Paul Tsui Ka Cheung's Memoirs 8

Rabaul, New Guinea

(March 1936 - June 1937)

I Failed my First Public Exam

I sat for the 1935 School Leaving Certificate(Public) Examination, but failed to make the grade. As analternative, I contemplated of becoming a Chinese Police SubInspector, but found that I had to have the support of two referees, of whom one must be a Justice of The Peace. As I knew of no one who was a J.P., I abandoned the idea. Instead, I sat for the Hongkong Government Junior Clerical Service Recruitment Exam; again I failed the initial qualifying Dictation Test. I then attempted the Chinese Maritime Customs Recruitment Exam in Canton, and again I was not successful. As could be imagined I felt miserable that summer. Eating my humble pie, I returned in September to Wah Yan, and begged for a place to repeat my Class 1. Through the personal intervention of Fr. Bourke, the Vice Principal and Warden, I was gratuitously given a place in Class 1C, the class for the less hopefuls and sportsmen, for a Repeat.

Grabbing a Job as a Catechist and Teacher in Rabaul

Far from being happy, I continued to attend my "Sunday School" at the Cathedral, a practice which I started way back when I was a small boy. There I became very friendly with two newly arrived young missionaries, Fr.Bruzzone and Bro. Mario, both of PIME.  I was an "Altar Boy"to the former. He was learning to become the Diocesan Procurator. For his priestly faculty, he offered to assist Fr. D'Ayala, the Parish Priest for the New Territories, by saying Masses on alternate Sundays, at the Chapel in Taipo, New Territories. One Sunday afternoon, the then Vicar Capitular, Fr.Reganti, came to see us at the Sunday School gathering. He announced that the Bishop of Rabaul, had written to request for a young and active Chinese from Hongkong, to be a Catechist and School Teacher for the children of a Chinese Community in his Diocese, and asked if any one of us then present might be interested. Whereupon Fr. Bruzzone suggested that I might consider the offer. On enquiry, l learnt that Rabaul was on an Island off New Guinea, in South-west Pacific near Australia. As I wasn't too happy at that time, I thought it might do me some good to get away from it all, as far as possible. So boldly I volunteered in response to Fr. Reganti's call. Fr.Bruzzone later boosted up my confidence by giving me, as a parting present, a rare book containing the Sunday Lessons for the whole year, with ready made model Sermons which might go well with each of the designated Sunday lessons. The book bore the seal of approval of the Bishop of Hongkong, apparently intended for freshly ordained young priests or newly arrived missionaries. I later found this book of model sermons most helpful for my task as a lay preacher.

Setting Out on a Voyage across the Sea

Some two months later, I was told that the Bishop of Rabaul had accepted my application, and that his Procurator, a Fr. Ishra, was coming to Hongkong on a Holiday, and would take the opportunity to interviewing me regarding the appointment. In February, 1936, Fr. Ishra arrived, by a tourist ship, TSMV "Neptuna".  I reported to him on board the ship for an interview, expecting him to give me a thorough check up regarding my knowledge and competency as a catechist and a teacher. To my surprise, he didn't bother to ask me a single question, whether on subjects relating to the Catholic Religion, nor on subjects which I was going to teach. He simply took me straight to the shipping agent and bought me a ticket, telling me to get ready to travel with him on board the same ship to Rabaul in 3 days' time. Fortunately I had earlier on completed the necessary procedure for the post-registration required for my Birth Certificate, so as to qualify for my British Passport. Few countries in those good old pre-war days required a passport for admission. I encountered no difficulty in obtaining my Birth Certificate and my British Passport. I was able to produce a Baptismal Certificate from St Anthony's Church in support of my claim of Hongkong birth, and I had Mr. Cheung Wai Fung, who was a lodger in my father's house when I was born, and who by then was a "University Trained Teacher" teaching at the Government's Queen's College, who was willing to testify on oath, that he knew I was a son of my father, and was the one who was born at 81 High Street, ground floor,Sai Ying Pun in Hongkong, in the year 1916, when he was a lodger in our house. Thus, soon I was ready and boarded on the TSMV "Neptuna", on my way to Rabaul.

