Indo-China Steam Navigation Company – employees

New information added on 29th November 2020 about Percy Richard Cuming.

The Indo-China Steam Navigation Company, Limited (ICSNC), was established in 1873 as a subsidiary of Hong Kong based Jardine, Matheson & Co., one of the largest trading companies in the Far East at that time.

HF: I thought it might be useful to have an article about employees of the ICSNC., similar to the one we have about Asiatic Petroleum which currently includes about ten employees of that company.

All linked articles below were posted on the Industrial History of Hong Kong Group website unless otherwise stated.

If you would like to contribute to this article, either because you worked for the company or had a relative who did, please contact me:-
Hugh Farmer indhhk at gmail dot com

To get things moving, Peter Ballantyne has left two comments about the company which I reproduce here.

Ballantyne, Peter left this comment on 14th December 2018: Very interested to see this photo of the ship model of ss HINSANG. I printed up a long illustrated history of the many ships of Indo-China S N Co and the London Office has a copy, probably filed away somewhere now. I had never located any information about this particular ship which had such a short life. It seems quite an interesting layout for the Borneo run and with a lot of accommodation provided. Not sure but I think there may have been a sister ship also. In the 1960s I sailed as a deck officer on another later ss HINSANG which was essentially a log carrier.

The Indo-China Steam Navigation Company’s Hinsang, built 1941 by HK & Whampoa Dock

Hinsang Model Of The Ship, Now Displayed In Jardine's London Office Stephen Kentwell

Model of the Hinsang, displayed in Jardine’s London Office Courtesy: Stephen Kentwell

This model of the HINSANG is currently kept in Jardine’s London office and was made by Mr. H.N. Hardie while interned in Stanley Camp (Hong Kong) between 1942 and 1945.

HF: I wonder if Mr Hardie himself worked for ICSNC?

Ballantyne, Peter: left this comment on 30th June 2020: As a young man I sailed on many of these ships = ss Hinsang, Eastern Saga/Moon/Queen/Argosy. Best for me was Eastern Queen with 50 passengers on regular Australia-Japan service, ss Hinsang was a novel experience for 5 months in 1964 on HK – Borneo logging run.

Cuming, Percy Richard (1880-1936): Helen Cuming initiated this entry with the following comment attached to this article. My husband’s grandfather Percy Richard Cuming worked for the Indo China Navigation Co from 1909 to 1936 rising to become a Master Mariner. During the First World War he was seconded to the Royal Naval Volunteers. I believe his company lent boats to to British Government. Can any body confirm that the company lent boats. Also can anyone tell me what role the maritime played in the First World War?

HF: The images below have been kindly sent by Helen except where indicated.

Percy Cuming Image Of , Undated, From Helen Cuming

Percy Cuming, undated image

Peter Cundall left this comment in response to Helen’s original comment above: Hello Helen, Lent is probably the wrong term. The British Government compulsorily chartered some vessels under the British flag for use as transports and to deliver war supplies and for certain other roles. The Kut Sang was torpedoed and sunk 29/4/18 40 miles ESE of Cape Palos,, Spain and was presumably on OHMS service when sunk. Most of Indo China’s ships were specialised and built for use in Far Eastern waters and in some cases were shallow draft for river work. These ships would have been mostly unsuitable for requisitioning. So even though a tonnage crisis developed for the British in WW 1 during 1917 (more ships being sunk then being built and US only just in the war from April) it is unlikely many ships were requisitioned. The ships were also needed locally as industry boomed in Hong Kong in this period.. .
The use of highly drained crews particularly those with RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve) was an entirely different matter and most RNVR reservists would have been called upon to directly assist the war effort.

Percy Cuming Hang Sang Piracy Newspaper Article, Undated From Helen Cuming

Percy Cuming Going Home Newspaper Article, From Helen Cuming

Helen later sent this email which I have abridged: I live in England so we knew nothing about Percy my husband’s grandfather who died in 1936.
We visited Hong Kong in  2006 when we were returning from a family wedding in Australia. We visited the National Archives in Hong Kong, not the usual place for a tourist! We were able to find Percy’s obituary and it told us a great deal about him, since then I have been trying to do further research on  him.
Percy came to Hong Kong in 1909 to work for the Indo China Steam Company and he worked for them until 1936 when he returned to England where he died of cancer
He married in Hong Kong had two children and became a Master Mariner. Yes we do have a photograph of him and also have  his mariners trunk which was made in Hong Kong!

