My dad the judge ruled I should study in England

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 May, 2009, 12:00am

I was probably a bit of a dunce during my schooldays but I loved playing rugby at boarding school in England and I look back on those times with immense nostalgia. I'd also say, based on my own experiences, that whatever failures you have in life, if you put your mind to it, something will come good, although sometimes you do have to persevere.

I was born left-handed and forced to write with my right one because that's what happened in the 1960s. Learning Chinese was a struggle but having to use my right hand made it more so. If I wasn't doing it properly or doing it well enough, I'd be punished and made to wear a paper ear.

I think growing up in a very Anglicised Chinese family had something to do with my not excelling at Chinese. I still can't read Chinese and I only speak colloquial Chinese.

I first went to St Paul's Coeducational College primary school but it didn't really work out. My father, who was a judge, would despair at the trouble I had with Chinese and even tried to teach me at home.

The decision was taken to send me to Kennedy Road Junior where, academically, I turned out to be fine. There I learned about the Norman invasion of Britain by William the Conqueror in 1066 and my favourite pastime was to draw Spitfires.

At the age of 11 I was sent away to school in Norfolk, England. I found the whole experience a revelation and had some of the best times of my life there.

I was put in a huge dormitory with a bed by the window from where I could see this huge full moon. The following morning the housemaster gave me breakfast and the rest of the day I had to myself.

Later this lad ... head of the prep school, came up to me, held out his hand and said: 'You must be Yang.' Being a shy Chinese boy, I didn't know that I was supposed to shake it.

In the next bed to me was a boy called Roger Day who was nicknamed Doris, after the singer.

I last saw him in 1979 when we left school, but then one day had a phone call and a voice said: 'It's Doris here. Do you remember me?' He was out for the Rugby Sevens so we met up and reminisced.

School was also notable for having Jeremy Bamber, who was jailed in 1986 for killing five members of his family and who I knew very well. I remember him being very free with his penknife and he once pulled it out saying: 'Don't ever call me a bastard again because I am.'

I took two A-levels - one in geology and one in maths - for which I got an F and D, and clearly it wasn't sufficient for me to get into University College, London, where my father had gone. I then studied for another A-level, in law, and went on to the Polytechnic of Central London to study social sciences, graduating with a third-class degree.

I landed a year's internship before moving on to what was my first real job at James Capel and Company, which was probably the largest English broking house at that time.

That led to my being asked to move back to Hong Kong to work in 1987. I've since stayed in investment-related work, moving on to Jebsen and Company Ltd.

Becoming chairman of WWF Hong Kong is about reaching out more to the community by broadening our membership, not only for individuals but for corporates.

People are becoming more environmentally aware, which I think was reflected in 2.9 million Hongkongers participating in Earth Hour 2009 by turning off lights and appliances to reduce their carbon footprint.

Trevor Yang was talking to David Phair.