A relic of vanishing Hong Kong in Ballater

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One of the new events at this year’s Ballater Victoria Week has been rides in a local resident’s genuine Hong Kong rickshaw.

The rickshaw, which has been providing rides round the town as part of the event, which runs until August 17, belongs to Ballater resident, Duncan MacRae.

A retired naval architect who lived in Hong Kong for 25 years, he withdrew the rickshaw from Grampian Transport Museum in Alford specially for the event.

Rides in the rickshaw around Church Square, with the opportunity to stop off at the Shanghai Takeaway for photographs, costs £2, with all proceeds going to Ballater’s Victoria and Albert Halls Development Fund.

Rickshaws first appeared in Hong Kong soon after their invention as the Japanese jinrickshaw (human powered vehicle), and by 1895 there were 700 registered licensed rickshaws.

In the mid 1920s, despite competition from more modern methods of public transport, rickshaws remained a vital part of Hong Kong’s transport network, with over 3000 in use.

In the same way businesses and families would keep a car today, at that time, particularly well-off families kept a rickshaw and a ‘boy’ to power it.

Towards the end of the Second World War there were even 60 rickshaws registered in the name of brothels, used to deliver courtesans to their customers.

Duncan MacRae’s rickshaw had one of the last road licences, issued on August 1, 1975, when there were less than 100 left in the former colony.

Shortly after this time, rickshaws ceased to be a means of transport and became a tourist attraction.

Mr MacRae said: “There were less than 20 left when I last visited Hong Kong in the early 1990s.

‘‘By 1997 they were truly an endangered species, just eight rickshaws remaining, all parked at the Star Ferry Terminal on either side of the Fragrant Harbour.”

Mr MacRae understands that today Hong Kong has just three rickshaws in operation, all aimed exclusively at tourists.

n For more information on any of the events going on over the last couple of days of Ballater Victoria Week, pick up a brochure or visit www.ballatervictoriaweek.co.uk.