Paul Chater

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Sir Catchick Paul Chater
Solemn studio portrait of a distinguished bald gentleman with white sideburns wearing a 3-piece suit; left arm on armrest of a chair
Sir Paul Chater in 1924
Senior Unofficial Member of the Executive Council
In office
8 September 1896 – 27 May 1926
Governor William Robinson
Henry Arthur Blake
Matthew Nathan
Frederick Lugard
Francis Henry May
Reginald Edward Stubbs
Cecil Clementi
Appointed by William Robinson
Succeeded by Sir Henry Pollock
Senior Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council
In office
1 May 1900 – 16 January 1906
Governor Henry Arthur Blake
Matthew Nathan
Appointed by Henry Arthur Blake
Preceded by Emanuel Raphael Belilios
Succeeded by Sir Kai Ho
Personal details
Born Khachik Pogose Astwachatoor
8 September 1846
Calcutta, India
Died 27 May 1926(1926-05-27) (aged 79)
British Hong Kong
Spouse(s) Maria Christine Pearson
Occupation Businessman
Religion Armenian Apostolic
Website [1]

Sir Catchick Paul Chater, CMG (Chinese: 遮打; 8 September 1846 – 27 May 1926), was a prominent British businessman of Armenian descent in colonial Hong Kong.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Chater was born Khachik Pogose Astwachatoor[1][2] in Calcutta, British India, one of thirteen offspring of Armenian parents Miriam and Chater Paul Chater. His father was a member of the Indian civil service.

Sir Paul was orphaned at the age of seven, and he gained entry into the La Martiniere College in Calcutta on a scholarship. He later became a benefactor of the school when, in the early 1910s he made the single biggest donation to any institution or organisation whilst still alive, donating eleven lakhs Rupees to the desperately struggling school, thus allowing it to avoid certain closure. To honour his contribution to the school, Sir Paul Chater's name was included in the school prayer.[3] In 1864,[4] he moved to Hong Kong from Calcutta and lived with the family of his sister Anna and sister's husband Jordan Paul Jordan.[5]

Career[edit]

Full-length sepia portrait of distinguished gentleman with sideburns, wearing a 3-piece suit; body slight left-tilt
Full-length portrait of Chater, c. 1903

In the early days in Hong Kong, he was an assistant at the Bank of Hindustan, China and Japan. Later, with the aid of the Sassoon family, he set up business as an exchange broker, resigned from the bank, and traded gold bullion and land on his own account.[5] He took sea-bed soundings at night in a sampan and was thus instrumental in plotting the reclamation of Victoria Harbour.[5] He is credited with a pivotal role in the colonial government's success in acquiring lands then held by the military, at a cost of two million pounds sterling.[4]

In 1868, he and Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody formed Chater & Mody, a largely successful business partnership in Hong Kong, although the firm's Hong Kong Milling Company (aka Rennie's Mill) failed in 1908 and resulted in the suicide of Albert Rennie.[5]

In 1886, He helped Patrick Manson establish Dairy Farm, and he entered the Legislative Council that same year, taking the place of F.D. Sassoon.[6] In 1889, he established Hongkong Land with James Johnstone Keswick.[7] Hong Kong Land commenced the land reclamation project under the Praya Reclamation Scheme in 1890. Persuaded by the suggestion of temporary councillor Bendyshe Layton that Hong Kong should have electricity, they secretly acquired an old graveyard in Wan Chai, where they built one of the earliest power stations in the world.[8] In 1890 the Hongkong Electric company went into production with his help as an informal member of the Executive Council.[9]

Sir Paul was enthusiastic in two sports: He played for the Hong Kong Cricket Club 1st IX, and was a thoroughbred horse racing enthusiast. He reportedly never missed the weekly races at the Happy Valley Racecourse in 60 years.[8] He set up the Chater Stable in Hong Kong in 1872 that won many races at Happy Valley.[10] The Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup, the Group One third leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown, is named in his honour.

