Lamma Island Industry
Hugh Farmer: This article is the result of several people’s research into industrial development, manufacturing, agriculture, aviation, fishing, quarrying, utilities, shipping and other related topics on Lamma Island. We also include information about Lamma during World War Two which may be of a more general nature.
If you can provide information on any of the subjects below, or add to the list, it would be good to hear from you. I can then gradually add to this framework to provide a fuller picture with an acknowledgment of your contribution.
You can email me at: indhhk at gmail dot com
MALB Mary Anne Le Bas
AC Andrew Cattrell
EC Elaine Chan
WC Winnie Cheung
SD Stephen Davies
HF Hugh Farmer
JH James Hayes
TN Thomas Ngan
MM Malcolm Morris
ER Elizabeth Ride
LT Lawrence Tsui
Origins of the name ‘Lamma’
SD: Lamma got called Lamma only because of a chart reading error by Alexander Dalrymple in the 1760s. He’d acquired a Portuguese chart to the entrances to the Pearl River and, close to the west of the island (in Ha Mei Wan), the Portuguese owner had written ‘Lama’. Dalrymple took that to be the name of the island. It wasn’t. It was a Portuguese notation as to the holding (consistency of the seabed from the point of view of anchoring there), which was (and is) mud – in Portuguese ‘lama.
The island’s Chinese name always has been, as far as I can tell, Pok Liu Chau sometimes just Pok Liu (博寮洲 – big hut island?).
HF: If this reference to ‘Lama” island is indeed Lamma, and I do not know of the former then, incredible as it now seems, a plan to have HK’s international airport on the north coast of Lamma island was discussed in 1938. Bye bye Kai Tak, Greetings to Pak Kok International. This would presumably have resulted in the world’s longest bridge to Pokfulam or increased complaints from Lamma residents about queues at Yung Shue Wan ferry pier.
Many thanks to IDJ for the newspaper cutting.
Axe heads, bronze
MM :The Bronze Age period ran from 1,500BC to 211 BC. Not sure exactly when these were made during that period but they must be a good contender for the oldest evidence of industry on Lamma island.
HF: The Hong Kong Heritage Museum has one bronze axe which it says was found at Yung Sho [sic] Wan
Cement – The Far East Cement Company works, part of the Shui On Group, opposite So Kwu Wan, opened 1980 and closed in 2001. The bulk cement terminal was built on reclaimed land. The terminal comprised two 20,000 tonne capacity cement silos with domed roofs supporting feed systems, a jetty with a cement unloader, berthing and mooring “dolphins” and a separate berth for barges for distribution of the cement to elsewhere in Hong Kong [and apparently South China].
The works also included a dredged approach channel, navigation aids, conveyor systems and bucket elevators on the silos. The concrete silos were designed to be constructed by slip-forming. This resulted in a rapid construction process and for each silo the total lift of 45 metres was completed within 10 days. A particular innovation was the raising of the domed roofs from ground level along with the slip-form operation.
An extensive programme of settlement monitoring of the silo foundations was undertaken to compare actual with predicted ground settlements on the reclaimed land and underlying marine clays as a decision had been taken on grounds of cost not to pile the foundations but to allow for settlements which would occur. The interaction of bulbs of pressure under the silos was expected to result in some tilting of the silos. Agreement of actual and predicted values of the settlement was obtained and long-term movements could then be accurately predicted. These were within the allowable tolerances of the elevators and other mechanical systems.
Champion Industrial Company Ltd
HF: I know very little about this company which I do not believe was based on Lamma.
JH: Extracted from James’ article Charcoal Burning in Hong Kong which was included in the RASHKB Journal Volume 11, 1971.
Electricity – Electricity was first brought to the island by submarine cable from Hong Kong island in 1962.
Lamma Power Station opened in 1982.
HF: Lamma Power Station Units 1,2, 4 and 5 Control System Upgrade Project
Commencement: 1998. Completion: 2001
For further details see: http://www.hkie.org.hk/ea/eng/details.asp?id=77
HF: Lamma Power Station Extension, Gas-fired Combined Cycle Unit 9
Shown on the reclaimed land below the main power station on the above image.
