|Country of Origin
|Ha Wang Chun, Wang Sui Heung, Toishan, China
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
|Peter Liu OAM
The remarkable stories of Lew Nam and his son Dr Eddie Liu OAM, OBE, Hon.D. Qld Univ.- Part one
According to an ancient, time-proven Chinese proverb, just like a fish, everything must have a head and tail. In other words, everything must have a beginning and end.
The tail for Lew Nam ended with his burial in Carlton Cemetery, Melbourne, on February 12th 1947. He was 64 years of age. Lew Nam (Lau Hung Kwong) was the second of five brothers born in Ha Wang Chun, Wang Sui Heung, Toishan on December 7th 1882 and migrated to Australia in 1898. Two sons subsequently followed him to ‘The Lucky Country’, Lau Ling Chim known as Eddie Liu and Lau Ling Po known as Richard Liu in 1938 and 1947, respectively. 448 years earlier to the day of Lew Nam’s burial, on February 12th 1499, in the 12th year of the reign of Emperor Hongzhi during the Ming Dynasty, Toishan was founded as Xinning County from rural land in the southwest of Xinhui County.
Lew Nam was the son of a humble farmer and worked extremely hard for very little reward. In fact, everyday was a Herculean struggle to survive and for most Toishanese leaving the family well (emigration) was the only feasible opportunity for betterment similar to the Irish who suffered the same fate of starvation and pandemic disease as a result of the Gorta Mor – the potato blight from 1845 to 1852.
Toishan is absolutely devoid of redeeming features save and except for its popular people who are outstanding entrepreneurs, street-smart, resilient, honest, adaptable, hard working, generous, thrifty, self-starting, good cooks, and typically enjoy a cohesive family unit with tremendous respect for their ancestors.
It was a case of to get anywhere,
move somewhere or get nowhere!
Lew Nam established two businesses in Melbourne. He was a talented Chinese Herbalist with a well-patronized practice, Ming Lew, in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. Back in the village even today many people live without disease-fighting antibiotics, anti-depressant drugs, indoor plumbing, flushing toilets, refrigerators, seriously limited electricity, and poor Internet access. To prevent illness or treat disease, Traditional Chinese Medicine provided most of the answers.
To supplement the revenue from his Herbalist practice so he could send money back to Hong Kong to pay for his sons to attend La Salle College, the most prestigious school in Hong Kong, Lew Nam operated one of Melbourne Chinatown’s first Keno establishments – a game that originated in China. Lew Nam had no formal education but held an unshakeable belief in providing his sons with the best quality education so future generations might enjoy better lifestyle standards.
La Salle College provided Eddie and Richard with a basic education in the English language as well as other core subjects including Catholicism.
A life without religion is a life without principles, and a life without principles is like a ship without a rudder
Eddie was born near the corner of Shing Wong Street and Hollywood Road, Hong Kong on May 25th 1922, the same year the Admiralty for the Committee of Imperial Defence stated that the event of an outbreak of war with Japan would find Britain in a position of inferior naval strength in Eastern waters and basically Hong Kong was to be ‘written off’ in the event of future Japanese aggression.
Eddie came to Australia in 1938 at age 16 on the SS Tanda, the same year that the Chiefs-of-Staff in London reaffirmed that Hong Kong was not a vital outpost thus foredooming the British garrison in the event of war. He attended Parade College, a strictly disciplined Irish Christian Brothers College in Melbourne and completed his studies in 1939. The school’s motto, “Tenete Traditiones”, meaning hold fast to traditions, acted as a guiding light to keep the Chinese traditional values that he treasured in his heart.
In the meantime, in May 1938, Japan extended the ‘China Incident’ to the south of the country landing fighting forces in Amoy. In October 1938, a well-equipped and ill-intentioned Japanese expeditionary force landed at Bias Bay just 35 miles to the north east of Hong Kong. Canton fell to the enemy on the May 21st 1938.
With the Japanese positioned within striking distance of Hong Kong, it was decided that Kowloon and the New Territories could not be defended.
This sealed the fate of Eddie’s mother! Early 1939 witnessed the capture of Hainan Island by the battle-hardened Japanese. Hong Kong was all but isolated from the rest of China. Eddie had made the right move at the right time in leaving for Australia in December 1939.
See Part 2.