Second Class Assistant Ernest Alfred Griffiths arrived at Tainan on 23
April 1896 as assistant to the first Consul from the Japan Consular
Service to serve in South Formosa, Joseph Henry Longford. Griffiths was
promoted to First Class Assistant later the same year. Serving much of
his time as the Acting Consul of the Tainan Consular District, Ernest
Alfred Griffiths remained in South Formosa until 12 November 1903,
following the arrival of Consul Alfred Ernest Wileman.
Ernest Alfred Griffiths was born on 3 March 1863
at 19 Percival Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester, Lancashire, the
younger son of Stephen Thomas Griffiths, a Commercial Clerk in the East
India and China Trade, and his wife Catherine Deborah Bower. He was
educated at Dulwich College from 1876 to 1880, when he passed the Civil
Service Examination and became a Clerk in the Exchequer and Audit
Department, London. From January 1881 Griffiths studied in the evenings
at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution, London University.
On 19 February 1884 he took the Open Competitive Examination for one of
the four situations as Student Interpreter in China, or two situations
as Student Interpreter in Japan, and came third in the examination.
Ernest Alfred Griffiths was appointed a Student Interpreter in the Japan
Consular Service on 7 April 1884.
Ernest Alfred Griffiths was promoted to Second
Class Assistant on 1 October 1888, when he served as Acting Vice-Consul
at Tokyo [東京] until 1891. One problem that considerably slowed
Griffiths’ promotions was his inability to pass the Interpreter’s
Examination in Japanese: this slowed his promotion to First Assistant,
and stopped his promotion to Vice-Consul or Consul at Tainan in 1898. In
February 1896, when he was Second Assistant at Kobé [神戸], Griffiths was
ordered to accompany Consul Joseph Henry Longford as the first members
of the Japan Consular Service to serve in the new Japanese colony of
Ernest Alfred Griffiths arrived at Anping [安平],
the port of Tainan, on 23 April 1896 from Nagasaki [長崎] in the company
of Consul Longford, who took charge of the Tainan Consulate from Consul
Richard Willett Hurst, of the China Consular Service, on 30 April 1896.
Griffiths resided at Anping while Consul Longford resided at Takow [打狗].
E A Griffiths was promoted to First Class Assistant on 8 August 1896 and
when Consul Longford departed Formosa in December 1896 to take up a new
appointment as Consul at Nagasaki, Ernest Alfred Griffiths took charge
of the Tainan Consulate as Acting Consul until the new Consul, William
Joseph Kenny, took over on 1 February 1897.
Consul Kenny made a tour of the Camphor Districts
with Allan Weatherhead Bain, the senior partner of Bain & Co, in March
1897, but subsequently became very ill and was forced to leave Formosa
in July 1897, handing back charge of the Consulate to First Assistant E
In 1897 and 1898 there was considerable unrest in
South Formosa and in the camphor districts, while the camphor trade was
badly effected in 1897, the camphor price was so good in 1898 that the
foreign firms revived the trade despite the risks from robberies and
In December 1898 Griffiths sent Ernest Mason
Satow, the British Minister at Tokyo, a memorandum detailing the main
‘Banditti Incidents for 1898’. These incidents included robberies,
murders and kidnappings that reached all across the Tainan Consular
District. Amazingly these attacks reached right into Anping itself. The
Japanese authorities launched a Military Expedition to exact reprisals.
An estimated 4,000 villagers were killed, but no proven brigand was
killed. The figures are startling. Griffiths records that in one village
of 102 males, the whole male population were killed and just 8 old men
spared. In another of 70 adult males, 64 were killed.
Clearly the military approach to suppressing the
brigandage had not worked, so the Japanese authorities tried a less
alienating method. In July 1899 Acting Consul Griffiths reported to
Tokyo on the new method. At first a free pardon and promises of
employment or money were offered. Several of the smaller brigand chiefs
with their men accepted this and submitted. However the stronger brigand
chiefs waited out the Japanese for better terms. The chief brigand in
South Formosa was Lim Siao-niao [林少貓] who made a kind of treaty with the
Japanese in May 1899. This agreement made Lim Siao-niao an independent
ruler of his own district of Au-piah-na [後壁林], an area just south of
modern-day Kaohsiung. Guaranteed by local Japanese officials and
Formosan merchants chosen by Lim, including Ho Hing [和興], the most
influential native firm in South Formosa and engaged in the sugar trade.
Ernest Alfred Griffiths remained Acting Consul at
Tainan until December 1899, when Consul William Joseph Kenny returned to
South Formosa from Honolulu, where he had been officiating Consul
and recuperating from his seeming ordeal in Formosa. In 1900 to 1901
Griffiths took Home Leave to visit his widowed father and sister in
Edgbaston, Warwickshire. Consul Kenny remained at Tainan until 29
January 1902, when he departed for Ireland on Home Leave, and handed
over charge once more to E A Griffiths. Griffiths remained Acting Consul
at Tainan until the new Consul, Alfred Ernest Wileman, arrived on 9
On 12 November 1903 Ernest Alfred Griffiths
departed Formosa to take up his new post at Kobé, to where he had been
promoted to be the Vice-Consul for the Consular District of Hiogo [兵庫]
and Osaka [大阪] on 21 May 1903. Ernest Alfred Griffiths was promoted a
year later on 22 December 1904 to be Consul of the Consular District of
Shimonoseki [下関], where he remained until his retirement on a pension on
9 December 1912.
E A Griffiths left Japan from Kobé on 20 July
1912 and, travelling across Canada, arrived back in England on 12
October 1912. It remains unclear as to whether Griffiths intended to
pass his retirement in England or Japan. Ernest Alfred Griffiths died,
aged 50, on 10 October 1913 at the Tavistock Hotel, Covent Garden,