Henry Arthur Blake

Sir Henry Arthur Blake GCMG DL JP FRGS[1] (Chinese: 卜力; Sidney Lau: Buk1 Lik6; 8 January 1840  23 February 1918) was a British colonial administrator and Governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903.

Sir Henry Arthur Blake
46th Governor of The Bahamas
In office
4 January 1884  1887
Preceded bySir Charles Cameron Lees
Succeeded bySir Ambrose Shea
55th Governor of Newfoundland
In office
1887  December 1888
Preceded bySir G W Des Voeux
Succeeded bySir John T N O'Brien
65th Governor of Jamaica
In office
23 December 1888  1898
Preceded byWilliam Clive Justice (Ag)
Succeeded byHenry Jardine Hallowes (Ag)
12th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
25 November 1898  21 November 1903
Edward VII
Lieutenant GovernorSir Wilsone Black
Sir William Gascoigne
Colonial SecretarySir Stewart Lockhart
Sir Francis Henry May
Preceded bySir William Robinson
Succeeded bySir Matthew Nathan
19th Governor of British Ceylon
In office
3 December 1903  11 July 1907
MonarchEdward VII
Preceded bySir Everard im Thurn (Ag)
Succeeded byHugh Clifford (Ag)
Personal details
Born(1840-01-08)8 January 1840
Limerick, Ireland
Died13 February 1918(1918-02-13) (aged 78)
Myrtle Grove, Youghal, Ireland
Resting placeMyrtle Grove, Youghal, Ireland
Jeannie Irwin
(m. 1862; died 1866)

Edith Bernal Osborne
(m. 1874)
ProfessionDraper's assistant, constable, magistrate, colonial administrator
Chinese name

Early life, family and career

Blake was born in Limerick, Ireland. He was the son of Peter Blake of Corbally Castle (c. 1805 – bur. St. Ann's, Dublin, 19 November 1850), a Galway-born county Inspector of the Irish Constabulary, and wife (m. Mobarnan, County Tipperary) Jane Lane (Lanespark, County Tipperary, 5 March 1819 – ?), daughter of John Lane of Lanespark, County Tipperary, and paternal grandson of Peter Blake of Corbally Castle, County Galway (? – 1842, bur. Peter’s Well, County Galway) and wife (m. 14 May 1800) Mary Browne, daughter of The Hon. John Browne and wife Mary Cocks and paternal granddaughter of John Browne, 1st Earl of Altamont, and wife Anne Gore. He was included among the descendants the Blakes of Corbally Castle, Kilmoylan, County Galway, the descendants of Peter Blake (? – 1712), who was granted the lands of Corbally, Kilmoylan, County Galway, on 20 December 1697, and wife Magdeline Martin, the Blakes. Peter Blake was a son of Sir Richard Blake and wife Gyles Kirwan.[2]

Blake started out as a clerk in the Bank of Ireland but lasted only 18 months before resigning and commencing a cadetship in the Irish Constabulary in 1857. He became a special inspector two years later. In 1876, he was appointed Resident Magistrate to Tuam, an especially disturbed district in the west of Ireland, where he was noted as judicious and active. In 1882, he was promoted to Special Resident Magistrate.[3]

Early colonial services

In 1884, Blake was made Governor of Bahamas, a position he held until 1887. He was appointed to Queensland in 1886 but resigned without entering the administration, following an imbroglio between Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Knutsford, and the premier of Queensland, Sir Thomas M'Ilwraith, on the appointment.[4] In 1887, he moved to Newfoundland, where he was governor until the end of 1888, being knighted on 7 November that year.[5] In 1889 he became the Captain-General and Governor of Jamaica. His term was extended in 1894 and 1896, at the request of Legislature and public bodies of the island, until 1897.

