RYRIE, Phineas JP 1829-1892


The foundation builder of HKJC


The Honorable Phineas Ryrie JP a tea merchant, and the first chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1884.






1829, Phineas Ryrie was born in Scotland.


1884, became the first chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.


1867, until his death, he had been also chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce. and a Senior Unofficial member of the Legislative Council, for 24 years.


1878-10-07, during a public debate in City hall, he proposed to increase the penalty for the violation of order and peace.


1892-02-22, Phineas Ryrie passed away in the age of 63.






He originally came from Stornoway in the remote far north of Scotland. He was one of three brothers renounced for their connection to the China trade who all made their names at sea.


One brother, Alexander, drowned in 1855, when his ship, Jardine Matheson’s Audax, was lost with all hands during a typhoon en route from Shanghai to Hong Kong.


The older brother John Ryrie was famous as the captain of Jardine Matheson’s big tea clipper, the ‘Cairngorm’.


Phineas Ryrie established his business reputation as a trader in Hong Kong, initially with Turner & Co. Together with his partner Alexander Finlay Smith, who had previously worked for Scotland’s Highland Railway.


He founded the High Level Tramway Company to build the Peak Tram and also built himself a mansion on The Peak, which he called “Craig Ryrie“.






Phineas Ryrie, a socially conscious businessman, was renowned for promoting freedom of speech in the Legislative Council. He also spoke out against legalizing gambling, which makes his appointment as the inaugural Jockey Club chairman some what surprising, despite his known love of racing.






He was a sporting enthusiast. He introduced rabbits to Stonecutters’ Island so he could shoot them. But the rabbits failed to reproduce. Perhaps they knew Sir Phineas was watching.


Inscriptions for cemetery sections 10-16: Sacred to the memory of ELIZABETH ANN MARY, the beloved wife of PHINEAS RYRIE – She departed this life in Hong Kong, the fifth day of February 1866 – aged 24 years.


Phineas Ryrie, a prominent inaugural HKJC Chairman and a passionate follower of racing, though he claimed to have made only one bet in his life. [according to the book 《China Races》by Austin Coates.






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