The Voyage

That ship took an unusually extended route. She first called at Saigon in the then French Indo China,where she spent 3 days picking up a fairly full load of rice. Little had I realized before, that Saigon was a River Port, miles away upstream on the Mekong River.  The ship must have taken 5 or 6 hours to navigate her way up stream to Saigon. Along the river, I first noticed that the sailing boats had their sails dropped down from the top of the masts, rather than raised from the lower end which the Chinese Junks did. At Saigon, the workers spoke Vietnamese, which I could not understand, and the European officers ashore spoke French, which I couldn't understand either. One evening, when the ship's writer, Mr. Charlie Lo, had shore leave, he kindly took me along to visit one of his friend in "Tai Ngon"(提岸 ) the equivalent of "China Town" in Saigon, several miles away. That was the only landed experience I had in Saigon. Amongst other things, I was most impressed by the large number of fully licensed Opium Dens in tht part of Saigon. When the ship was fully loaded, her next port of call was Manila in the Philippines, where she offloaded a part of her rice cargo. The Phillipines then, was still a Colony of the United States of American, and was in the process of being granted the status of an independent country. Without an explicit Visa, I was not allowed to go ashore, and hence I learnt to know very little about that country or that city on that occassion. After off loading tons of rice, the ship's next port of call was Sandakan in British North Borneo, where she off load another part of her rice cargo. I needed no Visa to land on Sandakan. And as I happened to know a few families, including one Kwan family in Sandakan, I spent a day and a half sightseeing and visiting. After Sandakan, the ship took quite a few days to cross the Equator, when there was a Mock "Court of Neptune", to entertain the First Class Passengers. People crossing the Equator for the first time would be given a Certificate after he or she had been "ducked" in a specially set up make-shift swimming pool. Two days later, we reached Salamour, a small port for the mining town of Rai on the north west coast of New Guinea. There again, the ship off-loaded yet a further part of her cargo of rice, and picked up about a hundred native workers from the Gold Mines, to be shipped to Rabaul for discharge, after the completion of their respective work contracts. Rabaul, of course, was my destination. It was the capital township for the entire Mandated Territories of New Guinea, comprising many islands besides the north-eastern quarter of Papua. Rabaul was located on the northern tip of the Island of New Britain, off the coast of New Guinea.

The T.S.M.V. "Neptuna"

From the "Writer" (a junior officer of the ship, whose duties apparently were mainly clerical) on board The "Neptuna", I was told the abbrreviation of T.S.M.V. stood for "a twin screws, (i.e., two propellers) motor vessel". The "Neptuna", a 7,000 tonner, was originally builtin Germany. An Australian Interest, Burns Philips and Co., acquired it not that long ago, intending to use it was a Cruise Ship for the Pacific Islands. The ship was apparently, on a trial run. The "diversion" to pick up a few thousand tons of rice from Saigon for Manila, Sandakan, and Salamour, was only decided while the ship was tied up in Hongkong for a few days, waiting for orders. The local agent was the then Gibb Livingston & Co., having its office in the old P & O Building, right next door to the then General Post Office in Central. The hull of the ship was handsomely painted white, with her two funnels painted yellow. There were two and a half decks forming the superstructure. The fore portion of "A" Deck on top was the "Bridge" or the Steering House with the Captain's cabin near it. The remaining portions of "A" Deck were mainly for life-boats and other gears. The spaces in between, were being utilized as"sports deck" for games of "deck golf" or "deck tennis". There was also a built in small "swimming pool" for FirstClass passengers. The Dining Room, Lounge and other Common rooms were located on "B" Deck, on both sides of which were the long promenades, for passengers to stretch their legs or to lounge on the "deck chairs". Most of the passengers cabins were on "C" Deck, the Main Deck of the Ship, with some of the cabins on "D" Deck, a deck below. The corridors on bothe sides of the "C" Deck could be used as thoroguhfare for the seamen at work. I, as a steerage passenger, was allowed to use it, to get to the fore deck part near the bow of the ship. I was not permitted to use the Promenade on "B" Deck,nor the sports deck on "A".

