Alfred Herbert Rennie – additional information

HF: The following notes are an attempt to order chronologically events in AH Rennie’s life mentioned on data cards from the Carl Smith collection held at the HK Public Records Office.

I have attempted below to include all references to Rennie in these cards, as recorded by Carl Smith, and which are hand written or typed. However, they are sometimes quite repetitive, occasionally provide contradictory information, and are at times difficult to interpret when handwritten or mis -typed.  I have freely transcribed Smith’s notes in order, as far as possible, to make them readily understandable. All the cards are individually numbered though I have omitted these here.

Carl Smith frequently used a number of Hong Kong newspapers to jot down information. If he mentions these sources I refer to the them as:- SCMP = The South China Morning Post, DP = The Hong Kong Daily Press, CM = The China Mail

As you will note there many entries without an original source. The notes in blue are mine to mark major events.

a h rennie photograph

1857 Born 17th November Ontario, Canada

1885 Became confidential advisor and secretary of Hon. John Norquay, premier and treasurer of Manitoba. While there, he was quite prominent in the political affairs of the province, being sent to England to negotiate a large loan. On his return he was ordered to Hong Kong to take up a position in the diplomatic service.

Before leaving Canada  he went to Portland, Oregon, with  a letter of introduction from Sir Wm. Van Horne of Csn [Canadian?] Pacific Railroad to Theodore B Wilcox of the Portland Flouring Mills Co. At that time Rennie knew nothing about the flour business, but made such a good impression on Wilcox that [typing faint or missing]…  spared from his diplomatic duties, [began selling flour].

1890 Rennie arrived in Hong Kong

Jan 15 DP September Alfred Rennie, correspondence clerk, PWD, HK

Jan 30 Blue Book [appointed?] correspondence clerk, PWD, HK. Listed in 1890 and 1893 – not listed 1894

1894 Jun 4 Agreement,  Rennie 1st part, Leong Shui Kong 2nd part, Chun Tsz Chun, Canto [sic] gentleman 3rd part. Party of 1st part agrees to pay all sales in HK if Portland flour, Japanese coal, piede [piece?] goods, iron and other merchandise, for England and America and 5% on all fire insurance. Party of 2nd part agrees to pay all brokerage. [ another card adds “signed English script”.]

1894-1895 Jury List, Alfred Herbert Rennie, merchant, Upper Albert Road.

1895  He was successful from the beginning [and in this year] resigned from government service and devoted all his attention to the flour trade. He was a tireless worker, and as he had very liberal contacts with Mr Wilcox, he was soon enjoying a very large business. On this business he always attempted stamp his own personality.

While the Wilcox brands were soon famous from Vladivostok to the Malabar coast and far into the interior of China, it was Rennie alone of whom the Chinamen knew and with whom they dealt. This great success and the profits it brought, was probably responsible for Rennie’s belief that he could make a grand success out of the milling business.

1895 Jul 25 [26?]  Deposit deed, Chan Tsz Chun, with Rennie, to secure loan [with] Leung Shiu King, compradore.

1896 Mar 6 Agreement above parties [ those of Jun 4 1894]

Apr 8 DP AH  Police Court yesterday. Mr AH Rennie, of Ice House Street, summonsed for driving  a horse in a furious manner to the danger of passersby on the public road. The defendant admitted the offence and explained that the horse had lately arrived from Australia and was not accustomed to rickshaws. Fine of $15.

May 6 Agreement [between] , Rennie, merchant, [and] Chun Tsz Chun, Canton, Gentleman, Leung Shiu Kong, compradore.

1896-1899 Jury List, Alfred Herbert Rennie, merchant, HK Hotel.

1897 18th September DP Portland Flouring Mills Co., Portland, Oregon, USA. It is hereby notified, in addition to the powers excercised during [the] last ten years by Alfred Herbert Rennie, of HK as our sole Agent and Attorney, he has the exclusive right of the sale of our products in Hong Kong, Java, The Philippines, Korea and Siberia and certain branches in Australasia, and that none of our products can be purchased in America for shipment to Hong Kong and the countries before mentioned unless through him.

1900 Nov 28 CM Notice: Tung Lung, otherwise Tam Too Island. The public are requested to be good enough not to land at or shoot over the above island, situated between the Fo Tau Mau and Tathong channels beyond Li U Mun as the owner of the island, AH Rennie, has a flock of sheep grazing over the island. Matthew JD Stephens, solicitor for AH Rennie.

1900-1902 Jury List Alfred Herbert Rennie, merchant, 2 Connaught Road.

1905 Hongkong Milling Company acquired 435 acres of land with a sea frontage of 2.5 miles

Feb 18 DP AH Rennie, sole control for Asia, of products of the Everett Flour Mill, Everett, Washington, USA…[typing faint or missing]… Wilcox, President of the Everett Flour Co. and the Portland Flouring Mills Co.

