Articles

The colonial governors of Seychelles

THE COLONIAL GOVERNORS OF SEYCHELLES

(1903 – 1976)

Researched & written by Mr. Tony Mathiot

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SIR ERNEST BICKHAM SWEET-ESCOTT


(1857 – 1941)

 

 

ADMINISTRATOR AUG 1899 – NOVEMBER 1903, GOVERNOR NOVEMBER 1903 – MAY 1904

Sweet-Escott was appointed administrator of Seychelles on 19th August 1899.  He was sworn in as Governor on the 19th November, 1903 on which day the letters Patent of the 31st August, 1903, erecting the Seychelles Islands into a separate colony, were published.  The population was 19,772 inhabitants.

During the transition of Seychelles from a Dependency of Mauritius (since 1811) to a colony, Sweet-Escott introduced various social programs that became the Foundations of the country’s colonial development.

He established the Rural Postal Service (1899) and created the Botanical Gardens (1901).  Since he had once been a Professor of classics at the Royal College of Mauritius (1881-1886) his strong concern for the promotion of Education was reflected in the creation of a scholarship scheme and the introduction of English in the school curricula.  He also enacted various ordinances pertaining to social justice and Nature Protection.

He gave the colony of Seychelles two precious Victorian memorabilia: The Diamond Jubilee, Fountain (1900) and the Victoria Clock Tower (1903).

During Sweet-Escott administration, coconuts and Vanilla created prosperity for the colony’s agricultural economy.

Governor Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott left the colony of Seychelles on 9th May 1904.

 

SIR WALTER EDWARD DAVIDSON (1859 – 1923)


GOVERNOR 1904 – 1912

 

 

The Second Governor of the colony of Seychelles duly continued with the progress that his predecessor had made by initiating various aspects of social development and by the enactment of various ordinances that redounded to the improvement of the colony’s economy, notably, the Harbour dues Ordinance of 1908.

In 1909, Davidson inaugurated the Saint Louis Water supply, a distribution reservoir that carried water from the Saint Louis River to the town of Victoria.  That same year he also, opened king’s college, a government school.

In 1910 he opened the Carnegie Library in Victoria, and started the construction of the new Government House (the present State House).

 

A noble aspect of Davidson’s legacy is certainly the Popular and invaluable key reference work entitled ‘Unpublished documents relating to the History of Seychelles anterior to 1810’ by Auguste Fauvel (1851-1909) which the Governor published at his own expense in 1909.

 

Davidson died of cardiovascular disease on 16th September 1923 while still in office as Governor of New South Wales.


LT. COL SIR CHARLES RICHARD MACKEY O’BRIEN (1859 – 1935)


GOVERNOR 1912 – 1918


 

 

Charles O’Brien was appointed Governor of the colony of Seychelles on 28th December 1912.  The population was 23,777.

Upon his arrival, his main task was the completion of the new Government House which his predecessor had begun in 1910.  He took up residence in it in August of 1913.

 

The revenue of the colony for 1913 reached the total of Rs 557,163 the highest ever amount attained in the colony, attributable larger to the unprecedented high earning of over one million rupees from the export of coprah.

 

However, the First World War which lasted until the end of his tenure had adverse effects on the economy and prevented O’Brien from executing various projects on his colonial agenda.  In 1917, to safeguard the colony’s natural food resource, he enacted the ‘Breadfruit and Other Trees (protection) ordinance’; a law that nowadays serves as a fundamental tool for the country’s Nature Conservation Policy.


 

SIR EUSTACHE TWISTLETON-WYKEHAM FIENNES (1864 – 1943)


GOVERNOR 1918 – 1921

 

 

Fiennes arrived in the colony of Seychelles on the 8th October 1918.  He was a British Soldier who had fought in the Second Boer War with the Imperial yeomanry and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1918.

Although he had the daunting task of contending with the consequential effects of the War, namely Unemployment and Poverty, which occasioned much social hardship in the colony, Fiennes exercised his official authority with a firmness of purpose and compassion.

In 1919, he established paper currency and the income tax.  Two features of his administration have immortalized his name in the history of Seychelles.  These are the “Fiennes Esplanade” which he built by the reclamation of land at the Seawall of what is now Francis Rachel Street and the “Fiennes Institute” at Plaisance which provided a home and medical care for the aged, destitute and infirm (it closed in 2006).

