My favourite street name in Hong Kong has to be Rednaxela Terrace, just off the the Central-Mid Levels Escalator above Caine Road.
The most plausible explanation for this peculiar name is that the street was supposed to have been Alexander Terrace but the Chinese sign-painter placed the letters from right to left, which was how Chinese read at that time. The mistake could easily have been corrected but somehow the name stuck.
José Rizal, the Philippine’s revered national hero, lived at number 2, Rednaxela Terrace together with some family members for about six months from 1891-1892, while he worked as an opthalmologist at 5, D’Aguilar Street. Austin Coates, in his excellent biography on Rizal describes the area as follows:
A small house, which they furnished and decorated themselves, situated some 300 feet above sea level on the steepest part of the Peak in an area occupied mainly by Portuguese families, originally from Macao, who were the backbone of Hong Kong’s middle class.
This area would have looked a lot different from today and this is the type of view which Rizal might have enjoyed.
His next door neighbour was a prominent Portuguese, Dr. Lourenço Pereira Marques. They became good friends. Marques was at the time a prison medical officer at the nearby Victoria Gaol.
(Amazingly (for Hong Kong), this prison remained in service until 2005 and has now been declared a protected monument.)
Marques was over-qualified for this job but there was little prospect of promotion because in those days, Hong Kong Portuguese were unfairly confined to the lower rungs of the civil service even though Marques himself was a British citizen.
From 1894 he was involved in the fight against bubonic plague which killed 8,600 people in Hong Kong over the next seven years with a 95% fatality rate for those infected.
Marques’ mother, Maria Ana Josefa Pereira owned an estate in Macau which included the Jardim Luis de Camòes, one of my favourite spots in the territory.
A street in Macau was named after Rizal’s friend, Rua Do Dr. Lourenço Pereira Marques which runs along the western harbour of the Macau peninsula. By the way the old name for Maputo in Mozambique, Lourenco Marques, is nothing to do with this individual but was named after a much earlier namesake, a Portuguese trader who first explored the area in 1544.
Marques was not particularly happy with his situation in Hong Kong and was interested to migrate. Indeed over the 120 or so years since his time, many of the Portuguese/Macanese population of Hong Kong moved on to new lives in places like Canada, Australia and Portugal.
Perhaps they should have retained their properties in Hong Kong. Number 1, Rednaxela Terrace is now an apartment block and a single compact 1800 sq. ft. flat with 3 small bedrooms is today on the market for a whopping HK$40,000,000 (US$5million).
During Rizal’s short residence in Hong Kong another Asian national hero and revolutionary, Sun Yat-sen, the future first President of China, was also in Hong Kong as a student at the Hong Kong College of Medicine. They do not appear to have met despite the fact that Marques was one of Sun Yat-sen’s lecturers.
When I was last in Hong Kong I visited the Sun Yat Museum which is at Kom Tong Hall, a former grand residence belonging to local businessman, Ho Kom Tong. The location is at the corner of Castle Road and Caine Road and is just a short walk from Rednaxela Terrace. It’s a small world in Hong Kong!