There were fears for the future of Hong Kong’s inhabitants after 1997 handover
Christie Davies, the British professor who devised a plan to relocate 5.5 million people from Hong Kong to Northern Ireland, has said he was not surprised that some took it seriously as "the Irish have no sense of humour".
Mr Davies, a sociology lecturer at the University of Reading, said his article written in a Belfast newspaper in 1983 was never meant to be taken seriously.
“At the time, the piece was well received in Hong Kong, but it was recognized as humorous,” he told the New York Times.
“[But] the Irish do not understand satire and have no sense of humor so I guess some of them took it seriously.”
In the piece ‘Ulster to adopt Hong Kong?’, Mr Davies suggested relocating Hong Kong wholesale to Northern Ireland to boost its stagnant economy.
He wrote in a Belfast newspaper about creating a new city-state that would “save the finest example of the capitalistic system from extinction.”
The article caught the eye of George Fergusson, a junior official in the Northern Ireland Office, who forwarded it to colleague David Snoxell saying: "At this stage we see real advantages in taking the proposal seriously."
Among the benefits, Mr Fergusson suggested, it would help convince the unionist population that the government in Westminster was truly committed to retaining Northern Ireland in the UK.
“If the plantation were undertaken, it would have evident advantages in reassuring unionist opinion of the open-ended nature of the Union,” he said.
Speaking to the BBC however, Mr Snoxell said he was shocked that people were taking the exchange seriously.
Frank Carson: 85 of his best jokes. 1. There was an Irish space program to go to the sun. They went at night so they didn't get burnt.
2. Paddy is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call. The caller says: 'Is that Dublin 22 33 22?' Paddy says,:'No it's Dublin 223 322!' The caller apologises for waking him in the middle of the night, Paddy says: 'Oh it's all right I had to get up to answer the phone anyhow!'
3. A man walks into a pet shop and says: "Give me a wasp." The shopkeeper replies: "We don't sell wasps." He says: "There's one in the window."
4. A man goes into Boots and says: "Have you got any Viagra?" "Do you have a prescription?" asks the chemist. "No," he replies, "But 'I've got a photograph of the wife."
5. A man walks into a hospital feeling unwell and the doctor says: "Sorry, you’ve only got three minutes to live." The man said: "Can you do something for me?" "Yes," he said. "I'll boil you an egg."
6. I rang British Telecom. I said: "I want to report a nuisance caller." The voice on the other end said: "Not you again."
7. A man says to the doctor: "What's the good news?" "You've got 24 hours to live." He says: "What's the bad news?" The doctor says: "We should have told you yesterday."
8. My uncle Jimmy took liver salts twice a day for 40 years. He died on Sunday, was buried Wednesday and the following Friday they had to go to the cemetery to beat his liver to death with a stick.
9. My wife said to me: "If you won the lottery, would you still love me?" I said: "Of course I would. I'd miss you, but I'd still love you."
10. A man's hurt in an accident with a vacuum cleaner. I phoned hospital to see how he was. Nurse said: "He's picking up."
11. My wife went into the butchers and said: "You've a sheep's head in your window." The butcher said: "That's a mirror."
12. An Irishman's wife gave birth to twins. Her husband wanted to know who the other man was.
13. Dear Son, I hope you are having fun in Australia. I am sending you three socks as your telegram said you've grown another foot.
14. There were two Irishmen eating sandwiches in a pub and the landlord said: "You can't eat your own food in here." So they swapped sandwiches.
15. I come from a family of musicians. Even the sewing machine is a Singer.
16. Frank once slipped something into the pocket of a luggage handler at the airport and said: "Have a drink on me." The luggage handler later found out it was a tea bag.
17. An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The barman looks at them and says: "Is this some kind of a joke?"
18. A man says to his mate: "My wife is a twin." His mate says, "How do you tell them apart?" The man says: "Her brother has a beard."
19. A man walks into B&Q. He says: "I want some nails." The shop worker says: "How long do you want them?" The man says: "I want to keep them."
20. I once did 20 pantomimes in a row. Someone asked, "Is that a record?" I said: "No, it's me speaking."
21. A man turns to the guy next to him who's covered in bandages from head to toe and asks "What happened?". "I fell through a glass window," explains the man. The first man says: "Lucky you were wearing all those bandages."
22. A man walks into Glasgow baker and asks: "Is that a doughnut or a meringue?" Baker: "No, you're right, it's a doughnut."
23. Men only go for skinny women because they're too weak to argue - and salads are cheap.
24. A girl asks her doctor, "Doctor, I've forgotten to take my contradictory pill!" The doctor says: "Are you ignorant?" The girl says: "Yes, three months!"
25. I said to the waitress, "There's a fly swimming in my soup." She said: "You've got too much soup - he should only be able to paddle."
