David Wilson, Baron Wilson of Tillyorn

This article is about the British diplomat David Wilson. For the similarly-named museum director, see David M. Wilson.
The Right Honourable
The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn
David Wilson in Cambridge, 2008
Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Assumed office
Preceded by Sir George Reid
President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
In office
Preceded by Sir Michael Atiyah
Succeeded by John Arbuthnott
Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen
In office
Preceded by Sir Kenneth Alexander
Succeeded by Camilla, Duchess of Rothesay
Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
In office
Preceded by Sir John Meurig Thomas
Succeeded by Prof. Adrian Dixon
27th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
9 April 1987  9 July 1992
Preceded by Sir Edward Youde
Succeeded by Chris Patten
Personal details
Born (1935-02-14) 14 February 1935
Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
Spouse(s) Natasha Helen Mary, née Alexander
Alma mater Keble College, Oxford
University of London
University of Hong Kong
Profession colonial administrator, diplomat, sinologist

David Clive Wilson, Baron Wilson of Tillyorn, KT, GCMG, FRSE (born 14 February 1935) is a retired Scottish administrator, diplomat and Sinologist. Lord Wilson of Tillyorn was the penultimate Commander-in-Chief and 27th Governor of Hong Kong (from 1987 to 1992). He served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the British Monarch's representative to the Assembly, in 2010 and 2011.

He sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.

Early life and career

Wilson was born in Alloa in Scotland and was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and Keble College, Oxford (1955–58, Master of Arts), and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (PhD in contemporary Chinese history, obtained in 1973). He studied Chinese at the University of Hong Kong from 1960 to 1962 and then served in the British Mission in Beijing. He is fluent in Mandarin and spent 10 of his 30 years as a diplomat in China.

In 1968 Wilson resigned from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to edit The China Quarterly at the School of Oriental and African Studies. After rejoining the Diplomatic Service in 1974 he worked in the Cabinet Office and then, from 1977 to 1981, as Political Adviser to Sir Murray MacLehose, then Governor of Hong Kong. Following that he became Head of Southern European Department in the FCO and then Assistant Under Secretary for Asia and the Pacific during which time he was Head of the British side of the Working Group engaged in drafting the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and then, in 1984, the first Senior British Representative on the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (中英聯合聯絡小組) set up under the Joint Declaration. When Sir Edward Youde died in Beijing on 5 December 1986, Wilson replaced him to become the Governor of Hong Kong in 1987.

Hong Kong governorship

As governor, Wilson had to deal with the fallout in Hong Kong from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. He also encountered the Vietnamese refugee problem, which steadily grew worse and led to the 1988 policy of repatriating those found not to qualify for refugee status (see bắt đầu từ nay). In October 1989, Wilson proposed, in the Governor's Annual Policy Address, the building of an airport on Lantau Island, known as the Rose Garden Project (玫瑰園計劃 see Hong Kong International Airport). The proposal was created out of concern that the then-current airport at Kai Tak, which had been in use since the beginning of Aviation in Hong Kong, was not equipped to handle modern aviation needs.

In December 1991, Britain announced the removal of Wilson as the governor, which had been widely criticised by Hong Kong's pro-democratic camp, three months after their strong performance in Hong Kong's first direct elections to the Legislative Council.[1] Wilson left Hong Kong in June 1992 following the completion of his five-year term as governor. Before his retirement Wilson embarked on political reforms that paved the way for eighteen legislators of the Legislative Council to be directly elected by the people of Hong Kong.

Name in Chinese

When Wilson studied Mandarin Chinese at The University of Hong Kong, he was given the Chinese name Wei Dewei (Chinese: 魏德巍; Jyutping: Ngai6 Dak1-ngai4); "Wei" was short for "Wilson", while "Dewei" is a Chinese transliteration of David. However, when he arrived in Hong Kong to take up the position of colonial governor, it was noted that the Cantonese pronunciation of his earlier name sounded almost nothing like his actual name.[2]

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times commented that Wilson's previous Chinese name sounded too much like "hypocrisy to the extent of danger" (偽得危). Kristof also noted that the surname and the third character can each be divided into components meaning "1,800 female ghosts" (千八女鬼).[2] According to Chan Chung-kwong of RTHK, some locals referred to the name as "two ghosts knocking at the door" (雙鬼拍門), which is unlucky and inappropriate for a governor's name.[3]

When Wilson assumed his position as Governor of Hong Kong, he changed his Chinese name to Wai Yik-Shun (Chinese: 衛奕信; Jyutping: Wai6 Jik6-seon3), the Cantonese Chinese pronunciation of which is more similar to his English name. The new name also has a more favourable meaning and was composed of 33 strokes, said to be a lucky number.[3]


After his governorship and the elevation to a life peerage with the title Baron Wilson of Tillyorn,[4] of Finzean in the District of Kincardine and Deeside and of Fanling in Hong Kong in 1991, Wilson became the Chairman of the energy company Scottish Hydro Electric plc. (later Scottish and Southern Energy) based in Perth, Scotland from 1993 – 2000. He was a member of the Board of the British Council (and Chairman of its Scottish Committee) from 1993–2002; a Director of the Martin Currie Pacific Trust from 1993–2002 and Chairman of the Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland from 2002–06. In 1996 he was appointed a Vice-President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society; and he was the Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen from 1997 to 2013, succeeded by the Duchess of Rothesay.[5] He was President of the Bhutan Society of the UK (1993–2008), the Hong Kong Society (1994– ) and the Hong Kong Association (1994– ). Wilson was made a Knight of the Thistle in 2000. He served as Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge from 2002 to 2008. He was President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; from October 2008 to October 2011, when he was succeeded by Sir John Arbuthnott.[6] In January 2010 he was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 2010.

Places named after him

The 78-kilometre Wilson Trail, containing ten hiking segments aligned north-south in Hong Kong, is named after him, as is the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust (衛奕信勳爵文物信託) established in December 1992 to preserve and conserve Hong Kong's heritage.

Personal life

David and Natasha Wilson at Cambridge University, March 2013.

Wilson has been married to Natasha Helen Mary, daughter of Bernard Gustav Alexander, since 1967. They have two sons, Peter and Andrew.


Wilson was criticised by the pro-democracy camp for not moving more quickly towards a fully elected Legislature based on universal suffrage and for paying too much attention to the views of the Government in China in agreeing arrangements for a process of increasing the number of fully elected seats up to and beyond the transfer of sovereignty in 1997.



See also


  1. Gittings, Danny (2013). Introduction to the Hong Kong Basic Law. Hong Kong University Press. p. 102. ISBN 9789888139491.
  2. 1 2 Kristof, Nicholas (21 September 1987), "In China, the right name can mean the good life", The New York Times, retrieved 20 October 2011
  3. 1 2 "也談郝德傑", Radio Television Hong Kong, 20 June 2010, retrieved 20 October 2011
  4. Craig R. Whitney (26 April 1992). "Ally of Major Is Named Hong Kong Governor". New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  5. "HRH The Duchess of Rothesay joins University 'family'". University of Aberdeen.
  6. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 52382. p. 3. 28 December 1990. Retrieved 6 July 2012.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir David Akers-Jones
President of the Legislative Council
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
Governor of Hong Kong
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Kenneth Alexander
Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
HRH The Duchess of Rothesay
Preceded by
Sir John Meurig Thomas
Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Adrian Dixon
Preceded by
Sir Michael Atiyah
President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
2008 – October 2011
Succeeded by
Sir John Arbuthnott
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