The Chan/Tyson Family and Gande, Price & Co

York Lo: The Chan/Tyson Family and Gande, Price & Co

The Chan/Tyson family is one of the most prominent Eurasian families in Hong Kong. Family patriarch Chan Kai-ming made his fortune serving as the secretary of the Hong Kong Opium Farm and he acquired the control of Gande Price, which remained one of the leading distributors of liquor in Hong Kongfor over half a century under the management of his descendants.

Chan Kai-ming (陳啟, 1859-1919): Opium Farmer, Businessman and Philanthropist

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Left: sketch portrait of Chan Kai-ming from the history of DBS published in 1930; Right: Chan Kai-ming (center standing) with his partners at the Tai Yau Bank. Standing left to right: Ho Fook, Chan, Lo Cheung-shiu; seating left to right: Lau Chu-pak, Sir Robert Hotung, Ho Kom-tong

Chan Kai-ming, also known as George Bartou Tyson,was the son of Lam Fong-kew (1841-1871) and George Tyson (1831-1881), a partner of the leading American trading firm Russell & Co and was born in HK in 1859. His mother was one of four daughters produced by the relationship by a Mr. Bardo who was Spanish consul in Macau and a Madam Lam and the sisters.

While other Eurasian families derived their Chinese surnames from the pronunciation of the surnames of the Caucasian fathers (e.g. Ho Tung from Bosman and Lo Cheung-shiu from Rothwell), the Tysons allegedly got their Chinese surname Chan after Lam Fong-kew went to the Chinese templeto seek guidance according to Chan Kai-ming’s grandson Guy Shea.Chan Kai-ming had three siblings from the same parents – Herbert Tyson (陳啟祥,Chan Kai-cheung), Sarah Chan (1860-1884) and Charlotte Chan (1862-1942), who married Wong Lai-sang (W. Lyson, 1863-1932, son of a Bavarian diplomat Von Liesenberg and a Chinese woman), managing clerk for the architect E.M. Hazeland and director of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

In the mid-1860s, George Tyson married Sarah Howland and moved to Shanghai where he was involved in Russell’s steamboat operations on the Yangtse and had a son Russell Tyson (1867-1963, who later became a real estate investor and Asian art collector in Chicago). The family (which also included son George Jr and daughter Elise) settled back in the US in the 1870s where George became the president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad which he and his partners in Russell invested in.

In Hong Kong, Chan Kai-mingattended the Diocesan Boys School (then known as Diocesan Home and Orphanage under William Arthur) from 1870 to 1877 as one of its first students and the Government Central School (later Queen’s College) where he was a Morrison Scholar. He then became a teacher at Queen’s College for several years before becoming a third clerk in the Magistracy where he worked for 15 years before entering the private sector. He became the secretary of the Hong Kong Opium Farm, the revenue farm and opium monopoly which was a major source of revenues for the early colonial administration in HK and operated by different Chinese merchants through a bidding process every few years since 1845. (for example, 1886-1889 – Khoo Teong-po (邱忠波, 1830-1892) and Chea Tak-soon; 1892-1895 – How Fook Company – Ho Lin-wong (何連旺, 1855-1931), Lo Wa-shiu, Ho Tai-shang, Lum Sin-sang; 1895-1898 – Man Fook Company – Lum Sin-sang, Ho Tai-shang) Chan served as secretary of the Farm from the late 1890s until its abolishment by the government in 1914.

In 1898, Chan was the secretary of the Farm’s operator that year – the Kwong Wai Company (廣惠公司) which was formed by the Macanese tycoon Lo Wa-shiu (盧華, 1848-1907), Hu Tso, Chan Un-kwong and Yau Min-chi. (The Directory & Chronicle of China, Japan, Straits Settlements, Malaya, 1898)

According to an interview Chan gave to the Hong Kong Telegraph in 1908, the Opium Farm was paying $121,000 per month to the HK governmentfor the monopoly and was supplying over 200 opium shops in HK that were being threatened to be closed by the HK government. (“HK Opium Monopoly”, Singapore Free Press, 1908-5-21)

