A Three-Term Chair and a Game-changer

The Helena May History Group is always delighted to hear from past members of the Club.  Recently we had a very interesting email from the son of one of our past Chairs, Mrs Margaret Moore.  Andrew Moore told us that his mother will celebrate her 90th birthday in July 2019. 

Margaret Moore was Chair of The Helena May three times.  Her first term of office, from 13 Nov 1968 to 11 Mar 1970, coincided with very difficult years in Hong Kong’s history.   The Cultural Revolution in China meant political unrest in Hong Kong.  The Helena May residents would watch from their balconies as the communist protesters made their way up Garden Road to Government House to demonstrate against British rule.  A number of families left Hong Kong during this time and at one point subscriber membership was as low as 123 members.  Today we have over 1,000 members.  Residential members also left.  Many were young girls and they were recalled to their home countries by their families who feared they may be in danger.  Residential members were down to about 20.   To save money only two amahs were retained out of the usual five.   In 1968, the Court building (or the Annex as it was then known) was forced to close since it had no residents.  In 1969, the Club was fortunate enough to find a tenant for this building – the Scouts’ Association – to bring in some much needed revenue.   However the Council feared it may soon have insufficient funds to keep operating. 

From 2nd left - Derek Moore, Ron Eltringham, Shirley Eltringham and Margaret Moore

It would not have been easy to keep the Club going under these conditions and yet the Council ladies found a way to do it.  On 8 December 1969, Margaret Moore took part in a lengthy interview on Commercial Radio to address any negative criticism against The Helena May and to encourage new residents and subscriber members to join.

Andrew Moore has told us that his mother’s first tenure as Chair ended when the family departed from Hong Kong.  Andrew’s father worked for Swire and the family were moved in 1970 to the Bahamas for one year.  He believes his mother would have been anxious to take up the reins again on their return.  Mrs Moore would spend hours in the office of The Helena May working for the Club.  She would often bring Andrew with her and he would be free to amuse himself.  He spent a lot of time with the Club librarian, at that time Mrs Joan Conway.  Andrew credits Joan with introducing him to the pleasure of reading, which has stayed with him to this day.  Andrew also says that when he looked at the list of past Chairs he found a number of familiar names – the sons of whom he went to school in Hong Kong in the 1970s. The Helena May was always very much a part of the Hong Kong community.

Margaret Moore and husband (on right) with friends, 1970
Margaret Moore and son Andrew at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show on her 89th birthday in 2018

Margaret Moore served two further terms as Chair – from 16 Nov 1971 to 15 Nov 1973 and later 16 Jan 1979 to 18 Sept 1981. By 1972 the focus of the Council would still be on how to increase the membership.  There were still only 136 subscriber members in 1972. During Mrs Moore’s second term of office the Council took the brave decision to invest money to turn the Court Building from dormitory style accommodation to serviced apartments.  The newly refurbished Court Building opened on 15 Nov 1973 and at this time it adopted the name of Court Building rather than Annex – since it was built on the site of the old tennis court.  To this day opening serviced apartments in the building has proved to be a very good decision.  By the time of Margaret’s third term as Chair, old ideas were being overturned.   In December 1980, a no-smoking policy was put in place for the bay window end of the Blue Room.

Margaret Moore saw The Helena May through many difficult challenges.  She certainly deserves our sincere thanks for a job well done during her years of stewardship and our very best wishes for her 90th birthday.

Diane O’Hare

Member of THM History Group