OUR MEMORIES
1858-02-18 Annual Race Meeting



 

 

Illuminated Show; Illustrated News

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1858-02-18 Hong Kong Annual Race Meeting
There were six races on each of the three days of this event.
Four of the six Cups — the Macao, Border, Parsee and Fakei
— having been carried off by horses from Shanghai, jockeyed by their spirited owners.
For the Hong Kong riders the 1858 Meeting was something of a debacle.
The Shanghai jockeys carried off most of the cups, and the Hong Kong newspapers commented sourly.
The Wongneichong Stakes were won by a pony named POSTILLION, owned by Mr Mackenzie of Shanghai and ridden by Mr Stuart of the Royal Engineers.
(This pony was said to have been bred in Japan.)
Mr Mackenzie had another success in the Macao Cup, in which he rode his own horse, SYDNEY—which then won the Parsee Cup as well, doing the 1-12 miles in record time, 3 mins. 1 sec.
Mr Mackenzie followed up these successes by taking the Border Gold Cup (gold) presented by Mr. R. Jardine for all horses, with his Australian horse CANROBERT;
and with the same horse he then won the Fakei Cup, beating the great IVANHOE owned by the Jardines into second place.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

1857 March, Wirgman was the first of six correspondent artist sent to China by 《Illustrated London News》.
1857 May, he arrived in Hong Kong,
1857-07-17 《Illustrated London News》published his first sketches covering the wars.
A series of first hand reports of China and Asia were presented weekly thereafter.
His visualization was rich in color and humor as much as war and politics and extended to the custom and culture.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

1858-02-18 Charles Wirgman Special Artist and Correspondent in China, writing from Hong Kong, described these races:

 

Three days out of the year the great ‘joss’ to whom British and Chinese alike bend the knee was neglected —
I alluded to the divinity of China, the ‘almighty dollar.’
The Celestials actually ceased buying and selling during their New Year.
Colonial John Bull emerged from behind his counter to enjoy the races, and to rest from his toils.
I was tempted to stay and see the said sport, and accordingly started on the morning of the 18th of February,
and a more magnificent day it was impossible to conceive: not a cloud in the pure sky above them.
A gentle breeze, moderating the ardour of the mid-day sun, made the atmosphere delicious.

 

At 11 a.m. we arrived at the racecourse, in the ‘Happy Valley
— a lovely spot, indeed, situated about a mile and a half from Victoria, and the last resting place of those who die here.
The burial-ground is at the foot of one of the lofty grassy hills which form this valley: there are, in fact, three places of interment
— one for the Protestants, one for the Roman Catholics, and one for the Parsees.
Just opposite to these were the stands and stables; whilst the flat plain was studded with all manner of nations
— the French, Malays, East Indians, Manila Indians, blue-jackets, marines, and Celestials.
Umbrellas were in such abundance that, seen from a height, you fancied the place was filled with animated mushrooms, or, from their various colours, rather toadstools.
The races began in the afternoon and afforded great pleasure.
The Chinese are as much excited as the English, and bet with much adore.

 

The road presented rather a contrast to the Derby, but if the carriages were not numerous the chairs were;
the Celestial fair ones came out in full force, dressed with great neatness and taste.
The crowd differed from a race one in England in a great many respects, but first and foremost in the total absence of intoxication and in its quiet conduct.
There was a grand stand, filled with swells and crinoline;
but the native ones afforded more scope for the pencil, and accordingly I selected the shilling one, of which you can judge by the sketch I inclose.

 

The races lasted three days; but the last day deserves particular mention, as the Celestials had a race themselves on native ponies.
Thirteen started, and four or five of the riders fell off first go; the merriment of the spectators baffles all description;
however, the dismounted cavaliers showed great pluck and got up, grinning, as if nothing had happened;
four of them kept well together, and a lucky fellow came in in gallant style, amid great applause;
but some of the others were nowhere, and many of the quadrupeds came in without riders, seemingly enjoying the fun as much as anybody else.
A good race finished the sport, and Hong Kong went to dinner, and was merry.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

A special correspondent of 《The Times》, writing of the same race Meeting, said:
“When we first see the racecourse in the Happy Valley we are half tempted to declare that it is the most picturesque spot in the whole world.”
Some other writers, noting the proximity of grandstand and tombstones, and quoting Hong Kong’s high death rate, descended to cheap cynicism.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

1861 April, Wirgman went to Japan and lived there until he passed away in Yokohama.
Most of Wirgman’s drawing and watercolors were subsequently engraved for publishing.
They were signed and annotated with detailed information.

 

John Bull, in literature and political caricature, is a conventional personification of England or of English character.
Bull was invented by the Scottish mathematician and physician John Arbuthnot as a character in an extended allegory that appeared in a series of five pamphlets.
In 1712 and later in the same year they were published collectively as The History of John Bull.

 

 

EXTERNAL LINK

 

《Illustrated London News》 – Wikipedia

 

 

 


 

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