On Board the "Neptuna"

As mine was not a First Class passage, I was not privileged to enjoyed any of the amenities.  I had a bunk in one of the cabins on "B" deck level at the rear of the ship. This part of the ship had an emergency Steering Wheel, complete with a "Telegraph" connected to the engine room, and a telephone, installed. These gears would only be used if the Bridge were damaged or otherwise could not be used. They called this part of the ship, the "Steerage". The only other passenger travelling with me, in the"steerage" class, was an Australian, who was returning home after delivering a shipment of "race horses" for the Jockey Club in Hongkong. He was a man of few words, and apparently a seasoned traveller, - quite "philosophical" - who would only speak when spoken to. Others accommodated in the lower deck cabins at the rear part of the ship were members of the"cabin crew".  The cabin crew were mainly "Hainanese" hailed from Hainan Island, off the southern coast of China. The Deck crew, were accommodated at the forecastle part of the ship. They were hailed almost exclusively from Ningpo, a place near Shanghai. There were only six laundrymen and one"writer" (i.e., the clerk), who were Cantonese speaking. The Hainanese cabin crew were not very sociable, they kept unto themselves. The Ningpo Deck crew spoke a dialect I could hardly understand; and they had their own social gatherings -for games of Mahjongs and other pastime in the evenings.The small team of laundrymen worked very hard, and could always be seen ironing white dinner jackets and dress-shirt slate in the evenings. To me, the laundrymen, who spoke Cantonese, were most friendly. In fact they appeared to have adopted an attitude of "taking pity" on me, for having to go abroad thousands of miles away from home, to earn a living at such a young age, (I was only 19 going onto 20). They knew I didn't like the "European" meals provided by the ship for me; and they very kindly extended an open invitation to me to dine with them any time when I felt like doing so.  I took full advantage of the offer and had had a number of meals with them in that three-week-long voyage.

The most exciting experience in that voyage was the sight, from the Fore Deck, of "Flights of Flying Fish " flying ahead of the ship as if they were out-racing the ship with a higher speed. Also very exciting was the sight of schools of dolphins, playfully swimming along sidethe ship, as if they were competing with the ship at a long distance race. Calling on famous ports like Saigon and Manila on the way, was to me a bonus. A real treat, quite exciting for an uninitiated young man like me, something I had not bargained for. But sightseeing the lesser known ports of call; namely, Sandakan and Salamour, were not very exciting.

Arrival in Rabaul

The "Neptuna" entered Rabaul Harbour in the morning of 22 March 1936, three weeks after I left Hongkong.The  Rabaul Harbour was very spacious and well sheltered. However, comparing it with the busy harbour of Hongkong, it had almost a deserted look. Apart from the "Neptuna", there was only one other freighter tied along side the quay. The rest in the harbour were only a few schooners and a number of canoes. As the "Neptuna" inched her way to the quay side, I noticed almost the "whole town" was already waiting at the pier to greet us. I didn't realize then, that 80% of those at the pier were school children, who were there specially to welcome ME, their anticipated new, young and active teacher, a steerage passenger notwithstanding.  I felt a little embarrassed, as I never expected it was to be like that.  I did not know who was in charge of the Reception Committee, who I should greet first upon landing, or what might have been expected of me to say, if I were expected to say anything. As the Gangway was in place, a charming gentleman came up to greet me. He introduced himself as Gabriel Chow, welcoming me on behalf of the school. He then introduced me to a Mr. Au, who was the incumbent teacher, whom I was about to replace. Then I was introduced to several others who were members of the school board. Following after shaking hands with several and nodding my head in acknowledgement of the students' welcome, I was soon driven to a shop-cum-home of a Mr.Chan Chai (陈齐 ) in "China Town". Everybody addressed Mr. Chan Chai as "Chai Shuk" (Uncle Chai) and I was advised to do the same. In the shop-and-home of Mr. ChanChai, I was introduced to his wife, and his niece. The latter was working as a secretary and accountant for Mr Chan business. Soon after, Mr. Au, who had seen to it that my luggage had been safely delivered to my quarters in the school, came to join us for lunch. As we sat down to lunch, Mr.Chan's children; 2 daughters and a young son joined us. I was then told they were to be my pupils. I gathered then that Mr.Chan Chai had two other sons, more elderly in age, who were then already studying for priesthood in Shanghai, China. As we lunched, business in the shop went on as usual. Mrs.Chan was obviously a very competent and eficient lady, who kept the house in good order, simultaneously adisciplining well her young children, besides cooking very good meals, in addition to attending to her customers in the shop, all at the same time. On top of all these, she was a charming hostess, who made me feel very much at ease in her house.

