British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Gwyn Watkins
Meeting the Governor
The very first time that Ivy and I, as a married couple, were to meet one of the 'upper crust' was when we were living in Mwanza, a provincial town in Tanganyika on the shores of Lake Victoria. A notice had been issued by the most senior administrative officer in the Lake Province that all Colonial Service officers in Mwanza were to be at the Railway Station before 7.00 am on 30 July 1948. His Excellency the Governor was arriving and wanted to meet his officers immediately after leaving the train. This caused great excitement as the Governor was of the traditional British Empire vintage of vice-royalty that were proud of their position and demanded respect as the Crown's representative in a Colony.

To give the Governor his name and full title, it was His Excellency Sir Edward Twining, GCMG, MBE. He was regarded as one of the nobility with an illustrious lineage on his mother's side and because of his father's relationship, albeit a distant one, to the famous Twining tea family. The Governor was a big and distinctive man in every way: regal, flamboyant with a wicked sense of humour, shrewd, and with a remarkable talent for extracting service, enthusiasm and devotion from other people. He loved the pomp and ceremony associated with his position although in casual conversation everybody just referred to Twining as H.E. We were not disappointed when he appeared outside Mwanza railway station in his full ceremonial outfit, appropriately dressed with sash, medals, ostrich feather-plumed helmet and a sword at his side. A large crowd of locals had gathered to have a glimpse of the Governor who was their biggest and most powerful 'chief'. We who were to be introduced to him lined up on the pavement and were called by name for a handshake, after which we just moved on and dispersed among others who were watching the ceremony. We saw no more of him on this occasion.

Meeting the Governor
Sir Edward Twining
But presumably he discussed government business with senior administrative officers before returning to his headquarters in Dar es Salaam. Nowadays ceremonies of this nature are regarded as unnecessarily pompous but in Twining's time as Governor they were an important feature of Colonial administration, approved by the majority of the country's inhabitants - that is, except for aspiring indigenous politicians planning for self-government and independence from British rule. Let it be said, however, about Twining, that despite his love of ceremony and pageantry he was respected for the zest he applied to improving the living conditions for the poverty-stricken people in the colonies he administered.

Seven years passed before we met the Governor again but this time it was under completely different circumstances. I received a letter from my boss, Robert Sangster, Chief Conservator of Forests, saying that the Governor had read the Department's annual report for 1955 with interest.! He had made some especially complimentary comments on the Olmotonyi Forest Training School, of which I was the Principal at the time, and had expressed a desire to visit it. Arrangements were made accordingly for him to come in May 1956, but in the meantime it did cause me some apprehension. He would not be staying at the School long, but tea - Twining's of course - and some biscuits were to be served. The students set about cleaning the grounds and Ivy made sandwiches of cucumber, avocado, ham and tomato for refreshments. Chocolate and plain biscuits were on hand and Ivy made the effort to prepare small muffins in paper cups; it made us smile when a few of the students started to eat the cups as well as the muffins! A quiet word in their ears saved any embarrassment and I doubt if H.E. noticed anything untoward.

I had prepared a welcome speech for H.E. on his arrival at the school and was apprehensive on what I should say. After all, here was His Excellency the Governor making a special visit to our small thirty-student school located in a relatively remote outstation; an honour indeed. But I shouldn't have worried, because when his car drove up to the classroom and his aide-de-camp opened the door for him, he shook hands with Ivy and me and then, without any further ado, marched into the classroom with the rest of us following behind him: there was no time for a welcome speech. All the students were standing to attention and he announced in his booming, very English voice "You know who I am, don't you?". I can't remember much more of his visit but what is indelibly printed in my mind is his own introduction to the students. The muffin-eating episode still brings a smile to my face, but few of the students would have attended functions where such fare was served. On graduation days it was local delicacies and Indian dainties that were favoured; alcoholic drinks were never a problem and soft drinks were an excellent substitute, and in the eight years spent at the school, I cannot recall a single case of drunkenness among the students.

Twining retired as Governor of Tanganyika in 1958 and, shortly after his arrival back in England, he was created Lord Twining of Godalming and Tanganyika with the distinction of being among the first of the Life Peers to sit in the House of Lords. After his retirement. Twining became absorbed in completing his passionate study of jewels, precious stones and regalia, a hobby which extended over many years and which culminated in the publication of his A History of the Crown Jewels in Europe. It had over 700 pages of text and nearly a thousand plates and photographs. It received favourable reviews overall, with one reviewer saying it would become a standard work on the subject and was unlikely to be superseded for a very long time. It must be obvious that my old Tanganyika Governor intrigued me and, despite his somewhat eccentric and pompous nature, I had, and still have, a great admiration and respect for him and am glad that I was given the chance to have served under his administration.

Colonial Map
Map of Northern Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, 1948
Colony Profile
Tanganyika Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 99: April 2010


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