'Dragon Lady' sails home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 12:00am

Pat Loseby, Hong Kong's first female solicitor and a sporting trailblazer, has come home to the harbour. Loseby's ashes were scattered there yesterday as the boats of her 'family' of fellow yachties circled in formation and an era came to an end.

Loseby died in England at the age of 75 in January. In Hong Kong, she was a pioneer for women in sport and the law, as the SAR's first female solicitor and winner of a 'friendly battle' to allow women full membership of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

Loseby became an institution at the club, where there is a room named after her - and a hot rum cocktail named after her dragonboat, Hoi Loong, meaning sea dragon.

It took her 30 years of being a 'lady subscriber' to become a full member in 1977. However, in 1990, the yacht club awarded her the title vice-patron - the biggest honour available to anyone who was not actually Queen Elizabeth, the then patron.

Loseby had other titles. Her Chinese friends called her Screwdriver, the word her surname sounded like in Cantonese. She was also known as the Dragon Lady for running the dragonboat class with a firm but kind hand.

In her early days at the club, according to the club's magazine, she was jokingly called 'the lady licensed to solicit' because of her admission in 1953 as Hong Kong's first woman solicitor.

In a 1994 interview with the South China Morning Post, Loseby said she had been surprised that, in a male-dominated field, her becoming a lawyer did not cause much of a stir. She took over her father's firm, Russ & Co, until it was dissolved in 1990.

The firm was small and did general legal work, according to her business partner, Tom Loong Chi-chiu, who knew her for 46 years.

Loseby was of the old school, he said. She did not speak Cantonese despite spending most of her life, including much of her childhood, here. She liked things such as furniture to be traditional in style.

When Mr Loong was a young articled clerk, she advised him against following fashion. However, Loseby was friendly, he said, describing her love of a chat and her 'very cheerful and helpful' personality.

A crisp sense of humour emerges in an anecdote recalled by the commodore of the yacht club, John Leigh, in the March issue of its magazine.

Sailing with a spinnaker up during a winter monsoon, as the boat pitched and rolled alarmingly, he had timidly suggested to his elderly skipper they should lower the kite (spinnaker): 'We hit the most mighty wave which lifted me off my feet and then dumped me on top of Pat, at which she chortled, 'Not now, my dear, you haven't got the kite down yet!' '

Before the handover, she returned to Britain, where she suffered health problems.

Her cousin, Paul Tagg, is in Hong Kong and attended two memorial services for her - one at St John's Cathedral on Friday and another yesterday at the club.

He said people who attended included friends she had made in her girlhood days of pony club and Girl Guides as well as in teenage years interned in Stanley Camp during World War II - a testament to her gift for friendship.

Loseby was a fourth-generation lawyer and the last of a significant family of Losebys in Hong Kong, he said.

Her father, Frank, is remembered for defending Ho Chi Minh, while her mother, Rosa, ran a dog home - and also ended up being appointed guardian of pandas, bears, monkeys and other assorted animals.

'With Pat's death, all that is now sort of gone,' Mr Tagg said.