26. My father fought in World War I and single-handedly destroyed the Germans' line of communication. He ate their pigeon.
27. What's the difference between a Rottweiler and a poodle peeing on your leg? You let the Rottweiler finish.
28. I went to an old people's home. I asked an old lady with a Zimmer frame. "Do you know who I am?" She replied, "Ask the Matron, she'll tell you."
29. What's the difference between a terrorist and your wife? You can negotiate with a terrorist.
30. Woman: "I can't go out with you Frank, I'm a lesbian." Frank: "Oh really? What part of Lesbia are you from?"
31. My Irish mate told me, if you file down the edges of a 50 pence piece, you can use it as a 10p.
32. A man saw me with my Thermos flask and asked me what it was for. "It keeps food hot but it can also keep food cold," I said. The next day I saw him with one and asked what was in it. "Soup and ice cream," he said.
33. Have you heard about the Irishman who reversed into a car boot sale and sold the engine?
34. When the Pope asked him if he had ever met Elvis Presley, Carson replied: "No I have not but it won't be long now."
35. Remember that boat the Marie Celeste when everyone disappeared? They found out why, Cannon and Ball were doing the cabaret.
36. I'm staying in a lovely hotel, dressing robe behind the door, lovely fluffy sheets - took me a half an hour getting my suitcase closed.
37. The council in Blackpool have given the homeless bus passes, but how would they know where to get off?
38. I was coming out of Euston Station the other day, it was pouring down with rain and a man was sitting with a cap out for money and a sign saying 'Falklands war victim.' We are giving a thousand pounds a week to that man with the metal hook Hamza, remember him? There's a guy that risked his life for his country begging, it's disgusting so I threw £20 into his cap and he said, "Gracias, senor." That's a cracker!
39. I hate name droppers. I just said that to the Duke of Edinburgh this morning on the phone.
40. I was playing golf with Christy O'Connor and Sean Connery a few weeks ago. Sean hit a ball out of bounds, he said: "I'll hit a provisional" and I said, "What, and get yourself kneecapped?" The next thing I know was Christy junior starts telling the same joke and I said "Where'd you hear that joke?" He said: "Connery is doing the rounds with it."
41. I'm really worried about my girlfriend's morals ... she has NEXT written on her knickers.
42. What about the political situation today? All that money the Government wants, they're taking money off us anyway for driving our cars, then they're charging us for driving on the motorways. What about taxing bicycles, caravans, shoes? Can you imagine, shoes for sale, one owner only, only 27,000 miles on the laces.
43. A guy walked into the pub with a cocker spaniel and I said: "No dogs allowed". He said: "You allow guide dogs." I said: "Yes but they are either Alsatians or Labradors." He said, "Ah s***, what have they given me?"
44. I was shot in Palestine in 1947 and I went to see Pope John Paul after being awarded the highest honour in the Roman Catholic Church, the Knighthood of St Gregory for my charity work over the last 34 years. I said to John Paul: "We've one thing in common, we've both been shot. If you see John Wayne, tell him it hurts."
45. There was a man sitting in the dining room of the Titanic, he said: "I know I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous."
46. A fella said to me: "Your mother-in-law has just died, do you want her embalmed, buried or cremated?" I said: "Take no chances, give her the lot."
47. The very first joke I told on The Comedians was: I was in the Far East and I went into a restaurant and I ordered octopus and the waiter said: "It takes four hours." I asked why and he said: "It keeps turning off the gas."
48. I've had a pacemaker fitted and every morning I come out there's a fella that runs in front of me.
49. I bought these shoes in Taiwan, and they said in the inside "made around the corner."
50. I was in a bar in Taiwan and a guy came up and asked for my autograph. I was signing a menu and a fella came up from behind the bar and asked, "Why you write on menu?" I told him he's seen me on the television and the fella asked: "What you do golf, football, rugby?" I said no, "I'm a comedian", he said "Oh, let me see you change colour."
51. I just want to apologise for being late. I was flying back from Spain and the air hostess said: "We are two hours late Mr Carson." When I asked why, she said: "The pilot has heard a funny noise in the engine that he doesn't like, so we are waiting on another pilot who can't hear it."
52. A fella won £9m in the lottery, and the guy from the lottery asked: "What is it you do for a living?" "I'm a cleaner," the winner said. The lottery man said: "I'm sure you won't be doing that any more." The fella said: "No that's me redundant for life." The lottery man asked: "What is it your wife does?" He replied: "She's my supervisor." The lottery man said "I suppose she won't be doing that any more?" He asked: "Has she won £9m as well?"
53. There's a professor who's crossed chickens with spiders, and he has ended up with a chicken with eight legs. I asked him: "What do they taste like?" He said: "I don't know I haven't been able to catch one yet."
