The British Empire Library

Of No Fixed Abode: Account of Colonial Service in Nigeria and Fiji and of Subsequent Work in London and East Africa

by Kenneth Maddocks

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
Here is another contribution, highly welcome and worthwhile, to the growing literature of memoirs by former colonial civil servants and, in particular, by former colonial governors. Sir Kenneth Maddocks's memoir covers both experience, for he was an administrative officer in Northern Nigeria from 1929 to 1958, ending up as Civil Secretary, and then Governor of Fiji from 1958 to 1963. He rounds off his hundred pages on Nigeria and fifty on the Pacific with a short chapter on his five years running the East African Association in London and another on his "later years": 1969-1988 in Somerset and Suffolk, at Aldeburgh, "with any luck, a fixed and permanent abode at last". This is a delightful memoir, characteristically unassuming yet at the same time putting the emphasis in the right place and on the right people. Nor does he flinch from being critical while always being fair, for instance in describing the able and well-known but "prickly" Colonial Secretary of Fiji, "Paddy Macdonald, not the easiest of characters", or his explanation of the downfall of the "highly intelligent" Peter Scott in Kaduna.

For the historian of the Colonial Service (and here I remount my reviewer's hobby-horse once again), "KP" - as he will always be known among his Nigerian juniors - is exemplary in his important 'naming of names': the careful index gives at least a hundred of these (and even here the yet more careful reader will be able to add a few more, such as the three Colonial Service personalities listed at p. 154), but the author wisely (alas, for the historian!) does not reveal the identity of all the heroes/villains of his delightful anecdotes. He does identify the source of the story about "my grandmother ate a Cambridge Blue", illustrating the Figians' huge sense of humour, but does not include another Suva favourite, that on "But what kind of beans?" There are several pages of very relevant photographs.

Library shelves show more memoirs from ex-ambassadors than from one-time colonial governors. "And so I should hope!" said one of the former when I put this observation to him. "What else do you expect from them?" replied one of the latter. How, I wonder, shall we fare from ambassadors posted to ex-colonial Africa as High Commissioners or from ambassadors assigned to still gubernatorial posts like Hong Kong? In the meantime, I would gladly settle for more like this one. As the saying goes, no 'Nigerian' and no 'Fijian' should be without one!

British Empire Book
Kenneth Maddocks
Kenneth Maddocks