“He had a profound love of Hong Kong and a deep commitment to public service.” – former Hong Kong Governor David Wilson
“A giant of his times” who “was never on the side of the authorities for the sake of it, but always a voice of reason.” – Richard Li Tzar-kai, Chairman of PCCW and son of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing
Sir Rogério Hyndman Lobo was born in Macau on 15 September 1923. The eldest son of prominent Macanese Timorese businessman, politician and philanthropist Dr Pedro José Lobo and his Scottish Macanese mother Branca Helena Hyndman. He was raised in Macau where he lived at 6 Avenida da Praia Grande with his 2 brothers and 3 sisters.
6 Avenida Praia Grande, Macau
His first language was Portuguese and he was educated first at Escola Central, then by the Jesuits at St Joseph’s Seminary and finally at Dom Infante Henrique National Secondary School, Macau. He wanted to go to the United States to further his studies, but with the Japanese occupation of China in 1937, his father instead sent him to La Salle College in Hong Kong to learn English.
The war arrived in December 1941 and he returned to Macau to be with his family. His mother had passed away when he was only 9 years of age and responsibility was thrust upon him from an early age. During the war years his father played a prominent role, supporting many of the refugees that flooded into Macau. The Lobo family funded many charitable educational causes such as the establishment of the English language Jesuit school St Luis Gonzaga started for the Hong Kong boys that had attended La Salle and Wah Yan College. Many of these refugee students were Sir Roger’s classmates.
Sir Roger as a young man was involved in his father’s diverse business and philanthropic activities in wartime Macau. At one time, he served as an engineering apprentice in the Macau Electric Company, reconstructing old turbines that had been transported and abandoned in Macau, then tending to them to provide much needed electricity during the war years.
His most notable task for his father was in August 1945 as the Pacific war was drawing to its close. Pedro José Lobo had been an important conduit of information for the British and Allied authorities based in neutral Macau, including the use of his private radio station Radio Villa Verde that was broadcasting coded messages during the war years from his home in the northern part of Macau.
Villa Verde, Macau
In the weeks after the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the environment in China was highly uncertain. Even after the Emperor’s declaration of surrender, many Japanese military units refused to surrender in China, notably the powerful Kwantung Army generals who were resisting the surrender orders from Tokyo and fighting off the surprise Soviet invasion from Siberia. The Communists and Nationalist forces had been vying to secure liberated territory across China and the Allies were attempting to negotiate a truce in Chongqing to prevent a civil war.
The British needed trusted couriers to be sent to Hong Kong from Macau. These couriers were to carry secret orders from London to the interned colonial secretary Franklin Grimson for the immediate re-establishment of British rule and his installation as acting Governor. The British feared that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist army would attempt to retake Hong Kong for themselves so this secret mission could determine the future of the colony.
Sir Roger along with his wartime friends YC Liang and Dr Eddie Gosano (both important members of the British Army Aid Group led by Sir Lindsay Ride), were tasked as the trusted couriers to carry these messages. Two heavily armed fishing boats departed Macau, accompanied by a fleet of fishing boats crewed by fiercely anti-Japanese pirates, one a decoy and one Sir Roger’s.
Demonstrating remarkable bravery and facing considerable personal danger, he undertook this mission with his typical indefatigable no fuss manner. The messages were successfully delivered and British rule restored to Hong Kong shortly thereafter. He was all of 21 years of age.
St. Margaret’s Church, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, on 7 April 1947
After the war, Sir Roger married Margaret Choa and they had 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls who they ably raised over their 68 years of marriage. Life returned to normal for him, his father and his siblings as their rebuilt their lives. Some relocated away from Macau to the US and Portugal however Sir Roger was determined to forge a life in Hong Kong.
PJ Lobo and his children
Back Row: Natércia “Netty”, Pedro
Front Row: Rogério, Olivia Maria “Olly”, Pedro José Lobo, Marieta “Etta”, Orlando
He started his business career modestly working for the family business, P J Lobo & Co as a messenger boy, typing bills of lading and even as a ships captain.
He was an entrepreneur and door to door salesman, often as the local agent representing overseas brands such as Johnson and Johnson (diapers & medical equipment), Martell & Seagram (spirits), United Precision Equipment (machinery) and Buckingham Jewellery (gems). It was a heady time in the 1950s and 1960s as Hong Kong emerged from the war years and took its role as the sole gateway to China. He took great pride in the personal relationships and friendships he developed with these customers that lasted long after his retirement.
