Remember A Day

Vienna Boys Choir gets Christmas off, and China tests nuclear weapon: headlines from 40 years ago

  • A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 1:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 9:51pm

Faulty Hong Kong-made toy hair dryers being recalled from France, and the Vienna Boys Choir being banned from performing during Christmas because of an archaic labour law, was just some of the news that made headlines 40 years ago.

December 10, 1978

A 121-year-old man in the southern Thai province of Trang revealed the secret of his long life was daily prayers. Chantr Bunkaew, born in 1857 to a couple of rubber planters, claimed to have a good memory, and to be able to eat three bowls of noodles and half a plate of rice every day.

Hong Kong’s Governor Sir Murray MacLehose was being threatened with action – before the International Court of Human Rights at The Hague – by four former police officers who had earlier been sacked from the force without reasons or rights being explained or recourse to appeal.

December 11, 1978

A batch of Hong Kong-made hair dryers for dolls shipped to the French town of Merlebach were found to be faulty and had to be recalled. The electrical appliances, marked with a warning label, “Keep out of reach of children”, had already been handed out in an annual distribution of festive gifts to miners’ children in the eastern French town.

December 12, 1978

Hong Kong faced the prospect of a dirty Christmas. The 2,000-strong Urban Services Department Supervisory Staffs Union decided not to work on Sundays and public holidays beginning on Christmas Eve that year. Union leaders said they were disappointed that the government had persisted in its decision to appoint 78 members of the disbanded Hawker Control Force to become overseers, which deprived senior staff of the union of their promotional prospects.

December 13, 1978

Britain was urged to take full advantage of the fact that Hong Kong existed as a “free zone of China under British management”. The decision was made the previous week in the House of Lords during a debate on China’s relations with the United Kingdom.

Imported liquor would go on sale in China from January 1, 1979, but only to foreign residents and tourists, according to diplomats based in Beijing. They added that payment would be in yuan rather than foreign currencies.

December 14, 1978

The world-famous Vienna Boys Choir would not sing that year at the Christmas Mass in the Imperial Chapel, because a newspaper had unearthed an old child labour law that the choir had unwittingly violated for decades. The statute stated that it was illegal to make children work during school holidays. Except for the period during World War II, this would be Vienna’s first Christmas in 480 years without the choir performing.

Quarantine officers in Sydney seized and destroyed 12 African bullfrogs brought to Australia by President Bongo of Gabon, a local health official said. The creatures, intended for consumption, were found in a bag on board the presidential jet by health officials when it touched down in Sydney.

December 15, 1978

China detonated a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere at its Lop Nor test site in Xinjiang and the test was in the yield range of less than 20 kilotons, according to the US Department of Energy.

Police representatives said they were furious over the Liquor Licensing Board decisions to grant licenses to three places that were notorious for employing underage hostesses.

Lord Snowdon, whose marriage to Princess Margaret ended in divorce in May 1978, announced that he would marry again. His bride would be Lucy Lindsay Hogg, a television researcher, with whom he had been friendly for several years.

December 16, 1978

Malaysia lifted a year-old ban on Concorde flying through its air space, opening the way to resume London-Singapore flights. Malaysia had earlier barred the Concorde on the grounds of environmental and ecological hazards. The decision could open the way to supersonic flights to China and Australia.

Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history