Monday, April 24, 2006

The Sharp Mr. Shewan

Shewan Tomes was one of the premier stockbroking and investment firms in Hong Kong at the turn of the century. It was, among other places, a great training and learning experience for the great investor Noel Croucher. Mr. Shewan, one of the principals of the firm, was for a time engaged as a Legislative Councillor. It seems, though, that he took the sharp tongue he brought to company annual meetings into the Council chamber, which may explain why he was not invited back overmuch. 101 years ago, Mr. Shewan went on a tirade about then Governor Nathan's policies. We all remember Mr. Nathan today for his incredible feats of engineering - the KCR, and the eponymous Nathan Road that he built to first mockery, and then acclaim, from the local population. Mr. Shewan, however, has nothing but criticism for Governor Nathan and his PWD deputies' efforts:
I am glad to hear that something is to be done to give better roads to Kowloon, but why does the Government tinker with the matter in this way? Why can it not draw up a fixed and definite scheme of wide roads and broad boulevards for Kowloon and the New Territory to which all building sites and building must conform instead of the present haphazard system of running a street here and a road there just as some one happens to put up a house? It will have to be done all over again just as in London to-day they have a Royal Commission, whose reports runs into 8 volumes, laying down a scheme of road improvements for London which is estimated to cost thirty million poinds nearly, all of which might have been avoided and saved if the Government of a former day had adopted the advice and carried out the plans submitted to them by Sir Christopher Wren and John Evelyn for the rebuilding of the town after the Great Fire of London. It will be the same with Kowloon later on if we do not look ahead and exercise a little forethought and imagination.
Mr. Shewan's comments at that point descend into general moaning about the state of things in Hong Kong:
In another case a concern was called to account for making a path to a piece of ground on the top of a hill which it has bought from the Government, although in what other way the men, not being birds, were supposed to get there I have never understood. In [another] case it was attempted to bring a factory to book for having built a well within its curtilage, but this fell through because on being asked, the Government could not explain what a curtilage was.
Finally, in a final thumbing of the nose at Colonial Britain and its representatives in Hong Kong:
With regard to the last item touched upon by your Excellency, "Sport," I am quite in agreement with Mr. Kipling and do not think in this Colony it requires any encouragement. If our young men were but to serve their masters as dilingently as they serve their god "Sport," we should not see the British slowly driven out of the trade of China by the hard-working German, the thrifty Japanese, and the untiring Chinaman. In trade and commerce to-day the race is to the man who gives himself entirely up to it, and who, like St. Paul, has put away childish things. We shall never regain our old position in the Far East by encouraging our men to dream all day of polo ponies, cricket matches, and boat races.
To the company men of the Far East, who lived for sport and few other extracurricular activities, these were hard words...

No comments: