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Story: Yue, Henry Jackson

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Yue, Henry Jackson


Teacher, translator, consul

This biography, written by Nigel Murphy, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Yue Ah Hee, a Chinese merchant, emigrated to Otago, New Zealand, from the village of Lee Yuan, Sunning (Taishan) county, Guangdong province, and in 1877 married a Scottish domestic servant, Mary Ferguson. On 15 July 1881 at Roxburgh the fourth of five children was born, and registered with the personal name of Henry Jackson. He was later known by varying combinations of his family name (Yue) and given names, and was also called Yue En Ho. In the Chinese community he was known as Yue Jack-son, but always referred to himself as Yue Henry Jackson.

In 1885 Yue's father died, and his mother later decided to take the family to her husband's village to live. On 25 September 1890 Yue Henry Jackson, his older brother and three sisters, together with Yue Chee-fan, a friend and clansman, left Roxburgh bound for Port Chalmers and Hong Kong. Tragedy struck only a week out from New Zealand when Yue Chee-fan died. Mary pleaded successfully with the captain not to have him buried at sea but to take him on to the village for burial.

In Hong Kong, Yue and his family were met by two uncles who arranged for them to travel upriver to Lee Yuan. Their arrival caused great commotion, the boys being taunted with the jibe 'fan gwaai!' (foreign devil). Yue's older brother Alex soon taught the Chinese children some respect by beating one of the tormenters. Other clashes followed. When Mary was shown her husband's house where she and her family were to live, she noticed the traditional family altar in the living room. Being a Christian she started to dismantle it, causing consternation. In the interests of family harmony she was persuaded to restore it. Yue's mother died only a year after arriving in China, leaving Alex as head of the family.

The children tried to follow Chinese customs. Yue and his brother received a traditional Chinese education, and his sisters were expected to have their feet bound, although only one actually submitted to the ordeal. Yue actively supported his sisters in going against such traditions, and in their later desire to choose their own husbands. However, his attitude led to a conflict with his older brother and his relatives and signalled his desire to re-enter the European world.

At the age of 16 Yue left the village and moved to Hong Kong. About this time he was converted to Christianity. The dispute between him and his family was resolved and two of his sisters were allowed to move to Hong Kong, where they attended school. His other sister remained in the village and married the man arranged for her. Yue went on to finish his schooling at the Diocesan Boys' School. On reaching matriculation he became an assistant master there, and taught from 1 January 1902 to 3 October 1904.

Later in 1904 Yue returned to New Zealand, where he attended Dunedin Technical School. After working in a fruit shop in Greymouth from the end of 1905 he returned to China in 1906 to visit his sisters, two of whom had moved to Shanghai. He took a position there in an American firm, Davis and Lawrence Company, and in 1907 he married Olive Beatrice Stokes, who was originally from Greymouth. She gave birth to a daughter that same year but died from smallpox shortly afterwards.

In 1910 Yue and his daughter returned to Greymouth. The next year he moved to Wellington to take up a position as secretary and translator in the Chinese consulate. On 29 September 1913 at Teal Valley, Nelson, he married Ada Waterhouse, with whom he had two children. His career at the Chinese consulate continued until his retirement in 1948. During that time he became vice consul (1931) and consul (1941).

Yue was a strong supporter of both the Anglican and Baptist missions to the Chinese in Wellington. An advocate of numerous Chinese causes, he frequently acted as interpreter for Chinese clients in court and was said to be 'one of the finest friends the Chinese in this country ever had'. He was active in both the New Zealand Chinese Association and the New Zealand branch of the Kuomintang. Yue Henry Jackson died at his home at Paekakariki on 30 October 1955, survived by his wife and three children.

How to cite this page:

Nigel Murphy. 'Yue, Henry Jackson', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3y3/yue-henry-jackson (accessed 23 February 2024)