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The Chinese in Burra

The following information has been put together by Eric Fuss, a researcher who has specialised in the history and genealogy of Burra.  We are very grateful that he has allowed us to reproduce his work here.

The research has been arranged into the following sections:

Chinese in Burra.

Chinese in the Burra Record.

Chinese Burials at Kooringa (Burra) Cemetery

Chinese Who Married in Burra

Chinese in Council Assessment Book

Chinese in Redruth Gaol

Court Cases involving Chinese in Burra

Other Miscellaneous References

Chinese Market Gardens in Burra

Luke Day as a young man

Luke Day as a young man

Luke Day in his old age

Luke Day in his old age

Ah Sang known as Pang Sang and also as Jimmy

Ah Sang known as Pang Sang and also as Jimmy

Any account of the Chinese in Burra will be hard to piece together and to evaluate.  This is due to a number of difficulties which seem to be unique to them when compared to other sections of the community:

Most of them spoke little English and were largely illiterate, at least in English.

Few are likely to have entered into the civic or social life of the general community.

Since most seem to have been single males they do not generally appear in records of births, marriages, or school records – the majority seem even to have managed to die elsewhere.

An added difficulty is that the English spelling of Chinese names is inconsistent and chaotic and it seems that the Chinese themselves often used different names at different times.  The honorific title Ah is generally taken to be a part of the name by Europeans.

Eric has not researched the mining period, but the few references from the years before the mine closed suggest that some Chinese were employed in the pastoral industry and in various trades such as shoemaking and painting.

Chinese have generally been associated with market gardening, but there seems to be no evidence of gardens in the town before the mine closed and Eric has not yet dated the start of the garden at Black Waterholes.  Such references as he has, also place it later in the century.

Other Chinese were storekeepers and hawkers while travelling herbalists and practitioners of traditional medicine appear from time to time in the period after 1877 and probably earlier too.


Intermarriage with European women was unusual, but not as rare as may be expected.


The Burra Record

The Burra Record carries reports of the anti-Chinese feeling of the 1880s and 1890s from time to time.  F.W. Holder, when editor, was surprisingly tolerant of Chinese immigration and felt they could be made to conform to expected standards of civilised behaviour by enforcing the laws of the land.  (See for example III, 109, 30 July 1880, page 2 & IX, 725 (2), 28 Feb. 1888, page 2)

During his absence in late 1884 rabidly racist articles appeared, written by Benjamin Franklin Langsford.

The following three quotations indicate the extreme anti-Chinese feeling of this writer, who reflected views held by a considerable portion of the population of the time.

Researchers interested in this aspect could perhaps start looking in the Burra Record in the years 1884 & 1885.

‘Mr Kirby might have gone still further, and pointed out to an intelligent and enthusiastic audience that the foul subterranean grub that gnaws at the root of that fair tree of “Social Purity” of which he is the leading champion and cherisher, is to an almost incredible extent, the Chinaman.’ (VI, 384, 28 Oct. 1884, page 2)

‘[A] great proportion of our agricultural labourers, dam sinkers, road makers, shearers, bricklayers, builders, mechanics, et hoc genus omne, are runaway sailors, “niggers”, Malays and Indians, to whom we must now add Egyptians and Assyrians! – to say nothing of “the yellow agony”, in the shape of almond eyed, meek and gentle Mongolian.’ (VI, 385, 31 Oct. 1884, page 2)

‘They may pollute poor European families, and European society as they do, by obtaining wives by abduction, seduction and secret barter (we write again advisedly) and not a word is said; not a complaint made, by European father, mother or brother.’

