What happened to the Ma On Shan Harmonium?

5 November 2023

Prof. Urrows writes:

One of the small, nagging mysteries that I have dealt with during my many years in Hong Kong is the question of what became of a harmonium that used to be in the Chapel of St. Joseph in Ma On Shan Village (馬鞍山村)? The Project usually doesn’t concern itself with harmoniums, but a derelict harmonium in a nearby derelict church invites investigation.

The chapel is an early 20th Century building, perched on a hill overlooking the former tiny mining community in the hills of Ma On Shan (Horse Saddle Hill) on the east side of the Shing Mun River. The mining industry collapsed after the Second World War due to exhaustion of the ore in the hills. With the development in the 1980s of Ma On Shan New Town, the later Chapel of St. Francis near the river was eventually rebuilt in a more central location as a new parish church to serve the local population. The Chapel of St. Joseph was formally closed in 1999, but the church remained accessible for some years, perhaps until about 2013. https://www.stfrancis.org.hk/en/patron-history/

I happen to know this, because two magazine articles published between the mid-2000s and about 2012 contained photos of the harmonium in the tiny organ loft of the chapel. The first was a Hallowe’en-themed fashion spread (“Princess of Darkness”) that appeared the Sunday Morning Post Magazine around 2007.


The second photo appeared in the Chinese-language magazine, Weekend Weekly (新假期) around 2012, in a things-to-do piece about Ma On Shan Village. The church was still clearly open to visitors at that time.

By 2014, when I managed to get up to the village, the church was closed, and several heavy padlocks secured the gate. Attempts to call a phone number on a small sign there failed to reach anyone.

But: what happened to the harmonium? And can anyone recognize the builder/catalog type? Except for the missing stop plates, it doesn’t look to have been in such bad condition. All info gratefully received at calcant@organcn.org