A polished professional

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 January, 1993, 12:00am

''SURPRISED and happy'' was how 65-year-old furniture polisher Mr Chan Sik-yiu described himself at the news that he had been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen's New Year's Honours List yesterday.

He said he had no special plans to celebrate but was pleased to receive the honour. ''My children are very proud of their Dad,'' he said.

When Mr Chan entered government service in 1951 the pay was $7 a day.

A lot has changed since then, but Mr Chan remains as fond of his craft as he was as a young apprentice arriving from the mainland in 1946.

The government furniture workshops used to employ about 400 people and were responsible for production and maintenance of all types of furniture in government buildings - from offices to quarters, and even Government House.

''But most furniture is imported from China now and we continue with maintenance and repairs,'' Mr Chan said.

However, once in a while there are special assignments. On December 1, the workshop delivered a hand-crafted set of conference room furniture to one Mr Chris Patten.

Mr Chan has served seven Hongkong governors during his 40 years' employment in the Government Supplies Department's furniture workshop.

''Sir Alexander Grantham was very particular about his furniture. He was a perfectionist,'' Mr Chan said.

Perfection was something Mr Chan appreciated. ''In my day, people were more serious about their work, they took more care,'' he said.

When the prospect of retirement came up five years ago, Mr Chan's superiors persuaded him that his expertise and knowledge would be invaluable in training a new generation of craftsmen.

''I enjoyed my work anyway, so I decided to stay and now I intend to go on as long as my health permits,'' he said.