The tradition seems to have originated over an incident in the 1860s when , who had their main godowns and offices at East Point, had their private militia fire a gun salute to welcome the tai pans arrival by sea. The Royal Navy thought that such a salute should be reserved only for government officials or senior of the armed services. In penance, Jardines has been required to fire a gun at noon ever since, to serve as a time signal.
In 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army Hong Kong and dismantled the cannon. When Hong Kong was liberated in 1945, the Royal Navy gave Jardines another cannon, so that the noon-day gun tradition could continue. On July 1, 1947, the Noon-day gun was back in operation. The current gun is a that saw action in the First World War during the Battle of Jutland.
Although British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, the tradition of the noonday gun is continued by Jardines in perpetuity. A small crowd usually gathers for this daily event. Apart from noon, the only other time the gun is fired is at midnight on new year's eve. During this event, employees of Jardine Matheson and invited guests attend and partake in Scottish highland dancing, which reflect the cultural origins of the firm.
To watch the event, people must make their way to the enclosure - the easiest way to get there is to take the tunnel under the road from the basement car park in hotel - ask at reception if you cannot find it as the signage is poor. The Excelsior itself is owned by Mandarin Oriental hotels, which itself is a part of Jardines. At the event, the Jardines man, who wears a Jardines uniform, hands out leaflets to those gathered which describe Jardines version of the background to the gun firing.
The firing of the gun was famously mentioned in Noel Coward's humorous song "".