Over the years the Presidents, of varying origins, careers and beliefs, have been elected because they share a common unifying desire to celebrate all that is Ireland, its unique culture, traditions and history, in the honour and the name of St Patrick. The President is elected annually at the Society’s AGM by the outgoing committee. In the Society’s history, only Mr P Hamilton has served more than one year, due to the Second World War; Whilst Graeme Martin and Noel Smyth are the only Presidents to have been reelected for a second term.
The Society’s first President was Sir Joseph Kemp. He was born in Dublin in 1874, and educated at Dublin High School, before later studying law at Cape University, South Africa and London University. He moved to Hong Kong in 1898 to serve as a cadet in the Colonial Office. In 1915, he was appointed the Attorney General of Hong Kong, before later being appointed as the Chief Justice of Hong Kong in 1930.
On his retirement as Chief Justice, Kemp was elected the first President of the Society in 1934. His election was the beginning of a rich history of the Society. Following him, just as Kemp, each of the Presidents have gone on to both contribute immensely to Hong Kong and preserve and celebrate Ireland’s culture and traditions overseas, through their involvement and leadership of the St Patrick’s Society of Hong Kong.