent in Hong Kong, and by the time Mary arrived back in London she had only received £54.  Eight months later another $238 was sent by Bank Order and eventually, in May 1850, the final $236.35 was paid in cash to her brother-in-law, John SMITHERS, who held her power of attorney.  John was not at all impressed, especially as the money had supposedly earned no interest whilst being held by CARRUTHERS.  The argument was aired in the local press for all to see.

By 1851 Mary was living at 111 Lucas Street, Stepney supplementing her pension by working as a dressmaker.  Thomas's step-mother and sister were living a few streets away in Fair Place next to Thames Police Station.  Later in the year his father died in Greenwich Hospital at the grand age of eighty one.  He was buried in the cemetery attached to Greenwich Hospital on 15 August 1851.

Life for Thomas's widow could not have been easy - she died of paralysis on 1 February 1852 at the age of forty nine.  Her address was given as 17 John Street, St.Paul, Shadwell with the death being registered by Rebecca GOODWIN.  Rebecca was a tailoress and the same age as Mary - perhaps she was a friend.  The day after Mary's death Thomas's step-mother, Mary Ann, died of breast cancer at 4 Fair Place.

Harriet at nine years of age was left an orphan.  Limehouse Workhouse was situated in Church Lane and housed 400 children.  Harriet could well have been admitted there but her name has not yet been found in surviving records.  By 1861 she had been adopted by a family in Jamaica Street. William ROBINSON was a sixty five year old bookbinder who had lost his wife a few years earlier.  Harriet died of Phthisis (TB) on 18 January 1862 at 18 Jamaica Street.  Her death certificate notes that she had been suffering from the disease for a year.

Harriet was shown as being the daughter of Henry SMITHERS a Police Constable, however as the death was registered by an Elizabeth MARSHAM who seems to have no family connection there is every likelihood of an error having been made.  A few months after the death was registered Emily H. ROBINSON and Mary Ann MASON notified the Registrar that Harriet's full name was Harriet Elizabeth SMITHERS - the name which appears on her 1843 birth certificate.


John SMITHERS, half brother of Thomas, became Usher in the Supreme Court in October 1848.  The following year the post of Bailiff was added to his title and he was allowed to reside within the Court.  He married Caroline Matilda CAKEBREAD on 2 June 1852 in St. Johns.  John was one of the original ninety nine members of the Hong Kong Volunteers when they formed in 1854.

In 1855 John became Sexton under the Surveyor General.  His duties were to arrange interments at the cemetery and to collect the fees and pay them into the Colonial Treasury every Saturday.  As he would be handling Government money a surety bond was required.  Douglas LAPRAIK agreed to stand surety for him.

John and Caroline had two sons and two daughters.  John died on 5 September 1859 and was buried the following day in the Colonial Cemetery - Grave 2006, Section 40.

John's son, John Jnr., died in March 1874 at the age of 21 and is buried in Grave 4088, Section 8.

Hong Kong had claimed the lives of four members of the SMITHERS family

Caroline married twice more. In 1862 to Robert Oswald BROWNE a draughtsman with P&O.  Robert died two years later in Shanghai. In 1869 she married John INGLIS of the Union Dock Co.  Prior to her marriage to BROWNE Caroline had drawn up an agreement relating to property which she owned and which was to be left in trust to her children should she die.  INGLIS became the trustee of this agreement.  Caroline died in August 1872 and was buried in Grave 3979 Section 9 of the Colonial Cemetery on 31 August.

In 1874 Caroline's eldest daughter, Ellen Harriet SMITHERS, married Thomas DUFF in Hong Kong.  In 1875 she attained the age of 21 and sought to claim her inheritence from John INGLIS.  The money was not forthcoming and she was forced to take the matter to court.  The summer of 1877 saw Duff v Inglis being fought in the Supreme Court.  Having re-examined the papers INGLIS agreed to pay the money.  It appeared that over $17,000 was due to Ellen.   Thomas DUFF was one of the first British merchants in Chinkiang and this is where he and Ellen lived for many years before returning to England.