In 1896, Chater joined government ranks when he was appointed to the Executive Council of Hong Kong, and served there until 1926, the year of his death.[6] Chater was knighted in 1902. In 1901, Chater constructed a very fine home with imported European marble at 1, Conduit Road, Hong Kong which he named 'Marble Hall'.[11] Therein, he housed his collection of fine porcelain. In 1904, Chater single-handedly financed the construction of St. Andrew's Church[4]

Some titles and positions held by Chater:

  • Master of the Perseverance Lodge 1873
  • Steward at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club
  • Chairman of the Board of Stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (1892–1926)
  • Senior Justice of the Peace in Hong Kong
  • District Grand Master of Hong Kong and South China (1881-1909)
  • Director of Dairy Farm Co. Ltd., 1886
  • Consul for Siam in Hong Kong
  • Treasurer and Chairman of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Committee 1887
  • Member of the Légion d'honneur by the French Government at Tonkin 1892
  • Member of the Public Lighting Committee 1896
  • Member of the Governor’s Executive Council 1896
  • Chairman of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Committee 1897
  • Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George 1897
  • Honorary degree of LL.D. by the University of Hong Kong[12] for services as the Honorary Treasurer 1923

Legacy[edit]

Angled view of a large 2-storey building in Indian style architecture
Marble Hall, subject of a 1935 Christmas postcard

Chater died in 1926, and bequeathed Marble Hall and its entire contents, including his unique collection of porcelain and paintings, to Hong Kong. The remainder of his estate went to the Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth in Calcutta, which runs a home for Armenian elderly, named The Sir Catchick Paul Chater Home.[5] He was interred at the Hong Kong Cemetery.

Chater's wife lived in Marble Hall as a life tenant until her death in 1935.[11][13] Ownership then passed to the government. It became “Admiralty House” – the official residence of the Naval Commander-in-Chief, and was commandeered by Japanese during their occupation. It accidentally burned down in 1946, and the government buildings occupied the site since its demolition in 1953. Government residences named 'Chater Hall Flats' are today located on the site of Marble Hall.[11]

Chater amassed a large collection of historical pictures and engravings relating to China which he gifted to the colony. The Chater Collection was subject to a work by its curator, James Orange, in 1924, at which time the collection stood at 430 items. Its backbone was the collection of Wyndham Law of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, and included oil paintings, watercolours, sketches, prints and photographs, most of which are based on landscape scenes of the South China trading ports in the 18th and 19th centuries, and of British activities in China.. (pg 9)[4] The Chater Collection was dispersed and largely destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and only 94 pieces (now an important part of the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art) are known to have survived.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Biography: Who Was This Man? CHATER. Liz Chater published 2010
  2. ^ “This was such a fantastic discovery for me and the first I knew that I had Armenian ancestors in my family”, HETQ online, 29 March 2010
  3. ^ Armenians in India: Mesrovb Seth, P.551
  4. ^ a b c d James Orange (1924). The Chater Collection: Pictures Relating to China, Hongkong, Macao, 1655-1860.
  5. ^ a b c d e England, Vaudine (16 December 2007) "Who was this man Chater?", Page 11, South China Morning Post
  6. ^ a b Vaudine England and Elizabeth Sinn, The Quest of Noel Croucher: Hong Kong's Quiet Philanthropist (Hong Kong University Press, 1998)
  7. ^ a b c Jason Wordie, Land-grabbing titans who changed HK's profit for good, 18 April 1999
  8. ^ a b "The Legacy of Sir Catchick Paul Chater", City Life, Retrieved 28 January 2011
  9. ^ Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced 2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume Two. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. Page 11. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-60-6
  10. ^ Coates, Austin China Races, Oxford University Press (China) (February 2, 1984) pp133-140
  11. ^ a b c Marble Hall Gatekeeper's Lodge (1901- )
  12. ^ Congregation (1923) - Sir Catchick Paul CHATER, Doctor of Laws, University of Hong Kong
  13. ^ According to her gravestone, Lady Maria Christine Chater was born 6 May 1879 and died 11 March 1935; but according to her birth certificate she was born 6 May 1874 in Granberga, Heby, Sweden
  14. ^ Press Release (23 March 2007). "Chater art collection goes on show", Hong Kong Museum of Art
  15. ^ The Hong Kong Government Gazette, March 19, 1909

External links[edit]

Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Preceded by
Frederick David Sassoon
Unofficial Member
Representative for Justices of the Peace
1886
Succeeded by
Frederick David Sassoon
Preceded by
Frederick David Sassoon
Unofficial Member
Representative for Justices of the Peace
1888–1906
Succeeded by
Henry Edward Pollock
Preceded by
Emanuel Raphael Belilios
Senior Unofficial Member
1900–1906
Succeeded by
Kai Ho
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Phineas Ryrie
Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club
1892–1926
Succeeded by
H. P. White
Political offices
New office Unofficial Member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong
1896–1926
Succeeded by
Chow Shou-son
Senior Unofficial Member of the Executive Council
1896–1926
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Pollock