Sir John Douglas Clague – connected to a wide array of Hong Kong businesses and lobbyist for the first Cross Harbour tunnel

The following article has been extracted from the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. The publisher HK University Press, has given permission for it to be posted here.

The article about Sir John Douglas Clague was written by Jason Wordie and first published in the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, edited by May Holdsworth and Christopher Munn. The publisher, HK University Press, has kindly granted permission for it to be posted here, but retains copyright over this material from 2012.

The Image of Clague shown below and the list of his company directorships et al, have been sent by IDJ and came from a 1950s brochure for the Far East Flying Training School.

Thanks to SCT for proof reading the retyped article.

Clague, John Douglas Image From IDJClague, John Douglas Directorships From IDJ

HF: to aid searches I thought this list was worth typing out:

Managing Director, L. Dunbar & Co. (1950) Ltd., Director Blair & Co., Ltd., Cameron Shipping Co., The Dairy Farm Ice & Cold Storage Co., Ltd., Far East Motors Ltd., John D. Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., Harriman Realty Co., Ltd., Cornes & Co., Ltd., Eastern Asia Navigation Co., Ltd., Far East Aviation Co., Ltd., Far East Flying Training School Ltd., Far Eastern Prospecting & Development Corp., Hongkong Realty & Trust Co., Ltd., Wheelock Marden & Co., Ltd., Liddell Bros & Co., (Hongkong) Ltd, The Marine Navigation Co., Ltd.,  Oriental Mortgage & Finance Corp., Ltd, Reiss Bradley & Co., Ltd., F.E. Skinner (Hongkong) Ltd, The Textile Corporation of Hong Ltd., The Vanguard Shipping Co., Ltd, The World-Wide Co., (Managers) Ltd., A.S. Watson & Co., Ltd, Member Consulting Committee, The Hongkong Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., Lombard Insurance Co., Ltd., Unofficial Member, Legislative Council, Member of Council, Urban Council & Urban Services Dept., Member Hongkong Housing Authority, Chairman, The Hongkong Housing Society, President Hongkong Family Welfare Society, Hong Kong War Memorial Fund.

Clague, Sir John Douglas, MC (1942), Military OBE (1943), Military CBE (1946), Knight (1971) b. 13 June 1917, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia; d. 11 March 1981, Berkshire, England. Businessman and community leader.

The son of a mining engineer who died in Bulowayo in 1919, Douglas Clague grew up on the Isle of Man, where he attended King William’s College. Leaving school at 16, he worked for some years as a trainee with the Isle of Man Bank, and joined the Manx Regiment when it was formed in 1938. Though he never again lived permanently on the Isle of Man after the outbreak of war, Clague remained a staunch Manxman all his life.

‘Duggie’ Clague came to Hong Kong in 1940 as a Royal Artillery officer. Interned for nearly four months, he led one of the last successful prisoner-of-war escape parties out of Sham Shui Po camp in April 1942. After his escape Clague commanded British Army Aid Group Advanced Headquarters (A.H.Q.) in Huizhou, China. A.H.Q. established and maintained contact with key prisoners of war in Japanese occupied Hong Kong until late 1943, when the links were compromised by Japanese intelligence operations. In Huizhou Clague was given the Chinese name ‘Kei Tak-chuen’, and it was by this name that he is most widely remembered in modern Hong Kong.

After a period at Army Staff College in Quetta in 1944, Clague was appointed to an MI9 post in Calcutta, tasked with recovery and repatriation of prisoners of war in Japanese-occupied Thailand. Shortly after the Japanese capitulation, but before formal surrender could be arranged, he was flown to a secret air base in northern Thailand and transferred to Bangkok. There, according to MI9’s official historian, he ‘more or less single-handedly overawed the Japanese in Siam and secured the surviving prisoners’ prompt release.’ Subsequently awarded a CBE (Military) for this work, he left the army in 1946, aged 28, with the rank of full colonel.