Lok Pak and Orhters

One other elderly gentleman who came and joined us at lunch was "Lok Pak"(乐伯 ). He was an elder brother of Mr. Chan Chai, and the father of his niece, who worked in the shop as secretary and accountant. We had the taste of an excellent meal for lunch, - what a change after 3 weeks on board the "Neptuna". The social practice in Rabaul was, they use forks and spoons for Chinese meals - not chop-sticks. After lunch, I was invited to drop in to Lok Pak's house (a few doors away in the same street) for a chat. The old man talked a lot, and it was soon obvious that he commanded a lot of respects. Through the conversation, it became apparent, that it was "Lok Pak" who first came to New Guinea as a pioneer. He was a carpenter. He was instrumental for the coming to New Guinea, not only of his brother Mr.Chan Chai but also his other brother, the most prosperous and successful merchant in Rabaul, Mr.Chan Kun Lok,( ) in the old "German Days". Lok Pak had retired some years ago. He lost a son, who was murdered a few years earlier, while a student studying in Shanghai. Lok Pak lived with his wife in an almost empty house, very austerely furnished. He spent his spare time making cigars by hands for himself, which he would gladly share with any one to care to have them. He also constantly brewed a good pot of coffee, smelling good and available at any time of the day. (His daughter, who received her education in Sydney, Australia, preferred to live with her uncle in the latter's shop-and-home). After coffee, I was conducted to call on another gentleman, Law YukCheung, (罗郁祥), who owned and ran a bicycle shop across the street opposite to the school. He was a man of strong views,and had once been a student for priesthood in a Seminary in China. He had a clear concept as to what is morally right and what is morally wrong. He too was a pillar of the schoolboard. Additionally he loved his pints of beer. We then called on Mr. Augustine Chan (陈英强) who owns a shop right opposite to the school, across the street.  His father was a cousin of Chan Chai and Lok Pak, who too was a member of the school board. Then we called on Mr. Gabriel Chow, the one who first greeted me on board the ship, in his shop on the near side of the street, almost next door to the school.Gabriel's shop sold from sewing machines, bicycles to nails and pins. He was also the Secretary and Supervisor for the School. His father, Mr.Chow Ying, (周英) was Chairman of the School Board. By such a round of calls, we covered almost half of "China Town" fo Rabaul. The Chinese population in Rabaul then numbered approximatley 800. Nearly half of them could traced their roots to Sze Yup, (ie., Sun Wui, Toi Shan, Hoi Ping and Yan Ping counties in southern Kwangtung Province. About a third were Hakkas, with the rest a variety of others. The bulk of the younger generations of Sze Yup were Catholics, most of the younger generations of Hakkas were Methodists, the remaining "indifferent". After the round of calls, Mr.Au, my predecessor, urshered me back to our quarters at the rear portion on the 1st floor of the two-storeyed school building for a rest. The building was built of wood, which would withstood the shakes of earthquakes, quite common on this island.

The School Board

That evening, an ad hoc meeting of the School Board was held, at which Fr. Madegan, the Parish Priest for the Township of Rabaul, also attended. Fr. Madegan was an Australian of Irish descent, a member of the Order of the Sacred Heart. The policy of the school and the direction of my efforts were roughly outlined at the meeting. Little had I realized before then, that I was answerable to a schoolboard, rather than to the Bishop, who lived some 30 miles away in a place called Kokapo. It was also made plain to me that I would draw my monthly salary through the hands of Fr.Madegan, the Parish Priest. My salary was promptly revised upwards, from Twelve Pounds Australian, (25% less than a Pound Sterling) to Thirteen and Half Pounds per month. I was to be solely responsible for the Chinese lessons, the physical education, and the outdoor school activities for the entire school; while three Australian Nuns of the Sacred Heart Order, would be jointly responsible for lessons in English, Arithmetic, Music, Religious Knowledge, Morals and other subjects - approximate to the syllabus for a primary school in Australia. Additionally, I was to preach a short sermon in Chinese, before Mass, every Sunday, to those who care to come and listen. (It turned out that only Lok Pak and Mrs Chow Ying, herding half a dozen of boys and girls, attended my sermons, - obviously for courtesy reasons). After the meeting, Mr Au and I retreated to our sleeping quarters at the rear part of the school. Mr. Au was due to leave on retirement in two days time. Thus I only had 2 days of handing over from him. Mr. Au was well over Fifty by age, and to me he was a very kindly and wise man, who treated me as if I were his younger brother. He was worldly wise and careful in his actions. He gave me an outline of the social structure and a summary of the social attitude of the Chinese Community in such a small town as Rabaul. He also gave me a lot of practical and useful tips as to how I might tackle certain problems, for which I was very grateful.

