Sir Charles Stewart Addis

Charles Stewart Addis was born in Edinburgh in 1861. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy before moving on to work for Peter Dowie and Co. in Leith. Addis then relocated to London in 1880, where he joined the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).

Making a career in the Far East

The bank had been founded in Hong Kong in 1865 by Thomas Sutherland, another Scot, who sought to support the emerging Asian markets with a bank established on Scottish principles. It was the move to London and the HSBC that was to bring Addis out to the Far East a few years later, making him one of the Scottish sojourners there. This was a group of temporary migrants who never sought to permanently relocate to Asia, but rather saw it as a stepping stone to making a good career for themselves, always being intent on returning home to Scotland or the British Isles eventually.

Addis first went to Asia in 1883, when he was posted to Singapore. Typical of many employed in the financial and business sector, Addis did not remain in Singapore for long, soon moving on to the HSBC head office in Hong Kong. He then became one of the first bankers from the West to live in Beijing, arriving in the city in 1886. Addis was very interested in what went on around him, so was delighted when Alexander Michie, a fellow Scot with a long history of working in the East and the then editor of the Chinese Times which was published in Tientsin, asked him to write contributions for the paper.

Addis’s life as a sojourner continued as he went on to work in a several Asian cities between 1889 and 1900, including Tientsin (1889), Shanghai (1889-1891), Calcutta (1891) and Rangoon (1892). Addis then broke his sojourn with a return trip home in 1894, meeting Eba McIsaac, the woman who was to become his wife. After his marriage, Addis was again sent to work in Shanghai, before being appointed HSBC agent in Hankow (1896) and Calcutta (1897). In the final years of his time in the Far East, Addis was sub-manager in Shanghai. It was there that he also became involved in the local St Andrew’s Society.

Addis’ illustrious career did not end in Asia, however, as he eventually returned to the London Office of HSBC as Junior Manager in 1905; he became Senior Manager six years later. Crowning his career, Addis was made Director of the Bank of England in 1918. The Far East remained, however, one of his main interests. Addis was heavily involved, for example, in a number of organisations that sought to facilitate links between Britain and Asia, including the British and Chinese Corporation. Addis died in Sussex on 14 December 1945.

Shanghai Scottish

The Shanghai Volunteer Corps, incl Shanghai Scottish, was a multinational force controlled by the Shanghai Municipal Council.

Photograph references AL-s04 (Archibald Lang) & Ep01-060 (Adrienne Livesey, Elaine Ryder and Irene Brien) from Historical Photographs of China.

Sir Walter Scott and Shanghai

When Shanghai’s St Andrew’s Society and its guests gathered at the Shanghai Club to celebrate St Andrew’s Day in 1879, it was not the customary ball that was held, but a ‘Waverley Ball’, organised ‘in honour of the Patron Saint and the Poet Novelist of Scotland.’ As had already been reported in a local paper in the summer of 1879, guests were meant to be dressed as characters from Scott’s Waverley novels: ‘We hear with pleasure that the members of St. Andrew’s Society have decided to give a fancy dress ball, about the 30th November next. It can most appropriately be styled a “Waverley Ball,” as the dresses are to be copies of those of the characters in the Waverley-Novels. It is desired that the tout ensemble shall be as complete as possible, hence the notification so long in advance.’

While the press levied some criticism after the event, noting that ‘there was a tendency to substitute the payment of dollars at a store for the intelligent effort to represent a particular character; and secondly, there was too much reliance placed on picture books issued in the time of Sir Walter Scott’, the ball was a great success. This was the case not least because of the great decorations. In the ballroom ‘evergreens and flowers were entwined round the doors, windows, pictures, mirrors and pillars, while in a prominent position on the south wall was the venerated, veritable, and much revered portrait of St. Andrew’. Dinner was provided, including potted pheasant, venison, haggis and a selection of patisseries. Books were provided at the entrance for guests to sign, providing details as to the Waverley characters used. This remarkable event displaying Scottishness in Asia came to its end only in the wee hours of the morning.

The St Andrew’s Society of Shanghai is the earliest traceable Scottish association set up in China, with evidence suggesting that it was established in 1865; it certainly was in full operation by 1866, when an annual report was published in the North China Herald.

Scottish club life in Shanghai

From celebrations of Robert Burns to other get-togethers, much of the club life of Scots in Shanghai, and that of other immigrant groups, took place at the Shanghai Club. Founded in 1861, it was the principal men’s club for British residents of Shanghai.