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On January 14th, 1865 Thomas Jackson arrived in Hong Kong for the very first time. He was 23 years old, and had a contract to work for the Agra and Masterman's Bank. He started work an hour and a half after first setting foot on shore. When the Agra was on its last legs, he was given permission to leave their employ, and to start working for the very new bank which would later become known around the world as HSBC.
Sharon Oddie Brown. June 7, 2015
NOTE: This letter was shared thanks to the generosity of Christine Wright of Gilford Castle.


 Old Dutch Church - Penang

The church where Thomas Jackson spent Xmas day in 1864. Photo Credit: Travel Places Sri Lanka



 My annotated transcription - with scans of originals.

The Agra & United Service Bank, Ltd

Hong Kong 14 Jany 1864 [sic - 1865]

My dear Aunt[1]

I arrived at my destination this morn-

ing at 8.0.C and commenced operations in

my new harness at 9:30. The Mail leaves this

evening at 6.0.C and I will only have time

To write a short letter –

I wrote to Mother from Galle[2] which

I dare say came under four lines.

After enjoying the beautiful scenery &

Climate of Ceylon for 8 days the China

Ship arrived and we proceeded on our

journey. We spent Xmas day at Galle.

The morning was lovely, towards noon

the heat became intense, and suddenly

dense clouds  [???] to the heavens and

a tremendous fall of rain came down.

Most of our passengers went to Church[3]

and heard a very good sermon, and

really excellent singing. Bishop Heber’s

Hymn  “From Greenlands Icy Mountains

The Halleluyah Chorus[4] and the delightful

piece from the Messiah Oratorio “I know

that my redeemer liveth &c”  was in among

the Collection sung. On the 27th of Decr

our good ship weighed anchor and our

party had good [???] to Ceylon. I must

 1865 letter p1

not miss mentioning our Xmas

dinner. It was worthy of all England –

When the dishes were removed and each

glass filled. Our Gallant Captain[5]

stood up and in a very appropriate

speech proposed as the Toast of the day

“Absent Friends”. It was responded to

by three cheers, certainly the  heartiest

cheers  ever I heard, then following

other toasts, the decanters passed around

quickly but still the Captain’s toast

kept ringing in our ears and present

to our minds were “Absent Friends

Nothing of any consequence occurred

before we came to Penang save the

usual every day incidents of a first

class ship; some good miles from home

Rum fellows. Rum sayings and Rum

doings. All sorts of Rum Mischief &ct.

We remained 6 hours at Penang –

It is a lovely place – I could not find

any place out at the East to compare

with it. It looks like Fairy ground –

We visited the famous Penang Waterfall

And Baths. The fall is magnificent.

In front is a Hindu temple apparently

very old. And as the spectator perches

on a rock and gazes on the Cataract above

the precipice below the foliage of hundreds

of trees intervening and “the Sea the Sea the Dark Blue

Sea”[6] in the distance, the eye is pleased and

the mind exclaims “Paradise”

Our next stopping place was Singapore

considered the most beautiful place in

 1865 p2

the beautiful East. We remained here

for 8 hours and our party made the most

of the time. It is a delightful place and

fully came up to our expectations. At

Singapore the heat was very great; we

quickly passed from extreme heat to a

Climate nearly like our own, every

morning and evening we found it

Colder. Colder. When ten days out from

Singapore we encountered very {???]

occasioned by the North West Monsoon[7]

it continued the whole way but with

greater violence for the last four days

it was regularly furious. With the

exception of a little sea sickness Your

humble servant kept all right –

Time presses. My first impression of

H Kong &c &c will be penned by another Mail -

I am regularly tik tok. Love to all

Ever your [???] nephew


 1865 p3

 Penang Waterfall

Aquatint of the 400ft Waterfall at Penang Botanic Gardens in 1818 SEE: Wiki


[1] Great-Aunt Barbara DONALDSON née BRADFORD (1783-1865). I suspect that either she or her daughter (or both) were responsible for covering the fees for Thomas Jackson’s schooling at Morgan’s School in Dublin. His close relationship with this aunt included significant conversations on matters of politics, finance, and religion.

[2] Galle is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Much of the Old Town would have been as it was when Thomas Jackson visited.

[3] Until 1888, when All Saints Anglican church was erected, visiting Protestants worshiped at the Dutch Reformed Church.

[4] Handel’s "Hallelujah Chorus". It was first performed in Dublin as part of a charity event on 13 April 1742 at the Fishamble Street Hall. So that the largest possible audience could be admitted to the concert, gentlemen were requested to remove their swords, and ladies were asked not to wear hoops in their dresses. SOURCE: Wiki.

[5] His ship was the Emeu. I have been unable so far to determine the name of the Captain on this voyage.

[6]  This is a quote from Byron (and there are other versions): 
The sea, the sea, the dark blue sea, 

The bright, the pure, the ever free


[7] North West Monsoon: A wind is named according to the direction that it blows from.



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