The Yang Ching School (养正学校)

Next morning, with the arrival of two Australian Sisters, I helped to conduct the morning assembly on the small yard in front of the school. There were, alltogether, some 50 boys and girls assembled. I soon discovered they were divided into 6 and half different grades, from a pre-primary class for 4 year olds, to a primary VI for 12-15.(In point of fact, one girl was already over 17, who later in that year, got married). I soon found also that the textbooks they used were those of the "Republican China" Era, abandoned some ten years ago in Hongkong. Some of the texts in those old fashion text books were so difficult that I had to resort to my dictionaries very frequently, to learn to know how they should be pronounced or what they meant. In point of fact, I was stuck once in not knowing the precise pronunciation of a certain Chinese character, and could not find the proper guidance from any of my 4 dictionaries. I had to resort to a trick and learnt it from my students who knew it better than I did. As a matter of fact, from the very first day when I started teaching, I became fully aware of my own inadequacy. Privately, I regretted having at all volunteered myself for the job, and I also regretted having accepted the appointment, when I could have easily wriggled my way out before Fr. Ishra came to Hongkong. However, with resolution and not without internal struggles, I some how managed to get along. I used to spend a lot of time preparing my lessons before going to my classes. After a few months, on my recommendation, the school board agreed to adopt a new set of text books, to be acquired from Hongkong. As the year progressed, I came to know my pupils and their parents well. I believe I was soon socially accepted as one of them.

Pigin English in Rabaul

Geographically, Rabaul was on an Island known as New Britain, off the north-east coast of New Guinea. Prior to World War I, the archipelagoes were known as the Bismarck Islands, which were Colonies of Germany. After World War I, the group of Islands became the Mandated Territories of the League of Nations, the administration of which was entrusted to the Australian Government. Thus, Geographically, New Guinea was officially described as the Territory of New Guinea. The Official Languages used were English as well as Pidgin English. In the Courts of Justices, as I found it when attending it once, the Presiding Judge or Magistrate had to conduct the proceedings, bilingually, both in the English Language as well as in Pidgin English. (Hehad to repeat whatever he said twice. He said it once in English and afterwards repeating it all over again in Pidgin English). The priests had to lead prayers in Pidgin English, and preach sermons likewise. To say "Our Father who art in heaven...", for example, they did it like this: "Mi Papa belong top side......" In their version of Pidgin English, anything female would be indicated by the term "mary", thus a lady or a woman is "mary"; and "mary pig" means a female pig. At the time when I was there, there were still a lot of signs indicating the presence of a strong German influence. For example, they referred the "shillings" as "marks" to indicate the value of a coin used by the Germans before. One peculiar practice in the place was, they used prepared tobacco sticks, as a subsidiary currency of a value approximate to that of a six pence; and tiny shells were also accepted as small changes. The head of the Government was a (retired) Brigadeer, whose official title was the Administrator. There were at least two very powerful Trading Firms; namely, the"Carpenters" and the "Burns Philip", who had very extensive business interests. The Catholic Mission too, appeared to have very extensive investment and other interests beside evangelical. The Mission had a few sizable coco-nut plantations, an impressive saw-mill, run by lay brothers, besides operating schools and trade schools to educate the natives. They had mission stations all over the place. I have had the privilege of visiting a few of them on horse back accompanied by the missionaries. But the Catholics were not alone, along side with them were the Methodists, the Seventh Day Adventists, and a few others.