Mar 2 DP, [Island?] Land 1,2,3,4,5 and Farm Lot 1 at Sai Kung, sold to Mr AH Rennie, for $13,288, being $100 above upset price.

1906 Feb 10 DP Arrival of Prince Connaught – pressman fortunate in having steam launch Canada placed at their disposal by Mr AH Rennie, whose thoughtfulness was much appreciated.

Nov 27 DP Mr AH Rennie of H.K. Flour Mills, purchaser of S.P. Hitchcock sailing ship advertised for sale in our columns. Price not stated. Considerably damaged by typhoon Sept 18, which blew her ashore at Kowloon. The flour mill is expected to use her as a storage hulk.

Dec 10 DP AH Rennie has resigned agency of Portland Flouring Mills Co.

Dec 24 DP AH Rennie some time ago purchased Sir Paul Chater’s launch, Christine, to replace his own lost during the typhoon. She has been renamed the Canada and has been fitted up as a steam launch. Her motive power is no longer steam but liquid fuel, and [during] a trial yesterday she proved herself the fastest launch in the harbour, doing 13 knots and hour easily. When she leaves the Kowloon Dock Co. she will be one of the best equipped in the harbour, while in the matter of speed she will be without rival.

1907  The Hongkong Milling Company started round-the-clock production. 

rennies tomb

Rennie’s grave – HK Cemetery. Courtesy of Paul Yim

1908 14th April Died

Apr 19 SCMP Inquest into death of AH Rennie. His Worship addressed the jury. He did not propose to read the letter. The evidence showed that the deceased had died by his own act and it remained for them to decide whether they should return a verdict of suicide simply or suicide whilst of unsound mind. The evidence showed that his mind had been deranged and that he had been very much worried by the financial affairs of his company. The Jury unanimously returned a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity.

Also Apr 19 SCMP [At the inquest] Mrs Rennie. “What I want to say is this. I want to put my husband right in the eyes of the world. He was an absolutely honest man always Any liabilities incurred were not more than he knew his personal estate could always make right. On the day of his death I was served with a writ for $30,000. As to the right or wrong of that this is not the time or the place to say, but that transaction and other things worried him. Had he received from the Hong Kong Milling Co. his dues, he would have been in a position to pay his endebtedness.

He never thought of himself. For three years he worked at that place and yet at the end of that time he was asked by the company to relinquish  half of what he had earned. For his three years work he received a paltry $30,000 from the Hong Kong Milling Company. They are in a position. They got it. Well they will probably try to do something to revive it. His one aim was to make Hong Kong self-supporting. He spent his life and his money freely. He was willing to work. He loved [work?[ and he loved life.”

May 9 DP Auction of all furniture of late Mr AH Rennie, “The Firs”, Magazine Gap Road

May 16 DP Auction, May 18, Office Furniture of late AH Rennie

May20 DP Bankrupt, Supreme Court, Estate of Alfred Herbert Rennie, deceased, debtor – Expart [?] Tang Lan Kuk, trading as the [?] Wing Cheong Far, creditor

May 21st DP Auction 29th May, of the yacht “Mary and Joan” belonging to the estate of late Mr AH Rennie, now lies off Ah King’s Yard, Wanchai

Undated card Rennie, AH. Burials Colonial Cemetery 1857-1908

Aug 18 DP Bankruptcy Jurisdiction, Aug 17 – Trustees in bankruptcy of AH Rennie, dec, applied for directions with regard to the payment of certain accounts incurred before [the] estate was actually in bankruptcy. Certain actions were commenced immediately after Mr Rennie’s death, and costs were incurred in order to protect the estate. Actions were brought against Mrs Rennie, as executor. No one but Chartered Bank got any priority. The costs had to incurred otherwise certain persons might have got priority. The action had o be defended (Messrs. Johnson Stokes [no comma] and Master want direction to pay costs).

1925 Dec 10 CM Rennie’s Mill reconstructed as a quarantine station. The locality which was sometimes know as “Rennies Folly”, had natural advantages and deep water enabled ships to go practically alongside. The mills remained derelict until the Gov. bought them and work had been carried on to turn it into a quarantine station with a capacity for 2,000 persons. The situation was good as it was remote and not easy to get away from.

This article was first posted on 13th November 2013.


  1. Hong Kong Government Records Office -Carl Smith Collection

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Alfred Herbert Rennie, Hongkong Milling Company
  2. Alfred Herbert Rennie – before moving to Hong Kong
  3. Rennie’s Mill, The Hongkong Milling Company 
  4. The Hongkong Milling Company – the flour mill site after closing – Kuomintang refugees


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