Wong Man-keung (王文強, 1903-1976) and W.S. Sherly & Co (些厘洋行)

York Lo: Wong Man-keung (王文強, 1903-1976) and W.S. Sherly & Co (些厘洋行)

While Wong Man-keung and his W.S. Sherly & Co might be very low profile, the products which they acted as sole agent for in HK such as the malted drink Horlicks, Pepsodent toothpaste, Longines watches and Kleenex tissues are the opposite and his family is also connected to many high profile figures via marriages and friendships.

Wong Man-keung and W.S. Sherly & Co

Wong Man Keung Image 1 York Lo

Wong Man-keung (first from left) welcoming Colonel & Mrs. Horlicks (second and third from left) with Betty Church (first from right), head of Horlicks’ advertising firm APB and Buckoke, Horlicks’ Far East manager (second from right). (WKYP, 1957-11-22)

Wong Man-keungreceived a scholarship to attend King’s College in HK and joined the trading firm of W.S. Sherly & Co after graduation, eventually became its owner by the 1930s.

It is unclear as to when Sherly was established and if there was a W.S. Sherly. the first record of the firm was a listing in the German Meier’s Import Export Directory in 1925 where its address was already listed at 22 Queen’s Road Central, which became Kayamally Building in 1928. In 1928, W. S. Sherly was charged with selling liquor without the proper license. The case, which was defended by M.K. Lo, revealed some of the firm’s business dealings at the time. In the case, Wing On & Co allegedly ordered 13 cases of Hall’s wine which was represented by Sherly but left one case which Watson’s approached Sherly to buy for $27 plus 61 cents in storage fee. Sherly was fined $100 at the end. (WTYP, 1928-5-31; HK Telegraph, 1928-6-6)

Wong Man Keung Image 2 York Lo

  1. S. Sherly’s name on the label of Dutch-made palm and olive soap it acted as sole agent of in the early 20th century

While Sherly was known for being the sole agent for Horlicks, Pepsodent, Kleenex and Longines, the most profitable product the firm represented was saccharin manufactured by American chemical giant Monsanto which was used in the production of preserved fruits and other canned foods and Wong was known as the saccharin king at one timeaccording to his eldest daughter Emily Chen. (Confirmed by Directory and Chronicle for China and others, 1938)

Aside from the products listed above, Sherly was also the agent for the Hohner brand of harmonicasand engineering tools such as compasses from Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and to promote the use of harmonicas, the firm formed the Heart String Harmonica Society during that time. Wong Man-keung was listed on the HK Jurors List in 1941 with his home address listed as 27 Mosque Street in the Mid-Levels. When the Japanese occupied HK, the Wong family first survived on canned food provided by merchant friends but when the Allied bombing of HK intensified towards the end of the war in 1944, the family escaped to Macau on a fishing junk and returned after the War was over in August 1945.

Wong Man Keung Image 3 York Lo

Left: W.S. Shery’s ad for Pepsodent toothpaste in 1937 with a slip in the bottom right which readers could mail in to get a free sample. (HK Telegraph, 1937-3-6); Right: Horlicks ad in a cartoon format in HK’s Chinese newspaper in 1951 (吳昊(老花鏡))

After the War, W.S. Sherly continued to operate out of Kayamally Building and represented White Laboratories, the maker of remedies such as Feenament and Aspergum from Newark, New Jersey in addition to the products listed above. (Pharmacy International, 1949) Its most prominent agency however remain the British malted drink Horlicks (好立克), which it marketed aggressively through ad and promotional campaigns in partnership with Betty Church’s APB agency (see article). In 1957, Horlicks chief Sir James Horlick and his wife visited Hong Kong and Wong Man-keung hosted the couple at the Kam Ling restaurant together with Betty Church. (KSDN, 1957-11-26) Horlick visited HK at least two more times – once in 1959 and another time in 1961, also received by Wong and Church. (KSDN, 1961-2-19) By 1966 however, W. S. Sherly was no longer the HK agent for Horlicks and had been replaced by Robertson, Wilson & Co (大興洋行).

By the early 1970s, Sherly was operating out of 15th floor of HK Chinese Bank Building in Central. (XianggangShikuang, 1970) As a firm, it never appears to have incorporated and has since faded into history. Wong Man-keung died of lung cancer in 1976.