One of his lasting businesses is the agency for Kjeslden & Co Ltd Danish cookies. Sir Roger chanced upon them when the Danish Consul General gave him a leaflet of Danish products seeking new agencies in Hong Kong. The butter cookies caught his eye as he thought they would appeal to the local consumer tastes. However, he disliked the paper packaging and wrote to the company asking for the cookies to be repackaged in round tins. The product’s repackaging was an instant success and decades later these ubiquitous round tinned Kjeslden cookies remain popular gifts especially at Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. Thanks in no small part to Sir Roger’s vision, Hong Kong and China remain the largest markets globally for Kjeslden cookies to this day. He received a commendation from the Danish government for his contributions to promoting Danish trade.
His early childhood passion was in aviation and he had wanted to study it in the US as some of his classmates in Macau had ended up working for Boeing. He met two pilots Australian Syd de Kantzow and his American partner Ray Farrell, both former WWII pilots who flew “the Hump” over the Himalayas for CNAC. De Kantzow and Farrell founded Cathay Pacific in 1946 with war surplus aircraft and initially focused on freight. Their first Hong Kong headquarters was at 4 Chater Road, Central and P J Lobo & Co was their landlord.
P J Lobo & Co was the Hong Kong agent for Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU) and as Macau’s note issuing bank, was engaged in the transportation of gold. The price of gold was fixed by the post war Bretton Woods agreement at US$35 per once and its movement and sale closely regulated by central banks, particularly the United States Federal Reserve that then held three quarters of the world’s gold reserves.
However, Portugal was not a signatory to the Bretton Woods agreement, so in Macau gold was available in plentiful supply. If you had a way to transport it to customers in Asia there was a profitable business to be made.
PJ Lobo at Kai Tai Airport with a Catalina seaplane
Macau Air Transport was founded as a seaplane air service that would provide a direct link between Hong Kong and Macau, that was later expanded across other cities in Asia including Saigon, Manila, Seoul and Rangoon. The new company was a joint venture between P J Lobo & Co, his wartime friend Y C Liang, other Macau partners and Cathay Pacific. In order to comply with Hong Kong aviation regulations requiring British or Commonwealth ownership, Sir Roger adopted British nationality while retaining his dual Portuguese nationality.
The service was launched in 1947 with two PBY Catalina flying boats that had been bought from the United States Air Force Federal Liquidation Commission in Manila. The twice daily service took off on wheels from Kai Tak airport, and landed on water in the Macau Outer Harbour transporting passengers, freight and gold.
Macau Aerodrome Landing Chart in 1954
Besides the profitable gold trade, the seaplanes were used for transporting any cargo freight that P J Lobo & Co and their entrepreneurial partners could profit from. Using their extensive business networks in South East Asia, they searched for any valuable cargo that could legally be traded from port to port.
The Catalina fleet proved most effective, safely transporting gold without any robberies by bandits that typified that more lawless post war era. However, in one famous incident a Catalina Miss Macao was hijacked and crash landed in the Pearl River on 16 July, 1948 killing all but one of the passengers and crew.
The Catalinas were replaced in 1961 by the Italian made Piaggio seaplanes and Sir Roger took control of the company with Stanley Ho. The smaller faster plane could carry only 6 passengers but the service was increased from two to four to six times a day, six days a week. The flight time was 15 minutes and known as “The One Cigarette Hop”, the time to smoke one from take-off to landing.
MATCO advert in the SCMP 11 June 1961
The Piaggio and Gold Run guards at Kai Tak. In total the seaplane service safely carried over 10 million ounces of gold.
Another of Sir Roger’s long time business interests was the Hong Kong and Macao Hydrofoil Company that was also founded by Y C Liang. These new hydrofoils reduced the travel time to/from Macau/Hong Kong from 3-4 hours, by more than half. Ultimately the hydrofoils made the more expensive seaplane service uneconomic and it was wound down in 1968.
Hong Kong and Macao Hydrofoil Company was launched in May 1964 with two Rodriguez PT-20 hydrofoils that were manufactured at the Cantiere Navale Rodriguez, Messina, Italy. The two ships were named Flying Kingfisher and Flying Phoenix, the latter allegedly named after the code name for Sir Roger and Y C Liang’s British Army Aid Group wartime colleague Dr Eddie Gosano.
The new service caught on immediately and expanded to 6 hydrofoils by 1965, making 22 daily trips between Hong Kong and Macau. In 1974, one of the fleet’s hydrofoils the Flying Sandpiper gained global attention when it was featured in the James Bond film the Man with the Golden Gun.
In time the company expanded its services to China opening new services in 1982 to Zhuhai then other ports in the Pearl River delta. The fleet was upgraded in the 1980s toSwedish waterjet catamarans. Underling the company’s Macanese roots, these 7 modern catamarans were mostly given Portuguese names Camões, Estrela do Mar, Lusitano, Vasco da Gama, Santa Cruz, Magellan and lastly Öregrund as a nod to the Swedish manufacturers.
