The Ma Family and Thomson Weaving Factory (天孫織染廠)

York Lo: The Ma Family and Thomson Weaving Factory (天孫織染廠)

Founded in 1946 by Shunde native Ma Tze-sau (馬子修, 1900-1954), Thomson Weaving Factory was one of the leading weaving and dyeing mills in Hong Kong in the 1940s and 1950s known for its “Double Dragon” fabric. Outside of Thomson, Ma’s children were involved in other industrial activities such as kaolin mines and distribution of hydraulic and pneumatic equipment and achieved success in other professions such as medicine and architecture.

Ma Tze-sau and Thomson Weaving

The Ma Family, Thomson Weaving Factory Image 1 York Lo

Left: Thomson Weaving Factory’s ad for the HK Products Expo in 1948 promoting the 12 qualities of its Double Dragon fabric. (CMA; HK Memory); Right: packaging of Thomson Weaving Factory with its Double Dragon logo. (Carousell)

Little info is available about Ma Tze-sau’s career before startingThomson but he was also listed as director of Man Shing Hong (萬成行). At Thomson, Ma was supported by deputy manager Ching Siu-kwan, factory manager Yiu Sze-sin, engineer Au Wing and dyeing manager Chan Hon. In the late 1940s, the firm established its factory on a 5000 sq ft site at 381-387 Castle Peak Road and employed 90 workers, 50 of them were female and produced 300 pounds of fabric per day with 16 hours of production per day. Its “Double Dragon” fabric, which was made by a combination of synthetic fiber and cotton using dyes from ICI, was one of the first in China to use the anti-wrinkle chemical treatment then popular in the West and Japan and rivaled the quality of imported fabrics.

In 1948, the firm imported 16 new looms from the UK to enhance its automation and had its own testing laboratory. Its products were sold locally at the Big Four department stores – Sincere, Wing On, The Sun and China Emporium and all piecegoods stores and also shipped to cities such as Canton and Shanghai in the mainland and exported globally with Malaya, Dutch East Indies, Egypt and Australia being the biggest markets. That year, the weaving industry in HK was struggling as products from the mainland and Japan flooded the market resulting in 30% of the local weaving factories suspended production but Thomson with its product innovation and high quality was able to stay afloat.  (TKP, 1948-10-27)

In 1949, Thomson participated in the Chinese Products Expo and its fabric was sold for $3.40 per yard, which was 20 cents cheaper than the previous year. (KSDN, 1949-12-18)

In January 1954, Thomson organized a competition for illustration for its “Touch All You Want” ad campaign for its Double Dragon brand of fabric with the famous painter Luis Chan Fook-sin as judge. The top 10 winners were able to collect their prizes at Thomson’s factory at 381 Castle Peak Road (WKYP, 1954-1-31)

The Ma Family, Thomson Weaving Factory Image 2 York Lo

Article and picture of the press visiting the Thomson Weaving factory in 1952 (WKYP, 1952-12-10)

Outside of business, Ma Tze-sau was active in community affairs and was director of Po Leung Kuk in 1947 and director of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1948. In 1950, he led the effort to organize the North Point English Secondary School (北角英文中學) as chairman with fellow industrialists U Tat-chee, Shum Choy-wah, C.L. Hsu, Wong Toke-sau, Jong-sau Pun, Robert Der in addition to educators Lam Hoi-lan and Dr .Te-kun Cheng (also came from the Amoy Canning family) as directors. The school, which was located up the hill on King’s Road started with 400 students but had since faded into history. (WKYP, 1950-9-3). He was also chairman of the Tack Ching Girls Secondary School (德貞女中) and vice chairman of the Sham Shui Po Kaifong Welfare Association.

In the early 1950s, Ma Tze-sau fell ill due to high blood pressure and was hospitalized at the HK Sanatorium. He was able to talk again in August 1952 and continued to read the paper and attend to business from his hospital bed everyday. (WKYP, 1952-8-14; WKYP, 1986-4-12)

In December 1954, Ma Tze-sau who lived at 244 Tai Po Road at the time, died at the age of 54 and his estate worth over $2 million was inherited by his widow Yiu Sau-kei (姚秀姬), who outlived him by over three decades and died in April 1986. (KSDN, 1954-12-20; KSDN, 1956-11-11)

The Second Generation

The couple had 8 sons (in order of age): Tin-wai, Tin-tak, Tin-man, Tin-chak, Tin-ging (Hector), Tin-kwan, Tin-kei (Harold), Tin-hong and 1 daughter – Tin-fung (Janet). 7 of the 9 childrenattendedPui Ching Middle School and as a result, the family donated the Ma Tze-Sau Sports Centre in 1955 in memory of the family patriarch on campus, which was opened by the Director of Education that year with a memorial plaque written by Pui Ching chairman Lam Chi-fung. Unfortunately, the building was demolished in 1988 to make way for a new assembly hall.

Ma Tin-wai(馬天懷, 1922-1986) as the eldest son succeeded his father as the head of Thomson and in 1956 marriedCheng Kam-wah (鄭金華), a graduate of Tak Ming Secondary School and Chu Hoi College. Like his father, Tin-wai was a director of Tung Wah (1956-57) and his wedding banquet at Kam Ling restaurant in Sheung Wan was attended by Secretary of Chinese Affairs B.C.K. Hawkins, Tung Wah chairman P.T. Loong (see article on rattan) and other fellow Tung Wah directors. He was also a director and head of the education committee of the Kowloon Chamber of Commerce and in 1955 was part of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association’s delegation to Singapore which included figures who were covered earlier such as Fan Chia from I-Feng Enameling, Chuang Chong-wen of Ve-Lit (and later Chuang’s Cutlery) and Chang Shun-yen of Maui Kong Ve-Pin and Pang Fat of Kin Sun Knitting.  (SCJP, 1955-5-29) He was supported at Thomson by Law Keng-po (羅鏡波) who was also secretary of Man Shing Hong and manager of Tin Wah factory and that year, Thomson promoted its new Aerovent shirts made with Leno weave fabric.He died in HK in November 1986, few months after his mother.

