BRITISH GUIANA – Governors In The 1900s

BRITISH GUIANA – Governors In The 1900s

 by Peter Halder

      There were 17 Governors of British Guiana from 1900 to 26 May 1966 when the colony became the independent State of Guyana.

     According to reports, the most popular Governor was Sir Gordon James Lethem, 1941-1947.

     Sir Walter Egerton, 1912 – 1917 and Sir Wilfred Collett were the Governors of Britain’s only colony in South America during World War 1 (1914-1918). Sir Wilfred Edward Jackson, 1937-1941, and Sir James Gordon Lethem, 1941-1947, were the Governors during World War II, 1939-1945.

     Sir Alfred William Savage was Governor, 1953-1955, when the British Government in October 1953, suspended the Constitution of the colony, declared a State of Emergency, deployed British troops and removed the elected Government of the People’s Progressive Party which won a landslide 18 of 24 seats in the Legislative Assembly in the General Elections in April, 1953. Governor Savage, who according to reports played a significant role in what transpired, assumed direct rule.      

     Sir Richard Luyt, 1964-1966, was the Governor when Guyana became independent on 26 May 1966.  On independence, the post of Governor was replaced by a Governor-General and when the country became a Republic on 23 February 1970, the Governor-General was replaced by a President.

     The longest serving Governor was Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson, 1904-1912. Four other Governors served for six years each: Sir Wilfred Collett, 1917-1923; Sir Gordon Lethem, 1941-1947; Sir Charles Campbell Woolley, 1947-1953; and Sir Ralph Francis Grey, 1958-1964.

Governor Guggisburg

     One of the shortest serving Governors was Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisburg. He was also, according to sources, most unpopular.

     Sir Frederick had served in the Gold Coast, now Ghana, before coming to British Guiana on 7 November 1928. He had received a great deal of praise for his governance of the British colony in Africa, especially in the field of education. He was to find out, however, that British Guiana was a different kettle of fish from Ghana.

     He arrived in British Guiana with pomp and circumstance. His ship docked at precisely the time it was supposed to. He emerged from it in full regalia, resplendently dressed and looking distinguished, impressive and imposing. He was accompanied by his Aide-de-Camp, a Rear Admiral; and his Private Secretary, a Brigadier General.

     A huge crowd had gathered to welcome him. Enthusiastic locals broke the official cordon to go as near as possible to him to catch a closer glimpse. One lady was heard saying, “Our father, our savior has come.”

     The national interest in his arrival, the enthusiastic welcome and greeting, and the comment, were not without reason. The colony’s economy and the treasury were in dire straits.

     As an administrator, Governor Guggisburg, was a hard-nosed disciplinarian. He made adverse comments about the state of the colony’s economy and set about righting things.

     He enunciated a set of principles which Members of the Legislature were required to follow to cut expenditure. He also ordered them to attend each and every meeting of the body and to wear the regulation white civil service uniform.

     Guggisburg embarked on a national plan to rationalize all government departments through retrenchment of staff, and the control of appointments, posts and increments in the civil service. Working time was extended by one hour daily. Leave for certain categories of civil servants was cut.

     His actions soon caused disaster in the civil service. Hospitals, post offices, the police department, and public institutions in general, became short staffed. Government services suffered. The lives of people in the colony were affected. Many felt that the actions of the Governor were unjust and did not address the problems facing the country.

     Governor Guggisburg soon became very unpopular. He decided to go on home leave to Britain in 1929 after only eight months service in the colony. Unlike his arrival, only a small and quiet crowd gathered to see him off. He retired in 1930 after his return to Britain and died shortly after.

     He attended Christ Church during his brief tenure in British Guiana.

Governors in the 1900s

Sir Joseph Walter Sendall: 1893-1901

Sir James Alexander Swettenham: 1901-1904

Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson: 1904-1912

Sir Walter Egerton: 1912-1917

Sir Wilfred Collett: 1917-1923

Sir Graeme Thomson: 1923-1925

Sir Cecil Hunter Rodwell: 1925-1928

Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisburg: 1928-1930

Sir Edward Brandis Denham: 1930-1935

Sir Geoffry Alexander Northcote: 1935-1937

Sir Wilfred Edward Jackson: 1937-1941

Sir James Gordon Lethem: 1941-1947

Sir Charles Campbell Woolley: 1947-1953

Sir Alfred William Savage : 1953-1955

Sir Patrick Muir Rennison: 1955-1958

Sir Ralph Francis Grey: 1958-1964

Sir Richard Edmonds Luyt: 1964-1966

Sources: (Wikipedia and Silvertorch Online)


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