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Yip Ho Nung (1909–1979)

by Shirley Fitzgerald

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Yip Ho Nung (1909-1979), café proprietor, was born on 18 October 1909 at Chien Mei village, Dongguan, Canton (Guangdong) Province, China, son of Yip Fong Siu and his number two wife Hun Tong Chew. The Chien Mei Yips could trace their ancestry back twenty-five generations. Harry came to Sydney in the 1920s with several of his siblings. He and a younger brother Dong Hoi (Don) lived with their half-brother Yip Tung Kwai, known in Sydney as Gilbert Quoy, and his wife Edith. Quoy was a prosperous wholesale fruit merchant and a conservative leader of the small Chinese community of Sydney.

Having attended Randwick Public and Boys' Intermediate High schools, Harry worked in the City Markets with other family members. In the late 1930s he became a partner in a new wholesale produce firm, Yep Lum & Co. At a time and date indicated as propitious by Chinese texts, he married with Catholic rites Beryl Agnes Yow at the Church of St Francis de Sales, Surry Hills, on 30 December 1935. The Australian-born daughter of a Chinese father and an Irish-Australian mother, Beryl was a practising Catholic and could speak no Chinese.

During World War II, Yip had to register as an alien; Beryl ran a fruit shop at Botany. By 1945, when they moved to Hay Street in Chinatown, Harry was a general merchant. Well known in the Chinese community, he helped applicants with documentation for naturalization, sponsored immigrants and paid the water and council rates for impoverished market gardeners. He acted as a 'go-between' for his community with immigration and customs officials and the police, and counted the police commissioner Norman Allan among his friends.

In 1956 the Yips established the Green Jade café in Dixon Street. They were determined to attract a non-Chinese clientele and employed only waiters who could speak English. Beryl, who worked as the cashier, insisted on using tablecloths (unknown in Dixon Street). The Green Jade became a popular place of introduction to the local Chinese community for many Europeans and eventually it acquired 'celebrity' status (Danny Kaye once dined there). Bridging cultural divides was one of Yip's passions.

Following instruction given by Father (Cardinal) Freeman, Yip had converted to Catholicism in 1954. He was naturalized in 1957. For six years from about 1958 he served as president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, an informal group of Haymarket businessmen. At their home at Dover Heights, where they had settled in 1950, the Yips often entertained visiting dignitaries, politicians and performers. Outgoing and gregarious, Harry loved traditional Chinese opera, and often amused his children with his favourite excerpts.

In the 1970s Yip and other Chinese worked together on various schemes to encourage the revival of Chinese customs in Sydney and helped to organize the building of the Chinese Pavilion at Rookwood cemetery. He and his friend Father Pascal Chang, who ran the Asiana Centre at Ashfield, organized the first August Moon Festival in 1974. Yip also tried to involve the Chinese in the Waratah Festival.

Harry Yip stopped working at the Green Jade in 1974 after suffering a stroke. A diabetic for forty years, he died on 6 October 1979 at St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst. He was buried in the Chinese section of Rookwood cemetery following a requiem Mass at St Theresa's, Dover Heights, and a traditional Chinese civil ceremony in Dixon Street. His wife, and their son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Fitzgerald, Red Tape, Gold Scissors (Syd, 1997)
  • immigration file, SP11/2, item Chinese/Yip Harry Hornung, naturalisation certificate, A1802/1, vol EM(1)30019 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Shirley Fitzgerald, 'Yip Ho Nung (1909–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Harry Hornung
  • Hornung, Harry

18 October, 1909
Dongguan, Guangdong, China


6 October, 1979 (aged 69)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.