‘But let the Chinaman (which includes here all coloured races) be considered in relation to capital and labour, to certain trades and occupations, to the lowering of European wages, then the modern colonial philanthropist is deeply wounded.  Wipe out, smother, pollute, corrupt his morals, and he is meekly content; but let the Chinaman or the Oriental influence of his wages, and reach for his pocket, and he roars out with genuine agony like a bull of Bashan!  Absit omen.’  (VI, 388, 11 Nov. 1884, page 2)



Name in Cemetery
Plot No. Date Age Place of
Cause of Death
Sing, Annie* 216 24 Jan 1871 5 wks Kooringa
Ah Pong, John 658 25 Sep 1871 51 Kooringa Phthisis
Sing, Henry* 586 9 Aug 1872 4 days Kooringa
Ah Wing, James* 695 3 Mar 1877 40 Kooringa Phthisis
Sang, William 6 Nov 1893 6 mths Kooringa Diarrhoea & convulsions
Tie, Chong Foon (James)* 2354 10 Feb 1900 43 Kooringa Concussion of the brain following a fall from a spring cart
Shang, A.H.* (Error for Ah
2222 20 May 1905 65 or 70 Kooringa Carcinoma of rectum & liver
Day, Luke* 2929 31 Aug 1962 95 Kooringa Myocardial degeneration

There is a tombstone for Kung Pong, dated 2 Sep. 1872, but this was found at Mt Cone broken in pieces and has been restored and placed in the Kooringa Cemetery.  The translation of the inscription in Chinese characters reads: Kung Pong, from ‘The village of the white sand’ in the Ningpo Region of the Province of Chekiang (Zhetjiang) died 30 Seventh Month 1872 (by the Chinese calendar).


*Further information on these persons can be found in subsequent sections.



The following details are taken from marriage registrations.

James Arwing (28), father Joseph Arwing, married Maria Dawson (24), father James Dawson, on 5 Oct. 1867, at the Redruth registry office.

Ah Swan, bachelor and painter, aged 40, whose father was Ing Swan, married Ann Nichols Hawke, widow, aged 35, whose father was James Nichols, on 9 March 1871, at Mrs Hawke’s (the bride’s?) residence.

[Earlier marriage of Ann Nichols Hawke to be checked & any children thereof.]

Foon Tie, bachelor and gardener, aged 38, whose father was Wisin Tie, married Mary Mannix, spinster and domestic, aged 24, whose father was John Mannix, on 27 January 1896, at the residence of Mrs J. Goldsworthy, in Thames St, Kooringa.

James Hong Wah (29), father Wun Wah, married Elizabeth Victoria Butt (29), whose father was John Butt, on 22 December 1897, at the Residence of Mr Fredrick, Kooringa.  He is described as a gardener and she as a domestic servant.  Witnesses are Emanuel Fredrick, boarding house keeper, and Eliza Fredrick who signed with a X.



The following information is taken from the Redruth Gaol register of admissions held in the Burra Library.

There were six Chinese in the history of Redruth Gaol:-

Sara Ling in 1877 and, in the 1880s: Ah Hong, Ah Ling, Ah Hang and Kuhn Ah.

Of these only Ah Hang committed his crime in Burra.  The Burra Record reports that James Ahange [sic] was charged by Christopher Savage with stealing 50/- from him on 27 Oct. 1888, from his bedroom in the Kooringa Hotel.  The prisoner had been drinking with Savage and had seen Savage place the money under his pillow.  The hotel’s ostler had seen Ahange place something under a stone near the house.  Ahange claimed the money was his, but it was recovered wrapped in Savage’s handkerchief.  He was sentenced to 6 months.  (Burra Record: IX. 797. 30 October 1888, page 2)

Gaol records additionally reveal he was aged 17, height 5’4½”, single, illiterate, and suffered from gonorrhoea.  Though the sentence was for 17-24 weeks, he entered on 27 Oct. 1888 and left on 5 Nov. 1888 when he was transferred to Gladstone Gaol.

Ling How is reported in the Burra Record of 19 Aug. 1891 as being sentenced to 3 months hard labour on 18 August, for stealing a bag of rice from Drew & Crewes’.  Gaol records show he entered there on 18 Aug. 1891 and left on 17 Nov. 1891.  He was 38, height 5’7”, illiterate, and a drug addict.

[The typescript of the Gaol records gives the name as Ling Hon: probably misreading handwriting.]



This search has barely been started and other names may be found, but some entries are unhelpful in simply saying something like ‘Chinese gardeners’ rather than giving their names.

