Pattens bid their sad farewells

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 1997, 12:00am

It was a day of emotion for Governor Chris Patten as he spent his last 24 hours as a resident of Government House.

'He's been saying farewell to staff he's been working with for the past five years,' one member of the household said. 'He's very sad to be leaving Hong Kong.' Governor's press secretary Kerry McGlynn said Mr Patten and his family were 'going through an emotional wringer', but they were handling it well.

Mr Patten choked back tears as he finished his farewell speech to church-goers at his last Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Caine Road.

'Here's the contract,' he said. 'I'll pray for Hong Kong, that it flies like a bird to the heavens, and you say a prayer for us.' All the pews were occupied at the service, also attended by Democratic Party leader Martin Lee Chu-ming and publisher Jimmy Lai Chee-ying.

Mr Patten was presented with a likeness of Madonna and child.

He and his family have been going to services there since his arrival in 1992.

After the Mass, he attended two investiture ceremonies and, in one of his last pieces of business as Governor, signed 16 bills into law.

But Mr Patten still found time for a few private moments with his family and closest members of staff.

Head steward Chak Pui-yan organised a casual buffet lunch of roast pig and Chinese noodles to give Mr Patten and his employees a chance to relax. He was joined by wife Lavender and daughters Alice, 17, Laura, 22, and Kate, 24.

Later in the afternoon, the family bid a temporary farewell to family pet dogs Whisky and Soda.

'It was an emotional moment for everyone,' Mr McGlynn said.

'The staff were as upset as the Pattens. One of them said: 'They were our children for the last five years'. Everybody loved them.' In the evening, Mr Patten boarded the Britannia, where he dined with Prince Charles. His day ended with a Beating Retreat ceremony alongside the Britannia.

Today promises to be even more hectic and emotional. This afternoon, the Patten family will say a final goodbye to Government House.

As the police musicians strike up Auld Lang Syne, the two cars carrying the Governor and his family will do three turns round the front of the house before leaving for the Britannia, representing a vow to return some day.