Francis Henry May

Sir Francis Henry May GCMG KStJ (Chinese: 梅含理; 14 March 1860 – 6 February 1922) was a British colonial administrator who served as Governor of Fiji from 1911 to 1912 and Governor of Hong Kong from 1912 to 1918.

Francis Henry May
15th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
24 July 1912  12 September 1918
MonarchGeorge V
Colonial Sec.Sir Claud Severn
Preceded bySir Frederick Lugard
Succeeded bySir Edward Stubbs
11th Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong
In office
Preceded bySir James Stewart Lockhart
Succeeded byWarren Delabere Barnes
Acting Administrator of Hong Kong
In office
21 November 1903  29 July 1904
MonarchEdward VII
Preceded bySir Henry Blake
Succeeded bySir Matthew Nathan
In office
20 April 1907  29 July 1907
MonarchEdward VII
Preceded bySir Matthew Nathan
Succeeded bySir Frederick Lugard
8th High Commissioner for the Western Pacific
In office
21 February 1911  25 July 1912
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded bySir Everard im Thurn
Succeeded bySir Bickham Sweet-Escott
9th Governor of Fiji
In office
21 February 1911  25 July 1912
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded bySir Everard im Thurn
Succeeded bySir Bickham Sweet-Escott
Personal details
Born(1860-03-14)14 March 1860
Dublin, Ireland
Died6 February 1922(1922-02-06) (aged 61)
Suffolk, England
Resting placeClare, Suffolk
SpouseHelena Barker
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin
OccupationColonial administrator
Chinese name

Early life and education

May was born in Dublin, Ireland on 14 March 1860. He was the 4th son of Rt. Hon. George Augustus Chichester May, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and his wife Olivia Barrington. May was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Dublin, where a few of his predecessors to the Governorship of Hong Kong attended school. May received the 1st Honourman and Prizeman Classics and Modern Languages and B.A. in 1881.


In 1881, May was appointed to a Hong Kong Cadetship after a competitive examination. In 1886, he became the Assistant Protector of Chinese and private secretary to Governor Sir William Des Vœux. He was also the private secretary to Acting Administrator Digby Barker from 1889 to 1891.[1]

May would hold the office of Assistant Colonial Secretary in 1891 and Acting Colonial Treasurer in 1892. He was made a member of the Legislative Council in 1895.

From 1893 to 1901, May was the Captain Superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force, and Superintendent of Victoria Gaol and Fire Brigade between 1896 and 1902.[1][2]

He was appointed to the position of Colonial Secretary for Hong Kong in April 1902,[3] serving until 21 January 1911,[4] and as such was appointed acting administrator of Hong Kong during transitions totalling almost a year between governors in 1903-1904 and 1907.[1] In 1911, May was appointed Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner Western Pacific, a position he would hold until 1912.

Governor of Hong Kong

In 1912, May was appointed Governor of Hong Kong, a position he occupied in his own right until 1918. It was also his last post in the Colonial Service.

May was the only Governor of Hong Kong to be the target of an assassination attempt. He was fired upon near the General Post Office as he rode in a sedan chair after arriving from Fiji in July 1912. May was not injured; the bullet lodged in the sedan of his wife. The gunman, Li Hung-hung, had a grudge against May. Several years before, this former Police Superintendent had imprisoned Li's father, an undesirable mainland immigrant.[5] May used a car for daily transport from then onwards.[1]

On 22 January 1918, May personally negotiated with the remaining member of a gang holed up in the "Siege of Gresson Street", following a running gun battle through the streets of Wanchai in which five police officers were killed.[2]

In 1919, due to deteriorating health condition, May was relieved of his duty as the Governor.[1]


In 1891 May married Helena Barker, the daughter and heiress of Acting Administrator Major-General Digby Barker[1] of Clare Priory in Suffolk. They had four daughters, Stella, Phoebe, Iris and Dionne. Stella married General Philip de Fonblanque.[6] Iris (Olivia Helena) married Edward Hamilton Johnston the Sanskritist in the early 1920s.[7]

He died at Clare Priory, Suffolk, England. He is buried at Clare, Suffolk.



  • Guide to Cantonese Colloquial
  • Yachting in Hong-Kong

Places named after him

Monument to Sir Francis May in Clare Church, Suffolk

May Road, a roadway in the Upper Mid-Levels area in Hong Kong Island, and May Hall of the University of Hong Kong[8] were named after him. Also, the Helena May Foundation was named after his wife.[1]

See also

  • British Hong Kong
  • Charles May, after which some "May" places are also named in Hong Kong, including May House.


  1. Yanne, Andrew; Heller, Gillis (2009). Signs of a Colonial Era. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-962-209-944-9.
  2. Grandsons of siege victim visit Force, HK Police 'Offbeat', Issue 795, 23 March 2005
  3. "No. 27423". The London Gazette. 8 April 1902. p. 2334.
  4. Clementi, Cecil (1912). "General Observations" (PDF). Hong Kong Annual Report (1911). p. 24. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  5. Eric Cavaliero, Pedder Street was where it all happened, The Standard, 13 August 1998
  6. Obituary, Major-General Philip de Fonblanque, DSO. The Times Monday, 8 Jul 1940; pg. 7; Issue 48662
  7. "Obituary, E.H. Johnston" by F. W. Thomas in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 3 (Oct.,1942), pp. 265
  8. The First Students' Hostels of The University of Hong Kong
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