Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kung Fu Killers - Grant Page (1974) - Inner Harbour, Macau

Page doesn't only visit HK, he also makes a quick trip over to Macau helping me top up my quota of Macau locations for the year :-)

The first shot we see is of a ferry docked at the Inner Harbour, right next to the famous (and now famously gone) floating Casino Macau Palace. We've seen it a few times before including way back in this post from the Bud Spencer film Flatfoot in Hong Kong. Although this was filmed the year before Flatfoot, I believe.

I believe there has also been some reclamation along the Inner Harbour at Macau and so the exact location of where the casino used to sit is now inland a bit - though not to the extent of some places in HK that are now kilometres away from their previous harbour front locales. Anyway, here is a quick stitch to give a better view.


  1. Hong Kong-Macau ferries, did I hear you say? Quick, to the Ferrycopter, it's time for some history! (History which shall have to span several posts, as I've hit your blog's comment length limit!)

    *dons slightly nerdy superhero outfit*

    In the images above, we have the Tung Shan (ex-Tak Shing and Sai On). She went to the breakers some time around January 1974, so the footage in Kung Fu Killers likely captured right around the time of her final fare-paying voyage. And as it so happens, on a Macanese blog there's an excellent photo of her towards the end of her career in the very same location:


    SS Sai On was the third ship built for Tung On, and she had a pretty storied life. She was built to order for the Tung On Steamship Company by the Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Co. in Hong Kong, and launched in "insistently falling rain" on July 19, 1924. Like the Tung On -- her sister ship launched the previous month -- SS Sai On was a British-flagged vessel intended for trade with Canton. Tung On's dock in Hong Kong was at the Leung Wing wharf, and in Canton at the Leung Hing Street wharf.

    An amazing amount of detail on these ships is available in period newspapers. their names, incidentally, were translated by the China Mail thusly at the time:

    'Tung means "East" and Sai "West." On conveys "peace" or "calm" and the two names combined would signify "Let there be peace in the East and West."'

    Tung On was the first local river steamer fitted with a Marconi wireless radio -- still a relatively new technology -- "as a precaution against pirates", and Sai On was likewise wireless-equipped. The wireless sets onboard had a range of 200 miles, and were fitted by Marconi International Marine Communication Co. Ltd. (Marconi, as was their standard operating procedure, also provided their own operators to man the radios.)

    Construction of both ships was said to be of Siemens Martin steel (higher quality and less brittle than the earlier Bessemer steel) with teak decking, and their dimensions were given as follows:

    Length between perpendiculars: 225' 0"
    Breadth moulded at waterline: 39' 0"
    Breadth moulded at deck: 42' 0"
    Depth moulded to main deck: 12' 0"
    Height between main and upper decks (beam to beam): 7' 9"
    Height between upper and boat decks (beam to beam): 7' 6"
    Load draft in salt water: 9' 0"

    The Sai On and Tung On were powered by two cylindrical Scotch boilers and two inverted, direct-acting surface condensing triple expansion engines driving twin screws. Together, these developed around 1,400 horsepower at 162 rpm. The windlass, capstans and Wilson Pirrie-type steering gear were also steam-powered.

    Both had wrought-iron grilles on deck for protection against piracy, and carried life buoys, six lifeboats, and around 900 lifebelts apiece for safety. They were fitted with electric lighting and fans, and their accommodations according to China Mail were designed for 40 saloon, 36 intermediate, 60 Chinese first-class, 300 upper deck and 700 lower deck passengers. (That's an impressive 1,136 passengers, although they may actually have carried more -- Tung On is said to have taken more than 1,400 passengers on her maiden voyage, after first having being inspected by more than 30,000 people.)

    The Hong Kong Telegraph noted the presence of "accommodation for thirty first-class passengers in beautifully appointed state-rooms, and 68 open berths for second-class passengers", while the Hong Kong Daily Press noted the design had the navigating bridge well forward, first class passengers forward, second class aft, and steerage in the 'tween decks.

    (continued in a subsequent comment)

  2. (continued from previous comment)

    The latter also described the rooms: Forward staterooms had two cot berths with electric reading lamps, a folding lavatory with hot and cold-water service, and an overhead fan. Aft staterooms had two berths, wash basins with hot and cold water, and an overhead fan. The upper saloon was mahogany-panelled, and the lower saloon oak-panelled. There was also a central dining saloon, "neatly panelled and fitted up with tables, etc."

    Life was good in first class, but second class too had at least some conveniences. As well as their 68 open berths, they had both fans and wash basins with hot and cold water. The captain, officer and engineers also had accomodations in rooms forward on boat deck, separated from the passengers by a full steel bulkhead extending the width of the vessel.