Ah Hin: 1876 assessment says he lived in ‘Brick Row’ which was opposite the Wesleyan (now Uniting) Church in Chapel St.  The name is crossed out, suggesting he had moved by the time rates came to be paid.

Ah Ying: 1876, Same information as for Ah Hin above.

G. Maip: 1879 as the owner and occupier of a hut and garden at allotments 105 & 106 in New Aberdeen.  Other years about this time merely refer to unnamed ‘Chinaman’ or ‘Chinamen’ at this site.

[Ah] Sing: 1889 with Ah Fat renting unspecified allotment[s] from Richard Snell in Kingston St

[Ah] Fat: 1889 with Ah Sing renting unspecified allotment[s] from Richard Snell in Kingston St

[Ah] Sing: 1890 renting with Ah Fat a house from Richard Snell allotment 391 Kingston St

[Ah] Fat: 1890 renting with Ah Sing a house from Richard Snell allotment 391 in Kingston St

Ling How: 1891 renting allotments 103 to 107 New Aberdeen from W. Isaac Short, as a garden

Ah Sing: 1892: renting pt allotment 33 Redruth, a house in Trenbath St

See Wah: 1892: name crossed out as renting pt allotment 33 Redruth, a house in Trenbath St

Charles Fae: 1892: renting allotments 103 to 107 New Aberdeen, from W. Isaac Short, as a garden

Charles Fie: 1893: renting allotments 103 to 107 New Aberdeen, from W. Isaac Short, as a garden

Ah Ching: 1895 renting allotments 104 to 107 New Aberdeen, from W. Isaac Short, with a house & garden

Ah Chung: 1896 renting allotments 103 to 107 & pt 103 & pt 104 New Aberdeen, from W. Isaac Short, with a house and garden – this continues till 1899

James Wah: 1900 & 1901 renting allotments 103 to 107 & pt 103 & pt 104 New Aberdeen, from W. Isaac Short, with a house and garden

Ah Chung: 1900 rents house on allotment 388 in Kingston St, owned by SAMA

Ah Chun: 1901 to 1903 rents house on allotment 388 in Kingston St, owned by SAMA

James Wah: 1901 name crossed out for house on allotment 388 in Kingston St

Luke Day: 1903 rents house in Kingston St owned by John Snell, allotment unstated.



Ah Bow was probably passing through Burra when he was robbed in 1883.  He is described as a hawker of Warrabarra [presumably Wirrabara] and was robbed while sleeping at Emanuel Frederick’s lodging house in Kooringa, losing one £5 note, eight £1 notes, £5-10-0 in silver, a gold brooch worth £1-10-0 and a gold seal worth 10/-.  Richard Berry was charged and committed for trial. [See Burra Record: V. 280. 23 Oct. 1883, page 2.] In the Burra Record: V, 293, 7 December 1883, page 2, the report of criminal cases heard in Adelaide show that Richard Berry (22) pleaded guilty to stealing from Frederick’s Lodging House in Kooringa.  He had several previous convictions and was sentenced to 6 years hard labour.

Burra Record VII, 486, 23 October 1885, page 2. 

Ah Hing v. George Craddock for assault.
Redruth Court, 17 October 1885.

Ah Hing said that on entering a hotel in Kooringa the defendant abused and later assaulted him.  Craddock fined £2. [This may or may not be the Ah Hin named in the 1876 Council assessment.]

G. Maip sued Ah Looey and the case took some time due to the Chinese having difficulty in making themselves understood.  Apparently the plaintiff claimed he had lent some money and also sold some goods to the defendant amounting in all to c. £13.

The defendant in counter claim had a demand for the rent of a shop and much depended on whether this had been taken by the week or for a year.  If it was by the year the plaintiff would have been indebted to the defendant.  The bench decided it had been by the week and the rent of the shop set off against the money lent reduced the claim to 30/- for which the verdict was given.

Burra Record, VII, 509, 15 Jan. 1886, page 2.

Hoo Fie.  In the Burra Record: IX, 776. 17 August 1888, page 2, Thomas Rosewall is reported charged with assaulting a Chinaman, Hoo Fie, on 12 August.  He pleaded guilty.