The price of Indian opium had gone up from HK$1000 per chest in August 1909 toHK$2800 per chest in April 1910 due to cessation of production in at least six provinces in the mainland including Szechuan thanks to imperial decree and Chan told the press that the poorer opium smokers were forced to consume the cheaper opium pills which were more harmful as they were made of lower quality opium that was usually rejected.(Straits Times, 1910-4-1)

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A 1919 ad for HK Mercantile Co, which Chan Kai-ming was a director of (Official Guide for Shippers and Travelers)

By the time the opium monopoly came to an end in 1914, Chan was a millionaire who had invested his profits in many enterprises. He was chairman of Gande Price (to be covered in greater details in the next section), partner of Tai Yau Bank (founded in 1914 with paid up capital of HK$6 million in association with Sir Robert Hotung, Lau Chu-pak and Ho Fook), director of Chung Kwong Co and Hongkong Mercantile Company (see ad above). He was also a founding director of the Bank of East Asia in 1919.

With his wealth, he became active in philanthropy and civic affairs. He gave HK$50000 to the University of Hong Kong, $10000 to the Ellis Kadoorie School for the Chinese and established several scholarships at his alma mater DBS and Queen’s College and other schools such as DGS. He was a member of the District Watchmen Committee, Chinese Public Dispensaries Committee and Permanent Chinese Cemetery Committee. In April 1912, he was chosen to be a member of the Sanitary Board. He was a member of the General Committee for Peace Celebrations. Chairman of the Tung Wah Hospital, director of the Po Leung Kuk, vice chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce. His Tai Yau Bankcontributed half of the GBP4500 required to purchasethree airplanes to the British government in 1917. In 1918, he served as a member of the Legislative Council for a short period of time when Lau Chu-pak was absent.

In mid-1919, Chan Kai-ming became ill. Besides heart troubles, he contracted influenza and was ordered to travel north by his doctors. Unfortunately, his visit to Peking did him no good for he caught a cold when motoring there and complications set in. He returned to HK where his health improved slightly but only turned for the worst and he died in December 1919 at the age of 60. (HK Daily News, 1919-12-12) The funeral took place where his Western coffin was carried on a hearse from his residence at 10 Caine Road to the Aberdeen Chinese Permanent Cemetery. (Hong Kong Telegraph, 1919-12-11) His family commissioned the famous Italian sculptor Raoul Bigazzi to build a marble statue of him in his grave which is still a prominent structure in the Cemetery today. (see article on Bigazzi)

The Next Generation and Gande Price& Co (源和酒行)

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The wedding of Kenneth Tyson and Jasmine Evelyn Wong in 1931 at the St John’s Cathedral (In the Web)

Based on the family tree provided in the book In the Web, Chan Kai-ming had relationship with at least seven women in his lifetime, the eldest of whom Lee Shi (1860-1884) was the mother of his eldest child Victoria Chan (1881-1968), who was married to Sin Cheong, the son of his sworn brother Sin Tak-fan (aka Stephen Hall). The second relationship was his cousin Oi Moon Overbeck (1866-1892), the daughter of Gustav Overbeck (see my entry on him in the Dictionary of HK Biography) and together they have one son – Arthur Chan U-hon (陳汝漢, 1886-1893), who tragically died in an accident while playing on a seesaw with his cousin at the age of 7 and is buried in the HK Cemetery in Happy Valley. The third relationship – Chow Shi – gave him four daughters (Agnes, Amelia, Annie, Winifred) and one son (Albert). The fifth relationship Ho Shi gave him a son, Kenneth Chan (Kenneth Tyson, 陳汝標, 1904-1954) and a daughter, Gertrude Alison Chan (1905-1982) while the seventh relationship Fanny Au gave him one son – Oswald Tyson, who was only a year old when Chan Kai-ming died and was killed in a RAF air crash in 1946.

