Hong Kong Water Supply – official opening of the Jubilee (Shing Mun) reservoir, newspaper report

IDJ has sent a newspaper article from 1937 about the official opening of the Jubilee (now Shing Mun) reservoir.

HF: I have retyped the article to make the script more legible and to assist searching the site.

Thanks to SCT for proofreading the retyped article. We have left intact errors that are in the original printed article.

The images included below come from Tymon Mellor’s article, Hong Kong Water Supply – Shing Mun Reservoir, linked below.

Five Hundred Defy Dismal Weather For Ceremony
Great Engineering Achievement

Over 500 guests braved the cold weather and threatening skies yesterday afternoon when  His Excellency the Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott, unveiled a tablet commemorating the official opening of the gigantic Jubilee Reservoir at Shing Mun.


Recently completed at an estimated cost of $8,000,000 after four years of construction, the new dam is believed to be the highest in British Empire and one of the highest in the world, the main portion towering to a height of 285 feet.

Although shivering from the cold blasts that whistled across the Shing Mun heights, the visitors were enthralled not only by the magnitude of the vast undertaking, which they inspected thoroughly, but by a large model of the dam the details of which were explained by engineers on the staff of Messrs. Binnie, Deacon and Gourley, who carried through the construction.


In the evening the whole face of the main dam was floodlit by powerful lamps, dozens of guests staying to watch the scene.

Just after 3.30 His Excellency the Governor and Lady Caldecott arrived at Shing Mun, where they were met by the Hon. Mr. R.M. Henderson, Director of Public Works; Mr. J.E. Binnie, senior partner in the firm which carried out the work, and Mr. G.B. Gifford Hull, the Resident Engineer.

Mr Gifford Hull’s Speech

In the course of the opening address, Mr. G.B. Gifford Hull said:

Today we present to you the result of the combined work of a good many people. The first in the field was Mr. Henderson who first studied the possibilities of this catchment as a source of water supply. Then the Government of those days began their work of obtaining the necessary rights over the area, setting the necessary machinery in motion between the Colonial and the Home Government and obtaining the money required to build the works. Then there are the engineers who designed the scheme and finally those who built it.


Works of this kind are only successful because many people combine together in an effort to make them so and if these works can be called a success, it is because all those concerned have done this. I think it is, perhaps too early yet to say whether the works are in truth a 100% success or not.

For Future To Say

They bear the outward and visible signs of it and to the best of my belief their inward and now permanently invisible parts contain no elements of unsuccess; and although they have been built for less cost and in less time than was originally thought necessary, too great a claim to success must not be made on that account. It will remain for a future generation to say and I am sure you will agree that the verdict is best left with them.


As I believe that I have been more closely associated with the Government than anyone else connected with the works, I am taking it upon myself to speak for all those outside the Government and gratefully to acknowledge the confidence and help that all officials have consistently given us. I remember I said once before on another occasion that in our very early days here, the Government modified certain of their established regulations and framed special ones to suit these works, a procedure which enormously lightened our work and greatly accelerated the construction. I can conceive of no happier position to be in as far as work is concerned than that in which we have been placed, because of the confidence given to us by those for whom we all have worked.

Strength And Dignity

During the past four years I have grown to love these hills. I love their silent strength and dignity, from whence I have in times of trouble and difficulty received so much wordless help; even on those occasions when they have frightened me by the amount of water that they have given off at times when it was difficult to control and was a menace to life and to the work. I like to think that the lake we have made enhances their beauty and now that the menace to health which was contained in their valleys has been removed, I hope that the Government will make it possible for the people of Hong Kong, as well as those strangers who may come within its gates, to have full opportunity of making their closer acquaintance, and of receiving the rest, help and comfort which at all times they seem able to give. It will be a sad day for me when I have to say goodbye to them and to the works.

Engineering Problems

Mr. J.E. Binnie who followed gave an interesting outline of the engineering problems involved in the construction of the dam and the precautions taken against earthquake damage.