Fiennes left the colony on 4th March 1921 and was appointed Governor of the Leeward Islands (1921 – 1929).He is the great-grandfather of actor Ralph Fiennes (The constant Gardener, the English Patient).


 

BRIGADIER – GENERAL SIR JOSEPH ALLOYSIUS BYRNE (1874 – 1942)


GOVERNOR 1922 – 1927

 

 

 

During his three years spent in the colony of Seychelles, Governor Byrne had the opportunity to accomplish crucial stages in the country’s development.

He was optimistic about the prosperity of the colony’s agricultural economy which was based on the production of coprah, essential oils and guano for the export market.

 

In 1924, he inaugurated the Mont Fleuri hospital and in 1926 he shared the happiness of the inhabitants of Victoria when the town received electricity.

 

He built roads and bridges to make them suitable for motor traffic which had just started in the colony.

He left on the 6th April 1927 to become Governor of Sierra Leone.


 

SIR MALCOLM STEVENSON (1878 – 1927)


GOVERNOR AUGUST 1927 – NOVEMBER 1927

 

 

Born in Lisburn, Ireland, Malcolm Stevenson spent nine years in the colonial administration of Cyprus and become the country’s First Governor in 1925 until 1926 when he was posted to the Seychelles.

 

Sadly, he never managed to perform any of his gubernatorial duties.  Soon after his arrival on 13th August 1927, he developed rheumatic fever and passed away on 27th November 1927.

 

Stevenson, who was Anglican, was baptized into Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed.

He was buried in the Mont Fleuri Cemetery.


 

SIR DE SYMONS MONTAGU GEORGE HONEY


(1872 – 1945)

GOVERNOR 1928 – 1934

 

 

Sir de Symons Montagu George Honey was appointed Governor of the colony of Seychelles on 24th March 1928.

 

The inhabitants found him to be a quiet and reserved man who found it difficult to cope with the economic problems of their small colony.  The planters found his Financial Policy prejudicial to the social welfare of the colony.  Discontentment over his administration occasioned the resignation of three members from the Legislative Council in November 1928.

 

In 1930, Governor Honey obtained a loan from the Colonial Welfare Fund for the improvement of roads on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.

 

In 1933, he enacted the Pensions Ordinance which ingratiated him to the working class population.


 

SIR GORDON JAMES LETHEM (1886 – 1962)


GOVERNOR 1934 – 1936

 

 

 

At 46 years old, Lethem was the youngest Governor ever appointed in the colony of Seychelles.  Despite his relatively short term here, he accomplished a substantial amount of work especially on educational matters.  He proposed the establishment of the post of Director of Education, and was personally involved in resolving controversial issues between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church pertaining to the running of schools in the colony.

 

He secured grants, amounting to £1, 740, for reforestation programs, and encouraged the colony to start a tourism industry.

 

In 1935, he presided over celebrations to mark King George V’s Silver Jubilee, and he had the Victoria Clock Tower painted with a silver coating.


 

SIR ARTHUR FRANCIS GRIMBLE (1888 – 1956)


GOVERNOR (1936 – 1942)

 

 

Not long after he arrived in the Colony of Seychelles, Grimble’s compassionate regard for the plight of the laboring masses became evident.  He firmly believed that social reforms were imperative in order to balance the scales of social justice.  He wanted to provide land settlement and housing for labourers.  Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 interrupted his Social welfare Programs.

 

He had to impose austerity measures and regulations and every saving of expenditure was mobilized in aid of Britain’s war effort.

 

Arthur Grimble was a keen anthropologist and a talented Writer.  In 1952 he wrote A Pattern of Islands, which was about the culture of the Gilbert Islands, where he had spent many years (1914 – 1926) and in 1957 he wrote Return to the Islands.  Both books were best-sellers.

 

He left the Seychelles on 15th January 1942.


 

SIR WILLIAM MARSTON LOGAN (1889 – 1968)


GOVERNOR (1942 – 1947)

 

 

Sir William Marston Logan assumed the administration of the colony on 30th March 1942, while in Europe and in the Middle East, battles of the Second World War was in full rage.