Commencement: May 2002. Completion: October 2006
For further details see: http://www.hkie.org.hk/ea/eng/details.asp?id=74
HF: HEC Submarine Gas Pipeline between Lamma Power Station and Guangdong Dapeng LNG Receiving Terminal, Shenzhen
Commencement: February 2005. Completition: June 2006
For further details see: http://www.hkie.org.hk/ea/eng/details.asp?id=75
HF: Lamma Wind Turbine
Commencement: 1 February 2005. Completion: 22 February. Began operating on 23 February 2006
For further details see: http://www.hkie.org.hk/ea/eng/details.asp?id=76
Ferries – “Post WW2″[specific date needed], Hong Kong and Yaumatei ferries resumed a service to Cheung Chau with an intermediate stop at Yung Shue Wan on Lamma.
1961 There was “the Hong Kong Island – Lamma Island service.” Cheng Po Hung, Early Hong Kong Transport, p73, University Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
However, The Hongkong & Yaumati Ferry Co Ltd: Golden Jubilee 1923-1973, published by the company, states, “On the 17th May 1962 Hongkong/Lamma Island Ferry Service commenced.”
WC “Within an unpopulated bay in northern Lamma Island in 1982, Law Bak-fuk built his first fish-cultivating sea cages with wooden planks and blue plastic buckets. Today, his floating farm, boasting 500 cages, is one of Hong Kong’s largest. Green grouper, sabah grouper – a hybrid of two groupers – sea chubb, snapper and pompano are among the various species he stocks. His choice is entirely practical because groupers are highly pollution tolerant and fast-growing – and they attract a premium.
Law’s stocks used to feed on the trash fish that are harvested by trawlers. Since the trawling ban came into force in 2013, though, the price of his regular feed rose – because fishermen have to work further offshore – and Law reluctantly replaced part of their diet with food pellets, although these may contain grinded trash fish. He still believes trash fish provides better nutrition.”
Economy of Scales: A look into the HK fish farming industry Time Out Hong Kong, 19th July 2015
Thanks to Winnie Cheung for telling us about this article.
Grass-Cutting / Breaming (the latter archaic term is the cleaning of the bottom of a ship of accumulated matter by burning and scraping).
From Southern District Officer Reports ( 2010) Ed John Strickland HKUP
Lo So Shing [mid 1950s?] One of the… “the principal village occupations [is] grass-cutting (the grass being sold to Aberdeen for breaming)”.
Luk Chau also around 1955 “sells its grass at Aberdeen for breaming.”
Sok Kwu Wan “ a Mr Wu, lived there [date?] and was manager of the breaming facilities”.
Tung O [Tong O?], around 1955, “was a centre for grass cutting used in breaming”.
Yung Shu Ha 1955 “The principal source of income is from grass-cutting, the grass being sold to Aberdeen for breaming”.
IDJ believes that the short lived, mid 1970’s, helicopter company, Sim Air Limited, may have been based on Lamma island. Can anyone verify this?
Sim Air Limited – helicopter company
Leather- A report in the Overseas Chinese Daily News, in 1965, reports that small factories have been set up in north Lamma including [one or possibly more] producing leather.
MM reports that in the mid 1990s the path from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan used to go right over a stone circle, about five feet in diameter, which he was told was the remains of a limestone kiln.
Lo So Shing beach
From Southern District Officer Reports ( 2010) Ed John Strickland HKUP
Mau Tat Tsun c1930 “Mau a white flowered rush, a kind of grass, Tat – a mat awning over a boat, Tsun – a village. A place where these rushes are grown, and made into mats for the above purpose”.
From Southern District Officer Reports ( 2010) Ed John Strickland HKUP
1955 “A mining company prospecting in the hills near Mau Tat [now Mo Tat?] has left the landscape scarred and the villagers request that the miners be made to tidy it up has been referred to the Superintendent of Mines”
HK Minerals 1991 CJ Peng Urban Council, suggests this company was possibly investigating Wolframite (Tungsten).
