Chinese seafarers honoured

A blue plaque is to be unveiled to mark the role Chinese seamen played in the history of Liverpool.

The plaque is on the exterior wall of the New Capital restaurant, Nelson Street, which housed the Blue Funnel Shipping Office between 1950 and 1969.

A ceremony, attended by Chinese sailors and invited guests, will take place on Monday 18 November at 12 noon.

The Blue Funnel Shipping Line was the main British shipping line which traded with China.

Before the Line was founded in 1865 there was a small Chinese community in Liverpool but many of the Chinese seafarers employed by Blue Funnel settled in the cityl.

By the Second World War between 15 and 20,000 Chinese seafarers had made Liverpool  their home. However, following the war the Government took action to repatriate large numbers of them, often with their families being unaware of what became of them. It is understood that the Blue Funnel Line attempted to help families affected by repatriation.
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The plaque unveiling is part of a wider project to capture the hidden histories of Liverpool’s Chinese community which has received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £49,400. Oral historians John Campbell and Moira Kenny from The Sound Agents, are creating an oral history of the community and have organised the blue plaque ceremony.

Moira said: “The idea for the plaque came about over lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown with four Shanghai former Blue Funnel seamen. Together we wanted to celebrate the happy and tragic times that we have been recording through the Liverpool Chinatown Oral History.

“Our gaffer Mr Sing Zhay Woo was the lifeboat instructor in the Blue Funnel Office and worked with the Shore Gang. The plaque will become an iconic attraction for sailors and their families worldwide”

Funding for the plaque has been provided through the Riverside ward councillors’ fund. Local councillor and city council cabinet member Steve Munby said: “Liverpool prides itself on its maritime history and an important part of that history is the role of Chinese seamen.

“Many of them gave their lives while serving with the Merchant Navy and others, shamefully, were forcibly removed from their homes and families.

“The contribution Chinese seafarers have made to the city should never be overlooked and this plaque recognises their role and that of the Blue Funnel Line.”