There are obscure traditions all across the globe. One that I recently found out about while researching a company proved to be interesting and gives an insight to the colonial history of the island of Hong Kong. The Jardine Matheson Noonday Gun overlooking Causeway Bay is fired at precisely 12 noon every day. This issue of Pub Convos we look into how this tradition came to be and the various stories that accompany it.
What is it?
- A Hotchkiss 3-Pounder naval artillery gun is mounted on Causeway Bay and is owned by Jardine Matheson. The plot of land that the gun is mounted on is reportedly the first plot of land sold to a western company in Hong Kong.
- Jardine Matheson is a multinational conglomerate founded in 1832 and was one of the first Hong Kong trading houses or Hongs (行).
- As mentioned before this gun is fired by a Jardine Matheson employee everyday at noon except for New Year’s Day when it is fired at midnight.
- One of the more far-fetched stories of how this gun and tradition came to be is that every time the head of Jardine Matheson would enter or exit their headquarters the gun would be fired as a salute.
- However, the Royal Navy stationed in Hong Kong were not happy about it as gun salutes were generally reserved for high-ranking officers.
- Therefore, as a reprimand, the Royal Navy ordered the gun to be fired every day at noon.
The Likely Backstory:
- A more likely backstory of how this tradition came to be is that before the trams and metro system that now make up Hong Kong’s public transportation. The easiest way to get around was by boats on the waterfront.
- The firing of the gun at noon would serve as a timekeeping activity so all the people working the boats could sync up their clocks and watches.
The Noonday Gun is still a tourist attraction in Hong Kong till this day, so if you find yourself in Hong Kong and would like to know when noon is, listen out for the sound of this history filled tradition and maybe spend 5 minutes standing there waiting for someone to pull the trigger.