Umbrella king singing in the rain

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 March, 2010, 12:00am

Name: Ho Hung-hee (also known as Dr Umbrella)

Occupation: Umbrella maker

Sign: Virgo

On my playlist: Cantonese opera

Hobbies: Exercise in the morning

The man: I am from Guangzhou, and I will be 88 this year. I have been making and repairing umbrellas for more than 70 years.

I'm known as Dr Umbrella, and I am probably the only umbrella maker and repairman in town. In the early 90s, I made the world's most expensive umbrella - it sold for GBP167 (HK$1,948 in today's money).

The deal made the Guinness World Record in 1994.

That umbrella was made with stainless steel frames and ox hide covers.

One of my umbrellas is on display at the Museum of History.

My brother-in-law had an umbrella factory in Guangzhou. I learned the skills there, which allowed me to raise my family.

I have nine sons - the oldest is 53 and the youngest is 29. I also have a few grandchildren.

They all know how to make umbrellas but none of them have taken up the family trade because it's not a money-making career.

I only had two years of schooling, but I was the financial controller of my brother-in-law's factory in Guangzhou. I started working for him when I was a teenager.

As supervisor of the factory's accounts department, I had to make sure people were working and the money was being used properly. So I had to walk around the factory all the time. And that's how I learned to make umbrellas - from the workers.

I made my first umbrella after a few months, and sold it at a high price.

I worked in my brother-in-law's factory for about 20 years. Then I moved to Hong Kong in 1947 - after the second world war - and started my own stall on Peel Street, in Sheung Wan.

I live in Kowloon and used to cycle to work every day. I could see the harbour and the junks from my stall. It was before all those skyscrapers were built on reclaimed land. I really enjoyed the beautiful harbour view on Peel Street. Even though commercial buildings now block the view, I'm not in despair - life goes on.

I'm very conscious about recycling useful materials. I still use parts from old umbrellas to make new ones and during repairs. I'm also very involved in charity work. I think it is important to contribute to society.

Influences: Former chief secretary for administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang helped me a lot. She allowed me to keep my stall on Peel Street when everyone else had to move down to Queen's Road during some construction work in the early 80s. I was asked to move, too, but I didn't want to, because I'd been here for so long. I'm still here today.

Vision for the future: I plan to make umbrellas for five more years and then I will retire. I will do more volunteer work because I love to help others and be part of the community.