Alfred Richard Firth
was Acting Consul at Tainan from 13 May to 5 December 1907, taking
charge of the Consular District for 7 months from Consul Alfred Ernest
Alfred Richard Firth was again Acting Consul at
Tainan from 24 March to 11 April 1910, taking charge from Acting Consul
William Massy Royds. Firth effectively closed the Tainan Consulate.
Alfred Richard Firth was born in November 1875,
the son of Alfred Firth, a Schoolmaster, and Susanna Pett, at Castle
Rising, Norfolk. Alfred Richard Firth was educated at Barton School,
Isle of Ely, King’s Lynn Grammar School, and London University where he
obtained a B.A. in 1895. A R Firth took the Civil Service Open
Examination for the China, Japan, and Siam Consular Services in May
1898. After passing the examination Alfred Richard Firth was appointed a
Student Interpreter in Japan on 9 July 1898.
Alfred Richard Firth travelled out from London to
Japan in August 1898 and spent two years learning Japanese at the
British Legation in Tokyo [東京]. Firth was then promoted to Second
Assistant and posted to Yokohama [横浜]. In February 1903 Second Assistant
A R Firth was transferred to Manila as Acting Vice-Consul for the
Philippine Islands. Throughout 1905 Alfred Richard Firth took Home Leave
to Dersingham, Norfolk, where his parents lived. Firth returned Manila
and continued as Acting Vice-Consul for the Philippine Islands until 27
April 1907 when he was transferred to South Formosa.
Alfred Richard Firth arrived at Anping [安平] on 12
May 1907 was Acting Consul at Tainan from 13 May to 5 December 1907.
Firth was required as Acting Consul at Tainan as the appointed Consul,
Alfred Ernest Wileman, had been ordered to Yokohama as Acting
Consul-General. Consul Wileman returned to Anping on 15 December 1907,
ten days after Firth had departed, during these ten days the Pro-Consul,
Harry Walter Arthur of Bain and Company, was in charge of the Tainan
In June 1908 A R Firth arrived at Osaka [大阪] to
take up his duties as acting British Vice-Consul. Firth did not stay
long at Osaka, for, in November 1909, he was appointed Acting Consul at
Tamsui [淡水] to take over from Consul Arthur Morison Chalmers pending the
arrival of the new Consul, John Baptist Rentiers, who was on Home Leave.
Meanwhile, in South Formosa William Massy Royds was the Acting Consul,
having taken charge of the Tainan Consulate from the departing Consul,
Alfred Ernest Wileman, on 1 May 1909. The Foreign Office wished to make
Tainan an unsalaried Vice-Consulate under the authority of the Tamsui
Consulate; however, Harry Walter Arthur, the Senior Partner of Bain and
Company, had resigned as Pro-Consul and on 1 March 1910 informed Acting
Consul Royds that he was unable to accept the terms offered to be the
unsalaried Vice-Consul at Tainan. As William Massy Royds was also due to
depart, the British Ambassador to Japan, Claude Maxwell MacDonald, sent
a telegram to Acting Consul Firth at Tamsui on 17 March 1910 appointing
him concurrently the Acting Consul at Tainan upon Royds’ departure.
On 21 March 1910 Acting Consul Alfred Richard
Firth arrived at Tainan and took charge of the Tainan Consulate from
Acting Consul William Massy Royds on 24 March 1910. On 22 April 1910
Ambassador MacDonald gave permission for A R Firth to transfer the
Anping Consular Chest balance to the Tamsui Consulate and that the
Tamsui Consular accounts in future should include all receipts and
disbursements incurred in connection with Tainan Consulate. Acting
Consul Firth advised Ambassador MacDonald that the costs of the
necessary staff retention were the monthly wages of a Japanese writer
and 2 native caretakers. With these actions the Tainan Consulate was
effectively closed, and Alfred Richard Firth ceased to be Acting Consul.
Alfred Richard Firth returned to Tamsui until
about July 1910, when he took Home Leave. In England Alfred Richard
Firth stayed with his aging parents, Alfred and Susanna Firth, at their
home, ‘The Shrubbery’, Dersingham, Norfolk. Firth left England on 2
March 1912 with destination given as Manila, Philippine Islands. On 20
July 1912 Alfred Richard Firth was promoted to Vice-Consul and ordered
to proceed to Kobé [神戸].
Vice-Consul Alfred Richard Firth died of
peritonitis, following an operation for appendicitis, at Kobé, Japan,
aged 36, on 12 October 1912 and was buried there the following day.
General Register of the University of London.
The National Archives, British
Foreign Office Files, series FO
Oakley, David Charles; The Story of
the British Consulate at Takow; Privately published,
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2007.
Who’s who in the
Far East, 1906-1907, June Edition.
The Straits Times,
23 June 1908. London and China Telegraph, November 4,
National Probate Calendar; Ships'
Passenger Lists; British General Registry Office; London