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Hong Kong schools

More than 1,000 friends and pupils bid final farewell to Hong Kong’s Father Harold Naylor

Funeral mass was held at St Ignatius Chapel at Wah Yan College, Kowloon, where the Irish Jesuit had taught from 1967

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 3:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 10:16pm

More than 1,000 friends and pupils of Father Harold Naylor paid tribute on Thursday to the Irish Jesuit who co-founded Hong Kong’s first conservation group 50 years ago and ran a club for poor boys for a quarter of a century.

Reverend Michael Yeung Ming-Cheung, bishop of the Catholic diocese in Hong Kong, presided over the funeral mass at St Ignatius Chapel at Wah Yan College, Kowloon, in Yau Ma Tei.

The bishop praised Naylor as a friend who cared about the city, adding that he had been tasked to found the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office in 1981, when Hongkongers began to debate the city’s future and all eyes were on the diocese’s stance.

“I have known Father Naylor since then. At the time I kept close contacts with the media, particularly the South China Morning Post,” Yeung said.

“My remarks were quoted in reports of the Post nearly every two days. Father Naylor sent me every report in the Post which cited my remarks. He made highlights with sign pens in different colours, including those of my remarks he deemed not that good.”

Naylor died last Thursday at the age of 87.

Francis Yuen Tin-fan, one of Hong Kong’s best-known figures in stock market and financial circles, Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit and former Communications Authority chairman Ambrose Ho Pui-him were among the former pupils who attended the funeral mass. Martin Lee Chu-ming, founding chairman of the Democratic Party and an alumnus of the school, also came.

Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1931, Naylor came to Hong Kong in 1960 and taught at Wah Yan College from 1967. In 1968, he joined Lindsay Ride, former vice chancellor at the University of Hong Kong, and Dr Robert Rayne, vice-president of Chung Chi College, to found the Conservancy Association, the city’s first green group.

A supporter of democratisation in Hong Kong, Naylor spoke at a forum in 1987 to advocate direct elections to the Legislative Council the following year.

He operated the Poor Boys’ Club, which was later renamed the Wah Yan Children’s Club, from 1972 to 1997. The now-defunct club served youngsters from Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok.

Naylor wrote in his memoir, which was published online, that “it was like a Night School for street children, with games and activities. There was a bowl of noodles at 7pm and rudimentary teaching of Chinese, English and maths until 9pm. Those who came regularly were awarded every week with a bag of uncooked noodles and a tin of cooking oil, from American Relief Services, to take back to their mothers”.

Billy Wong Ho-lung, a school alumnus who graduated in 1992 and served as a student tutor at the club, said Naylor gave them a free hand in running the club.

“Father Naylor taught us a simple creed: fun without fund,” Wong said.

Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, head of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus in Hong Kong, said that as an environmentalist, Naylor frowned upon people driving private cars, “so much so that he often stopped parents from driving their kids to the school”.

Naylor left his remains to HKU for medical studies.

The long list of his pupils at the college includes lawmaker James To Kun-sun, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung.