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HK Cadets (and Michael D. and me)

Walter Meredith Deane (seated - George Hennessy of Newmarket is standing behind him) and Punch caricature of Cecil Clementi Smith when later Governor of Straits Settlement.

No, not the Air Training Corp or the Junior Police ... Cadet Officers were the predecessors of the Civil Service Administrative Officers. I've been working on the nineteenth century group of Cadets for some time, on and off and this weekend Annemarie Evans on RTHK Radio 3 is broadcasting an interview she recorded with me on the first seven men. Hmmm - isn't it the ordinary working class I'm usually writing about? Well, true, but none of these men were born with silver spoons in their mouths - sure, they'd been to university (usually Oxford, Cambridge or Trinity Dublin in the early days) and came from comfortably off (rather than rich) families. But this was the beginning of selecting senior Civil Service applicants - both at home and around the Empire - by merit rather than influence or favour. And boy! were the examinations they had to take tough. I'd love to find a past paper of the time, but when you consider that some of Cambridge's brightest and best were getting marks or 20% or low 30%s in their chosen subjects. They didn't have the easiest time once they arrived in HK, either, with a minimum of two years continuous study of Cantonese. Once language exams were passed (or even before in the case of Clementi Smith) they were put into really responsible positions within the Government - no matter that they were still in their very early 20s and with no training in administration beyond what they might pick up by observing the different government departments. For most of them, the work that followed was exacting and very long ... just like 'my' men, lower down the scale, the policemen, the sanitary inspectors, gaol wardens etc, hours were long, days off almost unknown and a holiday a distant dream. But unlike the policemen, they were generally well remunerated, and for some - especially Cecil Clementi Smith and James Russell, it was the means of real advancement. Programme here

And in other news - I arrived back home to find a copy of Irish Roots Magazine. My article (Irish HK police, what else?) was published this issue. There's a reference to it on the front cover - under the photo of Ireland's President. Now that should make my Irish relatives happy .....

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