Re: Miss Lee and Latin

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Posted by Robin Selby on January 17, 2019 at 06:51:37 user RobinSelby.

In Reply to: Re: Miss Lee and Latin posted by John Wilson on January 16, 2019 at 00:30:27:

The information provided by John Wilson is very useful. In addition, when Miss Lee returned from Cambridge, she saw that her father was a ‘velly old man’. There was then a period when Miss Lee learned the business at her father’s side until he died.

The following page lists Admiralty charts available in 1880:

Chart 1262 covers Hong Kong to the Gulf of Liautung (modern Liaodong). It was corrected in 1879 and may be the chart which Miss Lee gave to the explorers. It seems to cover the route which the explorers wanted to take, at least to Hong Kong.

Readers of Mixed Moss will be aware of my theory that Miss Lee’s islands were actually based on the island of Nan’ao, which is off the city of Swatow/Shantou. There are some interesting files about Nan’ao in the Archives, which I have not yet read, but which have fairly full descriptions in the catalogue.

In 1844 Britons illegally living in Nan’ao to trade were ordered to evacuate (FO 682/1977/78, FO 682/1977/50, FO 682/1977/43) The last file states that Britons had built houses, roads and bridges in Nan’ao. So the bridge which impressed Captain Flint may have been built by Britons rather than Mr Lee. It is odd that they spent money on infrastructure, without any hope of revenue. This suggests a sizeable English settlement, but the fairly detailed account in the Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle of 1840 does not mention any English settlers.

FO 931/1031 of December 1849 reports on the trial of pirates arrested in the vicinity of Nan’ao. This shows that pirates operated near Nan’ao, and the authorities tried to stop them. This was a good reason for changing the business model from piracy to protection.

We can try to construct a timeline. All dates are rounded to the nearest ten years. Let us assume that the events of the book took place in 1930. From the drawing ‘Captain Flint recites his piece’, Miss Lee looks about 30, and was born in 1900. At that time Mr Lee was already ‘Olo Lee’ when the harbour master took up his job at exactly the same time. Presumably ‘Olo’ means ‘old’. Miss Lee went to Cambridge in about 1920, and returned home in her first year. Mr Lee died some time after, but allowing sufficient time for Miss Lee to learn the business and exercise her authority over the Taicoons.

We now have to decide what is meant by old and very old. Very old means say 70 or 80. If 70, then Mr Lee was born around 1850 and was 50 in 1900. Mr Lee was a very little boy when he was captured by the Dragon Island pirates, say in 1860. People would still remember the arrest of the pirates in 1849, and doubtless the authorities continued their efforts to control piracy. Mr Lee’s move into protection after he became Taicoon was therefore very wise.

Mr Lee’s junk sailed from Foochow (modern Fuzhou), which is perhaps where his family lived. Fuzhou is about 250 miles from Swatow/Shantou as the crow flies, at the other end of the Taiwan Strait. It seems odd that Mr Lee did not visit his family after he became Taicoon, but this would have interfered with the plot.

If Mr Lee became a father for the first time at the age of 50, and his wife died some time afterwards, then we can begin to get an idea of the bond between father and daughter. Clearly it was a foregone conclusion that she would succeed him. It must have been a great wrench to send her away for education, first to Hong Kong and then to Cambridge.

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