Saturday, November 25, 2006

General George Charles D'Aguilar

For my weekly radio spot on RTHK 3's Naked Lunch programme, Sarah and I have started to solicit questions from curious listeners about various aspects of Hong Kong history. Here is the first question I received, from Steve:
I would like to ask Dave what should be the correct pronounciation of D'Aguilar as in D'Aguilar Street and where did the name come from?
Many people probably wonder at the provenance of this particular name, especially when they are walking up D'Aguilar Street for some drinks and conviviality in Lan Kwai Fong! General Sir George Charles D'Aguilar (DAG ee LAR), KCB, served in Her Majesty's forces during the Opium War, and upon cessation of hostilities, became the General Officer Commanding (as a Major-General) Her Majesty's troops in Hong Kong. Through the tenure of both Governor Pottinger and Governor Davis, he was in charge of the Army Garrison in Hong Kong. He was also the Lieutenant Governor of the Colony during that period, setting a precedent that would remain for much of the 19th century.

He was a proud, forthright military man, and was a veteran campaigner of 40 years of operations in the East Indies, India, the Napoleonic Wars and several other engagements. He did not have much patience for the opium merchants of Hong Kong, including those of Jardine Matheson. Because of the high early crime rate, merchants had engaged guards as night watchmen, and those of the Princely Hong would bang on two bamboo poles to indicate their presence to would-be robbers. This sound, however, disturbed the nocturnal rest of General D'Aguilar, and he forbade the merchants' guards from doing any such thing.

His house, by the way, was Flagstaff House, today the Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong park. It was then called Headquarters House (until the 1930s) home of the General Officers of the Colony. Cape D'Aguilar is also named after him, as is, funnily enough 'Bar George' in Lan Kwai Fong! He was the son of an S. D'Aguilar, Esq. of Liverpool, born in about 1780 and living into his 80s. The name D'Aguilar, though, from my research, appears to be of Sephardic origin - I believe the family was originally of a prominent Portuguese Jewish family. Their descendants seem to have gone to Holland, Austria, England and Brazil. The original pronounciation may have been a little different as 'de Aguilar'.


Anonymous said...

also a town in qld australia called d'aguilar named after him

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