Night soil collection in Hong Kong – honey buckets…information needed
IDJ wrote in reponse to our article, “Worst industrial jobs in UK’s history”, linked below – Hong Kong’s own list? “naturally Night Soil Collector.
This task went on certainly during my time in HK primarily servicing Western District’s old properties with no drains or sewage pipe-work. I recall it was all dumped into barges at Kennedy Town and taken out to sea for dumping. You could smell the stench from the barges from the inter-island ferries. Most of these properties were swept away by the forced urban renewals of large areas in the 1980s and 90s.
Possibly Yaumati going north still had night soil collections but I don’t particularly recall those.
I don’t remember if urban night soil was used as fertiliser on New Territories farms. I think it was just gathered locally. The practise of spreading it on fields was quite common just over the border much to the chagrin of many Gwaipors when they found out where their local and supermarket lettuce and vegetable purchases had originated.”
Honey-bucket – A latrine-receptable for excreta: Military: from 1914…probably earlier, and certainly later, eg in the Far East, especially in Hong Kong where the night-soil is still, 1980, removed from older dwellings by municipally-employed ‘honey-bucket women’. (1)
After the war, the Lai family continued to live in Queen’s Road East. The flat only had a kitchen but no washroom. The residents took a bath took baths or emptied their bowels at a corner of the kitchen behind a curtain. At midnight, someone would come for the night soil collection which was commonly known as ‘emptying the honey bucket’. The honey bucket was shared by different households but each had their own spittoons. (2)
Can you help?
And Hong Kong? Can you expand on what IDJ told us at the beginning of this article?
- Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, was originally compiled by the noted lexicographer of the English language,Eric Partridge. The first edition was published in 1937. Many further editions have since been published. and seven editions were eventually published by Partridge.
- Lai Yiu Kai, retired fabrics quality control recalls for the HK Memory Project
- Hong Kong’s lowly paid elderly toilet cleaners suffer in silence (and stench) as city struggles with dirty public loos SCMP 9th March 2019
- “Worst industrial jobs in UK’s history” – Hong Kong’s own list?
- Hand-dug Caisson excavation in Hong Kong – worst recent construction job? – banned 1995