”Ah Kai”, Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co., Ltd’s number one foreman

HF: IDJ has recently sent the following newspaper article. This includes a rather poor image of Mr Leung Kai aka Ah Kai, and I would be grateful to be sent a better photo of the gentleman, further information about him and/or the company he worked for. I have added a couple of photographs.
Thanks to SCT for proofreading my retyping of the sent article.

Leung Kai Image

Hong Kong And Kowloon Wharf And Godown Company, University Of Bristol

Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company, Kowloon, Hong Kong c1897. Source: University of Bristol, Historical Photographs of China


”Ah Kai” – There is magic in the name of the Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co., Ltd’s number one foreman.
The past forty years, this tall heavy-set Chinese, who has a strong face with wide, clear, penetrating eyes, has kept a steady control over gangs of coolies and the cargo work connected with the godowns.

Whenever difficulties arise, be they typhoons, labour or cargo troubles, Leung Kai, known to hundreds throughout the Colony as ”Ah Kai,” takes them in hand and smooths the strife.

Kowloon Wharf And Godown Company Aerial View 1963

Aerial view of Kowloon Wharf and Godown 1963 Source: Marine Department HK

”Ah Kai” remembers Kowloon when it was but fields, garden patches and a few small houses near the waterfront which boasted one not too sturdy pier. At the age of fourteen he entered the employ of the Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co., Ltd. and through the years of his work there he has witnessed strange, exciting, harrowing and amusing events.


The typhoon of 1906 when hundreds of lives and ships were lost due to lack of notice regarding the weather, found ”Ah Kai” taking a major part. When the typhoon was reaching its height, he was the one to save women and children stranded on junks near the waterfront. He saw ships sink in the bay till only their masts and funnel were above water, junks going to the bottom of the bay, and lighters flying through the air to land on the top of the godowns.

Similar were  his experiences in the 1923 and 1937 typhoons. ”Ah Kai” was at his post in the godowns during these two disasters, supervising, encouraging and saving life and property to the best of his ability.

Behind the scenes of his daily work activities there is an abundance of good deeds towards his fellow men. Coolies come to ”Ah Kai” when hungry, sick, or in domestic or financial troubles, and they find a helping hand.


The Police Department, at various times, call upon ”Ah Kai” due to his many years and widespread popularity in the Colony. Few are the Chinese faces in Hongkong or Kowloon that he does not remember and few are the personalities he does not know.

It is not unusual for this sturdy foreman to walk into an angry mob of some five hundred coolies and calm them to submission and quiet with one of his searing glances. ”Ah Kai’s” eyes can be sharp as steel and, other times, soft as a spaniel’s. His expression, his heavy figure clad in black trousers and white coat, and his proverbial stick in hand have the uncanny power of stifling rebellious workers in large and small numbers.


”Ah Kai’s” home is his castle. Here he protects, supervises and dispenses affection. His three sons are the joy of his life and particularly number one, now in Government service in Rangoon. A grandfather also is he with several doting young grandchildren. All these he watches over.

There are several business concerns in which ”Ah Kai” has interests. However, all of them were started for members of his family and other relations, thus giving them an income and active interest in the control. Little he receives from these ventures and, at times, it has been known that has lost money in his attempts at assistance.

When trouble brews the name on everyone’s lips is ”Ak Kai,” a personality which, when gone, can never be replaced in the Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co., Ltd.

Source: Hong Kong Daily Press 15th June 1939.

This article was first posted on 21st May 2024.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. The Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company, newspaper article 1937
  2. Holts Wharf and Godown
  3. Alfred Holt, 1829-1911, founder of Alfred Holt & Co (Holt’s Wharf TST)

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