2021-02-27 i-Cable interview | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

2021-02-27 i-Cable interview

i-Cable invited me on to their Wish TV programme (小事大意義) to talk about old Hong Kong photos, the Gwulo website, and one of the site's most touching stories.

The video starts at the Peak, using old photos to show how the famous view has changed over the years. Then we visit my home to look at how I work with the photos, before heading outdoors again to look at changes in Wanchai.

The second section switches gear to to talk about Gwulo's wartime diaries project, and in particular R. E. Jones's diary. Long-term readers will remember his daughter Rae contacted Gwulo, and read her father's diary here for the first time. Rae joins the video to talk about her experiences, ending by telling us how the diary helped her to understand, and finally to forgive, her father.

The dialogue is mostly in English, but the introduction and several voiceovers are in Cantonese. I've included translations to English below, courtesy of the reporter, Lam Lam Chu (朱琳琳). I've also posted links to the photos and stories mentioned, in case you'd like to take a closer look at anything we covered.

A big thank you to Lam Lam and to the cameraman, Jay (柳志輝), for all their good work:

(e-mail subscribers: if you can't see the video, please click here to view it in your browser)


Translations, and links to further information

  • 00:01 [Translation]

    There are many skyscrapers next to Victoria Harbour. But do you believe that more than a hundred years ago, there used to be a beach on Tsim Sha Tsui? There were even turtles coming ashore to lay eggs.

    Wow, interesting. I've never heard about that. I only know that Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower used to be the KCR station.

    I interviewed David, who collects a lot of Hong Kong old photos, some were even taken in the 19th century. He looks at the photos details like a detective, to discover the stories in it.

  • 00:35 [Photo] c.1886 View over Central and the Harbour

    c.1886 View over Central and the Harbour


  • 00:48 [Extra information] More photos of HSBC's headquarters (2nd generation)

  • 01:15 [Translation]

    David is British, but he may be more familiar with Hong Kong history than the native Hong Kong people.

    Because he collects a lot of old photos of Hong Kong, the change in Victoria Harbour is one of the series.

  • 01:25 [Photo] 1920s View down the Peak Tram line

    1920s View down the Peak Tram line


  • 01:30 [Photo] c.1946 View over HK harbour from May Road

    c.1946 View over HK harbour from May Road


  • 01:33 [Photo] 1965 View over Central & Harbour from The Peak

    1965 View over Central & Harbour from The Peak


  • 01:44 [Extra information] More photos of the KCR Terminus Station

  • 02:44 [Translation]

    David has collected nearly 2,000 old photos in these 10 years. He looks at each and every photo carefully to discover the stories behind.

  • 02:56 [Photo] 1919 88th Coy R.G.A. Junior N.C.O.'s

    1919 88th Coy R.G.A. Junior N.C.O.'s


  • 03:15 [Photo] c.1935 Des Voeux Road Central

    c.1935 Des Voeux Road Central


  • 03:35 [Translation]

    He acts as a detective to find out the year and location of the photos through detailed observation. Fashion from different ages is one of the hints. 

  • 03:42 [Photo] 1907 Tennis in Hong Kong

    1907 Tennis in Hong Kong


  • 03:55 [Photo] 1920s Lady in sedan chair in Statue Square

    1920s Lady in sedan chair


  • 04:05 [Translation]

    But even if David has good eyesight, not every mystery can be solved. If you want to locate the year and location, you have to seek help from other people.

    David created a historical photo database website, where everyone can post old photos and edit information.

  • 04:24 [Photo] 1950s Centre Street, Sai Ying Pun

    1950s Centre Street, Sai Ying Pun


  • 04:48 [Extra information] Gwulo's books: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4
    I've published a set of four books sharing some of my favourite photos and stories from my collection.



  • 05:10 [Translation]

    Living in Hong Kong for 30 years, David witnessed changes in Hong Kong himself. He finds taking and keeping photos are important to preserve history.

  • 05:20 [Photo] 1923 Damaged trams on Arsenal Street

    1923 Crashed trams on Arsenal Street


  • 06:01 [Translation]

    David's old photos unveil the change in Hong Kong. He also collects war diaries in Hong Kong. One of the diaries belongs to a British man who was in Stanley camp during WWII. He nearly divorced when his wife found this diary. 

    In her seventies, his daughter found the diary she thought was destroyed forever. Reading the diary helped her understand her father more.

  • 07:07 [Translation]

    David posted the diary on gwulo.com, hoping to reach R.E.Jones' family.

  • 07:27 [Translation]

    In R.E. Jones' diary, in addition to the life in Stanley camp and wartime news, he also wrote some romantic secrets.

  • 07:46 [Translation]

    During the three years in Stanley Camp, R.E.Jones had two romantic relationships. The first one started In 1942, he wrote down Morse code.

    The second one lasted for one year, he mentioned her almost everyday in the diary.

  • 08:19 [Translation]

    After the liberation of Hong Kong in 1945, the diary ended when R.E.Jones went back to the UK. David never knew R.E.Jones' choice between his affair or his family.

  • 08:50 [Translation]

    In 2013, a lady called Rae left a comment on gwulo.com, saying that she is the daughter of R.E.Jones. Her appearance answered David's question. 

  • 09:49 [Translation]

    When the diary was destroyed, Rae was only 4 years old. Later they went back to Hong Kong. But her relationship with father was always difficult when she grew up.

  • 10:48 [Translation]

    She searched her name in google 8 years ago, surprisingly found this diary which was supposed to be gone.

  • 11:26 [Translation]

    David went to the UK and returned the diary to Rae.

  • 11:56 [Translation]

    Her father's affair disappointed her, but the diary still helps her to understand father finally.

  • 12:47 [Extra information] Additional information about R. E. Jones and Rae:

If you'd like to see more photos and stories from old Hong Kong, please subscribe to Gwulo's free weekly newsletter.


Hello David,

I like to thank you very much for this web site. I retired last year in the states & was born in H.K. 1962 , been thinking of my childhood days since I have a very good memory of the old times.

your vintage maps from the 60's a few weeks ago - really trace to the streets  where I grew up w/ my family in N. Point . without going details - I  very much appreciate what you have done to save the historical value of H.K. in this web site . 

Cheers to you / Family

Mason  Loh  NYC 

Hi Mason,

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the site. Please join in and share any photos & memories if you see anything you can tell us more about.

Regards, David