    On her trial in "glorious weather" a day or two post-launching, Sai On was found capable of 14.2 knots (a full knot more than the customer's specification) at a steam pressure of 190 psi, and consuming a ton of coal per hour. After trials, she anchored off Castle Peak for "tiffin ... and the customary toast." How very British, but it wasn't to remain such a picture of perfection!

    Only six months later, she arrived in Canton to the sounds of gunfire and looting, as the Canton Merchant Volunteers Corps Uprising was underway. This was to be an ongoing theme for the first several years of her life, as she repeatedly arrived to scenes of unrest in Canton. And more than once her Chinese crew either deserted her or went on strike, leaving the rest of her crew to sail the vessel while the Indian anti-piracy guards -- supplied by the Hong Kong police -- served as temporary firemen, stoking the engines for her return to Hong Kong.

    Scuffles among the crew -- sometimes degenerating into full-blown fights with poles, brooms, and thrown objects -- were also a recurring problem in her early years, and eventually one such incident resulted in the ousting of her British captain at the urging of her Chinese crew. Sai On even narrowly missed being struck by lightning when passing Deep Bay during a heavy thunderstorm. While nobody was hurt -- the bolt instead struck the sea near the ship -- its compass subsequently read two degrees east of true.

    And at least twice she collided with other vessels, although never suffering much damage. Once she struck the China Navigation Company's S.S. Taming in the Pearl River. In another incident, she collided with an unlit junk in Kap Shui Mun. She also managed to get herself beached in the Pearl River twice.

    During World War II, her sister ship Tung On was scuttled in the harbour, but Sai On escaped to neutral Macau. On 18 August 1943 and with some seventy refugees aboard, the Japanese decided to seize her, reversing their policy of respecting Portuguese neutrality. With the help of Chinese collaborators, she was forcibly removed from the Portuguese colony at the expense of several lives, and brought her back to Aberdeen -- complete with the unfortunate refugees onboard, as far as I can tell.

    Almost immediately after the war she topped the headlines once more. The reason: A fast-spreading fire in the harbour at around 5AM on February 4th, 1947. Several hundred passengers, would-be passengers and their friends and family were already aboard, even an hour before her scheduled departure time. As many as 136 of them, including several crew members, are said to have died in the blaze. Around 25 more were sent to hospital, and at least 12 of them were admitted, suggesting significant injuries.

    At an inquest just a couple of weeks later, the blame was placed on Tung On's loading and boarding practices, and on the fact that cargo and passengers weren't properly separated from each other. In fairness to the company, though, this was a practice said to have been routine at the time due to the short duration of the voyage.

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    After the fire was extinguished and bodies recovered, the hulk of Sai On was towed to Sham Shui Po -- and there she sat for around six months, perhaps longer. Some three years after the incident, the hulk was purchased in 1950 by Tai Yip Co. Ltd, and repaired / refurbished as the Tak Shing. (And a significant task that must have been, because even before she'd sat waiting to be repaired for so long, her decks were said to have sagged several feet from the intense heat of the fire, which the inquest found must have been fed by a powerful fuel source of some kind.)

    Just seven years later, in August 1959, she was again in the news for a fire. This time, though, it was a much smaller affair in her first-class linen room, resulting only in the loss of linen and blankets, and a few more minor injuries. Perhaps surprisingly, the Hong Kong media didn't put two and two together, and the earlier fire went unmentioned in their reportage.

    From there, information on her career becomes hard-won. At some point by 1968, her name had again been changed, this time to Tung Shan, but I don't know if she'd changed hands at the same time. And just six years later, she was no more. Just as she'd reached her 50th birthday -- and 27 years after that tragic fire -- she was scrapped, probably in Japan.

    A sad tale, and one that it seems has been almost completely forgotten, especially on the English-language web. My sources for this info were "The Lone Flag: Memoir of the British Consul in Macau during World War II" by John Pownall Reeves, a couple of Macanese blogs, and predominantly, a whole lot of research in the Hong Kong Public Libraries' newspaper archives.

    Perhaps it's time I started my own blog for tales like these? ;-)

    1. I'm impressed. You've posted a comment that contains more words than the last 10 or so of my posts put together LOL!

      Interesting stuff though and it makes me think that perhaps this film was lensed in 73 - or perhaps the scrapping date of the ship is incorrect? hard to tell but I don';t know when this, Shatter or Stoner started filming (those two both featured in this doc).

      Anyway, I shall add a tak Shing label to this post to associate it with any other ones of the ferry (I have 1 other at the mo).

    2. actually, on my other post: http://hongkongandmacaufilmstuff.blogspot.hk/2015/06/soldier-of-fortune-clark-gable-1955-tak.html

      you can see some work has been done to enclose the upper deck. Sounds very familiar to the work done to the unfortunate ferry that sank in China a few weeks back.