Percy Cuming, Obituary , Undated Newspaper Article, From Helen Cuming

Graham Pepper added on 24th November 2020: I attach a scan of Captain Cuming’s letter from Hong Kong in 1933. I am intrigued by the logo at top left and have been unable to trace it to ICSNC. Are you able to identify it? If you can please contact this website.

Graham is a member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners in London. Its website can be seen here.

Percy Cuming, Letter On Leaving HK, From Graham Pepper

See:

  1. https://gwulo.com/node/49822
  2. https://gwulo.com/node/48469

Selby, Thomas: Robin Selby has sent information about his great-uncle Thomas Selby (1866-1937) during his time working for The Indo-China Steam Navigation Company Ltd (ICSNC) which had been established in 1873 as a subsidiary of Hong Kong based Jardine, Matheson & Co. Thomas worked for ICSNC from 1895 to 1908 when he was granted 12 months home leave and appears not to have returned.

The image below, kindly sent by Robin Selby is of Thomas Selby during his time as mate on the Cutty Sark.

For further information about Thomas Selby please see these articles:

  1. SS Tungshing, Indo-China Steam Navigation Company – Captain Thomas Selby
  2. Thomas Selby – Cutty Sark, Indo-China Steam Navigation Company and Bullivants
  3. Thomas Selby – service on various Indo-China Steam Navigation Co. Ltd ships

This article was first posted on 23rd July 2020.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Indo-China Steam Navigation Company 1873-1974
  2. Indo-China Steam Navigation Company – 19th century supplementary information
  3. The Indo-China Steam Navigation Company’s Hinsang, built 1941 by HK & Whampoa Dock
  4. BAAG records of shipping in HK during 1944-45 – the Shin Kensei, ex Indo-China Steam Navigation Co
  5. The SS Ting Sang – Port Glasgow built, first owner, Indo-China Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.
  6. Thomas Selby – service on various Indo-China Steam Navigation Co. Ltd ships
  7. SS Tungshing, Indo-China Steam Navigation Company – Captain Thomas Selby
  8. Thomas Selby – Cutty Sark, Indo-China Steam Navigation Company and Bullivants

Add Asiatic Petroleum, employees

6 Comments

  • Helen Cuming

    My husbands Grandfather Percy Richard Cuming worked for the Indo China Navigation Co from 1909 to 1936 rising to become a Master Mariner. During the First World War he was ?seconded to the Royal Naval Volunteers. I believe his company lent boats to to British Government. Can any body confirm that the company lent boats. Also can anyone tell me what role the maritime played in the First World War?
    Thank you
    Helen Cuming

  • Peter Cundall

    Hello Helen,

    Lent is probably the wrong term. The British Government compulsorily chartered some vessels under the British flag for use as transports and to deliver war supplies and for certain other roles. The Kut Sang was torpedoed and sunk 29/4/18 40 miles ESE of Cape Palos,, Spain and was presumably on OHMS service when sunk. Most of Indo China’s ships were specialised and built for use in Far Eastern waters and in some cases were shallow draft for river work. These ships would have been mostly unsuitable for requisitioning. So even though a tonnage crisis developed for the British in WW 1 during 1917 (more ships being sunk then being built and US only just in the war from April) it is unlikely many ships were requisitioned. The ships were also needed locally as industry boomed in Hong Kong in this period.. .

    The use of highly drained crews particularly those with RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve) was an entirely different matter and most RNVR reservists would have been called upon to directly assist the war effort.

  • Graham Pepper

    I am a member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners in London. We have recently been sorting very old files amongst which we have found a large number of interesting documents. As a result, I have before me a letter written on board s.s. Kwai Sang on 9.4.1933 by P R Guy Cuming, who was then the Master of the ship. It is absolutely amazing that in searching for information about the ship, I have found Captain Cuming’s grandson and granddaughter-in-law! I would be very happy to send you a scan of the letter but I am not sure if I can do that through this site.

  • ian watson

    I can’t go back so far as the other posts but I sailed with ICSNC from 1981 to 1985 initially as 2/o on the Liwo Venture and then 3 years as c/o on the Liwo Venture, Lustre Venture and Cape Thistle. Good times. Left the sea to start family life. Obviously the name Liwo was a throwback to a bit of WW2 history and heroism.

  • When I sailed on ICSN Co ships the shipping manager was Colin Hardy and I wonder if the Mr Hardy referred to here was his father. The company was very much a family affair. Peter Ballantyne

  • Cheryl Osborne

    Would some please be able to help me. I was looking to see what happened to Albert Osborne who was an Engineer working for Jardine Matheson when WW2 happened. I believe their employees were interned. He was thought to have died in 1942. I would like to know what happened. Thanks

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