Governor’s Speech

H.E. the Governor, unveiling a tablet to commemorate the completion of the work, said:- We stand this afternoon before a great achievement; before, in fact, the highest dam that has ever been erected beneath the British flag.

With us are standing the man who conceived it, the man who designed it  and the man who has built it; we are very proud of it and of them. Perhaps indeed we may be pardoned for a little jealousy of them; for to the engineer and the architect it is given in a greater measure than to men of other professions to see the results of their labours; of them the words  that the author of the first chapter of Genesis wrote of the Creator can be truly spoken; they see everything that they have made and, behold it is, very good.

The full gauge  of what this great work means for us in Hong Kong and Kowloon may be taken from what it does not mean. It does not mean, alas, that we are at the end of our water difficulties. I will put the position to you in a nutshell. Last year we had 214 days of water restriction in Hong Kong and 140 days of it in Kowloon.

Great Triumph

From statistics recorded during the unrestricted periods we calculate that, if there had been no restriction, consumption would have averaged some 22½ million gallons a day over the whole year. Now that this dam is completed our sources of supply on the island and mainland combined are believed to be good for 23¼ million gallons a day. So on an unrestricted basis we have a margin only three quarters of a million gallons a day against demand that is rapidly increasing both extensively and intensively. You will readily understand therefore what would have been our predicament but for this great triumph of engineering.

Nor do we see it today in the full scope of its utility. Its catchment area is now roughly 8,000 acres, but we can double that by constructing a contour dyke which will debouch near the smaller dam which was on your left as you came up here at Pineapple Pass. From what I have told you you will understand that the addition of this catchwater will be an early necessity.

Nisi Dominus Frustra

On the stone which I am about to unveil are inscribed the Latin words “Nisi Dominus Frustra” which mean that however well and strongly we have built this dam we humbly depend upon Heaven’s bounteous rains to fill it. It is proverbial that Heaven helps those who help themselves and I am sorry now I did not have four small words added to the inscription. They would have been “Waste not, want not” and I hope that all of you who live on the island or in Kowloon will go back from this ceremony with them graven in your memories, and so make good my omission.

Some to whom I am now speaking are not dwellers amongst us but are our distinguished guests from neighbouring Territories. To them I can say on behalf of this Colony that, however short we may find ourselves again in material waters, there is one spirit that we will never allow to fail and that is the deep well of friendship to our neighbours. I thank our visitors very cordially for honouring us with their presence this afternoon and I hope that they will bear away with them the pleasantest memories of this ceremony.

The Inscription

After the speeches had been made, His Excellency unveiled the stone which records in simple but impressive language the wonderful engineering achievement.

The inscription reads:

Government of Hong Kong

This dam was begun in 1933 and finished in 1937.

Its capacity is three thousand million gallons.

The height of the dam is 285 feet.

It was designed by Messrs. Binnie, Deacon and Gourley and constructed under Mr. G.B. Gifford Hull M.M. Inst., C.E. Resident Engineer.

Nisi Dominus Frustra

After the unveiling the guests partook of refreshments, which were provided during the playing of musical numbers by the Regimental Band of the Royal Ulster Rifles, and then inspected the dam. Thrills were provided by an overhead carriage by which visitors were lowered the 285 feet down to the level of the reservoir.

Source: Hong Kong Sunday Herald 31st January 1937.

This article was first posted on 17th March 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Hong Kong Water Supply – Shing Mun Reservoir
  2. The Shing Mun (Jubilee) Reservoir
  3. Shing Mun Dam and Reservoir – article from the late 1930s
  4. Hong Kong Water Supply – second pipe line to be laid under the harbour to bring water from Shing Mun reservoir, newspaper article 1934
  5. Gordon Burnett Gifford Hull – Needle Hill Mine, Shing Mun Reservoir
  6. Hong Kong Water Supply – Shing Mun First Section
  7. Cross harbour road tunnel – link to planning of Shing Mun reservoir, late 1920s?
  8. Geoffrey Binnie, Engineer 1932–1936, Jubilee Dam, Shing Mun reservoir

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