James Thirlwell – Tai Koo Dockyard, Master Mariner and captain of the tug “Tai Koo”

Nikki Veriga: This photo is of my grandparents – James (Newcastle on Tyne) and Elizabeth Thirlwell (nee Wilkinson) and their children.  Grandad was a Master Mariner and captained the tug “Tai Koo” on her final voyage.

[The Tai Koo struck a mine and sank in the Red Sea with the loss of 26 of the 63 people on board on 12th September 1941]

The Thirlwell family (my mother’s family) lived at Taikoo Dock prior to the war.

Thirlwell Family, James and Elizabeth and their children. Sent by granddaughter Nikki Veriga

My grandmother’s parents were Josiah (Welsh) and Dorica Wilkinson (nee Pereria) – Josiah was a prison warden at Stanley Prison and Dorica’s father, Cornelius Pereria was also a prison warden at Stanley and was killed in a prison riot in the 1880s.  This was mentioned in a booklet which I purchased from the Prison Museum.

My mother’s brother, Charles, was involved in the ‘management’ of a light house (Green Island, I think) and was well known within the fishing community at Chai Wan.

I returned from a visit to Hong Kong on Friday having attended the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and a reunion of internees (of Stanley Prison Camp) and their families.  My parents were both interned and my eldest sister was born in camp.  I was also born in HK.

With the passing of time and death of all of Mum’s immediate family we have come to realise that we have no idea of how our grandparents met and can only assume it was in HK.

This article was first posted on 17th December 2015.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Tai Koo Dockyard Tug 2 – captained by James Thirwell when sunk by a mine 1941
  2. Tai Koo Dockyard
  3. Tai Koo Dockyard – 1911 detailed technical article covering its construction
  4. Tai Koo Dockyard during the Occupation 1942-1945 
  5. Tai Koo Dockyard – 1950s general engineering including Kai Tak hangars, tramcars and wireless masts…
  6. Hong Kong’s Lighthouses and the men who manned them – HKBRAS article mention of Charles Beatty Allenby Haig Thirlwell, lighthouse keeper and later in charge of the HK government gunpowder depot
  7. Taikoo Dockyard – D MacDonald – responsible for preparatory construction work pre-1907
  8. Taikoo Dockyard Managers – James Reid, 1910-1926
  9. Taikoo Dockyard Managers – Kenneth Edward Grieg, 1926 -1937
  10. Taikoo Dockyard Managers – John Finnie, 1937 – ?


  • Chris Beard

    My wife’s family are directly related to Dora Maria Pereira and William Josiah Wilkinson. We are aware of Cornelio Pereira death in 1888 but knew he was killed but did not know how. Could you possibly e mail me a copy of the booklet that mentions this incident, it would be very helpful and in return l can send pictures of the Wilkinson’s and Pereira families if it is of interest to you. I can also e mail a family group sheet detailing the Wilkinson family.

    • Lydia Kirby

      Hello Chris, I’m not sure if you had received a reply to your request for a copy of the booklet showing that Cornelius Pereira was killed during a prison riot. Anyway I was doing some research on my family and came across your comments about the photo my sister Veronica (Nikki) posted.
      My name is Lydia Kirby and am the eldest daughter of Aileen, 3rd daughter of Lizzie and James Thirlwell. I am trying to do some research on the family. I intend to put some “meat on the bones” of the family tree. Just birth and death dates seem quite boring so intend trying to find additional information e.g. occupation, how they met their spouse etc. I know there is a Wilkinson website on Facebook but I don’t do Facebook so any information outside this source would be appreciated.
      I live in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and quite a few family members live here in Australia so have a ready source (if I can find them!). Looking forward to hearing from you. Regards, Lydia

    • Hello Chris.

      Might I ask you who your wife is? Her maiden name.
      Thanks. William Josiah and Dora Maria Pereira are my Great Grandparents.

      Also I have a FB site called ‘the Hong Kong Wilkinsons’. It’s a closed site open only
      to family members. We’re up to 87 members at this point. Lots of great photos and
      information. Drop me an email, and I’ll invite you to it.

      • Chris Beard

        Good Afternoon Wayne,
        Great to hear from you. We have a lot of Information regarding the Wilkinson , Pereira’s families. We unfortunately don’t have a Face book account or any social media platform. But we have email, with which we correspond with Louise Brown in Australia and Lydia Kirby. It is Louise who been passing on photos from all you guys and the extended families and descendents. We also have passed on info to her. But to answer your question my wife’s maiden name was Finlay, she is the daughter of John Finlay and Joan Finlay ( nee Wilkinson) . Joan as you know was daughter of Frederick James Wilkinson and Beatrice Wilkinson ( nee Davies) . You can email me on info@phoenixfittestingservices.co.uk if you wish. Then we can exchange other pics and information. Did Louise tell you l have information on Cornelius Pereira military career.
        Will be good to communicate with you. Your name has come up many times on different postings l have seen.
        Chris Beard.

  • Trevor Hollingsbee

    I never met Charles Thirlwell , but I used to speak to him on the phone in the 1970s when I was in the marine police, by which time he was I think involved with a company importing explosives. A former career lighthouse keeper, he was reputedly fluent in the Hoklo and Tanka dialects. and I know he helped set up a fishermen’s centre in Chai Wan.
    The Thirlwell family is still extant in Hong Kong, one member was in the HK Police in the 1990s. A Tai Koo salvage tug was later commanded by Captain Bill Worrall, whom I did meet, and whose grandson currently serves in the HK marine police.


    • Matthew

      Hi Trevor

      I’m interested to learn more about Charles Thirlwell, is there any family contact I can get please or you could introduce me too please.



  • Does anyone know where “Mr Charles Beatty Allenby Haig THIRLWELL (1918-1985) was buried in Hong Kong, Please?

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