Sir Albert Maria Rodrigues

OBE, CBE, MBE (Mil), ED, Chev. Legd' Hon, KtGC (St. Sye), Ordem de Christo, LLD, JP

1911 - 2006

This is a slightly edited version of an article published in the Bulletin of Club Lusitano of Hong Kong, 12 June 2017.


Albert Maria Rodrigues was born on the 5th November 1911, the only son of Luis Gonzaga de Caravalho Rodrigues and Genovanina Maria dos Remédios. The family suffered tragedy less than two weeks later with the death of his mother. Then when Sir Albert was just 9 years old his father passed away and he was taken in and raised by an uncle with 7 children of his own.

Sir Albert, a child prodigy, was educated at St Joseph's College from which he graduated at the young age of 15. He was awarded the Inez Soares scholarship which made it possible to attend the University of Hong Kong with the assistance of another great club luminary, Mr. A.M.L. Soares.

Sir Albert Rodridues attended St Joseph's College

A keen sportsman, he captained the University cricket team to the top of the League in 1932 while also captaining the hockey team (a sport in which he represented Hong Kong) before completing his medical studies in 1934 and winning the Chan Kai Ming prize. He then furthered his education over the next 3 years in Lisbon and London specialising in paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology.

Sir Albert Rodrigues and Lady Cynthia

After the conclusion of his formal education, he started his private practice. However his greatest contributions to Hong Kong were perhaps political. He was first elected to the Urban Council in 1940; at the age of 29 he was its youngest member. This accomplishment is all the more remarkable as it was achieved without aid from any organisation with a political platform.

Dr. Rodrigues joined the Portuguese Company of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps as a medical officer and soon made the rank of Lieutenant. After the fall of Hong Kong he was interred in the wretched conditions of the Sham Shui Po prisoner-of-war camp where he distinguished himself in the care of his fellow prisoners, many of whom would otherwise have died. Of particular note were his efforts in combating a diptheria epidemic which ravaged the camp population.

For his unceasing commitment to the wellbeing of his fellow man during the war he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

After the war, he resumed his private practice as well as his role in the Urban Council until 1950 when he travelled to the USA for post-graduate work. In 1959 he was appointed to the Legislative Council and subsequently to the Executive Council where he was the Senior Unofficial Member. Prior to his retirement in 1974 he was the Chief Council Member of both the Legislative and Executive Councils. He also served as the Medical Superintendent of St. Paul's Hospital.

Dr Albert Rodrigues in Sham Shui Po Camp

It was during this post-war period that Sir Albert championed the idea of a federation to unite the various groups formed out of medical specialists for the advancement of medicine in Hong Kong. On the 18th February 1965 the Federation of Medical Societies of Hong Kong was inaugurated with Sir Albert as its Founding President by unanimous vote.

Sir Albert was later on appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1960 and Commander of the Order the British Empire in 1964, 2 years after he had been appointed Chairman of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the university of Hong Kong. It was also in 1962 that he was awarded the Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) by the University of Hong Kong for which he had was Pro-Chancellor for 26 years.

He was also made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour in 1962 and made a Knight Grand Cross of the Roman Catholic Order of St. Sylvester in 1966. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1971 in recognition of his immense contributions to the community of Hong Kong, including the assisting in the foundation of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society.

Sir Albert Maria Rodrigues passed away at St Paul's Hospital to which he had given so much at the age of 94 on the 5th February 2006. He was pre-deceased by his first wife, Cynthia Maria Silvia in 1987, and by his second wife, Ana Maria (Aninhas) de Azevedo de Castro Basto in 2002. He was survived by his son Albert (Tito) and daughters Ann and Mari, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In spite of the honours and awards given him, Sir Albert Rodrigues felt most honoured that, in his role as ProChancellor, he had the privilege of conferring an honorary degree - Doctor of Social Science - on Mother Theresa, whom he admired so much for the great humility and humanitarian attitude shown by her life and good works.

Sir Albert Maria Rodrigues was a remarkable member of the club, a man of singular intelligence and considerable academic and political achievement who was noted as having "generously exceeded the gracious norms of a gracious generation..." and whose contributions to Hong Kong and his fellow man cannot be understated.