Oil Refinery -HF In 1972 Shell Oil Company applied to build an oil refinery on Lamma but was opposed by environmental groups and residents.
Legco Proceedings 1st Aug 1973 see 990 A reply by David Akers-Jones, then Acting Secretary for the Environment on the pros and cons of the proposed Shell oil refinery on Lamma and the more general question of whether the island should be industrial, residential or both.
Shell re-applied in 1974 but again the application was rejected.
I have found a reference to a 35 page publication “An oil refinery on Lamma Island?” 1973 but can find no further information about this.
IDJ: suggests, regarding a Lamma oil refinery, that at this time the HK government was panicking about fuel availability when the first oil crisis occurred as HK’s supplies relied on refineries in Singapore.
Plastic– A single report suggests that several decades ago Yung Shue Wan was the “centre of the plastics industry” on the island. A report in the Overseas Chinese Daily News in 1965 reports that new small factories have been set up in north Lamma including [one or possibly more] producing plastic.
Plywood – A report in the Overseas Chinese Daily News in 1965 reports that there was a plywood company in south Lamma.
Pottery – There is a confirmed bronze age pottery site at Sham Wan http://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/handle/10125/19153/AP-v15n2-113-126.pdf?sequence=1–
MM took part in a HK Archaeological Society dig on Lamma in the 1970s. The site had been a pottery and several pieces, he thinks, were recovered. He was under the impression that the dig was where the power station now lies. He has contacted HKAS to ascertain if they have records going back that far.
a)The quarry opposite So Kwu Wan was established in 1978 for rock extraction and miscellaneous processing and storage.
A contract for the rehabilitation of the site commenced in 1995 and was subsequently completed in 2002 and quarry operations concurrently ceased under this contract.
Currently, the site is a landscaped area with a lake and several ponds. The Planning Department and the Civil Engineering and Development Department have released launched their plans to build between 1000 and 7000 flats on the site of the old quarry.
HK Gov” Ex-Lamma Quarry -Feasability Study http://www.ex-lammaquarry.hk/download/stage1.pdf
For further details see: http://www.hkie.org.hk/ea/eng/details.asp?id=46
b) HF: There is a quarry (ies) behind and to the East of So Kwu Wan village itself. This can clearly be seen as you come over from Yung Shue Wan and if you walk from SKW towards Mo Tat.
c) HF: Where exactly is this Quarry?
Rattan – A report in the Overseas Chinese Daily News in 1965 reports that new factories have been set up in north Lamma including [one or more] rattan factories.
Reeds – In the 1930s Lo So Shing “Lo – reeds or rushes”, So “a beard”, Shing “a city” [!] was a large village where reeds were grown and used by the villagers to make mats, and interestingly raincoats.
Rubber Thread – A report in the Overseas Chinese Daily News in 1965 reports that there was a rubber thread factory being constructed in south Lamma.
From Southern District Officer Reports ( 2010) Ed John Strickland HKUP
A report in 1930 from Tai Wan Old village (near what is now called Power Station beach) states that sand contractors had disturbed coffins whilst digging in a “big sandbank”. And in Tai Wan To New village, “ One of the recurring problems at Tai Wan To is the determination of the Sand Monopoly to take sand from their beach. Many of the beaches in the New Territories have sand that is either too thick or too thin for construction work, but Tai Wan To’s sand is apparently perfect”.
Some years ago the District Commissioner gave a guarantee to the villagers that their beach would not be touched. The Sand Monopoly then resorted to dredging sand from the bay. During 1953 they kept some distance away from Tai Wan To, but in 1954 [with District Officer Austin Coates’ approval and after the Chief Engineer, Port Works, had given an opinion that it was most unlikely to cause any harm to the sand beach protecting the rice fields behind it, the dredgers came to take sand from within 50 yards offshore.
