Once upon a time there was a small hill standing between Ho Man Tin and Hung Hom.
People wanting to travel between the two areas could either make a detour or take a trail uphill. Many would hesitate at the latter option as it was known as a “dangerous path”.
The hillside drew a lot of attention during the early 20th century, when a smallpox pandemic struck Hong Kong and took the lives of many children.
Though the highly infectious disease had been made curable, some poor families couldn’t afford the medicines. Some parents also did not trust the new medicines, missing out on an opportunity to get their loved ones cured.
The hillside then became a mass grave for deceased children. People who walked past the site claimed that they had visions of restless spirits.
But the area has since then been transformed into the Ho Man Tin East Service Reservoir Playground. On the natural turf pitches, one can no longer see any “dangerous path”.
Off the coast of old Castle Peak Bay in Tuen Mun, there has been a similar story on Mouse Island.
Residents in the bay were mostly fishermen dwelling on their boats.
If people had children who failed to recover from illnesses for long, they would give up the sons and daughters and leave them on the island for isolation. Their survival would be left in the hands of God.
Miracles did happen sometimes and the kids would recover. The healthy orphans would be adopted by some good Samaritans who paid regular visits to the island.
In the 1980s, the government did some reclamation work to merge Mouse Island into the main landmass in the area for new town development.
In August 2004, a children’s playground, designed by the Architectural Services Department, was opened to all.
It has become a prime recreational site, enjoying the distinction of being the first environmental park in Hong Kong where all the facilities were built from waste tires and plastics.
Thus, as in the case of the Ho Man Tin hill, a place that was previously known for tales of sorrow has now evolved into a playground bursting with the laughter of children.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 9.
Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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