In 1947 he married Isolin Margaret (‘Lin’) Cowley, a childhood friend from a prominent Manx family; a son and two daughters were later born in Hong Kong. That same year Clague joined the long established Hong Kong trading firm John D. Hutchinson and Co., becoming managing director in 1952. John D. Hutchinson and Co., had been reconstituted in 1946 with a 50 per cent investment from George Marden, and during the 1950s the firm was very closely associated with Wheelock, Marden and Co. Under Clague’s leadership John D. Hutchinson’s subsidiary group of companies continued to expand. In 1963-64, in a complicated reverse-takeover move, the John D. Hutchinson and Co., group of companies separated from Wheelock, Marden and Co. to form Hutchinson International Limited (H.I.L).

By 1974 H.I.L. owned or controlled over 400 listed companies in Hong Kong and overseas, but serious financial problems emerges during the worldwide economic downturn in 1973-74. In a controversial corporate management restructure insisted upon by the Hongkong Bank, H.I.L’s principal creditor, Clague was replaced as chief executive of H.I.L in October 1975 and resigned as chairman in April 1976.

In 1952 Clague was appointed to the Urban Council; appointments to the Legislative Council (1958) and Executive Council (1961) followed. In the late 1950s, as chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Clague headed the Hong Kong team that successfully negotiated a textile quota agreement with the British Textile Board. This agreement allowed Hong Kong manufacturers to improve output quality dramatically, and as a result the local textile industry became one of the largest in the world by the late 1960s.

Clague was the visionary behind Hong Kong’s first Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which opened in 1972: in the face of considerable public scepticism, he lobbied the British and Hong Kong governments and his efforts were instrumental in taking the project to completion. Almost single-handedly he secured the necessary financial guarantees.

In 1962 Clague became Commandant of the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police. His superb leadership during the 1967 riots earned considerable community acclaim and gained him a Queen’s Police Medal in 1968. Remaining Commandant until 1980, Clague retired only when he knew he was gravely ill.

Oone of the founders of the Community Chest and chairman of the Family Welfare Society, Clague was much involved with charitable work. He was the longest-serving chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Society; Clague Gardens Estate at Tsuen Wan was named in his honour in 1990. With his wife, Clague was a keen racehorse owner and breeder, and acquired extensive stud interests in Ireland and elsewhere. He was a long-serving steward of thr Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club and its chairman in 1972-74. Clague died of pharyngeal cancer at the age of 64.

Sir John Douglas Clague 1973 On Sheraton Hotel Courtesy Racing Memories

Sir Douglas Clague on the roof of the Sheraton Hotel 1973 Courtesy: Racing Memories hk


  1. Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, ed M Holdsworth & C Munn, HKU Press, 2012 This wonderful book collects in one volume more than 500 specially commissioned entries on men and women from Hong Kong history.


  1. Douglas Clague Wikipedia
  2. Douglas Clague WikiVisually
  3. Then & now: ship shape SCMP 18th January 2014 ‘Hung Hom has experienced gentrification in recent years, with luxury housing developments and large-scale hotel and office complexes having been constructed. But the ultimate credit for the district’s transformation lies with tycoon Sir Douglas Clague’s expansion of his Hutchison International port empire in the 60s.”
  4. Douglas Clague biography

This article was first posted on 8th May 2019.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. HK Textile Industry Photos and Information 1953, 1958 + 1961
  2. The Cross-Harbour Tunnel – Part 1 Gestation
  3. The Cross-Harbour Tunnel – Part 2 Construction
  4. The Dairy Farm Ice and Cold Storage Company – HKBRAS article
  5. The Dairy Farm, Ice & Cold Storage Company Ltd – employees
  6. Far East Motors – distributor of Chevrolet, Cadillac, Holden and Standard automobiles and operator of Avis Rent-A-Car in HK
  7. Far East Aviation Company Ltd. – “British Enterprise in China”, 1934 article
  8. Far East Aviation Company – Part Two
  9. Far East Flying Training School Ltd, Part 1
  10. Far East Flying Training School Ltd, Part 2
  11. Q+A22 Far Eastern Prospecting And Development Corporation, Sha Lo Wan mine late1950s

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