The Ma Family, Thomson Weaving Factory Image 3 York Lo

Left: article and picture of the wedding of Ma Tin-wai in 1956 (WKYP, 1956-8-11); Left: Ma Tin-tak as a student at Georgia Tech in the 1950s (Georgia Tech, 1955);

The second son Ma Tin-tak (馬天德) was a member of the Pui Ching Class of 1948 and graduated from Georgia Tech in the 1950s. In 1964, Ma Tin-tak, who lived with his family in 6 Marigold Road in YauYatChuen (since re-developed into Merlin Court in 1981), filed a lawsuit against Cathay Pacific in the Kowloon Magistracy to retake his property on the ground floor of 12 Verbena Road in YauYatChuenwhich was occupied by the airline and had since been re-developed into King Hong Court (景康閣) in 1978. (WKYP, 1964-4-8)

The third son Ma Tin-man (馬天民) was a member of the Pui Ching Class of 1951 and was managing director of Kowloon Kaolin Co (九龍瓷泥), which was incorporated in 1963 with his wife Victoria Helen Sparrow as director. (Industrial Metals Directory, 1977) The firm operated a 60,000 t.p.a. opencast mine in Mew Lui in Taiwan (Industrial Minerals, 1978) and was dissolved in 1996.

The fourth son Ma Tin-chak (馬天擇) was a member of the Pui Ching Class of 1951 and received his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from Imperial College in the UK. He worked as an engineer for the UK diesel engine manufacturer Perkins in the 1960s and during his time in the UK had eight patented inventions to his name (Universal Chinese Overseas Directory, 1969; KSDN, 1969-11-20). In 1970, he returned to HK and established Pegasus Enterprise (天馬企業, incorporated in 1970 and dissolved in 2013) which distributed hydraulic equipment in Hong Kong for promotion of heavy industries. (WKYP, 1977-7-27). In 1977, he donated $10000 to HKU for the establishment of the Ma Tze-sau Prize in Mechanical Engineering.

The Ma Family, Thomson Weaving Factory Image 4 York Lo

Left: Ma Tin-man and the painting by the wife of Dr. Choi Kam-fong which he bid for a charity auction to benefit the Red Cross in 1957 (WKYP, 1957-4-28) Center: ad in 1977 for Ma Tin-chak’s Tin Ma hydraulic equipment (); Right: Dr. Hector Ma and his wife Ada at their wedding anniversary

The fifth son Hector T. G. Ma (馬天競) received his M.D. degree from the University of Manitoba (where he endowed the Dr Hector Ma Award in Research at the Department of Internal Medicine) in 1959 and afterwards taught at McGill and the University of Toronto before returning to HK in 1970 where he has practiced as a radiologist and has served as the head of the scanning departmentat the St Theresa’s Hospital in Hong Kong. His wife Ada Y.M. Ma (羅玉明) is the sister of Frank Lo Kit-lun, co-founder and former chairman of leading brassiere maker Top Form International and served as head of the HK Red Cross.

The Ma Family, Thomson Weaving Factory Image 5 York Lo

Left: article and picture about the appointment of Ma Tin-kwan as manager of Milan Motors in 1972 (KSDN, 1972-1-17); Right: Ma Tin-kwan (right) and the Italian consul and his wife at the opening of the Kowloon showroom of Milan Motors in 1972 (WKYP, 1972-6-2)

The sixth son Ma Tin-kwan (馬天群) was the manager of Milan Motors (美輪汽車), the local distributor of Alfa Romeo in HK which was formed in 1966 and was part of the Sime Darby group.

The seventh son Harold Ma Tin-kei (馬天麒, 1939-2020)was a member of Pui Ching Class of 1958 and after graduation from the University of Illinois, he worked as an architect in Canada from 1970 to 2004. He was a photography enthusiast who made Cibachrome prints and married Jean Marchack, daughter of Wilfred Marchack from Trinidad & Tobago.

The eighth and youngest son Arthur Ma Tin-hong(馬天航)is a member of the Pui Ching Class of 1959 and graduated from the University of Kansas. He married Ng Lai-sim (伍麗嬋), the daughter of HK legal figure Ng Fook-hing and sister of HK architect Ng Chun-man in 1965. (WKYP, 1964-6-27) In 1972, he established Multi-Control Import & Export (自動工程有限公司), which has been a leading supplier of vacuum pumps, air blowers and pneumatic equipment representing brands such as Allenair, Gast, Siemens and Fuji and has sales offices in many major cities in China. In the late 1970s and early 1980s it ran a series of over 49 industrial automation classes in HK which trained over 1000 people with materials from UK pneumatic controls manufacturer Compair Maxam and experienced engineers as instructors. (WKYP, 1986-5-21)

The Ma Family, Thomson Weaving Factory Image 6 York Lo

Left: Harold Ma and his family (Jessica Ma’s Across the Pond website); Right: wedding picture of Arthur Ma and Ng Lai-sim in 1965 (KSEN, 1965-12-18)

Ma Chi-sau’s only daughter Janet Ma Tin-fung(馬天奉)is a member of Pui Ching Class of 1955.

Sources (other than those cited above):

This article was first posted on 1st January 2021

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