Remember A Day

Portuguese rain insurance, heroin hidden among frozen prawns, and a bank teller’s nightmare: headlines from four decades 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, 10 January, 2019, 10:53am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2019, 11:05pm

A Portuguese hotel chain compensating guests for rainy weather, and a convicted murderer being set free due to a gender imbalance in the jury made the headlines four decades ago this week.

January 7, 1979

A publisher who helped found the Hong Kong edition of Tatler magazine faced charges of fraud and conspiracy in Nottingham, in Britain. William Guy Alexander Wayte, 71, and three others were accused of conspiring to defraud companies and individuals by publishing false and inflated circulation figures for the Nottingham Observer and The Tatler and Bystander magazines. Wayte suffered a heart attack during the committal proceedings and further sittings were temporarily suspended.

January 8, 1979

More than 2,000 employees of 30 factories in the Connaught Road West factory building would face a bleak Lunar New Year if the Public Works Department did not lift a closure order. The 20-storey building was on fire for more than two days a week before, resulting in the issuing of said order.

January 9, 1979

A fur company was given the maximum fine of HK$5,000 for arranging for cheetah skins to be sent to Hong Kong from Switzerland. The magistrate, J. Mullick, later said he thought the amount was inadequate and ordered the company to pay HK$2,000 in court costs. The skins were valued at HK$200,000.

The first Chinese bishop to be consecrated in the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong and Macau since 1949, the Right Reverend Cheung Wing-ngok, died the day before at the age of 63. His death came only six months after his consecration. Bishop Cheung had been suffering from cancer.

January 10, 1979

A “trusted” site agent for the Paul Y. Construction Co admitted he stole company money to throw parties, provide meals and offer a Lunar New Year incentive bonus to 180 casual workers on a major Mass Transit Railway site in a bid to meet the project deadline. The court was told Wong Shing-lun, 49, stole HK$7,928, which he had received on behalf of the firm for the sale of scrap metal.

A 50-year-old man made sure the tellers at his local bank in New York would be kept busy when he arrived with a million American pennies – totalling US$10,000 – he had collected over 20 years. Edwin Rommel had the coins carefully wrapped in 20,000 small packets in 200 bags weighing a total of 3½ tonnes.

A pensioner, 76, shot his wife dead when he mistook her for a burglar in the dark in their flat near Paris. He then had a heart attack when he discovered his mistake and was promptly sent to hospital for urgent care.

January 11, 1979

Bags of heroin were found hidden in cases of frozen prawns delivered to a number of Chinese restaurants in Glasgow, sending police on a large-scale hunt for smuggled drugs. Staff at four restaurants had discovered half-pound bags of heroin, each worth about HK$720,000.

Sex in the city of Beijing and a dozy burglar in Oklahoma: past headlines

The US Supreme Court freed a convicted murderer because of a policy in Missouri that excused women from serving on a jury at their request. Billy Duren contended that the state’s policy deprived him of a jury representing a cross section of the community, as the American constitution required. Duren had been convicted by an all-male jury in 1976.

January 12, 1979

A farmer was awarded the equivalent of HK$95,000 in damages in Lyons because the holding of the French ballooning championships near his farm panicked his cows and gave them diarrhoea.

A Portuguese hotel chain had come up with an original idea for pulling in more guests during the off-season – insurance against rain. The chain would pay the equivalent of about HK$45 to all guests in its hotels in the southern region of Algarve every time it rained for more than an hour between 9am and 6pm.

Four Chinese communist officials flying from Hong Kong to Tokyo stopped over in Taipei by mistake about two months earlier, monthly Hong Kong magazine Mirror reported. The plane had to stop in Taipei for 45 minutes during which the officials followed other passengers into the transit lounge. They were greeted by local customs officials who told them: “All are compatriots. No need for inspection.”

January 13, 1979

Hongkong Electric confirmed that the first stage of the transmission system for its new Lamma Island power station would be housed underground. This method of housing a transmission grid differed greatly from the overhead system planned for China Light’s new power plant at Castle Peak in the New Territories.

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