Through an interpreter Hoo Fie said the accused had entered his shop in Kooringa and without provocation had first beaten a dog and then struck him blows on the eyes, chest and stomach.  Rosewall was fined £2 plus £3 costs, or 14 days.  The fine was paid. 

Ah Hang.  See Burra Record: IX. 797. 30 October 1888, page 2, and information already reported under Chinese in Redruth Gaol.

A number of Chinese are principally or only known from a series of court cases in which several of them sued one another over various matters in 1894.  The cases are reported in the local paper.

Burra Record: XV, 297, 23 May 1894, page 3
Redruth Court, last Friday.
A Chinese Puzzle, before the new SM, Mr Stow.

Lock Sing sued Charlie Fie, claiming the defendant owed him £48-12-0.

Charlie Fie is described as a vegetable grower of Burra.

The matter was complicated and made further so by the problems of language.

Lock Won lent Charlie Fie a sum of money.

Lock Won owed Lock Sing a sum of money.

To discharge his debt to Lock Sing, Lock Won made over his debt to Lock Sing.

This meant Charlie Fie was to pay his debt to Lock Sing.

Mr Snell was engaged to collect 12/- a week from a store in Kooringa until £51 had been paid.

Lock Won called a meeting of his creditors and when Charlie Fie heard this he told Luke Day who was renting the store to stop paying Mr Snell on the pretence that Lock Won had declared himself insolvent. 

In letters it had been alleged that Lock Sing was a myth, but he was real enough.  The agreement which could be produced covered everything and Charlie Fie was well acquainted with the facts therein.

Charlie Fie had paid £2-8-0 to Mr Snell under this agreement without demur. Joe Tie interpreted for Lock Sing.

The agreement allowed all the rent on the shop, dwelling and premises occupied by Luke Day, known as Mr W. Henderson’s and let for 12/- a week, until £51 be paid without interest.  It was signed by I. Lesso and Luke Day as witnesses on 24 January 1894.

It was not signed by Fie which is what the defence counsel worked upon, but Mr Stow said it was quite clear Fie was cognisant of the fact he owed £51 and was perfectly aware he had to settle it by requesting Mr Snell to collect the money from Luke Day.  He found for the plaintiff with full costs.

[This case is one of the few records that discloses the names of a group of Chinese in Burra at the time.  Presumably all the witnesses were local, though the interpreter, Joe Tie, came up from Adelaide according to another case reported in the paper of 20 June 1894.  Those named were Gong Wong, Lock Sing, Ah Fat, Ah Sing, Lee Sue, Charlie Fie, and Lock Won.  We are told Lock Won was known as Lee Won before his marriage and that Lock was his wife’s name.  Charlie Fie is said in the second case to have been renting the garden from Mr Short opposite the Railway Station.  Ah Fat and Ah Sing were, or had been, shopkeepers in Kooringa.

The court appears to have been very patient when hearing the case with all its language difficulties, but the newspaper report is quite racist, making fun of the language difficulties, Chinese names and also ridiculing the swearing process.]

Burra Record: XV, 300, 20 June 1894, page 3
Redruth Court, Chinese Puzzles.
[The story is quite difficult to piece together from the evidence, but it appears to be something like what follows.]

Lock Sing seized a horse, cart and harness from Charlie Fie.

[Lock Sing had recently been awarded £48-12-0 from Fie in a court case.]

Then Billy Short claimed that the horse was not Charlie’s, but his, because he had bought it from him when Charlie had needed money to send to China.

Though his evidence was far from clear he said he gave £6-10-0 for the horse.

(Although Fie had owed him £2 for rent of his garden it was not deducted from the sum for the horse.)

It appears that Sampson had seized the horse. (Presumably acting as agent for Lock Sing.)

Short then bought it and returned it whence it had come.

Last month when Fie lost his court case against Sing he lost everything and gave up renting the garden from Short, who then let it to Ah Gow who had previously been employed by Fie.  [Elsewhere it is stated that Ah Gow is also known as Sam Sing.]

Jimmy Gully was then sworn as a witness to the sale of the horse from Fie to Short.

August Fuss also gave evidence he had signed the receipt as a witness, but had not actually seen money change hands.

