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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sir Ronald Holmes, and Busker's late father. Photo courtesy of Frank Fishbeck

Saturday's Child

My original title had been Wild Colonial Boy, to provide a bumptious contrast to that pic of my dad in sober serious mood - and because, born in Oz, I too have a touch of colonial wildness about me.

But the tutting side of the family strikes me down for such frivolous disrespect.

Pity, because I wanted to imagine dad pausing from his duties as celestial District Commissioner of The Lord's Elysian Territories to raise a quizzical brow at such lèse majesté.

Also, it allowed a neat segue into referencing my own Saturday's Child and what she might have chirped up with - and her grandfather would have smiled to hear -

"Yo, grandpa - is all cool.

"Dad's not dissing you."

No, indeed.

But that's what blogs are so good for: the prompt stomping on the "too-clever-by-half" factor.

saturdays child cover, photo by frank fishbeck

Speaking of Saturday's Spitfire, if it strikes one as strange that a Seattle-based 15-year-old should be conversant with the Hong Kong of the 1960s, it's entirely thanks to mountain scaling, Hasselblad hefting, all-round good guy, the remarkable Frank Fishbeck and his gorgeous book of black & white snaps of Honkers in the Sixties.

alhI couldn't resist capturing those shots of la jeune studying page 82 of Frank's book whereon appears her grandad, Sir Ronald Holmes CBE MC CMG, in full colonial monty: topee, dress medals, ceremonial sword.

How he would have loved to have known both his grand-daughters, but The Spitfire in particular because she would have cheeked him and kept him on the run and listened agog to his clear and patient explanations of everything under a young gel's sun.

grand-daughter and grandpaHow might it have gone?

"Dad - grandpa is like totally  cool. He knows *everything* . "


Exasperated Knight of the Realm: "I can't for the life of me make out if my cellular phone is out of batteries or ..."

Spitfire: "Grandpa - give it here. (Ripple of nimble fingers) OK, so you hit this button and then here.

Who do you want to call?

"K, I'm putting Pericles' number in your address book. OK - it's ringing.

"Hey Pericles - grandpa wants to talk to you.

"Grandpa - it's Pericles."

Gramps: "Thank you, darling."

(Deathless stare at useless son, signaling that certain core talents clearly skip a generation)

page spread of sir ronald holmes from saturdays child by frank fishbeckSeizing the initiative: I've read many accounts of Hong Kong's red-alert 'troubles' of 1967 and few seem to do justice to my father's part when he acted as Colonial Secretary for six crucial months.

In his eulogy in Hong Kong's St John's Cathedral, Friday June 19 1981, Denis Bray nailed it bang to rights:

"At the height of the disorders, his speech in LegCo declared the Government's resolve to 'seize and retain the initiative' [which] marked the turning point from a restrained commitment to the active pursuit of trouble-makers before they could launch their forays."

In fact, during my 1980s return to work in Hong Kong, I met many local Chinese who remembered full well Dad's part during those perilous days.

Denis again:

"The speed with which he could grasp ideas from even the incoherent, the style and precision of his writing, his transparent honesty and absence of humbug made him the most delightful colleague and friend."

And a great dad, I may add.


"His death robs him of the reward of retirement.

"He was one of the founders of postwar Hongkong.

"We who live in the place he helped to create come pay our tribute to him today."


Pedant post-script: Never let it be said that this blog stints on education.

Dad would have liked and noted this finesse.

I can't remember after whom Mt Everest is named - some cartographer, I dimly recall - but I adhere in my pedantic way to the excellent story I read that he insisted on his name being pronounced "Eve Rest", and waxed grumpy at hearing it delivered Ever-Rest.

Anyway, to cite Hillary, they knocked the bastard off.

Nothing like the memories of a father and the what-could-have-beens with the daughter to make me genuinely weepy. Nicely done, as always.
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