In fact, they never took any sand. In 1953 the villagers had already taken the matter into their own hands, and had been severely warned for doing so by the Police, when they arrested the sand contractor and only allowed him to operate under armed escort from the village. In 1954 they set upon the new contractor, beat him up badly, and left him for several hours locked up in a temple. The police came within 6 hours, and subsequently at the Kowloon Magistracy four of the villagers were sent to prison for several months. Chan Yau [a prominent member of the North Lamma Rural Committee] later appealed to Mr Brook Bernacchi [lawyer, politician and Chairman of the Hong Kong Reform Club] for help, and the sentences were reduced on hardship grounds. An exhaustive investigation has now been made by the Port Works Office, and I can see from it that they understood the problem as little as I did when I first came into contact with it. By all appearances it does not seem possible for offshore dredging to have an effect on the beach, and the anxiety of the villagers seems to be groundless.”
Mike T: Re: the Chiyo Maru, she actually wrecked outside of Hong Kong, in the confusingly-similarly-named “Lema Islands”, what’s now known as Dan’gan Liedao (擔桿列島). (see full comment below this article)
HF: Thanks for correcting me Mike. I will leave what follows for the time being until the ship has its own article. I based the following incorrect information on an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20th May 1916 which mentions “Lamma Island” but also that this place was “about 20 miles from Hongkong” which our Lamma is clearly not if “Hongkong” means HK island or Victoria/Central.
The Japanese ocean liner Chiyo Maru was shipwrecked (in fog/ in a storm?) on Lamma on 31 March 1916 with no casualties. One source says this happened at Tam Kan, I have never heard of this place. I can find no record of this event in the Public Records Office newspaper archives.
HF: Aulac Fortune incident January 2019
Emergency crews battle deadly oil and chemical tanker blaze off Hong Kong’s Lamma Island SCMP 8th January 2019
1 dead, 23 rescued as oil tanker fire off Lamma Island brought under control Hong Kong Free Press 8th January 2019
Skyluck runs aground on Lamma: The Skyluck was a 3,500-ton Panamanian-registered freighter that carried a cargo of 2,700 Chinese and Vietnamese boat people fleeing Vietnam four years after the fall of Saigon. The ship entered Hong Kong harbour under the cover of darkness on 8 February 1979, but was discovered and ordered to set anchor by the Hong Kong Police. Thus, began a 4 1⁄2 month-long stalemate as the refugees waited on the ship for the Hong Kong government to decide their fate. The event turned into an international humanitarian incident, which was a symbol of a much larger problem: the estimated one million refugees who risked everything to flee Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam War…
…In the early hours of Wednesday 7 February 1979, Skyluck arrived in the then-British colony of Hong Kong unannounced. Hong Kong police did not detect the ship while it entered the territorial water and until it anchored in the middle of Victoria Harbour. The ship was surrounded by police launches and boarded in the morning hours, engine parts were removed to prevent escape…
…The refugees were not allowed to land, instead, the freighter was towed to south coast of Lamma Island, several hundred yards off-shore. Refugees were confined to the ship for more than four months (until the freighter was sunk deliberately by refugees) while the Hong Kong government attempted to verify the refugee status of the passengers, and decide whether to allow them into the UNHCR-run refugee camps in the colony…
…The refugees waited aboard Skyluck in squalid conditions, although the Hong Kong government did provide basic necessities – food and water. On Sunday, 11 March 1979, after 33 days of waiting, a group of about 100 refugees jumped overboard and started to swim the mile to shore. About fifty made it to Lamma Island, where they were promptly rounded up by police. Two were admitted to hospital and treated for exhaustion. While in custody, a group of young men unfurled a banner which read in English “Please Help Us”, and tossed a message to the press through the wire fencing, which asked that the refugees be allowed to land. Those who didn’t make it to shore were picked up by launches and returned to the freighter. Those reaching shore were also returned to the ship.
