Among Hong Kong’s least-remembered – yet most charming – occasional writers was Bella Woolf Southorn. Often known as Bella Sidney Woolf, she was the wife of Sir Wilfrid Thomas Southorn, Hong Kong’s colonial secretary (and occasional acting governor) from 1925-36. Born in 1877, one of 10 children of a prominent Jewish barrister in London, Britain, she travelled to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1907 to visit her civil-servant brother, Leonard Woolf. An early marriage to Robert Heath Lock, assistant director of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, Ceylon, saw her live near Kandy for some years. Lock died in 1915. A later marriage, at the age of 44, paired her with “Tom” Southorn – for whom Wan Chai’s Southorn Playground is named – one of Woolf’s Ceylon Civil Service contemporaries, and a long-time friend of both siblings. In 1911, Woolf returned to England, where he established The Hogarth Press, which published promising young authors, such as South African writer Laurens van der Post, as well as his wife Virginia Woolf’s novels. Bella produced an early guidebook to Ceylon from her extensive travels around the island. First published in 1914, and reprinted a number of times in the 1920s, How To See Ceylon remains of engaging period interest. Other books were collated from sketches published in local newspapers in Ceylon and Hong Kong (including the South China Morning Post ). Bella was not the first sometime journalist to recognise that her material could achieve a wider audience if gathered together, expanded and attractively illustrated. One such effort, Under the Mosquito Curtain , mostly derived from her Hong Kong years; Eastern Star-Dust , Chips of China and From Groves of Palm were other short stories and travel reminiscences. During her husband’s governorship of The Gambia (1936-42), she produced a detailed history of that West African territory. Years ago, my friend Joan Fuller recounted an amusing story about Bella’s consuming literary compulsions. Joan had returned to Hong Kong in 1931 to live with her father, Colonel H.B.L. Dowbiggin, a bill and bullion broker who was also an honorary aide-de-camp to the governor. Before her return to Hong Kong after boarding school in England, Joan had been presented as a debutante at court in London. This social distinction enabled her to deputise for the governor’s lady at official functions. Joan wryly recalled that the phone would often ring in the late afternoon at their home on The Peak for the governor’s private secretary to announce that Lady Southorn was suddenly “indisposed”, and could she come round that evening and stand in for Bella at an official dinner? Refusal was – of course – impossible. Dropping everything to oblige, Joan recalled how she would go upstairs upon her flustered, last-minute arrival at Government House to see how Bella was feeling, only to find the older woman engrossed at her desk with notebooks, papers, pencils and various drafts of her latest story spread out around her. A nearby pot of tea, an iced cake and some biscuits completed the ensemble. Almost invariably, there was nothing physically the matter, only a crippling inability to face yet another evening of stale, ritualised Hong Kong conversation. With a deputy on hand, and more intellectually fulfilling tasks that she would rather get on with, the choice was clear. Actively involved with the Girl Guides Association, Bella served as its commissioner in Hong Kong from 1926 to 1936, and was awarded the OBE in 1935. She died in England in 1960.