Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2007, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1973

Early this week in 1973 we reported that 'the wife of a senior European policeman' had been ordered 'to give further written explanations about the wealth of herself and her husband'.

The report, a small item carried on the front page on June 1, named neither the policeman nor his wife, nor did it give any clues to his rank. It said his wife had been given four weeks in which 'to explain the financial background of the family', following their inadequate explanation offered in February. The report did not say how much 'wealth' was involved.

The report, which appeared without a byline and was attributed only to 'reliable sources', stressed that the policeman and his wife had not been charged with any offence. 'If they can satisfactorily explain how they got their fortune, no charges will be laid,' the report stated, implying that this assurance came from the attorney-general.

As we now know, Chief Superintendent Peter Fitzroy Godber fled Hong Kong for Britain, via Singapore, on Friday, June 8. A report that day said only that 'a senior police officer' had declined to answer the questions put to him by Attorney-General Denys Roberts. The report also said a second policeman was facing investigation for corruption.

Godber, who had been under investigation since 1971, was first identified publicly as the suspect senior policeman only on June 12, 1973, when a front-page report on his flight appeared under the heading, 'Interpol alerted'. This report, by Kevin Sinclair, included a photo of Godber and one of his flats in a government apartment block on Caldecott Road, near Cheung Sha Wan. [Godber was extradited back to Hong Kong in January 1975 and sentenced to four years' jail in Stanley on corruption charges.]

Tory MP Nicholas Ridley, on a week-long visit to Hong Kong from Britain, told a news conference that 'too much notice is being taken' of 1997 - the expiry date of the New Territories lease, then 24 years away.

'The 1997 date is totally meaningless - the Chinese themselves are not now working on that date,' said Mr Ridley, the MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, who was visiting the colony with two parliamentary colleagues. The recent improvement in Sino-British relations and Hong Kong's own relations with China had 'improved prospects for the Colony's long-term stability', Mr Ridley said.

Commenting on reports that Beijing was seeking 'a diplomatic presence in Hong Kong', Mr Ridley's colleague, Michael Shaw, a parliamentary private secretary to Foreign Office under-secretary Anthony Royle, told the same news conference that, 'there is a general fear here of what the implications of this suggestion are'.

Mr Shaw conceded that 'talks on the Chinese bid for diplomatic representation in Hong Kong were imminent', but added that 'the British government will have to take careful account of what the wishes of the Hong Kong people and the government are here'.

A visit to Hong Kong by a veteran of the second world war explained to readers how Hiram's Highway, the 7.2km road linking Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay, came by its name.

Major John Wynne-Potts, who had served as an engineer with the Royal Marines in what was then Malaya, said that, ultimately, the name came from his unit's wartime supplies, which the Americans had dropped to them by parachute behind enemy lines. These air drops included tins of sausages made by an American company called Hiram K. Potts. Thanks to the 'Potts' connection, Major Wynne-Potts was dubbed 'Hiram' by his comrades, a nickname he still held when his unit was transferred to Hong Kong immediately after the war.

Among Major Wynne-Potts' first duties in Hong Kong was 'the unenviable task of blasting his way to the then sleepy village of Sai Kung'. Almost 30 years later he was 'amazed' to find that his old army track was now a proper road bearing his nom de guerre.