The Family of Wong Man-keung

Wong Man Keung Image 4 York Lo

Left: Mrs. Wong Man-keung (left) with Mrs. Yu Kwok-ting (center) and Mrs. Fung Kam-chung (right) during a recording session at the Commercial Radio in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-1-22); Right: Mrs. Wong Man-keung receiving a souvenir from Secretary for Chinese Affairs John McDouall in 1961 for her Cantonese opera performance for charity (WKYP, 1961-8-30)

Wong’s wife So Ngok-fai (蘇萼輝, 1907-1999) was a native of Zhongshan in Guangdong province where she graduated from a teachers’ college. She was a relative of Soo Pei-shao (蘇佩玿, 1889-1983, he was also a co-founder of Wah KiuYat Po) and Soo Pui-chen (蘇佩瓚), two prominent stockbrokers in Shanghai and HK. She was very active in community affairs in HK and had a higher profile than her husband, having served on the board of the YWCA and was chair of the Women’s Welfare Club of the Western District (WWCWD). In 1953, she donated her private villa in Kwai Chung as a sanatorium for the public placed the minister Lee Kau-yan (李求恩) in charge of the project. (WKYP, 1953-4-26) In the late 1950s and early 1960s, she was involved in the famous “Ladies Cantonese Opera Troupe” (閨秀劇團) which was formed by the leaders of WWCWD including the wives of plastics tycoon Norman Young of Yuen Hing Hong, Bert Chan Young of Metro Cars and George Sim of Yu Chun Loong Canning covered earlier to raise funds for charity and several of his children (Eric, Virginia and Yee-min) also sang Cantonese opera. (WKYP, 1963-9-4)

According to his obituary, Wong Man-keung had five sons and three daughters. His eldest son Kenneth Wong Kai-ming (王啟銘, 1931-) is probably the highest profile of his children, having co-founded the Far East Stock Exchange with ten others including Ronald Li andB.K. Murjani (see article) in 1969 and later served as vice chairman of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. He was also on the board of the listed Park Hotel andLuen Hing Shing Development and was headmaster of Bernard College which was chaired by Sir S.N. Chau. He married Betsy Chiu (趙洪璧), the daughter of Paul Kaison Chiu and cousin of Betty Tung, the wife of HK’s first Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. His wife and their younger son Bernard Wong Mo-kit (王武傑) ran the family’s stock brokerage K.K.M. Securitieswhile their eldest son Gordon Wong Mo-wah (王武樺)has been a senior executive at the DFS co-founder Robert Miller’s Search Group since the 1980s.

The other four sons of Wong Man-keung are all professionals -Tony Wong Kai-tung (王啟東, solicitor, partner of Hastings and director of Lee & Man), Eric Wong Kai-tak (王啟德, partner of the law firm Yung Yu & Yuen), Wong Kai-lam (王啟霖, accountant who was partner of Sanford Yung) andDickson Wong Kai-tat (王啟達, accountant who was managing director of Applied Electronics and also served on the board of many smaller listed companies).

Wong Man Keung Image 5 York Lo

Wedding picture of Virginia Wong and Loke Yun-ho in 1962 (WKYP, 1962-9-7); right: Kenneth Wong and his wife at the memorial service of Ronald Li in 2015 (Eastweek)

Wong Man-keung’s eldest daughter Emily Wong Yee-shune (王綺璇,1929-2018) went to UC Berkeley and married her classmate Ronald Chen (陳延壽, 1928-2008), who worked for the US Veterans Administration for 30 years in biochemistry research and taught at Duke and Case Western before retiring in the Bay Area. The second daughter Yee-min (王綺棉) married Jonathan Todd Ying-fei (達英輝), a physician who graduated from the University of Kansas Medical School in 1960 and is the younger brother of Sir David Todd, who was head of the HKU Department of Medicine and founding president of the HK Academy of Medicine. The youngest daughter Virginia Wong Yee-ching(王綺湞) studied social work in the US and has served as head of the Social Work department of Shue Yan College and has worked on drug rehabilitation efforts.She married Wilson Loke (陸潤豪), the son of Loke Yung-cheong of HK Paint Products (see article) and great-grandson of Loke Yew, in 1962 and the wedding banquet was held at the State Restaurant and was attended by Kwok Chan, Sir S.N. and T.N. Chau, Kan Yuet-keung, Ngan Shing-kwan and many others.  (WKYP, 1962-9-7) Virginia later married John Lo Chuen-cho (盧尊祖), an architect who is agrandson of Lo Lim-Ieoc of Macau (known for his garden) and the brother in law of Chau Kai-yin, the eldest son of Sir S.N. Chau.

Wong Man Keung Image 6 York Lo

Article and picture of the wedding of Gordon Wong in 1982 (WKYP, 1982-12-29)

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://www.ausgelassen.com/?page_id=30

https://www.geni.com/people/Man-Keung-Wong/6000000003875723738

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?n=ronald-walter-chen&pid=118291154

This article was first posted on 26th February 2021.

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  4. G Falconer & Company, Watchmakers & Jewellers – HK agent for Ross Optical Ltd, Clapham, London and Kelvin & Hughes, marine instruments, London
  5. Hang Tai & Fungs Co Ltd – agent and Hung Tai & Fung (Tobacco) Company Ltd
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One comment

  • Alexander WONG

    Hong Kong indeed was very small.
    My parents’ shop rear window was overlooking Kayamally Building (22 Queen’s Road Central)
    蘇佩瓚‘s broker firm was once my next door neighbor on the 3F of Hang Cheong Building ( 5 Queen’s Road Central)
    王文強 was a fellow KCOB and professionally I have crossed path with his son Tony 王啟東

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