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Left: Gande Price ad in HK promoting its Burgundy in 1919 (China Mail, 1919-5-21); Right: Picture and profile of W.J. Gande, son of Gande Price founder J.W. Gande and head of Gande Price in Shanghai (Leaders of Commerce, Industry and Thought in China, 1924)

Chan Kai-ming became the majority shareholder and chairman of Gande Price sometime in the early 1910s and the firm would remain under the control of his family for the next half a century. Gande Price was founded in Shanghai in 1892 by London native James William Gande (who arrived in China in 1879 at the age of 19) and H. Price. By 1897, the firm had a branch in Hong Kong on Queen’s Road which was draped in red, white and blue bunting with portraits of Queen Victoria and the Royal family and British flags and at night the whole front was illuminated with multi-colored Japanese lanterns according to press reports. (HK Daily Press, 1897-6-26)

In 1907, Gande Price & Co Ltd was incorporated in HK and in 1911, it acquired J.W. Gande & Co in Shanghai from J.W. Gande and his son William James Trodd Gande but two years later sold it back to the Gande family. (HK Telegraph, 1913-9-20) One of the early managers of Gande Price in HK was Hong Kong native Ahmed Rumjahn, J.P. (1861-1925) who left in 1913 to Shanghai where he died in 1925 at the age of 64. (Straits Times, 1925-12-9) By 1917, the managing director of Gande Price in HK was S.C. Pank (彭壽春), who like Chan was a Morrison Scholar at Queen’s College (five generations of his family graduated from the school) and Lau Po-wing was also a director of the firm.

In May 1919 in the last shareholder meeting presided over by Chan Kai-ming, the firm reported $80,106 in profits from the prior year with credit of $83,324 with $3218 brought forward from the 1917 P&L. (China Mail, 1919-5-21)

After Chan Kai-ming’s death, his nephew Cecil Hynes Lyson (1886-1925) took over as the manager of his vast estate and chairman of Gande Price as his only surviving son Kenneth was still a student. A graduate of Queen’s College and a lieutenant in the British Army in France during World War I, C.H. Lyson studied law in the UK and practiced law as senior partner of Lyson & Hall in Hong Kong. He was the chairman of the Craigengower Cricket Club and married Violet Lo (羅燕嫦, 1888-1966), the daughter of Lo Cheung-yip and cousin of Sir M.K. Lo. (HK Telegraph, 1925-9-11)

In Christmas 1923, Gande Price offered Christmas hampers at HK$35 and downward. (China Mail, 1923-12-25) In April 1924, Gande Price’s shareholder meeting was presided by C.H. Lyson and the firm reported net profits of $15,228 for 1923, which was an increase of $2,694 from the prior year. It was also reported that the roof of its godown at 150 Praya East was badly leaky and repairments were required (China Mail, 1924-4-11)

At the shareholder meeting in April 1925, Gande Price reported net profits of $10,755 for 1924, a decrease from the prior year due to “alterations in the new premises and coolie hires for the removal of goods” (China Mail, 1925-4-3) Present at the meeting were managing directorS.C. Pank, director Lau Po-wing and shareholderssuch as Pank’s sons shipbroker Pang Kok-sui ( 彭國瑞, 1887-1969) of George Grimble & Co. and Pang Kwok-fat, Gibb Livingston comprador Leung Yan-po (梁仁甫), Chau Tung-sang and bookkeeper D. Rumjahn.

In September 1925, C.H. Lyson died of malaria at the age of  at his residence “Rocky Mount” on Conduit Road and Lau Po-wingalso retired during the same year, so S.C. Pank succeeded Lyson as chairman of the firm while Kenneth Chan and Leung Yan-po were elected directors to fill the spots left by Lyson and Lau. At the shareholder meeting in April 1926, Gande Price reported profits of $5,050 for 1925, a significant drop from the prior year due to strikes during the year. (China Mail, 1926-4-16; HK Daily Press, 1926-4-17)Kenneth Chan graduated from DBS in 1919 and afterwards became the Yaumatei branch manager of Bank of East Asia which was co-founded by his father before joining Gande Price.

For 1926, the firm recorded a loss of $6,151 thanks to the ongoing effect of the strikes but profitability returned in 1927 with reported profits of $5,075. (China Mail, 1928-4-12)

In March 1928, Jimmy Wong Kam-ning (黃錦寧, 1897-1975), the son of John Wong Tung-lam and nephew of Watson comprador and accountant Joseph M. Wong (see article on Luen Fook Hong) married Chan Kai-ming’s daughterWinifred Chan (1899-1939) and Jimmy also joined Gande Price.

