Vale CAFHOV member Raymond Lew-Boar

CAFHOV members Sophie Couchman and Barbara Nichol first met Ray in 2005 after he learnt of some of their research. He became an overseas member of CAFHOV soon after.

Ray became a very enthusiastic supporter of research into the early Melbourne Chinese community. He generously donated family photographs and other memorabilia to the Chinese Museum and shared his knowledge and contacts with those interested in Chinese Australian history.  He recorded an interview with Sophie of some of his recollections of growing up in and around Little Bourke Street for a self-guided walking tour of Melbourne’s Chinatown.  Ray not only had an impressive memory, but was also a wonderfully vivid storyteller.  His generosity also extended to sharing with Barbara many insightful observations for her research about the management and other challenges of running busy restaurants.  Sophie and Barbara valued not only his contribution to their research but also the friendship that soon followed.

Ray first made contact with Barbara from his home in Cheltenham in the English Cotswolds after learning of her interview with his older half-brother, restaurateur Harry Toe (Lew Coon Toe) and Harry’s children Yin and Susan, in June 2004.  Ray’s parents, Lew and Nellie Boar, operated three Hong Kong Cafes from the 1920s to the early 1940s – the first in Little Bourke Street, followed by their bold, but short-lived, move into fashionable Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda, and their last, the popular Hong Kong Cafe in Russell Street.  Of his childhood in Celestial Avenue, Ray observed that he thought he and his two brothers were spoilt – having doting parents and an older big brother around ‘feeding us whatever we wanted… or should I say, demanded!!!’ Ray often spoke of the impact of his father’s tragic death in 1942 and of his mother’s and his brother, Toe’s, efforts to continue to operate the Russell Street restaurant and support the family before Nellie sold the business and purchased the smaller Nam Wah Cafe in Exhibition Street in partnership with a friend.

In late 2013, Ray made the difficult decision to leave his Cotswolds home and friends of some forty-four years and return to Melbourne to spend more time with his very supportive family. His Melbourne friends also looked forward to spend more time with him, but, sadly, Ray died on 11 May 2014.  Barbara and Sophie were saddened that, after being an overseas-based CAFHOV member for so many years, other CAFHOV members had only a few brief gatherings to get to know him.

One of Ray’s Christmas emails to Barbara and her husband pretty well sum up the sentiments expressed by all at his funeral service: ‘I don’t want much for Christmas, I just want the people who are reading this to be well, and happy. Friends are the fruit cake of life …. some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet … but mix them all together and they are my friends!!!!’

Ray was a witty, warm and generous friend who made all who knew him feel special – he will be greatly missed. CAFHOV members extend their sincere sympathy to Ray’s family.

In Memory of Kevin Wong Hoy, CAFHOV Founder.

Kevin was a social worker working at International Social Services in Richmond in 1993 when a seminal international conference, “Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific”, was held at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne. By 1999 Kevin had published his first book, “Collected Papers on the Yet Foy Family of Queensland”. His exploration of his family’s contribution to the history of north Queensland had led him down a new road. He went on to enrol as a postgraduate student in the Department of Asian Studies at Latrobe University.

Kevin presented his research at a second significant event, the “Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation Conference” at the Chinese Museum in 2000. He made connections with conference attendees of similar family backgrounds. Ongoing community research activities were encouraged by conference organisers. Subsequently Kevin Wong Hoy, the late Nancy Kwong, her sister Edna Cooper, the author and others formed the Victorian Chapter of the Family History Group in association with the Chinese Historical Society of Australia in NSW. In December of the following year CAFHOV was formed by the same small group. Kevin’s passion for Chinese Australian history and his ability to articulate, to energise and to organise gave CAFHOV a strong foundation.

By 2002 Kevin was well into his research. He was interviewed by ABC radio and spoke about his family’s roles in the communities of north Queensland. He also published “Yip Hoy and his family: A Monograph”. The following year he gave a presentation on the Chinese of north Queensland at the 10th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in Melbourne.

Studying Chinese Australian history at Latrobe University was broadening Kevin’s interests beyond the familial. He gave a talk for the Hotham History Project at the North Melbourne Library in 2003 on the Chinese miners in the Buckland Valley and in 2004 contributed to the Journal of Australian Colonial History with an article about Thursday Island and its Chinese community.

Kevin continued to lead CAFHOV throughout the decade. He encouraged the production of “Secrets, Silences and Sources”, the book CAFHOV published in 2005 and wrote the chapter “Chinese-Australian history vs. huaqiao history: Chinese in north Queensland” for it. He was also working hard to gain funding for geophysical exploration of the fate of the Chinese miners caught in the 1857 Buckland Riot.

In 2006 Kevin’s career in history took two more steps. His Masters thesis “Becoming British subjects 1879-1903: Chinese in north Queensland” was accepted by Latrobe University. In addition he co-authored an article on Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields for the book “Eureka: Reappraising the Australian legend”. Kevin also co-authored an article for the Journal of Chinese Australia on the Chinese temple dedications in the Buckland Valley.

By 2007 the Buckland Chinese Australian Heritage Project was completed. Kevin had been a key driving force. He and fellow members of CAFHOV attended the July 2007 ceremony where the monument dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the 1857 riot was unveiled. In the same year Kevin contributed an essay on the Buckland riots to the book “Deeper Leads: New Approaches to Victorian Goldfields History”.

After leaving CAFHOV in 2009 Kevin continued to focus on his Queensland interests as the joint editor of  “Rediscovered Past: China in northern Australia” (2009). He also became the President of Chinese Heritage in Northern Australia Inc. and promoted the developing history of the area. In 2010 he published “Miscellaneous – a Further Collection of Stories by Descendants of the Yet Foy Family of Queensland” and received  a grant from the Northern Territory government to research the history of the Chinese cook Hung Bak Cheong, (celebrated by Aeneas Gunn in “We of the Never-Never”). His last book “Cheon of the Never-Never” was launched at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne in December 2012, with many friends and supporters present.

A month later, in spite of his illness, Kevin attended the gala unveiling of the Hap Wah commemorative plaque at the Chinese New Year Festival in Cairns. This was the culmination of a community history project Kevin facilitated. The nineteenth century Hap Wah sugar plantation was the first major agricultural venture in the Cairns area. Kevin’s father was born in Cairns in 1927.

This tribute to Kevin only touches on some of the contributions he made in the last decade of his life to the education of Australians about their country’s history. He was passionate about this task and persistent in his efforts to achieve it. Well done Kevin. You have made a difference. It was a privilege to have known you.

Robyn Ansell
May 2013


(Image source Philippa Rayment/The Epoch Times)