Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1955

London, February 17

A 44-year-old Manchester umbrella-maker, Mr Walter Mappin, began a single-handed fight against 12 factories in Hongkong turning out 360,000 umbrellas a month. Mr Mappin, who makes about two to four dozen umbrellas a week at home, is angry because he sells his products at around 11s 6d while some Hongkong umbrellas are selling for as low as five shillings each.

So out into the snow went Mr Mappin, carrying a placard which read 'Buy Hongkong goods and junk and put Lancashire on the dole. Remember the 1930s'.

Parading up and down outside the store he said: 'It costs me five shillings in materials to make an umbrella - then there's the 25 per cent purchase tax. How can we possibly compete? I reckon the Japanese are making umbrellas and its time we did something about it. My business is being ruined.'

Mr W. A. Stevell, Chairman of the Manchester Umbrella Makers, said: 'No one can compete against a five-shilling umbrella, although the quality is in no way comparable to home-produced standards.'

The Hongkong Government office in London said: 'Remember Britain sells #25 million worth of goods in Hongkong every year and remember that when the trade ban went up on Communist China, Hongkong lost a third of its trade. Something had to be done.

'These umbrellas are not made in Japan. The wire comes from Birmingham and the cloth from India or British sources. Hongkong is a British outpost on the very doorstep of Communism. Friendly trade with Hongkong is important to Britain in many ways.'

Taipei, February 18

The Nationalist Navy and Air Force claimed in an official communique that 21 vessels of a Red Chinese fleet had been sunk in a furious air-sea battle off Taishan Island, 120 miles northwest of Formosa.

It said 1,800 Red troops, intended as reinforcements for the Taishan Island garrison, went down with their transport vessels in the attack. Listed as sunk were five Communist gunboats, eight landing craft and eight armed junks. In addition, the communique said, a number of other Red vessels were damaged. The Nationalists claimed the attack was the 'biggest sea battle of the Chinese civil war'.

The attack followed the taking of the Tachen Islands group by the Communists, which forced the withdrawal of Nationalist troops.

Hongkong, February 22

Four thousand people were left homeless when fire destroyed over 270 shops and huts at Shek Wu Hui Market, the commercial centre of Sheung Shui, New Territories. Mr W. J. Gorman, Chief Officer of the Fire Brigade, received an eye injury. The densely-populated market comprised many shops in two-storey stone and tenement buildings and many squatter huts. Shops of all kinds, including rice dealers, fireworks dealers, groceries, goldsmiths, photographic shops, tea houses and a cinema, have been established there.

The fire started at about 3.50 a.m. in a wooden hut. Fanned by strong winds, it swept rapidly south and engulfed most shops and huts. Registration of victims began shortly after dawn, and meals were distributed to victims by the Social Welfare Office.

Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 22

Police have placed a guard on the Japanese consulate as a fanatical movement to ship Japanese in Brazil to defend Formosa from Communist China grows in intensity. The police ordered the consulate to be watched and Japanese consular officials to be protected following repeated demands by leaders of the 'Cherry Blossom Suicide Battalion', comprising Japanese emigrants in Brazil, that the Japanese consul here should order the whole of Brazil's half a million Japanese residents to 'fight for Formosa'. 'Battalion' leaders said if their demands were not met, they would take 'certain measures'.