In April 1929, a case was brought against Gande Price for the failure to apply for permit for the removal of four cases of wine and Charles Bond as manager of Gande Price complained to the Central Magistracy that it was impossible for any European wine dealer to comply with the regulation and he was speaking with his peers to protest to the Legislative Council. (HK Telegraph, 1929-4-11)

In August 1931, Chan Chee retired after 37 years of service with the firm and was presented with a black marble clock by S.C. Pang. (China Mail, 1931-8-29)

In 1931, Gande Price reported profits of $36,800 with a credit of $62,058 at its profits and loss account and as a result the firm declared a 8% dividend, a 5% bonus on shares and also paying its staff one month bonus. (China Mail, 1932-4-6)

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Jasmine Chan (left) and Jimmy Wong (right) with export manager of a French brandy maker Gande Price represented in 1959 (WKYP, 1959-11-19)

In 1932, a major scandal broke at Gande Price when its Japanese harbor runner Hasa Ijo Tani embezzled over $240,000 from the firm, pocketing money that were supposed to go to two Japanese shipping firms. Tani was found guilty of falsification of accounts and embezzlement and sentenced to three years of hard labor (HK Daily Press, 1932-9-20) S.C. Pang and C. Bond (although Bond claimed he reported his suspicions to Pang many times and wondered why Pang checked the European accounts on a monthly basis and not the Japanese accounts) were pushed out in February 1933. Pang was succeeded as chairman of the firm by Chan Kai-ming’s son in law John Frederick Shea (1901-1976, son of HK Hotel comprador She Po-sham aka Paul Samuel Shea and husband of Gertrude) and as manager by R.P. Philips, a 35 years veteran of the wine and spirit trade (27 of which in the Far East) while Bond was succeeded by Jimmy Wong as secretary of the firm. (HK Daily Press, 1933-4-11)

In June 1933, Gande Price director Leung Yan-po died.  (HK Telegraph, 1933-6-26) For the year 1933, Gande Price recorded a loss of $17,117, which brought the profit and loss to a debit balance of $11,518. C. Bond stormed the shareholder meeting in April 1934 to air out his grievance as he was dismissed with three days notice without any compensation despite of his 23 years of service while SC Pang received a retirement bonus of $5000 and the chairman J.F. Shea criticized for being an irregular move to introduce such a personal matter. (HK Telegraph, 1934-4-10)

For the year 1934, the firm reported loss again of $8391, bringing the debit balance to $19,900 owing to the “general depression of trade”, competition which resulted in significant price cuts and property slump in HK which resulted in its godown in Wanchai being vacant for greater part of the year.(HK Telegraph, 1935-4-8)

In 1935, Gande Price returned to profitability with a small profit of $644. The firm experienced a 20% drop in turnover and $2000 decrease in rental income. Salaries were cut in what the chairman Shea called “the most difficult year” in its history. (HK Sunday Herald, 1936-4-5)

In 1936, the firm reported profits of $7066. According to reports by Shea at the shareholder meeting, the firm had cut $9311 in expenses and sold its steam launch (at a loss of $200) but the profits were still low due to competition. (HK Daily Press, 1937-5-10)

In 1938, Gande Price recorded profits of $12786, which was a slight improvement from the prior year, but the board decided to waive its fees for the fourth year. (HK Telegraph, 1939-5-1) At the time, the board was comprised of J.F. Shea (chairman), J.N. Wong (secretary), Kenneth Chan (managing director)R.P. Philips and Wong Sik-chung (黃錫松1901-1962, brother of Kenneth’s wife Jasmine).

