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REV. JAMES FONG KEM YEE, CHINESE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NEWCASTLE

The first cover was addressed to Rev. James F. Kem Yee, Doonass Terrace, Hamilton Road, New Castle (sic) and it was sent from MOGIL MOGIL/ NO 1/ 1907/N.S.W, as well as the ‘Rays 604' of Mogil Mogil, which cancelled the blue 2d New South Wales stamp (Figure 1).

The reverse had a transit postmark of HAMILTON/ 3 NO 1907/ N.S.W. (only 3 km away from Newcastle) and a reception postmark of NEWCASTLE/ 3 NO 07-8-AM/ N.S.W. (Figure 2).

The second cover had a printed return address of Kwong Sing War, Glen Innes and was addressed to J.F. Kem Yee Esq, Hamilton Road, Newcastle and the blue 2d New South Wales stamp was cancelled with a poorly legible Glen Innes postmark. There was a Chinese manuscript down the right side of the cover.  The translation reads:  "To be received by Mr. Fong, Kam Yee" (Figure 3).

The reverse had additional Chinese script and there was a transit HAMILTON/ 4-JA 1909/ N.S.W. as well as a reception postmark of NEWCASTLE/ 4 JA 09-8– AM/ N.S.W.  The translation reads:  "Please reply at your earliest convenience" (Figure 4). 

The vast majority of information on this Chinese-born reverend gentleman was found in an obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald Monday 9 July 1923 on page 12, which read as follows:

The Rev. J.F. Kem Yee, minister of the Chinese Church (Presbyterian), Campbell-street, Sydney, and Newcastle, died on Saturday morning after a brief illness. There was a special service yesterday morning in the Campbell-street church [Sydney Chinese area], when a large number of the congregation and friends were present. The service was conducted by the Rev. R.J.H. McGowan (Convenor of the Foreign Mission Committee), assisted by the Revs. D.F. Brandt, Young Wai and S. Wicks (Anglican). The financial secretary (Mr. Wm. Wood) occupied a seat on the platform. After the Church service the cortege moved to the Central Railway Station, and the interment will take place in the Newcastle Cemetery this afternoon. Many wreaths were received from friends and Church organizations.

Mr. Kem Yee was born at Canton in 1862. He left China for Australia in 1878, and was baptised in St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Ballarat in 1882. For some time he continued his occupation of gold mining, but later was induced to study in preparation for mission work among his own countrymen. He began as a missionary among the Chinese in New South Wales in 1888, and laboured in the Newcastle and Maitland district. Eighteen months ago he took the oversight of the Chinese work in Sydney on the retirement of the Rev. J. Young Wai. He carried on his work faithfully and earnestly. He leaves three sons – Dr. J.F. Kem Yee of Paterson [a graduate in medicine at the University of Sydney in 1921, and a resident at Sydney Hospital], and Mr. Roy and Mr. Allan Kem Yee." This SMH information is shown as Figure 5.

The Bulletin in 1897 gave the news that the Presbyterian missionary had married English-born Annie Fuller. The Chinese Australian Herald (Guangyi huabao) 17 September, 1897 featured their photographs and a short article announcing their marriage. Annie Fuller had also worked for the Presbyterian Church through the Central Methodist Sisterhood. The couple made their home in Newcastle where James was in charge of the Newcastle Chinese Mission for the following 32 years. Their 3 sons were born between 1899 and 1907. Pictures of the minister and his bride are shown in Figure 6.

The following Table shows the estimated number of male and female Chinese in NSW, Victoria and Australia, 1861-1901. [Source Lindsay M. Smith: The Chinese of Kiandra, NSW pp.17 & 43], and it is presented as Figure 7.

The Chinese company and sender of the second cover has already been the source of another paper at this website: Categories: Family History and Business: Entitled: "Kwong, Sing & Co. Ltd, Glen Innes N.S.W. A Family Dynasty.

Addendum (April 2010):  Another cover was seen, incorrectly addressed to James Kam Yee, Chinese Missionary,  Newcastle, with Chinese script as well .  The blue 'Emu' N.S.W. 2d stamp was postmarked SYDNEY/ JY 22/ 1-P.M/ 89/ 21 with the duplex obliterator 'N.S.W' (Figure 8).

The reverse had a reception NEWCASTLE/ 3/ JY 22/ 89/ N.S.W on the flap (Figure 9).

The next cover is the earliest and it is dated 1888 which was the year Kem Yee left Victoria, and Great Western was a gold mining area.  He gave up the gold fields and became a Chinese Missionary in N.S.W., at an early address of 53 Bull Street, Newcastle.  The lilac 'TWO PENCE' stamp of Victoria is cancelled with the Barred Numeral '209' of Great Western which is confirmed by the unframed GREAT WESTERN/ AU 3/ 88/ VICTORIA alongside (Figure 10).

Addendum (April 2011);  Another cover was addressed to Mr. James Cum ( Kem) Yee, Chinese Missionary, At Newcastle, New South Wales, and it was franked with the orange 'Reading' 1d stamp of Victoria.  There was an oval 2D MORE TO PAY handstamp as well as Chinese script at the right border.  The vendor stated that the stamp was canceled with a duplex MINLATON/ AU 22 91/ VICTORIA  (Figure 11).

The reverse had a green 2d N.S.W. Postage Due stamp as well as a transit SYDNEY/ AU 25/ 1-AM/ 91/ 2 duplex and an arrival NEWCASTLE/ 3/ AU 25/ 91/ N.S.W (Figure 12).

 

 

Addendum:  I acknowledge that I have extracted information from Kate Bagnall's Ph.D. thesis, Golden shadows on a white land: An exploration of the lives of white women who partnered Chinese men and their children in southern Australia, 1855–1915, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2006, http://hdl.handle.net/2123/1412, her pages 37 and 129 [my Figures 7 & 6].  Her thesis is a goldmine of information, and is highly recommended.

Yet another cover sent to Rev. Kem Yee from Ballarat East as shown by the duplex BALLARAT/ D/ MY 28/ 90/ VIC with the BN '159'.  A fine was levied because of insufficient postage.  It was delivered to Newcastle, but at a different address than before (Figure 13). 


 

Professor John Courtis, Dept. of Accountancy, City University of Hong Kong was responsible for obtaining the translation of the archaic Chinese script.

 
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