Via Ports

From Hong Kong to Hong Kong


Alexander Grantham, with a new introduction by Lord Wilson of Tillyorn

ISBN : 978-988-8083-85-5

History Echoes: Classics in Hong Kong Culture and History

January 2012

244 pages, 6″ x 9″, 35 b&w illustrations

  • HK$180.00

Sir Alexander Grantham was Governor of Hong Kong from 1947 to 1957, one of the most dramatic decades in the city’s history. This was a time of rapid reconstruction after World War II and growing prosperity. But civil war and revolution in China posed new challenges to the precarious British colony and tested Grantham’s skills as a diplomat. In this lively memoir, first published in 1965, Grantham describes his thirty-five years in the British colonial service, which began in Hong Kong with a government cadetship in the 1920s and ended here in 1957.

A new introduction by Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, Governor of Hong Kong from 1987 to 1992, reflects on Grantham’s contributions to Hong Kong.

Sir Alexander Grantham became Governor of Hong Kong in 1947 and served until 1957. His term of office saw rapid reconstruction and growing prosperity after World War II. Civil war and revolution in China drove hundreds of thousands of refugees into the British colony, while tense relations between Britain and the new People’s Republic gave rise to difficult and potentially explosive incidents in Hong Kong. Plans for democratic reform were quietly dropped as Grantham instead crafted an authoritarian form of government that combined strong leadership with gradual social reform – a system that lasted almost to the end of colonial rule.

In this elegant memoir, first published by the Hong Kong University Press in 1965, Grantham describes his thirty-five years in the British colonial service, which began in Hong Kong in 1922 and ended here in 1957; he also held senior positions in Bermuda, Jamaica, Nigeria and the South Pacific. Only a few of Hong Kong’s former governors have published anything about their terms of office here, but Grantham’s stands out as the most interesting and substantial. Via Ports is an important first-hand account of the workings of Britain’s colonial system. It also contains vivid, often amusing anecdotes about life behind the scenes in Government House during the long twilight of the British Empire.

Sir Alexander Grantham began his career in the British colonial service as a cadet in Hong Kong in 1922. He served in Bermuda, Jamaica and Nigeria, and as Governor of Fiji before returning to Hong Kong as Governor in 1947 until his retirement in 1957. Lord Wilson of Tillyorn was Governor of Hong Kong from 1987 to 1992.

“A lively, witty, candid and invaluable guide to understanding the mentality of colonial administration at its highest levels. Like all long-serving colonial governors Grantham was treated almost as a demi-god in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and it was only when he had his toes trodden on in a crowded railway carriage while on leave in England that he was powerfully reminded of how ordinary he really was.” —Steve Tsang, author of A Modern History of Hong Kong