It was with a “War Budget” of Rs 751,937 that Logan had to satisfy the social requirements of the colony, while attending to its war-time duties.

 

In fact, during his administration, Logan managed to maintain internal security and succeeded in having farmers and landowners develop the production of local food stuff to a maximum extent. He discouraged non-essential imports because he did not want to compromise the savings of the colony which would be needed in possible War emergencies.

When he left the colony in 1947, the mists of war had long dissipated and the agricultural economy was booming with 57,357 kilos of cinnamon leaf oil for a value of Rs 418,291            (£ 31,372).

4,862 tons of coprah for a value of Rs 2,625,763 (£ 196,932)

And

9,005 kilos of Patchouli for a value of Rs 630,715 (£ 47,304).

 

 

SIR PERCY SELWYN CLARKE (1893 – 1976)


GOVERNOR (1947 – 1951)

 

 

 

Sir Percy Selwyn Clarke joined St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School in 1912 and qualified in 1916.  He was Director of Medical Services in Hong Kong (1937 – 1943).

When he arrived in the colony of Seychelles in 1947, Clarke had the responsibility of implementing a comprehensive plan which covered developments in better medical and health services, better educational facilities and better housing conditions for the population of the colony which stood at 32,632.

 

Governor Clarke gradually developed a good understanding of the Seychellois outlook and sympathized with the aspirations of the working class.  He made it his personal crusade to bring social reforms in order to improve the plight of the poor.

 

In 1948, there was the first general election of the colony in which four members of the Seychelles Tax Payers and Landowners Association were erected.  In 1949, there was the creation of the first District Council.

 

When he left Seychelles in 1951, the population of the colony was 34, 370 inhabitants and the political conscience of the people had begun to stir.

 

Sir Percy Selwyn Clarke published his memoirs ‘Footprints’ in 1973.  He died in Hampstead on 13th March 1976, leaving his body to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital for research.


 

SIR FREDERICK CRAWFORD (1906 – 1978)


GOVERNOR (1951 – 1953)

 

 

 

Sir Frederick Crawford was appointed on 14th May 1951, the year that the Conservative Government of Sir Winston Churchchill (1874 – 1965) came to power.  Consequently, the colonial office did not approve of any Socialistic considerations that would have alleviated the plight of the labour class.

 

This was a significant factor in the brief administration of Crawford which left the general population with a rather unfavourable opinion of him.

 

On the 10th June 1953, Sir Frederick Crawford left the colony to take up his appointment as Deputy Governor of Kenya (1953 – 1957).

 

SIR WILLIAM ADDIS (1901 – 1978)


GOVERNOR (1953 – 1958)

 

 

 

 

William Addis assumed the administration of the colony on 17th October 1953.  He had hardly settled into his new post when he had to come to terms with the reactionary views of the Seychelles Tax Payers and Landowners Association concerning labour and the minimum wage of which it did not approve of an increase. That year, the colonial government abolished export duty on copra of which 6,053 tons were exported for a value of Rs 6,025,729.

 

During Addis term, coprah which was the mainstay of the colony’s economy, reached peak production with a harvest of 52 million coconuts for the year 1954 alone.  It was also during Addis’s administration that the Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus was sent into exile in Seychelles (1956 – 1957).

 

In 1956, William Addis also welcomed HRH Prince Philip to Seychelles.

In 1957, Governor Addis enacted the Legal Aid Criminal Procedures) ordinance, in consideration of the majority of the population who then could not afford to pay their own lawyers.

 

William Addis was knighted on 21st April 1955 on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II birthday.


 

SIR JOHN KINGSMILL THORP (1912 – 1961)


GOVERNOR (JAN 1958 – AUGUST 1961)

 

 

 

 

Thorp’s administration placed a special emphasis on Education, Health and Social Services.

Unlike his predecessors, whose administrations of Seychelles had the advantage of a colony which could finance its own budget; Thorp had to rely on a subsidy from the United Kingdom Government.  The requirements of a growing population of 41,000 compelled the Governor to give priority to Social Welfare projects despite a deficit in the economy.

 

In 1959, he opened the Teacher Training College.  That same year, a branch of Barclays Bank opened in the colony.

His short administration was characterized by housing schemes, road development projects and visit to other islands.