If any reader should be a descendant of the SMITHERS family please contact me - I would love to hear from you.

For the story of Hugh McGREGOR please follow this link:

© Christine M. Thomas 2019

175th. Anniversary Project - Hugh McGREGOR

The Introduction to this story can be found at:

Hugh McGREGOR was born on 1 May 1803 in Kirk Street, Calton, Glasgow and baptised on 15 May in the parish of Barony - the first child of John McGREGOR, grocer and his wife Christina KIRK.  The following year his father secured the position of butler and house steward with Lady STUART of Castlemilk.

Hugh's mother died in 1810 when he was 7 years of age.  His father remarried, later moving to Bothwell Bridge and then to Edinburgh.

Hugh received his schooling in Ruthergten and Hamilton and then had to decide on a career.  The first attempt was a year's trial in the book printing trade which did not go too well.  The second attempt was shoemaking of which he said "I detested but managed to keep at it until 1821".  On 26 March 1821, having reached the age of 18, Hugh enlisted as a soldier with the 26th. Scotch Cameronian Regiment of Infantry.


His own words tell the sad tale of his enlistment:

"I was led to this foolish step by getting into bad company.  I neither reflected on the misery I was bringing on myself or the heartbreak I caused to an indulgent and kind father who had seen to all my wants being supplied and watched over me from childhood.  Little do youths think of the misery they cause their parents by their thoughtless conduct.  At the time I enlisted my father was in York, England.

I embarked in the "Fifeshire", Leith smack for London at which place we arrived after a very disagreeable passage of eight days.  There being eighty of us recruits for different regiments on board we had not room to lay down and scarcely to stand if we were all below at the same time.  It was then I began to repent of my folly and wish myself at home again - and there was not a person on board that I knew to whom I could unburden my mind, which I thought would have relieved me."

After an overnight stay at the Bricklayers Arms in Kensington they set out on the eight day march to Southampton, crossed to Cowes and continued marching to Albany barracks.

Arrival brought no relief as they were packed into a room which again lacked the space to even sit down.  The following day they washed, shaved and had their hair cropped.

There followed spells of duty in Portsmouth (as servant to the Paymaster), Gibraltar and Ireland.  In April 1828 the regiment received orders for Madras and on 9 May they embarked aboard the Rose for the four month voyage. During the next eight years Hugh marched back and forth across India.  From Madras to Calcutta.  To Meerut and Jodpur then back to Meerut and on to Gazipur.   Thousands of miles of travelling had taken its toll on Hugh.  He applied for his discharge on 1 April 1836 but had to wait a whole year before it came through.  In April 1837 he was fortunate in securing the position of batman to a brigadier who was returning to England for health reasons.  They embarked on 9 October 1837 but the brigadier was unwell and died on 17 November.  Having been left without work the captain offered Hugh seaman's pay if he would join the ship's books as a sailor.  He agreed.

The much longed for discharge came through a few weeks after arrival in England.  Hugh's military service totalled 17 years and 3 days.

On 26 April 1838 Hugh married Miss Sarah FEASEY at St. Mary's Church in Marylebone.

Nine days later he joined the Metropolitan Police Force, warrant number 13786, having been recommended by J. FISHER Esq. of Argyle Street.  (John William FISHER was the Surgeon in Chief to the Metropolitan Police).

Four children were born to Hugh and Sarah between 1838 and 1843:  John, Harriet, Hugh and Sarah.

Which brings the story to 1844 when the Hong Kong Government were looking for three experienced police officers to establish the new police force.  Sergeants McGREGOR and SMITHERS must have viewed this as an interesting opportunity and volunteered (or were volunteered!) for the roles of inspectors at a salary of £250 pa.  They decided that in the first instance it would be sensible for their wives and children to stay in England.

Two months later the officers resigned from the Metropolitan Police and boarded the ss Oriental for their voyage East.

