Sir Jack Cater, pre-ICAC first Director of Agriculture and Fisheries plus other related organisations

Jack Cater

HF: It was with interest that I was told recently that Sir Jack Cater began his career in Hong Kong in 1946 as a cadet officer in the Fisheries Department, held various related posts and became Director of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1964.

In February 1974, he was appointed first Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by Governor MacLehose following the flight of Police Superintendent Peter Godber. And it is for this, I suppose, that he will most remembered.

We have a number of articles about a wide range of agricultural and fisheries subjects, some of which are linked below.

If anyone can supply further information about the first two organisations mentioned below I would be delighted to hear about them.

Cater was born on 21st February 1922 and died on 14th April 2006.

An extract from a HK Press Release following Cater’s death: In the early part of his career, Sir Jack worked hard to improve the livelihood of those in the fishing and farming communities. He helped set up the Fisheries and Vegetable Marketing Organisation, he served as Hong Kong’s first Registrar of Co-operative Societies in 1950, and he was the first Director of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1964. He earned the respect, trust and affection of those he served with his head as well as his heart. A letter jointly written by some 20 fishermen associations to the then Governor on 8 August 1955 is a testament to the high standing in which he was held. I quote –

“For many generations we and our ancestors have lived in Hong Kong, earning our living through fishing.  Throughout much of this time, we have been looked down upon and despised by the land people, possibly because we were poor and uneducated. This was the position when Mr Cater became Officer-in-charge of Fisheries.  Since that time he has become Registrar of Co-operatives and Director of Marketing, and through his able and kind administration the status of the fisherfolk has continually improved and the prejudice against us has disappeared under his benevolent, democratic and altruistic policies.

Under Mr Cater’s guidance and with his assistance, our fishing industry has prospered and developed. The continuous increase in fish landing; the mechanization of the fleet; the starting of co-operative societies amongst us; the establishment of the many schools for fishermen’s children. All these things and many more are proof of the benefits which we fishermen of Hong Kong have received under his able administration.” (1)

IDJ has sent an obituary from which the following has been extracted: During the [Second World] war he had put his name down to do administrative work in overseas war zones at the close of hostilities; he was originally ordered to Singapore, but was redirected to Hong Kong, where he joined the Military Administration in November 1945 with the rank of Squadron Leader RAFVR.

His first assignment was the revival of the colony’s fishing industry: he was involved in the mechanisation of the fleet (previously made up of sailing junks), the establishment of the Aberdeen Fish Market and the creation of successful sales co-operatives for fish and agricultural produce. He developed a particular affinity with the proud, self-reliant Hoklo fishing families, and helped set up schools for their children.

Having attended the Second Devonshire Course for administrative officers at Oxford in 1949, Cater returned to his work in agriculture and fisheries. He was also the colony’s first Registrar of Co-operative Societies and Director of Marketing, and later Deputy Economic Secretary…

…Cater was Chief Secretary [of Hong Kong] from 1978 to 1981. With a rapidly growing economy, it was a golden era for Hong Kong. Cater was several times Acting Governor, and was in line to succeed Maclehose in 1982; but Margaret Thatcher was persuaded to appoint a senior diplomat, Sir Edward Youde, to commence negotiations for the eventual handover to China.

Instead Cater became Hong Kong’s Commissioner in London until 1984. He then returned to Hong Kong to work in the private sector, joining China Light & Power Co – the electricity generator for Kowloon and the New Territories – and becoming head of Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Co, which was China Light’s participation with Beijing in a nuclear power station venture at Daya Bay in Guangdong province. Many Hong Kong residents were concerned by the risks of a nuclear plant so close to the border, but Cater was the project’s vigorous defender.

He was also a consultant to Bechtel, the US engineering contractor, and Philips, the Dutch electronics group.(2)


  1. Full Sir Jack Cater HK Government Press Release: October 21, 2006
  2. Sir Jack Cater Obituary The Telegraph 20th April 2006

Among our farming and fishing Indhhk articles are:

  1. Australian cattle to Hong Kong – 1845 invitation, 1880s delivery?
  2. Agriculture in the “New Territory” – 1931 article
  3. Traditional Tea Growing in the New Territories, RASHKB article
  4. The Fresh Water Fish Farming Industry of the New Territories
  5. The Hong Kong Fishing Industry during World War Two – on the trail of Amakusa Marine
  6. WW2 Poultry Farms during the Japanese occupation
  7. Lindsay Ride films of HK in the 1950s – agriculture, duck herding and street scenes!


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