Governor of Hong Kong

On 25 November 1898, Blake was appointed Governor of Hong Kong, a position he held until November 1903.[3] Five months before he arrived in Hong Kong, the British government negotiated an agreement with the Qing government which leased the New Territories to British Hong Kong for 99 years. During his tenure, Blake sent in colonial administrators to the New Territories to assert control over the local punti clans. The clans resisted the British takeover of the New Territories, resulting in the outbreak of the Six-Day War; a largely Indian force under the command of British Army officer William Gascoigne managed to defeat the punti clans, with Blake adopting an amiable co-operation policy to prevent further trouble and allowed them to retain traditional laws and customs in regards to land inheritance, land usage and marriage.[6]

Blake left Hong Kong immediately after he attended the laying of the foundation stone of the Supreme Court building (Legislative Council of Hong Kong from 1985 to 2011) on 12 November 1903.[7]

Post-Hong Kong

Blake was appointed Governor of Ceylon at the end of his tenure in Hong Kong in 1903, and he served in that capacity until 1907. This was his last post in the Colonial Service. A freshly retired Blake impressed George Morrison with his bitterness at not landing a Privy Council sinecure in gratitude for his 41 years' public service.[8]:184

The Blakes retired to Myrtle Grove in Youghal, County Cork, where they both died and were buried.[9]

Personal life

Winslow Homer's Children Under a Palm Tree

Blake married twice: Jeannie Irwin in 1862 (she died in 1866), and Edith Bernal Osborne in Ireland, on 7 February 1874 (she was the daughter of MP Ralph Bernal Osborne). He had two sons, and one daughter Olive, who married John Bernard Arbuthnot. During his period as Governor of The Bahamas, a watercolour of his three children, Children Under a Palm, was painted by Winslow Homer. The painting was subsequently featured on the BBC TV programme, Fake or Fortune?[10]

Honours and arms

Coat of arms of Henry Arthur Blake
Confirmed 6 February 1896 by Arthur Edward Vicars, Ulster King of Arms.[11]
On a wreath of the colours a cat-a-mountain passant guardant Proper charged with a crescent as in the arms.
Quarterly 1st & 4th Argent a fret Gules in chief a crescent of the last a crescent for difference (Blake) 2nd & 3rd Sable three lions passant between four bendlets Argent in chief a fleur de lys of the last for difference (Browne).
Virtus Sola Nobilitat


The community of Blaketown in Canada was named in his honour when he was the governor of Newfoundland. Blake Garden, Blake Pier (卜公碼頭) and Blake Block (now within the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Headquarters) are named after him.

The Bauhinia blakeana, discovered in Hong Kong around 1880, was named after him (Blake shared his wife's interest in botany). It became an emblem of Hong Kong in 1965 and has been the official emblem from 1 July 1997. It appears on the flag of Hong Kong and its currency.[3]

The John Crow Mountains in Jamaica were renamed the Blake Mountains in 1890 but the name did not stick.[12]


  • McGrath, Terence, pseud. [i.e. Sir Henry Arthur Blake.] 1880, Pictures from Ireland. Kegan Paul & Co.: London, 1880. Available from archive.org
  • "Ceylon" . The Empire and the century. London: John Murray. 1905. pp. 707–15.

See also


  1. Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 120.
  2. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, editor, Burke's Irish Family Records (London, U.K.: Burkes Peerage Ltd, 1976), Blake, page 120.
  3. Airlie, Shiona M (2012). Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. Hong Kong University Press. p. 32. ISBN 9789888083664.
  4. Arthur Patchett Martin (1889). "The Moral of Queensland Imbroglio". Australia and the Empire: 233–252. Wikidata Q107340736.
  5. Shaw, William Arthur (1971). The Knights of England: A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of All the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of Knights Bachelors. Incorporating a Complete List of Knights Bachelors Dubbed in Ireland, Volume 1. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 373. ISBN 9780806304434. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  6. Hase, Patrick H. (2008). The Six-Day War of 1899: Hong Kong in the Age of Imperialism. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. p. 111. ISBN 9789622098992.
  7. "The Old Supreme Court Building - Brief History". Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  8. Pearl, Cyril (1967). Morrison of Peking. Sydney,Australia: Angus & Robertson.
  9. Independent article by Patrick Cockburn
  10. "Homer". Fake or Fortune?. Episode 2. 26 June 2011. BBC. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  11. "Grants and Confirmations of Arms, Vol. H,". National Library of Ireland. p. 358. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  12. Higman, B W; Hudson (2009). Jamaican Place Names. B J (1st ed.). Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press. pp. 89–90. ISBN 978-976-640-217-4.


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