The History of Sport Played in China's Treaty Ports

William Ewart Tingle (1900 - 1977)

More information about Billy can be found here

Tingle at the American school with his boxers in March 1939

Tingl'es grave in Hong Cemetry above the on the hill above the racecourse and Hong Kong rugby club.

After being released in 1945, Billy resumed his teaching at the British School. He remained actively involved with the club, at one time trying to persuade the new American Marines in Shanghai to play rugby again and coaching the 1949 Shanghai interport team for their match against Hong Kong. 

   History again imposed itself on his life when he was forced to leave Shanghai after the Communists had ‘liberated’ Shanghai. In common with many Shanghailanders, he moved to Hong Kong. He taught at several schools in Hong Kong and also ran an academy of self defence and Tingle’s Athletic Institute which held Saturday morning sports programmes on the grounds of the old Hong Kong Cricket Club at Chater Road. They became a Hong Kong institution of the 1950s and 1960s and there are many online comments talking about Billy with affection.

   For such an athletic man, it was a surprise that he suffered a stroke in his mid sixties. Showing his fighting spirit, he recovered for a while and continued to dedicate his life to sport.  He suffered a second stroke; despite having lost his speech and mobility, he still occasionally turned up to watch the children play sports. He was awarded an MBE in 1975 for his services to sport and the community in Hong Kong. 

  He died aged seventy-six in the Canossa Hospital, Hong Kong, on 11 February 1977. His obituary mentions his passion for boxing. He was not a fan of Muhammad Ali, he thought him as being 'absolutely void of the art and science of boxing' and thought that 'his talk and bravado had done more harm than anything else'.

  Intriguingly, his obituary mentions that Billy coached the 1948 Chinese Olympic boxing team.  The records show that China did not participate in that boxing tournament. It also states that he coached the 1964 Nepal team who did compete, but I have found no other evidence whether Billy was involved or not.

  On 16 February 1977, after a service at St John’s Cathedral attended by 150 people, he was laid to rest on the hillside of Hong Kong Cemetery overlooking the Hong Kong Football Club where he played rugby against Hong Kong forty-three years and one day earlier on 15 February 1934.

Tingle playing for Shanghai against the HM Navy in November 1936

   He returned to Shanghai and continued to teach and play football for the Public School where he was employed as a physical education teacher. A few years later in 1930, he temporarily left Shanghai, the North China Daily News commented, 'despite the cares of a growing family he still manages to play a moderately useful part in a variety of sports, including boxing, both brands of football, and race riding – the latter being about his worst… but best of all, he has the gift of teaching. I remember some years ago, I was sitting next to an old English Public School sportsman at a boxing tournament for Shanghai schoolboys. This gentleman’s young son had just taken a terrific lambasting from his best chum and had come up smiling time and again to take more. His father turned to me and said: - You know, that chap Tingle has a big value here. He is teaching our youngsters to be men”.'

Tingle has just passed the ball in a game for Shanghai against the US Fourth Marines in December 1935

Tingle with a young protege in November 1930

   Billy played his first game of rugby in Shanghai in 1926. I have documented ninety-seven games in which he featured and he would have certainly played more than this. His last game was 1938 when he was aged thirty-seven. Initially he played in the minor teams, always at scrum-half, when he gained experience; he advanced to the heights of Shanghai rugby representing the interport team in three games, twice against Hankow in 1932 and 1935 and once against Hong Kong in 1934.

   Something went wrong with his marriage, Lillian and Billy divorced, the decree absolute being granted in May 1936. Lillian returned to Australia with her two daughters aged four and eight. Their situation went from bad to worse, unable to support her daughters because of the need to work, the children ended up in an orphanage before later being looked after by their grandmother. In March 1938 Billy applied to an Australian court to reduce his maintenance payments on account of his loss of income. The court ordered that his total payment of £4 per week (£2 to his wife and £1 each to his daughters) be reduced to £3 per week.

   Just two months after his divorce on 16 July at the British Consulate in Shanghai, he married Miss Phyllis Eileen Pugh, a school mistress at the same school as Billy. His school Headmaster Mr Percy Crow was one of the witnesses suggesting that there was not a big scandal about marrying so shortly after being divorced or at least demonstrating the loyalty of the Headmaster of the School where Billy had faithfully served for so many years. The wedding ceremony was held at the Park Hotel after which the newlyweds honeymooned in Peitaiho [Beidaihe], a popular beach resort in the North of China.

   The couple remained in Shanghai and eventually found themselves interned together at Ash Camp in Shanghai in April 1943. Eileen, being Canadian was repatriated to Canada just six months later leaving Billy behind, it is not hard to imagine the mixture of elation and intense sorrow they must have felt that Eileen was able to travel to safety and her concern that she would have felt leaving her husband behind. He transferred to Lunghwa camp in March 1944 where he stayed until 1945. He made himself useful in the camps organising sport for the children.

   


   The diminutive William Ewart Tingle, ‘Billy’ to his friends was thought to be about 4 foot 11 inches tall. In match photographs it is easy to see he was indeed small compared to team mates. He was however a very fit man and he did not let his size get in the way of being a courageous player.

   He was generally thought to be an Australian from Sydney. He was actually born in England in ‘Gods Own Country’, in Leeds, Yorkshire on 1 November 1900 to James and Annie Tingle. In the 1901 census he is listed as the youngest of six children. In the 1911 census he was still living near Leeds, at 326 New Road, Old Farnley and was no longer the baby of the family with two younger siblings. By the time of the 1921 census, he was living in Australia. In 1916, Billy’s father, James Tingle is listed living in Marrickville, seven kilometers south west of Sydney.

   Billy married Lillian Schweikert in Marrickville in January 1923, they went on to have two daughters. Shortly after his marriage, Billy left Australia, with his new wife, seeking boxing glory. As early as November 1923 he was the main attraction in Shanghai fighting in a bout as the bantam weight champion of Australia. He was for a time the Bantamweight Champion of the Orient. A benefit event was held at the New Carlton Café to raise funds so that Billy could travel to the United States ‘there are not a few who believe that Tingle has a good chance to make things interesting even for the best at his weight [118lbs] in the United States’ predicted the North China Daily News. Billy eventually fought his first fight in the United States in November 1925 gaining a points victory against American Alexander Young in California. In the next year he went on to fight a further nine fights in America with a record of two wins, four draws and four losses, not quite the success that the newspaper had predicted.