“To cut a long story short” is an expression that British ex-pat Antony S Conway (Q.G.M., C.P.M., M.I. Fire E.) is likely to use during any conversation. Tony is an octogenarian Hua Hin ex-pat who has extraordinary tales to tell of exploits and achievements as a fire fighter over many decades and at locations worldwide.
Tony has written the ‘long stories’ of his adventurous life in two books; “Boys of the Old Brigade” and “A Very Oriental Place”. The former is a collection of stories of a young man embracing the life of a career fireman in post-World War II in the English city of Manchester. It deals with the humorous side of life but also the tensions, exhilarations, life and death dramas encountered. In 1962 Tony transferred to the Hong Kong Government Fire Services Department where he advanced to become the Chief Fire Officer in Kowloon before retiring to become a consultant and lecturer in the fire and safety field. His second book is about colonial Hong Kong and its people at “their glowing best and grasping worst.” This book is based on a period of 21 years’ service in managing devastating fires, often sweeping through the shanty towns of Chinese refugees. In 1973 he was presented the Colonial Fire Brigades Medal for conspicuous gallantry by HM Queen Elizabeth. By 1983 it is estimated that Tony had attended some 15,000 emergencies including in 1972, when the British ocean liner the Queen Elizabeth, then the Seawise University, burst into flames and sank in Victoria Harbour despite heroic efforts over two days. Along the way there were assignments to various parts of the USA and to the Royal Thai Police Fire Brigade in Bangkok; leaving Hong Kong with the legacy of an emergency response capacity that remains the envy of Asia.
By 1989 Tony had tempered his adventurous spirit and moved to suburban Perth in Western Australia, publishing his first book in 1992 and second by 2002. Now he has joined his son Mark in Hua Hin and spends spare time entertaining customers at the Orchid Coffee Shop at Mon Mhai. Our thanks to Tony for sharing his memories and to his friend Colin Sweeper for the invitation to learn about a life full of adventure. There may be another book soon to continue the long story. There are still many tales to be told about deep sea diving and characters such as Jacky Chan, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and many, many more.
Our favourite “long story cut short”?’ ‘TwoGun’ Cohen was soldier of fortune of Jewish origin who became a bodyguard to General Chiang Kai-shek of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army. Tony’s story is about a rescue during a fire in a high-rise building in Hong Kong. ‘Two-Gun’ was found perched on a narrow ledge many floors above the ground casually sipping on a bottle of whisky waiting for help to arrive. His comment to rescuer Tony, wearing breathing apparatus breaking down the door ……. “What took you so long?”