Noel Croucher – philanthropist and director of Green Island Cement and Hong Kong and China Gas
This article uses an article written by Vaudine England published in the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. The publisher, HK University Press, has given permission for this to be posted here.
Croucher, Noel Victor Amor JP (1935) b. 24 December 1891, Hampshire, England; d. 6 March 1980, Hong Kong. Broker, company director, philanthropist.
“Noel Croucher arrived in Hong Kong with his mother, stepfather and siblings some time in 1905-07. Legends surround his background: he himself claimed that his stepfather had been an officer in the British Army, and it was rumoured that his mother worked in a travelling circus. The family were undoubtedly poor and Noel, with little schooling, became a clerk in the Hong Kong Post Office at the age of 15. Shortly afterwards he managed to impress Sir Paul Chater, who supported his rise in business. In 1911 Croucher joined the trading firm Shewan, Tomes & Company, attending his first company meeting at the age of 19. He moved on to the brokerage firm, Benjamin & Potts, four years later.
Having joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps Croucher was made an officer at the onset of World War 1 and sent to the British-leased territory of Weihaiwei in north-eastern China to recruit men to the Chinese Labour Corps for work at the Western Front. In France he met his future wife, Simonne, whom he married in London in 1924. A son, Richard Roderic was born in Hong Kong on 7 June 1925. Simonne returned to live in London during World War 11, and stayed there until her death in 1992.
During the 1930s Croucher established himself in the colony’s financial and social circles. By 1934 he had set up Croucher & Company and taken a seat at the Stock Exchange. He was renowned for driving a hard bargain and for his astute judgement of a business’s worth and prospects. He was on the board of directors of many firms, including Green Island Cement and Hong Kong and China Gas. A keen sailor, he bought his first yacht in 1919 and became Vice Commodore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in 1937.
Croucher was interned with other civilians in Stanley camp during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he returned from camp at the end of the war to find his wealth – including his bonds and share certificates – intact inside his office safe, It was then that he was dubbed one of the ‘richest white men East of Suez’. After the war, he played an important role in helping to restore Hong Kong’s institutions, including the Yacht Club and the Stock Exchange, of which he became chairman in 1947.
Croucher became both rich and respected but was never fully accepted in some circles. A lonely, curmudgeonly man, he developed an interest in philanthropy, notably by giving the deserving poor opportunities that he felt he had missed in his own life. He was a major donor to the Sandy Bay Children’s Hospital and many other charities concerned with health and education. Croucher nonetheless kept his philanthropy quiet and consequently received no honours for it. As he felt his own death approaching, he decided to leave his fortune (estimated in tens of millions of pounds in 1970) to support education in Hong Kong. The Croucher Foundation, established in 1979, was the first body to fund university research in science, medicine and technology in Hong Kong until the government took over this responsibility in the 1990s. It continues to help young scientists gain professional exposure abroad, and to fund scientific activities with the aim of ensuring that Hong Kong-based scientists keep pace with those in the international scientific community.”
Note: The image of Noel Croucher shown on the Home Page comes courtesy of the Croucher Foundation website.
- Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, ed M Holdsworth & C Munn, HKU Press, 2012 This wonderful book collects in one volume more than 500 specially commissioned entries on men and women from Hong Kong history.
- The Croucher Foundation is an independent private foundation established by the late Noel Croucher in 1979 to promote the standard of the natural sciences, technology and medicine in Hong Kong
- The Quest of Noel Croucher: Hong Kong’s Quiet Philanthropist, Vaudine England, Hong Kong University Press, 1998
This article was first posted on 30th November 2017.
Related Indhhk articles:
- Sir Paul Chater – connected to several major Hong Kong companies
- Messrs. Shewan, Tomes & Co
- Green Island Cement Company – stunning photos
- The Hongkong and China Gas Company Ltd – early history from 1860s