54. An Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman were invited to a Christmas party. The Englishman brought a bag of tinsel, the Scotsman brought a bag of holly and they asked the Irishman: "What have you brought?" He said: "I brought a pair of knickers." They asked: "What has that got to do with Christmas?" He said "They're Carol's."
55. I was going up to the bathroom and a woman asked me: "Have you a good memory for faces?" I asked why and she said: "Because there isn't a mirror up there."
56. A man up in front of a judge says "I don't recognise this court." "Why not?" "It's been redecorated since the last time I was here."
57. I was at a cash dispenser the other day and a man and wife were in front of me and he punched her. I went over and said: "You villain, how dare you punch a lady, why you should only punch men." I can't remember anything after that.
58. I've been married to my wife for 60 years but it feels just like yesterday, and you know what a bloody awful day yesterday was.
59. I have a pacemaker in, but it doesn't work very well, because every time I fart the garage door opens.
60. I asked a shop owner if he could help me out. He said: "What way did you come in?"
61. At Mike Reid's funeral, Carson said: "We have come to say farewell Mike, you have filled loads of homes with glee, actor, singer, comedian, but you were never as funny as me."
62. I was in a panto last year, Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp. I played the wick. I got the sack because I was too well-oiled every night.
63. I don't think my wife likes me very much, when I had a heart attack she wrote for an ambulance.
64. It's my wife Ruth's birthday soon. I said to her: "What would you like for your birthday?" She said: "I want a divorce." I said: "I wasn't planning on spending that much."
65. A man walked into a shop and asked, "How much are your eggs?" He said "£1.40 a dozen". He then asked: "How much are your cracked ones?" "He said: "35p". He said: "Crack us four dozen."
66. I said to the landlady at my lodgings in Bolton: "I'd like to talk to you about the ceiling in my bedroom." She said: "What about it?" I said, "I'd like one." She said: "You needn't worry too much, because the people upstairs won't walk about, but they'll drop in now and again."
67. If only the Irish had invented the Venetian blind it would be curtains for all of you.
68. The Irish Six Million Dollar man only cost three quid.
69. A traffic policeman stops Sister Bridget for speeding. She pulls into the side of the road and winds down her window. The officer walks round and starts undoing his fly. "Oh dear," she says, "Not the breathalyser again."
70. Do you remember those two terrible winters we had? Mike and Bernie.
71. I'll have a pint of Guinness and a pickled onion in it, an Irish cocktail.
72. Did you know you can have an Irish abortion, but there is a 12 month waiting list?
73. Someone once threw a petrol bomb at Alex Higgins and he drank it!
74. I knew a judge called Justice Thumbs, because he had no fingers.
75. Did you know the Irish telephone number for the Samaritans is ex-directory?
Comedian Frank Carson and wife Ruth
77. I was in Glasgow about 50 years ago and I asked a fella: "Who is the most popular comedian here?" The man said Joe Madely, so I went to the Pavilion and asked a man there who he thought was the best comedian in the world, he also said Joe Madely. I asked: "Have you heard of Frank Carson?" He said, "Yes, he is awful." He asked me if I had heard of Joe Madely and I said no. He then said "I am Joe Madely" and I told him "I am Frank Carson."
78. My mother-in-law went to the dentist and had all her teeth out. She was in agony, and said: "Never again."
79. On the death of fellow comic Bernard Manning: "He didn't even spare the nurses. He was complaining that they changed his medication to iron tablets and he woke up facing north."
80. Doctor told me I've got two weeks to live. I said: "Can I have the last week in July and the 1st week in August?"
81 This is Frank Carson, News at Ten, Sober.
82. My son in Australia asked me to send him money. I told him I couldn't as I'd already sealed the envelope.
83. A man was found dead covered in sprinkles, strawberry sauce and a flake. Reports said he may have topped himself.
84. There was an advert in the paper saying 'Boxer dogs for sale' and a member of my golf club rang up and asked: "How many dogs are in a box?"
85. And finally, he wanted written on his tombstone: "It's quiet in here."
“It was a spoof between colleagues,” he said. “You can see it wasn’t intended seriously.”
“Sadly, it’s impossible to make jokes like this anymore. The diplomatic service has lost its sense of humour,” added the former official with the Republic of Ireland Department of the British Foreign Office.
Mr Snoxell said the exchange was intended to "relieve some of the tension" amongst officials in Northern Ireland, which was on heightened alert following hunger strikes by republican prisoners.
The letters, released by the British National Archives last week, show the officials joke about resettling 5.5 million people in Hong Kong to a new “city-site” built between Coleraine and Derry ahead of the, then, British colony's 1997 return to China.