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  • The Golden Needle

The Golden Needle

The Biography of Frederick Stewart (1836-1889)

Gillian Bickley

English , 1997/01 Proverse Hong Kong

Tags: Biography

200 x 130 mm , 320pp ISBN / ISSN : 978-962-8027-08-8

  • US$18.00

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The Golden Needle: The Biography of Frederick Stewart (1836-1889) was first published in November 1997, a few months after the former British Crown Colony of Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty. Described as a praiseworthy contribution to post-colonial studies by prestigious Hong Kong daily, Ming Pao, the book has an introduction by Lord Wilson, penultimate British Governor of Hong Kong and one-time editor of The China Quarterly, and a Foreword by Lady Saltoun, Chief of Clan Fraser, whose forebear employed Stewart's grandfather on the land for a period of years. The book has been favourably reviewed by Lord Hurd, former British Foreign Secretary and 1998 Chairman of the Booker Prize, in The Scotsman. The Golden Needle describes Stewart's early years in rural North East Scotland and his determined ambition to win a university education, encouraged by parents with a respect for both education and the church. Attracted by an advertisement for an Inspector of Schools in Hong Kong and the combined post of Headmaster of a new modern school for boys, Stewart relinquished his training to be a Minister of the Church of Scotland, and set sail for Hong Kong, where he arrived in 1862. During his years in still-developing Hong Kong, Stewart established the building blocks of the present-day Hong Kong system of Education, winning respect for his powers of organisation and moral discipline as well as considerable affection for the kindness with which he treated pupils and students. He became an expert in spoken Cantonese (the medium through which he taught his Chinese pupils) and also studied written Chinese. His language education policies and the bi-lingual, bi-cultural, curriculum he insisted on in his flagship Central School (now Queen's College) still attract interest today. Leave was rare and expensive in those days when a one-way journey could take a minimum of six weeks, and Stewart returned home to Scotland once only, after seventeen years in post. He died in Hong Kong at the comparatively early age of fifty-two, in 1889. After a stressful tussle with hostile governor, John Pope Hennessy, he had been promoted as Head of the permanent Hong Kong Civil Service two years previously, occasionally acting as Governor himself. After his death, the evaluation of his personality and work was entirely favourable. Subsequent opinion has confirmed these views, and Stewart is secure in his reputation as the founder of Hong Kong Government Education. Reviewers have been united in their praise of Stewart's personality, as revealed in this book, which has been described as a short history of early Hong Kong education, told through the life of its founder.

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