After the War, the firm continued to be led by the team listed in the last paragraph.In 1951, Kenneth Chan fell ill and retired from business. He died at the Peak Hospital in October 1954 at the age of 51. His funeral at St John’s Cathedral was attended by over 200 mourners including fellow prominent Eurasian personalities such as Sir M.K. Lo and Irene Cheng, banker Kwok Chan, architect Chau Iu-nin, accountant P.C. Wong and others. At the time his sons were studying in the UK while his eldest daughterEvelyn Tyson (陳綺蓮) was studying in Switzerland and his younger daughterVeronica Tyson (陳綺琪) was a student at DGS in HK. (WKYP, 1954-10-26) His estate which was transferred to a trust at HSBC was estimated at HK$2.31 million. (KSDN, 1955-5-15)

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Jasmine Chan as managing director of Gande Price with D.J. Wilkinson of John Haig& Co in 1959 (WKYP, 1959-11-26)

Kenneth Chan was succeeded as managing director of Gande Price by his wife Jasmine Chan (陳黃煒嫦, born in 1912), the daughter of Kowloon Wharf comprador Wong Kam-fuk. Under the leadership of Jasmine and her brother in law Jimmy Wong, Gande Price continued to prosper in the 1950s and 1960s as the sole agent for leading liquor brands from Europe such as Bisquit and Martell cognac from France, Haig’s whisky from Scotland, Tanqueray gin from London, Hiram Walker’s Canadian Club whisky from Canada andbeer from Denmark (WKYP, 1955-4-6). According to US congressional reports, directors of Gande Price in the early 1960s included Otis Terrell, Asa Albert (“Ace” or A.A.) Smith and C.C. Chu who were affiliated with William Crum, a major distributor of products to US military clubs and post exchanges in the Far East during the Korean and Vietnam War and as a result Gande Price became involved in the distribution of liquor and a variety of other products in US military clubs.

In 1966, Gande Price was acquired bythe Australian conglomerate Swift. Jasmine Chan stayed on as director of the firm which continued its operations under Gande Price Wines & Spirits but J.R. Jones had taken over as chairman and J.H. McCay as general manager with S.S. Colham, Dexter Moore and Edmond Ip (see article) as directors. (HK $ Directory, 1968)  As a firm, Gande Price Wines & Spirits was renamed International Yeast in 1983 and dissolved in 1994.

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Left: Gande Price’s ad for Bisquit cognac and Haig’s whiskey in 1963(WKYP, 1963-12-23); Right: ad for Gande Price in 1976 listing the brands represented by the firm (The Correspondent)

Rockymount

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Left: picture and bio of Wilfred Tyson in 1967 (HK Album)Right: the original Rockymount residence at 39 Conduit Road

Kenneth and Jasmine Chan has two sons – Wilfred Keith Tyson (陳熾煇) who studied at DBS, Dulwich College and University of Edinburghand Roger Tyson (陳熾乾), who studied chemistry at the University of Geneva. (WKYP, 1960-10-12). Wilfred joined Gande Price & Co Ltd which was renamed Gande Price Investment Co Ltd after the sale of the liquor operations to the Australians in 1966.

In 1960, the Tyson family incorporated Tyson Investments to redevelop the family’s residence “Rocky Mount” at 39 Conduit Road into an apartment building of the same name. The building was completed in 1966 with 11 stories and total of 44 units and Tyson Investments keeping many of the units.

In 1988, the family sold the shares of Tyson Investment Co. to Henderson Land and the entity was renamed Carry Express Investment Ltd. Over time, Henderson Land acquired all the units and in 2006-09, re-developed the site into a 46-story residential building called “39 Conduit Road” (天匯)which grabbed headlines when the developer allegedly sold a five bedroom duplex for HK$439 million, making it the most expensive apartment in the world at the time.

Sources (other than those cited above):

https://gillisheller.wordpress.com/2010/08/30/39-conduit-road-the-prequel/

https://www.bmcpc.org.hk/filemanager/common/doc/resource_center/hill_scenery/hill_scenery_chapter4.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/39_Conduit_Road

https://www.legco.gov.hk/1916/h161031.pdf

This article was first posted on 3rd September 2021.

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  2. The three Forbes brothers: opium traders, Russell & Company in China and HK, USA railway financiers…
  3. Counterfeit Hong Kong Opium case – San Francisco 1882
  4. Raoul Bigazzi (卞根基) – leading specialist in marbles, bronzes and mosaics in the Far East from the 1920s to the 1960s
  5. Luen Fook Hong (聯福行)
  6. Edmond Ip (葉榮昌): Industrialist, Community Leader and Fugitive

 

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