Source: Skyluck – wikipedia
Skyluck, the ship that smuggled 2,600 boat people to Hong Kong – and freedom SCMP 23rd April 2019
Stranded on the Skyluck: daily struggles and one final dramatic act SCMP 30th April 2019
Collision between Chinese registered oil tanker Tian 5 and fishing boat March 2019
Search under way for crew of fishing boat sunk after oil tanker crash near Hong Kong waters SCMP 12th March 2019
Shrimp Paste – Anyone visiting Lamma, especially Yung Shue Wan, up to the early 1990s, will remember the pungent smell of shrimp paste which was made and/or stored in large, bright blue plastic barrels.
Tannery – There is a single report, with no date, that a kaido left Kennedy Town at 7am and dropped about 50 or so freshly skinned cow hides at Pak Kok. Were they delivered to the tannery which is located between Pak Kok and Yung Shue Wan? The tannery is now the new ‘Lammerina’ housing development.
Telecommunications – Lamma Island Television Transmission Station is situated on Ling Kok Shan the mountain behind Sok Kwu Wan.
Timber Mill – In the late 1960s a timber mill applied to acquire land at Sok Kwu Wan. Its application was rejected.
Toys MALB: On the subject of toys, when I first arrived in Hong Kong, in 1983, people in Yung Shue Wan were assembling dolls – there was a pile of arms and legs etc in the middle of a table, and women sitting around the table putting them together. These were restaurant tables during a quiet time of the day. After a few months, I didn’t see this any more. Does anyone else remember seeing this style of work?
War, Second World
LT: The British Army Aid Group (BAAG) had a strong interest in collecting intelligence on Japanese shipping into & out of Hong Kong during the Occupation. In the Ride Papers (Ref: AWM Series 2 Folder 32) there were some reports of a plan to set up an Observation Post for shipping at Lamma Island circa August 1944. (Agent 530 Sham Yung-hung, formerly HKRNVR), whose family were from Lamma, was sent back to conduct feasibility studies. The plan was for Sham to bring back a BAAG OP Team and operate a Force 136 radio set on a moving junk steered by his family off Lamma. There were reportedly no enemy troops or Red Guerrillas on Lamma. Japanese troops from Aberdeen visited from time-to-time only.
Originally, the BAAG tried to set up a Shipping OP at Sunset Peak on Lantau. The plan was disallowed by the Nationalist Government on account of the needed co-operation for protection by the local Red Guerrillas. Then the Nationalist Government allowed a BAAG OP to be set up at Tzatleunshan, Daipeng Bay. Upon arrival in the Autumn of 1943, the OP Team was captured by the local Red Guerrillas and held for ransom for some 4 months. This Lamma Island OP would be free from such complications. I’m not clear why the Lamma Operation was not implemented.
ER has sent the following two Britich Army Aid Group (BAAG) reports:
Sitiuation report #12. 25.5.45. Canton Delta – Sea approaches – “New defence measures include the fortification for the first time of Lamma Island and the laying of mines in Mirs Bay and the Canton River, with particular mention of the Bocca Tigris Channel”.
Situation report #15. 15.6.45. Hongkong – “The outlying islands including Aplichau and Lamma received additional reinforcements of Naval Ground Forces with artillery at the end of May and there has been an unusual amount of minor adjustments in the dispositions of the Hongkong Defence Unit, indicating that they are now standing to in readiness for any attack”.
HF: For general information about the Elizabeth Ride collection, her father Sir Lindsay Ride, and the British Army Aid group during WW2 a very useful introduction is through http://gwulo.com/node/13968
The BAAG papers are kept at the Hong Kong Heritage Project
Suicide Boats – Lamma “Kamikaze” Caves
This article was first published on 16th August 2014.
Related Indhhk Island articles:
- Peng Chau Island Industry
- Lantau Island Industry
- Lime-making on Tsing Yi island – 1984 RASHKB article
- Cheung Chau Island Electric Company
- Chu Lu Kuk / Chek Lap Kok Island Granite Quarry – early 19th century to 1960s?
- Yim Tin Tsai – project to restore the island’s 200 year old salt fields
- West Brother Island (Tai Mo To) Graphite Mine