Since its mid-19th century beginnings, Hong Kong has figured – however tangentially – in the lives of many internationally acclaimed literary, artistic or cultural figures. W. Somerset Maugham , Martha Gellhorn , George Bernard Shaw , Noel Coward all passed through. Australian author, poet and television presenter Clive James , who recently died in Britain, aged 80, had a more personal Hong Kong connection, which he intermittently used for his work. His father, Albert Arthur James, became a prisoner of war of the Japanese in Singapore and lies buried at Sai Wan War Cemetery, in Chai Wan, where more than 1,500 Commonwealth casualties of World War II are commemorated. Many of those buried here were not involved in the brief Hong Kong campaign in December 1941 but after the fall of Singapore, in February 1942, several Allied servicemen were transported to Taiwan, then a Japanese colony, to work in the mines. Others, including James, were taken to Japan. In the late 1940s, the remains of those who had died in Taiwan were exhumed and relocated to Hong Kong; following the Chinese civil war and the communist assumption of power on the mainland in 1949, war graves located in a British territory were considered more secure. James survived the Japanese prison camps, but tragically died in September 1945, when the American B-24 transport aircraft on which he and other recently liberated POWs were travelling from Okinawa to Manila, in the Philippines, was diverted owing to a typhoon and crash-landed in Taiwan. Clive James wrote a moving poem, My Father Before Me (2004), partially quoted below, on visiting his father’s Hong Kong gravesite. This hillside, since I visited it first, Has stayed the same. Nothing has happened here. They trim the sloping lawn and slake its thirst. Regular wreaths may fade and reappear, But these are details. High on either side Waves of apartment blocks roll in, so far And no further, forbidden to collide By laws that keep the green field where you are Along with all these others, sacrosanct. For once the future is denied fresh ground … Back at the gate, I turn to face the hill, Your headstone lost again among the rest. I have no time to waste, much less to kill. My life is yours; my curse, to be so blessed. Born Vivian Leopold James, in Sydney, in 1939, he chose the name “Clive” as a child, after a character in a Tyrone Power film. (After Vivien Leigh starred in Gone with the Wind – released the year James was born – “Vivian”, however spelt, was considered a girl’s name.) James never knew his father. Aged six at the time of James Snr’s death, from time to time until the end of his life he recalled the childhood horror of witnessing his mother, Minora May, receive the news of her husband’s demise. Suddenly widowed, just as her pre-war marriage was about to be renewed, her life steadily fell apart and her clever young son had to make his own way in the world. In his poem, James wrote of his mother’s eventual death and hinted at what became of her life: “When the dreams cease, so too the nightmares …” In common with many of his generation of intellectually minded Australians, for whom the main point of their homeland was to escape it, James left for England in 1962, and remained there until his death. Nevertheless, being “Australian” played a major role in his long and successful career. Like pioneering feminist author Germaine Greer, a friend from their University of Sydney days, not living in Australia enabled him to flourish. Lack of cultural confidence impelled the shift. Britain was the usual destination, from which few exiles/expatriates ever permanently returned.