We had set out to write a story about the Club bells which we have at all three Clubhouses but no sooner had we started, we realised we had a mystery on our hands which involved (gasp!) the Main Bar Bell!
The bell that is hung in the Main Bar is engraved with:-
Beneath the bell is a brass plaque which reads:-
“This bell was presented to the R.H.K.Y.C.
Noel V.A. Croucher, Esq. JP.
In the year 1956 for use on official occasions.
Any member who wishes to ring it for personal reasons
may do so but he will be required to buy drinks
for all other members present in the bar or who
arrive there within three minutes of the last strike.”
The bold is ours - stick with us... that's what got us thinking that something might not be quite right....
We had in our hands photographs of all of the Club bells and we saw that the bell that hangs above the Bistro Bar is engraved with
We also then remembered seeing a bell in the photograph of trophies that appeared in the 1978 China Sea Race programme and we dug that out and lo and behold it was the HANYANG 1940 bell. It was becoming clearer that the bell hanging in the Main Bar is not the one that was presented by Noel Croucher but was actually a China Sea Race trophy.
Starting with 1978 (the year the bell appeared in the China Sea Race programme) we scanned through the Ahoy and we found a photo of someone ringing the bell in 1988. So we thought that somehow between 1978 and 1988 the bells were swapped for some reason.
We then wrote to Bob Wilson, Past Commodore and who was also heavily involved in the Club development in the late 1970s early 1980s to see if he recalled the Main Bar undergoing renovation at that time. He replied with a no and asked why and we replied. He then went through some Ahoys and wrote back with his findings…
“The March 1976 issue of Ahoy! carried details of the 8th China Sea Race, including this …
As to the trophy, it is now possible to reveal that it is to be the ship’s bell from the old China Coaster “Hang Yang”. The bell will be hung permanently in the Club restaurant and a suitable plaque will go with it to carry the names of the winners. John Swire’s — the donors — will be making a replica available for the winner.
The same May 1976 issue of Ahoy! reported that . . .
Organising Committee Chairman, Doug Parsons, in a talk to the Rotary Club of Hong Kong (on 6th April, 1976), mentioned the Navigator’s trophy for the best kept log and charts of the race — this trophy taking the form of the ship’s bell from the last of the China Coasters the Hanyang, presented by China Navigation and Cathay Pacific Airways and now hangs in safe keeping over the restaurant bar in the Yacht Club.
The May 1976 issue also reported that . . .
The Swire Group … persuaded China Navigation Co., Ltd to present one of their highly-valued ship’s bell. Captain Maurice Burbidge obtained London’s permission to present the bell of the HANYANG, in which ship he made his first voyage under the Taikoo flag. This bell now hangs in the main Restaurant, and a replica was presented to the Hong Kong navigator who kept the neatest and best Log for the trip. Jack Faber of UIN-NA-MARA won this prize, and his Skipper Hector Ross was thrilled to make his first landfall on the line. Well done, Jack. On top of that, Overseas Containers Ltd., for whom Swire Shipping (Agencies) Ltd are agents, presented a sterling silver Lotus Bowl for the First Hong Kong yacht on Corrected Time. This is another handsome trophy, and it was won by WHITE RABBIT II who were only 2 minutes corrected time behind BALLYHOO in spite of arriving almost 33 hours later.
From the above quotations it seems that the HANYANG bell was presented in 1976 as a trophy for the CSR and should be hanging in the Club in addition to the bell presented by Noel Croucher.
Bob wrote "In 1976, when the HANYANG bell was acquired, the Bistro didn’t exist. It opened in late May 1978, when the first event held there was my 40th birthday party for some 80 guests, therefore, the HANYANG bell was most likely hung in the Chart Room, which was the main restaurant at that time. When the Bistro was being created, David Crowe, the interior designer, created a magnificent timber bar in the central vault, modelled on an old sailing ship and it’s possible that the HANYANG bell was relocated there as a feature of the bar. Photos would confirm whether this was the case. Sadly this bar was destroyed and replaced by a nasty Swedish coffee shop type of bar in the Northern vault."
It would seem right to swap the bells over and we had every intention to do so and set out to do it but on inspection it seems that at some point in the distant past the R.H.K.Y.C. 1956 bell was damaged so when one rings it, it sounds 'tinny' and also (and rather importantly) it wouldn't be able to support the weight of someone hanging on it as they climbed over (as you know they are prone to do in the Main Bar!).
So the two bells will remain where they are and we'll organise some plaques to explain!