Charlie Fie was then sworn and admitted selling the horse to Short, but also admitted using it for his own purposes afterwards.

Ah Gow said he used to work for Fie for £1 a week, but now he was employing Fie for 15/- a week.

Mr Downer, for Lock Sing said the whole story was a sham to cheat his client out of the fruits of his claim.  No one could believe either Short or the Chinaman [Fie].

Mr Packard for the complainant did not speak.

Mr Stow SM endorsed Mr Downer’s views and gave a verdict in favour of Lock Sing with costs for Joe Tie, the interpreter from Adelaide.

Lock Sing v. Charlie Fie.

This was an interpleader case where L. Day was the principal.  L. Day sought to recover £14 from Charlie Fie.  The sum was realised when Mr Sampson sold a horse, cart and harness at auction to Sam Sing.  Sam Sing , when he appeared, said he was now Ah Gow.  After Fie had the judgement against him a month ago, Day took away Fie’s horse, cart and harness, claiming they were his property.  The ownership of the property of the Chinamen seems hard to establish.  Day acted on advise to sell the horse and harness as soon as possible, but the bill of sale was never registered.  Sampson sold the things, but as no bill of sale was presented he objected to hand over the proceeds.  The bailiff soon after received instructions to seize the items, but having sold them Sampson kept the money and paid it into court.  The point being debated was whether he should have done that or paid the money to Day.  The SM gave the verdict to the executor creditor.  Mr Foster advised he intended to appeal to the Supreme Court.  Sm Stowe said he would require him to find a security for £25 for expenses – to be paid to the clerk of the local court within 2 days of hearing of the case and the case to be filed 14 days later.  (Ah Gow is said to talk very fair English.)

Luke Day v. J. Sampson for £14, being the proceeds of the sale of a horse and harness.  This was non suited after much evidence had been taken.  

Burra Record: XV, 318, 28 Nov. 1894, page 2

W. Henderson v. C. Fie for power to evict.

Henderson let some land to Fie.  Fie erected a store and then sublet to Fung Sang and Luke Day.  The latter took possession some 18 months ago.  Day paid Fie rent and Fie paid Henderson, getting a receipt.  Henderson now says he did not give permission for Fie to sublet and so the agreement is broken.

Luke Day was in possession during the year, but the premises are presently unoccupied.  Fie carried on a separate business in Aberdeen as a gardener.  The verdict was in favour of the defendant as Henderson having received the rent had waived his rights. [Note that this places Luke Day in Kooringa in mid 1893, rather earlier that the family research in the book on his life suggests.]

Burra Record: XV, 270 (2), 12 May 1897, page 3

Five women were charged with riotous behaviour in Kingston St 2 May: Agnes Gully, Mabel Bradley, Annie Ah Chin(Married), Crissie Smith and Selina Smith.  (Smith and Gully are local, Bradley has been recently released from Adelaide Reformatory School and has since conducted herself satisfactorily – nothing is known of Ah Chin.)  Ah Chin and Gully pleaded guilty and the others not.

Witness Richard Moore saw the fracas – saw Bradley hit Gully and heard Gully use disgusting language.  About 30 people were present.  Did not see the Smiths take an active part.  The bench ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict.  Gully and Chin were fined £1-1-0 including costs.

Agnes Gully was also charged with using abusive language.  The language was written down and handed to Gully who admitted ‘without a blush’ to having used it.  The document was handed to the Bench.  The constable demanded a gaol sentence rather than a fine.  Defendant said the others had used equally bad language.  The Bench replied that that did not make her case any better.  Fined £2-10-0.  Gully (aged 18) was given a week to pay.

See later under market gardeners for information about Annie Ah Chin’s marriage.

Burra Record: XV, 310, 23 Mar. 1898, page 3

Sammie Duck, fruit hawker, was fined 10/- + 10/- costs for not having his weighstested and stamped.

(Luke Day appeared for Duck which suggests Sammie was Chinese.)

