He's one of those men everyone in Hong Kong should know about, but almost no one does. Chater Road, Chater Square, Chater Garden, even Catchick Street, the extension of Kennedy Town Praya - who was this Chater person? The author of a rare study on the Armenians who ventured east to India and the China Coast, Mesrovb Jacob Seth, wrote in his 1937 book, Armenians in India: 'The future historian of Hong Kong will find his task as regards the past sixty years a sinecure, for the record of Hong Kong will be a replica of the career of Sir Paul Chater.' Yet there is no biography of the man who helped build Hong Kong. Some clues can be gleaned from The Chater Legacy, an exhibition now being held by the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Due to close in January, the exhibition has been extended to June 2008. This features a selection of the varied art collections that Chater accumulated in his lifetime, but still leaves a lot of his life in the shadows. Geoffrey Bonsall, adviser to the museum among many other things, notes that 'although he represented Hong Kong in 1902 at the coronation of King Edward VII, he was not Chinese, nor even born in Hong Kong'. Yet Catchick Paul Chater was one of those legendary characters, instigator of just about anything that moved in Hong Kong at the turn of the last century. He was a leading figure in the (then Royal) Hong Kong Jockey Club, one of the first two unofficial members appointed to the Executive Council, adviser to governors, and helped found Hongkong Land, Hongkong Electric, and the original Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company. With all the talk lately about the need to preserve Hong Kong's heritage, a dedicated band of historians, urged on by descendant and eager researcher Liz Chater, thinks it's time a book told all about Chater. So far, they've managed to get part- sponsorship of what should be a thorough research, writing and publication job. But they need financial support from within Hong Kong - preferably from the hongs who owe most to his vision - if another piece in Hong Kong's history jigsaw is to fall into place. Liz Chater, who lives in Hampshire, traces her roots back to the big man and has taken on the mantle of lead fact-digger. 'We owe thanks to a lady in the south of England, Liz Chater, for much of the current interest in Sir Paul,' said Mr Bonsall. She has amassed a raft of material, tracking down mementoes, grave stones and key marriage certificates, tracing the vast family tree of Chaters and the larger Armenian community, and bringing together people similarly interested in the subject. 'I knew nothing about Sir Paul when I started,' she said. 'I had a baby in 2000 and he just slept and slept, so I had a lot of time on my hands and starting flicking through the computer on family history pages. 'I found my father, my grandfather, and before long I was hooked. The questions kept coming, and one name just kept leading to another. 'When I came to Sir Paul, I realised he was famous and looked around for a biography of him - but there was nothing,' she said. Since then, she's set up a hugely informative website, published a short booklet, and organised several trips and Chater reunions. Earlier this year, in May, she helped commemorate Chater's death at his grave in Hong Kong. She also helped organise the previous year's gathering of more than 100 Armenians in Hong Kong. This year she pursued her talks with Father Oshagan Gulgulian, from the church which once played a key role in the young Chater's life and to which he left part of his fortune - the Armenian church of Calcutta. On Chater's death in 1926, the bulk of his estate went to the Armenian Holy Nazareth Church in Calcutta, which runs a Home for Armenians where elderly members of the community still live. The priest met Robert Nield, president of the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong, and Denis Way, co-authors of a fine book about PricewaterhouseCoopers called The Counting House. Liz Chater is hoping these men will be her co-authors of a book on Chater - and to that end they all went to Calcutta in July. A subsequent trip by Liz Chater alone helped pin down an agreement from the church to help. 'Myself, Denis and Robert have a [statement of] firm interest of part-sponsorship from the Armenian Church in Calcutta, but as a team are still seeking further sponsors. [We're] hopeful that a major Hong Kong corporate would like to join in on this unique joint venture on the story of Sir Paul,' Liz Chater said. 'I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams that I would get this far with my little research project on Sir Paul Chater, and I hope that 2008 will be the year that sees the full editorial process begin. Now if I can just find one or two more sponsors - I've run out of stuff to sell on eBay!' Her forebear would have been rightly miffed if he had imagined how hard it would be for the place he loved to recognise his contributions to it. Catchick Paul Chater was born in Calcutta in 1846 to a family of Armenian merchants, one of 14 children. But he was orphaned by the time he was nine and became a scholarship boy. At 18 he reached Hong Kong, where he worked in the Bank of Hindustan, China and Japan, staying with the family of his relatives, the Jordans. Within a couple of years he was trading in gold and bullion on his own account and investing in land. His business partners and friends included Sir Hormusjee Mody, the Sassoon family, William Keswick and John Bell-Irving - the other leading unofficial member of the Executive Council - and the entire Freemason community of which he was a prominent member. By the late 1880s, new ideas or enterprises didn't get off the ground without Chater - be it shipping, insurance, utilities or the ground itself. Liz Chater has doggedly filled in many more details. She believes the grand old man got his leg-up in life by asking for it. 'One day he plucked up the courage to ask the head of Sassoons whether they would help him if he started as an Exchange broker. They said yes and Catchick resigned from the bank. In his first month of trading he cleared $600 and very quickly he rose to be the greatest financial magnate of the colony.' The China Mail once wondered why a young Chater was getting into a sampan at dusk, night after night, and pottering around the harbour of Hong Kong in the shadows of the shore. He was taking soundings to measure the depth of different parts of the foreshore because of his idea that some land reclamation might make sense - and to find water deep enough to handle ocean-going steamers. The result of his searches were the first Kowloon wharfs. He is also credited with the first reclamations of parts of the harbour in Kowloon and Wan Chai, starting a trend that many might wish had stopped with his lifetime. Mr Bonsall points out that Connaught Road is named after the Duke of Connaught, who laid the foundation stone for Chater's reclamation that created Connaught Road along the waterfront - though it's now far inland. He also was the first to suggest to the government that new lands should be acquired beyond Kowloon - namely the New Territories. Catchick Street in Kennedy Town marks where he was responsible for reclaiming 10.5 hectares. He pioneered iron mining in the New Territories, coal-mining in Tonkin Indo-China - hence his award of the Legion d'Honneur from a grateful France - and initiated cotton-spinning factories. He gave money to the University of Hong Kong, St John's Cathedral and Kowloon Union Church as well as St Andrew's in Kowloon. Not everything he touched turned to gold - while in partnership with Mody, they suffered the failure in 1908 of the Hong Kong Flour Mill in Junk Bay, otherwise known as Rennie's Mill. 'There was already a bad omen at the opening ceremony when Mody hesitated and fell at the top of what was described as, 'an ingenious staircase [like an early escalator perhaps] consisting of a succession of wooden steps attached to an endless moving belt'. 'Mody had to be taken away by launch to recover in hospital,' recounted Mr Bonsall at a recent talk. But Chater had style, not least with his lavish entertainment at his home, Marble Hall. Like Mody's Buxey Lodge, this mansion has disappeared. Liz Chater's work has got almost out of hand, leading her into a massive documentation of Armenian graves across Asia, alongside her ongoing Chater research. But why ask others for money; surely the Chater coffers must be overflowing? 'Yes, Chater left money to the family, but in the 80 years since his death it has dwindled as the families have grown and there is no money left,' she says. Some individuals at Hong Kong's leading companies and clubs - many of which owe so much to this man - have allowed access to their records. But none has yet put up the money required for a professional job, which Liz knows she can't do on her own. 'It's a question of finding the right person at the right time - there are funds for worthy projects in Hong Kong,' said Peter Stuckey, vice-president of the Royal Asiatic Society. 'It will begin to be seen to be in some company's interests,' he said.