|(This article is reproduced from Sierra Leone Studies, New Series, No. 4, June 1955 editor)


The Administration in 1885

By C.H. Fyfe

This photograph of what would today be called the "Senior Service" was taken seventy years ago, in February, 1885. Governor Sir Samuel Rowe was expected shortly from England, and it may be that the Chief Justice, enthroned in the middle of the group (in the basket chair) wanted to immortalize the last days of his acting governorship. This copy survives in an album in the Colonial Office Library (Sierra Leone, Vol 11) and is reproduced here through the kind co-operation of the Librarian.

Standing on the extreme left is Melvin Stuart, who was appointed to the Gold Coast Customs from his home in the Bahamas in 1875, and became Head of the Sierra Leone Customs in 1878. Chief Mannah-Kpaka in Sierra Leone Studies (New Series), No. 1, recalls how popular he was with his subordinates: even in this photograph his geniality is apparent. He retired in 1891, and died in the following year. His family came with him from the Bahamas, and his sons married in Freetown, where some of his descendants are today distinguished members of the community.

Next to him is Capt. J.N. Compton, a retired naval lieutenant, who from 1880 to 1899 commanded the Countess of Derby, the Colonial steamer, kept up for official journeys along the coast.

Slightly behind him stands Robert Wade a retired Irish N.C.O., Keeper of Freetown gaol from 1882-1891..

In front of him, elegant in white waistcoat, flowered buttonhole and side whiskers, stands Dr. Robert Smith, Assistant Colonial Surgeon from 1866-1885. Born in Freetown, the son of the Registrar of the Mixed Court, he was educated in England and qualified there as a doctor in 1866, one of the first of many members of that family to enter the medical profession. Robust though he appears, he died suddenly only five months after this photograph was taken.

The distinguished-looking white-haired figure beside him is T.G. Lawson, the Government Interpreter (for whom see J.D. Hargreaves "The Evolution of the Native Affairs Department," Sierra Leone Studies (New Series), iii).

Behind him is the Rev. John Campbell. He was among the first six pastors to be ordained in the Colony in 1856, and was appointed in 1868 Assistant Colonial Chaplain. He retired in 1886, aged 63, but lived to enjoy his pension for nearly twenty years.

The conspicuous stoutness of the bearded C.H. Moseley, wearing the sun-helmet, annoyed Governor Rowe. "He has become as round as an orange," he wrote disapprovingly, soon after this photograph was taken. From Assistant Colonial Secretary, Moseley became Commandant, Sherbro (as the District Commissioner, Bonthe was then called), and retired, as Colonial Secretary, Lagos, in 1905.

Standing beside him is J.H. Spaine, one of several sons of a farmer at Hastings who distinguished themselves in church and government service. Educated at the Grammar School, he was promoted in 1882 from a clerkship in the Secretariat to be Colonial Postmaster. About the time this photograph was taken he was building himself a fine house in Gloucester Street (later owned by the Hon. J.J. Thomas).

The tall bearded figure towering above the rest is Daniel Carrol. One of the first pupils, and for six years a tutor, at the Grammar School, he entered the legal service in 1857 as clerk to the Master of the Court, worked his way up, and was appointed Master and Registrar in 1882. Though not called to the English bar, he practised in the local courts. In 1890 his health began to fail, and he retired on pension; he died in 1908

Below him, beneath a large hat, stands John Meheux. Born about 1815 on the Banana Islands, of a French father and a Temne mother, he was at school in Freetown, held various government posts, and from 1855 until his death in 1886, was Sheriff of the Colony. He was a man of great charm and influence; a street, at right angles to Kissy Street, where he owned property, perpetuates his name. The family is still represented in Freetown

. Behind and beyond Meheux, in uniform, is Alfred Revington, Acting Inspector-General of Police, an office combined with that of Sanitary Inspector. He was pensioned in 1889 after nine years in the Colony.

T.R. Pakenham stands below him, an Assistant Colonial Secretary, in charge of the Aborigines Branch. He died on his way back to England a few months after the photograph was taken, after serving only just over a year in Sierra Leone .

Beyond him rises the turban of Mohammed Sanussi, who from 1872 until 1901 held the post of Arabic interpreter and writer. Born in the Colony, of Aku parents, he was educated in Futa Jallon, and on his return attracted the attention of Dr. Blyden, who was probably responsible for his appointment.

Next is the thickly bearded R.E. Pownall, engaged as Colonial Surveyor from 1883-6. When his contract expired the Colony's finances were so low that the post could not be filled for another eight years.

Standing on the extreme right is J.C. Gore, a Commissariat officer seconded as Auditor-General from 1882-7. He later transferred to Colonial service, was Colonial Secretary from 1894 to1901, and then served in Cyprus. He died in 1926.

Sitting on the chair to the left is T. Riseley Griffith, who, after working in a London bank, and as a government auditor in the West Indies, became in 1879 Colonial Secretary and Treasurer, the posts being combined for economy during his term of office. He was promoted in 1889 to administer the far-off Seychelles.

In the middle sits Francis F. Pinkett. An English barrister he was appointed Crown Solicitor in 1880, was promoted Chief Justice in 1882 and acted three times as governor. Beneath his judicial calm lurked warlike ambitions: in 1883 he led a punitive expedition up the Kittam. He died in Freetown in May 1887.

To his right sits J.K. Donaldson, a Scottish lawyer, appointed Queen's Advocate in 1884. His appearance reveals the pleasant, easy-going character that made him popular in Freetown. He was invalided in 1889, and went home to Scotland.

Cross-legged on the ground to the left, E.J. Cameron was the only man in the service to have been educated, as became later so usual, at an English public school and university. Appointed Assistant Colonial Secretary in 1884, he was promoted within two years to the West Indies, and served there until 1914, when he returned to West Africa to govern the Gambia. He retired as Sir Edward Cameron in 1920, and died in 1947.

On the ground to the right sits Edwin Adolphus, appointed Police Magistrate in 1879, after serving twenty years in British Honduras; he retired in 1890, left the Colony, and died in 1917. A gentle, hard-working man, his humble position in the photograph is perhaps typical of his life.

Several professional photographers were working in Freetown at this time - Nicholas May (whose brother was headmaster of the Wesleyan Boys High School), A. St. John, who also worked in the Gambia, J. Nutwoode Hamilton and others - but the photograph may just as well have been taken by an amateur.