Thursday, December 07, 2006

Down the Drain

Another snippet from the Rev. James Legge's memoirs. As the man first stepped ashore in Hong Kong in 1843, by the 1870s he was one of the longest residents of the Colony. He recalled to some younger men how the drains used for catchwaters and sewage used to wreak havoc with law and order in Hong Kong:
“Bands of Robbers attempted to carry out their attempts by tunneling from the large drains under the premises which they had marked. There was a rumor of a scheme to re-enact the gunpowder plot by means of a tunnel under the cathedral, when the governor, the bishop, and the congregation were to be blown up. The facts of this case, however, if there were any, I could never satisfactorily ascertain. The most successful exploit of this kind was perpetrated so late as January 1865, by a gang who tunneled by the hard labour of several weeks right under the treasury of the Central Bank of India, and carried of upwards of $100,000 in gold bullion and notes. In 1863 twenty-two prisoners made their escape from the gaol by tunneling under it into a drain; and no long after, I did the service to the Government of disconcerting a scheme on a larger scale, by which within a few hours, eighty-nine men would have got away."
Perhaps it explains why Hong Kong to this day does not have a centralized manhole system, requiring endless rounds of construction to dig up and put back roads while workers lay cables and fix rusty pipes...

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