A source referenced copy of the text below is available on request
Previous Persons of the Month
Person of the month 1 - George Michael Billings (with club 1902 to 1927)
Person of the Month 2 - Commandent Louis Guillaume Fabre (with club 1936 to 1941)
Person of the Month 3 - Victor Vause Winser Fretwell (with club 1927 to 1934)
Person of the Month 4 - Francis Kingdon Ward (with the club 1907 to 1909)
Person of the Month 5 - Percy Martin Lancaster (with the club 1903 to 1913)
Martin Valentine Lancaster's boat and crew from a 1889 China Business Directory
Percy Lancaster was born in Shanghai on 18 April 1884, the son of Martin Valentine Lancaster who hailed from Belfast in Maine, U.S.A. and Catherine (Kate) Lancaster. Mr Lancaster senior was a Master Mariner, the Captain of a China Merchants Steam Navigation Company steamer on the China Coast called Hae-An.
An American citizen registration document suggests that Percy was raised outside of Shanghai, as it records him arriving back in Shanghai in March 1897 aged 12, while other documents declared that he had never resided in the United States. There is no record of where he attended school but based upon his sporting activities, it is likely that he was educated in a British style of education, perhaps the Thomas Hanbury Public School in Shanghai or one of the missionary schools elsewhere in China.
He started work in Shanghai as clerk at Ward, Probst and Co at least as early as 1904 (later Probst, Hanbury & Co). By 1920 he was listed in a trade directory as a Director of the Company.
Detail showing Lancaster
Announcement from 1906 regarding the SSPCA
Detail showing Lancaster
Lancaster made his first appearance playing rugby in Shanghai representing the YMCA against the fourth incarnation of the Shanghai Football Club in November 1903. The following November the SRFC broke away from the Shanghai Football Club and Lancaster faced off against the new rugby club playing for a team representing the Old Bedfordians. He continued playing throughout the next few years and in February 1907 was selected for the first rugby interport fixture played by Shanghai, the opponents being Tientsin. From this point Percy played rugby much more frequently and for one year was elected onto the rugby club committee as Vice Captain. He played in the next two interport fixtures, again versus Tientsin, in the following two years, and in 1910 represented Shanghai against the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Of his selection for the 1908 Tientsin fixture the newspaper reported that he ‘has made good improvement since the last Interport match and is now one of the most useful members of the “pack.”’ In December 1911 he turned out for the newly formed American SVC’s rugby outfit hinting that he may have patriotically joined his compatriots in the new regiment, although he did play two games for the Maxim SVC rugby team in 1912. His last recorded rugby match in Shanghai was in February 1913.
Outside of the sporting arena, Percy was for several years the Honorary Secretary for the Shanghai Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, who stood alone as ‘the defender of defenceless dumb animals’. As well as being a member of the Maxim SVC regiment and later the American SVC battalion, he was also a member of the volunteer Shanghai Fire Brigade in the Deluge Company.
For the time, Percy was a big man; his passport application lists him as 5 feet 11 inches with brown hair and eyes, a small mouth and chin and a dark complexion. He put his size to good use in Shanghai’s sporting arena. In the years before the First World War, as well as rugby, he featured in numerous cricket and water polo matches as well as participating in many rowing and swimming tournaments. The earliest reference of him playing sport other than rugby is in June 1904, aged twenty, playing cricket for the YMCA against a Parsee team. He was run out for a duck, (achieving low scores was a constant theme in the available match reports). One week later we learn that he weighed 11 Stone 8lbs participating in the Shanghai Rowing Regatta. Later that year, in a humorous report about some practice rowing races Lancaster was advised to ‘Please try and remember you are not rowing at Chefoo, you are on a slide which has to be controlled, you work hard but do try and get a stroke in sometimes with the others.’ A few weeks later he received further advice, ‘Must remember he is not dredging and must do his share in steadying the boat.’
All this sport made him fit. At an athletics tournament in September 1904, he came third in a half mile handicap race where the winner ran it in a time of 2 minutes and 14.4 seconds. Note that running races at this time were often handicapped, rather than carrying more weight as in a horse race, the competitors started at different intervals based on prior form. In this race, Lancaster had a 40 yard head start. His sporting activity continued into 1905, playing cricket, mostly unsuccessfully, for example appearing in the ‘World’ team against a ‘United Kingdom’ team, and earning another duck, and playing water polo, for the Shanghai Rowing Club against a Navy team.
As can be seen above, Lancaster had led a very sporty and club led life in what was perhaps the Edwardian heyday of Shanghai for young gentleman. Judging by his decline in appearances in the sporting pages of the North China Herald after 1910, Lancaster slowed down a bit. Perhaps other things were on his mind? In November 1911, he was married in the Union Church to a British lady, Miss Lobelia (Lolo) Georgina Cristina Wilson, five years his junior, the daughter of Walter Wilson who had worked in the Imperial Maritime Customs. A son named George was born in England on 27 July 1919 in England. Sadly, for some reason, Percy and Lolo were divorced. Percy, aged 40, remarried in October 1924 to a Canadian named Caroline Mary Cowan, in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.
