1950s Star Ferry baby Christina North relives Victoria Harbour crossing

Woman delivered on one of the iconic vessels is back in city for first time since leaving aged 3

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 5:21am

Christina North is proud to tell people not just that she was born in Hong Kong. She adds that she entered the world on a Star Ferry boat crossing Victoria Harbour.

Her father was a British naval officer posted in Hong Kong at the time. On the day of North's birth in 1956, her mother was on the way to the British Military Hospital in Kowloon when she went into labour on the ferry.

North left Hong Kong before she turned three years old, but finally returned this week - for the first time - to her birthplace. The air ticket from her home in Cornwall, southwest England, to Hong Kong was a birthday present from her children.

"It's something I had wanted to do all my life," said North, 56, as she was about to board the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui.

It's something I had wanted to do all my life

She was surprised at the brevity of the journey, at 10 minutes, and that her mother could give birth during such a short ride.

North was told the journey took a bit longer in the 1950s, when there was less reclamation and Victoria Harbour was wider.

On September 14, 1956, North's pregnant mother knew her baby was coming. She was told she had plenty of time to get to the military hospital. But soon after she boarded the ferry, the baby started coming out. "She was saying, 'please help, please help!', and I can imagine she was very shy," said North.

Two navy boys on board were too shy to help, and people scanned the ferry looking for a nurse. In the end, when the nurse did come, North had been born.

North's father had fought in the Korean war, where his feet were frostbitten. The British navy decided to send him somewhere milder, so he was posted to Hong Kong.

"My mother cried when she first got here, because it's so busy. But after a week, she loved it," North said. The family moved back to Britain five years later.

North's memories of her earliest years in Hong Kong include Eileen, her amah, who looked after her and her sisters and played with them on the beach.

She was fascinated by today's vibrant city.

"I was, 'wow wow wow!' seeing all those lights and the buildings," she said. "My mother was very lucky to have that time in Hong Kong. She always said that."