Chinese lighthouse keepers’ wives – 1930s Japanese preference

New information in red regarding Hong Kong lighthouse ladies.

IDJ: The script below comes from one of my aviation books related to the 1930s China Coast. It’s an interesting aside about the wives of lighthouse keepers:-

“Chinese keepers of the lights had invariably been pirated so often for their large supplies of specially refined kerosene, the lighthouse service found it more economical to employ foreigners who did not suffer from either the ‘actual’ or ‘claimed’ piracies.

At first Russians were used, but while their pay was less than for other foreigners, the broody, melancholic Russians could not stand the life and many went crazy with the loneliness. Most of the later lighthouse keepers along the China coast were Scots or English. They were not permitted to have foreign wives with them because experience had proven that the women became so unhappy in their loneliness, that their husbands were forced to leave the service. Nor were the lighthouse-men encouraged to take Chinese wives because they made trouble amongst any other Chinese stationed at the lighthouse.

As a curious result, many of the British lighthouse keepers in the employ of the Chinese government had Japanese wives. They were neat and orderly and kept everything clean and shipshape around the station, and did not get into difficulties with the Chinese personnel. As they had been brought up from infancy to expect so little in life, they were quite happy and contented in their lonely exile.”

Stephen Davies adds: In HK the ladies were accommodated at Cape Collinson and Cape D’Aguilar lighthouses. I think only the island lights had no females because they were run like ships on a watch keeping system. The Chinese Maritime Customs Service lights, mentioned above, do seem to have had different rules, but most were on the mainland or on quite large islands where a full domestic set up was possible.

The image shown on the Home Page of this article is of Waglan Island Lighthouse, Hong Kong.

This article was first posted on 24th August 2016.


  1. Women Lighthouse Keepers in the USA – United States Coastguard
  2. Woman’s Work: Female Lighthouse Keepers in the Early Republic 1820-1859 A USA Master’s thesis by Virginia Neal Thomas
  3. A History of New Zealand lighthouses and their keepers – includes a couple of paragraphs about the lives of lighthouse keepers’ wives

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Fan Lau Lighthouse, Lantau Island
  2. Fresnel Lenses – Barbier, Benard & Turenne – AGA and Waglan lighthouse…
  3. Hong Kong lighthouse construction, costs, delivery, dates, light visibility…
  4. Hong Kong’s Lighthouses and the men who manned them – HKBRAS article
  5. Lighthouses in Hong Kong pre-1941, images needed
  6. Tathong Lighthouse – pre-WW2
  7. Tathong Lighthouse – during and post-WW2
  8. Waglan Island lighthouse – a brief history
  9. Waglan Island lighthouse – inaugurated on 9th May, 1893

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