My Spare Time in Rabaul

As indicated earlier, the members of the school board were all elderly gentlemen of substance, who were pioneer craftsmen or shop-keepers. There was however, a growing generation of younger men and women, who had received education, some from abroad in Hongkong or in Australia. They were the earlier batches of students who received their primary education in the school where I was to teach their own children. These young and capables were of age a few years older than myself, but with educational background approximate or slightly better than that of my own. Hence with them I could communicate fairly easily, and soon we became friends. Notable amongst them were Gabriel, John and Simon Chow, sons of Mr. Chow Ying, the chairman of the schoolboard. Also Bernard Chan,(陈秉达 ) son of Alois Akun, themost successful businessman amongst them, a brother of Chan Chai and Lok Pak. There were also several others, whose names I have since forgotten. These young and capables involved themselves either in running shops of their own in the Township of Rabaul, or worked as carpenters or mechanics or more enterprisingly, in coco-nut planting in plantations far away from the townships, where they earned and save a lot of money but had hardly any chance to spend them. They all soon became very wealthy, whose only way of enjoying the fruits of their labour, was to go for tours travelling abroad and see the world, a tour overseas, once every few years. They were really good people who earned their livings by doing their many honest days of work. We used to spend the rare spare times at weekends, when they came out from the"bush" to renew their acquaintance with civilization or otherwise to replenish their stores. A few of whom I have maintained contacts for over half a century ever since. The life of a Planter was one of very lonely existence. He would be fortunate if he could persuade a young woman who had received some education to marry him for such a lonesome existence, raising a family in really difficult circumstances

New Britain

New Britain was a relative small Island, when compared with the respective sizes of New Guinea or Australia. It was volcanic, with a sort of "live crater" at the northern tip of the Island, in the form of warm sulphuric spring, sprouting hot water from the bottom of the shallow sea, - hot enough to cook an egg. Right at the Centre of the Harbour, was two tiny islands, formed by the lava of an extinct volcano. Average about once a month, we had an earthquake, strong enough to wake you up from your sleep, giving you the feeling of being "rolled on" in a container. We had so frequent earth quakes that we had long taken it forgranted as a fact of life, hardly bothered by it. The soils on the ground was greyish in colour, because of its high ash content. It was very fertile, and plants of all kinds, grew rapidly and flourished brilliantly. Thus we had plenty of tasty fruits, notably the honey flavoured Pine-apples, the delicious Pawpaw (Popaya), the sweet Bananas, and numerous others. The "Lung Ngans" (龙眼 ) fruits, were larger insize than the largest of the Cantonese Laichees. The Taro and the Sweet Potatoes were large and very juicy. The young green coco-nuts, freshly picked from the tall palms were simply delicious to drink as well as to eat. Coco-nut planting meant clearing a jungle "the bush" for orderly planting of coco-nuts in rows in a plantation. It took about 5 years for the coco-nut plants to fruit, but two more years to mature. Thus it meant waiting for some 7 years to harvest your crops of coco-nuts, after sweating your way through clearing a virgin jungle. When ripe, the coco-nuts would drop from high up the trees on to the ground, like the Manas dropping down from Heaven in the Prophet Mosses's days for the Isalaris in the Sainai Desert. The nuts would then be collected, and kernel dug out, to be "baked dried" by hot air in specially built kilns. When dried, they would be put in sacks, and shipped abroad, to Europe or America for industrial use. Probably due to the high sulphur content in the soil, I had never come across a snake in Rabaul, but there were a few Scorpios around, even though I wasn't sure whether they were of the poisonous species. There were plenty of Bats and Parrots around. The natives were black people, some were blacker than others. Those from Buka, an island, were as black as black Chinese ink. They all seem to like music, some worked hard just to earn enough money to buy a Guitar or a mouth organ; others would work to earn sufficient money to buy a bicycle or a sewing mahcine.