Seven years later, in 1931, after a lifetime in Shanghai he immigrated to Vancouver in Canada where he died aged 68 on 22 June 1953.
Shanghai RFC vs. Tientsin RFC
The second interport fixture between the teams played in Tienstin on 1 February 1908
Shanghai won 21 - 0
Back Row: A. Fenus (reserve) P M Lancaster G A Turner G H Elsworth W R Butchart D Wallace J A T THomas H Pearce (guest)
Middle Row: A M Lester (reserve) D E Donnelly L R Wheen P Fowler (captain) S H MacKean R H Scott
Front Row: F K Ward W Davidson H G Allen H H Fowler
Detail from 1909 photograph of the Shanghai Volunteer Fire Brigade - Deluge Company
Percy Lancaster in 1918
Marriage announcement in 1911
Lancaster's final departure from Shanghai to Vancouver in early 1931 was marked by cartoonist Sapajou in the North China Daily News in December 1930
Lancaster's long time place of work - staff list in 1920
Shanghai RFC vs. Tientsin RFC
The third Interport fixture between the teams, played in Shanghai on 25 January 1909
Shanghai won by 35 – 3
Back Row: L M Beytagh H H Girardet C T Elsworth (referee) W Davidson H G Allen P Lamb D E Donnelly (touch judge) G H Elsworth
Middle Row: P M Lancaster F K Ward R H Scott P Fowler W R Butchart E I M Barrett G A Turner
Front Row: W Sidebottom H P Wilkinson (vice president) R M Saker
In 1906, Bombardier Lancaster proved his proficiency at shooting by winning for the second time the Maxim Company Shanghai Volunteer Corp (SVC) monthly cup against 21 other opponents shooting at targets 200 and 300 yards away. He was also part of the Maxim SVC team that won the Africa Cup Competition three years in succession (1907 – 09) thereby taking ownership of the trophy itself. The 1909 tournament involved a seven mile cross country race followed by a shooting competition. Lancaster’s team completed the seven mile course winning in 1 hour and two minutes and also came second in the shooting ensuring a very comprehensive win over the other seven units of the SVC.
In the Shanghai Rowing Club’s ‘Swimming Gala and Aquatic Entertainment’ that summer in the recently opened pool, as well as running more conventional races, the gala included tournaments such as a swimming obstacle course, in which Lancaster came joint first with his namesake William Oswald Lancaster, a bobbing for corks competition, diving for dollars race and walking a greasy pole… in fancy dress - a race that Percy won. (Two years later in the same race, he dressed as a Sikh Policeman. ) The following month Percy participated in the inaugural Shanghai Rowing Club long distance swimming race estimated rather vaguely at anything between 4.5 to 6 miles in length. Regardless of the length, Lancaster came third.
Announcement of birth of George Lancaster in 1919
Announcement of Lancaster's second marriage
Lobelia 'Lolo' Lancaster in 1917
Player for Shanghai Rugby Football Club (1903 – 1913) with four interport caps
Vice Captain of Shanghai Rugby Football Club (1908 – 1909)
The American Cricketer
Percy Martin Lancaster (1884 - 1958)
Shanghai vs. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
The first Interport fixture against the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, played in Shanghai on 26 February 1910
Shanghai won by 10 – 3
Back Row: P. Fowler A.W. Burkill (President) C.W.T. Elsworth (Referee) Captain E.I.M. Barrett
Top Middle Row: P. Lambe E.S. Little V.H. Webber P.M. Lancaster H.G. Allen F.C. Evans
Bottom Middle Row: H.H. Girardet L.M. Beytagh T.J. Fisher Dr. J.F. Murray
Front Row: R.M. Saker G.M. Billings W.R. Butchart (Captain) H.H. Fowler E.S. Elliston
Deluge Company of the Shanghai Voluntary Fire Brigade in 1909
Back Row: A. F. Wheen, W. O. Lancaster, W. A. Ray, F. Richardson, R. H. Scott, W. R. Butchart, K. W. Carrill. P. M. Lancaster, H. H. Fowler
Middle Row: J. Quin, R. T. Brimes, R. W. Gunson, A. W. MacPhail, A. M. Lester, J. R. Weeks, H. Pearce
Front Row: H. J. Totton, N. Hornsby, W. D. R. Miller, H. G. Allen, E. B. Heaton-Smith
Detail showing Lancaster
Shanghai vs. Tientsin
The first ever rugby Interport fixture, played in Shanghai on 13 February 1907
Shanghai won by 14 – 0
Back Row: I.R. Wheen (Touch judge) P. Lancaster C.C. Dunman A.H. Arnold T.G. Drakeford R.E. Gregson J.L.M. Gibson (Ref)
Top Middle Row: W.O. Lancaster A. F. Wheen H.H. Fowler G.A. Turner H.G. Allen
Bottom Mddle Row: V.M. Grayburn P. Fowler (Captain) A.W. Walkinshaw
Front Row: R.M. Saker D.E. Donnelly