East Asia Company (東亞洋行)

York Lo: East Asia Company (東亞洋行)

East Asia Company Image 1 York Lo

East Asia Company and guests welcoming the 6th Earl of Verulam in 1960 at its 25th anniversary party. Left to right: HSBC manager J.A.H. Saunders, Mak Kwong-wan (麥廣環), Earl of Verulam, Uhlan Mac, trade commissioner J.F. Saunders, Chan Wah-lok, accountant Mok Chung-wan (WKYP, 1960-3-29)

East Asia Company (not to be confused with the Danish trading firm East Asiatic Co) was a major import/export firm in HK during the 1960s which had acted as the agent for British industrial enterprises such as Burnett & Co from Newcastle (coal and metallurgical and reactive cokes), the Enfield Rolling Mills of Middlesex (copper, zinc, aluminum, electric cable), McKechnie Brothers (chemical byproducts from smelting process), BTR Industries (rubber products) and Tom Carrington & Co. and handled exports of HK industrial products such as enamelware.

East Asia Company Image 2 York Lo

Left: Uhlan Mac and his wife Maizie Chin (HK Album, 1967); Right: Mrs. Uhlan Mac in a general costume for the Western District socialite Cantonese opera troupe in 1959 (WKYP, 1959-8-29)

East Asia Company was founded in 1935, likely by K.H. Tong and S.Y. Tong who were listed as directors of the firm in the late 1940s when its office was located at 18 Wing Lok Street East. (Business Directory of HK Canton and Macao, 1949) The general manager of East Asia Co starting in 1941 was Uhlan Mac (麥由). Born in Guangdong in 1911 and graduated from Queen’s College in HK in 1933 and Customs College in Shanghai in 1935, Mac worked for the C.M. as a custom officer for 6 years before joining East Asia. At East Asia, Mac was supported by K.C. Chin (錢敬才) as export manager, Chan Wah-lok (陳華樂), Mok Chung-wan (莫頌雲) as accountant and Mak Kwong-wan (麥廣環) as cashier. (Red Book, 1969) The firm’s major bankers were HSBC and Nederland Handelsbank.

East Asia Company Image 3 York Lo

Left: executives of East Asia Company welcomed their West African trading partner A. Musa to HK at the Majestic Hotel in 1962. Left to right: K.C. Chin, Uhlan Mac, A. Musa, Chan Wah-lok (KSDN, 1962-4-18); Right: the four rings logo of Enfield Rolling Mills (ERM), one of East Asia’s biggest agencies on a security badge. (Oldcopper.org)

Of the many British firms represented by East Asia, the most significant relationship was with Enfield Rolling Mills (ERM), as evidenced by the fact that ERM chairman John Grimston, the 6th Earl of Verulam  (1912-1973, the firm was founded by his grandfather the 4th Earl and acquired by Delta Metal in 1963) was front and center at the firm’s 25th anniversary party in 1960 at the Majestic Hotel in Kowloon which was attended by Sir S.N. Chau, Kwok Chan, Cheung Chan-hon, British trade commissioner, manager of HSBC and many others.

Aside from imports, East Asia also do big business in exports of HK manufactured goods. In 1947, East Asia began trading with K & A Musa Bros in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a major trading firm in West Africa started by the Lebanese brothers of the same name. When A. Musa visited HK in 1962, Mac called him the king of enamelware and described his firm as the largest client for HK enamelware in West Africa. In May 1960, East Asia Co expanded its export department which moved to a new location and that year, export manager K.C. Chin visited the UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.(WKYP, 1960-5-7)

In the 1960s and 1970s, the firm operated out of the 3rd floor of Great China House in Central (HK Trade Bulletin, 1963; Marconi’s International Register, 1979)

There were no articles about East Asia Company in the 1970s but the firm resurfaced in 1981 when it announced the release of the first deer horn brandy in the world – a product created by Ting Chung-po over 11 years which combined French VSOP cognac brandy and traditional Chinese medicinal deer horns. (WKYP, 1981-1-7)

Outside of work, U. Mac served on the executive committee of the Chinese Recreation Club. In 1933, he married Maizie Chin (錢煥婈) and together they have 7 children. Chin was born in Shanghai in 1916 and graduated from Tao Shou Girls School in HK. She served on the executive committee of the Women’s Welfare Association of Western District and house committee of the YWCA.

This article was first posted on 20th November 2020.

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