Hong Kong and Macao Hydrofoil Company was in competition with Stanley Ho’s Far East Hydrofoil for three decades and after years of competition the companies eventually ended under one ownership at Shun Tak Holdings. Sir Roger served on the Shun Tak Board of Directors for over 20 years until his passing.
Following in his father’s footsteps and from his time as a student of the Jesuits, he was taught of the importance of putting time into the community and that there was a wider responsibility in life other than just making money. Sir Roger started his life in public service humbly, joining as a founding member of the Hong Kong Junior Chamber “JayCee” movement with his friend Arnaldo de Oliveira “Sonny” Sales. He was then invited to raise money for the Society for the Blind and also joined the Urban Council (1965-1978) where he ultimately served as Senior Appointed Member.
In 1967, Sir Roger was appointed to the Executive Council, overlapping with the best man at his wedding and Macanese compatriot, Sir Alberto Maria Rodrigues (until his retirement in as Senior Unofficial Member in 1974). He served in the Executive Council for 18 years under 3 British Governors, retiring in 1985.
With his compassion and dedication to fight for the needy, Sir Roger was most concerned with social welfare issues. Amongst his many causes, he urged the government to adopt a housing lottery for people, to evaluate the efficiency of local welfare organisations, to cut tax to boost employment for the disabled, to ban articles of pornography, to promote assistance to the elderly and to improve the overall quality of life for the public.
Sir Roger Lobo in the Legislative Council, 1978
In 1972 came a concurrent appointment at the Legislative Council. Soon, he found himself overwhelmed with civic duties and had to retire from the Urban Council in 1978 so he could continue with his work in the Executive and Legislative Councils. This decision proved to be a wise one and after nine years of service on the Legislative Council, and in 1981 he was the first Portuguese to be named Senior Unofficial Member. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 1985.
Sir Roger was best-known for the eponymous motion that he put forward in the Legislative Council on 14 March 1984. Until then, the British and Chinese governments had multiple rounds of negotiations regarding the future of Hong Kong, but the Legislative Council members had been largely excluded from these talks. Sir Roger insisted that Hong Kong’s legislative body have a seat at the table. The Lobo Motion, read:
“This Council deems it essential that any proposals for the future of Hong Kong should be debated in this Council before any final agreement is reached.”
The Lobo Motion was passed unanimously by the Legislative Council, although it was a non-binding resolution duly noted by the British at best and vehemently opposed by the Chinese. Deng Xiaoping, while receiving the three-member delegation of the Legislative Council in Beijing on 23 June 1984, insisted that the so-called “three-legged stool” has in fact, only two legs.
During this vital period for Hong Kong between 1982 and 1984, Sir Roger met with senior Chinese rulers including Deng Xiaoping and Premier Zhao Zhiyang, as well as the British delegations led by Margaret Thatcher and then foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe. In his no fuss, no nonsense and straightforward style, he established working relationships with both the Chinese and British to progress the joint declaration in the best interests of Hong Kong.
Sir Roger: Front row left at the signing of the Sino-British joint declaration 1984
Ultimately the joint declaration was accepted by the Legislative Council and Sir Roger had stood up for rights of the people of Hong Kong. At the signing on 19 December 1984 in Beijing, Sir Roger represented Hong Kong in his capacity as Senior Unofficial Member of Legco. He was honoured by the Queen with an OBE in 1972, a CBE in 1978 and a Knight Bachelor in 1985.
Outside his career as a councillor, Sir Roger Lobo was noted for his service over many decades to many other civic causes including Board member of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (1965 – 1983), Honorary Commissioner of the Civil Aid Services (1977-1992), committees of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (1975-1985) and the Chairman of the Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority (1989-1997).
A devout Catholic his entire life he was Chairman of Caritas from 1976 to 1984. In 1969, he was awarded a Vatican Knighthood, Commander of Order of St. Gregory the Great (KSG), for his services to the church. In 1970 he was instrumental in the organisation of the visit to Hong Kong of Pope Paul VI including an open air mass at the Government stadium with 50,000 Catholics.
Sir Roger was a modest and humble man, with strong convictions on the importance of family, faith and community. Always welcoming with a ready smile, he was down to earth and friendly to a fault. His family life was his absolute priority and he reserved his weekends exclusively for his devoted wife Margaret and their 10 children and many grandchildren.
Sir Roger and Lady Margaret Lobo with their 10 children
Like most of the Portuguese of his generation he was a Club Lusitano member for all of his adult life, serving as both General Committee Member then Trustee and never forgetting his Portuguese roots in Macau.