Good Bye Rabaul

As indicated earlier, I recognized my own inadequacy on the very first day when I arrived. I had been looking for a way out ever since. The opportunity came in the summer of 1937, shortly after an elaborate celebration for the Coronation of King George VI, as King and Emperor for the then mighty and enormous British Empire. I recalled the kids in our school, were trained specially to sing patriotic songs like the "Rule Britania". Then came one day when all of a sudden, we had a continuous series of severe earthquakes, lasting for several days, followed by an unprecedented violent Volcano eruption right at the centre of the Harbour of Rabaul. The sky was suddenly darken early in a sunny afternoon, with lava and ashes blown up thousands of feet high into the sky, soon to be followed by the falling down not of rains or moisture, but of solid ashes, covering the entire township several feet deep. The harbour itself was covered by a layer of floating molten lava, over a foot thick. It reminded me of my reading of the story of Pompei of Italy in the old Roman days. I prayed that it would not be my turn to become a "statute" as those which had been dug out in Pompei. Luckily, only a few were hurt, hardly any was killed. We were ordered to evacuate to another part of the Island, a place called Kokapo, the place where the Cathedral of the Catholic Bishop of New Guinea was located. The volcano eruption gave me the God sent opportunity to resign my post. I was pretty sure that the School Board, having noted my professional inadequacy, was glad that I had taken the initiative to resign. My resignation was promptly accepted. In all, I had spent 15 months teaching and preaching in Rabaul, Territory of New Guinea.

Returning to Hong Kong

I returned to Hongkong 3 weeks before the Marco Polo Bridge (Lo Kau Kiu) (卢沟桥 ) Incident of the 7th July, 1937, officially reckoned as marking the commencement of the Sino Japanese War. I believe I returned a much matured man, more aware of my own inadequacy and shortcoming, having developed a greater sense of responsibility and quite resolved to improve myself. At heart, I thanked the good people of RabauI who had suffered my follies for so many months. On my way home, the ship, S.S. Nellore, called at Cebu and Manila on the way. This time, I was a proper 2nd Class passenger, and was allowed to go on shore, to visit the two great cities. I was most impressed by the many a splendour alter pieces in many Churches in Cebu, and was equally impressed by the ancient fortresses, the new aquarium as well as the new hospital for T.B. Patients I visited in Manila. On arrival in Hongkong, it was then too late for me to try again the Matriculation Exam for admission to the Hongkong University. As an alternative, I sat for the entrance exam for admission to the Lingnan University in Canton and was successful. However, successive air raids over Canton by Japanese aircrafts deterred me from taking up my place in Canton. It then happened that the Canton University, a private institution, evacuated a part of its faculties from Canton to avoid air raids, began to hold classes in make-shift rented premises in Fanling, NewTerritories, (right opposite to my father's house). I seized the opportunity and enrolled myself as a First year student to read Economics and Political Science. Early in the summer the following year, once again I sat for the Matriculation Exam of the Hongkong University. This time, I did it entirely on my own, as a private student, and I was successful. I transferred myself to be enrolled at the University of Hongkong instead as from September, 1938. A step I had taken which I have never regretted.


Some years later, during the height of WorldWar II, when I read about the Allied bombing of the Japanese occupied Rabaul, by way of pouring thousands of tons of explosives on to that small township, I could hardly believe my own eyes. I could not imagine then how so small a township like Rabaul, could have withstood the continuous and heavy bombing by the American Air Force. To my mind, such massiive bombing could only mean the indiscrimnate destruction of every form of life there was in that township. However, to my surprise, two years after V-J Day, I was mighty glad to learn that hardly any of my friends was killed, despite the heavy bombing. Gabriel, John and Simon Chow were alive, so was Bernard Chan and many others. They had been evacuated away to the "Bushes" long before the Allied Bombers started bombing the place. In recent years, I came across the name of Sir Julius Chan having been elected Prime Minister for Papua New Guinea. While I never had the hoonour nor the pleasure of teaching Julius when he was a boy, I did, however, actually taught his sister, Agnes, in my classes, at the Yang Ching School. I met Sir Julius's father socially, but had been a great friend of his uncle, Chan Tim, whom we all fondly called him Captain Tim, because he was expterprising enough in the pre war days to have ordered a brand new schooner, built specially for him in Hongkong, which he himself brought back from Hongkong, acrosss the Oceans to Rabaul in the year 1937. We were mighty proud that he did this all on his own.

PKC Tsui
Vancouver, B.C.
20th September, 1989

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