Burra Record: XV, 354 (3), 1 Mar. 1899 page 3 [Third use of No. 354]

Ching Hi sued Hi Hing for £1-13-0 for work done, but when Hi Hing was called Ah Foon appeared.  Ching Hi claimed Ah Foon had presented himself as Hi Hing.  If Ching Hi wants to proceed he will have to summons Ah Foon.  [The same report sometimes has Hing Hi rather than Hi Hing.]

Burra Record: X, 825, 8 Feb. 1889, page 2
Redruth Court, 5 Feb.

Sing Fat fined 5/- + 10/- costs for having one unstamped weight

[This last name should probably be Sing & Fat who were a pair of market gardeners in The Paddock and had a shop in Market Square, though the dates of their operations in either place are unclear.]

Burra Record: XI, 960, 30 May 1890, page 3
Redruth Court.

On 28 May Sing & Fat were fined for a stray horse.

Burra Record: 22 Jan. 1902

Ah Shang is mentioned as giving evidence in a case involving the movement of sheep to Wandillah and his English is mocked.



Burra Record: VI, 393, 28 Nov. 1884, page 2:

Doctor, or Ah Lee, a Chinese, appears to have left the town with debts unpaid.  [At least this appears to be the import of a very tediously wordy and supposedly humorous paragraph.]

Baldina Irrigation Scheme.
Burra Record: XI, 988, 5 Sep. 1890, page 3

The original favourable attitude of the Government has been changed as a result of a more detailed survey and report.  Originally for 600 acres, levels show that only 200 acres are available and the estimated cost of £2,000 cannot be borne by such an area.  The area was advertised at a rent of £9 p.a. for a ten acre block plus 17/- per acre for water rights for equivalent of 24” per year.  Seven applications were received when eight were needed to make it viable.

‘The work was not put in hand as it would be a dead loss for the benefit of a few individuals and one of these individuals was a Chinaman.  Evidently the Public Works Department thought that starting an irrigation scheme for the benefit of a Chinaman was something that the Government could not undertake.’ 

Said by the Hon. T. Playford when speaking in reference to the report.  He also said the following lovely example of multiple negatives: ‘I don’t know whether they should not have tried this scheme or not’.

The editor commented: we believe the conditions should be slightly relaxed and the scheme tried as then plenty of applications would have come forward.

Ah Som.  The Kooringa Post Office is holding an unclaimed letter for Ah Som.

Burra Record: XV, 303, 11 July 1894


Mr James Ah Hong Wah, Chinese Herbalist, Consultations free at the Kooringa Hotel, 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. daily.  Private Residence, Thames St, Kooringa, opposite the Primitive Methodist Church. [Later the Kooringa Masonic Lodge.]

Burra Record: XV, 300, 12 Jan. 1898, page 2

It is not known if the following reference it to the same person:

The Council assessment of 1901 shows James Wah as a gardener.

The Burra Record in Nov. 1899 [check date]

says in some reminiscences of Burra that Fang Sang had a shop next to the Commercial Hotel, later taken over by Mr Brady.  It seems likely that this was the same person as Fung Sang cited as a partner of Luke Day (1893-4) in the court case of 1894.

It is possible that Fang Sang was married, though the evidence for the connections in this story are as yet incomplete.

Marriage:  Chen Fung Sang (26), father Chen Sang, married Annie Simmons (27), father Thomas Simmons, on 24 Aug. 1891 at the residence of Rev. E.G. Day, Adelaide.

Birth: Thomas Foo Tam Sang was born 23 Feb. 1891 in Adelaide.  Father was Fung Sang and mother Annie Simmons.

Death: William Sang died 6 Nov. 1893, child of Fang Sang, storekeeper of Kooringa, of diarrhoea and convulsions, aged six months.



There is much useful information to be found relating to the Chinese Market Gardens in Burra.  Research has been done for the following market gardens:-

1. New Aberdeen Garden (Allotments 103 to 107 or part thereof)

2. Sing & Fat's Kingston Street Garden

3. Garden of James Wah

4. Garden of Ah Chin, probably also known as Chin Young

5. The Black Waterholes Garden

6. Luke Day's Garden

If you are interested in reading details relating to each of the the aforementioned market gardens, then please read this document.