Once Hugh had assured himself that Hong Kong offered a reasonable lifestyle his greatest wish was that his family could join him.  In April 1846, a year after arrival, Sarah submitted a request to the Colonial Department requesting free passage to Hong Kong for herself and her children so that the family could be reunited.  Gladstone acknowledged the memorial but informed Sarah that no funds were available for the passage.  Hugh soldiered on without his family for another few months but at the end of 1846 submitted his resignation.  Having received approval, and with very good references from The Governor, Colonial Secretary and Chief Magistrate he returned to Britain on the Sandersons.  He arrived in London on 27 April 1847 having been away for 2 years 7 months and 21 days.  Some historians state that Hugh "fell out" with the Hong Kong Government, however, I feel it was more a case of him having to make a difficult decision.  He chose family over colonial career purely because of the cost of passages.

Hugh managed to secure a position in the household of Earl Fitzhardinge before moving to Yorkshire where he was able to resume his police career.  In October 1850 he was appointed Superintendent Constable for Northallerton Division, an appointment which he held until the establishment of the County Police Force on 6 January 1857.  As Hugh was then nearly fifty four years of age the highest position he was offered was that of 1st. Class Inspector and he was transferred to Guisborough.  The night before leaving Northallerton many of the residents had a meeting and presented him with a purse of thirty sovereigns as a mark of appreciation for his service.  He said:

"I was very fortunate in catching thieves and I had many a hard tussle with some of them, but I was strong then and when after a thief I could stand any amount of fatigue until I got him."

Hugh spent three months at Guisborough before being appointed Superintendent of Whitby Division.  In 1863 he suffered a stroke which affected the left side of his body and work became difficult.  In 1865 he applied for retirement and left on 30 September being "done up".  At the Quarter Sessions the following month the magistrates awarded him a gratuity of £150 and wished him long life, health and happiness.  The superintendents of the force invited him to a dinner at Northallerton where he was presented with a silver snuff box.  After leaving the police he acted as Inspector of Nuisances as well as being appointed an Inspector of the Poor Law Union.  His memory stayed as good as ever and he would entertain friends by relating the various adventures and escapades he had experienced throughout his life.

His wife, Sarah, died on 1 October 1869 at the age of 59 in York Terrace, Whitby.  After Hugh had returned from Hong Kong she bore him four more children:  Robert, William, Elizabeth and Charles - all born in Northallerton.  Hugh continued living in Whitby until Christmas 1878 at which time he moved to York to live with his eldest son.  He died on Friday 14 February 1879 at the age of 76.

Hugh's body was returned to Whitby by the noon train on Tuesday and was taken to Ash Tree House, the home of his daughter, Mrs. Sarah COOPER.  At 2.30pm the funeral procession commenced along the crowded streets to the cemetery.  Hugh was buried with military honours with the band of the 2nd. North Yorkshire Volunteer Artillery Corps playing the Dead March.  Supt. RYDER and members of the Force officiated as bearers from the hearse to the graveside.  Several tradesmen joined the procession to show the esteem in which he had been held.

In Affectionate Remembrance
wife of Hugh McGregor
died October 1st. 1869
aged 59 years

Also the above
Hugh McGregor
who died February 14th. 1879
aged 76 years

And William their son
Commander of the ship
Shakespeare of Sunderland
who died at Bombay June 1st. 1878
aged 28 years

Also of John Kilvington
Master Mariner
son in law of the above who died
November 15th. 1880 aged 40 years

also John McGregor
eldest son of the above
born January 27th. 1839
died January 26th. 1904

Research note:  In April 2019 I was overjoyed to find Hugh's headstone high on the hill overlooking Whitby.  Thomas SMITHERS, his colleague on that mission to Hong Kong back in 1844, died at sea in 1848 and has no headstone to honour of his life.  Before leaving I laid my hand on this headstone and told Hugh that he had not been forgotten.

For the story of Thomas Smithers please follow this link:
Thomas Harris SMITHERS

If any reader should be a descendant of Hugh & Sarah McGREGOR
please contact me - I would love to hear from you

Christine M. Thomas 

© Christine M. Thomas 2019