 

John Thorp drowned at Grand Anse, on 13th August 1961, along with his newly-appointed Financial Secretary, Maurice Boullé.

On 19th May 1962, the Sir John Thorp Memorial Hall attached to the Cathedral of St. Paul in Victoria was opened by Governor Asquith.


JULIAN EDWARD GEORGE ASQUITH, 2ND EARL OF OXFORD AND ASQUITH (1916 – 2011)


GOVERNOR (JAN 1962 – 1967)

 

 

 

 

Lord Asquith’s primary concern, when he arrived in the colony was to develop schemes of small holdings for domestic food Production.  About 23,000 acres were already under coconut cultivation.  He approved a tea planting scheme by a Kenyan Company.

 

Asquith availed himself of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund to build various infrastructures.  By 1965, nearly Rs 7,000,000 had been spent on a network of roads throughout Mahé.

 

In 1963, the construction of a United States Air Force tracking Station at La Misère had an enormous impact on the country’s economy.  The project which cost about $10 million created employment for local labour, and the rental of site brought considerable revenue for the colony.

 

In 1964, Asquith’s administration had to contend with the formation of two opposing political parties, the S.P.U.P (Seychelles Peoples United Party) and the DP (Democratic Party).

 

In 1966, there was the Abolition of Death Penalty and the Construction of the Rochon Dam started. However, by the time Lord Asquith left the Seychelles in 1967, the virtues of his colonial agenda had not served to pacify the People’s clamor for better living standards and better working Conditions …. Social Justice …. Freedom.


 

SIR HUGH NORMAN – WALKER (1916 – 1985)


GOVERNOR (FEB 1967 – JAN 1969)

 

 

 

Sir Hugh Norman Walker’s administration, which started in April of 1967, had to contend with a nation who was showing an active interest in the Political prospects of their small country through the voices of the two Political Parties SPUP and DP).

 

Adult suffrage was introduced in a new Constitution in November of 1967 and a General Election was held in December.  The establishment of a single governing council which performed both legislative and executive functions was a victory for both Parties, because their elected members could express the Seychellois People’s opinion regarding Colonial Policies.

 

Norman Walker positively supported Political reform during his governorship and enjoyed a cordial relationship with the leaders of both Parties.

 

He left the colony in January of 1969 to take up the post of Colonial Secretary in Hong Kong.


 

SIR BRUCE GREAT BATCH (1917 – 1989)


GOVERNOR (1969 – 1973)

 

 

 

 

Sir Bruce Great batch arrived in the Colony of Seychelles when a momentum of Politicization and the expansion of Industrial development and Social Services were underway.

 

He witnessed Political rallies and meetings and oversaw Construction projects that were being created on an unprecedented scale.  In 1969, he inaugurated the Rochon Dam.

 

In November of 1970 after General elections in which the Democratic Party won 10 of the 15 seats for the Legislative Assembly, Bruce Great Batch appointed it’s Leader, James Mancham (1939 - ….) as the country’s First Chief Minister.

 

In 1972, Governor Bruce Great Batch welcomed Queen Elisabeth II to Seychelles when she came to inaugurate the airport. During that same year; he opened the first modern tourist establishment, the ‘Reef Hotel’ at Anse AuxPins.

Sir Bruce Great Batch was the only Governor of Seychelles who never married and never had children.


SIR COLIN HAMILTON ALLAN (1921 – 1993)


GOVERNOR (1973 – 1976)

 

 

 

Governor Colin H. Allan a New Zealander was the last Governor of Seychelles.

He closed the last chapter of in the history of British colonialism in Seychelles.

 

On 25th April of 1974, when elections were held, the Democratic Party won 13 seats in the Legislative Assembly.  The Seychelles United Party won two seats.

 

On 14th March of 1975, a constitutional conference was held in London to decide on a constitution for Independence of Seychelles.  On 1st October, Seychelles became a self-Governing colony with a coalition Government formed of DP and SPUP Ministers.

 

Colin Allan appointed James Mancham, as Prime Minister of Seychelles.  He assumed the post of High Commissioner.

 

On 29th June of 1976, the Colony of Seychelles became a Republic.

 

Sir Colin Allan returned to the Solomon Islands which became independent in 1978 and where he had been posted in 1966 – 1973, to become its last pre-Independence Governor.

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